21 NOVEMBER 1992, Page 65


A wonderful year

Auberon Waugh

It has been a wonderful year for the wine drinker, with new and vastly improved wines popping up all over like pebbles in a ploughed field. I decided to end the year on an all-claret offer because it is easy to forget in all the excitement about Coon- awarra and the Maipo Valley that Bor- deaux continues to produce the best simple drinking cabernet in the world, as well as the most refined and complex, and that with a little effort and ingenuity — like buying before the collapse of the pound, endless tasting around the less renowned areas and in the less fashionable vintages — it is possible to buy better wine, cheaper than anywhere else. It also occurs to me that with the pound on its downward slide we may see less and less Bordeaux in the future. These wines are seldom as intense as their colonial counterparts (with the exception of number 6) but they have fewer improper tastes, too, and have each, in their separate ways, the pure character of a classic wine.

The first, and cheapest at £4.48, is also the only one with a hint of what might be called the right-bankish taste of young mer- lot, like Madonna offering 'body' on the cheap. However the Château Les Agrieres 1989 (Bordeaux Superieur) jumped out from six or seven similar wines at the same price as being livelier and spicier than its competitors. The panel member who took it away to finish afterwards averred that it improved for four days, under which cir- cumstances we can confidently say that the Les Agrieres is a goer. So far as one can distinguish characteristics from what is basically a sound, full, right-bank Bordeaux Superieur, the panel would propose new- turned earth, sweet, rotting leaves, good depth and a touch of tannin to hold it together. Coonawarra, at this price, could add no more than a whiff of coal gas and nail varnish.

Next, the Chateau Vallet 1989'2' from Premieres Cotes de Blaye is another good advertisement for the miraculous 1989 vin- tage which, from my tasting experience, is distinctly superior to the excellent 1988s. I am glad to note that Michael Broadbent agrees in his indispensable Pocket Guide to Wine Vintages (Mitchell Beazley £6.99 how could we have lived without it?), but we seem to be almost alone in this percep- tion. The Château Vallet at £4.68 is fruity, very lively for a Blaye, and has been fiercely reduced in price. Nobody could possibly dislike it, and everyone will enjoy it. It is just a question, really, of whether you can afford to go one more expensive to . . . Château de Malleret 19870) was original- ly chosen as my 'nap' of the offer if we could have kept it under £5 (it started at over £6), but it crept up to £5.08 during some tearful argy-bargy, so I will confine myself to tasting notes:

Sweet burgundy? minty smell; no oppressive weight but exceptionally nice 'n' lively claret (AW — August). Super smell of old books? long lasting taste of delicious fruit (AC August); lovely clean, sweet cabernet smell; beautiful example; bright and lively rather than smooth; no great length but good as gold all through (AW — November); Smoky green leaves and good earth. Delicious (JC, AC — November); Classy (M M-S).

I think it is an absolutely lovely claret and wish I could have offered it at a penny under £5.

Time to get a move on. The Domaine de l'Ermitage Amourous"' belongs to the Dames de la Misericorde and I thought it might appeal to kinky High Church punters to speculate on whether the nuns actually tread it out, barefoot. We got it down from


c/o Laytons 20 Midland Road, London NW1 2AD Tel: (071) 388 5081 Fax: (071) 383 7419

Price No. Value

Château Les Agrieres 1989 12 Bots. £53.80

Château Vallet (Blaye) 1989 12 Bots. f56.20

Chateau de Malleret

(Haut-Medoc) 1987 12 Bots. £61.00

Domaine de l'Ermitage

Amourous (Haut-Medoc) 1988 12 Bots. £71.80

Château Moulin de Marc

(Graves) 1985 12 Bots. f79.00

Leoville Las Cases

(Saint-Julien) 1984 12 Bots. £113.40

Sample case, 2 bottles of each 12 Bots. f72.53

TOTAL (Cheque enclosed) From: NAME ADDRESS

Deliver), address (if different):

NAME ADDRESS POSTCODE POSTCODE TELEPHONE TELEPHONE Prices include VAT and delivery on the British mainland. Payment should be made either by cheque made out to the Spectator Wine Club or by Access/Visa order, which may be telephoned or faxed.

This offer, which is subject to availability, closes on 8 January 1993, but for pre-Christmas delivery, orders should be received before 14 December 1992 (within London), 10 December 1992 (outside Lon- don).

£6.50 to £5.98, at which price it is a good mouthful of concentrated fruit, easy to drink, will taste even more expensive and elegant out of a decanter (you don't have to explain why you bought it in the first place).

Château Moulin de Marc 19850' is an opulent concentration of fruit and nettles from the Graves. At £6.58 it tastes more expensive. It improved for two days after opening and held for four, but I am not sure I would bother to lay it down — it is perfect for drinking now.

On our first crack at the 1984 Leoville Las Cases'' we tasted it against the 1984 Ducru Beaucaillou, another lovely wine, but the Las Cases won hands down (I could not help noticing that Harveys of Bristol were offering these two wines at £216 and £199 — £18 and £16.58 the bottle respectively — as a special bin-end bar- gain). On our second go at it, I tasted it (with some temerity) against a 1982 Las Cases from my own cellar, hailed by Robert Parker as one of the wines of the century. It may still be possible to buy the 1982 Las Cases at under £30 the bottle, but I would like to know where. My conclusion from all this is that the 1984 Las Cases at £9.45 the bottle is unquestionably the bar- gain of the century.

Cognoscenti sneered at the 1984 vintage in the Medoc because the merlot grape failed. In that case, I can only suggest that Las Cases would be better without so much merlot. It is a magnificent wine, this '84: huge concentration of heavy, dry cassis, a most abundant and opulent drinking expe- rience. There may not be much room for future development, but I feel confident it will hold this peak for years. Treat it prop- erly. Stand it up for 36 hours at room tem- perature and decant an hour before the meal. Then ask your guests to guess the year. It is a revelation, and will make boo- bies of us all.

The sample case') works out at £6.04 the bottle, and I have extended the offer to allow for post-Christmas re-ordering, if stocks last.