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

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%

Trimbach, Clos Ste Hune Riesling 2005 Alsace

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%
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