I went to a cool dinner last night in London with some friends at Stephen Browett's house. Browett is a buddy of mine and owner of Farr Vintners, the global fine-wine merchant. We got most of the members of our old wine tasting group, affectionately known as UFB (Unf***ing Believable).
It was great to see everyone, although we all look older and grayer now. It's been almost 20 years since we first started our tasting group.
We tasted (drank) a range of fantastic wines including 1986 Vieux-Château-Certan and 1989 Cheval-Blanc. The former was drinking beautifully with a focused berry, chocolate and floral character (92 points, unofficially) while the latter was ripe and round, with brown sugar and plum character (91 points, unofficially). The '89 Cheval is much better than some people think, but not up to the great 1990.
All the wines were served completely blind, meaning they arrived in bagged bottles and we knew nothing but that they were from Bordeaux. Or at least, they were supposed to be from Bordeaux.
We moved on to a set of Pape Cléments from 1964, 1957 and 1955. Most everyone liked the wines in the order they were served, with the 1964 being the stunner. It showed so much fresh raspberry and chocolate character with a live herb undertone. It was full and velvety. Very long and sexy. (94 points, unofficially)
Pape Clement really does have an amazing pedigree and soil. It's just that the estate made some pretty mediocre wines in the 1980s and 1970s, which marred its reputation. Recently, it has been making the outstanding wines it should be, not to mention the excellent tiny-production whites.
Stephen pulled out a bottle of Port in my honor. I can't tell you how many hellish hangovers I have had from Port with this tasting group! So I took it easy. And I noticed the others did as well.
He served it blind, and I thought the rich old Port showed a lot of firm and concentrated tannins with sweet, almost raisiny fruit. My mind was flashing back like the numbers on a roulette table looking for that special vintage. "1966," I said. "It has to be that because of the concentration and firm chewy tannins even though the Port is clearly aged."
I was only off by more than THREE DECADES! It was a 1934 Quinta do Noval. UFB!
The old Port showed stunning raisin, spice and Christmas cake and plum pudding aromas and flavors. It was full and medium sweet with a long, long finish. I hadn't tasted this in more than a decade and it's just the same. 98 points, unofficially.
Tasting groups are a gas with the right people. It gives you the chance to hang, compare notes and have a lot of fun. It's also a humbling experience when you get the wines wrong blind.
Another interesting point is the conversation, since a number of my tasting group members are in the wine trade. Stephen and others were not going to Bordeaux this year to taste 2008 from barrel. It was the first time in years.
"We don't want to encourage the Bordelais," he said. "I don't think they will come down enough in price to sell 2008 en primeur, so there is little use in going at the moment—the world is not the same place as it was last year."
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — March 16, 2009 1:46pm ET
Jonathan Rezabek — Chandler, AZ — March 16, 2009 3:25pm ET
Thomas Hughes — Texas — March 16, 2009 3:33pm ET
James Peterson — San Antonio, Texas — March 16, 2009 8:06pm ET
Jonathan Rezabek — Chandler, AZ — March 16, 2009 9:48pm ET
James Suckling — — March 16, 2009 10:14pm ET
Ann Suchta — Wimington, Delaware — March 18, 2009 12:21pm ET
David Allen — Lufkin, Texas — March 20, 2009 10:57pm ET
Chris Tenggren — Elburn, IL — March 23, 2009 10:16am ET
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