On Saturday and Sunday Marylebone's Landmark Hotel hosted the 2007 Decanter Fine Wine Encounter. About 100 producers from France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, the USA, Australia (only one) and New Zealand presented a few of their wines to the paying London public. Those willing to part with 60 odd quid a pop and fortunate to book early enough also enjoyed masterclasses with the likes of Mission Haut Brion, Sassicaia, Giscours and others.
Unable to attend (or afford) any of the master-classes and feeling a little tender from a drink or two the night before, I spent a sweaty hour or so tasting mostly the Bordeaux selection. So the few comments that follow are accordingly restricted to that neck of the woods.
First of all, boo and hiss. None of the big boys were there. No first growths. Of the seconds, only Brane Cantenac, which I've never loved, turned up. Pavie was the biggest name from the Right Bank. Pomerol was gloriously under-represented.
Many producers presented their 2003s and 2004s.
Fair enough, most 2003s are nearly ready to drink, but these wines are all over the shop owing to the effect of the extreme heat in 2003. The 2003 Brane Cantenac tasted hot, spicey and Rhoney - blind I would have been dizzy and confused.
The underrated and affordable 2004s are certainly more classic than the 2003s. For that reason they provided a good counter-point to the 2003s, however, the 2004s are still quite a way off showing anywhere near their best.
D'Issan, one of my favoured Margaux chateau, swung out on a limb and presented its underrated 1996. I suspect D'Issan didn't sell much of the 96 owing to its sub-90 Parker score. I've recently enjoyed this wine twice (the Sampler in Islington sell it at a goodish price) and it was one of the few ready to drink Bordeaux wines at the Landmark.
Soutard, which holds a special place in my heart following a chance memorable encounter with Francois Des Ligneris in 2006 presented its 2000. This was surprisingly forward, open and plummy, giving much more pleasure than Parker's derisory 87 points. I suspect it will improve for the next 20 or so years if my Dad's case of 1989 is any indication of longevity. Soutard also presented its 2002, a strange choice given it's remarkably green and hard to like.
The highlight of my brief afternoon was the chance to taste two 1999 Sauternes and one 1998: 99 Coutet, 99 Suidiraut and 98 La Tour Blanche. 99 was a so-so vintage in Sauternes/Barsac, following the much more highly rated 97 and 98 vintages.
Next to the Coutet and the Suidiraut, the La Tour Blanche tasted less concentrated and much less sweet - a bit weak and watery. The Suidiraut was much richer and much more unctuous than the Coutet; the Coutet more refined, more elegant and more to my taste. With 99 Coutet and Suidiraut retailing at about 15/20 quid a half bottle, these wines represent some of the finest value in Bordeaux and demand to be drunk with a Sunday night dvd.