Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 1989
Last week I wrote of my rain-soaked journey across London to reach the latest in a series of 30th Anniversary dinners at Nigel Wilkinson's RSJ Restaurant, a home-from-home for all London Loire-o-philes. Since then I have had yet another early start heading down to London for another busy day of tastings; first up on the timetable during this latest adventure was an encounter with the new Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Port, a wine to match Noval's excellent unfiltered LBV which Noval boss Christian Seely has been responsible for since the 1994 vintage. The difference with the 2004 release is that it is sourced solely from Quinta do Noval vineyards, many established during Seely's early years with the company, whereas the pre-existing Noval LBVs included fruit brought in from other sources. We tasted all the Noval LBVs produced since Seely's arrival, followed by the new Quinta do Noval LBV which was from the 2004 vintage; quality was in evidence across the board. I will be writing up the tasting, which also allowed us to take in some related table wines over lunch, very soon.
Next up was a quick cross-town cab-ride to the Sainsbury's press tasting; the less said about this tasting the better, perhaps. I kicked off by concentrating on Loire varieties, tasting a couple of dishearteningly anonymous wines from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé and a rather bananery barrel-fermented Anjou Chenin Blanc before a run of New World Sauvignons most of which were fairly forgettable. Feeling my affect sink to a new low I switched to the 'fine wine' table in an effort to lift my spirits, only to find a troop of white Burgundies which, whilst displaying some appealing fruit characteristics, still managed to not really taste like white Burgundy. They were also rather pricy. Then came a few rather wacky Northern Rhônes before a run of ditchwater-dull wines from Bordeaux (I confess to skipping over a few Italians along the way). Only the very final wine in this line-up, the 2004 Smith-Haut-Lafitte, really provided any appeal, although I imagine the off-the-shelf price is painful.
But then it was time for the main event, a journey over to Holland Park where London merchant Handford Wines were gathering together a select band of journalists and customers to look at several dozen wines all with 1989 on the label. Just as Nigel Wilkinson had drawn me down from my Edinburgh lair for his anniversary celebrations, so too had James Handford and compatriot Greg Campbell MW with their superb tasting of wines from the 1989 vintage, a suitably grand affair to mark 21 years since James first opened his doors. Just ahead of me as I worked my way around the wines was Neal Martin, and ahead of him the ever-dapper Steven Spurrier. It was no surprise to find myself in such illustrious company; this was a tasting too good to miss. We mulled over many great wines, including Vega Sicilia, Mouton-Rothschild, Castillo Ygay, Palmer, Silver Oak, Montrose and more, although obviously all of these were eclipsed by the 1989 Cuvée Constance from Domaine Huet. And then each wine was also present in a more youthful vintage. Vega Sicilia Unico 2000, anyone? What a fabulous selection of wines; my journey back to Edinburgh on the sleeper train was a contented one.
It will be a few weeks before I get around to publishing my notes from this and the other tastings I attended that day, but the memory of many of the wines is still strong. And so I thought for this week's opener I should pull a wine from the same vintage from the cellar, and - bearing in mind that later this week I will be publishing some notes from a recent Lafaurie-Peyraguey tasting looking at the 2007, 2006, 2005 and 1999 vintages - what better choice than the 1989 Lafaurie-Peyraguey? This wine displays a beautiful burnished orange-gold in the glass. The nose has a rather mealy style, nicely evolved, but still holding together very well. There are nuances of bitter orange, botrytis and rich apricot fruit, along with more grippy and savoury structure elements, notes of pithy citrus in particular. The palate has a fleshy, deep and concentrated presence, brightly polished, showing great sweetness but with a lot of substance and texture to it as well. A nice bitter grip hides underneath it all, along with some gentle acidity just touching the tip of the tongue. Overall, a wine of impressive depth and substance, showing the exuberance of the vintage with just a hint of caramel behind the intensity of barley sugar, apricot and orange-flavoured macaroons. It all wraps up in a fine richness which just rolls across the palate, leaving an incredibly long honeyed element on the finish. A fine example of the appellation. No rush to tackle my other bottles in what was a very successful vintage for the region, and this estate in particular. 18/20 (18/10/10)