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The Old Way of Describing Wine - Its Been Down Hill Ever Since
Attributed to: Campbell, Ian Maxwell
Source: 'Reminiscences of a Vintner', Chapman and Hall, 1950.
Contributed by: Anon

Very few people now will ever taste, let alone regularly, wines of great age and pedigree. This may be the reason that very simple wines are written about as if the have come down from heaven. None of us can ever have the training that the English pre-war wine merchants saw as a matter of course. They developed a simple but very effective way of describing wine that depended upon comparisons to other great wines with which it was assumed the other party would have familiarity.

"On 2nd November, 1948, I lunched with Berry Brothers to meet Argyll friends in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Courtauld of Muckairn: the four young directors of the firm were present and regaled us with 1934 Ch. Canon, St. Emilion, which was sweet, fairly full bodied and very pleasant to drink: but the 'wine of astonishment' was the 1921 of the same estate, which showed more body and more sugar and flavour: vintage 1921, as is well known, was looked upon as a failure with the outstanding exception of the famous Cheval Blanc which was a masterpiece.

"The Canon lies in the same vignoble, that of St. Emilion, not very far from Cheval Blanc and, like it, seems to have escaped the sunstroke that spoiled the vintage as a whole, even before it came to birth. As I think I mentioned in Wayward Tendrils, one or two wines succeeded in pulling through, and the Knight Templar of the year, the Cheval Blanc, has a very dapper equerry and companion in the Canon.

"The Berry quartet, exhibiting a love of harmony and counterpoint, following the two Canons with the 1906 Cheval Blanc which I found a little disappointing on this occasion; though still full in the mouth and sweet it seemed to have shed something of the stamina of a vigorous year and to be yielding pride of place to the Haut Brion of the same vintage."


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