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: 2002 & 1996 Pol Roger - Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill

Pol Roger has 90 hectares of estate owned vines that provides the grapes for 51% of the production. However, primarily they rely on growers that they’ve had long term relationships with that are located mainly in Épernay and Chouilly. This house saw marked improvement with the addition of Chef de Cave Dominique Petit, in 1999. He was formerly at Krug for twenty-four years. With his joining the team and throughout the years since, Pol Roger updated their winemaking facilities and has continued to make meaningful improvements to enhance the quality of their Champagnes.

In terms of the vinification, they use cool temperatures to control the process from handling the must to the primary fermentation and use stainless steel tanks. And in the secondary fermentation the bottles are kept in deep, cool cellars as well. The aim is to produce Champagnes of precision, pure fruit character and longevity. The bottles are hand riddled, and all work in the cellar is done by hand.

The exact blend of Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is a guarded secret, but it’s predominantly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay coming from grands crus vineyards that existed at the time Churchill was a customer. It was created in 1975 ten years after the death of Churchill to celebrate him and his love of Champagne. That first vintage was released in 1984. Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill goes through full malolactic fermentation and is aged almost ten years on its lees.

2nd Pair: 2009 & 1989 Weingut Zilliken - Saarburger Rausch Spätlese

Weingut Zilliken was established in 1742 in the Saar, and Hanno Zilliken has been the cellarmaster since 1976 and the proprietor since 1981. Now, he and his daughter, Dorothee Zilliken, manage the estate where the grapes are grown in a climate cooler than the Mosel with slate soils. Like the Ruwer river, the Saar river is another tributary of the Mosel with top vineyard sites located along it. Weingut Zilliken is a very traditional producer with the Saarburger Rausch their most famous vineyard.

Describing the wines of the Saar, Frank Schoonmaker wrote in his 1956 book The Wines of Germany, ‘In these great and exceedingly rare wines of the Saar, there is a combination of qualities which I can perhaps best describe as indescribable austerity coupled with delicacy and extreme finesse, an incomparable bouquet, a clean, very attractive hardness tempered by a wealth of fruit and flavour which is overwhelming.’ For me, this quote best describes the wines of the Saar and why this area is so special. I adore the wines from here.

All the fruit is estate owned, hand-picked and aged in neutral fuders, large barrels.

Saarburger Rausch (10 hectares) is the most important vineyard for Zilliken as the soil quality, location of the vineyard, and the fact that the roots reach up to 10 meters deep into the grey, slate soil result in a Riesling with minerality and elegance. These are the hallmarks of Zilliken.

3rd Pair: 2016 Niepoort - Turris & Batuta

Founded in 1842 in Vila Nova de Gaia in Douro (Portugal) by a Dutch merchant Franciscuss Mariuss Niepoort, the company is currently run by the 6th generation (Daniel, Marco, and Ana) along with their father (Dirk Van Der Niepoort).

Turris is made from a single vineyard plot with soil composed of schist. It’s planted with Malvezia Preta, Rufete Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca varieties from vines averaging 130 years old. The grapes are 70% destemmed and fermented in stainless steel. The wine is then aged 12 months in used fuders barrels and 24 months in bottles before release. 2,900 bottles were made.

Batuta is made from two old vineyards in Quanta do Carril with soil composed of schist. It’s planted with Malvezia Preta, Rufete Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca varieties from vines averaging 70 years old. The wine is aged for 22 months in 25% French new oak barrels. 11,900 bottles were made.

4th Pair: 2001 Château Mouton Rothschild & Joseph Phelps - Insignia

Château Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac is one of the 5 estates classified 1st growth in the grand cru classification of 1855, producing some of the world’s best wines. It is the coolest wine estate, as it successfully merged art and wine via their labels. Since 1945 each vintage’s label carries a unique artwork from the world’s most renowned artists commissioned by the estate. Past examples include Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Gu Gan.

This magnificent wine is composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and some Merlot to create a perfect balance, the ratio depending on the vintage. The soil is gravelly, and according to the estate, the average vine age is 44 years. The fruit is hand-picked, sorted and destemmed. Maturation is done in new oak barrels for around twenty months.

The 2001 Mouton Rothschild is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc produced from small yields of 28 hectoliters per hectare (66% of the production made it into the wine).

The Insignia comes from Joseph Phelps’ property that was originally the 640-acre Spring Valley cattle ranch located between Howell Mountain and Pritchard Hill. In 1974, Joseph Phelps decided to make a separate cuvée each year, one to represent the best wine of the vintage. To give him flexibility as to the blend and grape makeup, he decided to use a proprietary name and called it, ‘Insignia.’

Napa’s growing season in 2001 began impressively, with warm weather early-on followed by heat spikes in May that continued off and on through July. Both August and September were cooler than normal, but in early October. In this year, Napa Valley experienced temperatures in excess of 100°F  (37.8°C) for seven straight days. A whopping 18,000 cases were made of this great vintage of Insignia, a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec (the first vintage of Insignia with no Merlot included). Seventy-three percent came from the estate vineyards and 27% from growers. The 2001 spent 23 months in new French oak, and the alcohol came in at 13%.

5th Pair: 2013 Biondi Santi - Brunello di Montalcino Annata & Riserva 

Ferruccio Biondi-Santi is recognized as the inventor of Brunello. When phylloxera and downy mildew came to Italy, many winemakers looked to make wines for drinking early, but Ferruccio wanted to make wines for long ageing, so he grafted the estate’s new vines with Sangiovese Grosso and started producing wines from 100% Sangiovese. By doing that, he was able to break free from the regulations for Chianti and created a Brunello wine of longevity.

The Annata is from vines that are between 10-25 years old, so these are younger vines than those used in the Riserva which are over 25 years old and only made in good years. However, the ageing of both wines is the same, it takes place in Slavonian oak casks for 36 months. Then, the Riserva is aged for an additional two years in bottle before release.Wine I:

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View our past Vintage Pairs wine selection

Vintage Wine Bottle size Score
2002 Pol Roger - Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 750ml
1996 Pol Roger - Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 750ml WA95
2009 Weingut Zilliken - Saarburger Rausch Spätlese 750ml WA93
1989 Weingut Zilliken - Saarburger Rausch Spätlese 750ml
2016 Niepoort - Turris 750ml -
2016 Niepoort - Batuta 750ml WA95
2001 Château Mouton Rothschild 750ml WA91-93
2001 Joseph Phelps - Insignia 750ml WA98+
2013 Biondi Santi - Brunello di Montalcino Annata 750ml WA96+
2013 Biondi Santi - Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 750ml WA98

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