Damian Decanted: Our Obsession with Perfection

Damian Decanted: Our Obsession with Perfection

In the first of his new column on what to look for in a bottle of wine, Sotheby's specialist Damian Tillson looks back over a personal year in tasting...
In the first of his new column on what to look for in a bottle of wine, Sotheby's specialist Damian Tillson looks back over a personal year in tasting...
Sotheby's Damian Tillson

W e miss so much when we continually focus on the peak ahead of us. In our search for vinous perfection we can often miss vital 'stop off' points along the journey that expand our knowledge and provide some context for the brilliance of the First Growths, Grand Crus etc. Sharing memorable bottles with enthusiastic, knowledgeable friends, clients and colleagues is one of the highlights of my work. Since I'm not frequenting restaurants, attending tastings or sharing bottles over lunch or dinner, I (like many others) have been drinking more at home.

However, after my initial enthusiasm I'm now finding it hard to justify my 'Midweek Mouton'! So I've been exploring some of the darker recesses of my small and interestingly stocked cellar. As I've been watching spring turn to summer and summer to autumn through my office/bedroom window this year, here are three seasonal highlights.

1992 Coulée de Serrant, Nicolas Joly

Spring: 1992 Coulée de Serrant, Nicolas Joly

This vineyard in Savennières has its very own appellation. The owner, Nicolas Joly, is one of the foremost proponents of Biodynamic viticulture and his wines demonstrate an almost tamed wildness where vintage variations are obvious yet a common theme of quality and age-ability run through them. 100% Chenin Blanc with its characteristic firm and often intense seam of acidity, I was thrilled to find this mature bottle tucked away out of sight. Inauspiciously orange in colour, although clean and bright, the oxidation on the nose was obvious initially but with a few hours in the decanter gave way to pineapple, waxy orange, mango and toasty aromas, with a slightly damp wool 'hum' in the background. Really complex and intriguing.

Bone dry, with a silky mouthfeel and concentrated, multilayered fruit. The acidity stands out but with time in the decanter the fruit unfurls, with the acidity taking a step backwards and the fruit taking a leading role. The finish goes on and on... It was even better the following day, left in the decanter in the fridge. I've tried different vintages of Coulée de Serrant on numerous occasions during my life and it always puts a smile on my face. It is a singular, thoroughly expressive wine that I'm never sure I ever really 'get', but I always enjoy. Look out for the mixed case of this seminal wine coming up in our December online auction. A fabulous way to experience what I've been trying to describe above.

2018 Rosé de Pinot Noir, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey

Summer: 2018 Rosé de Pinot Noir, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey

From rising star of the Cote de Beaune, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, this very limited production Rosé from the Hautes Cotes de Beaune, just outside St Aubin, is produced from old Pinot Noir vines (average 55 years) on clay/limestone soils and relatively high altitude vineyards (around 400m). I rarely get overexcited by Rosé but this is something else. The delicate, complex wild strawberry, red berry fruit is interlaced with melon, white peach, orange zest and multiple floral aromas.

But it's the structure that sets this apart from other Rosés. The high altitude position of the vineyards provides cool nights that help preserve the acidity which creates a fine line of tension running though the palate and allows the fruit to persist long into the distance. Aged in 2-3 year old barrels, there is the slightest hint of vanilla but more importantly the edges of the wine are softened and rounded adding to the elegant, silky mouthfeel. Summer in a glass and now, sadly, just a memory. Until next year!

2013 Côte de Nuit villages, Domaine Bachelet

Autumn: 2013 Côte de Nuit villages, Domaine Bachelet

A village wine from Gevrey-based producer Denis Bachelet and one of a few 2013 red Burgundies I've encountered recently. The 2013s were uninspiring when I tasted them upon release, with a rather aggressive acidity reminiscent of 1996 and lacking the intensity of fruit found in 2012, 2010 and 2009. However, many have put on a little weight in bottle and have turned out better than I had expected. This bottle was initially quite reserved in the glass, showing forest fruits and a touch stalky, but it soon opened up becoming more complex: ripe red fruits, hints of autumn, brambly, damp leaves reminiscent of the woodland walks we've been taking recently.

Medium bodied with ripe, fine grained tannins and the crunchy, quite piercing acidity tempered by the overall mouthfeel of the fruit which had enough concentration and weight to prevent the acidity taking over. Gaining complexity in the glass, this was a perfect autumnal bottle from a producer whose reputation is well deserved, from his Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin through to his 'entry level' Bourgogne Rouge.

Damian's Picks from Vine | Featuring A Great Classic Cellar & A Brilliant Bordeaux Collection

Wine & Spirits

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