Archive for September, 2011

Our September Sale (including 1870 Clarets)

Posted in Bordeaux, News, Tasting Notes on September 6, 2011 by AB

Yesterday afternoon we started our September feature auction – over 100 lots of high quality wines all consigned to us for sale.

At the heart of this sale are some remarkable wines, many of which we’re sure you won’t see at any other auction this year (or possibly ever). This is a collection of Red Bordeaux from 1870 through to 1900. Unusually for wines of this age, they all have impeccable provenance, having been owned by a single family and stored in the cellar their Scottish country house since delivery back in the 19th century!

When I was first contacted about the collection it sounded too good to be true and therefore I endured an uncomfortable 10 hours and several changes of trains to reach Perthshire so I could see for myself.

I arrived at my destination filled with excitement at what I was going to find. Lying in the midst of fine parkland and perched above the river Spey, the property was an imposing sight (see below) and just the sort of place one expects – normally wrongly – to find a collection of venerable claret.

Sure enough, the cellar was as described – perhaps 90 bottles, encrusted in dust and clearly untouched by human hands for many, many decades. Carefully working through the bins (many marked up with ancient handwritten labels), I was thrilled to discover gems such as 1900 Chateau Palmer, 1890 Chateau Lagrange and (believed 1870) Haut Brion La Mission [now La Mission Haut Brion].

In addition to the identifiable wines I also unearthed a large number of old style moulded port type bottles in two bins marked ‘1870 claret’. I commented to my host that it would be interesting to know whether they really contained red Bordeaux and whether it would be drinkable. After all, if really an 1870, this wine was made in the year that Rome became part of Italy and in a world where diesel engines wouldn’t arrive for another 20 years. Generously he offered me a couple of bottles to take with me. Knowing I was going to see Mark Savage MW – a man with a great knowledge of Bordeaux – later in the week, I accepted with the caveat that the bottles would be tasted with him for an unbiased second opinion. At this point I must quote Mark directly:

‘It may safely be assumed that the wine in question was an important one since there can hardly have been much of a market for an inferior chateau at the time. Regardless of speculation with regard to the actual vineyard, the wine in the glass vastly exceeded expectations, with vitality and definition, and a bright intensity of colour that great wines somehow always seem to possess. On the nose there was volatile acidity, by no means unattractive, on the palate freshness and balance, with a final impression of both natural sweetness and acidity. The alcohol was presumably 2 to 3 per cent lower than the blockbusters of the modern era. It did not fade rapidly in the glass, but blossomed further.’

In an era where very old wines are increasingly rare and often suspect, this sale represents an exceptional chance to pick up some legendary wines. Don’t miss out – see the list now or take a look at the whole auction catalogue.