Don’t spit great wine!

bordeaux italy rioja

Don’t spit great wine!


In the wine trade, we taste. And then we spit. Have to, really, otherwise we’d all be permanently drunk and would die young.

Sometimes, though, a wine is too good to spit.

When I was tasting through the icon wines that The Sampler has just put on its enomatics, I found myself instinctively spitting the wines. But then I though, this is madness. Even if I drink all 16 samples I won’t get properly drunk, and there’s no particular reason that getting a tiny bit drunk would be a terrible thing. And some of these wines are so good, it would be utterly wrong to spit them. It would be a sign of disrespect.

How often am I going to get a chance to drink wines like these? This is truly a once in a lifetime experience for most of these wines.

In the end, I did spit some of the wines. Others, though, I swallowed, savoured, and allowed to become part of me, assimilated into my body.

You can read my notes on all 16 wines here. Three particular highlights that weren’t spat:

Château Latour 1955 Bordeaux, France
Warm, harmonious nose of cherries, leather and earth with a savoury twist to the sweet fruit. The palate still has lots of fruit: there are sweet berries and red cherries, plus a thrilling elegance. Incredible mouthfeel with fine grained, chalky tannins, as well as subtle spice. Taut and correct, this is a sensational bottle. 97/100

Ornellaia 1997 Tuscany, Italy
I didn’t want to like this wine as much as I did, because I am not a fan of super-Tuscans. It has a perfumed nose of ripe blackcurrant fruit with a chalky, mineral edge. It’s very classic and enticing. The palate is superbly elegant and shows smooth, ripe, red berry and cherry fruit with some sweet blackcurrant notes. Ripe yet elegant and just beautiful. 97/100 (£215)

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Reserva Especial 1942 Rioja, Spain
They don’t make them like this any more. This spent 40 years in barrel. Quite a full colour with a very warm, ripe, sweet nose with a hint of malt and some sweet vanilla and coconut, as well as red cherry fruit. The palate still has some fresh red fruit with a savoury, mineral edge and a super-long finish. There are also some lively citrus peel notes. An amazing wine. 97/100

4 Comments on Don’t spit great wine!Tagged , , , , ,
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

4 thoughts on “Don’t spit great wine!

  1. 42 is a great Rioja vintage. Recall drinking an extraordinary bottle of LdH Tondonia GR and only wish I had some.
    Never know how you guys can write reliable notes,without actually swallowing some of the wine,ideally with food.

  2. After watching England bat in Sri Lanka today, well, just the way they always do,
    and now reading your post here,
    I just cannot think longer that 4 letters 🙂
    Maybe the 5 for “lucky you” might max out the day.

  3. The Ygay sounds incredible. Real food for thought here. Oak ageing puts so much strain on a wine. In my (admittedly short) experience even off some of the best farmed vineyards in South Africa extended wood elevage can really fray a wine at the edges. Mindblowing that this wine still has freshness and fruit after so long in wood and bottle. In an era where we quantify and monitor everything it is great to see that some of the greatest wines defy our scientific understanding.

    Made before winegrowing was really a science, it’s monument to the fact that the right vineyard, the right place and time, together with nature can make the kind of wines that touch you to your core.

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