The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Master of Wine 2007 Claret Tasting – beyond expectations ~ Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

The way wine tastings should be:

Imagine a tasting where you can taste all of the First Growths (including d’Yquem), where you can meet some of the most famous wine writers in the world, where you have ample time (instead of a few paltry hours) to properly taste, where you can pour all of your own wine. Such, in its most basic summarization, was the way in which the Master of Wine Annual Claret Tasting was organized, with yours truly on hand to examine wines from some of the greatest estates in Bordeaux.

Vintners Hall Wine Tasting

Held at the unapologetically pretentious—yet appropriately furnished—Vintners’ Hall, located very close to the Millennium Bridge in London (at 68 Upper Thames Street to be precise), this year’s claret examination featured the wines of the 2007 vintage. Not exactly the most celebrated year, as well as ridiculously overpriced, it goes without saying that some wines were better than others. Almost always the case, is it not?

Indeed, as most collectors are now probably fully aware, while many dry whites and stickies were indisputably well made, the 2007 vintage was not a great year for reds in Bordeaux. Truly, while the best of the bunch were unquestionably well made and delivering everything expected in terms of proper aromatics, finesse, and charm, such wines have continued to demonstrate a lack of overall structure, density, and poise. In short, many reds from 2007, the best examples generally fully ripe and sometimes quite supple, are light.

Château Lafite Rothschild

Nonetheless, as this tasting was essentially an examination of the best of the best, there remained plenty of standouts. The best of the First Growths, for instance? Opinions seemed to vary from taster to taster; but most seemed to agree that Châteaux Margaux and Haut-Brion stood marginally above the rest. For my part, I was most pleased with Château Lafite, which simply seemed to deliver more in the way of substance than the others.

Grand Vin de Leoville-Las Cases

Other highlights from the Left Bank, most of which were auspiciously better than their counterparts on the Right? In Margaux, the Palmer was outstanding, boasting terrific finesse, posture, and depth. In St-Julien, the Léoville-Las Cases was even better, displaying tremendous focus, pedigree, and First-Growth opulence; while the Léoville Barton was definitely a close second: more fragrant, lighter, and very refined. In Pauillac, after Mouton, Pichon-Baron was not to be missed: superbly evolved, brilliantly structured, and elegant; Châteaux Duhart-Milon and Lynch-Bages were both also very good. As for St-Estèphe, only the two Second Growths really passed mustard; the Cos d’Estournel both opulent and round; the Montrose just as refined yet more cautious and reserved.

La Mission Haut-Brion

In Pessac-Léognan, La Mission was the wine of the appellation, not as overtly pristine and magnificent as its neighbour across the street, nonetheless stupendously polished, balanced, and characterful. Another notable was Pape Clément: modernistic, quite rich yet unfailingly elegant and inviting. A real shame there were no dry whites to sample, however. Over the past few years, the top estates from 2007 have shown remarkably well.

Next, we shift gears to St-Emilion and Pomerol. As mentioned ago, 2007 was not nearly as kind to the Right Bank as it was to the Left. In St-Emilion, Château Figeac was the clear winner, along with Canon-la-Gaffelière; the former more elegant yet velvety, the latter extremely rich (in context of the vintage) and generous. In all, however, compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wines of the Left Bank, Right Bank Merlot-dominant blends seem to have turned out rather clumsy, overall. My advice: stick with only the top names.

Finally, we come to the stickies of Sauternes. Make no mistake: Château d’Yquem was not only the greatest wine of the appellation; it was also the greatest wine of the Master of Wine tasting, stunningly intense, exuberant, and capable of lasting for aging. Easily the best d’Yquem since 2001. As for the rest, quality was uniformly high, with Châteaux Climens and Lafaurie-Peyraguey taking top honours.

A clearly wonderful tasting, with the best wines performing, more or less, as they should. Just don’t expect the reds to taste as if they came from a legendary vintage. We’ve already had enough of those, as of late …

Click here for a few gems from the 7 January 2012 Vintages Release along with several others