The Masters of Wine celebrated their 60th anniversary this week, for the Institute was created in 1953 and the first MWs passed the exam in 1955. And what a week it was. Celebrations kicked off on Monday evening with a sparkling wine reception in the gardens of Fitzroy Square, the elegant Georgian square in the heart of Fitzrovia, where the Institute happens to have its offices. Fortunately Monday evening was one of the drier evenings of the week as we were under an open sided marquee. And the wines are all English, and quite delicious. Who would ever have thought when the Institute was first created, that 60 years later we would be celebrating with English sparkling wine. Highlights included 2009 Nyetimber Tillington Single Vineyard and Ridgeview’s Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2000, as well as Gusbourne, Coates & Seely and several others. But it was an occasion for drinking rather than tasting. .
The following afternoon there was a German tasting, concentrating on new classification for dry wine, so we had some lovely examples of Riesling and also Spätburgunder, including some older vintages.. My favourites included the 2002 Scharzhofberger from von Kesselstatt and two fabulous and more traditional wines from J. J. Prűm, a 1981 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett and a 1983 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, which was still extraordinarily youthful.
And the evening saw the 60th anniversary dinner, in the fabulous surroundings of the Banqueting Hall on Whitehall with its magnificent Rubens ceiling. Vinous highlights included generous quantities of Bollinger, Grüner Veltliner, from Loimer, 1999 Château Margaux and 1955 Graham. And the best speech of all was made by Sarah Morphew, who was the very first woman to pass the exam back in 1970.
The following morning we were all a bit bleary eyed for a seminar on Old Vines, with highlights such as Assyrtiko from Santorini, old Grenache from Spain, South Africa and Australia. It was a surprise to learn that the New World has more old vines than the Old World. One key reason for this was phylloxera, and economics have also had an impact. Old vines inevitably produce smaller yields.
Thursday was a concentrated day, beginning with Italy and the Association of Grandi Marchi, which groups nineteen of the key winemaking families of Italy, the likes of Antinori, Gaja, Masi, Biondi Santi, Pio Cesare and Jermann, amongst others and the tasting covered the length of the country, from Prosecco to Pantelleria.
And the week finished with an Anniversary Fortified tasting, with some wonderful mature examples of wines from Jerez, Madeira and Oporto, not forgetting Marsala and Liqueur Muscats from Australia. There was a wine the Greek island of Samos, appropriately called Nectar. The ports included Graham’s Colheita 1935 and Graham’s Diamond Jubilee Colheita, produced for the Queen’s Jubilee, some 60 year old Tawny from Ramos Pinto and Taylors 1955.
And this is where the Languedoc, or rather Roussillon, finally got a look in with:
1978 Cuvée Aimé Cazes from Rivesaltes. I’ve enthused about this particular old Rivesaltes before and it was once again simply delicious, with rich nutty honeyed notes on the nose and palate, and still wonderfully fresh, with a long finish. And more than holding its own in august company.
And Maury was represented by Mas Amiel, Vintage, Charles Dupuy 2009. This is pure Grenache Noir, bottled when it is young and fresh. The nose was redolent of blackberries with ripe fruit and fresh tannins.
Domaine de la Rectorie, Banyuls l’Oubliée
This was another wonderfully original and distinctive wine, a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan that has been in a solera for at least a decade. It almost reminded me of old oloroso sherry. It was much drier than the Cuvée Aimé Cazes, with a rich nuttiness and firm acidity on the finish, and yet also amazingly concentrated and mature. Another of the great original wines of the Midi and a perfect note on which to conclude a memorable week..