The 2012 Decanter Fine Wine Encounter (December 27, 2012)
The Successful Collector – by Julian Hitner
Looking back on the cornucopia of tastings I've attended this year, the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter was a personal favourite.
And not just because the magazine published one of my articles last month. The organizers of this acclaimed periodical are singularly adept at arranging a great show.
Held at the exquisite Landmark Hotel in London every November, the year's event featured over one thousand fine wines from around the globe. As usual, wine portions were ample, spare glasses plentiful, and spittoons advisable.
How to taste one thousand wines over two days? The short answer is that you don't – you visit the tables that interest you the most and cover as many different types of wines as you can.
As always, I began with the French offerings. This year's highlights: Taittinger 2000 Comtes de Champagne, all luxury and grace; Louis Latour 2007 Corton-Charlemagne, elegant and pristine; 2010 Château Sociando-Mallet, impeccably layered and refined (tasted alongside the magnificent '05); and 2005 Château Montrose, possibly the greatest wine ever produced here (tasted alongside the astounding '09).
Other standouts: M. Chapoutier 2010 Invitare Condrieu, Domaines Schlumberger 2007 Kitterlé Pinot Gris, Château Rol Valentin 2010 Vieilles Vignes, 2009 Château Chauvin, 2005 Château d'Angludet, 2004 Château Phélan Ségur, 2000 Château d'Issan, and 1990 Château Bastor-Lamontagne (magnum format).
Switching to Italy, no estate performed better than Aldo Conterno, at whose table I probably spent at least half an hour. Personal favourites: 2008 Colonnello Barolo, sublimely persistent and flavoured; 2008 Romirasco Barolo, amazing modernity and harmony; and 2005 Granbussia Barolo Riserva, the pride and joy of the winery and brimming with finesse, structure, and breed; produced only in the best vintages, it seemed rather strange the Granbussia was bottled in what was widely considered a difficult year.
No matter, from here on my wanderings took me to this table and that. From Portugal, the Graham's 30 and 40 Year Old Tawnies – two extraordinary fortifieds. From Germany, the Bischöfliche Weingüter 2011 Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese – the obvious standout for its type. From Canada, the Peller Estates NV Ice Cuvée Rosé, a terrific concoction of sparkling wine (Méthode Classique) with a healthy dollop of Cabernet Franc icewine – truly a Canadian original. In large-scale wine tastings like these, eclectic tastes (paradoxically) go a long way.
Indeed, my list of wondrous wines would have undoubtedly been much more extensive had I spent every spare moment slurping, spitting, and scribbling furiously. But great wine tastings aren't like that. Part of the enjoyment of tastings like the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter are the fellow tasters you meet, the conversations you have with the people serving the wine, and the collegial wine commentators you are likely to run across. Without the shared experience of it all, there'd be really no point in attending.