Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Lunch @ Koffmann's

Today was a tale of two Burgundies at Koffmann's in the Berkeley Hotel. It was great chance to have a long overdue catch up one of my oldest and best mates in the trade (a clue? He shares his name with a character in some TV show called "The Simpsons" apparently). But also to try Koffmann's which I have heard good things about and been recommended on a few occasions. The service was good, attentive but relaxed and friendly with out being OTT.

Boringly, or sensibly, as it turned out we both went for the very same food Squid Bolognese - where every bit of the dish is made from the squid so what looks like pasta ribbons is not - and Goose...these were both excellent and went well with the two bottles we had. We had agreed I would do red and he would do white.
So white first Corton Charlemagne 2002 from Henri Boillot, I know Corton-Charlemagne well under the guise of Bonneau du Matray but do not know Boillot well. This was slightly how I would imagine a top Meursault producer making Corton would see things (and lets face it Mr Coche Dury does that just a bit well). The bottle was a good one with poise but also richness...very enjoyable and looking good when we revisited it with cheese at the end.

The red I took was Clos de Tart 2001, always nice to have two Grand Crus on a wednesday I find(!!). I have a real soft spot for this wine (and will admit professional bias too) as I think it is a marker for the return of the Domaine to its rightful quality level. Sylvain Pitiot took over running the Domain in 1996 and upped everything immediately but I feel the 2001 is from where you can really see the lift. I also love red 2001 Burgundies generally, they are so "Pinot", so fine and so fragrant and also so wonderfully different from the 2002's, which are more masculine, savoury and animal. This was really singing and all the better for being nicely cool. I am a big fan of Anthony Hanson's (MW) 20 minute Burgundy rule - reds in the fridge for 20 mins and whites come out for 20 mins...makes a great difference to getting everything out of the wine...

Anyway this wasn't meant to be a long post...if you get the chance go to Koffmann's (corkage £22 a bottle)...and I recommend both those wines!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

2009 Sauternes...

Having just been at the UGC (Union de Grand Crus) Bordeaux 2009 tasting I thought I would quickly jot down my thoughts on the Sauternes. There were so many people crammed in around the "big" name reds that I only tasted a few of them that I have a little stock of before realising that it would be a great chance to taste a range Sauternes from one vintage and get a feel for house styles etc. 2009 is not by common agreement a stellar year (like say 2001 or 2007) for Sauternes but it is a good year and a rich one with lots of Botrytis. A few recent bottles of aged (and very high quality) Sauternes have really re-enforced my feeling that these are brilliant wines and in relative terms good value. I have scored them out of 20 to focus my mind.

Bastor Lamontagne - A rich nose but with a good floral edge too, honey and cream the prevalent notes. Fresh and not over the top, I would imagine a high proportion of Sauvignon. Impressive. (17.5)

Climens - Very high levels of Botrytis here, a combination of Crème Brulee and Orange rind on the nose a rich palate two with oak showing bt in a good way, rich and intense style. Opposite style to the Bastor and goes to show why Climens is so highly regarded.(18)

Coutet - Floral on the nose with a note or caramel too, a little simplistic as a whole but still good. (16.5)

de Fargues - Shortbread and honey on the nose, rich and fuller (up there with the Climens on that front) as I always de Fargues to be.a dash of orange rind again as well.(17.75)

Rayne Vigneau - Awful gold label (not that that matters of course). Nose a little subdues but then an uplifting palate with a dash of pineapple.(16)

Doisy Daene - A really sulphurous bottle that made it hard to assess so I will wait for another time, texture seemed good but unfair to score it.(?)

Doisy Vedrines - Very balanced nose with both honey and fruit (tropical and orchard), rich with good acidity there too, impressive, one of the stars.(18)

Guiraud - A serious and slightly closed nose with lots of Botrytis on the plate more than the nose. Very good although somehow I expected more.(17)

La Tour Blanche - Lovely delicately fruited nose, nothing like as bold as Climens or de Fargues, good texture. (16.75)

Nairac - Vanilla and Creme Brulee nose, very full-on, a more oxidative, rancio style, very full and quite old school, hits the ground running, not to be aged in the longer term I'd have thought (but may well be wrong).(16)

Sigalas Ribaud - Good relatively straight-forward nose, good depth, a little simple at this stage, would love to re-taste.(16)

Suduiraut - Very full-on rich creamy nose, lots of Botrytis vanilla notes along with hint of orange rind, sample was a little warmer than it might have been, good wine.(17)

As a range they were impressive and the high Botrytis probably masks the fact that there is also decent underlying acidity. As it is a vintage that will probably move very little in price over the years I look forward to trying them again.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Royal Hospital Road courtesy of "Newcastle"...

Given some of the truly memorable lunches and dinners that I have been lucky enough to go to and the fact that I am only 35 it may seem a little premature to say the below was one of the great lunches of my life but frankly it just was and I am confident it will remain that way. I have been trying to think of how to write it up. There was just so much good food and truly exceptional wine over the nearly 6 hours that it would become tedious or worse arrogant to write it as one great long meal. I think I will do the food then the wines. The menu was selected by "Newcastle" who had done a lot of work on it and provided all the wines. To say this meal was ALL down to him is totally correct and is something I am very grateful for. So the food:

To start Pressed foie gras with peppered Madeira jelly, smoked duck, Peach & almond can see this with the Prums...simply delicious and in the best of proportions.
Up next was Stuffed pig’s trotter with veal sweetbread, parsley, Dijon mustard, warm apple sauce & ‘Waldorf salad’ with reds, don't panic we went back to whites which was a great tactic for a long meal, one for the note book. This was simply amazing, I am not going to describe it as I am too greedy with great food to make notes but it was spot on! Then back to whites we had one of the extreme highs - Fillet of turbot with truffle linguine, Scottish langoustine & cep - which for a bit of an Italianophile like me was stunning, a bit of everything in the dish...with the dry, and German, whites behind us we were into carnivore territory, Roasted grouse, foie gras, savoy cabbage, girolles, liver pâté & bread sauce the wines (two burgs and another wine as below) with this course were fascinatingly diverse and therefore I paid slightly less attention to the food...I can't say that for the next course which was brilliant, very traditional and simple, all the better for it, the sight of several of us gnawing on the bones must have been amusing, the full dish was - Côte de Boeuf, bone marrow, sauce choron and red wine jus from here it was - Selection of cheeses - to mop up the brilliant reds and get started on the Port. I have to say I am not always a fan of cheeses in the middle of a marathon meal but this worked. A brief interlude to wipe the palate came in the form of - Green apple, basil & lime sorbet & wild strawberries - before the Sauternes came along with a brilliant - Caramelised Tarte Tartin of apples with vanilla ice cream - that was the sort of pudding you could eat until you're ill.

So with the food described what about the wines? We started with a magnum of 1995 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Tattinger, I had never had this vintage before, my only comparison is Salon 1995 that I know pretty well, I am a fan of the 1995's they aren't the 1996's in classicism but have a wonderful apply acidity and freshness, I really enjoyed this perfect apertif.

A pair of Prums followed - 1982 & 1983 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel - we had all the wines after the Champagne blind. Both of these two were in great condition and tasting younger than they are. I think my thoughts were that the 1983 was a Auslese GK and the 1982 was a straight Auslese or even Spatlese. In age I had the 1982 as being 5 years older than the 1983. I am happy with these guesses as it is, at least, logical. The 1982 was wonderful, slightly drier and a dash more tangy, but the 1983 was magnificent - the best Riesling I have ever had - everything you wanted from the Mosel and with decades ahead of it. There was a theme that happily went on through the whole meal here...all the bottles absolutely sang, a rarity.

We went to red now for the first time with a trio of wines in Burgundy glasses - 2002 Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru, DRC, 1990 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Dujac & 1955 Barolo Riserva Monfortino, Giacomo Conterno - The first two were clearly red Burgs and I was relieved to call the Monfortino as Barolo, I went for a second tier producer (wrong!) and a wine from the 1960's may be '64 or '67, good enough for me. In fairness if you have had old Nebbiolo then it was not hard to spot, it was also almost orange really really interesting, I loved it. The two Burgs were much harder, I had their ages way out thinking the 2002 was more like a 1990 and the 1990 more mature still. Also if I had to spot one of them as DRC wine then I would have gone with the 1990. They were both very good and clearly Grand Cru. I do find that 2002 reds in general are more prone to the farmyardy style and more "degraded" than many other vintages of 9 years old tend to be, this is not to say they have aged prematurely as the intensity is there they are just far more like that. The opposite of the less serious but brilliantly precise and youthful 2001's. The 1990 was a serious wine, impresive.

We are now staying with Burgundy but moving to the white side of things with - 1996 Meursault Perrières 1er cru, J-F Coche-Dury, 1996 Meursault Perrières 1er cru, Comtes Lafon & 1988 Montrachet Grand Cru, Domaine Ramonet - this was a fascinating trio. The best showing I have ever witnessed by a Lafon, I've just been a bit unlucky over the years. The Coche was brilliant, isn't it always (?), although it was suggested by others not to be as good a bottle as we'd had previously but only by a fraction if at all. The Montrachet had an amazing almost Botrytis nose that I've often found in my fairly limited Montrachet experience, it appears to come from the fact that Montrachet is often very late picked, a dash of overripeness. The acidity was good on it though and staggering to think it is 23 years old. We had these blind and my guess was that they were all Grand Cru, they certainly had the quality, - one Chevalier one Batard and one Bienvenues Batard - or such like, age wise I was early 1990's so 1990 or 1992 as they were clearly from a fine vintage. I kept my glass of Montrachet and it got better and better.
The next pair were Rhones and Guigal's at that - 1998 Côte Rôtie ‘La Turque’ &
1996 Côte Rôtie ‘La Landonne’
- These were on cracking form and I nearly made a mistake I have made before but stopped myself and said Rhone. The mistake is that there is something in the oak used by Guigal on these top wines that always makes me think of Haut Brion, anyway know that I know it can be quite helpful because when I think it is one or the other you can quickly tell which from the texture these are undeniably great and impressive wines, I am not sure if they are totally my thing but I have limited experience and there is (or should be) a place in every top cellar for this style and character. Very youthful even at 13 and 15 years of age, almost primary.

The next four wines I think have to have formed the best quad of mature Bordeaux I have ever had in one sitting - 1970 Château Petrus, 1966 Château Lafeur, 1964 Château Latour, & 1955 Château Mouton Rothschild - The Petrus was in some way the odd one out it was youthful, funky, almost tropical in character a truly remarkable bottle but somehow less Bordelais that the others. The Lafleur was exquisite in every way...perfect Pomerol at a perfect stage in its evolution. The Latour was just so Latour and I love it for it...very Pauillac, ultra classical and better than it should have been and then for the Mouton 1955. It was very well pointed out around the table that when Mouton was made a first growth (1973) this was the sort of wine that the decision would have been judged on and I can see why the upgrade came. It was vibrant, fresh, almost with that mint element still there, rich but not heavy a masterpiece. I have to mention the vintage now as I have has several 1955's recently - Trotanoy, Haut Brion amongst them - it is a seriously good and reliable vintage and the sort of year that makes me wonder what the Bordeaux of today will taste like in 56 years time.

A bottle port- 1983 Quinta do Noval Nacional - was an impromptu addition. I have never had Nacional before and as port was what first got me into wine, simple names and not many vintages, I was excited. With the taste buds waning a bit I made a strong mental note to remember this, it was supremely good, rich but balanced young but so ready as well as having years ahead of it...I must drink more port! It's a steal after all.

The final three wines were - 1947 Château Climens, 1938 Château d’Yquem & 1935 Château Filhot - a specialist subject of our host and a growing interest of mine hence next blog on 2009 Sauternes. I was a little past note making but loved them all. I made two mental observations. Firstly, that the Filhot was amazingly good and far bolder than I could imagine their wines now becoming as them seem to have gone for a lighter style now, not that this was heavy but it was intense. Secondly, that it was hard to tell which of the other two was Yquem which is normally relatively easy. Having had a few Climes now 1971 and 2001 amongst them there is no doubt that Climens is staggeringly good. All this has to be put in context though with '47 a great vintage and '35 less so and '38 even less so.

A truly exception lunch was over but not before we met the chef and saw the full line up in the Kitchen. The service and style of the whole team at Royal Hospital Road was superb. I am sure that I write for all the guests (Halifax and Suffolk featured her as before), we were 7 in total, when I say thank again to Newcastle for his generosity and organisation...the only problem now is whatever next?!?! A good problem...