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The best of everything

by Tom Cannavan, 1999

This was the farewell tasting organised by the manager of Edinburgh Oddbins Fine Wine before he departs to become a trainee wine maker in Australia. He chose a selection of what he considered to be the best wines in the shop for the tasting. I thought the two 1986 Bordeaux were not showing particularly well: they are either far from being ready, or they are solid, tannic and rich, but not displaying the fruit and balance I would hope for in £60+ wines.

Domaine Dujac, Echézeaux, Grand Cru 1989 - £48.00
Lovely pale mahogany colour. Gorgeous animal nose with burnt sugar and deep, caramel, slightly sherried scents, but beautiful. Really rich mocha coffee notes becoming more and more pronounced. Lovely on the palate too: mouth filling, rich, lovely sour cherry fruit and a raft of soft, silky tannin. A sumptuous wine with clove spice notes in the finish and great length - really first class. A complete and beguiling wine. My pick of the night.

Domaine Mongeard- Mugneret, Richebourg, Grand Cru 1991 - £75.00
Very rich red with an orange rim. Pronounced tears. Again a lovely animal, earthy quality on the nose. Grilled meats. Fruit more to the front and again beautifully integrated soft tannins with less obvious acidity. Finish is long and very sweet - much more so than the Echézeaux. An extremely fine wine, but rather "flat" compared to the Echézeaux. Not quite so complex.

Sean Thackrey, Orion old vines 1994 - £29.99
Deep, black, opaque colour. Last time I tasted this I used the adjective "weird" to describe the nose. I'll stick with that: really high scents of mint leaf, confectionery, blackcurrant and pesto sauce. On the palate it's a very luscious wine with plenty of ripe black fruit and very grippy tannin. The finish dries the mouth with plenty of good acidity. It is clearly a well structured, complex and characterful wine, but I'm just not convinced I like it.

Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage "La Chapelle" 1995 - £27.99
Black colour. Gorgeous big peppery nose, hints of mint and eucalyptus. The depth and darkness of the nose a very pronounced contrast to the Orion. Quite closed, but showing rich, sweet cherry and plum fruit and deep tannins. Beautiful integration of tannins, black fruit and smoke in a dense, chewy format. Superb length hinting at great things to come.

Château La Conseillante, Pomerol 1986 - £58.00
Deep ruby turning quite brown at the rim. A lot of luscious, minty, plummy fruit on the nose and a bit of cedary wood. Extremely firm on the palate, not giving. Very chewy texture, muscular, but really needs more fruit. The tannin is fine and ripe, but totally swamps the finish leaving the impression of a slightly clumsy, alcohol and spice character. Disappointing. I wouldn't buy it hoping it would improve significantly.

Château Cos-d'Estournel, St-Estèphe, 2nd growth 1986 - £78.00
Very deep, even ruby/purple with no signs of age. Nice but backward nose of cedar and blackcurrant fruit, a little bit of mint and pepper. Attacking, very firm tannins on the palate, but there's some fine fruit buried underneath too and a much better overall balance than the La Conseillante, though this is still not a very generous wine at the moment. Finish is long. Given time (5 years at least?) this could be very good.

Château d'Yquem, Sauternes, Premier Cru Supérieur 1990 - £160.00
Light, golden yellow colour. Nose quite dominated by oak, but apricots, dried fruits and caramel coming through. Quite luscious on the palate, very concentrated, good botrytis and subtle apricot fruit. Nowhere near as flamboyant as the 1989 (tasted a month ago), but maybe just slower to evolve.