A Journey man could describe an apprentice before reaching craftsman status, a jobbing football player like Dean Windass or in this case, a super-premium wine made by the cult outfit Boekenhootskloof. Interestingly enough, this new, Cabernet Franc dominated wine is not for sale. Marc Kent has decided to give away all 5 barrels, or 100 cases. Here at Roberson we were given a couple of bottles by the UK importers. A quite lush and forward nose, with a juicy, complex, fruit centric palate. Not too full-bodied at 13% Well balanced and nicely intergrated with the 26 months of French oak ageing nicely done. Impressive, but I think note much of an advance over the Syrah, their strongest wine in my opinion. As they are not making any wine in 2006, Mark dismisses it as ‘pointless’ and a ‘wine for a new-world fan’ but there you are. I liked it well enough.
Drinking Now – 05 Prulier? Madness
A recent evening out with an old colleague now at John Armit and some friends saw us catch up and become less coherent over the following a couple of nights ago. 2005 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Another good vintage from Sue Hodder, and fine, but a bit of a case of a wine reaching not surpassing expectations. Light, fruit filled but with not much secondary development. A problem for me, even with aged Wynns wines. 2002 Chateau Teyssier A great value wine from frighteningly intense Englishman Jonathon Malthus. From estates located in good terrois and made in the same winery as Le Dome and the other wine he makes that I can’t remember. Lovely soft fruit, good length and very complete. Not massively complex but there’s a limit to what inexpensive young Bordeaux can aspire to, and this overperforms. 2005 Nuits St George Prulier Gouge When I asked Paul to bring around something, ‘about fifty quid, drinking well’, I wasn’t quite expecting 2005 Gouge 1er cru, and quite frankly, I should have asked him to take it all the way back to the shop and pick up something else. Unbelievable. Anyway, a very nice wine, still needing another five years, perhaps a bet lacking in the size I would like from a Gouge 1er, but there you are. 2002 La Landonne Guigal Picked up for a very favourable price, this showed exceptionally well, even from this lighter vintage the wine complete, deep, with perfectly intergrated tannin and fruit, notes of coffee, cherry cola and minerals, this will keep but was drinking extremely well. For what it’s worth, I think I almost prefer the more classic styles of Northern Rhone wine, but one couldn’t fail to be impressed with how this wine was showing. 2004 Promis Gaja As we were having some Italian food, this was probably the most appropriate wine, however, I must admit, I am not a big fan of Gaja’s ‘extra marital’ wines made away from his native estate. Opulent and polished, sure, but so are most wines at that price. I’m just not sure that he can offer anything different and special from the Tuscan terroir. Anyway, a very nice evening, culminating in a horrible hangover after some coffee and Bourban and apparently, some touching of my bum from Paul Fisher (which I can’t remember). We’ll leave that to be explored another time I think.
A Great Lunch Courtesy of Ridge
Located on the San Andreas fault line, barrels of Zinfandel used to jump around the winery during the 1970’s, or maybe it just seemed that way to the dope smoking, free thinkers of Ridge Vineyards who revolutionised the way this grape was seen through their masterfully complex Geyserville and Lytton Springs bottlings. To celebrate the 40th year anniversary of Geyserville, the importers of Ridge and president, Don Giesson, held a small series of lunches in London, pouring past and present vintages of the wines to an appreciative group of sommeliers, merchants and journalists. Our dinner was held at the Farringdon bistro, Vinoteque, where we escaped from work to enjoy some superb food and wine matches, culminating in a brilliantly slow-cooked lamb paired with the prodigious Montebello 1997, a wonderfully mature specimen of this outstanding terroir, full and elegant with a St-Estephe-like palate of mineral and spice. Don proved a very amiable host, with an almost evangelical zeal for the wines, and why not? The 2005 vintage we tasted from was one of the best for a long time, and we heard how the Santa Cruz was described by winemaker Paul Draper as being ‘as good as the top third of Montebello’s’, high praise indeed but certainly warranted by what we tasted in the glass. After some quality cheese and a top up, it was multiple espressos all-round and a dash back to work for a decidedly woozy-headed afternoon’s work from the participants.
It’s Finally Official – Roberson is the Best in London
It’s amazing what a good suit will do for you. With poise, confidence and good bearing, a well-chosen suit will give you form, tuck you in and show you at your best. None of that happened with the motley clothes worn by myself, Cliff and Mark at the annual IWC awards dinner at the Grovesner Hotel in Early September. Between us we shared a hired Moss Bross dinner jacket, an early 1990’s ill-fitting number and an eye-catching purple designer suit. Getting to Park Lane early for our photos and canapés, we mooched around chatting to some other nominees before being ushered into a room with Derek Smedly, surely one of the more unusual looking members of the wine trade, for a rather awkward photo, as we both searched for some appropriate small-talk. Photographic duties done, and a couple of glasses of champagne to the worse, we talked about our chances for the evening. Nominated for London Merchant of the Year, Independent Merchant of the year and Burgundy Specialist, we felt that we had a great chance for the London Merchant, a slim chance on the Independent Merchant, and the slimmest of slim chances in the Burgundy Specialist category. Cliff was in good form happy with Vinalba winning Best Chilean Wine, a great achievement for his new Chilean agency. Mark and myself were in good spirits, having discovered the oenomatic machine pouring multiple measures of Cepparello. Taking our places we were thrilled to win the London Merchant of the year award, ahead of Handford, Lea and Sandeman, Berry Brothers, Uncorked and others. Unfortunately the speech I had loosely outlined turned out to be unnecessary, which was a bit of a shame as I’m sure some of my ‘bon mots’ would have propelled me to the forefront of the wine-related comedy scene. All that was left was a gradual sliding down our chairs as more award-winning wine was consumed over the next three hours of awards, speeches and assorted back-slapping, sitting up briefly to see Michael Broadbent winning a much deserved lifetime achievement award to a standing ovation, which he furnished with a lovely speech featuring that hoary old anecdote about drinking old wine being like making love to an old woman, an anecdote that I would guess Mr Broadbent has told more then once. With that over, taxis were boarded, the hardcore were left to polish off the remains and I got back at about one to dream about tommorow’s meeting with Cliff on margins and stock-control, to tuck the tuxedo safely away, ready for next year, more awards, and maybe, if I put on a little weight, a better fit.
Broadbent vs Parker – The Tasting Report
Last night we held our most eagerly anticipated tasting ever – Robert Parker vs. Michael Broadbent. The amount of interest we received in this tasting and the controversy it engendered were both pleasing and unexpected. The idea arose out of a conversation we had in the shop a few months ago centring around Château Lafite 1985. I said it was one of the best wines I’d ever drunk and we turned to the books. Sure enough, Broadbent raved about it: ‘not too massive, not too dry, not too anything’. A pretty perfect summary, I would say. But look for the same wine in Robert Parker and the disappointment is unmistakable: ‘after a pensive sip, one is likely to ask, Is this all there is?’ So which one is right? Of course, it’s pretty obvious to anybody who thinks about it for a few moments that even to ask this question is to simplify some rather complex issues – What is the purpose of wine criticism? How objective is wine tasting? Isn’t each bottle of wine a unique experience, depending on when and where it is opened? Etc. etc. Well I suppose we could have gone into all that, but I’m not sure it would have been such an enjoyable and popular evening. In the event, our approach was to let the wines speak for themselves – allowing people to make up their own minds about which they preferred and which critic they sided with. Most importantly, the wines showed very well and there was a lot of lively and interesting debate. The wines preferred by Parker certainly differed in style from those preferred by Broadbent and, if there was a conclusion to be drawn, it was that if you are looking for advice on what sort of wine to buy, it is important to identify a critic you tend to agree with or whose taste is in common with your own before making a decision. A rave review means very little unless it comes from a source you can rely on. I will now hand you over to Mark for a full account of the wines and how the voting went… The wines were drunk in three flights (1980s, 1990s & 2000s), with the first two flights sub-divided into pairs. Once each flight had been tasted, we discussed the wines and voted for our preference, with the opinions of Messrs Broadbent and Parker not revealed until the end. All the wines were decanted three hours prior to the tasting, and poured just before we commenced proceedings. Here are the results, with the victorious wine in bold text. 1989 Château d’Issan (22 votes) vs 1986 Château Beychevelle (21 votes) A very close call that actually went to a recount after protestations from a couple of tasters that their preference had not been accounted for! Both wines were well received, but the softness and charm of the d’Issan won out in the end, and the wine went on to improve steadily over the next couple of hours. 1986 Château l’Eglise-Clinet (7 votes) vs 1985 Château Lafite (36 votes) Perhaps a little one-sided this contest, as the only real comparison would have been with another first growth of the same vintage. However, Mr Parker scored the Eglise-Clinet 92 points compared to an original score of 87 points for the Lafite, and we felt that this pairing offered an interesting comparison between two excellent but very different vintages. In the end it was something of a walkover, with the fantastically elegant Lafite highly praised by almost everyone and the Eglise-Clinet deemed to be a little clumsy and poorly integrated. 1997 Château Figeac (21 votes) vs 1998 Château Grand-Mayne (22 votes) Another very close contest between two very different wines, with the up-front, primary nature of the Grand-Mayne triumphing over the softer but utterly charming Figeac. Personally, I felt that the Figeac was a wonderful wine that was fully deserving of the four stars you gave it in 2001. Parker scored it a lowly 76 points, which once revealed at the end of the tasting was met with incredulity by much of the audience. 1993 Château Pichon-Lalande (10 votes) vs 1996 Château Léoville-Barton (33 votes) Despite the large winning margin for the Léoville-Barton, the Pichon-Lalande was a popular wine with the tasters and bearing in mind that it came from a weak vintage (at least in comparison to ’96) it showed remarkably well. An interesting conclusion that was drawn by some of the guests was that ’96 is an atypical Leoville-Barton, in that it was a very forward and somewhat feminine style for both the property and the vintage. As a side note, the Pichon-Lalande was one of two wines (the other being Figeac ’97) that we sold out of after the tasting, and could have sold a great deal more if we had the stock! 2000 Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’, Jaboulet (24 votes) vs 2000 Château Pavie (19 votes) Another tricky pairing, but what could you compare with the Pavie? We decided to match the Pavie with a non-Bordeaux wine, our reasoning being that it is such an atypical example that traditional Claret fans would perhaps be prejudiced against it. As it happened, the ‘La Chapelle’ was unusually light and nothing like as tannic as you would expect an eight year old Hermitage to be, and the Pavie was unbelievably rich, oaky, thick and concentrated – nothing like you would expect a claret to be! The ‘La Chapelle’ was well received, if not with abundant enthusiasm – it was pleasant and very drinkable with sweet red fruit. The Pavie (as expected) completely divided opinion. The 19 votes that it got were from tasters that thought it was superb, with some people mesmerised by its quality. The rest of the audience seemed utterly perplexed by it, seeing it as a somewhat pointless exercise and a wine that could have been made anywhere with a bit of sunshine and a state of the art winery! Typical St Emilion it most certainly isn’t. After we had voted on the final pair of wines, I asked the audience to vote on the wine they would take home that evening: If somebody else was paying (the winner was the Lafite ’85 with 14 votes) If they were paying for it themselves (the winner was Figeac ’97 with 11 votes) The consensus was therefore with Mr Broadbent’s opinions over that of Mr Parker (3 to 2 and the two favourites of the night) although it was certainly a closely fought contest. It was a great evening, and we’re already thinking that a rematach is on the cards for next year, so watch this space… Read more about this tasting by downloading the tasting brochure from the night.
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