Sunday, 1 November 2009

An evening of lovely wines to celebrate a friend's 60th birthday

Around 24 members of Nottingham Wine Circle gathered at The Pretty Orchid restaurant on Friday evening, to celebrate the 60th birthday of our friend and fellow member, Mieke Hudson (centre of the photo). As ever, the standard of the wines was very high - as I've said before, these people are never less than extremely generous in sharing the fruits of their cellars. I was a little late in arriving (why do most of the problems with the tram system seem to coincide with my trips into Nottingham?) so I actually missed the first few wines. Nevertheless, I was able to sample at least 22 different wines - and, apart from a few uninspiring Bordeaux (and we are talking classed-growths, here!) there was hardly a dud amongst them. Because we were also busy eating, my notes are necessarily brief.........

Chateau de La Roche-aux-Moines Clos de La Coulée de Serrant 1986 - Savennieres Coulée de Serrant was first up and was bang on form, being an early contender for white wine of the night. All nettles, wet wool, lemony fruit and minerality on the nose, still tight and delineated on the palate - long and oh-so complex. I'm pleased that I still have around a dozen bottles left, to enjoy over the next 10 or 20 years.

Francois Cotat Le Grande Cote 2000 Sancerre was lovely stuff - dry, fruity and with nice balance and super length. Perhaps a touch of bitterness on the finish, but (even at 9 years old) with a lot of development left in it.

Willi Brundlemeyer Zobinger Heilingenstein Riesling 1997 was delicious - aromatic, very minerally, packed with flavours of citrus fruit, herbs and spices and huge length. Superb.

Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spatlese 1997 was textbook stuff. Tightly-structured, but with some generous fruit and a touch of residual sugar providing a counter to the mouth-watering acidity and steely minerality. A cracking wine.

I didn't manage to take a note on the Zind-Humbrecht Clos Hauserer Riesling 2002 Alsace, but recall that it was somewhat lighter (and less alcoholic) than most Z-H wines tend to be - and all the more enjoyable for it.

Vincent Lumpp La Grande Berge 2007 Givry 1er Cru was on great form, with vibrant fruit, minerality and nicely-integrated oak providing a glimpse of how good Cote Chalonnaise Burgundy can be. Not that I brought it (the 1986 Coulée de Serrant was my white contribution) but you can buy this wine from my website, at the bargain price of just £14.95.

Again, I didn't take a note on the Jean Pascal Puligny-Montrachet 2007, but it was enjoyable village Burgundy, although consumed far too early in its evolution.

Onto the reds, and Chateau Fombrage 1988 St. Emilion was the ideal wine - if only to get it out of the way as early as possible! For me, it was dry, austere and totally lacking in charm.

Domaine Bachelot Vieilles Vignes 1997 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, on the other hand, was proper wine. Amazingly perfumed, combining notes of flowers, fruit, savoury (notably beef) and chocolate. The palate was already soft and silky and approaching maturity. If I'm being hyper-critical, it was perhaps just a touch light (but I'm being picky). A delightful wine.

Torres Gran Coronas Reserva 1985 Penedes was my wine. On opening this, I was somewhat unimpressed, thinking it was a bit dried-out and past its drinking plateau (so much so that I brought another red wine with me). How wrong I was - it is indeed a fading old dame of a wine, but it grew in the glass, revealing some nice secondary fruit flavours, a touch of savouriness and notes of sous-bois and tea. Not a great wine, but a very very good one - and so much more enjoyable and elegant than the other Cabernet-based (i.e. Bordeaux) wines on show. As 1985 was the year Diane and I got married, I am pleased to still have 2 or 3 bottles left for our 25th anniversary celebration next year.

Torres Mas La Plana Gran Coronas 1994 Penedes provided an interesting comparison, if only to further highlight how well the 1985 had evolved. I may be wrong, but I'm not sure there is any mileage left in the 1994, which was still quite tannic, but lacking in fruit and charm.

Next up was another Bordeaux, Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1989 Saint Estephe - and another disappointing wine. There was plenty of the classic cedar and graphite stuff going on with the nose, but the palate was dry, austere and lacking in fruit. Considering this is a Second Growth, it really was not a great advert for expensive Bordeaux.

Chateau La Lagune 1985 Haut Médoc had much more in the way of fruit, along with notes of green pepper, cedar and spice. It has stood the test of time much better than the 1989 Cos, but it is (for me at least) a bit boring.

Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse 1995 Paulliac was next up. What can I say? Basically, it was like sucking on a band aid plaster. Fruitless, joyless and pretty pointless. Which only served to confirm my opinion that 90% of Bordeaux wines (including the classed growths) are Emperor's New Clothes.

And so back to proper wine, with Noel Verset Cornas 1996. An incredible bouquet (almost in the literal sense) of violets, lilies and roses. The palate didn't quite live up to the nose, being a touch on the light side, but there was still plenty of interest, with classic Syrah fruit profile, resolved tannins, minerality and juicy acidity. Not a great Verset Cornas, but a good one, which is drinking perfectly right now.

Les Cailloux 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also drinking beautifully. A touch stinky/farmyardy, and with a touch of acetone - perhaps a sign of the hot year. Packed full of warm, juicy, mouth-filling southern Rhone fruit and spice. Long, warming and open for business - and one of the best 1998 Chateauneufs.

J L Chave Hermitage 1995 was, of course, a real treat. The 1982 and 1983, tasted a couple of years back, rank amongst the greatest wines I have ever had the privilege of tasting - and this 1995 has the potential to rank right up there with them. It took a little time to really open up (it is still on the young side, after all) but it is already soft and seductive, with true complexity and balance. A perfect marriage of fruit, tannin and acidity, with a touch of peppery spice and classic northern Rhone florality. Young, but poised, yet with years of development left in it. A potentially great wine, and I hope I am lucky enough to taste another one some day.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraph 1993 Chateauneuf-du-Pape was my own final contribution and showed really well in such esteemed company. Although not from a great year in Chateauneuf, it is full of fruit, complex and balanced - a touch rustic in comparison to the Chave Hermitage, but what wine wouldn't be? And at 16 years old, it too still has some way to go before it reaches its peak.

Croft 1977 Vintage Port was light, elegant, well-balanced and warm without being hot or spiritous. I'm not a great fan of Port, but this was really nice.

Cockburns 1983 Vintage Port was also quite decent, though a bit clumsy in comparison. A bit young, perhaps, but will never be great.

Finally, Domaine des Baumard Clos Ste. Catherine 1989 Coteaux du Layon. I've enjoyed various vintages of this wine and rarely have they failed to excite the senses. And this one was no different, with an amazing nose - a riot of sweet-smelling fruit, with sweaty cheese and savoury nuances. The palate is unctiously sweet and mouth-coating, but it is held in check by wonderful acidity and classic Chenin Blanc minerality. And at 20 years old, it has literally decades of development left in it. In my opinion, this is Baumard's best sweet cuvée, with slightly less intensity than the Quarts de Chaume, but more elegance. A lovely wine to finish a lovely evening. Happy 60th, Mieke!


Anonymous said...

Very nice tasting eh. Appreciate the Loire notes.

Alberta Bob.

Andy Leslie said...

A great night - thanks for taking notes and pics.

The Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin 1997 was easy WOTN for me - really a country mile ahead of everything else - even the Chave, which I felt needed MUCH more time to show well.

Unusually, there were lots more impressive whites than reds for me, overall. The Coulee de Serrant, the Egon Muller, Raveneau Chablis and the Lumpp Givry all really impressive.

What the Raveneau and the Muller said to me was that while I don't particularly care for either Chablis or German riesling.... when they are from the very top producers they can be magnificent!