What we've been drinking (6 May)
Editorial assistant, Decanter
Vega Sicilia, Unico, 1995
I've just got back from three intense and exciting days at the Fine Wine 2010 conference in Ribera del Duero organized by Wine Intelligence. The conference drew some of the wine world's big guns, including Michael Mondavi, Olivier Krug, Serge Hochar and Ernst Loosen, who all tried to define the term 'fine wine' and what it means for the consumer. On the penultimate evening we were treated to a tasting and tour of Ribera del Duero’s, and indeed Spain’s most prestigious estate – Vega Sicila. Owner Pablo Alvarez, who bought the estate in 1982, is notoriously private and rarely opens his doors to guests, so I felt incredibly lucky to be there. Described by Serena Sutcliffe MW as being more like ‘Dolce e Gabanna than Ferragamo’, Vega Sicila is characterized by its cutting edge, slightly erratic character. I had huge expectations for the wine, and while the 2002 was disappointing, the 1995 shone. It had a lovely developed nose that could only be Spanish, of game, meat, earth, wood, cherry and hints of dried fruit. A more feminine wine than the ‘02, it was silky, supple and rounded with excellent body, weight and depth. Opening up further in the glass, the savoury finish was exquisite. After the tasting I took myself off from the group and looked out onto the vines, watching the sun slowly dip towards the horizon.
Publishing Director, Decanter
Cune Imperial 1987
At a unique tasting of ten vintages of Cune Imperial ranging from 2004 back to 1917, the 1987 stopped me in my tracks. Here was a wine which could compete with the finest wines of the world. Luminous red-brick in colour with a sensual bouquet of vanilla, red fruit and chanterelles, the palate a perfect balance between a depth of supple rich red berries and finely atuned acidity resulting in a remarkable freshness, hints of wild garlic and mushrooms starting to emerge. Overall a wonderful classy and elegant wine. Now the problem is where to buy it?
Chief Sub Editor, Decanter
Penfolds Luxury and Icon 2010 releases
On May 1 each year, there’s a queue outside bottle shops around Australia of punters waiting to snap up the new releases from Penfolds, including the flagship Grange. A number of Penfolds retailers and their clients (and a few journalists) jumped the gun – lucky enough to taste them at a special pre-release event in London two days’ before. Chief Winemaker Peter Gago was unable to make it to the tasting but UK-based winemaker Tom Portet was not shy in extolling the team’s huge enthusiasm for these Luxury and Icon wines: Grange 2005, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2007, Magill Estate Shiraz 2007, St Henri Shiraz 2006, Yattarna Chardonnay 2007 and Reserve Bin 08A Chardonnay 2008. For my palate, Yattarna’s beautifully focussed, restrained citrus fruit trumped the big, exotic fruit and buttery vanilla oak-style of the Bin 08A. The unoaked St Henri has always been one of my favourites and this new vintage – the 50th commercial release – didn’t disappoint: violet, blackberry and savoury with a real liquorice kick – more elegant than the forward, extracted soy sauce and cola flavours of the RWT. Magill Estate, Penfolds only single-vineyard wine, has a highly original style: modern yet classic and hugely complex with raspberry fruit pastilles and coffee. Finally the two show stoppers. This new Grange is generous and muscular, showing sweet herbs and dense berry fruits with dark spiced chocolate smoothness; extracted but not overdone. Shiraz may be Penfolds calling card, but Gago et al show they’re a dab hand at Cabernet Sauvignon too, with this 707 – the stand-out of the new releases – one of the best yet: black olive, soy sauce, leather, cedar and tobacco perfume, fresh juicy, minty cassis fruit and hints of sage on the palate, grippy tannins and a creamy texture. Delicious. Keep in mind all these are babies – the Penfolds team suggest you could drink the Chardonnays and RWT now, but try and hang on at least two to four years before broaching the others and you’ll get your rewards of patience.