Kitchen Tips

The top 10 wine experiences of all time

Master of Wine Bob Campbell shares his bucket list of ten top wine experiences; some weird, all wonderful

By Bob Campbell

1 Taste a wine that’s more than 100 years old

Wine that’s over 100 years old is going to be expensive and will probably be slightly dodgy. That’s not the case with Madeira, a fortified wine from the island of Madeira that goes through a baking process, which makes it virtually indestructible. I bought a bottle of 1795 Madeira for $500 around 20 years ago and can still recall the excitement of drinking a wine that was made while George Washington was still alive.
You can explore the world of ancient wines for sale on wine-searcher.com. Simply put the vintage date into the search engine and you get a list of wines for sale. It’s a simple matter of clicking on your chosen wine to buy it from a website. I found a 1915 Madeira for $564 and a 1913 bottle for $572. Split the cost with 10 friends and you pay less than the cost of a bottle of Te Mata Coleraine to taste a wine that’s older than any person alive.

2 Meet the world’s most famous wine critic

Robert Parker Jr is claimed to be the world’s most influential critic of any sort. If he awards a wine 100 points it’s an instant sell-out. Winemakers have been known to throw themselves into blending vats if their wines receive a rating below 80. He’s a controversial figure. Imagine sharing a bottle of good wine with him and deciding whether he’s as good or as bad as legend suggests.

3 Meet the maker of the greatest wine you've ever tasted

If you have a favourite wine, you will appreciate it even more if you visit the winery and meet its maker. Do it before you meet your own maker...
The greatest wine I’ve ever tasted is a French burgundy, Mugnier 1985 Musigny. I’ve shaken the hand of the man who made it, Frédéric Mugnier, but I’d like to visit his winery and taste more of his wines.

4 Dine at the world’s most famous restaurant

I always wanted to dine at the famous Spanish restaurant, elBulli and almost managed it with a bit of insider help. However elBulli closed before I could bribe someone to get a reservation. The current number one restaurant is Noma in Copenhagen. I’d like to dine at a special table they set up in the kitchen. I’ve dined at a similar chef’s table in France, Australia and in New Zealand. It’s the most intimate dining experience you can possibly imagine.

5 Taste the world’s greatest Champagne (again)

The greatest Champagne I’ve ever tasted is Salon 1982. I first tasted it in a blind line-up of top Champagnes and was amazed by its power and finesse. During the tasting there was a collision between two aircraft and one crashed noisily nearby just as we tasted the Salon. The stewards were startled by the noise but the tasters were so focussed on the wine that we didn’t hear a thing.
Salon is a small producer that makes only one wine in the best vintages, usually four years in every decade. It is always 100 per cent chardonnay. I’ve tasted other vintages, but the 1982 is a stand-out for me. I plan to enjoy it with the world’s most expensive caviar (also the world’s most expensive food) Almas from the beluga sturgeon. I’d be just as happy enjoying the wine with freshly shucked Tio Point oysters from Marlborough.
Salon 1999 is available from Glengarry in Auckland for $525. Bollinger Special Cuvee offers better value at around $90.

6 Taste a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc

’47 Cheval Blanc is legendary Bordeaux that has been described as one of the great wines of all time. 1947 is also my birth year. I haven’t tasted it but, frustratingly, I know many people who have. Quite a few cases found their way to Australia in the post-war years. A good bottle (with the level of wine in the neck) now costs over $5000.
If you want to try a birth year wine use wine-searcher.com. The website offers a 1947 Barolo for $108 and a 1947 Calem vintage port for $137.

7 Go back in time to attend the ‘Judgement of Paris’ wine tasting

In 1976 an Englishman, Steven Spurrier, took some Californian wines to Paris and arranged a comparative tasting with top French wines made from the same grape varieties. The Californian wines won. French pride was dented while the boost to the confidence of Californian winemakers helped launch a dynamic wine industry. I’d love to have been there and to have tasted the wines.

8 See grape-pickers working at the vineyard that produces the world’s most expensive sweet wine

Chateau d’Yquem in Bordeaux makes the world’s best sweet wine. You can buy a bottle of 2010 from Glengarry for $1250. To make a wine that truly tastes like a nectar from the gods, the winemaker has to let the grapes rot on the vine until each bunch resembles a dead rat hanging by its tail. The pickers then inspect each shrivelled, furry berry and pick the best ones only.
It’s a tedious, time-consuming and highly skilled task. I’d prefer to watch rather than participate.

9 Experience the world’s greatest food and wine match

The world’s greatest wine match is port and blue cheese. Buy a bottle of Penfolds Club Tawny Port for $25 and Kikorangi blue cheese and I’m sure that you’ll agree with me. Now, imagine if you matched the world’s greatest stilton cheese with the very best port. The best stilton I’ve tried is made by Cropwell Bishop in Nottingham, England. There may be better, but this is a top stilton.
The greatest port ever made is supposed to be 1963 Quinta Do Noval Nacional. You can buy a bottle online for $5010.42 (plus tax). I have never tasted this legendary port but would imagine that, when paired with a great stilton, the earth might move very slightly.

10 Visit the world’s largest wine cellar

I love fossicking around in wine cellars. The world’s largest cellar is reputed to belong to Bern’s Steak House in Florida. It boasts more than 600,000 bottles of wine. The most expensive bottle is a 1947 double-magnum of Chateau Latour that’s worth around $50,000. The oldest bottle is an 1815 port. I recall meeting founder Bern Laxer when I lived in California, but have never visited his steak house.