For some inexplicable reason, I was invited to a tasting put together by the Primum Familiae Vinum group of twelve of Europe's leading wine families which took place in one of the ballrooms at the Park Lane Hilton yesterday. I am not complaining!
This was a rare opportunity to taste wines from Joseph Drouhin, Egon Muller, Sassicaia, Vega Sicilia and Mouton Rothschild, amongst others. I did.
I began with a couple of Egon Muller wines: the Scharzhofberger Spatlese 2010 followed by the Auslese. Where the Spatlese had a delicious tropical grapefruit nose and full palate with sweet fruit and tangy acidity, the Auslese was more so. Astonishing really. I am a convert!
I confess to being a little underwhelmed by one or two of the wines I tasted from Tenuta San Guido until, that is, I got to Sassicaia itself. A 2008, this was inevitably too young: restrained and tight but with a promise of things to come.
Chateau de Beaucastel was next door so I jumped in with the 2009 Gigondas "La Gille" from Perrin et Fils which had a lovely Grenache nose, a little lighter on the palate than I had imagined it would be though. A very modern style wine: extremely good with a beautifully rounded texture but it didn't scream out "Gigondas" to me and I rather thought I would be able to enjoy it already (maybe give it a year or two but even this would be a young wine by Gigondas standards). I had tasted the Vinsobres and one or two other wines from this stable quite recently so moved straight on to Beaucastel 2009 with its gorgeous Mourvedre/Grenache nose (and I love the whiff of old-vine Counoise it offers). Surprisingly soft on the palate where some oak shows through - more than usual, I thought - so needs to integrate fully. A lovely wine by any standards.
I moved next to the Vega Sicilia table. Pintia 2007 has a good black-fruited nose but, for now, the oak dominates the palate. It will be good in time, of course although I didn't find it terribly long. Alion 2007 leans more towards Bordeaux with some pencil shaving character etc although there is no doubting its Spanish roots. Valbuena 2006 has an excellent structure, superb fruit and a nice tang: I could certainly drink this with pleasure (its not likely to happen though) but, of course, the star of the show (at this table, anyway) was Unico 2000 with a glorious nose and wonderful softness that made me feel very much (too much?) at home. Quite exceptional.
As someone who is rarely as impressed with even the great wines of Bordeaux as others tell me I should be, the Mouton Rothschild range had an uphill task. It managed fairly well with the Armailhac 2000 offering a good, mature nose including cedar and some black fruit, everything subtly meshed together. The palate was lighter than the nose supposed but this would certainly be a pleasant wine over the next ten years if you want to enjoy a decent Bordeaux. The Clerc Milon 1998 offered more of the same with, perhaps, a little more concentration. At the end of the table was the 2004 Mouton itself which did offer rather more. Still very tight but lots of potential here. Worth the money? Not to me.
I just had time to taste the 2009 reds offered on the Joseph Drouhin table: no waiting around for the Savigny Premier Cru Clos des Godeaux; this is approachable already. Extremely good for Savigny whose wines rarely achieve this level of richness and are usually a little more rustic in my experience. The Chambolle Premier Cru was excellent with the texture and balance making me wish I wasn't driving. The Beaune Clos des Mouches is more animal and needs time to establish where it will be on the pecking order. If I was buying any of these to drink soon it would be the Chambolle but in ten years time I would probably want the Beaune.
Running out of time, I spied a couple of aged tawny ports on the Symington table: Graham's 20-year-old was classic, the 40-year-old fuller, spicier, extremely long and just glorious. Quite a kick too.
In conclusion, yes, I enjoyed myself.