Icons of the New World

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Quality and not just quantity – that was the message from the master class “Icons of the New World”.
By Panos Kakaviatos

Fine Wine Encounter

Quality and not just quantity – that was the message from the master class “Icons of the New World”. An iconic New World wine could designate “a very heavy bottle you can hardly pick up,” joked moderator Stephen Brook. But not for his master class, where quality at various prices points pleased many a palate, from the famous Stags Leap Fay Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) at about £90 to Catena Zapata Adrianna Malbec (Argentina), in the upper £20s.

Some saw their New World clichés shattered. Elspeth Paterson of Scotland could not believe that the Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2008, by celebrated winemaker Brian Croser, was Australian. “This has the freshness and minerality of a fine Chablis,” she proclaimed. Brook admired the “palate cleansing raciness” of the wine. Other participants preferred the more “typically Australian” style in the Leeuwin Estate's Art Series Chardonnay 2007, with more evident butter and thickness on the palate: the “full on treatment”, Brook said, of French oak aging complete with lees stirring.

The reds that followed traversed a cornucopia of styles, including a European-styled Cheval des Andes 2006, which blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec from vines dating back to 1928. Under the direction of the French luxury goods company LVMH and the famous Chateau Cheval Blanc in St. Emilion, the wine tasted “still youthful and tannic” for a New World wine, Brook said. But the Malbec that participants voted as their favourite was the special pre-phylloxera, 78-year old vine cuvee of Bodegas Noemia 2008 (Argentina) which “tastes and is expensive”, Brook told participants. Costing almost £100 per bottle, only 3,000 bottles are produced each year from vines grown on 1.5 hectares. The wine was big, yet subtle with graphite notes and “lovely sweet fruit without any traces of jammyness,” Brook said.

A special treat was the ultra-rich Penfolds 707 2008 (£70), the top Cabernet Sauvignon bottling from the famous Australian producer. Sourced from several vineyards, including Barossa and Coonawarra, the wine is purposefully powerful, Brook said, “opaque, very oaky with a touch of mint and sweetness, but with good acidity to refresh it: an assertive wine.” Tasted along with the Stags Leap, Brook called them both “20 year wines.”