Judgement of Hong Kong: Ultimate Blind Cabernet Showdown

As blind tastings go, last night’s Cabernet blind tasting was epic to say the least. The line up – all 2005’s with Lafite, Cos d’Estournel and Leoville Las Cases representing the best of Bordeaux, followed by Gaja’s Darmagi, Almaviva, Opus One, Verite la Joie and Phillip Togni handling the rest of the world. The tasting, aptly named “The Judgement of Hong Kong” was to recreate the legendary Paris tasting in 1976 and rather than our standard “can you guess which wine is which” type tasting, guests were to rank each wine out of 100 points according to the Wine Advocate scoring guide. We tallied the scores and took an average. All the wines were opened around 5 hours prior to the tasting, and double decanted. The result? Lafite 2005 took first place, much to everyone’s joy, followed by Opus One, Verite la Joie and Cos d’Estournel tying for a close second.

All in all, the wines were incredible and still in its early stages of their drinking windows. New or old world, these wines still belong in the cellar for the time being, but if you’re greedy and want to pop the cork open, decanting is recommended!!

Our takes on the wines were as follows:

 Wine #1: Leoville Las Cases 2005

The nose was very restrained, with classic notes of cedar and pencil shavings. The palate was very rustic at first, but gradually paved the way for notes of cassis and blackcurrants, with moderate acidity, and relatively soft tannins. The finish was at first a little short, hence the average score was relatively low among all the guests, but upon re-tasting an hour later, the wine showed a lot more perfume with a floral nose, and a much longer and softer finish. Average score: 90

Wine #2: Almaviva 2005

Many guessed this wine correctly, and it was the most obviously new world wine of the bunch. A powerful nose, brimmed with blackcurrants, red fruits, blackberries and cassis. With a deep opaque, almost inky purple color, the wine was intense, extremely powerful and a little on the alcoholic side. Although quite jammy and perhaps a little confected, there was good layered complexity and excellent concentration of fruit. The alcohol was a little distracting but it was nonetheless a good wine. Average score: 92

Wine #3: Opus One 2005

Very rustic and opulent on the nose. It was intensely powerful, with smoky, earthy notes as well as cigar box aromas. The palate was concentrated and complex, displaying powerful notes of pencil shavings, hawthorn and brambly notes. There is excellent acidity to the wine giving it a nice uplift and elegance, paving way to an incredibly long finish. Average Score: 94

Wine #4: Lafite 2005

Developed aromas of prunes, leather and cigar box develop into fruit driven aromas of blackberries and red fruits. There’s some rusticity as always and there is plenty of great concentration here. This wine really shone well tonight, and it wasn’t difficult to see why. The palate was intense and incredibly layered, with very elegant acidity that is hallmark of Lafite. Average Score: 96

Wine #5: Gaja Darmagi 2005

A wine with an interesting story. Planted by Angelo Gaja in prime Nebbiolo site, this wine was so named because of Gaja’s father who would mutter these words, meaning “what a pity” whenever he walked past this vineyard to see it planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. Though Piedmont is not a place one commonly associates with Cabernet, this is excellently made. Intense and powerful with plenty of new oak. It was quite spicy, with slightly jammy notes, though not quite as clawing as the Almaviva, it was almost new world in style with the high alcohol content, with lots of extraction on the palate. The acidity won the wine over, which gave it a more refined and soothing finish over all. Average Score: 93

Wine #6: Phillip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

This was surprisingly backwards for a New World wine, showing rustic cigar box notes, as well as plenty of earthy aromas. Rich, full-bodied, and brooding, there’s decent acidity with structured firm, and ripe tannins. Overall, this wine is excellent value for money. Average Score: 91

Wine #7: Verite la Joie 2005

The Jackson family’s Verite winery in Sonoma takes their winemaking inspiration from the styles of Bordeaux’s greatest wines. The La Joie is meant to represent the full-bodied and powerful left bank wines, in particular Pauillac. This was astutely powerful, but retains . There is layered fruit, soft , quite sweet tannins, concentrated aromas of blackberries and pencil shavings. Overall, it has good structure, and excellent balance. Average Score: 94

Wine #8: Cos d’Estournel 2005

This was a close tie with the Lafite, coming in second place. This was almost everything you could want in a perfect wine, intensity of fruit, concentrated aromas, and the palate was equally concentrated too. The tannins gave the wine excellent structure, with a hint of spice, and very nice uplifting acidity too. Our personal favourite of the night! Average Score: 94