Up close and personal dinner with Robert Parker

March 27 2013 by Julian Skeels

Last year the South China Morning Post arranged a unique dinner at the Island Shangri-La’s Petrus restaurant to raise funds for Operation Santa Claus, which supports various Hong Kong charities as well as enhancing their local public awareness.  Nine of the world’s most incredible wines were matched with an eight-course menu that followed a Krug Grand Cuvee champagne reception.

Below are my tasting notes on this fabulous collection of wines, each of which is considered to be one of the greatest examples ever produced from their respective regions:

1998 Château de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)

Much more approachable than the regular 1998 Beaucastel bottling. Smooth tannins and exquisite raspberry to plum fruit. Very opulent – with additional game and licorice flavours.  Nose of new saddle-leather and rosemary.  Superb balance.  Drinks well now, but will improve with age and last 20yrs (98 pts.)

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle (Rhone)

Very youthful, while just approachable it is only at the beginning of maturity and will develop additional complexity over time.  Bacon and blackberry flavours dominate, with sweet and smooth white pepper and herbs following.  Wonderful smell of red berries and that should improve with time (99 pts.)

1994 Dominus Estate (Napa Valley)

Needed two hours in my glass to really open up, after which it added mineral flavours to cherry and earth.  Frankly, this was much better on the nose than in the mouth, with interesting floral, earth and herb aromas.  While good, this was outclassed by other wines at the dinner, although may add a further 3-4pts if it continues to develop in bottle (93 pts.)

1990 Château Cheval Blanc (St. Émilion)

This is not at maturity, but approachable with vivid sweet plum flavours and additional hedonistic layers of licorice and dark chocolate.  A wine that is all in the texture, and the aroma needs to be teased from the glass at present (faint tobacco and truffles).  For me, 97pts already but destined to add more points with further time in bottle over the next 10 years (97-99 pts.)

1982 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan)

An example of how misleading quick wine tastings can be – luckily for me, I had all evening with the wine and it took three hours in my glass to come alive.  Whilst initially muted, it later revealed wonderful aromas of minerals, tobacco and smoke (not cigarettes, but wonderful cigar and pipe-tobacco smells).  Very distinctive.  Not a full-bodied wine, but very rich in the mouth with layers of velvety flavours dominated by the aromas but including pheasant, chestnut and herbs.  Reminds me of a traditional Sunday lunch in an English country pub with log-fire.  Amazing already, but still 10-20 years from full maturity (98 pts.)

1986 Château Lafite Rothschild (Pauillac)

Still very young and backwards – a wine that will develop and last for 50 years but for now lacks somewhat in complexity.  Not that the tannins are unpleasant, but they are definitely there and strong beneath this dark red fruit flavoured wine.  Paulliac notes of cedar and lead are emerging and I think chestnut flavours will also come out in time.  It clearly has lots of potential, and may well surprise me in 20 years, but I am not sure it will ever achieve the greatness of, say, 1996 Château Lafite Rothschild (96 pts.)

1989 Pétrus (Pomerol)

Still not fully mature, but the high tannins are so velvety that drinking this is a wonderful experience.  Highly concentrated and rich wine, with flavors of plums and chocolate, and with truffles and spice on the nose.  In 10 (or even 20) more years this should have an ethereal perfume and be even better, but for now it is all about the high-quality mouth feel… which is almost ‘creamy’ and in itself an absolute joy (99 pts.)

1961 Château Latour (Pauillac)

A perfect bottle of what, for my palate, is the perfect wine.  Despite being over 50 years old, this wine remains young, intensely concentrated and sweet.  A cassis flavor dominates, with figs and plums behind.  The wine is black looking and powerful, almost explosive, but the sweetness of flavor and softness of tannins make this smooth and easy to drink.  Aromas of tobacco leaf, earth and cedar complement the palate superbly.  A king of wines which will last at least another 30 years  (100 pts.)

1975 Château d’Yquem (Sauternes)

Intense creme brûlée and honey orange flavours dominate with tropical aromas and some spice.  Despite these intense flavours, the wine has great balance and high acidity so is almost too easy to drink.  The long after-taste lasts almost a minute.  Fully mature, but will remain at peak maturity for at least another 20 years so no hurry to drink (98 pts.)