It won’t surprise you to hear that Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson have tried some of the world’s rarest wines.
But here are the names and vintages they picked out from an already-enviable list, in a special Decanter interview to mark the eighth edition of the World Atlas of Wine.
Jancis Robinson MW
Cheval Blanc 1947
‘When asked about the best wine I’ve tasted, my stock answer is Cheval Blanc 1947, which is a wonderful wine – so much so that it has been counterfeited multiple times.
‘I’ve been luckily enough to taste 12 different bottles and magnums with Cheval Blanc ’47 on the label and I am confident that only two were, actually, the real thing. But they were absolutely marvellous. A taste of absolute heaven.
‘One bottle was shared by a great wine lover, [who is also] known to British television watchers – Phillip Schofield – which was very kind of him. He treated us to a lovely dinner, with multiple vintages of Cheval Blanc, and ’47 was the star.
‘Rayas 1998 is completely stunning, and I’ve been lucky enough to taste it twice recently. I think this is now tasting even better than the famous ’78 and ’89. This is just magical.’
Dom Pérignon 2002 vs Cristal 2008
‘Some really top bottles of Dom Pérignon have hit the spot I must say, [such as] 2002 even when it was launched, and now it’s in its P2 late release stage – and that is stunning.
‘I think I have to put a Cristal in there – 2008 will be completely mind-blowing, but probably not there quite yet.’
‘Well perhaps the last one, it’s a funny one, and not by any means a ‘grand’ wine, but utterly memorable. When we had just two children and they were very, very young, we were flying to New Zealand, via Tahiti. We were stopped in Tahiti and the Air New Zealand air hostess perhaps was sorry for me travelling with two such young children.
‘There was a leftover bottle of Charles Heidsieck Champagne, before Charles Heidsieck was really good, and she very kindly gave me that for our time there. I just remember looking at that amazing southern sky, sipping this pretty ordinary, but wonderful bottle of Champagne.’
View the video below to hear all of Jancis’s memorable wines, and the stories behind them.
Wine made before Shakespeare was born
‘These wines are memorable because of their rarity and because I have been lucky enough to taste really, really old wines.
‘I was one of the lucky people to taste the 1540, which was a steinwein from Würzburg in Bavaria. And by some miracle two bottles of the 1540 survived, and they were opened when I was but a lad, in 1963 I think it was.
‘For a moment, this little brown liquid was alive. It was actually wine; it was uncorrupted. Within a minute or two it was gone, it had turned upside down and it was complete vinegar. But I thought it was incredible that I had ingested something that had ripened more than 300 years ago – I mean, before Shakespeare was born.
‘That gave me such a respect for wine. It is the only foodstuff that could possibly, possibly do that.
‘I’ve tasted some other ancient wines which set me on my passion for Tokaji. This was one great wine region stuck behind the Iron Curtain but I knew how great it was because I had tasted some. I don’t remember the vintage exactly of the first great ancient one I tasted.
‘But later I did taste some from the Imperial Cellar in Vienna, and all we knew was that they were pre-1750. And they were black, and intense to a degree that I couldn’t believe.’
‘On occasions when Burgundy shippers have opened really old bottles, I remember a Meursault, from 1864, which was just breathtaking.
‘It didn’t really matter if it was Meursault or Volnay or Chambertin. This was an incredibly fine antique. It had the lustre of a lovely antique, and still potent and still wine-y.
‘It’s things like that that can give you great faith in what wine is and what wine can be.’
Champagne 1911 vintage
‘The greatest Champagne as such, that I remember, was the famous Perrier-Jouët 1911.
‘I remember my old patron, André Simon, telling me that as far as he was concerned “1911 was the last great Champagne vintage”.’
View the video below to hear all of Hugh’s memorable wines, and the stories behind them. See more videos with Jancis and Hugh on Decanter’s Youtube account.
Read a full interview with Robinson and Johnson in the December 2019 issue of Decanter, on sale now.