Friday, 21 December 2012

A few pre-Christmas bottles...

The run up to Christmas in the trade for me is less a bunch of parties and more just a good opportunity to catch up with a few friends and customers and share some bottles. First up was a Zucca Lunch with a fellow wine trader, my senior in every way, known to wear the odd bow tie (no more clues). Two wines were shared. Chassagne-Montrachet 1999 from Bernard Moreau which I thought, when trying blind,  was a decent mid 90’s Meursault 1er Cru. It was in great shape, not complex but delicious and further added to the good record I have had with the 1999’s I've been lucky to try. It is not a grower I know but a little research reveals he has nice if not stellar holdings. My bottle was rather cheeky being Porcaria 2009, Tenuta di Passopisciaro. I said it was something different so there was no blind tasting stitch-up in operation. This is the second  of the Contrada’s, for contrada think "Cru", from Andrea Franchetti’s estate in Sicily that I have had recently. We are talking 100% Nerello Mascalese the fruit expression is bright red and very vibrant, delicious and lightly decadent, the palate needs some time but cracking stuff. Lots of topics covered from Premox (groan) to skiing.
The next lunch was at Alyn Williams at The Westbury in Mayfair. Very good food, we did the tasting menu and I think I am going to vow not to do any tasting menu’s again…they just don’t suit me. That is probably one of the most obnoxious things I’ve said but it is true. The dishes in this meal were all complex and show of the chef’s very clear talent. The rabbit was especially stunning. The setting is lavish and a little decadent, a good thing. The wines were Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition, Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane 2007, Domaine Leflaive and Barolo Riserva 1964, Giuseppe Mascarello. The Champagne was a new one on me with 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay and a lowish dosage of 5-6g. It was very much a toasty wine and never bad but never either vibrant or out and out rich enough, one to try again I feel. Anne–Claude Leflaive’s Meursault is a wine that is getting better and better. The cross over between a Puligny Producer and a Meursault vineyard in a focussed and taut year like 2007 works really well to my mind. This is not a pretentious wine it is just a very good one. Now on to undoubtedly the most interesting of the 3 bottles. Sourced well from a private cellar my co-luncher had got this bottle from the last vintage, we believe, before Mascarello started to make Monprivato. 1964 is a fabled vintage in Barolo and along with 1967, 1971 & 1978 one of the best mature ones. The wine was most confusing, bright and translucently candied red almost like a new born Volnay. The cork, a short one as it correct, came out whole and in good order. The nose had definite notes of maderisation but not of oxidation, the acid was still high. The wine stayed focussed and stayed in the same candied fruit profile, it was some experience, neither amazingly great nor disappointing. It would be amazing to try it again…fat chance!
The evening after Alyn Williams a more relaxed meal was to be had, early supper at Zucca again. This time the main event was a cigar out the back of The Woolpack (also on Bermondsey street and recommended) after food. We started supper, the instruction had been humble and interesting rather than grand, with my offering - Langhe Bianco 2008 from Josetta Saffirio. It is a wine I have had several times now and really enjoy, 100% Rossese and like a fresh Rhone white with more acidity but also a waxy texture. Joe’s wine was the first red - Beaucastel 1995. Good, elegant for CNDP, red slightly bruised fruit and balance, possibly a dash short but really enjoyable. It was during this supper and the cigar that followed that I realised how much the joy of good wine and good cigars is just enjoying them and the conversation that sparks out of the gathering. This is not chat specific to the wine, quite the opposite as often you have a good wine, say “bloody hell that’s good” and then conversation flows in all directions. The next two reds were Parker Estate First growth 1994 and Branaire Ducru 2002 which should have been an interesting pair but sort of wasn’t. The Branaire sadly wasn’t 100% clean, you could tell from what we had that is was very decent and medium weighted, just the job for this evening. The pair wouldn’t quite have worked anyway as the Parker was a notch up in volume and precision too, very youthful in as much as it was still quite primary, an impressive bottle. With the bottles gone and lots of pasta and veal chop consumed we went to the pub for a cigar each and a couple of pints of Landlord. Cigar chat ensued as the four of us are all fans. I finally smoked a customer rolled robusto I was given nearly a year ago and dam good it was too.
Unsurprisingly the fourth meal here was also at Zucca, my last visit of 2013, with a customer now friend who I have dealt with for 10 years and who loves Conterno. We started with Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2003, JJ Prum and a few fish orientated starters. The wine was lovely, the normal Auslese release, it had lemon sherbet zip to it, a little spritz and I would have been amazed if anyone would have called it as an 03. Very good and as always with Prum even better at the end of the meal than the beginning (wines to double decant if ever there was one). The main red was Monfortino 2000 from Giacomo Conterno, any Monfortino day is a great day in my book. I have had the 2000 before but not this year. The fragrance and graceful power is quite something. I really enjoyed drinking this, if I owned it I would say drink from 2018 and for two decades thereafter. It also worked so well because Sam (@Zuccasam) added in an extra course and arrived with fresh and gorgeous white truffle. After this we had the awesome linguine with Duck Ragu and chatted away...just what wine is all about, a cracking pre-Christmas week done!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Team Meal at Egon's place

I have been crap at attending the fairly regular team meals so was delighted to be able to make one even if it was to be hosted in South London (I had my jabs and made sure my passport was to hand). Joe "Egon" Muller (@mulleredreview) was our very able host. The rough brief was bring two bottles of wine (or a mag, or both). Over the week we'd made sure that all the bases where covered so we had fizz (more of that in a minute), a few whites and then red with a dessert wine too. The other crucial point is that everything is served blind, we didn't spend forever trying to work things out.
So to kick us off: Ben (@BRPym) served us up the fizz, Conterto Reggiano Lambrusco 2011, clearly sparkling red and a dry one and that as not what we were expecting and to be honest the dry finish and lack of sweetness all round left us all a bit stranded, I felt it may be some southern french scenario, others, Banyuls or some such. I think serving it first may not have been ideal. It was interesting but no more than that, definitely what a tannic red with sparkling water may taste like, no points (not that there were any on offer) to any of the tasters.
Time for some whites now and I was up first, my bottle was Bourgogne Aligote Raisins Dores 2008 from Lafarge. This seemed a tricky shout and nobody guessed Aligote (why would they) and nobody guessed Burgundy. It seemed to go down well. I bought a case after visiting Lafarge in November 2009. There is a grapefruit character and a tart acidity. I cracking "smaller" wine and from 50 yr old vines if my memory serves me correctly. Next into the glass was Valentina's offering and this had guesses (and they were guesses) from mostly Italy but anything from Vermentino to Soave, it turned out to be Muller Thurgau 2010 from Kettmeir in Alto Adige. A really balanced wine that drank excellently with the superb haddock wrapped in streaky bacon and served with asparagus and lemon mayonnaise. Now it was Luke "Lulu" Lupton's turn to produce a white and I think it was the white of the night. I guessed it might not be that old (wrong) and that the colour came from Furmint in Hungary (kind of not bad), Guido (@guyseddon) had a sensible punt at white Rioja, it turned out to be Musar White 2001. Really delicious, an almost Savvenieres-like nose that gave way to nutty, almond palate and was dry but not fiercely so. Really an excellent bottle...must look out for some.
Plenty to drink!
Sensing that DJ Lulu was keen to get to the iPod we now moved on to the first red. This was probably one of the worst blind performances all things considered but I like to think we were wrong for solid reasons. The wine was clearly a class act, dense but not too dense in colour there was age but not old age. So the first main mistake was arguing over where in the Rhone it cam from. Lulu did point out it was may be not saturated enough in colour to be northern Rhone. Anyway I guessed 05 northern Rhone not wanting to change my mind. It was Clos Vougeot 2002 by F.Lamarche, a very impressive and generous bottle from Guy. Now the defence; 2002's are rich, big and have a from my experience a large gamey element with density. On top of this Clos Vougeot is one of the more masculine expressions of Burgundy. We loved the wine just put the jigsaw together wrong. Several people recently have said how Clos Vougeot needs possibly the most patience of any Grand Cru to show itself and this doesn't dispel that theory. The excellent stew and dumplings with mash and green beans hit the table and so did my red which was a magnum of Barolo Brunate 2004 by Marcarini. The two paired well. Knowing what I am like Piedmont was quickly nominated so then it was a matter of vintage with a couple of people getting 2004, it seemed popular and showed well, there is good grip which makes it much better with sturdy food now but that will mellow with time. Egon was up next and showed a wine that we didn't discuss for very long or not as far as I can remember anyway. I was a very difficult glass to get the age of, I think I said 2002 or 2004 as I felt it was a decent Bordeaux rather than much more than that. It turned out to be Pavie 1999, Egon was very disappointed in a "I'd never buy it these days" sort of way and I know where he's coming from it is impressive but two problems for me, firstly, it is not exciting and it needs to be at that level and secondly it is stuck in a "primary fruit time warp". there is no obvious reason why it will evolve, I feel it will continue to be one dimensional and then will just fade, I could be wrong but...We next swapped banks in Bordeaux and had Mr Pym's Talbot 1996. I was still on the other bank and couldn't get Gazin out of my head, who knows why. Most others seemed in agreement about it being St.Estephe. It was a decent claret, no more or less than that, very honest. Next up before we broke for a quick smoke was Lulu's Barolo Brunate, Bricco Roche Ceretto 2004. Ceretto are a more modern producer but this was very high-toned and had an almost sweaty feel, we all agreed it was rather charmless sadly. It certainly wasn't corked but at the same time it probably wasn't a good bottle, it struck me as a little strained, volume turned up too high.
I decided on a bit more Pavie 1999 (the good if slightly same-ish fruit - meeoooww - working well) with a Sancho Panza Belicoso from Egon's humidor. This is a lovely mellow pyramid that is almost always balanced and very underrated.
Back indoors Lulu was "in charge" of the iPod and M C Hammer appeared to have got his trousers out. We had one more red before the tart and it was a really good one. I can now not even nearly remember what I though it was but it was certainly impressive. It turned out to be Pintia 2005 under the same ownership as Vega Sicilia. When it comes to Ribera I have a convenient and professional bias to all things Domino de Pingus but you can not deny how exceptional the wines of Vega Sicilia and Pintia are (al be it that Pintia is actually from Toro). This was youthful but not too young, impressive. And so to pudding and a Sauternes - de Malle 2003 - I though it was slightly "higher up the tree" name but from 2005, it was very good, I can't remember what the other guesses were. De Malle seemed to have made a rich 2003 but not one that is in any way burnt...impressive and good value. A cracking evening was over; may impressive wines seen off, very few shinning examples of blind tasting skill but then they are a rarity. Excellently hosted! All I know is that I'll need more glasses for when I host mine especially if Mossy & Mr Bird (@Burdhound) can make it!!
Pym and Muller take things seriously as usual!
Amazingly Egon is not Northern!
DJ Lulu has a snooze!
What's the world coming to? A picture of people picturing the line-up!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Champagne Salon & Delamotte with Didier Depond for the IMW

I went to a tasting organised by The Institute of Masters of Wine at Trinity House entitled “Salon – the pioneer of Blanc de Blancs Champagne”. The tasting focussed on the sister houses of Champagne Delamotte and Champagne Salon. Both houses are now owned by the Nonancourt family and are in turn under the umbrella of Laurent Perrier. Didier Depond, President of both Salon & Delamotte, presented five vintages of Salon – 1999, 1997, 1988, 1983 and 1976– together with four other wines from Delamotte - Blanc de Blancs NV, 2002, 1996 and 1985 "Collection". Also at the top table was Mark Bingley MW as moderator and Rebecca Palmer representing importer Corney & Barrow.

As a house Delamotte was established in 1760 and is therefore 252 years old. The focus is very much on the Chardonnay grape and and on only Grand Cru vineyards. The only wine that can not be called Grand Cru is the Brut NV as it contains Pinot Meunier, for which there are no Grand Cru sites. The reserve wines are kept in stainless steel. Delamotte owns 30 hectares in 3 villages and buys 30-35 other hectares it needs for the small total prodcustion of 800,000 bottles. The wines all go through 100% malolactic fermentation. So the tasting...

1. Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV (disgorged in Jan 2012, base wine is 2005). In many ways the "Star" of the company, Asia & Japan specifically go crazy for this wine, it is a firm personal favourite. It spends 48 months on the lees and has a dosage of 6.5g/litre. The wine comes from sites in Le Mesnil, Oger and Avize. I found it lovely, pretty, balanced with white fruits and flowers. Refined is a good word here, the stone fruit and citrus with a refreshing finish make it a perfect aperitif as well as good with Asia food.

2. Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2002 (disgorged in Oct 2011). A slightly toastier nose than for the NV. Light nutty elements, almond, the fruit more dried than fresh. Tightly in check with very slight notes of apricot and dried banana. Great length. This was better and better on returning to the glass...a class act needing time to be at it's peak. From 2015. Didier commented that 2002 in yielded and style is similar to that of 1996.

3. Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 1996 (Magnum, disgorged June 2006). I think I am right in saying that this particular vintage was mostly sold to Japan. The initial impression is of a more unctuous, nuttier, richer and deeper wine all round. A wider more rounded feel about it, some honey and greek yoghurt, apricot again and fruit that is more tropical. Almost like two wines in one, more restrained and tighter on the nose, more exotic on the palate. Drinking well now onwards.

4. Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 1985 "Collection" (disgorged Dec 2000). Collection is the very small library stocks that are kept back. 1985 was a year of extremes, Didier remembers it as having a savage winter, it was his "army year" and then a very hot summer (up to 40 degrees) before a more normal September. The wine shows this hot spike, not in a bad way but in the high toned - toffee apple richness. Admittedly some of this comes from the bottle age. The nose had creme patisserie and a little caramel as well as the toffee apples. Very vinous. Interesting and a food Champagne.

and so on to...

Eugène Aimé Salon started making his famous Blanc de Blancs a century ago and to date only 37 vintages have been released. It was initially made without any commercial intent, purely for him and his friends.  He was the first producer to focus on this style of champagne, but more importantly from one single village. His unique wines – one cru, a single grape variety and only in the greatest vintages – have become a champagne legend, especially known for their remarkable longevity. A “Mono” wine made against the fashion for blending. No malolactic-fermentation (with one exception see notes below). The "Salon decision", whether to make a Salon or not, is made in the Jan/Feb following the vintage. There have been some notable exceptions when Salon has not been made the two most recent are 1998 (in Le Mesnil the Chardonnay was not perfect) and in 2000 for the same reason. Almost all other houses released 1998 and 2000. Salon is now made from 19 of the original 20 parcels. 17 of these are in the Village of Mesnil. Salon owns 6 hectares and has long term agreements for the others it needs. The release of the wines is famously late just as the wines are starting to show themselves the 1999 was only released 18 months ago and the 2002 will not be until at least 2014. The wines for the tasting were poured one at a time and the notes made over the course of an hour...

5. Salon 1999 (disgorged in June 2012). Taut tight and muted, an infant. White stone fruits. Classical. A Grand Cru Chablis of a Champagne if that makes sense. A tiny toast come through on the very end of what is a multi-dimensional texture. 2015 onwards. A potential legend.

6. Salon 1997 (disgorged in Sept 2010). Stunning and really complete. Real character and already in a nice place. Just moving away from being too young, a little bit of shortbread is showing and a little biscuit. The fruit is bright and definitely on the citrus side. Drink now onwards with no rush, very impressive. (I actually had it again for my birthday the next day and it was just as impressive.)

7. Salon 1988 (disgorged in Oct 2012). This is a unique Salon in that the malolactic fermentation started but never finished. The nose initially was of brine and minerals. Then on the palate elements of spice arrived. The fruit was there but hard to define. The wine as a whole (and it is as much a wine as a Champagne) reminds me of the sea and unsalted nuts. A "Salon for food" as Didier put it. Drink now onwards.

8. Salon 1983 (Magnum disgorged in Oct 2011). Spiced flowers and then mocha, dark chocolate almost. Tobacco elements as well as obvious lees contact. Very pure young and clean. Overall there are a few white fruits but mostly spices especially Cinnamon. Stunning, particularly for a difficult vintage. Drink now onwards.

9. Salon 1976 (Magnum disgorged in Oct 2012). Didier commented that this was, as many will know, a very dry and hot spring and summer with no rain at all in May, June, July or August. The briney character was there on entry with the Mocha and cocoa also present but beyond those there was cassis and blackberry leaves and pomegranate. The late disgorgement made for incredible freshness and life. Drink now onwards.

The fact that so many of these wines had been disgorged for the tasting was incredible and incredibly kind of Didier. I have been lucky to drink let alone taste a lot of Delamotte and Salon over the years and whilst I am very biased I do not see how any one could avoid judging them as being at the very top of the Champagne tree.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Ramon Allones Grandes & Quai d'Orsay Coronas Claro

Given the cold weather we are getting in London at the moment I was very pleased to manage two smokes last week. The first was a Ramon Allones Grandes, courtesy of a friend, released in 2008 as a Edicion Regional Espana with dimensions of 49x180 making it a double corona. I don't often get the time or the inclination to smoke something so large but this was in the cigar room at The Mayfair Hotel and it was just warm enough to get it done. The couple of Mojitos were very welcome too. The cigar was very consistent and really pretty mellow. It was faultless in construction not requiring a single touch-up. The profile was medium bodied at most. The flavour was not that classic Ramon Allones fruitcake. It more reminded me of Sancho Panza as it goes. Mellow, balanced and a dash salty. It was a thoroughly enjoyable smoke without being exciting, if I rating is needed then 90-91.
The next cigar was the Quai d'Orsay Corona, it is one of only two sizes now made as a regular production for Quai d'Orsay (the other is an Imperiales which is a Churchill) and a great size it is too at 42x142 and not remotely box pressed. The full name for this cigar is a Coronas Claro and until 1995 "Claro" was stamped on the base of the boxes. This Corona is fast becoming a favourite afternoon smoke and I want to stock up at some stage. The balance is terrific and the depth of pure tobacco flavours are superb. It is bang on medium in profile. There are elements of tea and hay/staw to this smoke. Certainly no coffee or chocolate etc. The size just feels perfect in the hand. A little like some of the other brands I really love  - Sancho Panza & Ramon Allones - there just seems to be a very relaxed and almost neglectful attitude from the chiefs at Habanos about this brand...a real shame. I thoroughly recommend this smoke to anyone...91-92.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra & Punch Robusto (Swiss RE)

After a couple of weeks off the cigars I had two smokes I had not had before at the weekend. The first was a fairly recent release of Rafael Gonzalez Coranas Extra which is a Corona Gorda in size (46x143). The look of the stick was very much classic Rafael Gonzalez with a darkish wrapper that never look too oily or rich. The condition and storage had been good and on first lighting it was straight into a nice place, elegant balance is what I look for in RG's. They are never heavy and this got to medium towards the backend but never any more than that and was a perfect mid-afternoon smoke. The size is one that I love, in honesty I’m not a massive fan of going over the 46 gauge. The stick was a fair bit box-pressed, squared-off by being tightly packed in the box, but not to a degree than was irritating though I would always prefer cigars not to be. The dominant flavours were of light milky coffee and tanned tobacco, little or no sweetness and not a cigar that, despite being lighter in weight, I would give to newer smoker. I think this stick was totally ready to smoke, no harshness, but at the same time I think it will be more and more elegant in the medium term. I missed out on buying some of these recently and am regretting it. This specific cigar has been discontinued for some totally ridiculous reason.
The second smoke was both a different size and a different age. It was a Punch Robusto from 2007 that was a designated Swiss Regional Release. Punch does not have a Robusto in its range ordinarily and is not a brand I am that experienced with. This had a lovely white ash that you tend to get more often with tobacco that has more age. The burn was good and surprisingly slow. It was not a remarkable cigar but a good one nevertheless. It reminded me a little of a good Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No2, it had elements of hay, straw and dry tea. I love trying these new releases, I only wish more and more of them were in the more elegant ring gauges 36-42 but this is no new view. Buy the “thinnies” while you can as “wide is beautiful” seems to be the Habanos SA mantra. It is good to be back smoking after what felt like a boring virus!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Birthday bottles....

The venue for this dinner was "Duvault Blochet Towers" and the guests were Eric "Mr Barolo" Sabourin and his lovely wife Claire and Sam "Zucca" Harris as well as Mrs Duvault Blochet. We started with Salon 1997 which is showing so well at the moment, deliciously Salon but quite forward, classy Blanc de Blancs with a little bit of bottle age, lovely. Then we were on to Sam's two white Burgundies which were both showing well but at the same time splendidly different. Having tasted and decanted them both I thought it was better to go first with the Chevalier Montrachet 2007 from Sauzet. This had a real 2007 hallmark about it, very focussed, youthful but approachable, refined, lemon and lime acid structure, very fine indeed, delicious and it flew down with Mrs DB's Bruscettas. Next up was Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres 2005 from Domaine Leflaive, this also had the stamp of it's vintage on it is that it was ripe and full almost overripe with a tendency to rich nearly exotic fruit and a rich texture. There was a classic Leflaive "struck match" aroma as well, a really good bottle and I would say ready to go now, definitely one to decant.
With the whites done we were now looking at reds to go with my mother-in-laws main course of beef stew and dumplings. Very kindly Eric had supplied two 1975's, Sam as well as my vintage. The first up, and these were both opened decanted and drunk, was Brunello di Montalcino 1975 Castello Poggio alle Mura. 1975 is viewed as a good vintage in Tuscany and this wine still had fruit, lots of acidity too, it was nice but at the end of its life, very enjoyable. The next bottle was something of a revelation, ok you always expect the best from Giacosa red labels, but 1975 is not a fabled vintage in piedmont. The Barolo Bussia Riserva Speciale 1975 was great, real depth and complexity, good fruit and in many ways at a peak, not over it. It got better and better and had real freshness, a wonderful and great surprise. I then thought why not have one more red blind, as well as the end of the whites, with some cheese. I grabbed Contrada Chiappemacine 2009 from Andrea Franchetti's Tenuta di Passopisciaro. A wine of 100% Nerello Mascalese but from a particular Cru. This was a harsh wine to serve blind and the shouts were young red burgundy or Loire Cabernet Franc and both totally justified, it will get better and better but the purity of red fruit is stunning.
Sam's awesome blueberry and almond tart was the end of the meal and went wonderfully with Vin Santo 2004 from Vignamaggio, a good Vin santo with lovely acidity and vibrant marmalade fruits. It had been a night of great wines, even better company and lots of banter...just as it should be.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Otto's: Salon, Laville, Malartic, Mouton and DRC

Luncheon with two friends at Otto’s last Wednesday had been in the diary a little while and was certainly something I was looking forward to. When you are having potentially stunning bottles it is also a little nerve wracking. Fortunately everything showed very well so the nerves were not necessary. 
We started with Champagne Salon 1999 Le Mesnil, served in white wine glasses rather than flutes, serious Champagne should not be too constrained. This was showing really well if oviously very young. It is always a tight and mineral wine but especially so with the 1999. The texture was special. For the Salon devotees out there, and that tends to be most people who have discovered the house, I would say the 1995 and 1997 will offer great drinking while you way for the 1996 and 1999. Anyhow there is a full Salon post coming up soon so more detail there, this showed well. The Grand Cru chablis of Champagnes when young I often think.
From here we moved to two white Bordeaux. This was fascinating, firstly because I like white Bordeaux but secondly because the age and prestige of the two wines was very different. We had the wines side by side but up first was Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc 2005 (Grand Cru Classe de Graves), which is 90% Sauvignon and 10% Semillon. It was in a lovely place, mellowed a bit but still with good acidity starting to get a little richer. Well and truly into the middle stage of development which is as it should be. It had a good long finish. Ripe but not over the top, impressive. The second of the whites was Laville Haut Brion Blanc 1990 (Pessac-Leognan), now called La Mission Haut Brion Blanc. This is the second time I have had this vintage of this wine. It was a little closed on the first pour but did nothing but open out over the next three hours. Both these whites were good with cheese later on. The Laville had the nose of exotic fruit but as with the Malartic it stopped short of being over done. You would have fun with people blind tasting this as the nose suggests sweetness and this is the core point really. I can't remember having a white wine with so much intensity on the nose and a lovely balance of fruit, lanolin and unctuous on the palate but being dry, proper stuff and whilst I wouldn't dream of defending the current release prices of the very few ultra top white Bordeaux I feel their prestigious position is justified and ignored by too many people.
With a cracking mushroom starter and a very generous pre-starter of scallops it was time to accompany my pig's trotter with some red and not just any reds...Mouton Rothschild 1989 was first. To sound completely pompous and I slightly cringe as I write this, the Mouton 1989 was a perfect lunchtime Mouton. My friends agreed and to explain what I mean; it had an exotic and typical Mouton nose, quite high toned, volume turned up, on the plate it had a good hit of initial black red fruit it was not though, profound and was a little light in the middle palate. perfect now, in fact I would say it is one to hedonistically just tuck into now and over the next 3-5 years. I can't see another level of development so drinking it while the nose it stunning and fruit is still there makes sense. The lunch had initially been planned around the next bottle Richebourg Grand Cru 1991, Domaine de la Romanee Conti. It did not disappoint. The wine worked immediately it came into the glass but it also grew in stature and expanded over the next 90 minutes. Delicious red black and slightly bruised fruit but also a savoury edge just arriving, 21 years of age in great for grand cru in my eyes and mind. A wonderfully uncompromising edge about it, "rustic" is too often a negative term but in the world of Grand Crus were a few are a little too polished this had a dash of rustic grace about it. The depth and structure were very much Richebourg. A delicious bottle of wine, still developing and still evolving but if you have more than one bottle definitely a good time to try will not disappoint.
Sharing great bottles with like minded people who just want to enjoy what the best has to offer is one of, probably "the", very best part of the wine trade. This was a cracking lunch, everything worked from the food to the service and most of all the wines and the people!  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hyde de Villaine at HQ

In the same room in which Aubert de Villaine was awarded “Decanter Man of the year” a couple of years ago we had a great dinner to showcase the wines of Hyde de Villaine. The beginning of this venture came in 2000 when the de Villaine family from Burgundy and the Hyde family of Carneros, California, decided to work together on a family run project in Carneros. Larry Hyde, Hyde Vineyard’s manager, is cousin to Aubert de Villaine’s wife Pamela. Aubert is very well-known in the world of wine as Director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and co-owner of Domaine A&P de Villaine in Bouzeron in Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise. So this combination of very varied skills and experience, has a lot of practicality, logic and most importantly family inspired drive about it. In fact with the exception Stéphane Vivier, the winemaker from Burgundy, the entire organisation is family.
The evening started with a pre-dinner drink of De la Guerra Chardonnay 2009 & 2010 in the drawing room. The De la Guerra is the young vines of the Chardonnay, the style is refined but forward aimed at being accessible early. The 2009 vintage was a cooler one and the 2010 more rich and typical of California. Both drink very well now.
We then went downstairs for dinner and after an introduction from Adam (Brett-Smith) it was time for Aubert to give a little historical insight into the property and for Charles "AJ" Fairbanks to introduce the next pair of wines. But first Charles said that he felt the project was about making "Californian wines with a Burgundian philosophy". The first pair of dinner wines were Hyde Chardonnay 2008 & 2009. Both come from approximately 30year old plots planted from 1979 onwards and interestingly are planted the "wrong way round" i.e north south when the normality of the time was east-west. So the two wines; the 2008 was from a warmer/more normal vintage, it showed lemon shortbread fruit and a savoury yeasty edge to it, rich but not heavy. The 2009 was cooler as a vintage and this shows. It was a real star, a little closed initially on the nose it opened out and shone brightly. Very much a burgundian style, all about the texture and elegant depth, delicious. That pair was matched with braised winter vegetables with roasted chestnut and buttermilk dressing which worked well.

With the main course of Guinea Fowl filled with trompette mushrooms and spinach we had the next pair, namely of Belle Cousine 2007 and 2008. Belle Cousine is named after Pamela de Villaine for reasons that might be obvious from the above. The blend is generally Merlot predominant with the remainder being Cabernet Sauvignon, the specifics of these two are 60%/40% Merlot/Cab for the 2007 and vice versa for the 2008. Charles spoke of the fact that they always look to pick a little earlier than their neighbours as they view the acidity as being very important and also the freshness. This 2007 was lovely, black fruited and balanced, a little tar and an easy structure with good complexity, it will develop well and has elegance as well as full fruit. The 2008 was clearly a "warmer-climate" wine, more forward, rich and opulent. More lush and a little more unctuous too. I asked Charles if there was a little more oak, he said not but that the one year extra of age on the 2007 had allowed the oak to totally integrate. It was a fascinating pairing and the 2007 in particular is a wine I feel the need to own, a perfect "change of pace" wine.
With cheese the Californio Syrah was next, 2006 and 2008 were the vintages. This is the smallest production wine they make and in fact was never planned from the outset but the Syrah they produced was very pleasing so why not? The plot is 15-20 years old. The 2006 and 2008 vintage are similar stylistically in terms of climatic conditions. In introducing the Syrahs Aubert coined a new tasting term, to me anyway, in describing the African market spices he finds in these wines as "souk". There is a combination of production methods here with 2006 and 2008 being made from a combination of both open and closed vat batches. The wines contrasted each other well, the 2006 had a bit of the animal about it with a slight funky stink (in a good way) as only Syrah really can. The 2008 being a purer fruit expression at this stage. Both had an "intensity and an energy" as Aubert put it.
The atmosphere of the evening was great, lively and lots of debate and interest. If I had to take one white and one red away to drink I would go for HdV Chardonnay 2009 and Belle Cousine 2007 for their excellent balance and simple enjoyments. I think it is very fair to say this tiny estate is only just starting to reach where it will go and as a result remains a little under the radar...that in itself is very exciting!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Otto's for Luncheon

Last Friday lunchtime I had a good chance to catch up with a customer/friend over a few bottles he kindly wanted to share. I was in for a treat. The venue was Otto's not far from Chancery Lane or Holborn and purveyor of good, mostly French inspired food, always made well and a very positive attitude to wine, good glasses, know how to serve it etc.
Scallop carpaccio
It was to be a meal of two whites and one red. The Whites were both Chardonnays from Mark Aubert in Sonoma Coast. Both whites were from 2010, The Aubert "Ritchie" Vineyard and the Aubert "Lauren Estate" Vineyard. The fact we had Ritchie on the right and Lauren on the left was a sensible decision as the labels are strikingly sameish. Having consulted the notes on the wines it appears both wines are as the names suggest from different locations. Both see largely the same winemaking - harvested at night for freshness, from different blocks (5 for Ritchie & 6 for Lauren), Barrel fermented and then given 11 months in new French oak before 3 months in tank with no fining or filtration before bottling. The later fact was clear as the wines were slighty hazy, something I quite like. So what did they taste like? There were encouraging similarities and differences. Both had quite high alcohol (15.2% I think) but neither showed it. They had a lime an lemon sherbet type fruit but were wines of texture. The differences were in shape as much as anything. The Ritchie was a rounder more lush example, the fruit being almost over-ripe but not quite. The Lauren is a more Burgundian Meursaultesque expression, more savoury, less opulent, all in all a shade classier to my palate. Both good and many of these comments only apply as we tasted both together. A really interesting pair that continued to evolve, certainly of high quality.
The red was back on more familiar ground for me - Barolo Roche Riserva Especial 1974. The bottle was in good condition with a good level. On decanting the wine had a classic old Barolo nose of frazzles and herbs. It then over 20 minutes in the decanter relaxed and became a medium bodied, may be even on the light side of that, elegant and sweet fruited fully mature Barolo. I have had a few older Vietti's now and they seem to have stood the test of time very well, possibly without ever becoming show stoppers.
A rather splendid lunch!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Domaine Trapet at 1776 - 1Lombard Street

1776, the new restaurant at the back of well-known city spot, 1 Lombard Street, played host to a launch of C&B’s newest exclusivity in Burgundy, Domaine Trapet. I say new but we have worked with the domaine for decades it is just that previously we shared the representation. The evening started with Delamotte Brut NV from magnum, one of my preferred ways of starting any evening! With both Jean-Louis and Andrée Trapet joining us for the evening we had 5 wonderful wines ahead of us. We started the meal with Marsannay Blanc 2010 accompanied by Black Truffle Risotto and Parmesan Crisp. Marsannay is a small commune, 220 hectares, but not one to be dismissed lightly, there is real quality here. This wine was first made in 1993 from a 50 acres plot. The style is taut and energetic, the 2010 was tasting and drinking very youthful but there is flesh to be added to the bones. A good bracing start.
Jean-Louis then spoke about how he felt you had to have high density of planting, 12,000 plants/hectare, and old vine rootstocks to really make the most of terroir. Jean-Louis is one of those people you meet from time to time who clearly makes time to think about what and why things need to be done. His summation of wine is based on the idea of  “three meetings” that of soils and vine, grape and vigneron and finally bottle wine and glass (the bit we all love!). He feels that when making wine you have to be aware of all of these stages to get a complete wine. As a taster we now had Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru 2010. Any fear that this would be too young to appreciate disappeared as soon as I put my nose near the glass, the fruit was brilliant, clear, bright and clean, I put “heavily fresh” in my notes. There was real depth but at the same time it begged to be tasted. There was structure there on tasting but it was so easy to drink and enjoyably so. Very fine. This wine was the very first parcel of Grand Cru that the family bought in 1904. Latricieres has a microclimate with a fresh cooling influence. Further adds to my feeling that 2010 is a very very good vintage.
We then had two mature or maturing vintages of the Domaine’s other Grand Crus - Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru 2003 & Chambertin Grand Cru 2000 – both served with roasted Veal noisette with mixed root vegetables, gratin dauphinoise and crispy leeks. The Chapelle as a vineyard, Jean-Louis commented, has a skinny surface of stones and you have to be very gentle in working it, as a site it blooms and flowers first reflecting it’s warmer situation. The wine had a decadent richness and a slightly degraded “2003esque” nose with a dash of leather and tar. Over the evening it evolved and “freshened up”. Having been harvested in August it is clearly atypical but delicious at the same time. The Chambertin is something very special. As a site; the top is white Marl, the middle well drained and the bottom is deeper. This all adds significant complexity. The 2000 was at a lovely stage, one where it develops in glass. It is just getting into stride, a balance of fruit and savoury, with underlying but graceful power. Very impressive I would never want to decide which of this and the Latricières to own, at such differing stages of life they are both stunning.
Then we had a real rarity at a C&B dinner, a pudding - Apple Tarte-Tatin and vanilla ice cream – with Sporen Gewurztraminer 2008 from the Trapet Estate, Andrée’s family estate, in Alsace. As with Burgundy this is farmed 100% Biodynamically. Sporen is a Grand Cru planted principally with Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris but Trapet actually produce both Gewurztraminer and Riesling. The Sporen Gewurztraminer 2008 was delicious, unctuous and with medium sweetness it was both attractive and serious, went very well with the food and left everyone wondering why “Trapet Alsace” is not better known…it will be!!
If you get the chance to go to 1776 then do, I have focussed on the wines here but the food worked really well and the atmosphere was great! A cracking dinner.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Italy at The Arches

Last friday it was time for an Italian wine lunch at The Arches in Swiss cottage...The well known Harry Gill joined us and as ever Ivana was at the helm and look after us very well. After a glass of the very good balanced and refreshing house champagne - Comte Audoin de Dampierre Brut Grande Cuvee - we settle into our seats for a white with a selection of cold meats. The white in question was a quirky choice but a dam good one (if I say so myself), Langhe Bianco Rossese 2009 from Josetta Saffirio. I have visited Saffirio and it's a modern orientated Barolo producer who makes a great Barbera as well as this delicious, 100% Rossese, white. The style of wine it most reminded us of was north Rhone white, think St.Peray. There was a lovely texture some good white fruit. As the wine went from cold to cool it really showed more and more. When I got back to the office I bought some and also the last bottle of 2008 that was sat stray on the system. Can't wait to try them again.
The steak and thick chips then arrived and obviously it instantly became red wine time. Up first was sadly a rather tired Brunello di Montalcino Pian del Vigne 1997 from Piero Antinori it was hollow and thin of fruit and actually when we re-visited later we felt a tiny bit tainted. Anyway there was lots to get through so on we charged into Barolo Cascina Francia 2005, Giacomo Conterno. If ever you want a top quality Barolo to help explain that Baroli that have balance can be drunk earlier then this is it. About an hour in a decanter and it was singing elegantly, it will continue to grow and develop but is a picture of poise now. I am seriously biased mind you. To follow the Barolo we were back to Brunello with Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 1999, Casanova di Neri. A modern style of Brunello from a very fine vintage. It was at a lovely stage with some development but still good fruit. Savoury richness has replaced any obvious new oak coating. The texture was rich but in no way out of balance. A wine on it's plateau and a lot of fun to drink.
It was now time for Mr Gill to delve into his box of tricks and serve us 2 wines blind the first sadly was very tired but also an abject lesson in going with your gut instinct not trying to second guess the server of the wine. Despite it having seen better days we had a go at naming the wine. I went for early 70's Tuscany which is irritating as there was a frazzle like character that can only come from old Nebbiolo but I didn't have the courage of my convictions it was - Barolo Reserva Especial 1969, S.A.S Cerequio. I have had one of two 1969 wines from Piedmont and from what I have heard (borne out in my couple of bottles) that Barbaresci seem to be better than the Baroli. The next wine stumped us all due to its wonderful condition. We were all in Bordeaux and the left bank too but I think I went for the oldest and I was only at 1995. The wine was medium to full bodied, in wonderful harmony, very classically St.Julien on reflection (I think I had said Pauillac) it was Gruaud Larose 1985. If you get the chance to try it then do, great wine. The next wine was not blind and took us to the southern hemisphere - Block ‘3’ Pinot Noir 2010, Felton Road - the first Felton Road I have had actually. It was deliciously fruited, soft but interesting and a very good awakening. Not on the sweet side which for me is a very good thing. I look forward to trying more of their wines.
I almost to left without trying the final wine which would have been a big mistake. It was Passopisciaro Bianco Dolce 2007 from Andrea Franchetti in Sicily. It is technically a passito produced from a blend of many white grape varieties (none of which I know the names of). The grapes were tied on the cellar beams at Tenuta di Passopisciaro to dry for four to five months before extracting minimal amounts of the remaining concentrated juice. A striking, almost luminous, golden amber in colour, it has an immediate wow factor. The nose is extraordinary, a complex blend of savoury and sweet aromatics. Unctuous, honeyed, a decadent, opulent and silky mouthful. This wine is a totally unknown quantity in terms of "drinking window" but that hardly matters as this was the last bottle I know of!!
A cracking way to spend an afternoon!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Another great and very interesting evening of Italian wine drinking/tasting last night. The venue was Zucca and Eric was at the helm of the tasting as ever. The evening was all about the top wine from San Giusto a Rentannano namely “Percarlo”. The wine was first made back in 1983 but so little was made that the 1985 was the first real vintage that was sold commercially. The wine was named as a tribute to a friend, “Carlo”, of the owners family. It is a tricky wine to pigeon hole in so far as it was outside the Chianti rules at the time it was made, because it is 100% Sangiovese without the then required 15% white grapes, but isn’t now. So in many ways it more truly a “Super” Tuscan than the imported grape variety “Super Tuscans”. No 2000 or 2002 of the wine were made. The grapes which go into the making of Percarlo are selected, bunch per bunch, from vineyards whose soil is composed of layers of sand and stones which lie 2 to 5 meters deep and rest on beds of clay.  The vineyards are situated at an average altitude of 270 meters above sea level. Fermentation and maceration take place in enamelled cement vats and last up to 35 days. The yeasts produced are natural. Aging is in French oak barriques for 20-22 months before being bottled unfiltered and held in bottle for another 18 months before being released.

We started the evening with some Ayala Zero Dosage, a good palate cleaner if a little too "zero" for me, it set things up nicely. All the Percarlo's were from magnum with the exception of the 1988 and 1993 which were from bottle, there had been a mag of the 1988 but we drank that back in august on the golf, bbq, poker day. All wines had been decanted out of the bottle and back in just before the tasting. We tasted in flights of two or three wines. I have put a (my) definite score by the wines I deem mature or as near to it as matters and a range for those that I expect to show marked change/development.

Flight 1 – The mature wines
1988 Fully mature and showing the class of the vintage, a few people found it to be a little weary but I felt it was very Sangiovese and drinking well, as expected it is a little softer than what I remember of the magnum being. A fine start. As with the 1993 very much a wine to drink rather than taste. (18)
1990 More density of fruit and more “showy” a little bit of the lushness you expect from most European '90’s. Flattering on the palate, it doesn’t evolve much on the finish which is all that stops it scoring higher, very good. (18)
1993 A bit of a crowd-divider, I loved the elegance and almost Nebbiolo like “bricky” development. Some felt it was past it’s best. Definitely one to drink up as a little bit of dryness and shortness is coming into play, very Italian! (17)
Flight 2 – The "inbetweeners"
1994 This was, like 1993, not an easy vintage. I felt it was decent, a little simple, not complex, enjoyable with cool freshness but no more than that. (16)
The normal scribble!
1995 This was another wine that got debated in some depth. The main question was a bit of a “Bordeaux-1986-question” namely will the fruit live on long enough once the structure drops down a little or will balance never be achieved? I was slightly undecided but feel the wine does lack for a little charm, the depth and texture are not in question, the fruit is blacker than the other mature vintages. I felt it was impressive but it would be low down my list of wines to drink compared to others here.  (17?)
1996 (corked)
Flight 3 – The teenagers
1997 A quite toasty nose with everything going on, richness, not much subtlety but there is balance so that will come, very good and classy for a 1997, some of which are a little OTT. (17.5-18)
1998 In some ways the wine of the night for me, a touch of the elegance of the '88 & '93 with the fruit and depth of the 1997. It was very Italian with good structure but the support was more on the side of refreshing acidity than tannin, a good thing, some leather and spice too. This was a strong flight but for drinking there and then the 1998 had it for me. Proper wine, would love to own it. (18.5)
1999 Not to the degree of the 1995 but this wine lacked a little charm. I felt it will even out though. Masculine in style and robust in personality a little foursquare. This all sounds too negative as it was good, nearly very good. Judgement slightly reserved. (17-17.5)
Flight 4 – The youngsters
2001 I slightly seemed to differ from the crowd on the 2001, I found a lightness of touch especially on the nose with some red fruits, the tannin was definitely there on the palate and may be a touch too obvious but otherwise I found it had good elegance. Enjoyed it. (17-18)
2004 This was awkward and might, whilst not faulty, have just not been the best magnum. There was depth there but just no balance, a little closed may be but more strange than anything. Not unpleasant just awkward. (15-17?)
2006 Dense, rich, a little darker, more volume to this wine than many. Young for sure, good potential. (17-17.5)
Flight 5 – The babies
2007 A little bit of a tart, tarry too, dash of licorice and a little high-toned. Very 2007ish, “showy”, may be a touch too much “lipstick”. (17-17.5)
2008 Has some similarities to the 2007 but with more refinement. Very balanced and impressive, there may be nothing to it but I see some similarity to a slightly larger 1998. A great way to end. (18-19)

Post tasting it was pasta and pheasant ragu courtesy of Sam, what a great dish it was too…could have eaten it for ages. A double magnum of Fontalloro 1997 was a willing accomplice. A great tasting…the 8’s just had it for me but a lot of good wines and very few disappointments.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Midweek heaven - Zucca, Truffle, PLPC

A chance to catch up with a former colleague at Zucca turned into a terrific lunch with the addition of a few truffles. We started on a bottle of 2003 by Bollinger. I had not had this before. Very few, if anyone made an 2003 and in a way Bollinger didn't either, well not under the "Grande Annee" label anyway. The wine had a good and persistent bubble (I never like the word Mousse). It was quite vinous, acidity was there but not piercingly so. This reminded me of a bottle of older Champagne that was a little worse for wear but that had then been "pepped" up by a dash of a young non vintage. This is a great trick, in fact I would rarely risk opening an old Champagne without a pepping agent at the ready. Anyway back to the 2003, it went well with the various starters, sea bream Capaccio, Salt cod and Zucca Fritti. It is not a wine I am desperate to buy but certainly one I think you should try.
Up next was a bottle of, yes you guessed it, a Giacomo Conterno wine. This time the 2008 Barbera from the vineyard Robert acquired in June 2008, Cerretta. The personality of this vineyard is more forward and feminine than the mighty and serious Cascina Francia. The two are a great foil for one another. This 2008 a similar vintage for Barbera to the 2010 is just starting to really shine, I love the dense red fruit and focussing acidity. I would love to do a big Barbera tasting at some stage, it is such an under appreciated variety. The main course we both went for was divine. As pictured just simple truffled linguine but it was one of those dishes that just shouts "simplicity is best". With the two wines, a good catch up, and the food it was a simple and enjoyable lunch. Zucca being a perfect 20 minute walk from the office there was just time for the second Por Larranaga Petit Corona from a 50 stick cabinet I bought with some mates recently. A cracking full-on smaller smoke, dark chocolate and milky coffee, too young for sure but delicious, I have 20 more so will try to leave most for 12-18 months, not sure how well I will do with that...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Domaine Bonneau du Martray at The Square with Jean-Charles le Bault de la Moriniere

As dinners go this was an absolute gem! A Burgundian estate with only three owners in over twelve centuries and a great London restaurant, The Square, made it so. Domaine Bonneau du Martray is one of only two estates in Burgundy to make only Grand Cru wines, Domaine de la Romanee Conti being the other, and under the ownership and guidance of Jean-Charles le Bault de la Moriniere it is on a rise from an already heady height. We started the evening with Delamotte NV from Magnum which went down as well as always. The first of the wines for dinner were Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008 and 2006 with Terrine of Doversole and Smoked Eel with a Vinaigrette of Oysters, Lemon Oil and Chives. Jean-Charles described the 2008 as a “vertical” wine with classical definition and a stoniness that is becoming more and more evident in the wines as the estate moves nearer and nearer to 100% biodynamic practises. I love this 2008, there was a dash of “struck match” about the initial nose then a beautiful youthful, energetic texture, this wine has a long, long future ahead of it and is just so classically Corton-Charlemagne. The 2006 buy contrast is an “easier” wine, a little more round (not spheric, that is 2009 according to Jean-Charles) but with a less nervous edge. Everything is in balance. I have had some disappointing white 2006’s this is far from them.

From 2 younger vintages we moved to Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2002, it was commented that it was a vintage successful all over Burgundy, reds, whites, north and south. There was increased texture and weight but still an elegance that went brilliantly with the Steamed Turbot with Buttered Iceberg Lettuce, Creamed Potato and Crab. If I owned the 2002, sadly I don’t, I would be just starting to drink it from now but in no rush. My favourite geeky fact about Corton-Charlemagne is that it is currently the most northerly white Burgundian Grand Cru in circulation (I see Chablis as a separate region for the sake of this exercise). Can you name the Grand Cru not currently sold as such that is further north?
From whites we now moved to reds and the Corton Grand Cru 2003 and Corton Grand Cru 2002 in Magnum. The holding of Pinot Noir that Domaine Bonneau du Martray has is technically speaking on the Chardonnay side of the vineyard but this worked very much to their advantage in the “freaky” heat wave vintage of 2003. The vintage was very early and where many wines in Burgundy really struggled not to be negatively affected by the extreme heat the cooler spot on the Corton hill made for a wine of great texture and fruit but not at the expense of freshness and elegance. Sadly only half the usual amount could be made! This is a wine for those who are sceptical about 2003. The Corton 2002 is more typical of the site and as mentioned above it was a fine year. Especially from magnum this wine is still a “youngster”. There are layers to be revealed and arguably it was the most reserved, classily so, wine of the evening. Both wines worked very well with the delicous Venison Wellington with Quince Purée, Baked Celeriac and Creamed Cabbage. And so sadly it was time for the last wine of the night - Corton Grand Cru, Magnum 1992. This wine possibly more than any other showed the greatness of this Domaine. The wine was not made by Jean-Charles, though he will have been there for harvest time. There will have been stems included in the maceration and a very short fermentation, both things changed now, but the wine had a delicate elegance and a finesse that only great terroir would produce from a less than exciting vintage for the reds. The point of showing this wine was to show how well good the site is, it achieved this. The Truffled Brie was a great ending and managed not to overpower the 1992.
I was asked for my “wine of the night” a few times and much as I always try to dodge this questions, it’s not a competition after all, I admitted the best surprise was the Corton 2003 and the wine I would be most excited to own would be the supremely classy Corton-Charlemagne 2008. The Square really looked after us well, effortless service, great food that went wonderfully with the wines without over shadowing anything. Just to cap things off I had my first Por Larrangana Petit Corona (from a 2012 cabinet) as I wandered off to Goodge Street tube. A very young but delicious smoke, a little coffeed with some dark chocolate, an almost salty wrapper, these are a cracking robust winter smoke…