Len Evans Tutorial tasting notes – part 3


Our final instalment of tasting notes from the extraordinary Len Evans Tutorial 2013 in November written by the participants is entirely the work of the Dux of the event, Lak Quach (pictured left, photo copyright of Chris Elfes). Tasting notes from the Monday night's dinner, Tuesday judging, and Wednesday's Chardonnays can be found in Part 1, and tasting notes from the Pinot Noir judging and Riesling masterclass can be found in Part 2

Ch Léoville Las Cases, St-Julien, vertical

Sweet, generous fruit with a brilliant acid cut, all tightly framed with a firm tannin grip that is only yielded by the swathe of fruit. Impressive. 97

Elegantly fruited and would be graceful too if not for the slightly overpowering tannins. Lovely, spicy, medium weighted with red fruits and much charm. 95

Dense, brooding yet polished by its very precise nature. Beautifully interwoven acidity and no skimping on flavour with brilliantly bright defined fruit. 97

Plump and softly generous. Pleasant richness of fruit coupled with spicy tannins. Lacks finesse. 92

Pristine and youthful with impressive extract and flavour. Tannins build, punching firmly and softened slightly by the sweet fruit. Intense, long and impressively built. 96

Soft diffused fruit that has maturity beyond its years with a sheen of volatility. The oak tannin is a little unforgiving. 90

Classical with lovely pure fruit. A little backward but wonderfully fresh and bright with lush fruit. Wonderful surprise from a difficult vintage. 94

Dense but stoic and closed. Masculine to almost brutish. There's a depth and intensity that is a little ambiguous at the moment. It's all savoury rather than sweet. Confounding but yet obviously a stunner. 96

Black sweet fruit, lashings of pudding, immense concentration. Certainly generous and seductive but not classical. 94

Tough with a firm hardness. Fruit is severely muted by some funky, dirty notes robbing it of any purity and richness it possibly once had. 90

Sweet opulence coupled with so much pretty oak spice. Youthful and light on its feet. Tannins on the finish are a little hard, shutting down the finish. Just lovely. 95

Ripe, sweet, supple and decadent, maybe a little too much so. The sweetness of fruit is defining. Somewhat polarising in style. 94

Pure with densely packed, pristine fruit. Brilliant acid cuts a swathe through the fruit giving wonderful freshness. Sleek, tight and very attractive. 97

Thursday dinner was the last of the dinners and was after our last judging session. In some ways, the dinners were more relaxed with an edge of fun whereas the morning judging sessions were quite intensive with a sharpened edge. With the judging over, this dinner was possibly the most relaxed and thus in due course, fewer notes were taken.

Dinners and the 30-odd wines all served blind still served as a humbling experience. One couldn't just relax and enjoy the wines that sat before you even if you didn't know exactly what they were. Every wine had options thrown forward and were often in brackets. For the 2010 Australian Chardonnay bracket, we were gifted the wine names and were then asked to pin the wines to the number. It proved confounding to all including the tutors!

The 1959 Eitelsbacher Karthäushofberger and the 1967 JJ Prüm were served quickly. Both bottles were in impressive condition. The 1959 still showed some sweetness and texture. The 1967 JJ Prüm was, as expected, dry, savoury with singing acidity.

We then moved to the Chardonnay bracket, where I did have the notes below. The 1973 Leo Buring was quickly 'wedged' in. A little past its best, is all I can remember.

The wonderful 2008 Rousseaus were next and here I again have notes (see below). This was one of the best brackets we had during the week. So wonderfully classical across the board they were, and some of the best young Rousseaus that I've ever had the immense pleasure to taste.

After this bracket, the 1937 Maison M Doudet-Naudin had lived its life four times over and so was quickly shuffled along. Great to note that during the entire week this was one of the very few less-than-impressive older wines. The cork gods were indeed very kind for the week.

After this, I thought the 1971 Château Rayas Châteauneuf was a Bordeaux at which Mr [James] Halliday shook his head in such disappointment that you would have thought that I had tortured a little puppy. I somewhat lost my bottle after this and no further notes appear in my book.

Memory can only say that the 1983 Lindemans was also past its best although the 1983 La Chapelle looked exceptional. The Clape vertical was very interesting showing a couple of slightly more funky wines. The 2007 stood out. Surprisingly the 2008 was wonderfully charming and attractive. The 2010 is simply a standout. Finally, the 1907 fortifieds were a wonderful pair but with a couple of brandies also on the table along with champagne and a large serving of relief that the end was almost here, my recollections are little but a warm fondness of both.

Chardonnay and Rousseau notes below. Hope they are of some use.

Thursday evening dinner

Dry whites

2010 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay Mornington Peninsula
Lovely texture and depth of flavour. Long driving finish. 95

2010 Penfold's Yattarna Chardonnay South Australia
Tightly coiled, savoury with beautifully measured oak spice. A little lean at the moment but immense power and punch. 96

2010 Vasse Felix, Heytesbury Chardonnay Margaret River
Exceptionally sleek, seamless wine. Powerfully driven but so precise. 97

2010 Giaconda Estate Chardonnay Beechworth
So much stuffing in this but a little disjointed. Lovely grip and texture with a slight grapefruit bitterness. Everything here but not quite in place yet. 95

2010 Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay Margaret River
Elegant. Lots of stone fruit balanced with grapefruit citrus. The acidity has lovely bite. Fine oak underpins all this though it may protrude a little at this stage. 94

2010 Oakridge 864 Lusatia Park Yarra Valley
Piercing drive, tightly packed. The wine builds immensely on the palate. Long way to go before it will show its potential but shedding some impressive light now. 96

2010 Dawson & James Chardonnay Tasmania
Loose knit with generous rounded ripe fruits. Classy oak but a bit too reductive at this stage. 92

Dry reds

2008 Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru
Lots of brightness and spark. Sleek with gorgeous crunchy acidity providing lift and carry. 97

2008 Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Bright and very pretty. Palate is a touch lean but yet very attractive. 93

2008 Armand Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Wonderfully fresh and pure fruited. The acid line is the backbone with so much depth of flavour clinging on to it. Delicious and so much to like. 96

2008 Armand Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin Grand Cru
Chewy but opens up with some bright floral notes. Crunchy, spice with nice grip. Needs a little fluency. 92

2008 Armand Rousseau Clos St-Jacques Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin
Closed, light on its feet. There's depth there but somewhat ambiguous. So very long. 95

2008 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
Brooding, earthy forest floor and masculinity. Immediately brilliant. 98

DRC tasting on the final morning

The DRC bracket is the last and by far the most anticipated of all tastings. Some of the scholars had yet to try a DRC before the tutorial, whereas some had tried a few and only one had tasted all. I had tasted only RSV, Échezeaux and Richebourg previously.

The six wines are poured before we sat and we were given quick instruction by Mr Halliday. The wines are all of the same vintage and served blind. We are firstly given five minutes to determine the vintage. Unfortunately, none of the scholars guessed correctly the vintage which was then revealed as 2005. We are then asked to determine the identity of the six wines.

The task was daunting and became even more so upon smelling and tasting them for they were tight, closed and unyielding. Their personalities had to be coaxed out very gently. La Tâche and Romanée-Conti were especially so but that made them more easily identifiable.

We are given approximately 20 minutes. Answers were written and collected. I was lucky enough to have four correct and unfortunately swapped Échezeaux and Richebourg at the last minute.

The following are my notes. These were written quickly after the wines were unveiled. I chose not to write notes during the exercise but concentrated on smelling and tasting instead, looking for the specific characters, structures and textures that I understood each vineyard to have.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 2005 Échezeaux
Pretty with spice, earth and a sweetness of fruit. Silky texture with a generosity on the front and mid palate yet closed and a little undefined. The tannins are a little rustic on the finish. Just waiting for a little more harmony. 95

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 2005 Romanée-St-Vivant
Beautifully aromatic and persistently so. Full, bright, generous and poised but not quite completely open. Polished and incredibly long. A very natural beauty. 97

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 2005 Grands Échezeaux
Earth and forest floor. There's a hedonistic richness but coupled with such an attractive sleek texture. Tannins are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of flavours. Bright and very long. 96

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 2005 La Tâche
Intense aromatics with generous richness, sleek, savoury and punchy. Very complex and builds impressively to the very long finish. Chiselled structure but there's a refreshing lightness lingering. Somewhat omnipresent with so much going on but just needs to learn to sit still. Exciting stuff. 98

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 2005 Richebourg
Attractive and seductive aromatics. There's power and weight but yet it's surprisingly elegant. A little closed and despite a lot going on, is looking for a little more balance of components. Tannins are a little rustic. 95

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 2005 Romanée-Conti
Incredibly tight and discreet. There's a Bruce Banner calm-before-the-storm feel about it, such is its tightly coiled intensity. Eventually opens up after 30 minutes in the glass with a kaleidoscopic burst. There's an attractive green lusciousness with rosemary flowers, intensely bright fruit. The complexity would be overwhelming if not for the focused poise and harmony. Understated perfection. 100