Icon wines at The Sampler
Tasting some great wines at one of London's most interesting wine shops

Iíve written here before about London wine merchant The Sampler. As well as being a wine shop with a superbly chosen range, they were pioneers in bringing Enomatic sampling machines into the London wine retail scene. The idea is that customers can come in and put money on a card, and then spend that trying wines in tasting pours of three sizes (the smallest of which is quite adequate to get a good impression of the wine). This is the current roster of sampling wines: www.thesampler.co.uk/store/

Each Christmas they put on some rather special wines for tasting, which they describe as Ďiconí level. I went to the Islington shop to try them out. To taste all these wines will set you back £320.62, but that is considerably cheaper than the cost of buying them all (£6579). 

Ch‚teau Lafite Rothschild 1985 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Finely aromatic and mineral with some earthy hints. This is really expressive and balanced on the nose with subtle cedar, gravel and plum fruit notes. The palate is supple and expressive with some green leafy hints and elegant structure. Nicely mineral. A light, balanced wine thatís drinking well now. 94/100 (£755 The Sampler, or £37.75 for a tasting measure)

Ch‚teau Lafite Rothschild 2001 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Taut, smoky, spicy nose with roast coffee notes and savoury, gravelly aromas. The palate is savoury and taut with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit as well as some earthy structure and more of those gravelly notes. Backward at the moment with focused fruit. Correct but not as enticing as you might expect. 93/100 (£970 The Sampler, £48.50 for a tasting pour)

Ch‚teau Margaux 1983 Bordeaux
Sweetly aromatic nose of cedar, tar, spice and cherry fruit. Showing some evolution with a seductive side as well as some savouriness. The palate is fresh and restrained with earthy, tarry, cedary notes, as well as some sweet fruit notes. Showing quite a bit of evolution, with a drying finish. This bottle, according to a fellow taster, isnít as good as this wine can be. 91/100 (£550 The Sampler, £27.50 for a tasting pour)

Ch‚teau Petrus 1975 Pomerol, Bordeaux
Beautifully framed aromatic nose with focused cherry fruits and notes of herbs, earth and old wood. Nicely complex. The palate shows good concentration with savoury, taut herb-tinged berry and cherry fruit. Itís really fine and expressive, yet still has a lot of tannic structure. Firm with bold structure and focus, as well as some mineral notes. A striking wine indeed. 95/100 (£2100 The Sampler, £96.67 a tasting sample)

Domaine de la Romanťe Conti Romanťe St Vivant Grand Cru 1976 Burgundy
Very pale in colour with some orange notes. Remarkable aromatics on the nose: sweet cherries, spice, a hint of earth and a suggestion of some medicinal notes, but itís really pure and beguiling. The palate is dense and fine with good acidity and a citrussy character with some faint red cherry notes. Thereís a bit of savoury grip under the elegant fruitiness. Fully mature, but a distinctive and immensely interesting wine. 96/100 (£635 The Sampler, £31.75 for a pour)

Federico Paternina Rioja Gran Reserva 1928 Spain
Sweet, spicy, warm elegant nose with cherry fruit, herbs and complex woody notes. Very attractive with a citrus peel character. The palate is dense, elegant and spicy with lovely bright berry fruits (still!) and warm spiciness. Lots of life left in this wine which has aged beautifully. Elegant and expressive. 96/100 (£300 The Sampler, £15 for a pour) 

Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon 1990 Northern RhŰne, France
Complex nose of spice and herbs with fresh cherry fruit still to the fore. The palate is beautifully fresh and expressive with bright berry and cherry fruit as well as fresh peppery notes. Nice precision here, but it is still quite firm and tannic with a drying finish. A fresh expression of Hermitage. 93/100 (£450 The Sampler, £22.50 for a pour)

Weinbach Quintessence de Grains Nobiles Tokay Pinot Gris Cuvťe díOr 2000 Alsace
Gold/bronze colour. Lovely sweet honey and apricot nose with lively spiciness and some notes of fresh hay and orange peel. The palate is viscous and concentrated with bold flavours of wax, apricot, citrus peel, grape skin and syrup. Wonderful concentration and a long sweet finish. Memorable. 96/100 (£180 The Sampler, £9 for a pour)

Ch‚teau Rieussec  Sauternes 1967 Bordeaux
Gold/bronze colour. Complex, beguiling nose of sweet citrus peel and peach, with some pith, grape and wax notes, too. The palate has a savouriness to it as well as the sweetness and shows lanolin, herb, lemon and apricot notes. Still fully alive and drinking beautifully now, with a really long finish. 95/100 (£250 The Sampler, £12.50 a pour)

Penfolds Grandfather Tawny Port 1945 Australia
Totally remarkable. Orange/brown in colour with a super-complex nose of spice, fugde, raisins and treacle. The palate is immensely concentrated with lively notes of old casks, leather, spice, raisins and citrus fruit. Amazingly alive and complex with an eternal finish. Impossible to spit. 97/100 (£389 The Sampler, £19.45 a pour)

See also:

The Sampler, one of London's most innovative wine merchants

Published 12/11, wines tasted 12/11  
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