Recently I was a guest at a wine auction held in Costa Mesa, just south of Los Angeles in Orange County.
Having written a great deal on the fine wine market and fine wine auctions over the last six years, it is rather embarrassing to admit that I hardly ever go to live auctions in London. Then again, they are so painfully boring that I’d rather stay at home and wait for the results to be sent to me.
In the USA – or California, at least – wine auctions are an excuse to have fun. In Costa Mesa there was lots of good food and good company. People were enjoying themselves in a way that is unheard of in London. The auction was part of a raucous –which is to say typically American! – evening, with the relaxed atmosphere encouraging strong bidding. There is nothing comparable in the UK, indeed anywhere in Europe, where wine auctions are very drab, staid affairs.
In addition to the bottles generously served by the auction house, people brought their own wines along to share with their buddies. And what wines these were…
These are a few of the blue-chip bottles that I drank on Friday and Saturday night. The notes are pithy because of the party atmosphere that prevailed – and I was severely jet-lagged.
Château Mouton Rothschild 1982
Fabulous nose, perfumed and aromatic. Very rich and full but elegant, though with a beefy finish. Still some tannins apparent. Age to 2030+? Very good and not as over the hill as some other 1982s that I’ve had. Less of the “hot” character of that vintage than expected, too, with much less cassis fruit than, say, Lynch-Bages when I last had it a couple of years ago. A great wine – for me the best of the evening.
Château Léoville-Las Cases 1985
Not as rich as the Mouton. Sweet, juicy and generous. Pencil/graphite aromas – very typical of Las-Cases. Elegant but not of the finest quality. Now to 2025?
Château L’Evangile 1994
The third time that I have had this wine over the last couple of years or so, when it has usually been drunk by itself. In tonight’s company it didn’t seem as forward as previous examples. Its quality was evident but coming after the generous Las Cases 1985 it felt very tight by comparison.
Château Léoville-Barton 1990
Full and fleshy but far from ready… 2013-25?
Château Lynch-Bages 1985
Green pepper nose but this is not to suggest unripeness! Fleshy, too. 2013-25?
Several other wines crossed my path, including a few white Burgundies that I thought were poor – they often appeared oxidised, or on the verge of oxidation. A Guigal LaLa was poured – I can’t remember which one – but it was dreadful, as I would always expect of that over-hyped producer…