What is a great wine?
As I explained in English fizz, exotic grapes find favour in Melbourne, I recently co-presented a couple of wine tastings as part of this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Below are my necessarily sketchy (since I was mainly having to talk rather than write) notes on the wines shown under the heading Great Wines of the World.
Melbournians did seem rather more thrilled by the exotic grape tasting on which I will be reporting than on the likes of Chambertin and Sassicaia, which probably reflects just how much great wine is in circulation in this gastronomically minded city.
Max Allen moderated the tasting and made us consider what makes a wine great. James Halliday volunteered 'line and length'. I suggested longevity. To be great, I think most wines need to demonstrate that they are capable of changing for the better in bottle - with the sole exceptions perhaps of Condrieu, which I think can be awfully good when young, and bottlings of ancient fortified wines which are ready to drink when bottled.
I was surprised that no one really called the line-up into question. Why no Bordeaux? Well, I seem to remember that Ch Latour might have been on the orginal list, until someone calculated what it would do to the ticket price. We could have had an overperforming classed growth of lower status, but perhaps it would too obviously have been not at the top of its particular tree.
It seemed from the buzz that particular favourites in the room were the Pur Sang from Dagueneau, the J J Prüm, the Chambertin, the sherry, and all the Australians of course. Note those prices. The Tyrrells Semillon and Jesús Barquín's sherry were the bargains.
Didier Dagueneau, Pur Sang 2010 Pouilly-Fumé 17.5 Drink 2015-2020
Very pure, intense and steely. Such intensity! This admirably spreads across the palate but is actually very tight on the finish. Still chewy and youthful with the aroma of blackcurrant leaves. Every Pouilly and Sancerre producer should try this. 12.5%
Dom François Raveneau, Les Clos 2009 Chablis Grand Cru 17 Drink 2016-2024
Mealy and not as crisp as some vintages. Mind you, it suffered from having to follow Dagueneau's Pur Sang 2010. Broad and alcoholic. Wait for a bit of puppy fat to go? 13%
Tyrrell's, Vat 1 Semillon 2006 Hunter Valley 17.5+ Drink 2013-2030
Lovely development aromatically even if the nose is very slightly cheesy. Funnily enough, I tasted this just before leaving London a few days ago. See here. 10.5%
Trimbach, Clos Ste Hune Riesling 2005 Alsace 17+ Drink 2018-2030
Quite deep greenish gold. Low-key nose. Slightly oily even. Lots of extract. Perhaps this wine is at that awkward entre-deux-ages stage? Definitely food wine. It developed in the glass but was not as exciting as bottles previously tasted. 12.5%
J J Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2010 Mosel 19 Drink 2015-2040
Dances out of the glass on the nose. Such delicacy and life! Racy. Masses of acid and so much potential. Glorious vitality. No excess sulphur – Katharina Prüm really seems to be reducing the apparent sulphur in these young wines.
Dom Armand Rousseau, Grand Cru 2007 Chambertin 18 Drink 2018-2030
Mid ruby. Very very different from New World Pinot. Grainy. Undergrowth. Still very firm underneath. Majestic follow through. Grows towards the end.
San Guido, Sassicaia 2008 Bolgheri Sassicaia 17.5 Drink 2017-2030
Bright crimson. Relaxed again! Complete. Lift on the finish. Dry end.
Ridge, Monte Bello 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains 18.5 Drink 2016-2032
Looks so healthy. Sweetly ripe but great balance. Red-pepper powder – paprika. Dusty. But great fluidity.
Guigal, La Mouline 2006 Côte Rôtie 16.5 Drink 2012-2020
Lighter than most. Pungent. Drying out? Disappointing bottle.
Penfolds, Grange 2006 Australia 18 Drink 2026-2046
Deep mulberry colour. Intense and tightly wound. Nowhere near ready but there is lots tucked in here.
Chambers Rosewood, Rare Muscadelle NV Rutherglen 19 Drink 2012-2020
Brown with gamboge rim. Very clean and fresh. Wonderful treacle, richness and lots fruit but not remotely heavy. So energetic!
Equipo Navazos, La Bota de Amontillado 23 Bota NO NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry 18.5 Drink 2012-2016
Pale amber. Rancio. Transparent. Pure. Bone dry. Great value.
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