26 SEPTEMBER 1998, Page 65


When youth and pleasure meet

Auberon Waugh

FOR SEVERAL years now I have been railing against the wine and restaurant trades for selling their wine too young. On 9 August 1998 I opened five bottles of dif- ferent 1982 clarets from my cellar to greet an esteemed brother-in-law from America. In order of grandeur, they were from Châteaux Lanessan, La Lagune, Issan, Pichon Longueville Baron and Leoville Las Cases (awarded 97 out of 100 by Robert Parker, described as one of the wines of the century and tipped to improve for 20 years into the next century).

The experience confirmed what I had been beginning to suspect from earlier, more tentative forays into my cellar. We have all been fooling ourselves. The Borde- lais no longer make wine to improve after about ten years (1985 burgundies are also a disgrace). Prices paid for these wines are an absurdity. Grand names mean very little. I have five cases of the Las Cases alone. It is a thin, short, defeatist little wine with noth- ing more to come out of it. After lunch, we drank a 1990 cru bourgeois called Carronne St Gemme which I had opened the night before, and all agreed it was a much better drink than any of the '82s.

The great lesson of our times is to buy young wine which is good for drinking now — there is plenty of it around at very rea- sonable prices — and drink it. So much for retirement plans. But it is easier to recom- mend El Vino's offering this month as a result, which is composed for the most part of very young wines indeed.

So here goes. The Bordeaux Sauvignon 1997(1), at £4.42 delivered, struck me as a nice, drinkable, very pale wine with a pretty label, although other members of the panel preferred the slightly mysterious 1997 'La Reserve du Reverend'(2) from the Cor- bieres — more alcoholic, at 12.5 per cent, against the Bordeaux's 11.5 per cent, and slightly more expensive at £4.61. The Rev- erend's Reserve was found to be fruitier by its adherents, but I think it is less elegant

than the Bordeaux — more of a `fun' wine perhaps. Both are very easy drinking.

The third white, a sauvignon blanc from Gisborne called Aotea(3)• is, as one would expect, a seriously full and fruity wine which anyone will find delicious. I wish Sir David Mitchell, El Vino's chairman, could have brought the price down a little below £6.80 — it is listed at £7.15 — but he wouldn't.

The first red, a merlot from Chile, at £5.42, takes its place in what looks like becoming a long line of excellent Chilean merlots. Bisquertt's 1996 from the Colch-

agua Valley(4) has a nice, toasty smell, a good, deep colour and a strong, upright taste. Recommended.

El Vino's own Barossa Valley Cabernet Shiraz 1997 may not be quite such a bar- gain at £6.42 but it is wonderfully Aus- tralian, with a good black colour, a rich smell and an excellent full shiraz taste which reminds us that shiraz is truly the grape of that wonderful country where all the inhabitants stand on their heads. One should not miss this wine, but it would have been more of a treat if it had been 25p cheaper.

The last red, the 1993 Château Le Clos du Notaire 1993 from the Cotes de Bourg, struck me as easily worth £7.70 for present drinking. It has a spicy, peppery smell, and is very well made, almost velvety, with a smooth, rounded, expensive, high-class taste. Everybody loved it, but for heaven's sake drink it up, don't lay it down for the future.

The mixed case(7) works out at £5.90 the bottle. At least it is under £6.