Over two nights both Richmond and Teddington Wine Societies enjoyed a comparison of classic Bordeaux wines with a brilliant lineup of New World wines. Still on Zoom – with luck we will be able to meet in person soon – so the slick Stanley Road decanting operation was in full swing, and the bags of eight 50ml bottles were distributed on the morning of the event (or a bit earlier for those further afield).
The slick operation went a bit off the rails with our first comparison at Richmond. I had selected an interesting Margaret River wine from the hugely respected Cullen estate to compare with the Pessac-Léognan Ch Lamonthe Bouscaut (80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon). I realised the clue was in the name when I opened it – not quite an ‘orange’ wine, but as a result of spending up to 40 days on skins in amphorae followed by 7 months in new French oak, this was Sauvignon Blanc not as we know it. I thought it was fascinating – lovely acidity, rich texture, autumnal flavours, but it was nothing like the Bordeaux – an outstanding creamy oaky wine with ripe peachy flavours balanced with great acidity, herbaceous notes and a huge finish. We visited the estate on tour several years ago and met the family, and I think even at £28/bottle it was fabulous value. At Teddington we compared it with a different Cullen wine – a 2014 Semillon which was a ‘fairer’ comparison, despite being unoaked it had wonderful texture and complex flavours. We visited Cullen during our Australian tour in 2019, hard to believe that was only 18 months ago!
The comparison of the Ch Tour de Capet Saint Emilion Grand Cru (80% Merlot 20% Cabernet France) with the Aniello 006 Merlot from Patagonia was a more ‘realistic comparison. Both had complex fruit, with spicy oak notes, the Tour de Capet offered more overt ‘quality’ (2014 was a particularly good year for the Right Bank) but when price came into the consideration opinions about the Argentinian wine perked up – more approachable, with the vibrancy associated with Argentina.
Château Dufort-Vivens is a second classed growth estate in Margaux and ‘Vivens’ is their second wine. It was proof that second wines from great estates are a great way to enjoy really good wine at a much more reasonable price – and this was an interesting twist on the softer elegance we expect from the Margaux appellation, it had intense concentrated fruit, with a lot of structure and hints of earth and farmyard. By comparison the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Leeu Passant in Stellenbosch, despite having been made during the incredibly severe drought that has only recently ended, was much prettier, lighter and approachable but still offered some lovely complexity on a long finish.
We finished with a couple of sweeties. Château Laville is a Sauternes estate that seems to duck under the radar, which is unfair – this was lemon marmalade in a glass with honey and mushrooms to follow. If you aren’t into sweet wine that probably sounds ghastly, but it was lovely and we agreed it was a ‘proper pudding’ wine – perfect for tarte tatin. By comparison the botrytised Semillon from the Barossa Valley, made by Peter Lehman, had a bit less acidity but super flavours of grilled oranges and was, we agreed, the perfect wine for rhubarb crumble.
This was not meant to be a competition and I think it achieved the real objective – a celebration of some classic wine styles, and how they are expressed in different places by winemakers with different perspectives.
For details of the wines see nthe wines we have tasted page.