This was a pre-auction tasting at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco, held the evening before the auction San Francisco - November 30, 2007
I had forgotten how complex and stunning the Massandra Collection wines are. This tasting was only a small sampling of the many wines made by the Massandra winery, but all of them had unique character and I would happily drink them at leisure.
This tasting was a rare sit-down affair, led by Bonhams & Butterfields' Frank Martell, who had visited and chosen the wines from the Massandra winery, in Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine. About the only way to acquire Massandra wines is either by visiting the winery or buying them via auction.
Of note is that all bottles of Massandra Collection are opened, checked, topped off and freshly corked, before leaving Massandra.
Jack adds, "Despite only a dozen tasters, and only 1/3 of the lots selling in London two days before, the auction the next day saw every lot sell (213 lots), many for over high estimate. One bidder in Los Angeles* seemed to buy more than half the lots. Results here. In general, a typical bottle went for between $100 and $300. A single bottle of an 1886 went for $3510."
*Perhaps this bidder was convinced that the Massandra Collection is the second coming of Château d'Yquem?
Nose of brandied golden raisins and lemon caramel. Dry. Center of toasted nuts and herbs, with great balance and acids. Tons of complexity and long, long finish, with yellow plum and yellow flowers lingering.
This wine takes ages to come around (50 years+). You really can’t drink them young. They drink best starting at 60-65 years and are at peak 60-80 years.
Fruity almost port-like nose with a rose and black currant element – as well as an herbal element. Very different color than the others with a distinctive ruby tint. Syrupy consistency with a brightness which immediately settles into a creamy long finish. There is not a lot of acidity. This wine is tighter than the sherry and smoother. Not as standout as other wines in this tasting.
1948 Massandra White Port Alushta Grapes: Aligote & Semillion Alcohol: 17.4%, Residual Sugar: 10.7%
The nose is bright with lightly caramelized lemon and stone. Definitely a dusty element. Bright slightly acidic center of crisp chicken skin and white gooseberry. Also a spicy element hinting of cooked rosemary.
They also make the only Massandra dry red wines in Alushta.
1958 Massandra White Port South Coast Grapes: Semillion, Aligote, & Pedro Ximenez Alcohol: 18.2%, Residual Sugar: 10.2%
Very balanced nose of lemon, minerals and caramel. Slightly syrupy mouth-feel but great acids. Intense spice element of almond paste and coriander. Hard bright finish, but smooth, leaving behind crushed herbs and light caramel.
1940 Massandra Red Port Grapes: Mourvedre (60-70%) and a mixture of red varieties (30-40%) Alcohol: 18.5%, Residual Sugar: 7.4%
Very interesting nose of spice and sweet pickled onion. Intense center of savory and sweet pickled vegetables with a great acidity and sweetness underlying. Light, long finish with lightly sugared fruit lingering.
1944 Massandra Red Port Alushta Grapes: Malbek & Morastel Alcohol: 15.3%, Residual Sugar: 9.3%
Dusty nose of minerals and apricot caramel. Center of milk chocolate and brandied apricot with fruity apricot finish, turning dusty and minerally at the end. Lots of fruit shows in this wine.
1934 Massandra Rose Muscat Gurzuf Grapes: Muscat Rose & Alicante Alcohol: 11.3%, Residual Sugar: 23.3%
Delicate floral nose of pink and yellow flowers, candied yellow fruits and minerals. A truly spectacular nose. Sweet, delicate, slightly fruity center, reminding me of golden raspberry. There is a candied rose petal element but it maintains a delicacy despite the definite sweetness. It also has a lovely freshness. What it lacks is a lot of acidity.
1937 Massandra Rose Muscat Gurzuf Grapes: Muscat Rose & Alicante Alcohol: 11.7%, Residual Sugar: 28.4%
1937 was a very hot year – lots of sugar. Sweeter than 1934 but still has the floral and fruit nose, with more of a brandied fruit. It also has a darker color than the 1934. The center has notes of caramel and liquid brown sugar, along with the fruit, like a raspberry jam made with more sugar than fruit. It has more acid than the 1934.
1956 Massandra Tokay South Coast Grapes: Furmint and Gars Levelieu Alcohol: 14.9%, Residual Sugar: 20.2%
This has a very different nose of cream and caramel, with a burnt apricot undertone, like crème brulèe. There is also a jasmine tea element to this wine. The center is dusty, with slightly bitter caramel and good acids. A tea-like caramel finish.
This wine is not fortified. Golden raisins on nose, with a spiced fruit undertone and a golden oolong tea element. Slightly syrupy sweet center of crushed cherries, sugar and pineapple with brulèe. Good acids and pretty balanced. Delicate, lightly sweet finish. We were told that the 1945 is even bigger and sweeter, with lots of fruit and less tea.
1997 Massandra Seventh Heaven, Prince Golitzin Collection Grapes: Kokour, Rose Muscat and White Muscat Alcohol: 15.7%, Residual Sugar: 18%
Very different nose; anise and brandied black fruit with a nod to dried fig. The color is more orange than the others and it has a higher clarity. Bright and hard center with tight fruit and a smokey tea element. Sugar and sugared fruit in center with a thin finish which is tight but not low on sugar. You can see that this wine might develop into the others in 50+ years. (Quite nice to drink right now, though. - Jack)
Intense nose of amber and exotic spices with cream and brandied cherry. Very hard bright acids with peat fire and earth and a harder tart finish. Scotch-like elements with earth and tea. The sugar is only visible on the finish.
Special note: The bottles are old. But the labels are new (and faux finished).
Argenberg has an excellent set of 36 photos plus text detailing his visit to Massandra in 2005.