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21/09/2015

Upper reaches of the Test

by David Thomas (Head of UK and European Sales)

I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a day on probably the most beautiful stretch of the upper River Test, something that does not happen every day – the fishing was exceptional with everyone landing a number of brown and rainbow trout, obviously only keeping a couple each and returning the rest. Lunch consisted of wonderful homemade quail scotch eggs to start and then beautiful Ottolenghi salads and lamb chops on the BBQ – perfection – matched with probably one of the greatest whites to come out of South Africa and two clear 100 point wines...

I may have said this before, but I strongly believe that Eben Sadie is the greatest wine maker currently working in South Africa; his wines are individual and intriguing and always when poured grab the attention of the drinkers. Skerpioen 2013 is one of his remarkable ‘old vineyard’ series, a 50-year old field blend of Chenin Blanc and Palomino from a vineyard only reached by a specially adapted Land Rover. It is incredibly focused and clean, with hints of nuts and fresh apple, touches of honey and lemon and a waxy undercurrent. A wonderfully textured palate with citrus and orange is seamlessly integrated with hazelnuts and the lightest touch of honey – it is a beautiful wine that vanished extremely quickly.

Then the small matter of the 100 point pair...

Chave 1989 – little introduction required to perhaps the greatest grower on the famous hill. The aroma alone was worth 100 points – breathtakingly pure strawberry and cherry fruit, amazingly delicate and floral, but with spice and leather and southern herbs. The palate is rich and full bodied, but with wonderfully soft tannins and perfectly balanced acidity. This has to be one of the greatest bottles I have had the good fortune to drink this year; clearly 100 points in my eyes. I would look to add this to any cellar, as it is peaking now but will maintain this drinking window for many years.

Haut Brion 1989 – as I have said on a number of occasions, 1989 is one of my favourite vintages of the last century and the more I taste the more it affirms my belief. At the very top of the list - the absolute perfection that is Haut Brion 1989. It is fascinatingly complex offering dark berry fruits, blackberries, blackcurrants, a mix of spices and liquorice, cigar box and minerals; the palate is massively rich and beautifully textured, yet the tannins are just pure perfection. 1989 Haut Brion will continue to develop for another 50 years, and I would bet that every time it is served it sits at the top of the list. This is the kind of wine that 100 points was made for.

A glass of 1958 Calvados just loosened the arm enough to help catch a few more after lunch.

Is a thank you enough? I doubt it, but little more I could say at the end of the day – one of the truly great vinous days of my life (fishing was not bad either).