Some amazing fine wines at The Sampler

Latour 1961 in the glass

Latour 1961 in the glass

Each Christmas The Sampler puts some rather special wines on its sampling machines, and this year is no exception. I popped into the South Kensington shop to try them; Islington has a different set of wines on. They aren’t cheap, but for many of these wines it’s a once in a lifetime chance to drink them.

Domaine de Chevalier 1961 Graves, Bordeaux, France
Jamie Hutchison describes this particular bottle as the best looking 1961 he’s seen(in terms of its physical condition), with inside neck fill level, and the wine itself is youthful and pristine. Sweetly aromatic, herby, spicy nose has lovely perfume and still has plenty of fresh cherry fruit with some gravelly minerality. The palate is seamless, spicy and midweight with cherry fruit, a hint of tar, a spicy, savoury edge and lovely precision. Fruity and stylish, and remarkably well preserved. 95/100
Château Leoville Barton 1961 St Julien, Bordeaux, France
Perfumed, herby, earthy, leathery nose with some minerals and subtle tar notes. The palate is fresh, herby and slightly sappy with notes of earth, leather and spice, as well as some minerality. It has dried out a little but still has some lovely fruit, notes of bitter plums and some spiciness. Quite beautiful: certainly an old wine but it makes for thrilling drinking. 95/100

Château Latour 1961 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
A great chance to try a legendary wine. This bottle came from Hugh Johnson’s cellar, and it’s the most expensive wine on sampling at £175 a pour. It is still amazingly youthful looking and has a taut, perfumed nose of herbs, blackcurrant and spice. The palate is actually youthful, with spicy mineral notes and good acidity under the blackcurranty fruit. Fine, elegant and structured, this wine has real precision and focus, and isn’t yet fully mature. A remarkable experience: if I’d tasted it blind I would have said with was from the 1980s or 1990s. 98/100

Richebourg 1955

Richebourg 1955


DRC Richebourg 1955 Burgundy, France
Very pale cherry red in colour, with some bricking. Wonderfully aromatic with perfumed herbs, sweet cherries and citrus peel notes, as well as some meat and spice. Lovely acidity. Faded but beautifully elegant with a surprising vibrancy and nice precision. Remarkable wine. 97/100
Calvet Pommard 1919 Burgundy, France
Bottled by Shepherd Neame, Faversham. The oldest table wine I have tried by some six years. It has an earthy, spicy nose which has a little funk, but the palate is so lively and pure, with super-elegant cherry fruit underlain by a warm spiciness. Quite beautiful with amazing freshness and vitality, once you get past the nose. I was so surprised by this wine. 95/100
Sassicaia 1990 Tuscany, Italy
Full colour. Cherries, blackcurrants and spice on the nose. It has a lovely gravelly, spicy, smooth palate with dense sweet fruit as well as freshness and elegance. Some tannic grip still, but the fruit is in a lovely place in this ripe yet elegant wine, which is still very focused and hasn’t gone mushy at all. 94/100

Henschke Hill of Grace Vineyard 1990 Barossa, Australia
This Aussie classic was a slight disappointment. It’s sweetly aromatic with warm cherry and herb fruit. The palate shows notes of spice, meat, tar and herbs with a hint of mint to the cherry fruit. Very warm and quite Grenache like. 92/100
Paternina Conde de los Andes Gran Reserva 1959 Rioja, Spain
From a Rioja house that performed very strongly in the 1950s and 1960s. Sweet and expressive with lovely fruit and notes of spice and earth. Ripe berry fruits are joined by minerals and some liqueur cherry characters. Pure, fine and fresh with lovely vitality. Complex and balanced. 95/100

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