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FICOFI: Primum Familiae Vini

July 14, 2016

These are tasting notes from a FICOFI event held at the Hong Kong Island Shangri-La on 23 May 2016, where a promenade of wines from top family-owned estates preceded a dinner where all wines were served from magnum bottlings. The likes of Rupert Symington (Symington Family Estate), Laurent Drouhin (Maison Joseph Drouhin), Priscilla Incisa Della Rocchetta (Tenuta San Guido), Charles Perrin (Chateau de Beaucastel) and Egon Muller IV himself were present in person, not to mention the ubiquitous Pablo Alvarez (Vega Sicilia), amongst others. It goes without saying that Philippe and his boys from FICOFI certainly know how to serve up a great party with everyone getting properly hammered by the end of dinner. The 26 wines listed below are not exhaustive as a few were inevitably missed.

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2006 Pol Roger Brut. Lovely floral fragrance with citrus, lime and honeysuckle of fine intensity, opening up with an excellent expanse across the palate. Dry but lively.

2004 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill. A kaleidoscope of clear citrus, pomelo and traces of malt of subtle intensity, rather minerally with rich creamy chalky textures, superbly balanced. Certainly meets the expectations Britain’s wartime premier who modestly declared he is “easily satisfied with the best”.

2011 Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet Grand Cru. Rather reserved and shy on this occasion. There is butterscotch, crème de la crème and minerals in a fine balance but it feels rather lightweight and awkward without having quite fleshed out, lacking the ethereal quality and potential complexity of a Montrachet from a top vintage. I suspect this underwhelming display was due to inadequate aeration. The estate’s Sales Director Jean-Paul Dumond had the wine decanted overnight before tasting when I visited Drouhin last year. Deserves a better showing.

2009 Hugel Jubilee Riesling, poured for me on this occasion by Jean-Frederic Hugel, the 13th generation (since Hans-Ulrich Hugel founded this iconic estate in 1639) to take over the helm after his father Etienne’s untimely passing just weeks prior. Highly aromatic, laced with sweet tropical fruits, mangoes and lemongrass with a characteristic lightness, understated acidity and effortless balance that is the hallmark of Alsace. Clear and refreshing. Excellent. Tasted again from magnum at dinner with consistent notes alongside the 2010 Joseph Drouhin Beaune “Clos des Mouches”.

2010 Hugel Riesling Verdanges Tardive. Building on its Jubilee Riesling but with an even more lifted bouquet of tropical fruits and petroleum fumes and, again, that ethereal lightness and understatement so characteristic of Alsace, rounded with superbly-integrated acidity. Absolutely harmonious, so much so that it can be drunk on its own. Outstanding.

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2012 Sassicaia. Somewhat shut at this stage but the abundance of red fruits, dark currants,  mulberries and raspberries is simply quite astounding, rounded and fleshy, still cloaked in enamel with overtones of camphor and supported by understated minerals, quite exemplary in balance. With time, this will be an outstanding Sassicaia, the only wine in Italy to be honoured with its very own appellation: Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC.

2009 Tignanello. Bright red fruits, violets and raspberries dominate with controlled intensity, swathed in excellent acidity amidst some earthy tones, medium-full, beautifully balanced and warm with a natural grace, easing towards a sweet lasting finish. A bit too eager to please, but this is a Tignanello of enormous potential.

2007 Ch D’Armailhac. Almost bone dry with dusty textures, sporting red and dark berries with soft rounded tones and good balance and acidity, but neither distinctive nor memorable.

2011 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin-Clos de Beze Grand Cru. This wine boasts an attractive complex of red fruits, cherries and camphor on the nose and palate, lifted and layered with excellent concentration and subtle nuances, displaying great balance, poise and sophistication.

2012 Macan. A big wine on the nose but surprisingly open, medium-full with bright red fruits amidst swathes of enamel and framed by structured sweet tannins of controlled intensity. Not heavy at all in spite of the immense concentration, though somewhat short.

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2007 Egon Muller Auslese. Rich and luscious in nectarine, apricot and tropical fruits of fabulous intensity and controlled sweetness, barely evolved, yet to develop further complexity. Still long way to go. Superb potential.

1995 Egon Muller Wiltinger Braune Kupp Auslese. An intoxicating petroleum quality with understated longans dominate on the bouquet, absolutely harmonious and open with an ethereal lightness on the palate. Fascinating. This is Egon Muller at its best.

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Catching up with Egon Muller IV in the gents’

2007 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The nose is marked by forest floor and undergrowth with a mild medicinal trace while ripe dark berries and red fruits coat the palate with fine acidity and balance. A big wine, predictably, but refined and elegant.

2001 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The bouquet here is absolutely enticing, marked by old leather, truffles, mushrooms and some attractive earthy pungency, teasing the senses. Rounded, fleshy and layered on the palate, displaying gorgeous concentration but quiet, not at all heavy, more of mourvedre, perhaps, with some brightness, still retaining great acidity, finishing with great length. Excellent complexity. Yet to peak. Fabulous.

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2010 Vega Sicilia Valbuena No.5. Dark red berries, wild berries and mushrooms dominate with velvety textures amidst a vegetal trace, rounded with well-managed tannins though missing in layering. Still youthful.

2005 Ch Clerc Milon. Made by Mouton Rothschild without ever being quite distinctive, this wine is noticeably brighter than usual with red fruits and camphor amidst dry textures that immediately signalled Pauillac, displaying good concentration but lacking in layering and true complexity.

And as if the above weren’t enough to wet the beak, the following wines were served with dinner…

2002 Pol Roger Winston Churchill (magnum). Highly generous and complex bouquet of earthy pungency, yeasty tones, creme and deep citrus, dry but gentle on the palate, open with great definition and detail, tapering to a lengthy finish. Terrific stuff. Paired with Hokkaido sea urchin.

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2010 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc (magnum). Medium-bodied, creamy and chalky and slightly chunky, open and poised, very well-proportioned and balanced with some crisp acidity at the edges, quiet and understated at the finish. Went well with the Scottish langoustine.

The next three wines were paired with some superb duck breast, always a specialty in Hong Kong…

2001 Torres Grans Muralles (magnum). A big wine, dense and saturated with ripe wild berries, licorice, dark plums and vanilla with well-managed tannins, becoming more savoury and sweet over time. Likely to take a very long time to age.

2006 Solaia (magnum). Now managed by the 26th generation since the 13th century, this Super Tuscan, made predominantly with cabernet sauvignon along with some sangiovese and cabernet franc, is still remarkably youthful, displaying earthy tones and dry mushrooms with a medicinal glow, medium-bodied, still unresolved and slightly angular at the finish, yet to develop significant complexity.

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2005 Sassicaia (magnum). In contrast to the Solaia above, this wine, just a year older, is already quite evolved with a fair degree of complexity on the nose where plums and blueberries dominate, gentle and open on the palate with earthy tones, chocolate, mocha and tobacco, slightly lean and just a tad short.

The next three reds went with Allaiton lamb medallion laced with black truffle lamb jus…

2002 Vega Sicilia Unico (magnum). As expected from this venerated estate, the 2002 Unico is still very youthful, displaying a deep garnet red imbued with warm ripe fruit, dark currants and raspberries, richly layered and opulent with chewy tannins. Best to lay down for another 10-15 years, at least.

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Someone is obviously delighted with Pablo Alvarez’s Unico, while Christine Stiegel of FICOFI looks on

2001 Ch Mouton Rothschild (magnum). This Mouton lived up to all expectations, producing a wonderful earthy pungency from the glorious dark currants and black fruits amidst dry textures immediately classic of the Pauillac character, superbly balanced with great definition and linearity all the way to its minty finish. A classic claret of the top order. A great success.

1989 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape (magnum). Glowing with a beautiful pungency on the nose, this wine still possesses a subtle intensity within its layers that belies its mellowness, open with great acidity and not at all heavy, finishing in a mild herbal lift with sweet subtle tannins. Lovely.

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1972 Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny. This wine possesses strong medicinal overtones with excellent complexity, yet open and airy, not overtly alcoholic, still imbued with great acidity with understated sweetness at the side. I must confess my experience with port is limited but this may encourage me to explore this genre further. Served with artisanal cheese platter by Bernard Antony.

2006 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Auslese Goldkapsel (magnum). Like all the wines of this great estate, this riesling displays an alluring complex of nectarine, apricot, cinnamon and tropical fruits with great composure and absolute control and precision of its sweetness and acidity, understated but lengthy. A classic case where less is more. Outstanding. Served with Pink Lady Apple Textures from Australia.

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