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North London group

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.


Couldn’t have said any better.


I suggest we try to find a date around the last week of September to have another one. There were a few who could not attend this time that I am sure will now be convinced that it’s good way to spend a few hours mid-week.


Definitely an acquired taste, but possibly the most intriguing / unexpected wine on the palate, last evening. Though, on the nose, it was just wet newspaper.


At this age, and having purchased it in an auction (although from a reputable house), it is always a punt. At least it was not a case of “Lot 49, case of 11”.


were you guys seated inside? outside?

I would have liked to join, (I’m in St Johns Wood - so very close to you Andre if NW3 is related to your post-code ), but now I see the wines I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with you all on the quality level!

Looks like a great selection.

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I am in the same vicinity as you, but it was not practical for me this time (so did not raise my hand, but why I am also still curious about the practical details for next time maybe)

What a fantastic wine this was. Superb producer.


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Yes, I am in NW3, so 2 stops on the Jubilee line, give or take.

Outside, but sheltered. You can kind of see the settings here. Sheltered terrace open on all sides.

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thanks I can see indeed.

I guess the wines could get warm quite quickly ( it reminds me my times in SE Asia… drinking wine outside in similar temperatures)

They could, but the folks at Crouch End Cellars did a spectacular job. Provided coolers, kept our wines in the fridge, supplied both small tasting glasses and top-end wine glasses, plus decanters. We also had some high-end cork extraction apparatus, that made a breeze of even the most challenging of corks (Rieussec 1972). There was really nothing left wanting, I assure you.


glad to hear! they seem indeed to have to an exceptional job

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It was also a bargain at less than £35 all-in including 4 generous boards of cheese and charcuterie (including a Taleggio which inspired almost as much enthusiasm as the wines).

I thought we got lucky/managed the temperatures rather well in the end. I was a bit worried about it but didn’t notice any of the wines feeling too warm.



Interesting link, thanks. Less than 6 hectares of vines!


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WOW!! amazing line up and sounds like you all had a fabulous time too… Shame I live in the North East…

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Queens Park here. Just around the corner.


Looks fantastic - gutted I couldn’t make it on this occasion! Keen to come along in the future.

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That looks absolutely amazing. Shame I couldn’t make it :frowning:

That said - í can’t say my collection has anything as grand as was being served.