An evening of interesting wines

This is officially my first blog post…. I have never been much of a blogger as I come from the generation that narrowly missed the internet revolution. However, I thought I would finally put pen to paper (or keyboard to internet…) in the hope that I will be able to add some insight into wines and the wine trade and hopefully provide some interesting and entertaining stories along the way.   

As such, I thought I would use a very memorable dinner I attended a couple of weeks ago to start. A few wine trade colleagues and I met up to share some great food (lamb cooked sous vide for two days which was absolutely delicious) and 13 different wines. They were:

Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, JJ Prum 2007, Mosel, Germany

Meursault Grands Charrons, Boisson-Vadot 2009 (Magnum), Burgundy, France

Meursault, Boisson-Vadot 2007, Burgundy, France

Laville Haut Brion 1992, Bordeaux, France

Ducru Beaucaillou 1986, Bordeaux, France

Grand Puy Lacoste 1982, Bordeaux, France

Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Clos des Papes 2003, Rhone, France

Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee, Pegau 1989, Rhone, France

Tertre Rotebeouf 1999, Bordeaux, France

Gazin 1982, Bordeaux, France

Dominus Estate 2001, Napa Valley, USA

Mr K Noble Man 2003, Central Valley, USA

Rieussec 1998, Bordeaux, France

An interesting selection to say the least! We kicked off with the Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, JJ Prum 2007 which showed lovely purity and lime fruit. Perfectly balanced and mouth-watering, it served as a good primer for the two excellent White Burgundies which followed. Firstly, we had the Meursault Grands Charrons, Boisson-Vadot 2009 from magnum. Boisson-Vadot has made quite a name for himself over the past few years by making delicious, serious Chardonnays from his multitude of lieux-dits and 1ers Crus in Meursault. I am not really a fan of 2009 White Burgundies as I feel they have a bit too much fat and not enough refreshing acidity, but as is usual in Burgundy, a top producer can defy the general style of a vintage. This was certainly an example of a wine which has retained freshness and purity in an otherwise difficult vintage for whites. We then moved on to the Meursault, Boisson-Vadot 2007which was drinking perfectly on the night. 2007 is a lovely white wine vintage in Burgundy and the wine had it all – subtle use of spicy oak, minerality, great balance and a very interesting nose which benefited from its age. Excellent.

We then adjourned to the table and opened the Laville Haut Brion 1992 which sadly had had its day. Mature Laville Haut Brion can be one of the most interesting white wines in the world – the combination of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc intermixed with oak can produce some stunning wines. Unfortunately, this was not to be on the night and the wine had completely oxidised.

With the whites over and the lamb served, we moved on to the reds. To begin, we poured the Ducru Beaucaillou 1986. This was a perfectly stored, ex-chateau bottle which showed its provenance. A very well made wine, it had classic St Julien flavours of dark cherries and blackcurrant with the usual hints of spice and smoke. I was not completely enamoured by this – an example of a very good wine with all the parts in place but unfortunately the sum of the parts was just a little dull.

Next we had the Grand Puy Lacoste 1982. I am unashamedly a huge fan of Grand Puy Lacoste and this lived up to all my expectations. It was nothing short of absolutely delicious. Everything one would want in Pauillac – dark brooding fruit and a full-bodied, ripe palate. I could have drunk this all night…

But alas, with the bottle finished, we moved on to the Chateauneuf du Papes. I will commence this paragraph by stating that as a rule, and contrary to most of the wine-drinking public, I don’t really like Grenache. In my opinion, it lacks purity and as it ages, the leather and spice take over and all fruit is lost. There are of course exceptions to this rule, notably Chateau Rayas, but in general, I don’t really buy wines made from Grenache unless they are cheap and cheerful like a good, young Cotes du Rhone. The first wine was Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Clos des Papes 2003. This was awarded 97 points by Robert Parker and 98 points by Jeb Dunnock, the new Rhone critic for the Wine Advocate. They certainly tried something very different to us. The nose smelled of nail polish remover (a tell-tale sign of volatile acidity, a common problem in a vintage like 2003 where the pH and alcohol level are high making the wines unstable) and the wine was pretty much undrinkable. Rumour has it that there are two batches of this wine (due to two different bottling runs), one which is excellent and one which has completely fallen apart. Unfortunately, it seems we had the displeasure of having a bottle from the latter! The next wine, Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee, Domaine de Pegau 1989 was very good. Grenache the way it should be – hints of leather, spice, garrigue but importantly, it had ripe, juicy fruit on the palate and a normal alcohol level – something which is pretty rare nowadays.

We then moved on to Tertre Roteboeuf 1999, which was on impeccable form. Lovely, silky and ripe Merlot fruit dominated both the nose and palate. This was so easy to drink it was verging on dangerous. Francois Mitjavile makes great wines year in and year out and the 1999 was no exception.

Next we had Gazin 1982. Gazin is an odd Pomerol in that I find it usually lacks the hedonism and ripeness of most Pomerols but it does always show the breed that comes from proper terroir. Though it is a 1982, this was no blockbuster and I don’t think I would have placed it as a 1982 if I had had it blind. It tasted more like a 1988 to me – a classic Bordeaux vintage with refreshing acidity and good structure. A food wine, it went very well with the various cheeses which accompanied it.

We finished off the reds with Dominus Estate 2001. The reason we drank this was largely down to me – I argued that Dominus did not make great wines between 1994 and 2007 and this was vehemently refuted by pretty much everyone at the table. Fortunately, our host remembered he had a bottle of the 2001 in the cellar and promptly opened it in an effort to prove me wrong. When first opened, all I could smell was Bovril and not a hint of ripe Californian fruit. I quickly declared myself the winner of the argument but I had spoken to soon…. The wine started changing rapidly in the glass and within minutes it showed lovely dark red fruits and pencil lead on the nose. The palate was structured yet broad and had a lovely balance – a real mix of the New and Old World. It was delicious and I had to concede defeat...   

And then, the sweet wines. First we had the Mr K Noble Man 2003 which was excellent. This is made from botrytised Chardonnay which you don’t come across very often. A joint effort by Manfred Krankl (of Sine Qua Non, producer of some of the US’s greatest wines) and the late Alois Kracher (producer of some of the greatest sweet wines made anywhere in the world), it showed an unctuous, honeyed and caramel nose with a thick, oily textured palate. This is heady stuff with 278 grams per litre of sugar but it is balanced by good acidity which in my book makes for a very good sweet wine indeed. And finally Rieussec 1998. 1998 is not a particularly great Sauternes vintage but Rieussec always delivers rich and ripe honeyed fruit and this was no exception.

All in all, a very fun evening with great conversation, food and wines. One of the many perks of working in the wine trade is having evenings like this…. Thank you very much to EB for hosting and cooking, TM for organising and to all for providing some great wines. 

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