Vintage Pairs Events

“Vintage Pairs” Blind Tasting

In this blind tasting session, we select five wines, serve them blind and, as a group, work deductively through the tasting process to uncover the wine. The trick here is we actually serve ten wines – two wines with something in common, served in pairs.

1st Pair: 2019 Domaine Georges Vernay - Condrieu 'Les Chaillees de l'Enfer' & Condrieu 'Coteau de Vernon'

Georges Vernay is credited with saving Condrieu and the viognier grape from extinction in the 1960s. His prized Coteau de Vernon is a single vineyard site at the edge of the Condrieu village, a small and beautiful series of terraces, with vines dating back 50 to 80 years. The entry level viognier at the estate is called ‘Pied de Samson’, from vines up on the plateau, too high in George’s view to be classified Condrieu to he fought against this section being within the Condrieu AOC – one could argue against his personal interests, but he could see a tide of new potential on that easy land and he didn’t want to see quality diluted. It’s a fresh, light, aromatic and easy style. Next up is his Condrieu basic, called ‘Terrasses de l’Empire’, a blend of vineyard holdings, with the intensity of Condrieu, a step up from Pieds de Samson, but still elegant. Finally, the other wine in this evening’s pair, another single vineyard in the village – ‘Les Chaillees de l’Enfer’ – loosely ‘hell’s steps’ / ‘hell’s terraces’! Vines here are also very old. It must be acknowledged however that while George saved the appellation, it is his daughter Christine, and her husband Paul who took over a whole generation ago in 1996, and she has amply proved her talent. I visited a few weeks ago to taste the 2020s, and met with their daughter, Emma, whose first vintage was 2021. The estate is in good hands.

2nd Pair: 2016 & 2014 Maison Joseph Drouhin - Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru

Maison Joseph Drouhin’s style is all about finesse and elegance, and so too is the hallmark of the Chambolle-Musigny style of Pinot Noir. Of course within the village the vineyards vary in soil depth and from fuller to more mineral expressions, and this “Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru” is in the older tradition of blending many different parcels at 1er cru level to create one cuvée. There are advantages to this in distribution, and in representing “Chambolle-Musigny”, but it is not the fashion today, where domaines prefer to make and sell each single vineyard separately even if the quantity is tiny. Drouhin owns 1.3ha of Chambolle 1er Cru, farmed organically since 1990, biodynamic a few years later. New oak use is kept low (20%) to keep the delicacy of the fruit.

3rd Pair: 2013 & 2010 Stonyridge Vineyard - Larose

Stephen White set out to make a great Bordeaux style red wine on Waiheke Island, New Zealand in the early 1980s. The 1987 vintage achieved great acclaim, putting him, and Waiheke Island on the map. I have been drinking these wines – buying them en primeur – since the mid-1990s, and this is the wine I served at my wedding, so perhaps I am not fully objective! ;-)
What’s import to know if that this is a small scale, quality-focused estate, with a suitable maritime climate for Bordeaux’s six main red grape varieties (all of which are in the blend, though this first grand vin cut has a different composition each year). Nominally a “Left Bank” blend, the proportion of Petit Verdot is unusually high compared to what is typical in the Médoc or Graves, as is the inclusion of Malbec and Carmenère: the 2013 is 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, 12% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Carmenère; the 2010 is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot, 17% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 1% Carmenère. Oak is usually around 90% French, 10% American, and about 65% new.

4th Pair: 2015 & 2010 Vieux Chateau Certan

Vieux Château Certan is one of the great wines of Bordeaux, a classic Pomerol, 14ha in size, with a high proportion of old vines – 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and, significantly, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the Merlot, planted in 1932, is amongst the oldest in the region (many estates losing heavily to the 1956 frosts). Alexandre Thienpont, who took over his family’s estate in 1986, has been joined by his son Guillaume in 2014. Although some classic years in Pomerol, like 1928 and 1948, have produced extraordinary “VCC”s, it is really in this century, and especially the past decade or so, that we have seen this chateau rise to the very top. Did these two wines, from top recent vintages, give you that sort of sense? This is where blind tasting is so useful! In terms of some basic info, the 2015 is 80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, while the 2010 is 86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. About 50% new oak is used, and each year a second wine called La Gravette de Certan is made.

5th Pair: 2018 & 1979 Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné - Hermitage 'La Chapelle'

Located on the hill of Hermitage in the heart of Rhône valley, the ‘La Chapelle’ name refers to the St. Christopher chapel that was originally built in 13th century, overlooking the terraced vineyards. The current chapel has been in Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné's ownership since 1919. The grapes are entirely destemmed. The wine’s uniqueness comes from the blend of Syrah from different “lieux-dits” parcels, reflecting the complexity of the terroir making up Hermitage: ‘les Bessards’, ‘les Greffieux’, ‘le Méal’ and ‘les Rocoules’ which are vinified separately. The final wine is a blend of Syrahs from each of these old vine (50 – 60 years) sites. It is the combination of these terroirs that gives the full expression of l’Hermitage. Here we have a real “vintage pair”, right? This is not just a 39 year gap in vintages. It’s also a tale of two families – the 1979 coming from a classic, but elegant (not at all blockbuster) vintage, and made the old-fashioned way by the Jaboulet family who owned and worked this wine for generations. The 2018 is the 13th vintage made by Caroline Frey, whose family bought the estate in 2006. She is ecologically focused, working biodynamically, with hand harvesting in small crates, precise vinification in small vats including eggs – the whole approach is very precise and contemporary, and new oak use is relatively low in La Chapelle. Yet in the grand classic 2018 vintage we feel – I except – the full power of Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ to assert itself. The 2018 will have, I expect, an even longer life than the 1979.

Share this page
all fields are mandatory

Highlighted events