What we've been drinking (10 December)
Domaine Barmes Buecher, Hengst, Alsace Grand Cru, 2007
The recent Alsace 2007 panel tasting in Decanter (November 2009) was a cracker, so I’ve been hunting down as many examples from the vintage as I can get hold of. One’s always a bit nervous with Alsace, as sugar levels can be difficult to predict, but I needn’t have worried. The touch of residual sugar was countered by racy acidity on bright citrus fruit, making it the perfect aperitif. It even managed to harmonise with my avocado starter – not the easiest match – and proved so good that I went back for a second glass.
Chateau d'Issan 2003, Margaux, Bordeaux
Some people reckon Margaux 03s are more akin in style to very fine Napa Cabernet than Bordeaux. I don't know about that. This is certainly weird, and you'd be hard put to pick it out of a lineup, but it doesn't have the exotic mintiness of something from Heitz Cellars, for instance. Like lots of 03 Bordeaux it's quite ready to drink, substantial, ripe, round but still with a good tannic base, with blackcurrant fruit, and some spice, and really very nice. It won't last forever as the acid isn't all there and the tannins are ripe and juicy rather than grainy, but it's special in all senses of the word.
Chief Sub Editor, Decanter
McGuigan, Earth’s Portrait Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia 2004
The McGuigan team was in town to celebrate yet another slew of international trophies to add to their cabinet, after a stellar year they are describing as ‘the benchmark’. It was this wine that picked up the latest gong – though it only won silver at the year’s Decanter World Wine Awards in September. However, not to be outdone, the 2003 vintage of the same wine took the DWWA Australian Riesling Over £10 Trophy, so Brian McGuigan and his team are certainly doing something right with this noble grape. Zingy, mouthwatering acidity, steely minerals and a lime zest nose lead on to a concentrated yuzu fruit and cashew nut palate with a hint of developing petrol notes coming through. Beautifully balanced with a firm structure, this screwcapped number is great now but has plenty of life ahead. The wine will soon be renamed under the premium Shortlist label, given to those wines held back by the winery for three to four years before release, allowing consumers to appreciate the wines as they enter their drinking prime. Will there be any left to enter into next year’s competition, I wonder?
Editorial Assistant, Decanter
Champagne Lanson 1976 (magnum) disgorged 1999
Last week I attended a vertical tasting of Champagne Lanson hosted by Tom Stevenson. The event was held in the most curious of venues: a Masonic Temple. Sealed off by a pair of huge varnished wooden doors etched with the words: 'For God And His Service', the room was round, with a white marble floor and red and white marble columns evenly spaced along the walls. It was decked out like a strange courtroom - think Alice in Wonderland meets the Da Vinci Code, with rows of stern brown chairs at either side, each with their own emblem, from eagles and quills to coats of arms. We tasted 10 vintages from 1996 back to 1976, often comparing the same vintages with different disgorgement dates. For me, the 1976 disgorged in 1999 was the fairest of them all. Deliciously complex with a nose of hot buttered crumpets and digestive biscuits. Round, rich, intense and full-bodied, the palate had a lovely mousse held up by a backbone of acidity and an attractive Sherry-like nuttiness. I found the slightly oxidized aromas and long, toasty finish hugely appealing - my wine of the night.