Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The First Growths Tutored Tasting

Monday night was an extravagant tasting at BBR: eight first growth clarets.

To quote the BBR website, "Technically the term 'First Growth' should only be applied to the properties identified as such in the famous 1855 Classification of the Médoc, namely Châteaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion, subsequently joined in 1973 by Ch. Mouton-Rothschild. However, as the title is synonymous with the apogee of excellence in Bordeaux, we will use the term more informally here to include the other truly great names of Bordeaux - Châteaux Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Pétrus - which are felt to be unequivocally of First Growth quality.

Mark Pardoe MW will discuss each property in turn, explaining and unravelling the nuances that distinguish each of the First Growths from one another, while illuminating the intrinsic seam of quality that runs through all these eight great wines. The wines will all be from 2002, thereby filleting the distractions of vintage variation and also allowing some contemplation of this fine and classic year which deserves greater credit and admiration.

After a delicious aperitif of vintage Champagne, you will be guided through the following wines, served alongside a selection of cheese and canapés:"

These were the wines and my notes on the 'nose' (wine speak for 'smell'):

Wine 1: 2002 Ch. Cheval Blanc, St Emilion - soft cherry, bonfire.
Wine 2: 2002 Ch. Ausone, St Emilion - purple, blackcurrent, woody root / leaf.
Wine 3: 2002 Ch. Pétrus, Pomerol - clean, redcurrant, chocolate, vanilla.
Wine 4: 2002 Ch. Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan - cooler/warmer?, murky.
Wine 5: 2002 Ch. Margaux, Margaux - tall green (grassy) fruit, warm.
Wine 6: 2002 Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac - redcurrant, sweet.
Wine 7: 2002 Ch. Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac - mushroom, cheese, soap.
Wine 8: 2002 Ch. Latour, Pauillac - clean deep fruit, cajun spices, coffee, deep.

My fave was the Latour (concentrated, stunning, "gobs of fruit") followed by the Cheval Blanc with the Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild in 3rd and 4th place. My least favourite was the Haut-Brion (muddied, not clean). As Bron observed I am in alignment with Mr Parker's ratings as regards best and worst in this group though I can safely say my palette is not up to Parker's standard.

The Petrus was the most complex on the nose but at GBP 750 a bottle (that is correct, not a typo, USD 1,490) I will not be rushing out to buy a bottle let alone a full case. A most educational tasting to confirm that we were well beyond my "VFM" point of diminishing returns.

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