So here’s the full detail of yesterday’s gathering - which was a fantastic night of wine, food and good conversation. A brilliant selection of wines, which above all reminded me of the sheer pleasure that comes with delicious wines, tasted (mostly!) in their prime, shared with others who appreciate them.
Notes were sketchy (and to be frank my fellow drinkers were not always as forensic in their analysis as they could have been) but here’s what I caught about the nine wines we tasted:
Krasna Hora 2019, sparkling pinot noir, Czech Republic
Views were mixed, ranging from ‘spittoon’s proving useful’ to very good. Sharp apple, rather in-your-face mousse, reminded me of English sparkling wine before it got more expensive than Champagne. Not brilliant value at £39 from the venue.
Chapoutier, Chante-Alouette Hermitage Blanc, 2005
100% Marsanne. Beautiful amber colour. Powerful oxidative nose. ‘Is this sherry?’ Nutty in the mouth, and something a bit cheesy, Comte perhaps. Not to everybody’s taste, and perhaps a little past its best, but a great example of what good white wine can become and a highly distinctive experience.
Domaine Arnoux, Savigny-les-Beaune Les Pimentiers, 2016
This was drinking very nicely. Some oak on the nose, also raspberry and strawberry flavours which carried through to the palate. I would be very happy to be handed a glass of this at a summer dinner party. A fresh, balanced and pleasant burgundy.
Domaine Lafarge, Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées, 2009
Fully mature, lovely translucent ruby colour fading to brick at the edges. Great smell of undergrowth, mushrooms, red fruit or maybe plum. Fully resolved tannins. Savoury. A little thin on first sip but it filled out with some air.
Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Aux Beaux Bruns, 2012
A good reminder of why top-end burgundy is still worth seeking out - lovely at beginning, middle and end. Wonderful perfumed nose, silky texture, fresh and fruity on entry, “lovely slice of acid”, “nice density in the mid palate”. Can anywhere else in the world deliver pinot noir that comes close to this? There, I’ve said it
Gilles Barge, Cote-Rotie Cuvee du Plessy, 2001
We were in the thickets of glory now. A most amazing northern Rhone syrah smell that jumped out of the glass and punched you in the nose: gamey, meaty, blood, iron, tar, leather, seaweed, “so bad it’s good”. I’m pretty sure ‘feral’ was used. I could smell this all night and not bother about drinking it - but we forced ourselves, and the palate was so alive for a 20-year old wine - fresh, with savouriness and fruit (roasted plums?). Maybe it faded a bit on the middle and the finish seemed short after the burgundies, but this was a great example of the unique qualities and longevity of Cote-Rotie.
Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, 1994
Andre warned us not to expect too much from this and, expectations duly lowered, we were amazed how vigorous and tasty this was. I thought the nose was muted after the Cote-Rotie but others disagreed and with some air it opened into a more refined version of that same meaty, savoury, leathery syrah smell. Richer and smoother than the Cote-Rotie, still some tannins, it was sweet on first entry with a very pleasant liquorice element. Really delicious and a brilliant chance to drink fully mature Hermitage.
Domaine du Cayron, Gigondas, 2013
Majority grenache with (from memory) c 15% syrah and 14% cinsault, with just a touch of mourvedre. Again, sweeter and richer than the previous wines, did not have the complexity of the northern Rhones but was drinking beautifully with a lovely velvety texture.
Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes, 1972
A real treat to finish: a 50 year-old Sauternes that was still fresh, with beautifully integrated acid alongside the pineapple and honey. My notes at this point were limited to ‘colour’ and ‘fresh’, the photo will have to suffice. An amazing opportunity that does not come round too often and special vote of thanks to Andre for bringing this in addition to the Ermitage.
Wine of the night (excluding the Rieussec which was in a class of its own): by popular acclaim, the Cote-Rotie, with the Barthod and Ermitage close runners-up.