Thursday, 28 March 2013


After a few...recent experiences with both wines and cigars I got to thinking about how, and under what circumstances, you actually best enjoy bottles or cigars and how to avoid disappointments. I think it is fair to say that high levels of expectation are probably the biggest villain when it comes to feeling let down. This isn't to say that I believe being a pessimist is the way to go. At the price of wine today "expect nothing and you might be surprised" is hardly going to work or give satisfaction. I do think that there are some things you can do to maximise pure enjoyment of wines (and cigars for that matter). Some of the best moments have been with almost no expectation and often with little or no planning. A bottle of Montrose 1975 I was given (my birth year) is a particularly good memory. Now this is no great wine, good yes and fun but nothing serious, I loved the bottle because I got back from a crappy day and drank it with some bread and houmous probably far more quickly than I should have but it gave great pleasure and was a spontaneous act.
Anyhow here a list of a few things that I think can help maximise enjoyment:

Always have access to some good that when the moment grabs you you can drink one or two, having great/interesting/exciting wine when you really crave it is a wonderful thing. Don't worry about maturity too much. This can be dangerous as we've all opened great bottles late at night when they can't be appreciated but I think it is crucial to facilitate impulses by having wine about.

Don't buy just the "best" wines, this sounds odd but the "best" has high expectation built in already. I'd say 5-10% of any collection or stash should be classed as "not quite sure why I bought that but..."

Don't buy just the best vintages...I think this could be the most important point...find producers/regions you love and buy them each year. Never be afraid of the "4star" vintage. If you took Bordeaux as an example then you could make an argument for having bought just 2000, 2005, 2009 & 2010 and that could last you 40+ years but you'll expect a lot from them all and you're missing gems from almost all the other vintages especially 2001, 2006 & 2008. I haven't even mentioned the money you could save. Consider buying bigger bottles in "perceived to be lesser" years.

Beware the top "cuvee"...this might be straying from the point but expecting much more from the Riserva than the normale or the Vielles Vignes from the standard bottling can be cause for disappointment, clearly it depends on the area, terroir and producer but be wary of the premium.

Forget what you paid...ok ok very easy (and it is a little tongue in cheek) to say but a bit like betting, write the money off when you buy the wine, it'll make you more generous with when to serve things, less precious and value can be over stressed at times. Referring back to price is baggage you don't need.

Take a back up...if going to dinners or Paulee type scenarios, it takes the stress out of things and also makes you braver about taking a wine you may be nervous about but then really enjoy.

Keep the food simple when opening exciting bottles...applies especially if you are cooking/hosting. I feel strongly that much as food and wine are great bedfellows you can't focus on both at once. Great ingredients cooked simply works - no surprise there then!

Buy in cases not singles the "six pack" has meant you can buy more different wines easily but I am very wary of buying less than 6 bottles of something to give a bit of time too. You can't get to know one bottle but can enjoy and get to know a case. Often opening something that you have had before lessens expectation (and therefore increases enjoyment).

Good glasses but less pomp and ceremony...not much needs adding, I think a little like the simple food idea, good glasses and the correct serving temperature (warmth has killed more reds than corkiness I'd say) is crucial but anymore is a pain.

It's not a competition...drink with people you like and take bottles you are comfortable with opening. If you feel under pressure to spend more than you are happy with then I would say you're drinking with the wrong people. And much as there is often a stand out wine at a dinner etc I try hard to avoid the "wine of the night" type is varied and personal and should, to my mind, remain so...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Two Burgs and two Barolo's...

A relaxed lunch at Zucca last week with Mr G was a great chance to chat about wine and mostly racing (that's horses for those inclined to think there is any other type of racing).
We started off with a glass of Franciacorta then got straight into a lovely bottle of Corton-Charlemagne 2006 from Bonneau du Martray. I am a little sceptical about a lot of 2006 white Burgundies I think they are biggish, round and probably best drunk sooner for their exuberance rather than kept too long. As with everything there will be exceptions but I would drink 2006 before 2004 and 2007 for sure. This was a slightly different kettle of fish, it has depth but is still lemon fresh and whilst lovely now probably not yet at its peak, it disappeared quickly. A lovely start. The first red was Chambertin Grand Cru 1990, Rousseau. A wine I am getting to know better and better courtesy of a few friends (see here), but I had never had the 1990. There is an animal quality about these wines that makes them, to my mind, some of the richest and most savoury of all the red Burgundies. I think of Rousseau's Chambertin as being 85% Burgundy and 15% Northern Rhone, the later adding a touch of "animal". This 1990 was really great, sweet dark but bright fruit with spice rather than pepper, a lovely finish and just the right amount of grip. I would say it is between stage 2 and 3 of development and comes very much recommended...the pasta with ox ragu was great with it.
A couple of Barolo's followed. Rinaldi's Cannubbio San Lorenzo Ravera 2006 and then Granbussia Riserva 1999 from Aldo Conterno. Both showed well and yes both are not yet at their peak BUT as I had l always maintained, in my opinion, a great wine is always a great wine and even when young can be enjoyed as such. This is not to say wines can't shut down because they can but even then you can tell class by the texture and balance however muted. 2006 is a Barolo vintage that I never tire of, which is good as I own a fair bit of it, yes it is structured and will repay the patient but it has real class and is very true to Nebbiolo. Uncompromising is may be the best word, a good thing in a wine world where too many wines are a "nod" to something else. Beppe Rinaldi is a legend and this sort of wine shows why, intensity, purity, depth and also spice, truly multidimensional. The Aldo Conterno was very fine also. I am, as regular readers will know, a lover of very traditional Piedmont wines as made by Beppe Rinaldi and Roberto Conterno amongst many others. Aldo's wine come from the other side of the fence, this was delicious, more textured and showing well, young yes and with years ahead but balanced and very fine, darker fruits, blacker fruits, not bruised.
A really cracking lunch.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Ramon Allones night

Tuesday last week was a long overdue cigar evening, co-ordinated by Eric. We were four in total and arranged to meet at 10 Manchester street for a pre-dinner smoke. Eric had organised to provide this stick so we could all smoke the same thing and discuss. The selection was a Ramon Allones Superiores which is not a standard release and was brought out as a Casa del Habanos release in 2010 and is made from time to time. I do not have the exact box code for these but this was from 2012 and a good looking stick. The size is a Corona Gorda (46 by 5.6") to my mind not far from the perfect size, wide enough to smoke cool but not too wide and long enough to allow evolution through the cigar. I had never had this before but love Ramon Allones so was excited. It was a young and punchy smoke with some spice and a definite element of stewed fruit (an RA signature), it never got too much but also due to age it did not change to much, in 2-3 years I would say this will be in its stride. Very good 16.5 out of 20 right now with potential to go to 17 or 18?
Having had a couple of drinks - Ardbeg 10yr old followed by Talisker in my case - it was time for food on route to our final destination. The food was to be Lebanese at Fairuz which I would recommend...really good starters followed by some lovely meats...I could have eaten more but then I am greedy. A couple of bottles of decent but weirdly conventional grape variety Lebanese wines had been good too.
In a cab and off to Knightsbridge, I'd love to give the full location but fear I would be lynched for giving it away (email me). It is the only place I know where you can take wine and drink it indoors in lovely surroundings with no corkage charge. All you have do is buy the cigars there, retail prices and a great range, and away you go. They even have a backgammon board, I love backgammon. Two of our number - Eric and Egon - went for Montecristo Sublimes, an LE from 2008 that is a double robusto (54 by 6.5"), Tino for a Partagas Lusitanias a promientes (49 by 7.6") and my choice was to continue with Ramon Allones and have a Gigantes, also a promientes.
The successes seemed to come from the longer smokes. My Gigantes was surprisingly mellow, a good smoke throughout, never too bold but not dull (16.5-17 out of 20). Tino's Partagas seemed to have more weight and more spice with a really bold and rich pepper-laden finish. The two Sublimes seemed from reports to be a little underwelhming, not bad but not much better than ok. This makes me feel that, as with wine, expectation appears to be the mother of disppointment. I will be trying very hard not to expect the earth to move from any smokes and therefore the good ones are a joy...easier said than done mind you. I must not forget to mention what we took to drink as all three bottles were enjoyable - Tattinger Comtes de Champagne 1998 was a very generous bottle from Tino and a fascinating wine, still youthful but not too much so, it was balanced and the end of the last glass was classy in the extreme, very good. The white Egon brought was Nuits-Saint-Georges Blanc La Gerbotte 2009 from d'Arlot and very nice too, rich but not flabby with good white fruit, not serious but great now. My bottle was, here's a shock (not!), Cascina Francia Barbera 2009 from Giacomo Conterno. Red wines and cigars is not as easy as you might think but this worked, you needs wines with a lushness of texture and a sweetness of fruit and this was just that, 2009 being very good and ripe for Barbera. All three worked well with the smokes, Champagne and whites are safer but reds like Barbera, Malbec, Tempranillo etc can be great but certainly don't "waste" good Pinot Noir of Nebbiolo on cigars!! We had a cracking evening and will be back (in fact Eric and Egon already have!)
To end the week I thought I would have one more Ramon Allones last evening and that had to be the Allones Extra (LE from 2011) a dash thinner than the Superiores at 44 by 5.6", technically making it a Franciscos. I have had a couple of these before, near the release, and was very impressed, enough to buy a box that I have resting, this was to see how they were going. I love the smoke, it is rich without being heavy or spicey it is more a density of great dark fruit than anything. I don't think I will keep the box tucked away for too much longer as some of the joy here is in the dense vitality of them...oh well what brand next? Ramon Allones remains a firm favourite.
I'll be back to play on this beauty

Giacosa Seminar

On thursday I was lucky to get an invite from the UK agent to a seminar/tasting with Bruna Giacosa. There were 6 wines - 4 Reservas (red label) and 2 white labels (standard releases) to taste after some nice scene setting. Giacosa is undoubtedly one of the great names of Piedmont so an exciting tasting indeed. The winemaking is traditional with long macerations and the long ageing in large neutral, 15-25 yr old and non-toasted barrels. The decision on whether a wine is released as a red or white label is made in the cellar not in the vineyard. One important announcement that I had not heard before was that Santo Stefano (Barbaresco) will be made for the last time in 2011 meaning Giacosa will then have just one Cru in Barbaresco - Asili, and that is where the tasting started. I have scored the wines out of 20 to focus the mind.
Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2007 - Pure red black fruits, cherries especially, lifted, soft but with a little dried fruit, has a bit of bite. A tiny bit short and tight but this was a hot year and this is young. Some gentle spice comes though. May be a tricky time  totaste what I increasing think is a good but not great vintage. 16-17(+), 2015-2022+
Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2004 - Richer depth, Asian spice with mulled fruit that is both clean but bruised, very good. Good fine tannins, there and with force but balanced. A dash of white pepper and a saline character that come through as the wine moves round the glass, both good things in my book. 17.5-18.5(+), 2015-2026+
We then moved across to Barolos:
Barolo Falletto di Serralunga 2007 - This is from a site bought by Bruno Giacosa in 1982 the top of which provides the Rocche del Falletto which is where the final pair of wines we tasted were from. This had a very closed and tight nose, clean and more reminding me of Grenache than anything. A big wine with a structure to match, good for 2007. 17-18(+), 2017-2030+
Barolo Falletto di Serralunga 2005 - A cooler vintage and i'll be honest and say the only disappointing wine of the tasting. 2005's are, from my experience a more mixed bag than either 2004 or 006 and this seems the consensus too. This may not have been the best bottle of this wine, it was certainly not corked but just showed as more evolved than I expected. There as a little red fruit on the nose but also a beef stock element that often comes with Nebbiolo but not at this early stage. In essence the structure and body would be fine if there was more fruit weight there. A score seems harsh and I would love to try it again but 15-15.5, 2013-2018
Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2008 - A lovely pure and primary red fruit Nebbiolo nose that has lovely freshness but also very focussed fruit. A good nervy acidity on the plate with good grip of ripe tannins, this is a very good wine, very pretty now but with depth and weigh to put on. 18-18.5(+), 2018-2032+
Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2007 - A slight, albeit, light caramel note and very soft vanilla ice cream. Very 2007ish in nose but then more refined on the palate, in balance just a warmer fruit type. 17, 2014-2024
All in all a very good tasting.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

2013 Paulee at Bovey Castle, 7 wines for dinner and 39 for lunch...

Not the worst setting...
I was lucky enough to get an invite to what I believe was the 10th annual Paulee organised by Jeremy Rata and Ron Morton. This used to be up in Yorkshire at the Devonshire Arms (mentioned in a few blogs) but is now held at Bovey Castle down in Devon a truly glorious setting. We were very well looked after for food and hospitality. Things started with a dinner on the monday evening:
Pre-dinner it was Salon 1996 which is still a puppy. I have been lucky to have this several times and it needs in my view 5-10 more years to be properly "drinking", there are elements of lemon sherbet but it is all firmly "in-check". The wines at dinner were all served blind and much conversation followed, consensus, over region/grape, was reached fairly easily and the wines revealed before any of us could make fools of ourselves.

First was Riesling Schlossberg 1988 Grand Cru from Weinbach. It was slightly, overly, dry but was waxy, oily and unctuous, coming out more in glass as time went on, enjoyable. One bottle of Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 1986, L.Michel had an outing and was oxidised so the idea to serve it was binned but later the other two bottles were tried and were a truer reflection of the wine, nose clinging on and interesting, palate not really still there. The first red was introduced as an "experiment that should be knackered", it wasn't at all, femininely aromatic with plenty of poised and crisp red fruit, the introduction made it hard to guess at but I would have been in mature Volnay it turned out to be Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru Les Boudriottes 1983 from A.Ramonet, delicious and one of the best surprises in a long time, delightful.
A pair of Rhones followed both from Jaboulet. In truth they performed the opposite way round, in quality terms, to how they would generally be billed. The first Cote Rotie Les Jumelles 1985 showed a great balance and blend of gentle maturity and a little spiced elegance, impressive and very good. The second Hermitage La Chapelle 1983 was a funky, rich but savoury monster, a wine whose nose had you guessing and interested and palate that grimaced a bit, a hard wine, not very giving. The dinner was finished off with Climens 2003 which really confused the assembled, the nose and finish tried to convince me it was Sauternes but the palate was very delicate and freshly floral, I kept questioning myself, it might be a slightly bi-polar wine but it was good.
Ready for battle
A very decent nights sleep and a proper breakfast set things up for a 12.30 meet on the lawn to start the Paulee. The drill is that everyone brings at least two bottles or a magnum (many brought more) of a wine they enjoy and then pours it round the assembled, which was 24 in this case split over three tables of eight. The early morning fog had cleared to give us a cracking bright sunny but fresh day. On the lawn we had Bollinger 1999 RD from Magnum. In short I didn't really like it but this is almost certainly me. I am a fan of Blanc de Blancs and of bottle age over late disgorgement so it would never be "my bag" so to speak. It was nutty but not lively and I didn't drink much of it. The first wine of the lunch was served totally blind by the winner of the blind wine competition last year (Chewy, see previous but one post). It turned out to be - St Peray Cuvee Rousanne 2010, Dom Tunnel - I liked it in a waxy yet fresh and floral way, a little simple as it is so young but good.
The first Paulee white was Juffer-Sonnenuhr Auslese 1990, W.Haag, and it stayed in my glass (everyone has six numbered glasses that you need to rotate and clear regularly) for a long while which is a good sign. It had a lovely element of dryness from age but still fruit richness, loved it. Chablis 1er Cru Vaudesir 1981, L.Michel came round hot on Mr Haag's heels and was a combination of coffee bean and toffee, in good shape, a little sweaty, decent. The Pinot Gris Jubilee 1996, Hugel was a weird wine, my notes say, nicely dirty, sweaty cheesecloth, ceppes, dry...on reflection it was passed its peak but I enjoyed it, warts and all. Capuchino 30yr old Palo Cortado, Osborne is a funny wine to have amongst so many others and I would love to try it again, the smell on pouring was wonderful a fine example if hard to evaluate amongst these others. You could slightly say the same about the Vina Tondonia 1976 because wines with deliberate and complex oxidative notes are never going to shine amongst wines with fruit in my opinion. I would love to try this again and have no problems with oxidative wines at all, here I just got yeast and dryness which is not a fair assessment. Pouilly-Fume 1999 Cuvee Majorum, M.Redde followed and behind a subdued nose was a green fruit and mellow completeness, not exciting but good.
The Cote d'or whites then followed leading off with Chassagne-Montrachet Villages “Morgeot” 1999, Marquis de la Guiche This was a little smoky and reduced and reminded me of other 99's I have had. I really liked the small glass of it, I wondered if I could drink a lot of it but that was never going to be an issue here, impressed.   As we were on Foie gras (the food did us very well, especially a brilliant bit of beef I will forget to mention later) a bottle of  Coutet 1983 came round it was pure clean, fresh and with only a little age showing, very complete and really good, Sauternes as I like it. I was delighted that the next wine was not blind as I would not have been within a decade or in the right continent for the Peter Michael Chardonnay Cuvee “Indigene” 1991, Magnum. It was both refined and focussed, probably saw little new oak (great news!) and had a very complete feel, never earth shattering but mellow and lovely. Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru  Morgeot 2009, Ramonet was next, it had aromas of both grapefruit and grapes, was fresh crisp and an infant, a good mid-term wine to drink while waiting for '07, '08 and '10's to open out. Pavillon Blanc du Chateau Margaux 2001, from magnum was next up, it changed quite quickly from that "nailpolish", in a good way,  freshness to more saline and oyster shell like, a funny wine that might have been between young and old. The next wine was back in the infant world - Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2009, L.Michel - tight as anything, a little apply spice and purity but very closed.
Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2001, Ramonet was unctuous and a little less refined than I had expected, darker and broader, good fruit though. Hermitage Blanc Chante Alouette 2004, Chapoutier had a nose of honey and greek yoghurt, then I felt fell a little flat before showing some was good but in truth is not really my thing. Latour Martillac Blanc 2005 was all there but some how a little too subdued, balanced and decent just not exciting. And so to the Corton-Charlemagne 2002, Louis Latour this was good, broad for C-C as I feel it was a little over-oaked, with a few exceptions this seems a common problem in C-C as people give it the same treatment as the Grand Crus from further south and, in my view, it needs gentler treatment. It was a good rich white Burg with a way to go but not, for me at least, a great Corton-Charlemagne, a good one yes. 
And so to the reds (if anyone is still reading?! I realise this is more for me that anyone else at this stage). Why not kick off with a Grand Cru? Romanee-Saint-Vivant 2002, J.J.Confuron fruit was 40% red to 60% black, there was spice and intensity a little cinnamon and a little dryness, if this develops well it could be a gem, is there a danger it will be a little over structured though? Volnay 1er Cru Fremiets 1999, d’Angerville had a dash of cheesecloth and was tight and ungiving to begin with but got better and better with time. Clos-St-Denis 1996, Dujac was a weird one as one less good bottle went round but the better bottle was delicious, not over structured as some 96's can be but good and very together, good stuff. A more mixed array of reds now started some Bordeaux, some American and some Italians.
Cantemerle 1998 magnum, hard but rich and impressive, savoury and grown up, not a soft wine but almost better for it. My two offerings followed as I wanted to get them served near the Burgundies both Barolo Cascina Francia 2005 and 2007, from Giacomo Conterno showed just as I wanted them to. The 2007 fresher and younger and very primary, the 2005 (which was double decanted) being more deep, tighter and ultimately more serious to my mind. Vieux Chateau Certan 2004 I really enjoyed, plummy fruit and very Pomerol in texture and weight, I could have drunk a lot of it. Dominus 1989 was a little toffeed and medium bodied, I had never had the 1989 before. Dominus is never heavy or extracted and always drinks well as a result. Bahans-Haut-Brion 2005 magnum was very decent but not overly exciting, straight forward and with years ahead of it. Like any 2005's now is just not the time to open it.
Brunello di Montalcino Il Poggiolo in Riva al Fasco from Roberto Cosimi was sadly the beginning of where my notes got very short. A nice wine that possibly suffered in comparison to some more lush wines that preceded it. Often a problem with Italians that are so great with food. I would love to taste again as I feel it was probably right up my street. Vega Sicilia Valbuena 1996 was impressive, perfect from now onwards, good tannins and a perfect balance of fruit to go with them. Echezeaux Grand Cru 1999, Dujac was a real star, classy, delicious fruit, elegant but with a way to go, top stuff. Lynch-Bages 2000 in magnum was a classical Lynch all those things you expect, cedar, graphite, black fruit, good ripe tannins, made you wish you had some for 5-10 years time. Cos d’Estournel 1995 was very "Cos" high toned and little exotic but with biggish tannins, just getting into its stride, nice (if you see the 1996 buy it!). Arzuaga Riserva 1996, got a note of fruit meets oak meets air, nice but a little one-dimensional. Tenuta di Trionoro 2008, magnum, showed as it is, super charged almost off dry, big and probably hard to evaluate in this company. Mouton 1986, was exotic and high toned as ever, really good, very mouton and not very 1986...a generous bottle for this many people.
Sa’etta Chianti Classico 2007, Monte Bernardi came across as a lovely drinker, serious? no, profound? no but enjoyable. L’ermita 1998, A.Palacios a little monolithic, will the fruit outstay the structure? If it does then it'll be a great in 5-10 years time, if not then drink now and enjoy it for its Priorat density. Guiraud 1964 was delicious, Tarte Tatin in a glass, baked apples and wonderful fresh drinkable and enjoyable. Fonseca 1966 (J&B bottled) was really lovely, spiced and fruited, tastes like Christmas in a glass with a dash of black pepper. It sparked a discussion about different bottlings, some being better that others but to my mind this was delicious.
So as is "normal" at Luncheon on such occasions it was time for "nearest the pin". Bovey has a very good golf course, from what I can see, and one of the holes is an island green not too far from the lawn, let's say 175 yards or so. I was happy with my 6 iron but even more happy that Ron gave me a Cohiba Robusto to enjoy. I was then most disappointed to look at my watch and realised that it was 4.55 and with a car coming at 5pm I would have to dash off before treacle tart!! There's that saying about leaving while you're having fun...I'll be back, if selected!

Nearest the pin!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Trinity with the gang (why no star?)

Following from the first meeting of what I can see is fast becoming a regular dinner "gang" at Zucca in January here for the post we met last Wednesday at Trinity in Clapham.
I don't really do food and or restaurant reviews (I tend to eat out at Zucca) but I have to say that why Trinity does not have a star I do not know. The dishes were all delicious and clever without being fiddly. The menu and pictures are at the bottom, they do corkage too but I am sure also have a good list. Recommended.
So the wines, there was no theme as you'll see but actually the balance of wines worked really well. We started with two vintages of Bianco Seco from G.Quintarelli. A wine made predominantly from Garganega (as in Soave) but also some other "bits n bobs" amongst them Sauvignon Blanc and Soarin which is near to Furmint apparently. The 2011 and 2007 were the two vintages. The 2011 was Floral but with a nice waxy texture, young and quite taut but very balanced. The 2007 was in a similar weight profile but was a little more oxidative and more unctuous, I don't know if this wine has phases but I would say the 2007 is probably a dash better than this showing or may be could have been a touch cooler. Fascinating wines and a good start. Next up was a bit of a gem Meursault 2007 from P.Boisson, as in Boisson of Boisson Vadot a producer getting rave reviews and the beginnings of a cult following. This was way above village Meursault in ranking, refined and yet with broad chest and shoulders, as yet unpuffed, a lovely touch of reduction and struck match. Serious stuff indeed and another strong showing from a very proper white Burgundy vintage. I am definitely finding, in agreement with the provider of this bottle, the 2004, 2007 and 2010 vintages the place to go for white Burgundy and none with the exception of 2010 get the uniformly rave reviews they might. From here we were onto a pair of Bordeaux, the first of which was blind - Lafite 1970 - from a bottle with no label remaining. We had a bit of fun "guessing" I went for mid 60's Pauillac which was actually more of a hedge that a specific guess as it was never going to be too far away. With a few steers we got there in the end. Encouragingly the wine got better and better with air, it was developed but had good, once black, fruit and tasted less than its 43 years. A real treat. My offering a kind gift from a friend was next - Montrose 1966 - it was a few wines in one. The level was good - at the junction - the colour was a firm and saturated colour, richer and darker than the Lafite. The initial nose was strange but on one swirl in the glass it released a deep beef stock and soy nose with good fruit, there was also a touch of bacon fat and a little caramel before a brief finish. It was strange but fascinating. It also got better with time. A really good pairing.
Burgundy got its chance next - Clos de Tart 2001 - this is a wine I have been impressed with a few times. Sylvain Pitiot took over the helm at the domaine midway through the 1996 vintage and the wines improved from there but I would say that from the 2001 you really see the rewards of the work that was put in. I also love this vintage for reds. It is still in its almost primary phase, there is both freshness and depth which is both encouraging and impressive. The fruit is brambly with some candied cherry elements. So much fruit on the nose, the palate a little more muted, if you own this wine, you are lucky but also I would say keep being patient. Next on parade was Beaucastel 1981 a wine that it appears is a bit of an insiders secret, not a secret I knew about! There was depth and texture with soft black but hard to define fruit and a bit of good greenness. Too many wines now are so afraid of greenness that the over selection that goes on is crazy. This Beaucastel clearly had both young and old vines and was all the better for it, really delicious, mature but not in old age. The next wine was a stunner - Sori San Lorenzo 1989 from Gaja - my notes are a bit strange though as they simply say..."Ski boots" "adolescent" & "very good". The former is a note I have never written before and must be to do with only coming back from Skiing a week ago! This wine was delightful but in mid-development at best and backs up a good Sori San Lorenzo 2001 tasted here.  The last red was Hermitage 1989 from Chave, I am very poorly drunk in the Rhone which needs work, what can you do? This showed as a big wine, very dense black fruit, it was served a little warm which was a shame, the structure was well integrated and I liked it but even more than the Gaja it was still very young. Must drink more Chave. We had a corked bottle of Sauternes so we went for a Pedro Ximenez San Emilio from Lustau with a rather spectacular desert as below. It's a good wine and works so well with the richer darker puddings. A cracking evening, apparently Medlar is next...can't wait!

From my seat, "quite!" near the kitchen
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, Hazelnut and Brown Butter
Scallop Cerviche, Pickle and Charred Cucumber
Warm Salad of Cheltenham Beets, smoked Aubergine and walnut
Halibut, Fricasse of Shellfish, Cucumber, Sorrel and Sea beet

Smoked Venison, Baked Onions
Black forest (which I didn't photo) & "large" Baked Apple Souffle