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Sauternes 1980 (750 mL)

Deep vermilion-mahogany color. This is fairly sedate on both the nose and the palate, with muted flavors of ripe apricot, freshly whipped cream, and candied orange. There's little finish left to speak of, with all acidity having receded totally. Inoffensive, and just fine to wash down dessert with, but this would perhaps have best been enjoyed a decade ago.

Estimated Value: $150

Current Bid: $100 (0 Bid)

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Provided by: Peter Comino (Est. Value $150)

Peter Ranscombe meets John Forrest, a pioneer of lower-alcohol wines, to taste his new bottles for Marks & Spencer. IT MIGHT be 30 years since John Forrest left his career as a medical researcher to become a winemaker, but his enthusiasm for science clearly hasn’t faded. Standing in front of a whiteboard inside New Zealand House in London, the tall Kiwi’s passion for his subject is obvious as he annotates his sketch of a vine growing on a series of wires and poles. Forrest’s diagram illustrates the method he developed for making white wine that has all the classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc flavours, but with less alcohol. His technique involves removing some of the vines’ leaves at key stages during the growing season. This leads to less sugar – which will be turned into alcohol when the grape juice is fermented to make wine – but doesn’t interfere with the build-up of the other key components in the grapes that give the wine its flavour and acidity. It feels mean to summarise four years of hard work and research in just a few short lines, but that’s testament to Forrest’s ability to explain the science in clear and concise terms – he’s obviously not lost his touch. While other methods of producing lower-alcohol wines – like spinning the wine around in a cone at high speed in a laboratory – can result in thin or insipid liquids, Forrest’s wines are indistinguishable from “normal” Marlborough sauvignon blanc in terms of taste and mouthfeel… at least to me.