April 3rd 2018
I was fortunate to be travelling in Hong Kong for the 11th Bring A Special Bottle dinner (now that I am based in the UK) and therefore very happy to attend what remains one of the great institutions on the HK fine wine ‘special dinner’ circuit.
So on March 8th we gathered in the bunker at Crown Wine Cellars and our host opened proceedings with a couple of bottles of Krug 1996. He did the same last year with the same result. Both bottles showing plenty of age, toffee nose and some oxidisation. An extra year hadn’t helped and I downgraded my score from 17/20 last year to 16/20 this year. Unusually we had three Champagnes this year, so next up a magnum of Lanson Brut Vintage Collection 1976 which was still very fresh, with lovely weight and a beautiful texture. Tasted blind you would have been in the late 90s or early 00s. 17.5/20. Finally we had a Dom Perignon 2003. This is a wine I have had a few times over recent months and it’s a terrific Dom. Its bold and rich but not at all blowsy and the heat of the vintage has been superbly managed. Lots of energy here. Bravo. 17/20.
We then moved onto the whites which we served in (what we thought would be) one flight of mainly Chardonnays. A fully mature, rich, complete, Meursault 1er Cru Charmes Lafon 2001 got us going. This was not oxidised but it was quite broad lacking a bit of mineral drive, but its Lafon. 16/20. Up next an outlier, but something very special to the gathered group as Eden Rift belongs to popular ex HK figure Christian Pillsbury, and their 2016 Eden Rift Chardonnay is their first release. I am also the UK agent. So quite a few points gathered before we even tasted it! An undoubted successful debut which could not have been more different to the Lafon. This youthful, energetic, racy, mineral driven Chardonnay showed very well but still needs some time to fill out. 16.5/20. Then onto Corton Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray 1996. Unlike the terrific 1995 we had in 2017 this was fully mature with a hint of oxidisation. The underlying materials suggest this was once a beauty, and I’m sure pristine examples exist, but on today’s showing 14/20. This was followed by two excellent wines, a terrific Meursault Pierre Morey 2000 (from magnum). Wow! Belied its age and humble ‘villages’ status 17.5/20. Then a quite fabulous Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres Domaine Leflaive 1992, without any hint of premox, clean and complex. Rich and ripe on the palate with hints of white stone and good acidity. 18.5/20. We then headed down to the Rhone for an Ermitage Blanc Cuvée de L’Orée M Chapoutier 1994. A bit flat and nutty, with hints of sherry, I found it a bit too waxy, old and (for me) boring. But some liked it. 12/20.
The final white wine was a total outlier. Damijan Podversic Collio Ribolla Gialla 2012 which is, in its own individual style, I am told, one of the great wines made on the planet in that spicy, floral, ripe, slightly oxidised, medicinal, slightly sherried style. 13/20.
The excellent Pierre Morey Meursault 2000 was voted WHITE WINE of the night which although shone brightly I felt was tough on the Leflaive Puligny Folatieres 1992.
So onto the reds, first up the older ones. Château Cos d’Estournel 1961 was sadly slightly oxidised, but had an amazing colour but this bottles’ best days were behind it. On the other hand Château Troplong Mondot 1961 was very impressive. Lots of energy and fruit still clearly showing brightly. 17/20. Our bottle of Château La Mission Haut Brion 1970 was completely gone/oxidised but we then had a real treat, Château Cheval Blanc 1976. Clearly saved from the intense heat of the vintage by its enormous slug of Cabernet Franc (which handles intense heat better than Merlot) this is a fabulous wine. Lots of purity with autumnal fruit and yet fully mature and utterly satisfying. 18/20.
So next flight started with DRC La Tache 1978. Two bottles with variation. The bottle served my side of the table was the goodie, with lovely with sweet ripe fruit and a generous finish. The fading colour belied its age on the palate, with nicely resolved tannins and a long balanced velvety finish. 18.5/20. The bottle on the other side wasn’t as good. Both bottles purchased from auction, I suspect an ex Domaine offering would be more focused. Tough place to go after that? Not at all, with a quite brilliant magnum of Vosne Romanée 1er Cru Les Malconsorts Domaine Lamarche 1980. My note was ‘simply fabulous’. Again like the La Tache fully mature but utterly a point, with a hint of freshness wrapped up in a comfit of sous bois fruits. 18.5/20. We then headed off to Spain for a lovely sweet, ripe, enormously enjoyable and complex Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1970. A great old Rioja. 17/20. We then skipped off to the Rhône for a lovely, almost Burgundian, Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet 1983. Like the previous wine it was sweet and satisfying with some leather and saddle on the finish. This was a particularly good bottle. 17.5/20. The last wine of this flight was a magnum Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1971. I have to admit this wine surprised me. I thought it was superb. Some mentioned ‘horses stable’ describing the nose, but I found it to be pretty refined, medium bodied with lovely rounded tannins. Lots of dark fruit with spicy cigar notes. 17/20.
The final flight of reds kicked off with a very aristocratic Les Forts de Latour 1982. Yes someone bought a second wine to BASBN, but if you are (bravely) going to bring a second wine to this dinner then it is not a bad choice. Utterly delicious with sweet ripe fruit and a lovely polished finish. A man in a Saville Row suit. 16.5/20. This was followed by a Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve Secret 2001. There were two bottles of this. The first one I tried really lacked oomph. It was hot and stewed, blowing off loads of alcohol and felt a bit out of whack. Nevertheless there were some slightly confused looks on the other side of the table and we shortly confirmed that the other bottle wasn’t nearly as advanced, and was definitely a bit brighter, sweeter and altogether more upright. Based on the second bottle I scored it 16/20. (First bottle 13/20.) Next up my wine. Château Leoville Las Cases 1996. I have had this wine a few times recently (lucky me) and what a stunning wine it is. First Growth quality in this vintage. Powerful, but not overwhelmingly so, this is a very classy wine which will get better and better and drink for another 20+ years. 19/20. Next up a magnum of Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 1990. Showed its age a bit coming after the Las Cases it displayed lovely autumnal fruit with truffles and sous bois notes. Fully mature. 16.5/20. The last wine of the flight was a thoroughly enjoyable Araujo Eisele Vineyard Syrah 2007. Deep dark colour as you would expect, lots of dark brooding fruit, but rich and complex with a dollop of new oak integrating well. Plenty of life ahead. 17/20.
Final flight of sweet wines/Ports got going with a JJ Prüm Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Beerenauslese 1976. An absolute beauty. I wrote in my notes Audrey Hepburn. A truly great wine with no cloying heaviness. Elegant and light on its feet. Balletic beauty. 19/20. This made the Château d’Yquem 1983 feel positively heavy and cloying by comparison and I am not sure this was the best ever bottle. Colour was very orange and this bottle felt like it lacked that classic d’Yquem freshness. 16/20. Finally two Ports. A bottle of Quinta do Noval 1963 and a magnum of Dow 1963. The Dow from magnum felt more youthful and fresher of the two, was quite delicious, rich and smooth with plenty of fruit and many more years in it. 17/20. The Noval was slightly more advanced, and a bit more spirit on the finish, but a lovely way to end the evening. 17/20.
The vote for the RED WINE of the NIGHT, and the eventual WINE of the NIGHT, was won by the La Tache 1978, closely followed by Cheval Blanc 1976, Leoville Las Cases 1996, Hermitage La Chapelle 1983, JJ Prüm 1976, The Meursault Morey 2000 and the Puligny Montrachet Folatieres Leflaive 1992.
I believe there were other wines served later but by then my jetlag had persuaded me to go home.