jamie goode's wine blog: Icon wines at The Sampler

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Icon wines at The Sampler

On the main site, I've just posted a lengthy review of innovative wine merchant The Sampler, which I visited last Friday (www.wineanorak.com/thesampler.htm). Here, as promised, I'm posting notes of the icon wines they currently have on tasting. It's always difficult tasting wines like these when you know what they are, because you don't want their reputations to influence you (either way).

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée St Vivant 1993
Beautifully elegant, perfumed nose is warm and open with subtle herbiness, hints of earth and nice spiciness. A bit of greenness, but in a nice way. The palate is earthy and spicy with good structure and lots of elegance. The fruit is beginning to recede a bit but there’s lots of complexity here, and some herby notes meshing well with spicy tannins. Some people I was tasting with were disappointed by this, but I found it thrilling, although I wouldn’t say it has a huge amount of evolution ahead of it. And it’s absurdly expensive, but it is DRC. 95/100 (£699 The Sampler)

Harlan Estate 2002 Napa Valley
My first time with this cult Napa wine, which sells for around £600 a bottle. Fresh, spicy, earthy aromatic nose with sweet blackcurrant fruit and warm, subtly tarry, spicy notes. Hint of chocolate, too. The palate is sweetly fruited and dense with really nice dense, spicy, slightly earthy structure under the rich, but not overblown fruit. It’s an accessible new world-style wine but it’s balanced and has a long finish. 93/100

Screaming Eagle 1999 Napa Valley
A rare chance to try one of the most sought after Napa cult wines. Wonderfully aromatic with perfumed, sweet, complex, beautifully poised nose of tar, herbs, spice and sweet berry fruits. The palate is evolving beautifully with notes of leather and spice under the elegant sweet red berry fruits. Really nicely balanced with beautiful fusion of complex spicy notes, fruit and structure. 96/100 (£1500 The Sampler)

Château Margaux 1934 Margaux, Bordeaux
It’s always a great experience to taste very old wine, even though it is a bit of a lottery. This elderly Margaux is an orange-brown colour, and the nose is earthy, spicy, mature and quite complex. The palate is light with some earthy notes and fresh acidity, as well as some meaty hints. Not much left here: it has a beguiling, faded, haunting beauty, but it’s beginning to taste of old wine. There’s real interest, but I suspect this isn’t a great bottle. 92/100 (£550 The Sampler)

Château Petrus 1983 Pomerol, Bordeaux
A little disappointing considering the reputation of Petrus, but still an attractive mature Pomerol. Warm, spicy and earthy on the nose, with some sweetness. The palate is earthy, slightly herby and has fresh acidity, with some evolution. Quite structured but the fruit is beginning to recede a bit. An attractive, savoury wine, but some way short of greatness. 92/100 (£850 The Sampler)

Château Le Pin 1995 Pomerol, Bordeaux
This cult Pomerol is very appealing, but surely you don’t have to spend a grand to get something like this? Lovely sweet aromatics showing subtly leafy sweet red fruits. Quite complex. The palate has some firm savoury character with nice spiciness and freshness. It’s balanced, earthy and fresh with nice bright fruit and a hint of nice greenness. 93/100 (£1000 The Sampler)

Château Mouton Rothschild 2000 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Earthy, spicy and slightly rustic on the nose. Quite firm. Is there some brett here? The palate is earthy and dense with a robust spicy character. Dense and firm at the moment but lacks real elegance. To be honest, I expected a bit more from this. 91/100 (£700 The Sampler)

Château D’Yquem 1983 Sauternes
Totally beautiful. This is concentrated and perfectly balanced with dense, complex spicy lemon/citrus flavours with waxy, spicy notes and wonderful depth. Drinking perfectly now. 96/100

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 Southern Rhône, France
This is a lovely, light, evolved wine drinking at its peak. Complex, warm, spicy and earthy with a lovely earthy, spicy character, as well as some meaty funkiness. A savoury style with lots of interest. 94/100 (£160 The Sampler)

Added later: people have asked about the sampling prices - they're all on the website - http://www.thesampler.co.uk/sampling.asp?submenu3

For these wines:

Wine Icons
DRC Romanée Saint Vivant 1993 £31.46; Harlan Estate 2002 £27.00; Screaming Eagle 1999 £60.00; Château Margaux 1934 £20.37; Pétrus 1983 £38.25; Le Pin 1995 £43.33; Château Mouton Rothschild 2000 £31.50; Château de Beaucastel 1990 £7.20

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At 9:32 PM, Blogger Wink Lorch said...

Hi Jamie
What an experience! But interesting ... I've never seen the term 'icon wines' used for the really old classics that you tasted (1934 Margaux - an icon?) - more for the arguably over-priced New World err .... icons.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Dan Coward said...

I'm as suspicious as most about 'icon' Napa Cabs but I realise I'm genuinely pleased to hear that Screaming Eagle is actually worth the hype.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Good point, Wink.

Dan, it was, but Harlan wasn't is my impression. I was surprised, too.

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Any chance of adding the smaple costs along with the bottle prices. Would never pay for a whole bottel but might pay £30 for a sample - just for interest.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Vinogirl said...

In my experience of talking to people in Napa, the general consensus is that SE is good...but not exceptional. Of course tasting is very subjective. However I think there are a number of wines here that would definately be able to hold there own, or even shine, in a blind tasting. There are almost 400 wineries now, small and large, in this relatively compact area...the SE vineyard is about 77 acres (and virused)...I personally believe there are better wines out there and wouldn't bother even trying to taste SE.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

This post has been removed by the author.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

I, too, would like to know what the sampling costs were if you don't have any qualms about providing them. I doubt I'll ever make it to such a place but my curiosity persists!

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Beaucastel 1990 Rocks!! and you can call it what you like.
By far the best value for money of anay of those other iconic wines you tasted Jamie.
And that other Jamie rocks too!!

At 8:39 PM, Blogger CM said...

Has anyone bought wine from west aussie wine.co.uk? I recently placed an order but have not received it and the contact number does not work. I'm getting a bit worried now.


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