I am a firm believer in the necessity of tasting wines to make better wines. You always want to be tasting wines above your own quality level and with tasters who are more knowledgeable than yourself.  It is important to taste local, domestic and international wines in the category of wine that you are producing.  Only by calibrating your relative position to benchmark wines and learning how others succeed can you craft the best wines in any category, from Concord to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Benchmark Wines

From Great Vintages by Michael Broadbent

 1947 Ch. Cheval-Blanc, St.-Emilion

 For those who were unaware of its success in the 1921 and 1929, 1947 was the first really eye-opening vintage of Cheval-Blanc.  It did for this chateau what the ’31 vintage did for Quinta Noval; set it on a pedestal.  I have been privileged to taste Cheval-Blanc ’47 on ten occasions from 1959, when it was impressive but seemed unready, though the 1960s, when it was consistently rich and lovely.  Three bottled by Harvey’s were excellent; two Belgian bottlings, rich but showing some end acidity in 1977.  Last tasted from a chateau-bottled magnum: colour still very deep and fine; a complacent, abundantly confident bouquet, calm, rich, distinguished – but it did not open up and blossom in the glass like a great Medoc; slightly sweet, plump, almost fat, ripe, incredibly rich, high in alcohol. A magnificent wine, almost port-like.  Last tasted at Saintsbury Club dinner, April 1980 ***** Drink now – ad infinitum? 

1945 Ch. Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac

This is not claret, it is Mouton ’45, surely one of the giants of all time – and one of the few wines I might lay claim to identify almost on sight, certainly on nose.  A Churchill of a wine.  First tasted in 1954 and noted, after just two years in the wine trade, that the nose was “amazing… quite unlike any other claret, reminiscent of mango chutney”.  Tasted on 14 occasions over the past quarter-century.  It still has a magnificent, deep, almost opaque appearance, ruby with a pronounced mahogany rim; fabulous and, I like to think, totally unmistakable bouquet – highly concentrated, intense black currant Cabernet-Sauvignon aroma, touch of cinnamon – and flavour to match.  Ripe, rich yet with the body and component parts to keep it in balance for years to come.  Last tasted November 1978 *****Drink now - 2050