by Patrick Sandeman

Originally billed as an ‘Italian tasting tour’ this tasting developed into something rather more spectacular as the bidding became greater, with all the proceeds going to the NSPCC. Two contrasting styles of champagne started proceedings; the amazingly focussedLARMANDIER-BERNIER Terre de Vertus Extra Brut 1er Cru  and the rich, full-bodied EGLY-OURIET Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Brut Grand Cru Ambonnay  both of which wowed the audience. Domaine Comte Lafon’s 2002 MEURSAULT 1er Cru Charmes was utterly beautiful in an incredibly elegant and understated fashion alongside the rather obvious, but very flattering, 2007 CERVARO Castello della Sala , Italy’s ‘Meursault? Moving to two very different Merlots with the fully mature, and much underated, 1982 CHATEAU LE GAY Pomerol, which was sweet, elegant and gently fading, alongside the incredibly youthful and aromatic 2004 MESSORIO Merlot Le Macchiole , one of Tuscany’s most sought after Merlots, once likened by Mr Parker to Le Pin. The next two wines failed to shine in the present company, Le Macchiole’s 1998 SCRIO Syrah, and Domaine de la Mordoree’s 1999 CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. Nothing wrong with either, but rather like sending two prop forwards down the catwalk. The true Bordeaux fans were delighted by 1995 CHATEAU PICHON LALANDE 2eme Cru Classe Pauillac, which is in spite of all its charming fruit is still something of a challenge for all its pencil lead and dry tannins, but truly delicious, and the label lovers loved the SASSICAIA 2004 Tenuta San Guido, which in truth has hardly begun to emerge from its shell and needs another five years and more in bottle. The final pair of Pinot Noirs divided the room, but ultimately stole the show. Showing Anne Gros’ 2002 CLOS VOUGEOT Grand Cru Maupertui alongside Bernard Dugat-Py’s 1999 MAZIS CHAMBERTIN Grand Cru, was a bit like seating Grace Kelly alongside John Wayne. The first incredibly elegant, very beautiful and quite seductive, the second full of muscle and brawn at first but developing into something very impressive and long with tremendous intreague. Perhaps one of the greatest red burgundies I have been privileged enough to drink. As a ‘joker’ I had drawn from my own cellar two random old bottles of Tuscan wine, neither of which I thought would be much beyond of academic interest. Certainly the 1990 ORNELLIA had seen better days and was fading away fast, but the 1992 MASSETO proved to be a great surprise from such a poor vintage. Still remarkably vibrant with sweet fruit it was an excellent way to finish the evening. I am delighted that the NSPCC benefitted so greatly from the proceeds of this tasting, and just hope that the successful bidders (most of whom are in line for socking great bonses this year) will look kindly on this unique tasting when they come to stocking up their cellars!