BBR tasting Oct 09

(by peter)

The fabulously traditional yet contemporary Berry Brothers & Rudd needs little introduction. One of London’s most venerable wine merchants, it has managed to modernise itself in very shrewd fashion.

BBR tastingVisible proof of this riotous clash of cultures came at the tasting. Have a look at the photo – the tasting took place in beautiful brick-vaulted cellars underneath Berry’s three-hundred year old premises on St James’s Street. And what hung on the pillar and wall? Computer flat-screens luridly displaying Berry’s acclaimed website and newly launched app (essentially their list – but with more “fun” things in the pipeline, according to PR manager Vicky Williams).

Below are a few of the highlights. It goes without saying that Berrys’ has some very fine wines and its range is enough to make most wine lovers drool. If you find some of the pricing questionably high (as I do) then you can always reassure yourself that the service ethic and all-round experience is second to – well, very few. Alternatively, you could always try making it along to Berry’s “factory outlet” in Basingstoke, where sales often take place – there’s even one next weekend (24/25 October 09).

Headlines at the event included a number of new growers’ champagnes, a line-up of new Burgundian acquisition Olivier Bernstein’s pricey bottles, and a taste of the sublimely rare nectar that is Tokaji Essencia…


Champagne Geoffroy Premier Cru Pureté Brut Zero NV, 12% – £26.75

Expressive green apple aromas, lifted and vibrant but also with a pleasantly creamy, toasted edge. Mineral-infused palate, savoury, rounded but very pure and blanaced. Not the most complex but a very clean, pure (almost purist), vibrant style with good balance. 6.5/10

Champagne Pierre Peters L’Esprit de 2002, 12% – £38

Nutty apple nose. Crisp, rounded, with autolytic bready hints. Ticks all the boxes. Very pleasant and persistent. 7/10

Champagne Larmandier Bernier Extra Brut 2004, Vieilles Vignes de Cramant, 12.5% – £55

Smoky, developed nose with buttery and brioche hints. Quite a funky, evolved style with savoury and mineral inflections. Quite an edgy, individual style but I like it. 7.5/10

Champagne Blanc de Blancs, La Haute-Lemblé 2005, Les Roses de Jeanne, 12.5% – £60

Creamy apples and acacia honey. Good fine round texture, long, appley and lifted. Very good. 7.5/10

Champagne Lahaye Cuvée Prestige Blanc de Noirs NV 12% – £27.95

Herby apples. Rounded, waxy, fine, quite elegant, delicate, persistent. Very good. 6.5


Lake Hayes Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Marlborough, 13% – £10.70

Super vibrant pea pod, citrus fruit, green pepper. Good fresh rounded citrus and gooseberry palate. Balanced. Persistent. Very well done. 6.5/10

Chablis Grenouille Grand Cru 20076, J.P. & Benoît Droin, 13.5% – £42.55

Classic rounded, appley nose with lactic oak complexity. Deliciously vibrant yet rounded acidity, succulent acid fruit, layered nutty flavours. Seriously impressive. 8.5/10


Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 1er Cru 2007, Olivier Bernstein, 13.5% – £330 for 6 bottles in bond

Elegant floral woodsmoke and summer berry flavours. Savoury toasty young mineral. Very good, but very young. 8/10

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2007, Olivier Bernstein, 13.5% – £594 for 6 bottles in bond

Smokey elegant hedgerow autumnal fruit. Savoury, dense, elegant yet layered and deep. Superb. Spicy, warming finish that bodes of great things to come. 9/10

La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Reserva 2001, 13% – £16.45

Superb warming autumnal fruit with sweet spice and classic cinnamon and orange rind hints. Delicious. Elegant and venerable. If not as long as might be expected at the price..? 7.5/10

Chono Syrah 2006, Elqui, 14.5% – £7.55

Intense inky cassis nose. Meaty minty olive notes emerge. Round but savoury, creamy, bittersweet fruit. Good not great. But one of the bargains here! 6/10

Crozes-Hermitage 2007, Cuvée Les Galets, Domaine des Hauts Chassis, 13% – £15.95

Meaty toasty olives and cassis. Very attractive. Easy-going palate, balanced, savoury. Not very concentrated but it’s fine at the price. Spice not heat. 7/10

Cornas 2007, Vin Noir, Domaine du Tunnel, 13.5% – £39.95

I think the title “black wine” would turn many a wine lover off…not me. Especially not when it’s from Cornas. Baked herbs, meaty, blue fruit, quite a wild and rustic style. And the palate doesn’t disappoint…firm grippy tannin, meat and herbs and savoury olive flavours, lovely balance and finesse and length. Delicious. One of the wines of the tasting for me. 8/10

Berry’s St-Estèphe (Ch Picard, 2007) 12.5% – £17.95

The stand-out of the Berry’s own-label Bordeaux range. Pencil lead and cassis nose. Firm, grippy tannin, dense and dark in style. Lovely stuff, big contrast to some of the more insipid own-label clarets on show. But then so it should be at the price…6.5/10

Pauillac de Latour 2005, Château Latour, 13% – £47

Smoky plum and cassis nose. Full, earthy flavours, with elegant chalky tannins. Savoury. Classy. Full and spicy but still elegant – very Latour. Masculine. But sleek. Mineral. Very satisfying. So even their third wine is great! 8/10


ATS Cuvée Late Harvest, The Royal Tokaji Company, 9.5% – £10.95

Great little bargain here: clean honeyed pear nose. Rich palate, acidity is not super high (as you might expect from the region, and the fact that the blend is mainly Furmint, as per the other styles). But still lovely balance in a lighter style. No botrytis. 7/10

Berry’s Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2005,The Royal Tokaji Company, 10.5% – £19.95

Classic glazed apricot aromas and bittersweet nut oil. Delicious balance. Vibrant acidity and sumptuous richness. All balanced and lifted on the finish. Invigorating. 8.5/10

Essencia 2000, Royal Tokaji Company. 2.9% – £313.15

Firstly, note the price. (Why the 15p?!) Then the alcohol. Then I’ll tell you that the residual sugar here is 580 grams per litre (geeky detail, admittedly, but a comparison with the Royal Tokaji’s already very rich 6 puttonyos wine at 235g/l puts things into perspective…) This is the rarest wine in Tokaj: made from the incredibly rich free-run juice from nobly rotten grapes, often fermented for years (the yeasts struggle due to the phenomenal concentration of sugar, acid and other constituents). Extremely viscous. Raisined creamy apricot nose. Very concentrated and very expressive. Draws you in like a black hole made out of candy floss. Mouth-coating, pure raisins and apricot, rounded, succulent, hedonistic. But balanced! Long. Dense. So long. Amazing! But it needs time in bottle. About 100 years? 9/10