The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2003

Decanter Magazine runs a number of tastings each year: the biggest is the Fine Wine Encounter.  This year it took place, as in previous years, at the Landmark Hotel next to Marylebone Station in London.

There is always a vast number of producers and individual wines to taste: this year three grand rooms in the hotel held 101 producers' stands, each with up to ten wines available for tasting (most had 6 to 8 wines).  Most producers bring their top wines, many unavailable in the UK or unavailable anywhere as they're sold out (only 500 bottles were made of one wine I tasted!).  Obviously, it's not possible to taste all the wines on offer.  I tend to base my selection of what to taste based on two main factors: wines I'm particularly interested in and stands that do not have huge crowds around them.

Alongside this huge walk-round tasting are a series of masterclasses, offering in-depth looks at particular growers/producers or themes.  I was lucky enough to get a ticket for a Vega Sicilia masterclass, at which we tasted six vintages of Vega Sicilia Unico, including 1964, 1953 and 1942 (click here for the notes of that)

The following notes are in the order they appear in the useful notebook/catalogue provided, not the order tasted. Marks are on a roughly 4-9 scale. 

Champagne Boizel

Weingut Jurtschitsch Sonnhof, Kamptal, Austria

Weingut Knipser, Pfalz, Germany

Domaine Paul Blanck, Alsace
I know the wines, or at least the rieslings, of Frédéric and Philippe Blanck fairly well having first encountered them some five years ago on a visit to Alsace.  When we visited Kientzheim, where the domaine is based, we were treated to a huge and fascinating comparative tasting of riesling terroirs, with wines from each of the sites where the Blancks have vines (see map at  The Blancks are real 'terroirists' (and Philippe's style of leading tasting can be terrifying for the novice!) to the point that sometimes I feel the terroir is too dominant and overshadows the fruit, making the wines a little too austere.  

They have a nice little slide show of Kientzheim and their vineyards at this page on their website.

 Clos des Lambrays, Burgundy

Domaine Laroche, Burgundy

Henri de Villamont, Burgundy

Louis Jadot, Burgundy

Château de la Tuilerie, Rhône

Delas Frères, Rhône

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Rhône

Maison Chapoutier, Rhône

Domaines Ott, Provence

Mas de Daumas Gassac, Languedoc

Domaine Rabiega, Provence
Owned by the Swedish company V&S, better known for Absolut Vodka and Aalborg aquavit.

Domaine de l'Hortus, Languedoc

Les Vins Skalli, Languedoc

Château de Lascaux, Languedoc (Pic St Loup)

Mount Difficulty Wines, Central Otago, New Zealand

Seresin Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand

Kim Crawford Wines, Marlborough, New Zealand

Casa Lapostolle, Colchagua, Chile

Miguel Torres, Penedes, Spain

Lopez de Heredia, Rioja

Bodegas Bretón, Rioja

Bodegas Primicia, Rioja Alavesa

Abadia Retuerta, Sardón del Duero, Spain

Zuani, Friuli, Italy

Fazi Battaglia, Italy (Marche & Tuscany)

Grattamacco - ColleMassari, Tuscany, Italy

Castello della Paneretta, Tuscany, Italy

Brancaia, Tuscany, Italy

Agricola San Felice, Tuscany, Italy

Agricola Querciabella, Tuscany, Italy

Azienda Agricola Musella, Veneto, Italy

Conte Loredan Gasparini-Venegazzù

Gonzalez Byass

Gerovassiliou, Macedonia, Greece

Tsantali, North Greece
The Tsantali wines I found characterised above all by very pure fruit.

Michel Torino, Cafayate, Argentina
From what Nicolas Cornejo was saying, it sounds like the climate is not dissimilar to that of the Ribera del Duero, with 350 hours of sunshine on average and wide diurnal temperature variations (typically 12 - 36 degrees C), which lead to the vines shutting down overnight. Michel Torino were showing wines at three quality levels, all of which had much of interest: the Coleccion wines, the Don David wines and Altimus (going up in that order). 

Château Dereszla, Tokaji, Hungary (camped out on the stand of Bodegas Alta Vista, Mendoza, Argentina)

Fermoy Estate, Margaret River, Australia

Diamond Creek Vineyards, Napa Valley, California
All 80% cabernet sauvignon, with cabernet franc and merlot making up the balance.

Heitz Wine Cellars, Napa Valley, California

Chimney Rock Winery, Napa Valley, California

J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley, California

Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County, California

Quinta do Noval, Douro, Portugal

Quinta do Portal, Douro, Portugal
At Quinta do Portal, I started with an interesting vertical of their top wine, the Grande Reserva: Mainly touriga nacional, blended with tinta roriz. 12 months in new French/US oak. They also do a range of single varietal wines, which were very interesting. 

© Andrew Stevenson


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Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:33