Last week I attended a Decanter Education Event on ‘Understanding Bordeaux’ hosted by Steven Spurrier. For those of you who don’t know Steven Spurrier, let me tell you that as well as being an authority on wine of the highest level, he’s also had a Hollywood film made about him – enough said?

I didn’t have a chance to ask him his opinion of the film, Bottle Shock, or whether he felt that Alan Rickman had portrayed him well. I didn’t have a chance to ask because when Steven Spurrier takes the time to talk to you about Bordeaux, it’s time to listen: to listen and learn.

Spurrier is part of a family tree of wine authorities that stretches back to the great Harry Waugh and includes the masterful Michael Broadbent MW. His encyclopaedic knowledge of Bordeaux, its people and its vines, is imbued with this depth of understanding and tradition. However, what makes Spurrier so well worth listening to is that he easily blends this perspective with pithy, three or four word assessments of the wine that are unfailingly accurate.

In the evening, we were shown the full spectrum of Bordeaux, both in the wines we tasted and in the full sweep of information that was shared along the way. Not only was Spurrier able to (off the cuff) list the significant vintages in Bordeaux going back to 1929, he also shared with us the scope of change in the area over that period and the reasons for the recent, dramatic improvements in the wines of the area. I’m normally the first to head for the door when I hear a list of years and vintages, but Spurrier brought this to life and made it memorable and fun to hear about.

We began by tasting a white Bordeaux, before moving on to the reds, the main event: a trip through the communes of Margaux, Pauillac, St Estèphe, Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol, St Emilion and St Julien and vintages from 2005 to 2001.

As a guide to the wines, Spurrier shared his distinction in describing the tastes and flavours of grapes. To him they are either spherical or vertical.

A spherical profile describing a grape that is rich, plush, fruity and round – such as merlot.

A vertical profile describing a grape that is firm, elegant and higher in acid – such as cabernet.

It’s a useful reference point when tasting wines that are blends of those two grapes to see how one cedes the stage to the other and the impact this has on the wine – whether it’s a slightly austere wine with hidden power or a more obviously fruity, opulent wine.

The wines were all well chosen and supplied by The Wine Society – membership of the Wine Society is still one of the best investments you can ever make in wine. My personal favourite was the Chateau d’Angludet, Margaux 2005 – delicate, perfumed and harmonious – which says as much about my love of Margaux as anything else. The ‘best’ wine of the bunch was the Chateau Trottevielle, St Emilion 2001 – lovely sweetness and concentration – narrowly outclassing the Chateau Langoa Barton, St Julien 2001 which was perhaps still a little young.

To finish we were treated to the excellent sweet Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut 2007 an amazing wine which had the ‘honey and fire,’ that marks all great sticky wines and according to Spurrier, it also would make an excellent breakfast wine – who am I to disagree?

As we pored over the wines, Spurrier guided us, opening doors of understanding as he went. At one point made a remark about an experience he’d had when he was learning the wine trade, only to stop himself and state that he is still learning the wine trade. Modest words indeed and sincerely said. I’d offer that if Steven Spurrier is still learning the wine trade, then we all are; we can all continue learning. If you want to take the opportunity to accelerate your learning, then wine courses are an obvious route to take and I’d suggest that you go and grab yourself a ticket (if you can get your hands on one) to an event that he hosts – not only is it fun, it will save you lots of time!

For more information on Decanter Education, follow this link: http://www.amiando.com/decantereducation.html

 

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