Te Mata Estate Coleraine Library Tasting 1982 – 2015

Te Mata Coleraine 1

New Zealand’s greatest and most famous red wine?

This is the opinion of a few notable palates of the New Zealand wine scene, admittedly encouraged by the superb marketing efforts of the folks behind the winery itself, and this opinion is also shared by several overseas leading palates, namely Jamie Goode and Steven Spurrier.

I am quite partial to the wine myself, though my own palate can best be described as naïve. I was introduced to the ‘00 at a tasting of Te Mata wines back in ‘10, and was I entranced by its quality. I didn’t know a NZ wine would age so well!  Actually, until that time, I had never thought of keeping a New Zealand wine any longer than the thirty minutes it took to get it home from the bottlestore. But life is learning, isn’t it?

Now, however, I am the  proud owner of several vintages of Coleraine, all sleeping it off down in the Pool Room under the watchful gaze of kellarmausefanger Mimi until they hit the Witching Hour of ten years of age. The first cab off the rank will be the 2009. My cellar’s pride and joy is a magnum of Coleraine 2013 (ignoring its admitted rival, 750mls of Stonyridge Larose 2005. Plus a bunch of Rieslings. I could go on).

Geoff Kelly, an aficionado of aged wines, previously a wine judge, and one of the resident wine experts at Regional Wines and Spirits, organised this hugely important look at twelve of the best vintages of this great wine since its inception in 1982. There have been 31 vintages to date, with the 1992 and 1993 not being made due to the localised cool weather influenced by the Pinatubo volcanic eruption in Indonesia, and a later vintage (2011?) which was beset by rain. A large number of bottles had been collected over the years by the late founder of Regional Wines, Grant Jones, and Geoff contributed others to fill the holes. He consulted with Peter Cowley, Te Mata’s longtime winemaker, about what he thought the finest vintages were, and thus assembled a selection for tasting over two nights.

I attended the second helping.

Geoff provided an excellent set of introductory notes, which can be read via the link below, with his carefully considered reviews of the wines themselves. Spoiler alert!


Raymond Chan, another local wine reviewer and judge, also ex RW, and an expert whose writings I admire, and also a long-time fan of Coleraine, he attended the first sitting also. And his informative notes are below. Another spoiler alert!


My good friend GN was in attendance as well, as was a couple of MS members; cracking palates all, plus me, ha! But I’m still at the Bluffing Stage of public winetasting. Again, life is learning, isn’t it?

au vins:

1982 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

1983 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

1989 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

1991 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

1995 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

1998 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

2002 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

2005 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

2007 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

2009 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

2013 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

2015 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay

Interestingly, Te Mata Estate Coleraine Hawkes Bay 1998 was named a ‘Wine Legend’ in the August Issue of UK’s wine magazine Decanter, placing it amongst the greatest wines of all time. The only New Zealand wine to receive the title to date, Decanter’s profile situates Te Mata Estate’s flagship Coleraine beside other ‘Wine Legends’ at more than ten times its price. Hmm. I take this magazine, surface mail, and haven’t seen this issue yet. It will be interesting to sup that one, then.

Time to sniff and slurp. I won’t write up all twelve wines (I leave that weighty task to Geoff and Raymond), but will rather report on my highlights. The wines were served non-blind, in age order youngest to oldest, as 30ml pours.

Te Mata Coleraine 2

The bouquet, as you would expect, showed evolution as the years progressed. Bright primary fruits to start with the later vintages, tending through secondary characters (cedar etc) in the 2000s, then landing on tertiary notes (tobacco ash etc)  as the decades weighed in from the 90s and back. Colour tended bright deep pink carmine in the young wines, through to darker hues, and tending brick for the oldies.

2015 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – $140! OMFG – This was a great start to the tasting. If I can be presumptuous, the producers are making better wine the more goes they have at doing so, and this makes sense. The vines are getting older. And thus the ‘15 is winner in the making. Bright carmine colour. Sweet red and dark fruits on the nose. Sensitive. Breathy. Fresh fruit flavours. Fresh acidity. Great intensity and length. Bracing. Plush and lush, plumpness and  balance. Three ticks.

2013 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – I have this in the Pool Room. It was a Lauded Vintage in the Bay. Bright carmine colour. More volatile than the ’15. A hint of spirit marker. Dark fruit. An impression of restrained power. There was power and crunch in the in the mouth also. Dense and packed with flavour. Some spice. Gorgeous and concentrated, fine, no oak showing. Fabulous. Three ticks.

2009 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – Notable for the cassis showing, vanilla, and huge fruit profile. Hot on exit.

2007 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – I noted here floral, lifted, and tension. Baking spice.  Elusive violets. Elegant, long and lean of finish. A special wine.

2005 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – Dark carmine, tending brick. A packed nose. Delightful. Cedar, chalk, dusty , and cassis. Good fruit on palate. A rich feel of the wine in my mouth. I saw neatness and harmony and symmetry. Long. Three ticks for this.

1995 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – Dark carmine, tending brick. Dry and evolved, a light and leafy bouquet. Gorgeous fruit flavours again. Poised. I noted sweetness and freshness, length and persistence. A gorgeous wine. Three ticks for this too.

1991 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – Dark carmine, tending brick. Evolved, with aromas of roses, spice, violets, cassis, cedar and blackcurrant jam. A lot going on here. Delicious, involving and mouthcoating. Someone called this a mature Claret. Drying a little. Harmonious. Three ticks again!

1982 Te Mata Coleraine, Hawkes Bay – Dark carmine, tending brick. Most evolved, but still holding up with freshness and intensity of fruit belieing its age. An amazing 35YO New Zealand wine, and my Wine Of The Night because of this (beating out the ’91, ’05 and ’13).

My takeaway from this tasting had to be the pleasure in seeing how the bouquet evolved through the years. And how the wine colour changed. It was also interesting to see how the later vintages showed improvements that I can only put down to greater vine age and better vineyard/winery practice which has evolved over the years. Te Mata are making better Coleraines now than they did in the past, in my opinion.

This was a masterclass. Something you get vanishingly rarely with NZ wines. And this may well be the last public tasting of this breadth of Coleraines, until the winery itself opens its cellar at the next significant anniversary. Thanks Geoff, and thanks also to the late Grant Jones.


What’s in the glass tonight July 19th – Gewurtztraminer

Peregrine Gewurtztraminer 2009

From the Cellar: Peregrine Gewurtztraminer Central Otago 2009 – $$

14% alc. Brilliant gold colour.

Geoff Kelly wrote of this wine in late 2013, “When Greg Hay was here from Peregrine, he dumbfounded us by showing what is one of the greatest gewurztraminers ever made in New Zealand, and then in the latter part of the discussion casually mentioned this 2009 was the last of the line. The vines had all been pulled out, he said, due to the low and alternate-year cropping. The wine is just beautiful, fragrant and fruit-rich, wonderful acid balance, great freshness and cellar potential, the gewurz spice building in mouth, a dryish wine. It should cellar for another eight years or so. It is essential in any cellar hoping to showcase the diversity New Zealand wines can achieve.”

So when I read this I went and bought the last two bottles on the shelves at Regional Wines…

An envelopingly aromatic and sweet bouquet:  developed, warm and ripe, with sweet notes of honey and toffee, and touches of mandarin and apple.

Sweet, smooth and ripe to taste. Toffee and caramel flavours. Saline. Fine flinty texture. A long, hot and spicy finish.

So poised and balanced and memorable. A few years ahead for this wine I think – I’ll probably open the second bottle in 2019.

Outstanding 95 points

New Zealand Pinot Noir Worth Cellaring


Regional Wines of Wellington ran two pinot noir tastings earlier this year, under the general heading: Are They Worth Cellaring: Pinot Noir. The first week comprised NZ wines under $30, and the second week NZ wines over $30. The tastings were presented by Geoff Kelly, and were designed to complement his occasional short articles for the Regional Wines website, titled Worth Cellaring.

I attended the second over $30 tasting. I was lucky to attend the same a year earlier. I thought it would be fun to compare the two events, and vintages.

Geoff writes of the tasting on his excellent website, geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz:

Pinot noir continues to be the red wine of choice, perhaps because it can be so fragrant and delicious, perhaps because it bridges the gap beautifully between white wines and ‘serious’ red wines. Rosé, which in theory should do that job, usually fails to be satisfying. Thus pinot noir provides the perfect pathway to move from enjoying white wines to appreciating reds.

There are hundreds of New Zealand pinot noirs now. To select 12-only for each of these two exercises is therefore invidious. Our selections include wines which have won gold more than once. We then listed the wines which sell most at Regional Wines, and for the expensive set some labels which everybody wants to taste but maybe can’t afford on their own, and then there was the desire to make sure that each pinot noir district was represented somewhere in the two flights. We also put in Michael Cooper’s 2014 red wine of the year, since he has a consistency of approach which is admirable”

As before, Geoff presented all the wines blind, and decanted them into bagged bottles. They were arranged in order stylistically so that the wines followed each other in the most complimentary fashion possible, with the first of each flight “stylistically correct” as a benchmark.

The single bottles were then passed from hand to hand around the room for us 24 participants to measure out 27.5ml quantities, via wee plastic jelly-shot glasses to a level marked, and pour into our tasting glasses. We were asked to examine the wines at leisure, then discuss our impressions, and vote for our best and worst wines.

Geoff writes further; “In the preamble to these two highly enjoyable tastings, I mentioned that I had cellared my first case of grand cru burgundy from the 1969 vintage, a great year in Burgundy, and it was a wine from a vineyard which still remains stellar in my view, yet underrated: 1969 Drouhin Clos de la Roche in Morey-Saint-Denis (Cote de Nuits). My goal in such a statement was to introduce the notion, [ ], that a New Zealander not in the practical winemaking side of wine should actually know something about pinot noir the grape, and burgundy the winestyle.

So in these introductions, we talked about the notion of the pinot noir winestyle, that in the good ones it is a wine of florality, complexity and delight on bouquet, and soft sensuous and often subtle yet essentially satisfying beauty on palate. We contrasted it with the more authoritarian firm aromatic flavours and character of good cabernet, with its need for greater new oak to complement the stronger flavours of the bordeaux grape varieties.

We went on to discuss the fact that beauty in bouquet for pinot noir is a function of not over-ripening, that bigger and riper and darker is not better in pinot noir (as too many in the industry mistakenly believed in the 1990s, continuing through to this century), that the quality of pinot noir must never be judged from its colour, and that great pinot noir sustains the beauty of its bouquet right through the palate. Thus the palate must be long and supple in its fruit / oak charm and beauty, but it does not need to be strong, at all. We mentioned that in evaluating the wines, we should seek what pinot aficionados call ‘layers’ of texture as well as flavour, noting this is a pretty abstruse concept.

Basically we are seeking beautiful sweet floral smells and flavours, where the florality permeates the palate, and the whole lasts and sometimes even expands in the mouth. We mentioned that leaving aside the florals (in their hierarchy from fresh sweet pea → buddleia → rose → lilac → violets and boronia) that simple pinot noir might smell of red currants, strawberries and raspberries to a degree, but quality pinot noir smelt of red grading to black cherries, sometimes with an elusive aromatic quality hard to define, but enticing.

We then discussed the concept of over-ripeness, that the key beautiful floral aromas are simply lost in over-ripening in hot climates (why good pinot noir cannot be grown north of Martinborough (or maybe Masterton), or much south of Beaune), and that when the wine reaches the black cherry stage, be on guard, for it may all too easily pass to black plums, and that is over-ripe for absolute pinot noir beauty, with its increase in size, but the loss of florality, varietal quality and complexity.

We also raised the question of the perceived Central Otago pinot noir style, and remarked that it has been caricatured by pinot-producers from other wine districts, perhaps out of self-interest, as tending to wines which are a bit too big and fruity, though nobody would dare say jammy. There does seem to be some evidence emerging that Otago winemakers are now aiming for a less ripe, less alcoholic and less dark wines. Such a move will certainly increase florality and therefore beauty and complexity, but great care will be needed to not at the same time introduce leafyness and stalkyness. That risk is exacerbated by including stems in the ferment – the whole bunch approach – yet this technique is indisputably part of some of the greatest pinot noirs in the world.

The ripeness of the tannins in the stems (and seeds) is critical, and that seems to be a function of a climate critically appropriate to achieving full physiological maturity of flavour in pinot noir. Loosely speaking, such climates show greater continentality. The goal of such moves is to close the gap on the winestyles found in the Cote de Nuits, which by general agreement is home to the most complex expressions of pinot noir in the world.”

What a great introduction! I learnt a good deal listening to what Geoff said.

What I write below is collated from what I thought of the wines, and what others thought, before and after the wines were finally identified. In a departure from usual form, I attempted a comparable score or valuation to identify the wines I thought were wonderful.

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2011 Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir Marlborough – the ‘sighter’ of the flight. Pink carmine colour. Fruity nose, lightly scented. To taste; bright red fruit, some acidity, light & fresh, a touch of watermelon. Quite delicious. Beautifully ripened to perfection, no stalks, not long. I like this producer very much – I adored their 2010 Brancott Vineyard PN. 3+

2012 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard Central Otago – a serious mover. Pink carmine; expressive nose, herby, brambly, elegant. Red cherries in mouth, solid depth of fruit, firm & long, a bit acidic, a bit of stalk , considered in the top three of the tasting. 4+

2012 Peregrine Pinot Noir Central Otago – a personal fav of mine. I don’t drink enough of it. Deep pink carmine; light florality, red cherries, roses, brambles. This has ripeness and depth in spades, taut, a firm structure with tannins, length, dense fruit delivery, celery nose, clipped, elemental florality, little more complex (due to Central terroir?), pretty, gratifying. This is a keeper. 4+

2011 Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough – Larry McKenna’s ‘collective statement’ pinot, as distinct from his SV wines. Deep pink carmine; Light floral red fruit. Shows depth and intensity, ripe red fruit in the mouth, elegant. Would keep well. Good acid balance, finesse, noticeable tannins (hence cellarability). 4

2012 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago – Pink carmine; Stronger floral bouquet, herbs and black fruit. Complex depth, black cherries to taste, and vanilla, nice fruit & length, firm, good body, a light touch of funk. 4+

2012 Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Central Otago – Pink garnet; Burnt match nose, dark cherries, strong aromatics, power. Deep and structured, ripe long and velvety, even seductive. I liked it very much. Then I was told it was reductive. I have a nose for (and liking of) reductive wine. Others opined: grubby, cured meat, dull, leaden. I scored this highly for CHARACTER and INTEREST. 4+

2010 Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline’s Waitaki Valley – Deep carmine; an impact nose – all spice and all the red fruits. Delicious, with ripe red fruit & pointy lusciousness. Others saw freshness, leafy and green, sweet, lolly-like. I saw LIKE! 5

2012 Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block Cromwell Central Otago – Pink carmine; very floral, forward, impactful, a show wine. Warm & round, very ripe, almost jammy, long. Some saw brooding palate weight. Hmm, a bit too pseudo even for me. I saw 4 and cellar potential.

2012 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Cromwell Central Otago – An over-achiever this one. I have enjoyed previous editions. Deep pink carmine; very leggy. Light, medicinal nose. Tannic and bracing and ripe and very delish. A clear floral component, diffuses through mouth, very pleasing. Top 3 in the tasting. 5.

2011 Black Estate Pinot Noir Waipara – Deep pink carmine; Aniseed nose, thyme. A bit underripe, tho elegant and stylish. Short. 4

2011 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough – Pink carmine. Roses and red cherries. This shows great depth and intensity of fruit expression. Elegant, pure and refined. Very straight and restrained, with absolutely spot-on structure and balance. Did I say it also tasted wonderful? Top 3 in the tasting. 5

2011 Neudrof Moutere Pinot Noir Nelson – Pink carmine; Medicinal, light and elegant bouquet; herbs and black fruit. Tannic and drying; the boldest structure of the flight. Grippy-ness got in the way of any appreciation of the fruit/ripeness qualities of the wine. Long finish. Will cellar for a while, and needs it. 4+

2012 Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara – this was the leading wine from the Under $30 tasting, so was included here for comparison. Smells great – brambly, complex, very purple florals; involving. Light red fruits, delicious, sweet but very correct PN. 4+

This was a great reference journey through New Zealand Pinot Noir. Many thanks to GK and Regional Wines.

My only regret is that the lower boundary of the pinot bliss curve is now shading $30 per bottle…







Can fine Chardonnay cellar for 30-45 years? A nutty tasting for dinkum Chardonnay lovers


In May, once again, Geoff Kelly presided over one of his famous library tastings of wines plucked from his own cellar.

In his words he intended to present “a tasting for people who love the smells and flavours of good oatmeal, cashews, hazelnuts, brazil nuts and even a touch of walnut maybe. It is not a tasting for those who derive their pleasure in finding faults in wines, where more positive people would see complexity.

In New Zealand the conventional wisdom is that Chardonnay can be cellared for 3-5 years, maybe 8 years at the outside. In this tasting we will explore whether really good chardonnay can cellar for longer. The youngest wines will be 28 years old, so there will be no florals, and precious little stonefruit….the good ones will taste and smell of the attributes listed above…such wines can be [ ] very satisfying, if they have the body to be sustaining.”

I love NZ Chardonnay, and have been pushing the age boundaries of cellaring these wines myself. With mixed results. I was looking forward to this evening. I was fortunate that L could come along and experience it with me.

As before, Geoff presented all the wines blind, and decanted them into bagged bottles. He selected the lightest colour wines if he had more than one bottle to hand. They were arranged in order stylistically so that the wines followed each other in the most complimentary fashion possible.

The single bottles were then passed from hand to hand around the room for us participants to measure out 27.5ml quantities, via wee plastic jelly-shot glasses to a level marked, and pour into our tasting glasses. We were asked to examine the wines at leisure, then discuss our impressions, and vote for our best and worst wines, and guess what region they hailed from.

What I write below is collated from what I thought of them, and what others thought, before and after the wines were finally identified.

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1986 Mountadam Chardonnay High Eden, SA – Light gold colour; lightly aromatic, flavours of burnt cashews, fresh citrus, lovely bright fruit notes, light and cool; notes of dried peaches, minerals, mealy, taut, it grew in the glass.

1986 Rosemount Estate Show Reserve Chardonnay, Hunter Valley, NSW – Gold colour; aromatic, leggy, good body and quality, lovely aftertaste; solid, good extract, some dessicated coconut, tropical fruit.

1969 !! Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Clos du Cailleret Premier Cru – From a great vintage – Deep gold colour; notes of butterscotch, caramel; almost port-y in character, tawny. Amazing. Oxidative of course. Brown in the mouth, old; has some charm due to it’s venerable age; still got body.

1979 Sterling Vineyards Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA – Deep gold; aromatic with aromas of liniment and medicine cabinet; the body is thin-ish on palate, bright enough citrus and fresh, still; good fruit tho receding, hazelnuts, some tartrate on the cork.

1969 !! Lichine Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru – From a great vintage – Brown gold; tawny and porty bouquet; very biscuit-y and angular; I see a lot of warmth on the back of the palate; long finish; others see maderization, new oak, and body.

1976 Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru – Green gold; more medicine cabinet bouquet; thin, austere, herby, oxidative again; but I like its brightness and heft. Perhaps corked? Perhaps I am over-thinking it.

1974 Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur – Light gold; a sav blanc nose? Herb hints and thyme? Herby and light in the mouth; the tough crowd saw reductive characters; noble sulphides; bathroom; lanolin; old Chablis but it WAS old ChablisToo bad. It was a Valmur after all, and I couldn’t afford a new one.

1986 Bannockburn Chardonnay, Geelong, VIC – Light gold; smells round and soft and warm. Lovely fruit taste, good body and length, balance of fruit and nut, and fresh; mealy, nutty, fresh yet savoury; flint; admirable palate weight, oak and density.Yum. 5

1971 Lichine Meursault Genevrieres Premier Cru– Darkest gold. Piss. Medical room. Sardines. Malt extract. Pass. What a shame, really. I once had a Meursault at Gordon Ramsays in Chelsea that made me swoon, and I was hoping to reacquaint myself with the sensation…

1986 Morton Estate Chardonnay Black Label, NZ – From John Hancock; Dark gold; fruitful bouquet, lifted, elegant. Very leggy; good body and length, and mouthfeel. It’s a food wine; would be marvellous with Chicken soup I think; harmonious; grapefruit; honeysuckle and some botrytis? Very good, this. 4+

1976 Latour Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru Les Demoiselles – Gold colour; nice balance of fruit, acid and biscuit; oaky-framed richness; appreciable extract, tremendous weight of fruit. Also yum. 4+

1986 Tyrell’s Wines Pinot Chardonnay Vat 47, Hunter Valley, NSW – This producer pioneered barrel fermentation in Australia – Light gold colour; light elegant bouquet; lovely, lovely wine. Looking young, tasting young, the fruit is so fresh. 5

Phew. What a wonderful education. I’d never expect that white wines of such age could still taste so fresh, and delicious as some of these. And it was really interesting to see that the stand-out bottles of the evening would turn out to be Australian!

Many thanks to Geoff Kelly. Please check out his website: http://www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz

A special tasting of 1978 Red Wines


In early April, Geoff Kelly presided over a library tasting of wines from 1978, plucked from his own cellar, and hosted by Regional Wines. Mainly from France, the list included Ch. Margaux, Ch. Palmer and Vieux Telegraphe, and there were two wines from California and Italy also.

I know very little about French wines, never mind from the very fine end of the spectrum, and so I was looking forward to it very much. I am beginning to truly love and appreciate old wine, so this opportunity was one to greatly anticipate beforehand, and treasure in the memory afterwards. As a bonus L was able to come along to share the experience with me.

Geoff presented all the wines blind, and decanted them into bagged bottles. He arranged them in order stylistically so that the wines followed each other in the most complimentary fashion possible.

The bottles were then passed from hand to hand around the room in a stately procession for us to measure and pour into our tasting glasses. We were asked to examine the wines at leisure, then discuss our impressions, and vote for our best and worst wines, and guess what region they hailed from.

What I write below is collated from what I thought of them, and what others thought, before and after the wines were finally identified. I’m not going to embarrass myself by attempting a score or valuation, other than to identify the wines I thought were wonderful.

And so the fun began…


1978 Ch Montrose, Second Growth, St Estephe, Bordeaux – burnt brick red colour; on the nose – musty, dappled, dusty barn, hints of cassis and cedar throughout; light and metallic in the mouth, running out of fruit. An inauspicious start?

1978 Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy – dark brown-orange burnt brick; strong nose of mature fruit, soft bouquet, fading florals; lovely and crisp and elegant and mouthwatering to taste, burnt caramel. This was more like it!

1978 Pio Cesare Barolo, Piedmont, Italy – dark brown red; bouquet of black fruit with touch of aniseed, peppermint balls, star anise; to drink: bracing and tannic with spicy rich fruit, casserole notes, and tar. I loved this wine. Rated it my favourite of the night. Others agreed. More please. 5

1978 Ch Trotanoy, top few of Pomerol, Bordeaux – brown red; musty rich nose, tawny, burgundian pinot noir characters, lots of bouquet; in the mouth it was savoury and gamey, long and rich, mouthcoating, with spice at the finish. Merlot dominant, fine texture. Very good. I could get to like this.

1978 Guigal Gigondas, Southern Rhone Valley – magenta brown brick; lighter nose of pink blossom, peppermint. It was delicious in the mouth – balanced and fruity. Amazing for 35yrs! Included a proportion of the very tannic mourvedre grape. GK liked this very much also.

1978 Ch Leoville Las Cases, Second Growth, St Julien, Bordeaux – scarlet brick; herbaceous, vegetal bouquet, with cedar; thin and backward, metallic where the fruit has receded, acidic finish. Too much acid / oak. I would say no to a refill of this one.

1978 Cuvaison Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California – GK bought this off the proprietor before that years labels were printed – hence the hand-written year date on the bottle! Deep brown magenta colour; a bold dark fruit bouquet showing hints of chalk and empty schoolrooms; strong rich fruit flavours, almost jammy, but in a good way, dark plums and prunes, absolutely first rate. 5

1978 Ch Pichon Lalande, Second Growth, Pauillac, Bordeaux – hints of biscuits and a certain degree of oxidation, leathery bouquet; in the mouth, along with delicious fruit, I saw meaty casserole characters here.

1978 Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres, Southern Rhone Valley – Gorgeous aged fruit bouquet on this one; fruit-rich, elegant, poised, very delicious to taste. A pretty wine, one of the highlights of the tasting. One of the top wines in the room, and my second-equal favourite. 5

1978 Ch Palmer, Third Growth, Margaux, Bordeaux – Gorgeous, restrained mature nose; balanced, lovely fruit is retained here, no dustiness at all. Superb. 5

1978 Ch Margaux, First Growth, Margaux, Bordeaux – dark magenta brown brick; nose of dense red fruits, soap and wood shavings; this wine was delicious and zingy and fruitful, with red fruits on palate, and cassis. Amazingly still youthful to taste! And I could have smelled it all night (along with the Barolo!). A wonder, and my second favourite wine. From Wikipedia: By the time of Mentzelopoulos’ death in 1980, Château Margaux was considered substantially restored to its former reputation, with the 1978 and 1979 vintages declared “exceptional” No surprises here really, eh? 5

1978 Dom. Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Southern Rhone Valley – Dark red brick; meaty bouquet, hint of doctors waiting room; rich fruit character, lovely and vibrant, with lots of tannins and structure, some casserole characters later. What a good way to finish!

Wow. What an experience. These wines, to my mind, were mostly amazing. A real education for my palate. I’d never think wines of such age (35 years) could still taste so fresh, and delicious, yet have the complexity from all that age to complement and enhance the fruit character. Now I know why writers make such a big deal about some of these wines. I was really glad to drink the Margaux – my first premier cru.

To Geoff Kelly: thanks very much!

For Geoff’s own recording of the evening please see his website: