BASBN 2017 (Bring A Special Bottle Night 2017)

March 31st 2017

Now an established, popular and eagerly anticipated part of the Hong Kong fine wine ‘special dinner’ circuit, we met for this year’s BASBN at Crown Wine Cellars on March 23rd for what was the 10th such gathering. I think my 8th, only two had done the lot.

As we arrived in the bunker we were met with a 1996 Krug which were certainly the two most evolved bottles of this great Champagne that I have had. Both bottles consistent, and showing plenty of age with a toffeed nose and a hint of oxidization. A broad mid palate, and a long classy finish but based on these examples a Champagne that is ready to go, at 21 years of age. (17 out of 20).

We split the whites into two groups. First up NOT Chardonnay. Terca Blanca 2009, a Spanish white from Rioja, made from 100% Viura planted in 1915. Deep coloured and showing signs of oxidization, I think the 2009 may be passed its best. (15). Domaine de Chevalier 1989 Blanc next, unfortunately the bottle on our side of the room was corked but a few the generous souls on the other side of the table shared theirs (after some coaxing). Others just said ‘bad luck’! Olivier Bernard’s whites have always had excellent ageing ability and this still has good acidity and freshness but I think at its peak now. (17.5). Then an Haut Brion 20004 Blanc which just wasn’t singing, seemed to have lots in reserve. Mineral complexity rather than opulent ripeness. (16).

Then Chardonnay. First up a quite terrific magnum of 1997 Corton Charlemagne from Louis Jadot. We were all very impressed by its excellent balance, complexity and wonderful rounded stony fruit. (18.5). This was followed by a flinty, tight and medium full bodied Corton Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray 1995. Some felt it lacked density and complexity but I thought it was terrific with lots of drive and plenty of life ahead. (18). The last white was a magnum of Le Montrachet 2010 from Etienne Sauzet. Citrus and floral notes, with lots of linear energy and a great future. A brilliant wine which is more about delicate balance rather than power at the moment (19).

The Jadot was voted WHITE wine of the night.

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I have not drunk many 1959s in recent months so was delighted when greeted with three as our first flight as we moved onto the reds. 1959 Figeac which was utterly sublime, profound, gorgeous in fabulous condition with notes of coffee and mocha. (19). We then had a quite cloudy, more rustic 1959 Calon Segur which was still in fighting form, and had some lovely, sous bois, earthier notes. I suspect an ex Chateau offering right now would get a higher score. (17). Finally the first of three wines from Leoville Las Cases. The 1959 had an upper mid shoulder fill so I was skeptical on sight, but tasted pure as the driven snow. This was an excellent bottle unhindered by the level, and a great 1959, but just a tad below the Figeac. (18)

Red Burgundies are unusually rare at these dinners and our one offering was a 1985 DRC Grand Echezeaux. Low fill, browning colour, a bit washed out but interesting nevertheless. Felt like it had travelled well. Not in First Class. (16.5?).

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Next up a fascinating Pomerol and Napa flight which we started with an impressive Petrus 1970. Not my favourite vintage of the last century but this was a brilliant example of the best of the best I have tasted recently. Loaded with its beautiful sweet fruit and a hint of vanilla (SG) it has a soft easy and inviting structure with a complex, long and perfumed finish. Quite brilliant (and NOT just because it was Petrus). (19). Next up a wine that is close to my heart as it’s my birth year, 1968 Mayacamus Cabernet Sauvignon. Some in the room thought it was the 1970 Petrus and had been miss poured, but our friends at CWC don’t make those mistakes, so high praise indeed, a very impressive, ripe example of Old Napa. (18.5). This was followed by a cousin of sorts, Beaulieu Vineyard BV Private Reserve 1976 which felt further down the road of maturity but still impressed hugely as these well cellared Napa wines with lots of age often do. (18). We finished the flight with 1975 Trotanoy which was ‘smoking’. Lots of inviting ripe sweet fruit with classic blackberry flavours, a wonderful opulence and a long complex finish. (19). Pomerol just edged Napa in this flight but four superb wines and I would love to do that flight again blind.

Onto the younger Clarets. I had the best bottle (magnum) of Ch Latour 1989 that I have ever had. I have drunk this on a few occasions over the last 10 years and this was by far the best bottle yet. Impressive and youthful on arrival but with some time it opened up to show its true majesty. This must be the left bank wine of the vintage. (19). Then two magnums of Leoville Las Cases which were both lovely long sweet and ripe. You have to bide your time with LLC but the 1990 is now in full bloom, voluptuous and alluring (I wrote in my notes like a young Barbara Windsor) (18) and an equally impressive 1985 which also showed plenty of juicy fruit, doing what St Julien does best when we give it enough time, but not too much. Both in that sweet spot now, I wouldn’t wait for the next phase as they are so playful right now. (18.5). Next up we hit the right bank for Ch Beausejour (Duffau Lagarosse) 1990 which despite the richness you would expect from a Parker 100 pointer possessed a classy cool backbone and a mineral driven finish. Not what I expected, but credit to Parker who nailed it. I checked his note and he mentioned in his 2009 note its “extraordinary minerality and laser-like focus”. I wrote classy and cool. (19). The last wine of this Bordeaux flight was the Leoville Poyferre 1982. Our host kept saying “it’s flappy” (but he has a thing for 1959’s over any other vintage – he is convinced it the greatest vintage EVER) but I wrote long, subtle, ripe and ready, another great 1982. (17.5).

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The final flight of reds featured a rather old and tired Borgogno Barolo 1981 which was in competitive company (15) but then two amazing Cote Rotie La Turque’s from Guigal. A simply delicious, impressive and gorgeous 1998 (18.5) for me just nudged a more forward and easier and clearly more approachable 1990 (18) but two beauties nevertheless. The final red was a magnum of Dal Forno Amarone 1998. This is a big bastard that although opened at full 15 hours earlier needs more time, but it’s still a gorgeous wine. Just don’t operate machinery afterwards. (17).

The 1959 Figeac was voted the red wine of the night.

Final mini flight – a 1959 Scharzberger Riesling Auslese from Mosel (the fourth 1959 of the night) and a 1990 Riesling Clos Hauserer from Zind Humbrecht. The former had gorgeous structure which belied its sweetness (17) while the ZH again belied its age. Bravo. (17.5).

I think there was also a 1981 Yquem but I suspect by then I was in a taxi home. In our host’s taxi. Yes, sorry, that was me…