Masterclass - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This Masterclass' goal was to look at the diversity of Cabernet Sauvignon- and Merlot-based wines from around the world. The only ringer was the 2009 Marchesi Antinori Guado al Tasso Bolgheri, which is normally about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and the balance Syrah. I'll keep my notes brief as these are generally recollections from the tasting, as I was speaking rather than taking notes. However, I thought all the wines performed very well, and in keeping with previous impressions. I would not say it was disappointing, but I did think the 2010 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon was slightly chunky and revealed too much oak. At the same time, the other Australia Cabernet Sauvignon in the tasting, at 14-years of age, the 2002 Penfolds Bin 707 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 14 months in new American oak) was spectacular. The oak component has subsided, and the wine reveals classic notes of crème de cassis, blackberries, spice box and cedar as well as abundant opulence and beautiful purity and richness. This 2002 is still a young adolescent with at least two more decades of potential.
The two Italian wines, the 2010 Ornellaia and 2009 Antinori Guado al Tasso Bolgheri, both performed brilliantly, holding their own against some heavy hitters from Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Australia. The sumptuous, rich 2010 Ornellaia offered lots of chocolate and berry fruit intermixed with hints of espresso roast and vanillin. The Antinori 2009 Guado al Tasso Bolgheri is a beautiful blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Syrah that was performing brilliantly. The good news is that about 10,000 cases were made, so I suspect it can be found in the marketplace with relative ease. A wine that blew people away was the 2010 Dominus Estate. It may have been the top wine of the tasting from a crowd perspective. The most glorious thing that Christian Moueix has done at Dominus is that the wines have an approachability young, even though they are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, yet they also have incredible aging potential. Even his early vintages, which were slightly coarser and more rustic with higher obvious tannin levels, have aged beautifully. Even vintages that were plush, opulent and showy early on (such as 1991 and 1994) are still going strong in 2014. The 2010 will certainly stand out as one of the great recent vintages of Dominus, but I will be anxious to see how strong 2013 and 2012 turn out to be in bottle.
As for the Bordeaux wines, the biggest surprise was just how great the 1996 Médocs are turning out to be. A vintage that was somewhat underrated early on, at least in the Médoc, the 1996s have turned out to be far superior and better balanced wines than the more tannic, angular and austere 1995s. The 1996 Léoville Las Cases was strutting its stuff, showing lots of classic black cherry and black currant fruit intermixed with hints of graphite and toast. As are many 1996 Médocs, it is full-bodied and rich with surprisingly sweet tannins. The 2005 Palmer, a blend of 45% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Petit Verdot, was performing well in a vintage that is still somewhat closed, tannic and foreboding, although formidably endowed with tremendous upside potential. The dense purple-colored 2005 Palmer offers beautiful notes of red and black fruits, incense and licorice. In the mouth, some tannins are still present, but the wine reveals splendid concentration, depth and overall appeal. The 2000 Montrose was the most backward wine in this Masterclass, which is not surprising given the reputation of this famous terroir in St.-Estèphe and the 2000 vintage, which has remained somewhat tight, closed and difficult to coax out of its youthful, firmly tannic state.
Overall, this was a fun tasting, and, for me, a great experience for the interchange of ideas and comments about wines that I love with wine enthusiasts from other countries. It is always amazing that no matter what culture you are dealing with, how similar opinions are about great wines, even in a diverse tasting such as this.
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