We met on the 9th February at the Naval Club in Mayfair to taste sweet wines from my collection. I mentioned that sweetness in wines was promoted by hard pruning in winter, by green harvesting (cutting off many bunches of grapes in early summer), by favourable climates and weather, by noble rot (Botrytis cinerea fungus) allowing water evaporation, or by stopping fermentation by adding alcohol or by sterile filtration. My tasting comments seem a bit repetitive because the quality was so high and many of the wines had such similar characteristics. Wine 1 was produced cryogenically, freezing out some of the water from the juice to concentrate flavours, sugars and acids. It wins many gold medals in the UK and abroad. Wines 3 and 10 had stopped fermentations, and wines 2 and 10 were fortified. The rest had enough alcohol to stop the fermentation naturally, leaving residual sugar.
- North Star, Eglantine Vineyard, 2001, A. and V. Skuriat, Costock, Nottinghamshire, 11.5%. Lovely deep gold. Good bouquet smelling of noble rot. A big pleasant flavour. Sweet, balanced, Sauternes-like. Delicious. I gave it 9 out of 10 for quality
- Mystery wine, served blind. Commercial, single grape variety, from a very traditional wine area in the Northern Hemisphere, 18%. I had had the bottle at least 10 years. Deep black-brown, with an orange edge. Big legs. Very sweet, concentrated. Long, lovely. 9/10. There were several guesses of ‘PX’ (Pedro Ximénez, as used in most sweet sherries), then Chris Davenport-Jones won the small bottle of home-made Amaretto liqueur with his correct suggestion of a Moscatel sherry. It was Ambrosia Moscatel Reservas Especiales de Romate, from Sanchéz Romate, Jerez.
- Joh. Jos. Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, 2005, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 7.0%. Light gold; very small bubbles. Fragrant nose with some petrol; some people said ‘celery’! Medium sweet. Elegant. Not a big body. Balanced. 8½/10 now but we were drinking it much too young.
- Coteaux du Layon, Moulin Touchais, Chenin Blanc, 1975, Loire, 13%. Gold. Rich bouquet of honey, barley sugar, noble rot. Sweet but not very. Very good but lighter than all the wines which followed. 8½/10.
- Château Suduiraut 1er Cru Classé, 2005, Sauternes, 13.5%. 2005 was an excellent year in Sauternes, warm, with lots of Botrytis and very ripe fruit. Gold. Excellent big bouquet of noble rot. Great flavour. Good body and length. Delicious but the Rieussecs were heavier, classier and better. 8¾/10.
- Château Rieussec 1er Grand Cru Classé, 2005, Fargues, Sauternes, 14%. Lovely gold. Big legs. Excellent strong bouquet of noble rot. Big body, complex. Lovely flavour of apricots and barley sugar. Sweet but balanced. Very long. Superb and will get even better with time. 10/10 already.
- Château Rieussec, 2003, 14%. Very similar to the previous wine. 9/10.
- Château Rieussec, 1998, 14%. Gold. Slightly less concentrated than the previous wine but complex and long. Some tasters preferred it to the previous one for its elegance. 8¾/10.
- Château Rieussec, 1986, 14%. Two half bottles, with tough corks wedged in very tightly. A deeper gold. A really rich noble rot bouquet, with honey and barley sugar. Big body, complex, with a huge depth of flavour. Sweet but balanced. The flavour just spread out in the mouth and lasted for ages. Hugely popular. 10 (or more!) out of 10.
- Du Toitskloof, Hanepoot (Muscat of Alexandria) Jerepigo, 2003, Breede River, Western Cape, 15.6%. Acid 5.6 g/l, residual sugar 216 g/l, pH 3.3. Deep gold. Very good bouquet, concentrated, with noble rot. Big body. Very sweet and very long. Delicious (and cheap at under £10 when bought several years ago). 9/10. This was harvested at 27° Balling (same as Brix and Plato, 270 g/l sugar), so fermentation was stopped very quickly to keep all that sugar.
- Disznôkö Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos, 1999 ( a magnificent year), Classified First Growth since 1732, 11.5%. Furmint and Hárslevelű. Deep gold. Legs. Yet another big noble rot bouquet. Huge body. Very sweet but balanced and very long. Complex. 9/10.
Supper wines: sweet white, Battle Wine Estate, Saxon Dessert, Sussex, late-harvest Schönburger, 12%, NV; dry white, Cune Rioja, 2014, Barrel Fermented, Viura, 13%; dry reds, Chapel Down, Union Red, 2014, 12%, mainly Pinot Noir (this was consumed very quickly, with appreciative comments); Luis Felipe Edwards Carmenère Shiraz 2015, Valle Central, Chile, 13%. The Saxon Dessert wine was very good, with a delightful barley sugar and marmalade flavour. I gave some to a group of experienced wine-tasters three days later, showed them the list of these wines, and was surprised when the consensus was that this English wine was the 6 putts 1999 Tokaji!
People had difficulty in choosing their favourite wine of the evening, many naming three. Wines 1, 3, 5 and 9 were the most often mentioned. After the supper provided by Brenda Lamb, members stayed happily socialising until well after 10 p.m., very satisfied with sweet wines.
Bernard Lamb, organiser and presenter