Two contrasting tastings held within a week of each other, each of nine wines, each chosen and led by a member of London Branch, illustrate the variety of the types of tastings on our programme.
The first was of a selection of red Bordeaux from the 1970s, led by Jeffrey Benson. Would they still be enjoyable to drink, long after ideal maturity? We wanted to see what they were like now – taking the risk!
The first two wines were from 1970, which was an exceptionally good vintage. The 1970 Château Montlanderie, from Côtes De Castillon, east of St. Émilion, with dominant grape varieties Merlot and Cabernet Franc, held up well, still a nice colour, fruit on the nose, soft taste, and drinkable. The 1970 Château La Tour Figeac, a St Émilion appellation, was also largely Merlot, and remained very drinkable.
The 1971 Château Liversan, from the Haut Médoc, had really stood the test of time: a very ripe nose, still a little tannin, and good rich ripe fruit, a lovely wine.
The next wines were past their best, losing their fruit, or beginning to dry out, or not lasting long in the glass, but that is what is to be expected in this kind of tasting. But finally we tasted a1979 Château Palmer of Margaux. This winery has produced consistently good wines since the beginning of the 1960s, which fetch high prices at auction. This wine lives on. The nose showed aromas of cedar wood and ripe fruit. The palate was less significant with some fruit, some acidity, and drying tannins, but still eminently drinkable.
The second tasting, a week later, led by Keith Ellis, was to show good value Portuguese wines for current drinking which were readily available. Portugal has become an exciting and innovative wine region, with amazing diversity of types of wine, regions with different climatic and terroir conditions, and grape varieties, with many indigenous grapes as well as classic varieties.
Keith had selected two white and seven red wines from different wine regions and from different grapes, from various retailers, and all under £10. Cheap and cheerful maybe, but certainly some terrific examples of well-priced Portuguese wines for easy current drinking.
One of the pleasures of wine tastings is the chance to compare and contrast: from wines no longer available to wines on the supermarket shelf, from wines which we would not be prepared to spend the immense sum for which they might be obtainable to wines we could buy by the case for ready quaffing. We achieved this with these two tastings.