The Battle of Château Batailley

Château Batailley, named after the battle that took place on the property some 600 years ago, is the sort of wine that, on paper, I would buy. Tasting notes promise a deep cassis and fragrant cedar bouquet. Furthermore, it is known for being ‘good value’ Bordeaux, with bottles starting at under £30, duty paid.

On our third visit to The Sampler, we tasted two famous expressions of Chateau Batailley: 2000 and 2005. This was an exciting opportunity to taste mature Bordeaux from excellent vintages, and to see whether the wine lived up to its on-paper reputation.

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Château Batailley, 2000, Pauillac

Lighter than the 2005, with a touch of brown on the rim. A muddy nose with hints of chocolate, violets and plum. Disjointed on the palate. The fruit has largely gone, replaced with a distinctive tomato flavour that I often find in fully-washed coffees. Graphite pencil shavings and toasty oak towards the end. This is not silky; there is a dusty component to the mouth-feel. The tannins have faded. Conclusion: Slightly weird, and certainly not what I was expecting. Despite this, I did enjoy the wine. 89 Points (BP)

Château Batailley, 2005, Pauillac

Immediately more focussed than the 2000, with berry fruit and cassis still present. There is more structure here, from acidity, minerality and tannin. Cedar perfume, some liquorice and oak on the finish. Very drinkable. 90 Points (BP)

Learning point: The 2005 won the battle. It ‘does what it says on the tin.’

A Vertical of Hermitage

A few years ago I have a vivid memory of enquiring when a bottle of 2008 Colombier Hermitage would be ready for drinking. The wine merchant jocularly replied that to open the bottle within the next few years would be infanticide. Ever since I have been cautious about purchasing this most splendid expression of Syrah. When I saw the below selection of wines to taste I had no choice but to try the lot. It would indeed have been a crime to drink these before they reached maturity but you need great patience to get there.

Tasting wines of this pedigree and age by the glass is a wonderful thing and was the highlight of my recent trip to The Sampler.  If we had not had so many samples by this point I would have sat down with a larger glass of one of these.  They were not cheap to taste, but then again they are not cheap by the bottle.  Am I still scared of buying Hermitage – well probably.

Check out the main article for a review of The Sampler.

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Left to Right: J.L. Chave 1984, J.L.Chave 1985, Marc Sorell 1988, Jaboulet La Chapelle 1995

Paul Jaboluet, La Chapelle, Hermitage, 1995:

This is still surprisingly young, fresh, and fruity.  Marizipan and Prunes dominated both the nose and palate and the wine had a great intensity.  Plenty of life left in this and a great intensity.

Marc Sorrel, Hermitage, 1988: 

Unfortunately this struggled to stand up to the competition and was showing its age.  In other company this was still a good wine (and probably delicious), but it felt a bit flat on this occasion.

J.L. Chave, Hermitage, 1985:

This is an absolute Rolls Royce of a wine. For a 31 year old wine this showing beautifully, certainly not yet over the hill. This still has fruit, the tannin is mostly resolved although the wine retains grip, and the balance is impeccable. This is a phenomenal wine from a top vintage and right in the prime of its drinking window. I’d like to sit down with a glass of this to put a formal score on it but we could well be talking 95+ points.

J.L. Chave, Hermitage, 1984:

We tasted the 1984 before the 1985 due to 1985 being the better vintage (and double the price). This is a totally different beast to the 1985. If 1985 is a prime racehorse then this is a racehorse that has gone feral. This has an incredible intensity and depth on the nose with dominant aromas of bacon fat and cured meats. The palate does not disappoint either – not as svelte as the 1985 but this has some serious character. If I was buying a single bottle I would probably go for one of these.

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The Enomatic Tasting machine that makes tasting such a selection possible

The Sampler, South Kensington, London

Sampler

I had been planning to visit The Sampler for a while and finally got round to it. I think I have found my new favourite place in London to browse for wine.  There are two locations, South Kensington and Islington, with the South Kensington offering a fusion of wine shop and bar.  Both locations offer up to 80 wines from the range to sample using Enomatic wine dispensers and include both good value wines and vintage rarities.

Now I have been to a few places with these machines in the past (Le Vignoble, Plymouth, and a couple of enotecas in Greve, Tuscany), but nowhere with such reasonable prices or such a diverse selection.  Over the course of an afternoon with a friend we worked our way through 30 tasters of wines, a few bread baskets and oil (£2) and a cheeseboard (£8). For this part of London The Sampler represents brilliant value. The samples start under £1 for 25ml and went up to £13 for a 1985 Chave Hermitage.  Given the market value the markup on the samples is not bad at all.

If you are more interested in drinking wine than sampling they also offer a great deal on corkage – drink any bottle of wine at the shop price +£7.50. Although I didn’t get round to browsing the entire store they had a good selection covering most price-points.  It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon so we sat upstairs in the shop area but I understand there is a bar area downstairs and they also open into the evening. If I had to find a negative I am a bit of a stickler for glassware and we ended up with a slightly eclectic collection of tasting glasses (although the small Port glasses were superb). I am sure

The trip to The Sampler was a post-exam celebration and verging on boozy so my approach to tasting was far from academic.  I have made rough notes on the wines tasted and will post some links below once the articles are up.  Given how much fun we had I will be making a trip to check out the Islington store when I am next on that side of the city.

Conclusions: A pretty great wine shop and a bloody brilliant wine bar.  Making a trip here to buy wine would undoubtedly beat looking at sealed bottles with glazed eyes elsewhere. You will enjoy this place whether you want to spend £10 or £200.