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 12/7/2012 (Jade Palace, Forum Galleria)
 

 

One year has flown by in record pace, and the group reconvened in Jade Palace for the second installment in our ambitiously named series of annual dinner. As would be expected, tremendous wines all round, perhaps just marred by a couple of flawed bottles. Quite surprisingly, in the midst of some really solid Burgundies, white and red, it was a 1962 Mouton and the couple of sweets that really stole the show for me. Cheers to a good year past and to a better one ahead!

 

MAGNUM OF BUBBLY

  • 1996 Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut Millésimé - France, Champagne, Ambonnay, Champagne
    Quite a few posters have written that this seems to be going downhill. However, en magnum tonight, this was a world away from being tired - if anything, it seemed way too young to drink. A very rich Champagne, it had a big, expressive nose of oxidative apple and white meat aromas at the fore, then a core of preserved lemons and figs, dried flowers and a touch of honey, leading into a nice minerally streak running through the bouquet - a very broad, rather complex nose. The palate, however, while clearly developed, still carried a lot of the stern, youthful acidity of the 1996 vintage, with a firm, tingly, even sharp backbone running through otherwise ripe, rich flavours of red apples, figs and lemons. Still really tight, this only picked up some nuance and complexity towards the finish, where the ripe fruit petered out and some lingering touches of herb, mineral and dried flowers emerged alongside the bright acidity and citrus fruit. Even two hours in a glass did not budge this much, allowing for a touch more fleshy white fruit to show up, but not much more. All in all, this was a good Champagne, full of character, especially for those who like the Egly-Ouriet style, but in this format, it will need at least 5 to 6 years more. (92 pts.)

THE FULL MONTY

  • 1998 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Very good - this was drinking very nicely on the night. I loved the nose here, with its lovely scents of honey and caramel, apple and pear, with a nice floral back-lift and minerally wafts of gunflint and seashell. The palate was not quite as strong as the nose promised perhaps, but still very nice, with gently sweet notes of apples and lemons layered with a touch of honey and a bit of sweet oak. Nicely integrated, decently balanced and focused, with a tremendous bit of acidity ending in a quietly lengthy finish of gentle minerality and lemony notes - this classy wine was a real pleasure to drink, even if I did think it lacked a bit of x-factor to make it a truly great wine. Very nice stuff though, and great with food as well. (93 pts.)
  • 1997 Marc Colin et Fils Bâtard-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Very good, but a bit clumsy for a Montrachet, especially straight out of the bottle. On first pour, it showed a big, creamy nose, with buttery vanilla creme aromas, ripe scents of pineapples and stone fruit, and a touch of toasted oak. It was almost sweet, certainly aggressive, with just a small but growing bit of earthy mineral scents pulling it back somewhat from being almost new-worldly. I liked the palate more than the nose here. Also big, also ripe, with rich yellow fruited notes on the attack, this was quite a weighty bruiser compared with the elegant Leflaive BBM on the same flight. However, it was rather more controlled than I feared on the first sip, with a nice minerality and well-woven acidity keeping the palate balanced and focused all the way into a long, powerful finish, where juicy lemon fruit mingled with a good bit of spice and a lick of oak. Good, but rather unconvincing as a Grand Cru at first, this kept improving with time, until it integrated very nicely, showing in a lovely stream of white fruit and cream. It still lacked the cut and focus of a great Monty, but I did find myself enjoying this quite a bit by the end of the evening. This is good to go now, but do give it some time in the glass. (92 pts.)

50-YEAR OLDS

  • 1962 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    I loved this - it was not quite the complete wine, but boy was it a wonderful drink. This had an absolutely beautiful nose, with layers of roasted earth, tobacco and spice, dried oysters and lovely sweet scents of dried cherries. Wow, just wonderful complex stuff. The palate was beautifully elegant too, with the silkiest tannins and lovely fresh acidity lapping against a light core of dried red cherries and dates, with a touch of sour plum on the midpalate. This was a classic old Rioja - light-bodied, floaty, almost ethereal, yet it still had nicely persistent flavours, with gusts of smoke and mineral drifting beautifully across dried fruited notes in the finish. A bit on the shorter side maybe, but still a real charmer. Lovely stuff - a wonderfully resolved, matured, silky wine, drinking superbly well at 50 years of age. (94 pts.)
  • 1962 Château Mouton Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Mind-blowingly good - this was the wine of the night in the midst of an absolutely stellar line-up. What an amazing nose it had, with waves of damp earth and mushroomy undergrowth, deep whiffs of cassis and black plums, a draw of tobacco and a little hint of damp cedar. Really, really beautiful. But if anything, the palate was even better. Completely en pointe and ridiculously delicious, it showed pure, sweet, sappy gobs of cassis and black cherries swathed in velvety tannins and perfectly integrated acidity, opening up into a full, fleshy midpalate where the pure fruit was met with savoury, umami notes of undergrowth and meat. The silky finish then glided away with complex nuances of tobacco and earth. This was a classic Mouton, and an absolutely brilliant one at that. A complete wine with all its parts - acidity, structure and fruit - in perfect balance. Absolutely wonderful. It faded rather quickly after 20 minutes, with the fruit thinning out over the structural remnants of the wine, but it was a marvel when poured. Best Bordeaux I have had this year. (96 pts.)

THE TOP 1ER CRUS

  • 1979 Domaine Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
    A classic Chambolle and a classic Les Amoureuses, this was a delightful wine. Popped and poured, it had very pretty, high-toned nose, with perfumy notes of dried dates and cherries, sweet plummy aromas and a lovely wreathe of violets and roses. What a wonderful palate too. It had Groffier's typically generous fruit - with sappy cherries on the attack and pure, high-toned raspberry and dried strawberry flavours floating across the midpalate on a bed of silky tannins and fresh acidity - but this was also pure Chambolle in its effortless elegance. Very pretty on the finish too, with a nice waft of fresh cut flowers and a touch of brambly herb and spice. Like the 1962 Mouton that preceded it, this was lovely while it lasted, but it too nosedived after some 20 minutes in the glass, going positively herby with the fruit receding into the background. It was really enjoyable while it lasted though. Great stuff. (93 pts.)
  • 1983 Remoissenet Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
    The first of two tragically flawed wines, this was Madeirised, with a lot of port-like flavours and aromas of liquered cherries, chocolates and raisins. Pity, because this seemed to have been well-balanced, well-structured and long, with a good bit of depth too. (FLAWED)

A MILLENIIUM PAIRING

  • 2000 Domaine Leroy Clos Vougeot - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    An excellent Clos Vougeot, and some on the table were really taken by the wine. To my taste though, this was a very good, rather than great wine, possibly needing more time in the bottle to truly show its strength. We had a very typical Leroy here, with a complex whole-bunch nose showing lots of brambly, spicey, herby, woody scents on first pour. With time, it opened up with beautifully sweet notes of dried cherries and strawberries with a little whiff of toasty winter melon and sweet oak at the sides. The palate was right up Mme Lalou's alley as well - full, sappy and powerful, with tons of ripe cherries and strawberries, this almost seemed to want to announce from the get-go that it was a true Grand Cru, with the depth and weight to prove it. It was not just about the powerful fruit though - the wine was also underlined with a lovely amount of velvety tannins and bright acidity, especially for a 2000, and chased by nicely complex nuances of meat and bramble and spice in a superb finish. This had both power and grace, but needs time yet. At the moment, one got a sense that there is a good amount of lovely material here, but it was not showing its full potential yet. I would broach this again in say 5 years' time - this is one of those wines that may take a quantum leap in quality when it hits its stride. (93 pts.)
  • 2000 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    I was so frustrated at this bottle. The last one we had several years back was absolutely fantastic. This was flawed. Not irredeemably so, but enough to turn a great wine into a middling one. On the nose, the dreaded TCA note of wet cardboard floated above a Burgundian mix of red cherry aromas, truffles and spice. After that, the palate was still surprisingly strong, fighting the flaw, but not quite succeeding, with elegant notes of red cherries, berries and a touch of spice still showing pretty well. Unfortunately, this was a million miles away from the fantastic bottle we had a few years back, with the flavours thinned out into something rather more one-dimensional. Sigh. (FLAWED)

THE BIG GUNS

  • 1988 Henri Jayer Echezeaux - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru
    I really wanted to shower this wine with my love, but in the end, it was very good rather than astounding. It did have a lovely nose, with wonderful notes of black cherries and dark berries surrounded by a halo of spice and meat, bramble and undergrowth - really nice stuff. On the palate, however, this showed both the strength and the weaknesses of the 1988 vintage. It had a lovely elegant feel for an Echezeaux, with firm but super-fine tannins and lovely, juicy 1998 acidity dancing around fine flavours of black cherries and blackberries. This had a lot of depth, but also a fine purity and clarity to it, with a certain precision that seems to go missing in less deftly handled wines from this vineyard. However, it finished rather weaker than it started, with the fruit fading a little at the backpalate, so that the wine seemed almost too fresh, too crunchy in its bright acidity and tannins, ending with a hint of 1988 dryness weaving its way through a little layer of ripe black fruit touched with spice and a hint of bramble. Overall, an excellent Echezeaux. However, this is neither the best I have drank, nor anywhere near that. A great experience, but as much for the Jayer name as for the quality of the wine. On a side note, even though I thought that it may have been a little better a few years back, this bottle was still going pretty strong. (92 pts.)
  • 1983 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
    This was a lovely wine, just starting to slip a bit I think, but really yummy on the night. We had a very matured nose with this one, with plenty of herb and bramble scents floating like a halo around sweeter notes of dried cherries and raspberries, with a touch of black tea and just a bit of flowers rounding up the bouquet. Very attractive. The palate was completely evolved, and nicely yummy, with little touches of flower and spice dancing around a juicy core of ripe cherries and ripe berries. With a bit of air, the midpalate blossomed nicely, to show a meaty, masculine notes leading into more bramble and herb and lots of toasty spice flavours in long finish still wrapped with a fine cloak of tannins. This was quite in the perfect place for drinking I thought, but it is nearing the end of its peak window and should be drank up soon. Excellent wine though, with much of the table preferring this to the 1988 Jayer Echezeaux in the same flight. (93 pts.)

YOUNG ONES

  • 1986 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Pretty good, this has improved somewhat from the bottle we had 4 years ago, but still needs quite a bit of time in the bottle. It had a really nice nose, with a drift toasty earth, some meat touches, lots of ripe cassis aromas, and then a nice bit of roasted capsicums and lifted tobacco notes. The palate was still amazingly young, with fine, but tightly grained tannins coiled around a core of clenched cassis and dark berry flavours. While it was still rather primary on the attack, the midpalate was more nuanced, with a touch of spice and tobacco lingering into the finish, where the fresh acidity of the wine really shone through. This was clearly one of those 1986s that seem as though they may never come around. While it certainly had a bit more going on than in the previous outing, it still lacks a bit of complexity. All said, it is pretty good though - it is one to try again in another 5 years' time, though one gets a feeling that 10 years would be closer to the mark. I only hope that the fruit lasts as long as the rather stern structure. (92 pts.)
  • 1998 Château Angélus - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very good, if a bit on the modern side, but this was way too young. The nose was a world away from any of the gentle, complex bouquets of the matured wines we had. Here, a touch of oak shaded still really rich aromas of dark plums and black cherries, alongside some dried earth, and a touch of tabocco and a bit of spice. Very nice, if a bit obvious at the moment. The palate too, was still really young, showing rather primary and a bit unyielding even after a couple of hours in the glass. I liked the feel of the wine though, with its clean, cool flavours of dark cherries and blackberries showing quite a bit of ripe richness, but also a really nice fresh balance, with fine tannins and good acidity leading into a long finish of cool black fruits seasoned with a touch of spice. I would not touch this now, not even with well-paired food. It is a good wine though, with lots of lovely raw material - give it another 10 to 15 years and it could be something quite special. (92 pts.)

A SWEET END

  • 1989 Domaine Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    A remarkable wine - one of the best sweets I have had this year. It had one of those noses that makes you go wow the moment you stick your nose in the glass - fresh, lively, and super complex, with layers of honey and treacle and spice, on a bed of fresh apples and dried apricot aromas, a twist of lemons and just a tiny bit of lanolin as a reminder that we were in Chenin Blanc territory. The palate was equally wonderful. It was full, fleshy, complex and brilliantly integrated. However, what was most amazing about this for me was the sheer purity of the flavours here in spite of the wine's great depth and weight, with supple, almost melting acidity caressing delightful flavours caramelised apples, dried figs and apricots - it was so astoundingly balanced that it seemed lithe, graceful and effortlessly elegant. There was a great amount of energy on it too, with an undercurrent of more citrussy lemon drops driving the wine into a super-long finish, with lots of honey and spice filling the backpalate along with subtler nuances of orange blossom and Chantilly cream. Amazing stuff, all finally underlined by a glint of steely minerality. This is probably ageless and can go on for decades on end, but boy was it good on the night. (95 pts.)
  • 1880 Whitwham Porto Millennium - Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Wow. Supposedly a Colheita dating back to the late 1800s and bottled in 2001 by Niepoort, this was incredibly good - together with the 1989 Huët Cuvée Constance, the pair of sweets really ended the night on a one-two knockout punch. This had the best nose of the night, with layer after beautiful layer of treacle and caramel and cocoa butter and liquered chocolate aromas just tumbling out of the glass ahead of just slightly more laidback scents of black cherries, earth and mineral. Wonderful stuff, with not a whiff of alcohol in there at all. Jawdroppingly good on the palate too, this showed profound depth in its rich flavours of dark chocolate coated over a reservoir of black cherries and dried cranberries, rasisins and berries, along with slightly oxidative Colheita notes of apple and fig skin notes, all leading into vast earthy, minerally depth with reams of Christmas spice coating the mouth in one of the greatest finishes of any wine I have ever had. This clung to the palate for minutes. However, for all that profound depth and complexity, it was actually the balance and purity in the wine that made it really special. It was so wonderfully balanced and poised, with a fresh liveliness that belied its weight, keeping it immsensely drinkable, with a not a whiff of alcohol to disturb the overall shape of the wine. This was tremendous - a great port, and a great way to end the night. (96 pts.)

 


 
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