Steven Spurrier makes some more lucky finds in his cellar
Eric Sauter, my Académie Internationale du Vin (AIV) colleague and co-owner of Domaine Mondivin, whose superb Cabernet Franc wines I referred to last month, told me that a perfect cellar should have bottles for every meal, every type of person and every occasion. With time on my hands during this lockdown, I have been able to make a thorough survey of the cellar and while the 2,988 bottles, diminishing at a regular two-a-day, certainly meet Eric’s definition, my mantra has always been ‘drink for mood, not for food’. Since for the moment the bottles below stairs have only Bella and me to satisfy, I have continued on an ‘off-piste’ search for long-forgotten red wines for dinner. My findings have brought back many memories.
My cellar is 90% European, so France (at 70%) cannot be ignored. My last bottle of Dominique Lafon’s Volnay-Santenots du Mileu 1999, one of Burgundy specialist Jasper Morris MW’s favourites, was sumptuously worth waiting for. Two 1996s, from Château d’Angludet, punching as usual above its weight as a Margaux Cru Bourgeois, and Château La Pointe, a reliable Pomerol, showed this vintage’s staying power, while the 1999 Seigneur de Maugiron Côte-Rôtie from Delas confirmed the greatness of both wine (which I’ve followed over the years) and vintage. Two 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Papes – Les Cailloux and the renowned Château de Beaucastel – confirmed its success in the south.
Then I moved to Tuscany for more 1999s, starting with two wines from Fèlsina Berardenga, Giuseppe Mazzocolin’s Chianti Classico estate overlooking Siena. His single vineyard Rancio Riserva, still robust in colour, was superbly expressive, while his flagship Fontalloro was still earthily intense, both with a few years in front of them. South to Montalcino for three 1999 Brunellos: Tenuta Emilio Nardi, one of the most northern vineyards in the DOCG La Gerla, was still youthful and firm, incredibly elegant, almost feminine in style, while Casanouva di Neri had everything, a simply marvellous wine.
After a break for champagne – the Cuvée William Deutz 1999 showed how slowly this wine will age in a cellar that averages 10˚C over the year – it was the turn of the New World. Staying with 1999, the Cape’s Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon (named after the founder of Rustenberg) brought to mind a ‘fruity Latour’, while from Tasmania, Pipers Brook Opimian 1997, the then owner Andrew Pirie’s Bordeaux blend, at just 12% was also firmly in the claret style and my wife loved it. Following suit from Margaret River was Cullen’s Diana Madeline 2001. Bella and I had met Vanya Cullen’s strikingly elegant mother at the estate a few months before she died and this vintage was the first of many to carry her name. Moving to New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay, a 1998 Cabernet-Merlot blend from Unison’s best Gimblett Gravels vineyards then showed precision and vigour and brought back memories of John Buck of Te Mata, Hawke’s Bay’s oldest estate, and his famous Bordeaux blend Coleraine.
Finally, it was time for the Americas, starting with my close friend José-Manuel Ortega-Fournier’s Alfa Crux 2004, a superb Malbec from his ground-breaking winery high up in Mendoza’s Uco Valley, now sadly sold. Then Viñedo Chadwick 2005, Cabernet Sauvignon planted by Eduardo Chadwick on his late father’s polo field, raising this grape to new heights, while ‘Seña’ 1996, a blend of 91% Cabernet and 9% Carmenère, only the second vintage made by Eduardo and Robert Mondavi, blossomed with warmth and depth over two hours in the decanter.
Just last night, May 9th, I opted for Saint-Supéry’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1989, from the Napa estate built up by wine visionary and art collector Robert Skalli. The wine proved that you can wait for Napa Cabs as long as you like and they won’t disappoint.
Each and every one of these wines had a story to tell, and it was fascinating to see how many of them recalled Bordeaux. As Michael Broadbent said: ‘One always comes back to claret’, so this is where I will go now, for more memories.
Wine writer and consultant Steven Spurrier, joined the wine trade in London in 1964 and later moved to Paris where he bought a wine shop in 1971, and then opened L’Académie du Vin, France’s first private wine school in 1973. Spurrier organized the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, which unexpectedly elevated the status of California wine and promoted the expansion of wine production in the New World.