Saturday, 9 October 2010

Celebrating 25 years of marriage with good friends, good wine and good food

TLD and I celebrated 25 years of marriage whilst on holiday in the Mosel Valley last week. A couple of days after we got back, we gathered with a few close friends at Amarone Restaurant in Nottingham, for an evening of wines primarily from the 1980's, including three from 1985 itself. And a lovely evening it turne out to be. With us were Bernard Caille, David and Lucy Bennett, Andy Leslie and Jo Fitzhenry, and our long-time friends Anton and Diane Lambert. Anton was Best Man at our wedding, whilst Diane was one of TLD's bridesmaids, so it was a real thrill to meet up with them again. Although we still meet up occasionally, it doesn't happen nearly enough.

Anyway, Amarone once again treated us to some nice food (and indeed offered free corkage, which is always welcome). But the food was almost incidental, as the company and the wines were what it was all about.

Clockwise, from the front; Anton, Leon, Diane, TLD, Jo, Andy, Bernard, David and Lucy

Diane Lambert with TLD - two beauties who have stood the test of time!

So what of the wines? Well, since the evening was all about enjoying ourselves, I resisted the urge to make any tasting notes, so any comments are purely from memory (except for a couple, which I took home at the end) - as is the line-up, which included;

The Wine Society Champagne NV
I was part of a team that won a "Call My Bluff" tasting competition held by The Wine Society at the Albert Hall in Nottingham a couple of years ago, and we each received a bottle of this as our prize. A bit of bottle age has seen it mature into a very nice wine, which got the evening off to a nice start.

Hurst Fehres-Willems Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese 1985 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Believe it or not, I picked this up only last week at the Brauneberg Wine Festival. Aromas of wet slate, lime oil and marmalade. Although the palate may have lost its youthful gusto, there is still some fruit left, with nice marmalade flavours and bags of acidity. Not a great Riesling, but a nice one. And, of course, from "our" year. And a complete steal at 9 Euros!

Chateau de La Roche aux Moines 1986 Savennieres Clos de La Coulée de Serrant Madame Joly
One of the great vintages from this famous Loire estate, and still full of steely minerality, with lemon and herb-infused primary and tertiary flavours and a very long finish. Indeed, it is a very fine wine, but absolutely bone dry, so the preceding (off-dry) Riesling probably did it no favours on the night. A wine for contemplation.

Agricola Querciabella Batar 1996 IGT Toscana
This is a wine that always impresses. An Italian take on Burgundy, with lots of secondary, oaky, toffee aromas and flavours and plenty of complexity. Lovely wine.

Torres Gran Coronas 1985 Penedes
Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, which is undoubtedly entering its dotage, but still with plenty to offer in the way of secondary red and black fruit flavours, cedar and tea. Holding up well (like TLD and I) after 25 years!

Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva 1985 Rioja
In terms of sheer quality and vinous enjoyment, this was probably the wine of the night. Still full of forest fruits and hints of spice and wood, it was fresh as a daisy, yet complex and oh-so elegant. It deserves a proper tasting note, but I don't have one. I just know that, at 25 years old, it was absolutely bang on form and a joy to drink.

Chateau Musar 1990 Lebanon
Not a good bottle at all - cheesy and cabbagey, and clearly somewhat oxidised. I'd like to think that it was bottle variation (for which Musar is notorious) rather than vintage. Pity, because I love Musar.

Chateau Musar 1991 Lebanon
This was much more like it. In my opinion (though David seems to disagree) this was on good form. In fact, I took the remnants of the bottle home and enjoyed it several days later! Stewed fruits, beetroot and tobacco aromas, with a vey healthy waft of volatile acidity. Loaded with secondary fruit and citrus flavours, hints of wild herbs and a subtle savouriness. And lots of VA. Trademark Musar, with years of life left in it. Lovely!

Domaine de Trévallon 1988 Les Coteaux d'Aix en Provence Les Baux
Unfortunately, I have little in the way of detailed recollection of this bottle, except to say that it was on good, if not great form. One of my favourite vintages from one of my very favourite growers. perhaps Andy Leslie (who brought this bottle) can elaborate.

Domaine de Trévallon 1990 Les Coteaux d'Aix en Provence Les Baux
I brought this one, which I had been saving for just such a special occasion, and I have to say that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. There certainly wasn't anything particularly wrong with it - it just didn't have that "wow" factor. Again, perhaps Andy (who is as big a fan of this estate as I am) can add something.

Kuentz-Bas Tokay Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive Cuvée Caroline 1990 Alsace
I also took home the remnants of this half-bottle, so actually have a tasting note(!) Not an awful lot on the nose, with perhaps just a touch of orange and honey. The palate is much mor expressive, and nicely rich, with seville orange, caramelised peel and again a touch of honey, with some really good underlying acidity. It coats the tongue with velvety flavours of toffee apple, stewed plums and apricot. It isn't hugely complex, but the balance is superb and the length impressive.

Quinta de Vargellas 1988 Port
Not a "declared" vintage, but a "single quinta" Port from a nonetheless good year. It does exactly what it says on the bottle, and is actually a very good wine, if you are a Port lover - which none of us necessarily are (I think we all agree that Port is just too spiritous, per-se). Having said that, I think that this could be really good in another 20 years, when the fruit has rotted-down and the alcohol will be more subtle and integrated. For the moment, it is all very primary and young(!)

There were a couple of other wines that I didn't note the full details of - a 1999 red Burgundy (David - please fill in the gaps) and a rather intense sticky from the Loire (Bernard - ditto, please).

All-in all, a lovely evening, enjoyed with some lovely people. Let's do it all again in another 25 years! ;-))


David Bennett- Optometrist and Contact Lens Practitioner said...

Leon, the 88 Trevallon I thought was on fine form. The 99 Burg was a Volnay 1er cru from Compte Armand and just not ready by some stretch! It clearly is going through a funny adolescent gawky phase!

Andy Leslie said...

I thought the Trevallon 1988 was in magnificent form! Jo & I both had a tot while we waited for everyone else to arrive and at that point it was aromatic and beautiful with vibrant vitality and evolved earthy meaty notes too. Maybe it just got lost for you in the welter of wines later in the evening, 'cos I thought it stood-up well for the whole evening. For me it was better than the 1990 but only because I think the 1990 needs a few more years to show at its best.

I loved the Tondonia as well - the most complete wine of the night, for me.

The sweetie that Bernard brought was Patrick Baudouin Coteaux du Layon 2001. It seemed a bit awkward and disjointed and I wondered it was an odd bottle - I rate Baudouin's wines and I have a few of this wine, so I'm hoping they're not falling apart....

Thanks for the report and pics of a lovely night.