Thursday, 31 December 2015


I haven't done any form of "awards" since 2011 but for some reason I thought it might be fun this year.

Tasting of the Year: There have been several glorious candidates but it has to go to this one 10 Vintages of Romanee-Conti it was a tasting that I will certainly never get to repeat in a glorious setting.

Restaurant of the year: No shocks here at all, it has to be Zucca. I'll miss it so very much. I do feel I need to mention Kitchen W8 which has produced some cracking food and has a nice atmosphere and attitude to wine. It is such a shame that it is not more conveniently sited (for me).

Wine trip of the year: This was not difficult either, it has to be Piedmont 2015 with a rather splendid group of chaps. Piedmont really is somewhere every wine lover should go. I had to pull out of a trip to Port country which was a shame. I really want to go there.

Winery of the year: So for all those who assumed this was a "Shoe in" for Giacomo Conterno, and really that is still No.1 for me, a little surprise as Case Basse / Soldera just pips it to this years "title". It is such a great place to visit and Gianfranco is simply wonderful.

Birthdays and sad days: There have been some wonderful meals to celebrate birthdays this year:
At the same time it was so very sad to lose Anne-Claude Leflaive - whose wines I continue to love.

Meal of the year: I've gone a bit corporate here by choosing "All aboard the Cutty Sarkbut it was such a special (unique) evening shared with lots of customers who have become friends.

Wine discovery of the year: I think that as a region it has to be the Rhone thanks to a holiday down there and the fact that I just love more and more of the wines (Hartley you still won't get me to like Condrieu). But as a single producer it might have to be Flavio Roddolo in Barolo. A very notable mention to Domaine Labruyere in Moulin-a-Vent for converting me to the joys of Cru Beaujolais. Even an opinionated old fool like me can have their mind changed.

Quote of the year: Not one I had heard before and I probably apply it to Negronis rather than martinis but "One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough." from James Thurber

Sportsperson of the year: This is a shared award for two similarly brilliantly indestructible sports people who have both spent ages at the top of very tough sports. Both made their names or initials only mean one person so the nod goes to AP and Richie or Sir AP McCoy and Richie McCaw to use full names. Both have retired and both will be missed but at the same time it is wonderful to see them walk away in good health.

Personal sports highlight: This is an easy one. I had always wanted to play rugby in the same team as my son Charlie but due to too many bangs on the head (I never had enough brain cells to start with so have to be careful) I had to stop at 36 and so we missed out on that. But this year I have gone back to playing Hockey, which I love and thoroughly recommend, and now Charlie and I play in the same team. (He has more assists, I've scored more goals as I keep reminding him).

I am not sure who has appeared most on the blog this year but to all those who have contributed - Nobby/Halifax, Irish, Mr Magnum, Newcastle, Henley, Jordi, Ronaldinho, Chewy, Fiscali, Very duty bottles, Geronimo, Raw, Vestier, JuJu, Barolo Guru, Jazz Hands, Manski, Masterofwine - and many many more thank you so much for the bottles and the laughs! To colleagues and producers everywhere the very same thanks!

Same again in 2016?

Latour a Pomerol - historic vertical...

After a run of really rather amazing "Jordi dinners" over the last year or so:

I was especially looking forward to this - a very thorough look at the wines of Latour a Pomerol at Les 110 de Taillevent in London with Edouard Moueix in attendance. I have always had a real soft spot for Latour a Pomerol, now yes there might be a commercial edge to that (I work for the agent) but it is more than that. The estate has made several legendary wines. It is part of a very great collection of right bank estates in the hands of ETS JP Moueix. It still somehow seems to fly slightly under the radar. I think this is for a couple of reasons, it is made as a wine to drink, it tastes well when young but is not showy or uber-extracted. People always tend to think that something must be wrong if the legendary wines of the past have not been replicated, not so. I am always excited to open a bottle, even more so a magnum of course, of Latour a Pomerol.

A few stats and background on Latour a Pomerol
7.9 hectares
90% Merlot
10% Cabernet Franc
Two plots: Firstly the nucleus which is 5 ha from the original Clos de Grandes-Vignes located on the central plateau on gravel soils close to l'Eglise St-Jean. The second plot named l'Ecole is located around the Chateau adjacent to La Grave a Pomerol on gravel soils and produces a slightly lighter wine than the first plot.
Production: Around 2500 cases a year, with no second wine

The team at "110" did well with the wines and the full menu can be seen here (a few pics are at the end of the post).

Pate en croute

Foie Gras canape
Mushroom Tartlet Cocktail
Duck egg, poached, lardorns, champignos de Paris, baby onions
Risotto, creamy with a fricassee of girolles
Turbot meuniere, beurre blanc
Saddle of lam, roasted with pickled garlic, glove and rosemary
Le Vieux Comte, 30 mois d'affinage
Petit Fours
I have resisted the temptation to score the wines in this post. I would find it very difficult and therefore it is rather pointless. When comparing a wine that is young (2005) with a wine that is very old (1929) what do you really achieve with scores?

Bollinger started us off as so often at Jordi's dinners, it was rather apt here as the Moeuix family often serve it. R.D. 2002 en magnum was the choice here, very taut and reductive with a little mocha note, clearly will repay considerable time.

The wines were split into logical flights as below:

Recent Vintages

2005 - So full of vibrant fruit with just a dash of saline. Very moreish and alive, voluptuous but with good structure...excitingly good. As with other 2005's this is just starting to "strut it's stuff".

2000 - A little bit of stink, then opens into a wine that is lovely from now onwards, still primary in fruit but with added complexity. I would love to drink this alongside the 2005 in another 5 years. A little spice to finish. Proper!

1998 - A little more savoury and textured, a little iron on the palate . Very moreish indeed. At a lovely point in its evolution - the beginning of the second phase. The quality of the 1998 right bankers is still not really as well known as it should be. Complete. 

1996 - Quite iodine like, with a little meatiness and then a very slight lack of flesh on the palate (the vintage) compared to what went before. Nice to drink now without profundity coming along. More a wine of minerality than fruit. Solid.

1995 - Really good, a vintage that has somehow not had the profile or praise it deserves. There are proper tannins here with the nicely mellowed fruit to contrast. Will age well for sure but good now. Everything as it should be. Classically Pomerol.

Mature Vintages
1990 - Sadly not a perfect bottle. there was a minty volatile edge but then an overly lean and savoury palate. A shame.

1986 - Meaty but also sweet, elegantly developed, pretty and almost fragile. Surprisingly good for such a "Cabernet" vintage. Really like-able.

1985 - Ever so slightly muted nose initially but then this revealed a lovely red-fruited sweetness and lovely moreish (how many times do I have to say this!) texture. This is perfect now, so wonderfully drinkable, preferably in volume! There is the balance to age further by why would you. Just lovely.

1982 - Some iron-like savoury note then almost sweetness, a little blood but with lovely fresh acidity, expressive, extrovert and slightly high-toned.

It was lovely to see the wines so far had almost perfectly translated the general perceptions of the specific vintages. 

Iconic 1970's
1978 en magnum - Volatile, "bricky", harsh and dried out more like 30 year old Sangiovese than Bordeaux. Edouard commented that this was almost exactly what he had expected from this substandard and very dry vintage. 

1975 - Corked (gutted as this is both Jordi and my vintage)

1971 - Stunning, so easy to enjoy, lovely now, so persistently sweet and fine. A cracking Pomerol vintage. Delicious notes of pure ripeness. Supreme...Wow!

1970 - Corked (a real shame as Edouard spoke very highly of good bottles of this)

Transition to ETS JP Moueix
1966 - A little more gritty and grainy and truffled than the 1971. I initially wondered if this might fade in the glass but it did the opposite getting more focused, there is a lovely nuttiness, not normally a positive in reds. There is a sweetness. Very fine.

1964 - Sightly briney, almost a note of bill-tong and pepper, lovely body with good texture and considerable power, a fully mature but not fading wine. Masculine and intriguing.

1962 - Really impressive, fully mature, precise, really lifted, pretty special, almost a mocha note towards the end, stood up well in the glass. A treat.

1961 - Corked, a rather collective sigh, but then one shouldn't meet their heros.

Madame Loubat
1955 - Really lifted, extrovert, superb, manages to be refined in a mellow way at the same time as being unreservedly hedonistic. Is there a better vintage for Bordeaux? My experiences of the 1955 vintage are almost universally spectacular. This was so good that I don't know I would want to have it again, if that makes any sense.
1953 - I think this suffered from following the captivating 1955 because in every other way it was glorious, a little creme brulee richness on the nose. Decadent. 

1952 - Clearly a cooler vintage, bricky and a little lactic, a very slight Bual character, just a well-bred wine that is getting weary.

1949 - Quite high toned and a shade volatile, a little madeirised and delicate.

1945 - Decadent notes, dates in the mix, delicious, good acidity, lifted (the acidity) but also dense, really lovely. 

1937 - Butch and rich but then disjointed not quite sure what this was, very dry and did not really fit with the other wines. 

1929 - High and dry, a little pithy, the palate is clean but totally dried out, rasping. The acidity means it is drinkable but astringent. By all accounts a very small crop with heat in September.

Climens 1942 - Sweet cep nose, mushrooms and brioche, oranges and now quite dry. weirdly would have made a good appetizing aperitif as well as a fascinating ending.

So what would I say in conclusion or summary? Well, Latour a Pomerol certainly has a great past but it is the present and the future that were the learning for me. I think everyone around the table, with the possible exception of Edouard who already knew, was very pleased to see how beautifully the younger vintages drank. Any site that can make wines as brilliant as the 1955 and 2005 but 50 years apart is exciting. There is a grace and elegance to Latour a Pomerol that can almost work against it in terms of standing out around En primeur time or in amongst other showier, glossier wines at tastings. To me Latour a Pomerol remains a very very good Pomerol that portrays the character of a vintage very well and drinks so splendidly...long may it continue! Thanks for the opportunity to taste these Jordi!
Duck egg, poached, lardorns, champignos de Paris, baby onions
Risotto, creamy with a fricassee of girolles
Turbot meuniere, beurre blanc
Saddle of lam, roasted with pickled garlic, glove and rosemary

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The last Hurrah...

When the news of the end - for now - of Zucca came out there was quick booking made by fellow Zucca addict - Mr Rafferty for the last but one night, the last night would have been too much.
So nine of us including Mrs Duvault-Blochet joined together for a dinner. The theme being the last bottle from a case, any case. When I say bottle in true style most people brought a magnum or two bottles. This was a very relaxed evening with much opinion expressed and piss-taking. New friends made. We ate from the "normal" menu and rattled off the classics:

Zucca Friti
Carpaccio of Sea Bass
Burrata with Cavalo Nero
Beef Carpaccio
Vitello Tonnato
Squid Bruscetta
Taglierini, Pork & Fennel Ragu
Grilled Octopus
Veal Chop
Chocolate SemiFreddo

We hadn't managed to co-ordinate anyone doing some fizz so we started with a couple of bottles of the fresh but just a shade toasty Satin La Montina Franciacorta. I really ought to get to know what's what with Franciacorta, beyond Ferrari and Ca'del Bosco I am just not that knowledgeable.
Then time for some white and we started with "Jazz Hand's" magnum - Meursault Les Grands Charrons 2009 from Boisson-Vadot. I've been lucky enough to drink a decent amount of Boisson-Vadot but never have I had it from magnum before. This had all the smokey, slight reduction you expect of this producer and the richness you expect of 2009, a really decadent start to proceedings. Alongside this was Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Jubilee Spatlese 2008 from Schloss Schonborn from bottle. This wine was served in the same room at Mrs D-B's 40th so it seem appropriate to have it again. Lovely Rhine richness with the middle ground of Spatlese, a wine to just enjoy, no pretence.

And on to the reds! Tignanello 1986 was a really easy wine to quaff, not to say it was not more serious but it had slightly lost a sense of place. It wasn't showing the Sangiovese acidity and it's kind owner was a little disappointed as it was from "his" vintage (youngster!). I liked it just think that 5 years ago it would have had that bit more personality. 

It's partner was my offering, Cascina Francia Barbera 2008 from Giacomo Conterno, my thinking being that it is a producer I love and we (C&B) even did a dinner here with Roberto. On the other hand none of the Conterno wines are what could be remotely called mature so this seemed a good compromise. It drank well, still good rich dark cherry fruit but with that cool saline edge you always get from the site, wonderfully food friendly as ever. That was my last mag but I do still have a bottle somewhere.

The next flight was unplanned but set itself up as a great pairing. Two of the top names from respective banks in Bordeaux. Both top estates. VCC (Vieux Chateau Certan) 1998
and Palmer 1998 . Having them then served blind I was delighted to get them the right way round. Anyone in the trade who says they aren't relieved to get this right especially after 10+ years in bottle is probably lying. The VCC had real poise and such balance, really lovely, young yes but not infanticide at all. If you have a case of this (in bottles) then don't be afraid to have a bottle of two now, you'll be missing out otherwise. The Palmer actually tasted to be a little more mature, a little more developed (2nd base may be), not quite the layers of the VCC but splendid.

The next two bottles, from Mr Rafferty were a treat - Rauzan Segla 1947 a BBR bottling - was exuberantly sweet and reminded me of some of the 1955's I have been lucky enough to have had. A lovely bottle and so fitting to have something this old and special on a night like this. Hermitage 1994 from Chave has no right to be anything like as soft and lovely and just downright delicious as it is. The vintage is not great but then how many times do us wine lovers have to be told "producer, producer, producer".

One special glass got passed back to us in the Pdr from the main restaurant and it was the really rather lovely Sori San Lorenzo 1990 from Gaja a real treat from Mr Bowker.

Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Spatlese 1989 from Schloss Schonborn (another coincidence to have this) finished us off for the evening in some style, oily and menthol fresh with good acidity. Is it wrong to say that I think people were concentrating more on the puddings by then.

It was great that Sam (Harris) managed to pop in and join us for a glass here and there.

The end had come - I've loved Zucca and shared so many wonderful times there…I am sure it'll be back. Thanks to all those who have brought bottles and served them, cooked and given great service I am not singling anyone out as it was a team effort…onwards!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Twice in one year…Soldera...always a pleasure

Trips to Case Basse to see Gianfranco Soldera are fast becoming some of the most memorable of all my wine journeys (regular readers probably know where some of my other treats occur). To have been twice this year is wonderful, I wrote up the last visit back in February and am a little slow in doing this one.
Big and old botti
Having over-nighted in Rome - a nice humble supper at the charming  Trattoria Perilli - the two and a half hour drive up to Case Basse really gets one in the mood. The final arrival at this really quite isolated spot always makes me wonder how on earth Gianfranco found and identified it's potential. It is the core to what he does (nearly forgot my "bias warning"). I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that of all the winemakers who make wines from one variety he is further ahead of the pack than anyone else in their respective specialty. THE Grand Cru of Brunello to me. The real wonder of the wines is that from the moment they are bottled (generally after 4-6 years) they drink wonderfully. I do not find myself ever writing "needs time" or "what potential" because these wine whilst they age superbly and develop are just splendid from the off. Are they cheap? No. But they offer superb quality and therefore to my mind an experience of great, and lasting value.

On this visit we tasted - I should say drank as there is NEVER any spitting at Soldera - the 2009 (of which there is one barrel) and the 2015 also from barrel. I have put my notes below as I wrote them rather than making them into decent English.

2009 - Oranges, pith, then delicious fruit, deep and persistent. Red berry fruit with a little dash of black in the background. Some herbs and spices, very good, remarkably gentle almost raspberry. Lovely red fruits then continues in waves, gentle good acidity, some saline but less that the 2006 and 2008 from memory. 18+ 

2015 - Rich, blue red fruits and cold stones, a prickle of gas, full "primary", good, almost creamy, blackberry and cherry. Very fine, there is a really persistent cool minerality to this. 18.5-19

Before the tasting we had discussed the 2015 vintage of which there is likely to be about 22,000 bottles. There was at one stage, 70 days with no Rain, although Gianfranco stated that 90 days would be perfect. There was less of a canopy in 2015 than 2014 (which had been really quite wet). The wine went through a long fermentation of 35 days with harvest starting on the 19th September and lasting two days. We asked with interest which vintages it might have been like. This is normally a question met, at most estates through the wine world, with an intake of breathe and much thought. With Gianfranco you often get something a little different and this was no exception "it is a like 75, 78, 79, ,81 ,83, 85, 88, 90, 91, 94, 95, 98, 01, 03, 05, 08 and 12." he said. "Ah, right" we thought.
Post tasting we hoped into the car and went to Il Silene run by the charming and modest Roberto Rossi, a great friend of Gianfranco's. Mr Soldera was in fine form and intent on a proper luncheon (bend that rubber arm of mine again). This is not something you ever have to worry about with Roberto in charge of the kitchen. Course after course of wonderful food made it out to us to accompany the four wines.

First we had a bottle of a Prosecco I had never seen before - Cosa Coste Piane. This was bold and lively with pear drop and green apple aromas even potpourri. As it warmed up you got more apples, cinnamon and herbs. Complex for sure but possibly a bit of an acquired taste.

The white to follow was Ribolla 2007 from Gravner. If ever there has been a producer that I want to get my head around then it is this one. I love the story, the ethos etc. This was the best Gravner I have had, I've only had three others. There was a nose of straw and lovely woody aromas, varnish and dry raisins then took over, nuts then Bual Madeira, before amaretti biscuits and some apples and cinnamon again. The final aromas were spiced honey and marzipan. As you can see there is no lack of complexity here. My only concern is a much more basic I like it? I am arrogant enough to say I get the idea but a bit like a flavour of ice cream you'd not pick yourself this just doesn't quite do it for me. I want to embrace them but I am not sure I can. I will continue to try Gravner whenever possible in the hope that the penny drops.

So then it was time for the "main course" in every sense.

Brunello di Montalcino 1994 - A gentle whiff of good volatility, some dry raisins, good focus, sweet leather, a lovely saline element, iodine gently at the edges. A note of wet beef just having been cut, a smell I love that somehow combines, salty, savoury and sweet with a sort of lush minerality. It is a bright wine with lovely balance, when you think there is more fruit the savoury side gets you and vice versa. It will surely continue to age well. I would though say it is mature. Lovely, so easy to drink.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1999 - From a hotter and arguably more serious vintage. The fruits are immediately darker with spice and resin. This is delicious and whilst the 1994 might be easier and prettier right now the 1999 reminds me of the monumentally brilliant 1990 that I have only had once during this meal. This wine is serious with a lovely sweet & savoury beef-stock aroma. There is leather sweetness and fruit also but the fruit is in the wine. I really hope I get to try this again, if it only happens once I'd like it to be in 2022.

It was one of those lunches I hope to remember long into the future...lovely setting, food and special wines but so much teasing and laughter...I want to go back to Case Basse...three times next year!!
Gravner, what would you guess that is from the colour alone?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Last but one Zucca…Magnum Party...

Following on from the First of last suppers post of a week ago this was the last but one meal I will have at Zucca. The last is this coming Tuesday (22nd), if you are there then pop in and say hello. I was a lovely gathering of eight pulled together by a customer and friend who goes by the moniker of "Mr Magnum", so the theme? Well "bring a magnum" of course.

We simply ordered off the menu keeping things as classically Zucca as possible - from the Zucca Friti through the Taglierini to the Veal Chop. The wines - with nothing corked, hurrah - were all rather splendid.

Krug Grand Cuvee, is there a more sensible thing a wine buyer can do than buy the Champagne/s they like and lay them down? Especially when it is magnums and it is Krug. This Grand Cuvee magnum was purchased (I know he has more!) in around 2010 and was just delicious. Moreish and a dash toasty but with the drive to be lovely on its own…with a couple of our number being late this just disappeared amongst the six of us in no time at all. A lovely start.

As we sat down we moved onto a pair of whites:

St.Joseph Blanc Les Granits 2009 from Chapoutier got a conversation going about what a good, and some times under rated, producer this is. There was real richness that came out more and more as the wine went from cold to just right. There was a ripe apricot note as well as a slightly waxy texture. A nice stage to be drinking it from my perspective. I liked this and it was nicely different from it's "partner". 

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2007 from Domaine Leflaive showed a lovely combination of the richness and broad shoulders you want, and expect, of Batard but with the drive and focus you want in a 2007. There was a little reduction and a dash of saline too but ultimately you had a wine in lovely balance. I am sure it will age well but on this form it is cracking now.

And so to reds...

Barolo Brunate 2004 from Marcarini this was my contribution and formed the first of two barolo 2004's. I had taken it to a recent Zucca dinner where a few of us had taken a look at Barolo 2004 in general. It was youthfully nervous and precise, got giving quite as much as I remember but drinking well. Somehow, and rather stupidly, I did not pay as much attention as it was my magnum so my notes are rather hopeless.

Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba 2004 from Giacosa was in all honesty a step up on mine. With cracking texture and richness combined with freshness and a lovely balance of fruit and some, just evolving, more earthy aromas. Still young of course but not indecently so. This reminded me of
visiting there back in May as part of what will be right up there as the trip of the year if I get round to doing a retrospective at the year's end. Lovely balance to this wine.

From here we went to Bordeaux.

Magdelaine 2001, this was superb straight out of the magnum and took me back to a Magnum lunch this time last year where the 1985 pretty much stole the show. I understand why this estate has been "rolled into" (for want of a better phrase) Belair-Monange (which is actually about 75% Magdelaine as a wine at the moment) but a part of me is sad that the name is going as for me it encapsulates what St.Emilion, the most bi-polar of Bordeaux Communes, can be: Serious, savoury, age worthy and so tasty without being over the top. I'll be looking to scoop up bottles and mags where I can find them.

Lynch Bages 1988, was a little green initially but what I sometimes refer to as good green, it adds an edge of freshness and vibrancy. The blacker fruits and more classical tobacco and leather appeared later and made this a lovely foil for the Magdelaine.

It was time then for one last bottle and it was a bottle off the Zucca list that I had been eyeing up for as long as I can remember:

Brunello Di Montalcion 2003 from Soldera and the only non Magnum. I have been lucky enough to visit this great estate (we look after the wines in Asia) on four or five occasions now and I always find the prospect so very exciting (I have the most recent visit to write up - possibly today). The man - Gianfranco - is as wonderful as he is misunderstood. The wines are often otherworldly and I do not say that lightly. I can't think of any producer who is further ahead of the field in quality terms with the wine he produces from their specific grape - Sangiovese in his case. This was a lovely bottle that is just moving from the primary to the best stage, red fruit, iron and a fresh savoury edge.

A wonderful dinner with longstanding friends over equally good wine and food…what "it" is all about.

Bonneau du Martray - a recent vintages tasting with Jean-Charles le Bault de La Moriniere

A few weeks back before everything got ever more manic with Christmas and the pre-Burgundy season (January) workload we were delighted to have Jean-Charles le Bault de La Moriniere of Bonneau du Martray in town. We spent two hours listening to him and firing questions at him while we tasted two reds and three whites. It was a special afternoon. As usual I will state my fairly considerable bias now, this is the 15th vintage I have worked with. Having said that there is arguably no other 100% Grand Cru estate that is under-recognised like Bonneau du Martray. The older vintages of this great estate are stunning and that includes years with no right to be so like the 1987 and 1994 that I have had several times. The 1992 is one of "the" white Burgundy drinking experiences. There have been intermittent "premox" problems but these Jean-Charles feels certain are due 100% to cork supplier (i.e. there are "good" and "bad" batches as the Domaine had separate suppliers - a common practice) and limited to 1995-2005 in my view. There is nothing before and nothing since where I have seen any problems. I say this from a stand point where my drinking experience is greater with this estate that almost any other white Burgundy estate.

I do not intend this to be a long post, I have written on these wines many times in the past and whilst I am honest enough to say I do not always understand the red Corton or give it the time (in maturity terms) in may well need, I love the Corton-Charlemagne for it's preciseness and moreishness - I always want another glass/bottle/magnum and ultimately that is the measure of a wine being great.

As in Burgundy we went red then white:

Corton Grand Cru  2009 – Lovely tight freshness, it is too early but there is a lot to love about the minerality here. A wine to look at again in 4-5 years and well beyond.

Corton Grand Cru 2014 – (cask sample which the Domaine do not like to do) I simply summed this up as “Vibrant”, there is so much energy and purity…will be exciting to follow.
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011 – I love this wine. It showed so well. There is just a wonderful balance, opulent but so true to the Domaine. Some lemon short bread and easy persistence. Hedonistic even.

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2012 – Wow! This has so much potential. Coiled like the tightest of springs with a whiff of reduction and then so much power to the palate – this demands patience! It is a real shame that this crop was so small but may be that is where the magic comes from.

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2014 – (cask sample again) Focussed and fine with lots of minerality and so much drive, a little lime and saline too. Superb.

A splendid tasting!
Fascinating map of the hill of Corton.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

First of the last Suppers...

From the second it was announced that Zucca is to close on the 23rd December there were several last meals planned. As I write this I only have two dinners left. Zucca has featured large here with endless blogs that I have written over the last 5 and a half years. To say I will miss the place is a savage understatement but I am sure Sam has something up his sleeve. It is the deliciousness of the food, the simplicity of the produce, the easy service and the emphasis on wine without subservience to it that has kept me going back.

This was a  really fitting meal as it was with many of the people whom I have shared the most meals at Zucca, all folk who for me "get" what this rather wonderful world of food and wine is all about. That Eric, who introduced me to Sam as well as being ever helpful in my Piedmont obsessions, organised it was all the better. The only shame was that Sam himself was ill and missed out (Sam - I advise you stop reading here - it was rather good!).
The brief was to bring special bottles. So what better way to start than two of the best and most contrasting of Champagnes; Salon 2002 and Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1999. Both performed just as you would hope. The Salon was fresh, zingy, citrus and minerals, stones even, tight, elegant. Contrastingly the "Winnie" was toasty and rich but not heavy, yeasty, serious, coiled tight. There was no contest here they are both superb and both will be fascinating in 10, 20, 30 years time. A fun and good start.
As you can imagine the food was already flowing thick and fast from Megan in the kitchen. Many of the classics - Seabass Carpaccio, Zucca friti, Vitello Tonnato - going down as well as ever. The next flight was white Burgundy:
Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 2009 from Roulot, this was almost Chablis like in refined texture, quite an achievement for 2009. There was then a slight unctuous waxy texture, delicious. Spot on right now.
Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2006 from Domaine Leflaive, a little lactic and lacking drive, village Meursault in style rather than Grand Cru, generous and opulent, almost to a fault. The 2006's from almost anyone in Burgundy need drinking. A generous bottle but underwhelming on this occasion.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Pucelles 1999 from Domaine Leflaive, this followed the Batard in order but flew straight past it for quality and reminded me of having it once before at the end of a White Burgundy 2008's dinner. There is something brilliant about the Leflaive 1999's, a whiff or reduction and a moreish refinement. Either way it was delicious.
A brace of Barolo magnums from Rinaldi is something you dream of as a Barolo drinker. It might well be the only time it ever happens to me. First up it was Barolo Brunate Riserva 1986, this was a marvel, lifted, lovely freshness, brine and saline, herbal. There was such floral freshness. I am not a mad fan of people saying Barolo is like Burgundy (despite the obvious similarities of attitude, size and layout) in terms of taste but this magnum was exactly that. It went from being Brunate through and through to the elegance of Chambolle, simply put it was delicious and "right up there". The Barolo 1999 was a contrast - tight intense, almost hard, there was a fear it was corked but it seemed not to be to me just introverted. Briney, dark and deep with some grainy tannins. I like it but it was very different to the 1986. I have a bottle of each of the Rinaldi 1999's in 75cl and will keep them longer before sharing with the provider of this mag.
We moved to another 1999 - Barolo Monprivato 1999 from G.Mascarello, this was a little maderised in character with a slightly mocha and dark chocolate thing going on. It was decent but unexciting, a little too savoury despite the comments above. The last bottle 
Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Cuvee Duvault-Blochet 2006 from DRC, showed a primary voluptuousness, overflowing with expressive fruit notes but without any lack of focus. I am totally biased for all sorts of reasons but it really was a lovely bottle on which to finish.

We were all at bursting point by now with so much good food and lovely wine. A cracking evening with lovely people in a setting we will all miss so very much!
So simple, so delicious...

There's some pasta under there!!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Not just any 40th Birthday - one hell of a dinner...

It has taken me a long time to write this one up - I am not completely sure why, but when you see the line up may be I was a little intimated by the unique array of wines. It was a simply brilliant dinner to celebrate Jordi's 40th Birthday. The wines were, with I think one exception, supplied by the man himself.

La Trompette in Chiswick was the venue and a brilliant job they did too. The food, listed below with a few pics at the bottom of the post, was superb, never showing too much ego just complementing the wines.

Cep Arancini

Seared Isle of Orkney scallops with parsley root, delice pumpkin and hazelnut

Roast Guinea Fowl with turnip and come di rapa

Roast Fallow prickett with jerusalem artichoke, bone marrow, elderberries and damson

Charolis and whipped goat's curd

Chocolate tart, salted caramel ice cream, white chocolate crumble, espresso vinaigrette

So onto the wines then, each pair or trio was shown blind briefly before a reveal:

Bollinger Grand Annee 1982 en Magnum was our starting point with a lovely mellow, toasty notes, some nuttiness but not bready. There was good focus to this mature Champagne.

When I caught a glance of the white pair which was not served blind I was instantly excited. Having been smitten by so many Coche wines down the years I has always wasted to drink the Corton-Charlemagne. The 2005's from Coche are rightly lauded as exceptional, early picking the key, so Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2005, Coche-Dury had a bit of a reputation to live up to. It did so effortlessly. My notes are just a list of adjectives; persistent, dense, acidity, freshness, luscious, endless, refined, wow! To be flippant it was just delicious. You could savour it over days or throw it back, as with all great wines it begged to be drunk. To then have it with Montrachet Grand Cru 1986 from Ramonet was some treat. Even more of a treat was the fact that this did not turn into a battle or competition, the verve of one complemented the maturity of the other. The Ramonet had some of this producers classic signatures; Lanolin, ginger, spice, a little more ginger then nutmeg. It was heady and rich but not heavy.
So from Burgundy it was a trip west to Bordeaux for the next pair. There is some exceptional "value" to be had in mature white Bordeaux. The Laville Haut Brion Blanc 1966 had a note of green fruit, lovely verve and freshness, there was, amazingly, a district sauvignon note to this. An unctuous depth. Splendid wine. By contrast the Haut brion Blanc 1985 was deeply frustrating as you could glimpse a great wine but it was in some way unclean. In agreement with others it didn't seem corked to me (and didn't get worse with air) but was not what it clearly was underneath.
Any frustration evaporated rather rapidly and here are the three reasons. Vosnee Romanee Cros Parantoux 1990 from E.Rouget was superb, ripeness, richness, sturdy. The ripeness had good depth and some grit. With time some leather and spice, this was very much the opulent texture of the lavish 1990's. Then a little more age, Vosnee Romanee Les Brulées  1977 from H.Jayer, sweet, rounded and charming, so elegant so seductive, complex and absolutely "a point". Such a treat. The final Musketeer, Vosnee Romanee Les Brulées 1970, R.Engel with oranges, dried herbs, tea, some sweetness, bricky acidity and a slightly citric edge, almost a note of cherry, good now and probably not worth holding longer. What a trio!
BUT…then another trifecta was shown. The Moueix flight! Petrus 1960 was tropically high toned, as always with Petrus, stunning, iron like, extravagant, complete, so textured, so dense with some good acidity, succulent…just so "Petrus". Trotanoy 1955 was a delight, such a good vintage, iron-like richness, blood and meat, a lovely maturity with good acidity, almost a mocha note, magical finish, so moreish. Very different to the Petrus but complimentary. Latour a Pomerol 1949 (more - rather a lot more - of which coming on another blog soon) had more sinew, grip, a savoury edge, lovely grittiness, a shade of bovril, slightly dry toffee finish. By this stage it was already a dinner of a lifetime but wait there is more!
The next two wines, both Burgundy, couldn't have been much more different. First there was Chambertin Grand Cru - Domaine Marion - 1959 from Lionel.J.Bruck en Magnum which had an extravagant nose and lusciously dark core, having this blind I think we were almost all in the Rhone and possibly this wine may have had some help before bottling from that area! It just had a "pepped" up feel to it with a funky grip. The next wine - Romanee Conti Grand Cru 1958 - just simply could not have been more different. Pure elegance, tea and sweet degraded fruits, good energy, gentle and effortless, sweetness again and rosewater delicacy, long and persistent. Special.
Jordi is well know for his love of older wines and whilst we had been "mucking about" with some mature bottles I think he felt it was time to ramp things up and how lucky we were to try these next two but also for them both to show as you could only hope they might. 

Margaux 1900 (Deuxième Vin) had a note of candle wax and bananas, this passed and then there was lush texture of aged purple fruit, lovely, iron showed through amazingly it literally seemed to get younger and younger!! Then going back 30 years further Lafite 1870. This was all iron grit and a little metal then a very clear left bank character came through as the wine gained sweetness and showed more and more of that textbook Cabernet character albeit melded with the maturity…pretty staggering really. We then had the chance to revisit the glasses in front of us and try and take the enormity of what we had been drinking. The good thing was that in all other respects the dinner was just a lot of fun with good stories and views, some nice anecdotes - a good celebration. 
To round things off we had a Madeira from Henriques & Henriques the 1898 Boal Solera this had a very distinct; menthol and pine resin nose then the classical Maderia acidity.

All that really remains is to thank Jordi for the bottles opened, so many of which there is no chance I will ever have again! A special evening.
A few remnants
All set!!

Seared Isle of Orkney scallops with parsley root, delice pumpkin and hazelnut
Roast Guinea Fowl with turnip and come di rapa
Roast Fallow prickett with jerusalem artichoke, bone marrow, elderberries and damson

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Irish goes into his 50th year

I am a few blogs behind at the moment but this one has jumped the queue so that I can write it up while things are fresh in my mind. The other reason is that it is Irish Pete's actual birthday today and the lunch that follows was to celebrate this a couple of days early. Irish is one of the select few with a nickname on this blog…I can't quite remember from where or when the name started but there we go, Halifax (aka Nobby) started it.

So an email came round 10 days ago, can you make a relaxed lunch at Kitchen W8? I was delighted to be able to say yes. Come the day we were 8 in total and a lovely line up had fallen into place. As an aside it now often seems easier to organise dinner 3-10 days in advance rather than with lots of notice.

The menu that Kitchen W8 put together, of 4 half main courses, was spot on and is listed below (with a few pics at the bottom). I must have been there four or five times now and will be actively looking for chances to go back, I think the food and service are both very well pitched, "relaxed attention to detail" may be. Sadly living North and working just south east of the city it is not as close as I'd like.

Croquettes of Mangalitza Pork with Smoked Yolk, Glazed Salsify and Black Pudding
Thinly Sliced Smoked Eel with Grilled Mackerel, Golden Beetroots and Sweet Mustard
Fillet of Cornish Brill, Delica Pumpkin, Chestnuts, Trompettes, Turnip Tops and Red Wine
Slow Cooked Short Rib of Beef, Parsley Potato, Heritage Carrots, Savoy Cabbage, Horseradish

And so to the wines:

Salon 2002, ok I am biased but Salon is never a bad way to start any meal, the 2002 is a teenager at best but a perfectly mannered and promising one at that. Brisk with great freshness, Chablis-esque possibly but not sharp, very moreish with a dash of saline, lovely and with such a bright future.   

Then as we sat down we had a pair of whites. Meursault 1er Cru Genevieres 2009 from A.Gambal and Chateau de Fonsalette Blanc 1997 from Rayas. The Meursult was exactly what you want of Meursault for drinking now, rich, opulent but with good warm minerality, really good length and a lovely rounded but not flabby texture, a very slight whiff or reduction essentially just a very good wine. The Fonsalette was a lovely contrast, more complex and academic for sure but not to such a degree that it was anything but delicious to drink. A little lanolin and chestnut, dry toffee and a burning butter as well a a long length and no lack of acidity, really rather splendid especially with the food. The wonderful contrast of the three whites already had me thinking this was a good tasting day.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs 2002 from d’Angerville was up next as we sort of served the reds in a staggered, one wine at a time, order which worked well. I know Clos des Ducs pretty well, in the main thanks to this exception tasting. The 2002 was showing very well, saline and tight with focussed red fruit and elegant persistence, serious with the drinking window just opening…really lovely, coiled tight. We now shifted both to the Cote de Nuits for the next 3 reds…some big names.

Clos St Denis Grand Cru 2001 from Ponsot was some how less precise, soupier possibly than the d'Angerville but that worked as a nice contrast. The less defined, slightly degraded nose gave way to a good, more generous palate and a certain lush decadence.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cr Clos St Jacques 2001 from Rousseau had a nose of sweet fruited density with a dash of bovril just adding a savoury side which just shows this wine to be moving into the second phase of a long life. It was very precise, with fruits that are hard to describe, red fruit on a core of something darker possibly, long and just so dam drinkable. Yet another bottle of Rousseau that just makes you wonder how they do what they do.

Romanee Saint Vivant Grand Cru 2001 from DRC followed, it can be dangerous with DRC and Rousseau for a winner to appear and then the sum of the parts is less than the individual loveliness should make it. On this occasion both were singing. This RSV was superb, focussed and red with primary fruits but in no way one dimensional the nose is so packed with life, an exceptional bottle in every way. I think this will age with grace and balance rather than going through the phases that the Rousseau before it, I would be equally excited to own both. The RSV for its guile and finesse with a core underneath (think Philippe Sella), the Rousseau for its grit and savoury decadence whilst still being charming (Richie McCaw).

And so to the Rhone next. Hermitage 1991 from Chave was an absolute masterclass in how this producer belongs at the top of any table of wine estates. Rich yet weightless, a little armpit and grunt with a sweet fruited then saline palate the sombinationof elegance and almost light texture with much flavour was staggering. This was followed by Barbaresco Rabaja 2000 from Giacosa, 2000 being warm it was a better vintage in Barbaresco than Barolo due to the cooling effect of the river. It had a degraded, flattering nose of sweet bruised nebbiolo fruit that made it easy to enjoy and decadent. Just a lovely wine for right now. 

Then after the diversion from Burgundy to Rhone and Piedmont we were back with a cracking pair of 1999's both of which had been decanted:

Richebourg Grand Cru 1999 from Anne Gros was very good, a rich fruited nose of mulled, almost Christmas, fruits, this had a darker more powerful side to it, a wine that shows massive promise. There is a balance about it that makes it appreciably enjoyable now, brooding is too crude a word but probably as close as I can get.

Musigny VV Grand Cru 1999 from de Vogue is a wine I know rather well and is also a wine that, when I last had it, was still firmly in a sulking phase. This was all about coiled minerality, saline, iron and a wonderful rich yet not heavy texture. I, sadly, had to taste rather than drink these last two (its not often work has to get in the way but sometimes), I can well imagine they both came out more and more in glass and strutted their stuff. From a tasting perspective they were just how I wanted them to be...

A splendid luncheon with a really good crowd of wine lovers, lots of good chats…at one point I overheard a good, if not directly relevant to this, quote about Martinis (or Negronis in my case)…"One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough." from James Thurber…too true.

Happy Birthday Irish Pete...
Croquettes of Mangalitza Pork with Smoked Yolk, Glazed Salsify and Black Pudding

Thinly Sliced Smoked Eel with Grilled Mackerel, Golden Beetroots and Sweet Mustard

Fillet of Cornish Brill, Delica Pumpkin, Chestnuts, Trompettes, Turnip Tops and Red Wine