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The 2011 Decanter Fine Wine Encounter (March 8, 2012)

The Successful Collector – by Julian Hitner

A yearly tradition

  Decanter Fine Wine Encounter

Setting out to write this column, it first seemed like a sensible idea to consult the column I'd written on the same subject last year: the annual Decanter Fine Wine Encounter. Held every late November at the five-star Landmark Hotel, just across the street from Marylebone Station in London, set in three grand ballrooms befitting the splendour of the occasion, this yearly event has become something of an annual tradition with me, whereby I set across the Atlantic to taste from a selection of over five hundred wines from around the world.

Looking at last year's column, little seems to have changed for this year's tasting from the one preceding it. For a terrifically reasonable £50, equivalent to just over $80 CAD, one has the opportunity to taste an excellent assortment of wines over the course of a six-hour period. And despite the fact that there is never any food to go with it, excepting all the cream crackers one can eat (to cleanse the palate), compared to tastings put on in Toronto, I would choose to attend a Decanter wine event any day of the week.

  Cos d'Estournel

Just think: where else can I taste the 2008 Cos d'Estournel, the Diamond Creek 2008 Gravelly Meadow, the Louis Latour 2005 Corton-Charlemagne, the Taittinger 2000 Comtes de Champagne, the Graham's 1980 Vintage Port, or the Domaines Schlumberger 2005 Kitterlé Grand Cru Pinot Gris under the same roof? Not enough examples? How about the 2008 La Conseillante, the 2005 Sociando-Mallet, the 2005 Clerc Milon, the 2009 Lafon-Rochet, the Ceretto 2004 Barolo Brunate Bricco Rocche, the Château d'Esclans 2009 Garrus (the most luxurious rosé in the world), the Taylor Fladgate 1985 Vintage Port, or the Chapoutier 2007 Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne? For the record, I am only naming wines I personally tasted, for there were scores of others that I simply had neither the time nor the requisite energy, not to mention unimpaired sobriety, to properly taste.

But is this not the case with every great wine tasting, never having enough time or energy to taste everything possible? A horrible cross to bear when the occasion arises, but one that does not seem all that begrudging when Decanter puts on a show. In the end, wine tasting organizers around the world, especially here in Toronto, could learn a lot from them.

A few gems for collectors

White Wines:

Maison Louis Latour 2005, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru AOC, Burgundy, France: Built specifically with cellaring in mind, I found the '05 somewhat fatigued, more like "asleep," when I examined it. And yet, there was definitely no mistaking the exquisite elegance and potential intensity of the wine. Pale-light straw in colour, it does seem to be evolving phenomenally, offering gorgeous hints of almond-laden lemony pears, cream, minerals, yellow plums, sherbet, nuts, and a trace of quince and spice. Seriously complex, featuring incredible, focused fruit, balanced acidity, and a fantastically elegant hint of nutted pears and cream on the finish. Thus: while slightly fatigued, all signs point to a wine that will only get better, more open, in the years to come—from a truly exemplary vintage, by the way. Now–2025++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
94++     $175.00 (#78311)     Vintages Special Offer

Domaines Schlumberger 2007, Kitterlé Grand Cru Pinot Gris AOC, Alsace, France: From Domaines Schlumberger's most prized vineyard, the 2007 Kitterlé has got to be tasted to be believed; a Pinot Gris of unbelievable harmony, intensity, and finesse. Light golden-straw in colour, the wine exhibits astonishing scents of golden honeyed nuts, giving way to poached lemony pears, orange zest, bergamot, jasmine, crème brûlée, and plenty of spice. Very complex, delivering dazzling fruit, balanced acidity, and a considerably elegant, poignant hint of golden honeyed nuts and pears on the finish. One of the finest of its type I have tasted in years. Now–2020+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
93+     Currently Unavailable     Vinexx (Private Order)

Red Wines:

Château La Conseillante 2008, Pomerol AOC, Bordeaux, France: A candidate for Pomerol of the vintage, the 2008 La Conseillante is an incredible success: luxurious, luminescent, and unbelievably refined. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine features ‘the usual' aromas of espresso and currants that shortly make way for licorice, black cherries, charcoal embers, blackberries, crushed rocks, kirsch, and a hint of pain grillé, vanilla, and spice. Truly complex, delivering exemplary fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a generous, downright excellent hint of espresso and currants on the finish. Once again, La Conseillante seems to capture the sheer essence of the commune like few other wines. Bravo! 86% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc. Now–2032++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
95     $109.00 (#133835)     Vintages 2008 Bordeaux Futures

Château Cos d'Estournel 2008, St-Estèphe AOC, Bordeaux, France: Under present management, Cos d'Estournel has launched its own personal crusade to thrust its wines, already magnificent, to the next strata of quality. Thus: dark-opaque ruby in colour, the dazzling '08 is amazingly seductive, featuring incredible aromas of crème de cassis, espresso, mocha, black violets, charcoal, licorice, mild grilled herbs, mint, vanilla, and spice. Extremely complex, carrying deliciously "chewy" yet elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an awesomely sturdy, refined hint of currants and charcoal (rather "dusty") on the finish. Unbelievably elegant, beautifully structured, sublime St-Estèphe. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Now–2035++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
95     $169.00 (#136564)     Vintages 2008 Bordeaux Futures

Diamond Creek Vineyards 2008 Gravelly Meadow Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain (Napa Valley), California: One of four single-vineyard wines, the 2008 Gravelly Meadow is an astounding Cabernet Sauvignon of terrific expression, dimension, and focus. Opaque ruby in colour, this beauty is much more minerally in expression than its counterparts, delivering absolutely wonderful aromas of mocha, "dusty" currants, blackberries (also in compote form), spring flowers, incense, licorice, kirsch, and a hint of leather, vanilla, and spice. Extremely complex, proffering gorgeous, almost "gravelly" fruit (seriously), firm tannins, slightly milder acidity, and a lingering, delicious hint of near-silky currants and hot chocolate on the finish. My favourite of the four labels from this vintage. Now–2035++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
95     $250.00 (Case of 6)     Lifford Wine Agency (Private Order)

Ceretto 2004 Bricco Rocche, Barolo (Brunate) DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: One of the best Barolos I have ever tasted from Ceretto, the 2004 Bricco Rocche, for those who are interested, is sourced from the famed Brunate vineyard, located just north of the equally famous Cerequio vineyard. Medium-dark red currant in colour with a touch of garnet, this fabulous bottling reveals intensely elegant, personable aromas of wild savoury game, tar, cedar, bergamot, pipe tobacco, dried cherries, undergrowth, and a terrific hint of smoke and spice. Truly complex, featuring magnificently savoury, "animalistic" fruit (very powerful), firm tannins, balanced acidity, lingering, unfailingly elegant hint of beef stew and "Barolo" essences on the finish. Stunning, eye-opening wine. Now–2025+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
94     $229.00 (#103101)     Vintages October 2009 Classics Catalogue

Château Lafon-Rochet 2009, St-Estèphe AOC, Bordeaux, France: Matching the sensational '05 pound for pound, the 2009 Lafon-Rochet is easily one of the best wines ever made at this excellent estate. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, it is marvellously toasted, featuring wonderful aromas of currants, blackberries, crushed flowers, graphite, forest floor, and a hint of blueberries, pain grillé, vanilla, and spice. Very complex, possessing superb fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a truly elegant, classical hint of currants, licorice, and "iron" asphalt on the finish. Excellent harmony, breed, and finesse. Kudos to the Tesseron family for their obvious commitment to quality, which, in the case of the '09, is nothing short of considerable. According to one source: 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot – is the rest Cabernet Franc? Now–2030++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
93     $77.00 (#197228)     Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

Château Sociando-Mallet 2005, Haut-Médoc AOC, Bordeaux, France: Easily the greatest estate on the Left Bank not included in the 1855 Classification, the 2005 Sociando-Mallet is one of the best wines proprietor Jean Guatreau has ever produced. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine, evolving beautifully, displays intricately woven aromas of currants, plums, licorice, pain grillé, crushed rocks, flowers, underbrush, and a gorgeously delicate hint of vanilla and spice. Very complex, carrying superbly elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a refined, "aristocratic" yet expressive hint of currants and crushed rocks on the finish. As always, a claret of excellent expression, precision, and grace. The vineyard is planted to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Now–2025++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
92++     $75.00 (#502286)     Vintages 2005 Bordeaux Futures

Château Clerc Milon 2005, Pauillac AOC, Bordeaux, France: Evolving very slowly, the remarkable 2005 Clerc Milon represents a superlative offering of real character, refinement, and charm. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine exhibits graceful, multilayered aromas of forested currants and plums, scorched earth, licorice, extremely subtle cedarwood, vanilla, and spice. Quite complex, actually, presenting beautiful, "dignified" fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a sophisticated, exemplary hint of currants and plums (slightly savoury) on the finish. Shutting down for the present time, it seems, yet its inherent personality and beauty remain unaffected. Wonderful Pauillac. 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. Now–2023++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
91++     $68.45 (#503151)     Vintages 2005 Bordeaux Futures

M. Chapoutier 2007 Monier de la Sizeranne, Hermitage AOC, Rhône, France: While lighter in style than expected, the 2007 Monier de la Sizeranne, a blend of 100% Syrah from different vineyards throughout the appellation, is an extremely elegant, focused Hermitage of beautiful appeal. Dark ruby in colour, it reveals multilayered yet delicate aromas of gentle peppery plums and dark cherries, grilled herbs, lavender, leather, garrigue, pain grille, and a hint of incense and spice. Complex, possessing great fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a refined, "rugged" yet accessible hint of plums, grilled herbs, and garrigue on the finish. Perhaps (comparatively) insubstantial, yet full of vitality, expression, and charm. Now–2024++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
91     $99.00 (#182725)     Vintages October 2010 Classics Catalogue

Sparkling Wine:

Taittinger Vintage 2000 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne, France: Flagship wine of the family-owned Taittinger establishment, the 2000 Comtes de Champagne is a prodigious Blanc de Blancs of outstanding luxury, personality, style, and generosity. Pale-light straw lime in colour, it boasts an ecstatic array of scents, starting with "meaty" lemon and biscuits, eventually giving way to jasmine, pistachios, ginger, exotic spices, brioche, lime, vanilla, and orange zest. Extremely complex, delivering magnificent frothy fruit, brilliant acidity, and an extravagant, ceaseless hint of "meaty" lemon, brioche, and exotic spices on the finish. A champagne that just doesn't know when to quit – wow! Now-2026+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
94++     Currently Unavailable     Family Wine Merchants (Private Order)

Fortified Wines:

Taylor Fladgate 1985 Vintage Port, Douro DOC, Portugal: My favourite of the '85s, the Taylor Fladgate is a extremely delectable, refined, and excellent vintage port, only recently reaching its peak. Dark red currant in colour with a touch of garnet, the wine has evolved brilliantly to reveal a fantastic bouquet of notably savoury fruitcake, forest floor, dates, undergrowth, smoke, gingerbread, and plenty of spice. Truly complex (the wine later opened up to reveal even more aromatics), expressing glorious fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a lingering, utterly delicious hint of velvety fruitcake (a little savoury) on the finish. In a class of its own, this should remain study for a good several decades more. Now–2030+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
94++     Currently Unavailable     Sylvestre Wines & Spirits (Private Order)

Graham's 1980 Vintage Port, Douro DOC, Portugal: While not generally looked upon as a stellar vintage, most of the major houses declared a vintage in 1980, with Graham's standing out as one of the best, most magnificent of the lot. Dark red-garnet in colour, the wine is evolving extremely well, presenting a terrific bouquet of mint-driven dried figs, dates, red plums, fruitcake, forest floor, slight savoury overtones, and a hint of tar, baker's chocolate, cedarwood, and spice (gingerbread). Seriously complex, with wonderful, robust fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an extravagant, lingering hint of mint and fruitcake on the finish. Now in its fourth decade, the '80 has probably seen slightly better days behind it; but it still has plenty of life to go. Now–2025++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
94+     $109.00 (#706663)     Vintages May 2011 Classics Catalogue

Rosé Wine:

Château d'Esclans 2009 Garrus, Côtes de Provence AOC, Provence, France: Flagship rosé of Château d'Esclans and the most costly "blush" wine in the world, the 2009 Garrus is about as unique, elegant, and profound a wine (for its type) as it comes. Pale pink in colour, it is finely toasted (the wine is partially aged in new French oak), offering refined, inviting scents of pink grapefruit, delicate vanillin, cream, pistachios, dried cherries (extremely subtle), lavender, and spice. Very complex, actually, carrying superlative, almost Burgundian-styled fruit, brilliant acidity, and an extraordinary hint of subtle toasted French oak and pink grapefruit on the finish. Amazing – the most indulgent rosé I have ever tasted. 100% Grenache. Now–2013. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2011)
93     Currently Unavailable     Halpern Wine Enterprises (Private Order)




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