One of the fascinations – and frustrations – of wine is that it’s a moving target. In barrel, in bottle, even in your glass, it’s changing and evolving. Some wines are best drunk young; others – especially the likes of bordeaux, barolo or vintage champagne – can take 10 to 20 years to peak. Just as one reaches its zenith, another will be going over. Finding that sweet spot for each is a life’s work.
That’s one of the reasons why BI Fine Wine in the City started its “Bordeaux 10 Years On” tasting – an annual showcase of more than 60 different bordeaux wines from the same vintage, a decade down the line. This tasting is always enlightening – a chance to compare the progress of right bank with left bank, Saint-Julien with Saint-Estèphe, or Château Cheval Blanc with Pétrus, through the prism of a single vintage. If you’re a collector it’s also an opportunity to check in with wines in your cellar, or discover new ones you might wish to add (or, indeed, sell back if you don’t like the direction a wine is taking).
For the past three years I’ve attended the trade tasting during the day, a hushed affair full of critics and sommeliers hunched over laptops. But BI does a more glamorous, invitation-only event for 50 or so private clients in the evening too. I can’t really think of another regular tasting on this scale that’s quite like it. This year’s, which took place in February, was all about 2009 – generally agreed to be one of the best bordeaux vintages of the past 100 years. Hence, wines were in short supply – a little notice politely reminded us to take the smallest sample we could.
Our rations may have been meagre but the wines themselves were generous: ripe and luscious, with fine velvety tannins. Many of the perfumed wines of the Margaux AOC were already so opulent you wondered where they had left to go. I heard a number of people comment on how well the Château Latour (about £10,050 for 12 bottles) was shaping up, but Pomerol’s Le Pin (about £21,000-£22,000 for 12 bottles) did it for me with its lifted notes of steak tartare, red berries and anise. At the other end of the price scale was the luxuriant Château Poujeaux (about £300-£350 for 12 bottles) – I’d happily drink a case of that right now.
Next year’s tasting will be 2010, another superlative but rather more “classic” vintage – intense, tannic, concentrated. “One thing we know about 2010 is that it won’t be ready yet!” laughs BI’s Giles Cooper. “But every year there are some surprises – that’s all part of the fun.”
Alice Lascelles is Fortnum & Mason Drinks Writer of the Year 2019. @alicelascelles.