Once in-a-lifetime Bordeaux wine Tasting: This time we made it!

Last year we had this once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting scheduled: but it did not happen.

(see the ones that got away)

This year we finally got our various acts together and had a terrific evening!

The Wines

BottlesThe line-up was fantastic: from left to right in increasing date order:

  • Haut-Batailley 1990 – the very last bottle from my late cousin Gary’s Wodehouse Wines.
  • Baron Pichon-Longueville 1995
  • Palmer 1996 – bought at the chateau several years ago
  • Phelan-Segur 1996
  • Haut Brion 1998 – the main excuse for the evening
  • Montrose 2003

I don’t expect to ever taste such a line-up again.

The Layout

We had decided that we would taste the wines blind so that we were not prejudiced in our evaluations. I had decanted 4 of the wines 2 hours before and these would be our first flight of 4.

DecantedWe always taste in parallel so that required 4 glasses labelled A B C D (and a diagram of which decanter was which!)

GlassesThe last 2 wines (the 1990 Haut Batailley (E) and the 1996 Phelan Segur (F)) I did not decant because I thought (correctly as it turned out) they needed to be opened only a short time before drinking. And anyway we only had 4 decanters!

The Tasters

There were 6 of us –


The Tasting

We use detailed tasting sheets for each wine so that we can evaluate colour, taste, smell etc and build up a rating score for each wine. But the bottom line questions are really very simple:

  • Which wine do you like best?
  • Which wine do you like least?
  • Then repeat for the other 2 wines.

Tasters were also asked which of the 4 they thought was the oldest and which was the youngest. Nearly everyone got this right!

The first 4 wines were:

A – Montrose 2003 St Estephe
B – Baron Pichon Longueville 1995 Pauillac
C – Haut Brion 1998 Pessac – Graves
D – Palmer 1996 Margaux

I actually think a better sequence would have been oldest to youngest: everyone tastes left to right and starting with the youngest and most tannic was a bit of a challenge.

The top wine for everone was undoubtedly the Haut Brion. Still in its youth really I think it will continue to improve over the next 10 to 20 years.

The Palmer had a distinctive Brett smell (farmyard) which divided opinion so that it either came second or last. (I rated it last).

The Pichon-Longueville was well integrated and well into its drinking window.

The Montrose was the most powerful of the wines, but in the opinion of most of us will benefit from a few more years in bottle. But it got better and better as the evening wore on and its tannins softened.

After we had finished scoring the first 4 (accompanied by pate and biscuits) I opened the last 2 and we continued with a lovely whole fillet of beef.

E- Haut-Batailley 1990 Pauillac

The Haut-Batailley was terrific, although much lighter than the Montrose or the Haut Brion. Excellent colour and a great demonstration of what a well-aged (24 years!) Bordeaux should be. If only we had another bottle!

F- Phelan Segur 1996 St Estephe

The last bottle we drank of this wine was disappointing probably because it had been opened too long. This time we got it right and it was good: lovely perfume and finesse.

The evening finished at about 3am!

It really was the wine-tasting of a lifetime: many thanks to Jo for providing the Haut Brion, Pichon-Longueville and Haut-Batailley.


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