It is rare that sommeliers and members of the press get an opportunity to try aged wines which show evolution and wines during their peak drinking window. For its annual portfolio tasting in London, wine importer Fells laid out a treasure trove of aged fine wines and fortifieds, an opportunity that Roger Jones could not pass up, tasting alongside the new vintages available.
Tyrrell’s, Vergelegen, Warwick Estate, Te Mata, Torres, Brown Brothers… and that’s before we get to the table of aged and iconic wines at the Fells annual portfolio tasting.
Fells hosted its annual tasting at the newly refurbished IET building in Savoy Place, a fabulous airy space that had wonderful views over the Thames and a real ‘feel good’ factor.
I often wonder how some trade professionals whether they are young sommeliers, restaurateurs or from the independent retail trade can ever see how fine wine evolves, going from tasting to tasting trying the latest releases, so it was with great excitement to see the inspiration behind Fells’ groaning treasure-filled Fine Wine Table.
Here they had amassed a selection of their finest wines, ranging back to the 1980s for still wines and 1970s for fortified.
But, before we indulge in these great wines, there were many other fabulous wines to try from more up-to-date vintages and at a more modest price range.
Here are a few brief highlights from a substantial high quality portfolio.
Mas La Plana, DO Penedes, Spain, 2012 RRP £41.99
‘The legend in black’. Aged in 85% new French oak for 18 months this classic Cabernet Sauvignon from the Torres family is a beautiful savoury, spiced wine – full, ripe, dark luscious fruit, long and lingering. These wines age beautifully.
Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 RRP £20.99
Te Mata Estate, New Zealand
85% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon, 6% Sauvignon Gris, this is a classic Bordeaux white blend. Wonderful and expressive, textured and layered with a long lingering floral and fruit filled palate, precise, clean, citrus freshness. Exciting benchmark New World wine. I had tasted this wine earlier this month with John Buck in Hawke’s Bay and it was equally as good tasting it at Savoy Place on a cold cloudy English winter’s day.
Tyrrell’s Semillon, Hunter Valley
When discussing the grape Semillon the first name that springs to mind is always Bruce Tyrrell, and it was a joy to go through a selection of Tyrrell’s Semillon.
Tyrell’s Lost Block Semillon, 2015 RRP £14.49
Fresh lemon character, clean crisp lingering flavours, a great introduction to the fine range of Semillon from Tyrrell’s at an attractive price.
Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon, 2016 RRP £18.99
Bright, fresh and exuberant, joyful flavours dancing on the palate. The baby brother to Vat 1, zesty un-waxed lemon, pink grapefruit, fresh purity.
Tyrrell’s Winemakers Selection Vat 1 Semillon, 2011 RRP £39.99
Its latest release, and this wine has the benefit of being approachable at youth. With its fresh vibrancy and crisp acidity this will also age for decades. Stunning wine.
Tyrell’s Johnno’s Hand Pressed Semillon, 2014 RRP £60.00
Sourced from Johnno’s vineyard planted in 1908, basket pressed and matured in stainless steel tanks, multi-textured, vibrant, fruit filled wine with amazing acidity and clarity. I had not tried this wine before and it is a superb style that I am told is reminiscent of Hunter Semillons of the past. (This was from the Icon Fine Wine Table)
Vergelegen Estate – South Africa
Many highlights here including Vergelegen Reserve Chardonnay, 2014 RRP £18.99 that shows excellent value for such a luscious, full, bright preserved citrus and nutty elements, controlled, layered and expressive.
The Vergelegen G.V.B White RRP £29.99 is a classic Bordeaux white style, stunningly good now but will benefit from a few years age. The flagship Vergelegen V, Sauvignon 2011 RRP £74.49, 100% Cabernet, this is designed for ageing but already the textures and fruit in this wine shout out star status.
For a more modest price try the Vergelegen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 RRP £18.49 which has a lovely elegant Franco feel to it, cigar box, cocoa, cassis, velvety texture.
Warwick Wine Estate Cabernet Franc, 2013 RRP £23.99
Stellenbosch, South Africa
The purity, velvety, textured style of this wine is superb and is rated as one of the Cape’s best Cabernet Franc. Sourced from single vineyard fruit this wine will age a decade, but it is drinking so well now.
Brown Brothers Patricia Sparkling, 2010 RRP £37.49
King Valley, Australia
Possibly the finest sparkling wine from Australia, outside of Tasmania. Rich nose with citrus and apple, full-bodied, complex with a lovely zesty flavour and delicate brioche undertones.
And now onto the ‘Treasure Chest of Fine Wines’ ….
My time was, alas, too brief to do justice to all the great wines on offer:
Le Petit Mouton 2009 Sark/dense purple colour, rich cassis, some spice, fragrant, a wonderful second wine. Guigal’s Cote Roti Chateau d’Ampius 2013 Graphite, concentrated, sweet fruit, spiced and sweet tannin.
Guigal’s Cote Roti La Mouline 2012 Having drunk a bottle of the 1985 at a dinner at Chez Bruce last year it was with interest to try a younger vintage, and this was has a stunning perfumed nose of smoky bacon, olives, cassis. The palate erupted with an explosion of ripe multi-sensory fruit, raspberries, plums, blackcurrants. Outstanding!
Ladoucette Baron de “L” 2002 from magnum. Citrus aromas, stone flint, lemon curd, touch of honey, still fresh, but velvety in texture, I have fond memories of Ladoucette not only in the early days of getting a Michelin Star they would send all Michelin Star Chefs an engraved bottle but I also proposed to my wife over a bottle of Baron de “L”.
Torbreck Although I am well used to the Run Rig and there were two outstanding vintages on offer, the 2013 and 2001, it was the Torbreck Factor (no Viognier in the blend unlike RunRig) which was new to me. Torbreck Factor 2013 was vibrant, silky, long, lingering seamless delicate fruit, hints of bacon fat, pure. The Torbreck Factor 2005 was concentrated, a lovely uplifted perfume, rich blackberries, espresso and milk chocolate, leather – it has it all.
There were many more – over 60 in fact – and this truly was an inspired move by Steve Moody and The Fells team to showcase how good fine wines age and give a wide range of trade and press a rare chance to try wines outside their normal scope, a bold move very gratefully received and enjoyed