“THE CONNOISSEUR’S DREAM”: MASTERCLASS 28.02.15 AT ROBERT PARKER’S A MATTER OF TASTE

Any viti-minded person would have been in wine heaven at this event; a showcase of some of the best wines in the world and a multitude of masterclasses. Dad and I had decided to go a long time ago, and we had tickets to the Premum Familiae Vini masterclass too. Needless to say, despite the early hour (and hence the oh-crap running-late taxi) I couldn’t wait.

We got our wristbands at the Saatchi Gallery and were shown to the room in which our class was to be held. The Saatchi Gallery was an excellent venue for a tasting of this calibre. Open, white spaces really intensified the tasting experience for me; maybe to do with the idea that my senses weren’t distracted. In addition, there were some really outstanding modern art pieces on display which ameliorated the whole thing too; sometimes a break from tasting is really needed and these pieces were excellent.

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Sitting contemplating the 11 glasses in front of me, I couldn’t decide which of the wines I was most looking forward to. The Primum Familiae Vini is an international association of some of the world’s finest wine producing families. The PFV was created in 1992 and promote and continue traditions, ideals and values within family owned wineries. Hence, it’s safe to say I’ve never had 11 glasses like that in front of me.

Each winery had a speaker and presented one wine. This was a fantastic way to gain insight into the complex and longstanding traditions and history of such prestigious wineries.

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1) CHAMPAGNE POL ROGER – speaker: Hubert de Billy.  Champagne: Churchill 2002
Hubert is  of the 5th generation of the Maison’s family; Pol Roger was his great great grandfather. Pol Roger first produced champagne for himself, and then for other negociants, creating the brand in 1849. The first ever bottle sold was sold in London. It is no secret that Pol Roger was the great favourite of Sir Winston Churchill. He adored champagne, being renowned for stating, “remember gentlemen, it is not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” as well as “in success, you deserve it, and in defeat, you need it.” Hence, after his death, the cuvee Winston Churchill was born, with the aim to create a champagne with all the qualities he so enjoyed.

Tasting note: Amazing complexity with a nose of almond and biscotti. In the mouth, toasted brioche becomes apparent and slight jasmine notes appear too. Power, yet with light minerality.

2) JOSEPH DROUHIN – speaker: Veronique Drouhin.  Wine: Beaune Clos des Mouches blanc 2010
Aaaa – this is perhaps the wine I was anticipating the most. Burgundy Chardonnay will forever be (well – probably, I’m indecisive) my favourite wine. More specifically, Beaune wines really catch my interest. Having worked with Latour, Beaune aux Cras has always been one of my favs. In addition, the Clos de Mouches from Drouhin is renowned for its outstanding quality. Veronique began by explaining a bit about the family history. The Maison was founded in 1921, and Joseph loved Clos de Mouches, which at the time only produced pinot noir. Hence, he decided to also plant Chardonnay and the wine was born. Originally, Maximes in Paris was the only place you could buy it! This gives the wine such an unbeatable old school Parisian glamour.

Tasting note: Incredibly rich and plush nose of white flowers, peach and that signature woody scent. In the mouth, stone fruits develop, with the appearance of apricot. Incredibly round and moreish.

3) TORRES – speaker: Miguel Torres Maczasek. Wine: Mas La Plana 2007
Of the fifth generation.  Miguel focused on the difficulties the winery has had to experience. In the Spanish civil war, the winery was bombed, but his grandfather persisted and started making wine again. In 1956 he planted Cabernet Sauvignon on very deep clay calcareous soils.

Tasting note: First of noteworthiness are the incredibly thick legs of the wine. On the nose, tobacco and smoky notes are prominent. Bold on  the nose but with a certain subtly in the mouth, with slightly sweet, rich chocolate hints.

4) TENUTA SAN GUIDO – speaker: Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta. Wine: Sassicaia 2006
The Super Tuscan. This wine was born from experimentation with Cabernet Sauvignon in Italy. Her grandfather loved Bordeaux and desired to create a wine he could make for himself and enjoy at home  in this style. It is a world-renowned wine that has been dubbed a “fairy tale” by Luigi Veronelli.

Tasting note: Suble, deep, spicy nose with very ripe cherry notes. Pleasant hints of leather, smoke and menthol and incredibly soft tannins.

5) ANTINORI – speaker: Alessia Antinori. Wine: Solaia 2004
An incredibly old wine company that can trace its steps back to 1385. Their innovations also played a huge part in the 70s Super Tuscans. Blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc. They wanted to aim for high quality and hence had to face declassification because of high percentage used of Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was seen as one of the wines of the Renaissance of Italian wines.

Tasting note: Delicious dark fruits with earthy, undergrowth, mossy notes. Round, precise, silky tannins that will only continue to evolve.

6) Chateau Mouton Rothschild – speaker: Julien Beaumarchais de Rothschild. Wine: Mouton Rothschild 2003
Eek. My dad was pretty much cross eyed with excitement – a Bordeaux man through and through. Julien, of the 6th generation, highlighted that Mouton is the wedding of art and wine.  A blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 8% Cabernet France and 2% Petit Verdot.

Tasting note: Warm, leathery and plump nose with undertones of blackcurrant and spice. Delicious, round and supple tannins – lives up to its reputation (and more) in every way.

7) Vega Sicilia – speaker: Pablo Alvarez. Wine:  Unico 1994
This was one of the wines I was most excited to try. One of most renowned wines to come from Spain, of a Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend – normally the wines from Ribera del Duero are solely Tempranillo based. They only produce Unico every 2 out of 3 years. This Gran Reserva wine is taken from some of the oldest vines in Ribera del Duero, approximately 8)% Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tasting note: Tobaccoey and rich fruit nose, really coming into its own and demonstrating black cherry and liquorice on the nose. Textured and velvety tannins. Exceptional.

8) Famille Perrin – speaker: Marc Perrin. Wine: Hommage Jacques Perrin 2007
Made from majority of very old Mouvedre vines. From one of the leading estates in Châteauneuf du Pape, and a wine that is renowned wording as one of Rhone’s stars.

Tasting note: Possibly the meatiest nose I have ever experienced on a wine: fleshy, undergrowth tones, that in the mouth turned into sweet black fruits. Softest and most pleasant tannins out of any of the wines in my opinion.

9) Egon Muller Scharzhof – speaker: Egon Muller. Wine: Wiltinger braune Kupp Auslese 1993
A vineyard that used to belong to a monastery, which was bought by his great great grandfather from the French Republic. He was a monk, and when he died the estate was divided between 7 children.

Tasting note: Delicious almond and vanilla nose, with chlorine, sweet undertones. A mature Riesling, this was a very unusual wine and wonderfully rich. A certain smokiness on the finish and a real treat.

10) Hugel & Fils – speaker: Jean Frederic Hugel. Wine: Pinot Gris SGN 2007 *S*
Wow. I’ve never tried anything like this before. Jean was also a wonderful speaker and highlighted how as a 16 year old nobody really dreams of going into wine, until they gradually become smitten and it becomes a passion. This is definitely the case for me, and he emphasised this is what the Primum Familiae Vini aim to do; instill this passion from generation to generation. He described people who are into wine as open minded, friendly people – the best kind.

Tasting note:  Such a beautiful dark golden hue – literally liquid gold. It tasted like liquid gold too. Figgy candied fruits on the nose, followed by such a roundness with orange and acacia. Possibly my favourite wine of the day, although it is so hard to decide!

11) Symington – speaker: Paul Symington. Wine: Graham’s 2011 vintage
Vintage port… Something I would love to learn more about, and this was a great place to start! His great, great grandfather left Scotland and moved to Portugal and the rest is history. It is arguable that perhaps 2011 will be the best vintage ever in port (we will have to wait and see). It is the first time since 1963 that they returned to 100% lagares. If laid down, this wine will work its magic and age exceptionally.

Tasting note: Exceptional depth, and wow this wine will age amazingly. Such power on the nose with dark chocolate and cherry shining through. Plums and violets appear in the mouth and this wine would just make the best pudding ever, whether alone or with a dish.

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