Incredibly rare gifts of wine
I was thinking of calling this article “Perfect Gifts”, but what does this really mean in an age of overused words like “proprietors’ special reserve” or even “hero”?
I am really going to tell you about absolute perfection and by this, I mean seven, 100-point wines – maybe they should be “The Magnificent Seven”?
Wine critic Robert Parker first published his Wine Advocate back in 1978 and he devised the 100-point system for evaluating wine, something that most critics and publications use today. I understand that the Wine Advocate team tastes up to 30,000 wines in a year and in some ways, it is a 30-point system. Few are ever mentioned that are rated below 70/100, as 70 to 79 is considered average; 80 to 89 is barely above average, to very good; 90 to 95 is outstanding and 96 to 100 extraordinary.
Twice this year I have tasted perfection. The first time was at Easter when I removed a 1991 Napa Valley red blend from our little cellar – as usual with old wines, we had our fingers crossed. One gentle swirl in the glass, one sniff, one sip, and I knew it was a moment for my wife and I to always be able to recall. I checked on the internet and sure enough, Parker had rated it 100/100 in 2017 and given it another 15 years of life.
I recently wrote about a young Super Tuscan that I had been poured at a blind tasting and, on getting home, it was again off to the internet where I found a 100-point score. Why not gift wrap and give to a friend or associate a present that will remain in their memory for all time? That is what this type of wine does with its perfect balance of a thousand components such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, and tannins. Prices will vary from $88.30 to $850.
The 2016 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, St-Julien Grand Cru Classé en 1855 shows how beautiful pebbles (beau caillou) in the vineyard reflect the sunlight up under the grape bunches during the day and store the heat at night. Here is what critic Jeb Dunnuck thinks of it: “Reminding me of the 2010 with its incredible stature and class (as opposed to the more opulently styled 2009), the 2016 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou is a legendary wine from the genius of Bruno Borie, who has managed this estate brilliantly since he arrived in 2003.
“A blend of 85 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 15 per cent merlot brought up all in new oak, the 2016 has a mammoth bouquet of crème de cassis, espresso, camphor, crushed violets, toasty oak, and graphite. Full-bodied, concentrated, and backward on the palate, it nevertheless has perfectly integrated acidity and building tannins, a concentrated, layered texture, off-the-charts purity of fruit, and a finish that won't quit. Give this powerful, concentrated wine a solid seven to eight years of bottle age and enjoy it over the following 50 years or more.” $350 (Stock #7122).
The Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District gets 100 points for its 2012 and 2016. Here is what the Wine Advocate says about the older one: “This can generally be expected to be one of the top dozen or so cabernet sauvignons in virtually any vintage in Napa, and certainly possesses 25 to possibly 50 years of ageing potential.
“The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is a perfect wine. It elicits more than a few 'wows' when you smell the incredible notes of charcoal, graphite and subtle toast, buttressed and dominated by blackcurrant, blackberry and blueberry fruit. The purity of these fruits, the multidimensional mouthfeel, the seamless integration of acid, alcohol, tannin and wood are all flawless. The 2012 signature adds an extravagant opulence and density that is just mind-boggling.” $323.65 (Stock #6891).
Of the 2016 Dunnuck says “pure perfection”, Parker “flawless balance” and Vinous, “sumptuous, dazzling, magnificent”. All three give it 100 points. $350 (Stock #6807).
The 2013 The Royal Tokaji Wine Company Szt Tamás Aszu 6 Puttonyos Tokaji (500ml) hits the magic 100 mark with the Wine Enthusiast magazine with this evaluation: “Brilliant gold-flecked-amber in the glass, this Hungarian stunner hails from the Szt Tamas vineyard located on one of Tokaj's most iconic hills. It has aromas of wild flower honey, ripe peach, honeysuckle blossom, freshly sliced apricot and acacia flowers. It is an ethereal blend of furmint, harslevelü and muscat. Silky smooth on entry, it offers enticing flavours of white peach, apricot preserves, honeycomb and acacia honey. It has beautiful heft on the palate with balanced acidity and crisp minerality. The elegant sweetness is perfectly foiled by bracing acidity and crispness in the finish. This is how Hungarian Tokaj Aszü wine should be made. Drink through 2045.” A half-litre bottle with Christmas dessert would be fine for a table of six. $88.30 (Stock #9827).
Decanter magazine says of the Aussi icon, the 2014 Penfolds Grange Shiraz South Australia: “A multiregional blend. It's opaque in colour, with dense aromas of plums and full-bodied, with immense tannins though not overblown. Robust and structured, of course, showing great energy and texture. 100/100.” $850 (Stock #7200).
With 100 points from James Suckling the 2015 gets these comments: “Much anticipated vintage for Grange and it is a powerhouse of concentration and complexity. Aromas of orange and lemon peel to start, then graphite, blackberries, plum paste, black cherries, boundless sweet oak spice, fresh cedar, tar, mahogany, roasted coffee and chocolate – the list goes on. Such complexity. Classic Grange, offering such deep, dark intensity. The palate has immense richness and depth with a super succulent and very long, fleshy, deeply weighted array of dense, velvet-wrapped tannins that run so long. The fruit flavours sit in the blackberry, blood-plum and blueberry zone with succulent, long and assertive structure, carrying through in an utterly seamless mode.” $850 (Stock #7199).
The 2018 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ends our list with 100 points from Decanter magazine and this: “This is as good as it gets for Washington cabernet sauvignon. Right away the gorgeous crème de violette and crème de cassis tones join blackberry cordial, exotic spices and dark chocolate shavings. The combination of finesse and texture is downright scintillating. Sweet pipe tobacco is woven together with Black Forest cake, and fresh blueberries and graphite with shades of tar take shape on the palate. Truly sensational even at the three-year mark, this will provide drinking enjoyment over the next 20-plus years.” $280 (Stock #9005).
So, you have the opportunity of giving a rare and perfect gift or even buying it for yourself if you have been good all year! I promise you that wines such as these will never be forgotten.
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm