Monday, 31 August 2015

Grouse and Richebourg - The Square

When an email appears from Jordi entitled "Grouse and Richebourg at The Square" one tends to pay attention. Fortunately the date worked well and the brief was as simple as it was exciting, turn up at 6.30 pm and bring a Richebourg. The birth of the evening was a meal a year earlier when we enjoyed some of the best Grouse either of us had experienced, it is covered in this post.
So fourteen eager dinners gathered. We started with a magnum of Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Saint Anne NV, not a wine I knew but a good, balanced Champagne from a producer that a few of the crew knew. One to find out more about.

The first course arrived after the usual Square canapés (always excellent if not healthy!) Carpaccio of Sea Bass with Fennel Juice, Olive Oil and Orange was served with two white 2006's from magnum:
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Ruchottes 2006 from Ramonet (it is a site they describe as their "little Montrachet") and Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2006 from Dauvissat. I think it is fair to say that neither was that exciting. 2006 is a vintage in which the vast majority of whites lack precision and freshness to my mind. The Ramonet was nice as it hit the glass with a good refreshing edge coming from the cool temperature but the stem ginger and tiny amount of reduction (both positives in my book) quite quickly turned to a slightly flat toffee and a little looseness. I am being hyper-critical here. I love Ramonet and have had many spectacular bottles, some recently, from this great domaine. In short drink up 2006 whites. The Les Clos was a more complete wine and possibly fought the vintage a little more, wet stones and lots of minerality. I did not dislike either but we were now all looking forward to the main attraction.

We had wines from many of Richebourg's eleven owners. The site is one of the best known of Burgundy's Grand Crus, a "decent" size at 8.03ha and comprised of two "Lieu Dits" - "Les Richebourgs" and "Les Verroilles ou Richebourg". You can read more about Richebourg in many books/sites amongst the best sources being Jasper Morris, Clive Coates and maps from Sylvain Pitiot.
The next course - English Duck with Roasted Figs and Turnip - was to accompany the first flight of Richebourgs. It worked superbly.

Richebourg 2007, DRC - I have been luck to have all the DRC 2007's, up to La Tache, in the past year and I really think they show well. There is a brightness and a "verve" with them, energy comes to mind. There is good red fruit, not masses of depth, a little structure and a little graphite, I really like the precision. I will though, stand by what I said on the night, this is a lovely and very good wine but I am not sure that in the overall context it is a great Richebourg. It is more a superb 2007 than anything else. It was well received. If you own it drink a bottle it would be a shame to miss this "phase".

Richebourg 2004, Grivot - Much darker, more saturated, quite "stinky" in the way that Graves can be, quite farmyardy, not overly forced but just not balanced or charming. This wasn't well received generally, too much dryness, in many ways the opposite to the DRC. possibly trying to make too much from a tricky harvest.

Richebourg 2004, Hudelot-Noellat - Initially a little closed but then it opened out with a nice charming red fruited nose. In contrast to Grivot you get the impression that this wines has been allowed to "be itself". Balanced and pretty, one of the wines of the flight for almost everyone.

Richebourg 2001, Anne Gros - Tarry and richer, in many was more what I think of Richebourg being like. Primary, gutsy, quite obvious, though not harsh, grip. A wine needing time, someone said may be a 2008 if it were served blind and I agree. Patience required. I do not know the house style but those that did said it just needed patience. Impressive.

Richebourg 2000,  Anne Francois Gros - I thought, and my neighbour was polite enough to agree, this may have been the only wine in the first two Richebourg flights that was a "sub-par" bottle. There was a slightly bruised toffee-like note for me and after a nice saline dimension some "metal". I can well imagine a good bottle being very good. Opinion deferred.

Flight Summary - With the mix of vintages and two (2004 and 2007) being tricky ones I thought this told us more about the approach, and to an extent, style of the producers than Richebourg itself. Fascinating differences and to my mind, forgiving the bottle of AF Gros, only one weak link.

Roast Breast of Yorkshire Grouse with Crousillant of the Leg, Pickled Elderberries, Wild Heather and Smoked Bacon - was simply a brilliant, and satisfyingly generous, course. Really excellent. It deserved what turned out to be a great flight of wines.
Richebourg 1999, Hudelot-Noellat - Very pure, pretty, a little asian spice on the nose, long, nice grip, delightfully poised. At the end of the flight I added a note to say "slightly less Richebourg than the others?". I am note sure if that is right, it was lovely either way.

Richebourg 1999, Grivot - I liked the initial nose and wanted to like the plate to show the 2004 was just a "weak showing". Sadly, I found the palate simply too dry and a little over extracted, not black fruit over extraction just "tea bag left in too long" extracted. This did divide opinion and when we all had two votes for wine of the night at the end, this got a vote from possibly out most qualified palate, will the fruit win out? I hope so but I fear not. 

Richebourg 1999, Anne Gros - This was rich, a little bit of soy showed on the nose and there was depth and spice on the palate to make this a sturdy and more masculine wine. Good.

Richebourg 1999, DRC - I love 1999's generally and have been incredibly lucky to drink a few DRC 1999's, in modern speak they appeared to have "nailed it" in '99. I am of course hideously biased. This and the Meo-Camuzet that followed were voted the wines of the night. This had stunning depth, poise, balance and managed to be both very young but also showed it's hand. I imagine it is only just opening up. My note just finished with the rather flippant "Proper Job". Pretty special.

Richebourg 1998, Meo-Camuzet - This contrasted the DRC brilliantly, this is in full stride, it's done it's warm up and is ready to perform. There is a lovely open, slightly grainy,  slightly degraded sweetness, lovely acidity too. All in all just a lovely wine to wallow in. 

Richebourg 1998, Anne Francois Gros - This was good too. Nice to have two 1998's both showing well as I have found it to be a "hit and miss" vintage. There was a lightness of touch here, a feeling of easy completeness. Somehow understated and I don't remember it being discussed a great deal through no fault of it's own. Good.

Richebourg 1995, DRC - This was very balanced, very easy to enjoy, the nose was in it's second phase, not decaying but evolved. It was the glass I finished first, there didn't seem much to dwell on, a wine to enjoy for it's completeness if not for its excitement. I haven't found many red 1995's that are truly exciting, it seems a good vintage that struggles to do much beyond that. A lovely end to the flight all in all.

Flight Summary - This was as strong a flight of reds of this level in Burgundy as I have had. Two things struck me (and I think most others). Firstly, 1999 is a lovely vintage that is only just starting to hit it's stride now. Secondly, there was much more of a Richebourg personality to this flight, helped of course by the vintages being stronger. The personality is one of structured grace and a certain darker fruited lushness. Really special.

The cheese then ushered in the older wines!

Richebourg 1982, Gros Frere et Soeur - Was extraordinary in tasting quite so bizarre, very viscous and heavy, smelling of degraded leather but then with a palate that can only be described as bitter and pretty rank…I can't quite see what the fault was because it had not faded from oxidation, anyway everyone just moved on.

Richebourg 1978, Rodet - this I found to be light but balanced, not very remarkable but correct.

Richebourg 1971, Bouchard - I thought this had some of the sweetness you really want from Grand Cru at this age, I thought it was impressive if a little lacking in personality.

Richebourg 1964, Thevenin - This sadly was madeirised, a shame as I had heard good/interesting things.

Richebourg 1928 Avery's, Domaine Gros - Served from two half bottles, as you'd expect one was a little better than the other but both were good and to a degree rode to the rescue of this flight. It had sweetness and acidity and also persistence. They had, generously, come from Averys that very day. This wine was voted third in the vote at the end of the dinner with DRC '99 and Meo-Camuzet '98.

Conclusions - This dinner was a great evening for several reasons. Good organisation but not over-organisation, A really good crowd so conversation as a whole table worked as well as in groups. The food was brilliant and having four, logical, courses was the correct format. Service was good and not over fussy. In terms of the wines it was very informative. There was a feeling that with the wines the influence, as is often the case, went in the order; producer, vintage, terroir. With Richebourg being almost exclusively Domaine-made now the older wines of the future may be a little more dependable. I would just re-iterate how good the 1999-1995 flight was.
There was one more wine served up at the end - Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2004 from E.Sauzet - and rather delicious it was too. A feint whiff of reduction, then good freshness and a nice citrus freshness to go with the Grand Cru richness.
Thank you to all those who attended for their bottles, to the the Square for doing what they do so well and to Jordi for the organising as always! Onwards into Autumn...
Carpaccio of Sea Bass with Fennel Juice, Olive Oil and Orange
English Duck with Roasted Figs and Turnip
Roast Breast of Yorkshire Grouse with Crousillant of the Leg, Pickled Elderberries, Wild Heather and Smoked Bacon

D'Oliveira Madeiras…nothing under a hundred years old...

Last week we had the agents for D'Oliveras Madeira bring some wonderful samples into the office. I am a big fan of Madeira, I love the flavour profile, the acidity the complexity. A two day trip to the Island with Blandy's for a tour and some Golf further peaked my interest. I didn't know the D'Oliveras wines well (can only find one reference on the blog from a Ridge dinner) before this tasting, I had always heard the style was a little drier than the other houses and the acidity a tad more persistent.
D’Oliveiras is one of the greatest of the classic Madeira shippers, and one of the few to survive from the pre-phylloxera era. Founded in 1850, and an amalgamation of firms dating back to 1820, it is today housed in cellars that date from 1619. This small jewel of a company has always be owned by the D’Oliviera family, who were once highly important growers in the parish of São Martinho.

So the wines. They were tasted in flights by variety. I scored out of 20, more for my own info than anything. I find tasting notes for Madeira amongst the most difficult to write, apologies for any oddities:
1875 Sercial - Bovril and acidity strikes, superb, lovely rasping acidity then a little "sweet" marmite, so long, dry, luscious complexity. 17 (+)

1862 Sercial - More mellow, broader than the above, more oranges appear a little more complete. 17.5

1912 Verdelho - Wood and brightness, some nuts, lovely energy, good zip. 17.5

1905 Verdelho - Serious, quite raisined, lively, good, mellow on the palate but with energy. 18

1890 Verdelho - Special, lovely, somehow both precise, lively dry and sweet. Archetypal Madeira for me, splendid. 19 (+)

1850 Verdelho - Bovril, heavy, viscous, oranges and citrus appear, wonderfully rich, a little different too, unique. 18 (+)
1903 Boal - Richness, has a lovely peppery acidity, drier than many, such amazing life. 18-18.5

1908 Boal - Good balance, not too much of anything, a little less complexity on the nose but well balanced and good. 18

1875 Malvasia - Such focus, a masterclass in acid complexity, elements of this remind me of old Nebbiolo. Wonderfully bizarre. 18

1901 Malvasia - Superb nose, such life, especially classy. This is like an exceptional Boal to me, special. 18.5-19

1907 Malvasia - Such richness, viscosity, delightful wine, amazingly lush. 18 (+)

1895 Malvasia - Almost saline, superb, really fine, rich and fruity, may be the pick? 19 (+)

1875 Moscatel - Less zip, good but in this company just not my sort of thing. 16

The thing that really struck me from this tasting - and a few minutes per wine is NOT enough here - is that the Malvasia's in particular were amongst the best I have tried. Ordinarily I am a Verdelho and Boal man but the slightly drier interpretations of D'Oliveiras seems to work well to my palate.

One final point, the tasting room was still smelling glorious 48hours later, these little wines are "pocket battleships" of aroma, quite amazing… 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Holidays - bottles and travels...

The holiday's work
This is not going to be a post full of tasting notes, just a few comments on a great holiday with family and friends in wine country. We stayed in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We'd hired a house with lots of space and a pool. Given it ended up being 36C-38C on most of the days the pool was a "lifesaver".

Our friends enjoy the same things we do, a little bit of exploring, a lot of food and drink and otherwise a chill out. We always take a few cases of wine with us and come back with a few others! There was a bit of golf at two local courses:

Provence Country Club - Good course, tight, green a little under par but great fun, we played with two such members and had a good time.

Golf Grand Avignon - A good course, more open with some testing holes and a bit of water. Only let down by a four ball in front of us not letting us (a two ball) through.

I would recommend both, definitely need to book to play in August and to get an early tee time. Wine-wise we went to Chateauneuf-du-Pape for a nose around. Other than seeing some bottles of Henri Bonneau literally roasting on the shelf in one shop it was good to get a feel for the place, I wish we'd had more time there. We had a good tasting at a shop called "The Best Vintage - Caveau D.Brunel" with Daniele Brunel and picked up a few bits.
Tasting at "Best Vintage"
Also in Chateauneuf-du-Pape we went to the Perrin set up, very slick, a good tasting and a nose at the extensive range they have now.
The following evening we managed a trip to some rugby, something that I have tried to make a bit of a tradition. We don't always manage it but with the French season starting early, mid August, and the fact we tend to holiday in Rugby-country we have manage to take in a game or two. Aurillac vs Albi last year and Dax vs Castres a few year back. This time we went up a notch. Having noticed there was a friendly between two of the European powerhouses - Toulon and Clermont - we got tickets and drove down there. The three stands that were open were packed and the atmosphere was lively, Toulon ran out easy-ish winners. It was a warm evening and with the stadium - Stade Mayol - within a stones throw of the sea - it's a great place. 
The Boy enjoying the action in Toulon
A couple of days later, back on the wine trail Fran, Charlie and I made the 45 minute drive up to Gigondas. I have always liked the wines and along with Barbera from Piedmont have often said that Gigondas on a restaurant list is one of the safest and least risky "places to go". The village is a real lovely one. I saw the sign for Saint Cosme on the way into the village and stopped to see if tasting was possible. It was and a lovely 4 or five wines later I left with a few bottles and an even great appreciation of their wines! The village itself has a great centralised spot where you can taste about 80 wines and buy what you like, several places could learn from that. I would love to go back again and try some of the spots that Mr B had very kindly recommended, not only in Gigondas but all over the Rhone.
There was one other estate that we did drop in on that has vines in both Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas but has their cave down nearer L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and that was Domaine Tourbillon. An impressive set up that clearly has its sights set high. We picked up a few bottles here.
I think we'll do the same area next year, possibly looking to base ourselves nearer to Saint Remy de Provence which seemed a lovely town. I would though recommend a visit to L'Isle sur La Sorgue - it's very pretty.

A cracking holiday…too long to wait for next year!
A couple of cracking Whiskies along the way!
Not much smoking this year but this was amongst the best!

Monday, 24 August 2015


This may be the first a guest blog on here but such is the curse of Premox that I asked Sara Guiducci if I could include her post (it also appears on C& It is quite a detailed piece but then this is a complex area and she is an MW student! Thanks Sara.

Premox – Looking back over the past 20 years.

20 years ago, with the 1995 vintage, the issue of premox first arose in white Burgundy. Initially it was thought that only a few producers were affected. As it turned out, no one was immune and though there are now a decreasing amount of incidences, premox continues to cast a shadow over white Burgundy. Premox refers to a process of unexpectedly fast ageing in young wines displaying prominent aromatics of oxidation usually associated with older wines. With a wine’s complexity advancing too fast, the wines lose balance and in extreme cases show a ‘madeirised’ note during a time that the wine is still expected to be showing primary notes. Premox is intrinsically linked to white Burgundy, but this may simply be the result of white Burgundy being the most common white wine to be cellared. It is not unknown for white Bordeaux, white Rhône or Alsatian wines to be affected and recently there have even been reported incidents of red wine affected by premox. Like cork taint, premox seems random, but unlike cork taint the real source of premox remains undetermined. So what happened around 1995/1996 in Burgundy?

The mid 1990s saw an increasing trend towards ecologically sound wine combined with a trend towards more elegant, less phenolic wines that showed well in youth at large scale en primeur tastings, unaffected by the negative organoleptic effect of sulphur dioxide (SO₂).This resulted in a reduction of SO₂ at bottling and may have contributed to the rise of premox. SO₂ is a powerful anti-oxidant, used in wine production since Roman times to prevent oxidation. Levels of SO₂ reached as low as 20parts per million (ppm), most of which is consumed during the first 18 months after bottling. As a result of recent research by the BIVB, levels have gone back up to 35-40ppm and this may have contributed to the reduction of bottles affected by premox.

Sadly, SO₂ is not the full story. It does not explain the randomness of why some bottles in a case are affected, while others are not. Nor does it explain why increased amounts of SO₂ at bottling has not eradicated the problem. Traditional corks have long considered to have had some influence. The rise of premox coincided with an international demand for cork, resulting in cork trees being harvested too early (and in the wrong places lower down the tree) leading to poorer quality corks with reduced elasticity and increased OTR (oxygen transmission rates). This combined with the traditional Burgundy bottle shapes that taper outwards near the bottom of the neck may have reduced the effectiveness of the cork. In addition, the mid 1990s coincided with a move towards using a silicone coating (rather than paraffin), which has oxidative properties. In addition, its more slippery nature potentially allowed for increased oxygen ingress. Producers are certainly aware of the potential dangers associated with natural cork and huge investments have been made in producing longer corks, increasing the length of the neck of the bottle and looking at alternative closures such as screwcaps, vinoloks and diam/nomacorcs.

The mid-1990s also saw a rapid revolution in vinification techniques. The timing of malolactic fermentation (MLF) was delayed increasing the risk of oxidation between the completion of alcoholic fermentation and MLF and reducing the numbers of thiols (sulphur containing compounds) that protect the must. This would be supported by the fact that in high acid vintages such as 1996, 1999, 2002 (when MLF is naturally delayed further), premox is more common while 2003 with low acidity has shown surprising few incidences of premox. The trend towards using new oak barrels had become more common in the 1980s and reached its height in the mid 1990s (in terms of both the number of growers using new oak and the percentage of new oak used), but has been decelerating since the beginning of this century. Nomacorc recently suggested that a trend towards automated bottling lines may be linked to premox with increased availability of oxygen at the beginning and end of a bottling line having a relatively high effect on the small production levels in Burgundy, especially of the top wines. The most commonly cited change in Burgundy wine cellars during this period was the introduction of pneumatic presses to replace old fashioned basket presses. Modern pneumatic presses retain elegance by keeping the fruit whole and reducing the amount of phenols in the juice, yet the phenols have anti-oxidative properties. In a slightly inverse argument, it seems that the reductive environment of a preumatic press may actually be harmful and the oxidation of flavonoids before fermentation can make the finished wine less prone to oxidation (a process called hyperoxidation).

Despite extensive research, the exact origin of premox has not been identified, but it seems likely that the origin of premox lies in a combination of factors as discussed above. The good news is that premox is less prevalent today than a decade ago and that, as the world has woken up to the topic, extensive research continues. Producers have raised the amount of free SO₂ at bottling and changed corks looking for longer, thicker corks with higher density that reduces OTR. In addition, it is now possible to measure more accurately (and cheaply) the amount of dissolved oxygen in a wine, meaning that it is possible to guess more accurately the amount of SO₂ required at bottling. Producers are increasing the phenolic content of the must and increasing the oxidation of the must by re-introducing basket presses and or by deliberate micro-oxygenating. A watchful eye is kept on MLF and the use of new oak. As consumers we should be more forgiving towards SO₂ on wines destined for long term ageing, which may not simply be tight but potentially unforgiving in youth. We should also take note of drinking windows provided by experts. Most white Burgundies should be consumed within 1-5 years of their vintage and we should not be surprised if these wines appear ‘aged’ with longer cellaring. Only the truly great wines from outstanding producers in exceptional vintages are destined for, and benefit from, long term ageing. Yet we should also remember that with truly old bottles there are only great individual bottles. White Burgundy, even from the best producer, will show variation depending on storage and the wine itself.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Double birthday bonanza...

A meeting of "The Lads" – Ronaldinho, Chewy, Irish Peat, Halifax, Wattsy, Teardrop and Step-toe - was called to celebrate the birthdays of the first two mentioned. The venue was selected as No 1 Lombard Street and the brief was that the line-up, beautifully orchestrated by Halifax (aka Nobby), had to be top draw. Not a problem with this bunch.

As we gathered we started, post Peroni for some, with a magnum of Salon 1997, this was drinking superbly, nice focus but easy to enjoy, a dash of saline and citrus, no weighty biscuitiness which was not needed at this early stage. A cracking start.

The menu that lay ahead of us is below, with some pictures at the bottom of this blog.

Sauté hand dived scallop and prawn,chilli jam and coconut salsa

Pan fried olive crusted stone bass risoni,wild mushrooms and mushroom velouté

Truffled ballottine of chicken petit pois a la franchise

Stuffed fillet of pork sweet potato compote glazed cavolo Nero


The two birthday boys have probably drunk more Ramonet than other mere mortals so a trio from this great estate was our starting stalls:
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Ruchottes 2000 - quite bold and opulent with richness and breadth. This struck me as a little more Meursaultesque than Chassagne-like but I think that is more the vintage than anything…nice wine.

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2001 - slightly harsh to say so but this was the weak-link of the trio. It was not prem-oxed or anything but was looser than I think we expected. There was a striking note on the nose of fresh mint. It may be just suffered by comparison with the others.

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 1988 (2 bottles because, well it was rather splendid) - This was an absolute joy, stunning. My tasting starts with "feck me" it really was that good. Superb balance, sweetness, a shade of lovely reduction - simply excellent.

From Ramonet to Mugnier for the first brace of reds…which were served blind, leading to the usual abusive "you know nothing" exchanges that have become the particular forte of this wonderfully direct group - sensitive sorts need not apply!

As a pair these were beautiful wines, such lightness of touch and confidence required to turn out wines like this that will gain weight with age but are stunning now:
Musigny 2001 - this was one of those rare occasions where Nobby got things spot on by saying this was "ding-dong". Primary, red fruit, so pretty, roses, wild strawberries, really focussed but fruited too, delightful. Definitely want to have this again...

Musigny 2000 - A little darker a little more texture, still elegant but a shade drier, superb. A rich weightlessness.

The quality of those wines took me straight back to the  Bonnes Mares 2008, Mugnier that I had 15 months ago in Chambolle-Musigny - a quality producer without doubt. On the topic of quality producers the second red Burgundy pair was from two rather special names - Rousseau & DRC.

Ruchottes Chambertin Grand Cru 1993 from Rousseau was incredibly youthful, very focussed with rich red fruits throughout, my scribblings have the word "lovely" about four times, I certain felt it showed more primary character than a 22 year old wine would normally, quality and poise, excellent.

La Tache 2000 from DRC was next, as we had this and the Rousseau side by side I think we all felt the Tache was the older wine. The texture was the odd thing, a little murky and bruised. There was acidity there and I liked the fruit character, which admittedly had nothing like the purity of the Rousseau. It was a odd showing for La Tache, lacking focus, I looked at my notes from the fairly recent La Tache "decades and decades" dinner tasting and there is some similarity. Anyhow, this group would never let a disappointing bottle change the mood. The next pair, of magnums, quickly had smiles all round. 
Hermitage 1990 from Chave was first up and was instantly a success, amazingly managing to combine meatiness with almost primary fruit, a dash of graphite but real energy. It's a good thing it was a magnum as there would have been a fight for more, a stunning wine. Several round the table saying it was a good few years behind the bottle format of this wine. Following that was always going to be tricky but Hermitage La Chapelle 1978 from Jaboulet had a damn good stab at it. It was at a different stage which was a superb contrast. Saline, iodine, some good grip and grunt, "pips and all" was a phrase someone used, there was lovely lack of compromise about this. Beef stock but good fruit too, a superb wine. As I write this I am two days away from heading to the Rhone -  a region I am loving more and more…these wines are amongst the very best reasons why.

We then hit a double "corked bottle" speed bump. Both Trotanoy 1982 and a magnum of
Figeac 1982 were corked -  a real shame. We had a brief squabble about whether you could taste "round" the cork but moved on swiftly and with good reason. A magnum of Margaux 1983 awaited. This is a wine I have long wished to have, something of a legend. There is a lovely lush texture and then a quiet extrovert, expressive character with a dash of spice, this is still youthful in magnum but is simply splendid. The expectation was high and it delivered.
The next wine, which was served blind, will be amongst the most memorable of the year without any doubt. It was effortlessly complex on the palate. The nose was far less remarkable, a little neutral to me but apparently it smelt like a "rotting hedgerow" to one of our number. Either way (the polite version of "whatever") the palate somehow managed to combine; bovril, marmite, butter, pastry, Tarte Tatin, nuts and more. It was not bone dry by any stretch, I loved it. It was revealed as Rayas Blanc Doux Liquereux 1950 - Ronaldinho's birth year - special. Vouray Mouelleux Reserve 1976, Foreau was possibly more conventionally brilliant, smokey, briney, real richness, lovely, lovely wine. A very dry and hot year of course. I have reading (and hopefully drinking) to do on this producer. The wines quality was as marked as my ignorance of it.
A Russell and McIver bottling of Cockburn 1955 followed and is a reminder, if we needed it, that mature Port is a category nobody should be forgetting about, this was long, precise and clean, not heavy, but full of gentle Christmas spices. A real highlighted even in this sort of company.
With the room, that we had sensibly been tucked away in, needed for dinner we were politely moved to the bar area where a couple of "glamourous super-subs" were opened:
The Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2009, Tollot-Beaut reminded Nobby of "Egg Custard" or may be he was just pining for his train back ooop norf. It was broad and good, nicely savoury to balance the ripeness of 2009. It did slightly struggle for attention with a magnum of Chambertin Grand Cru 2000 from that chap Rousseau. The Chambertin, unsurprisingly, was superb, rich, balancing sweet fruit, saline and savoury seriousness perfectly…

And with that the box marked "Mission accomplished" could be firmly ticked…great bottles, great people, great abuse…who's birthday next?

The Birthday boys…a happy couple…

Sauté hand dived scallop and prawn,chilli jam and coconut salsa
Pan fried olive crusted stone bass risoni,wild mushrooms and mushroom velouté
Truffled ballottine of chicken petit pois a la franchise