What wines are suitable for your 40th to 70th anniversary in 2017? Find the second half of the guide from Anthony Rose.
Time to polish up your Silver Jubilee crowns, because if you remember 1977, you may also recall that it was largely forgettable in most of the classic regions of Europe. In Italy, it was the year of the release of Le Pergole Torte, the first 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany, and, as a vino da tavola, the starting gun for the SuperTuscan ‘revolution’. If there’s a wine that’s still likely to be drinking well from that era today, it could be the Biondi-Santi 1977, always a long-lived Brunello di Montalcino, but I wouldn’t place huge odds on it.
The 1970s represented the flowering of the modern California wine industry and 1977 was a small, cool year here, with the best wines still hanging on in there. Among them, if you can find bottles, you may well be pleasantly surprised by the Robert Mondavi Reserve, Heitz Bella Oaks, Mayacamas, Montelena, Chalone, Ridge and Hanzell.
It sometimes happens that a mediocre year for Bordeaux turns out to be a cracker for vintage Port, and so it was in the case of 1977, one of the best post-war vintages, and in fact since 1927, the birth year of the eminent auctioneer and former Decanter Man of the Year, Michael Broadbent MW. You’re spoilt for choice here, but among top 1977 vintage Ports still doing the wine merchant rounds are the fragrantly spicy, rich fruitcake-like Graham’s 1977, going for around £1,000 a case; the plump and pruney Warre’s 1977, selling at £200 per magnum; and the Dow’s 1977 Silver Jubilee, presented by Amazon at £129.97 a bottle, in a silk-lined wooden box with four wine accessories.
1967 was the birth year of Rhône specialist Jason Yapp and Bordeaux expert Simon Staples, and while it ‘wasn’t a bad Rhône vintage’ for Jason Yapp, 1967 was a cracking year for Sauternes, most notably Château d’Yquem. The Avery family cellar auctioned by Christie’s at its October 2016 London sale contained the odd bottle of Les Forts de Latour, La Fleur-Pétrus and Rauzan-Ségla from 1967 – a variable vintage for Bordeaux – the latter at £350-£450 a case. Simon Staples says he’s kissed a lot of frogs from his birth year, but the one wine that’s head and shoulders above the rest is Petrus: ‘a great Petrus’, according to Corney & Barrow’s Adam Brett-Smith, a ‘magnificent’ magnum of which will set you back a cool £3,700.
Australia comes up trumps with the Penfolds, Bin 7, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz 1967, a famous show wine of its day that still commands interest in the secondary market. The vibrantly modern d’Arenberg, Red Burgundy 1967 (75% Grenache, 25% Shiraz pressings) won seven trophies and 29 gold medals at various Australian capital wine city wine shows, but I doubt there’s much of Australia’s first cult wine still around.
Perhaps it’s no bad thing that once we go back in time as far as 1957, Europe has little of interest to offer. Bottles of this age have to be carefully scrutinised not just for their condition but, thanks to the spectre of the infamous fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, for their provenance. So let’s turn to Australia and examine a few recommendations from Andrew Caillard MW, one of the nation’s most knowledgeable sources of mature vintage information. According to Andrew, the Penfolds, Bin 14, Minchinbury Dry Red 1957, a special bin to commemorate the last red wine vintage at the historic Minchinbury Estate, was still very much alive as recently as 2007. Among other relics still seen occasionally on the secondary market are the Hardy’s, Reserve Bin C24, Cabernet Sauvignon 1957, the Lindemans, Bin 1111, Hunter River Burgundy 1957, and likeliest candidate for living greatness today, the remarkable Penfolds, St Henri Claret 1957 – its first commercial release – a bottle of which fetched A$8,110 (about £4,500 at the time) in a Langton’s online auction in 2009.
70th (1947) and beyond
You would be very fortunate indeed if you still had a bottle of one of the monumental 1947 red Bordeaux in your cellar, which was also superb in Burgundy and presumably good in the Rhône. The most famous wine of the year was the astonishing Cheval Blanc, an exaggeration of a very hot vintage. At the Christie’s Avery family cellar sale in October, a single bottle was on offer at an estimated £2,000-£2,400, but sold for £7,050, reflecting the greatness and rarity of this incredible wine. In 2010, Christie’s in Geneva sold a 6-litre bottle for $304,375, the highest price ever paid for an individual bottle. Petrus from the same vintage was offered at £2,000-£3,000 per bottle. Maintained in good condition in Avery’s cellars, the Petrus was described by Michael Broadbent in 2004 as ‘unsurprisingly magnificent’ – not wide of the mark, as you can imagine.
Other than the fact that you’re drinking liquid history, it’s harder to know about other 1947s in the Avery’s catalogue, such as Calon-Ségur, Léoville-Barton, Lynch-Bages and Vieux Château Certan. According to Simon Staples: ‘Rudy Kurniawan might have been able to whip you up a cocktail.’
There were countless great 1947 Champagnes, but the greatest that Champagne specialist Tom Stevenson ever tasted was the 1947 Salon, even if the only reliable source is from the cellar itself. In Bordeaux, Château Gilette is unique amongst Sauternes producers in that the owner, Julie Gonet-Médeville, continues a tradition begun by her grandfather, René Médeville, more than 70 years ago, of ageing its wines for many years, sometimes decades, in concrete vats before they are bottled. It’s still possible today to get your hands on the Château Gillette Doux 1947 at £180 a bottle (MWH Wine Merchants); and, for 80-year-olds, the Château Gillette, Crème de Tête 1937 at £550-£786 a bottle (Fine & Rare, Seckford Wines, The Sampler) is one of the few viable options still available from this excellent pre-war vintage.
In considering wine as a gift for a birthday or anniversary in 2017, the normal rules apply: the finer the wine, the longer-lived it’s likely to be; and the larger the format, the hardier the wine, with issues of condition and provenance increasingly relevant as time goes by. The older the wine, the more fragile it’s likely to be too, and the harder to track down. Wine merchants and brokers specialising in older vintages will be only too pleased to come to your aid. Having some idea of the name of the wine you’re looking for becomes easier with a good search engine such as www.wine-searcher.com, while auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s could just provide a much-needed helping hand
Anthony Rose is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Australia, a founding member of The Wine Gang and contributor to various wine publications
Translated by Leo / 孔祥鑫
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