March 20th 2020
On Friday, March 13th, a group of 16 gathered at Crown Wine Cellars in Hong Kong for what was the 13th iteration of this particular fine wine dinner.
Bring a Special Bottle Night 2020 experienced a radical shift this year. For the first time since BASBN’s inception, women were invited to join in the fun and games! The three lucky ladies were Debra Meiburg MW, my partner in vinous crimes Sabrina Hosford, General Manager of Summergate HK and myself.
Our CEO Tom was unfortunately not able to make it this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, so I had to take on the mantle of scribe for the evening. I brought a special bottle to open that had been waiting for just an occasion like this.
Champagne Flight : The Kick-off
As we walk in, we are greeted with a glass of 1970 Delamotte Champagne from magnum. 50 years’ young and with that perfect mix of toasted notes and vinosity, this was a pleasure to drink. Unknown to most of us, Salon was produced in 1969 and 1971, so in fact, the 1970 Delamotte is Salon in disguise! Our second magnum of Champagne is the 2009 Cristal, youthful, bright and vibrant, no rush. Our final Champagne is the 1998 P2 from Dom Perignon in bottle. Fresh and crisp with light brioche notes, there is no hurry in drinking this puppy up, but pop them in your cellar if you see any offers. The flight winning Champagne was with little doubt the 1970 Delamotte with 9 out of 16 votes. The victor of the flight celebrated with finishing up the Delamotte.
White Flight No 1: ABC… Absolute Best Chardonnay
There were some very heavy hitters in this flight, and it was obvious to us all what style of Burgundy we preferred. First up, a lovely duo of 2002 Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots. This was clearly Chablis, very mineral, clean, super fresh, delineated and full of energy. My ideal glass of top notch Chablis. The MW at the table had other thoughts “Sulfurized!” she declared across the table as her contribution was in this flight and she wanted to win… Wine B was a duo of 2005 Lucien Lemoine Batard Montrachet Grand Cru, bottle variation here sadly. Half of us had a very clean expressive glass, the other a flabby, past its peak rendition. Wine C, a magnum of 2009 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Grand Cru Marquis de la Guiche that was already very honeyed and in your face, classic and yummy. Heads started to roll as the battle between contributor and competitor to sway the rest of us began: “lovely, preserved magnum style” or as our host preferred to call it “Too tight, not ready.” Time to vote and it was a tie between the Raveneau and the Montrachet, ultimately the Montrachet won in vote number 2.
White Flight No 2 : From Out of Left Field
The second flight of whites was aptly named “From out of left field,” as there were some very interesting wines plus a surprise blind! First up, green dot, a magnum of 1991 Gravner Sauvignon Blanc out of Italy’s Friuli region. Gravner is known for making wines out of amphorae, however that did not begin until after his first visit to Georgia in 1994.
The contributor reckons this is the last wine Gravner made before moving to Amphora and was likely aged in a large botte. What a special and unique wine tasting experience – it was clearly Sauvignon Blanc but with so many layers. Funky, nutty and clear notes of skin contact – however this was made, it was yummy! Orange dot, a magnum of 2000 Nikolaihof Riesling, clearly Riesling, very young and creamy, just entering its drinking window with many years ahead of it. Black dot was a magnum of 2001 Radikon, but this time we are in full skin contact, amphora world. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, this sees 3-4 months of skin contact. I got a hint of Fuze Peach Lemon tea. A great contribution in stark contrast to the 1991 Sauvignon Blanc. The final wine of the flight is a blind. First nose smoked Chevre (goats cheese), lots of sea smoke, salt. That odd combination of scents worked – I really enjoyed it. Guesses are flying across the room, but one word struck a chord: bretty, and we were instantly thrown into the Rhone. This was a 1976 Chateau Grillet Cuvee Renaissance, 100% Viognier, but so not in the realm of what Viognier traditionally expresses itself. Brilliant effort, loved this wine. All of these wines were paired with the soup course, a Goulash with foie gras toast, and no one could have ever predicted how perfect this pairing was… And the winner of the Left Field, the 1991 Gravner Sauvignon Blanc in Magnum.
White Flight 2.1 : Ultimate Fighter Champion
There’s some action going on in the ‘background’ of our guessing the Chateau Grillet… a magnum of unnamed Burgundy was missed. At the urgent behest of the owner, this wine was opened and served immediately. A glass from a magnum of 1983 Bouchard Pere et Fils Montrachet Grand Cru was put in front of us and labelled wine D. This was part of a 6 bottle release from the Domaine 18 months ago and its owner bought a few of them… My notes read “Hello my new best friend! beautiful nose, sexy sexy wine.” So alive, honeyed, nutty, no amount of descriptors will do this wine justice, so our host’s proclamation will have to do: “Who’s taste is this not??!” An urgent re-vote was done between wine C (the 2009 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de la Guiche) and wine D to decide the ultimate winner of the Absolute Best Chardonnay flight: The 1983 Bouchard won in a landslide.
The greatest white wine of the night was a vote between the 1991 Gravner Sauvignon Blanc and the 1983 Bouchard Montrachet… the Montrachet comfortably claimed this. But we all agreed that the Sauvignon Blanc was one of the best iterations of the varietal most of us had tasted.
Red Flight No 1: A return to the classics with Red Bordeaux
A single bottle of 1959 Ch Latour started us on our next voyage. Classic claret that was showing astonishingly well. Bright, vibrant acidity with the underlying fruit still present. A very lucky bottle and a very lucky group. Second, a mag of 1979 Ch La Mission Haut Brion, not in the best of shape, a bit green, but offered pleasure to us given the tough vintage. Wine 3: A mag of 1986 Ch Mouton Rothschild, possibly one of the greatest vintages to come out of Mouton, ever. High hopes here, classic Mouton on the nose, but sadly this was ever so slightly corked. A shame, but then again not every bottle can be perfect. To finish out the flight, a wine that is so clearly Merlot dominated, which can only mean: 2000 Petrus. A very tightly wound wine despite its numerous hours in a decanter, firm, tannic yet still juicy. Pop that puppy back in the cellar… As someone who was raised on Bordeaux, this was an awesome flight of wine despite its tiny set backs to share with a great group of people. To taste 4 decades of Bordeaux across the highest end of the spectrum isn’t your everyday occurrence. The winner of this flight was the 1959 Chateau Latour brought to us by our host Mr. SG. A very lucky bottle indeed!
Red Flight No 2: A Complete Flight of Napas
Onto our next flight of reds and another first for BASBN: A Complete Flight of Napas…in honour of Debra who hails from Sonoma County. First up, a magnum of 1992 Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the greatest vineyards and vintages in the Napa Valley. Black tea and eucalyptus dominated the wine, a bit too extracted felt by some. This was followed by two bottles of 1970 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour. I’ve had a number of these wines from the 70s but felt that the 1970 had seen its prime sadly, tired. The next pair were contributed by myself and Sabrina, a duo of Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignons both in magnum, 2000 and 1996. Sabrina’s 1996 was youthful, vibrant, perfectly in its window – a sleeper of a vintage that has produced a number of compelling wines. Really lovely. The 2000 was noticeably from a hotter vintage, and showed to be more mature than the 1996. From first tasting it when the bottle was opened to when it was served, sitting in a decanter did it a lot of favours. The last wine of the flight was a 2009 Ojai Vineyards Roll Ranch Vineyard Syrah out of magnum. This had what I call the characteristic black cherry note that I find in Californian Syrah. Many years on the legs to go for this one. The showdown was between the two Monte Bello’s with the 1996 edging out the 2000 by one vote to take the win.
Red Flight No 3: The Mediterranean
Our final flight of reds is a trio from Italy & Spain. From Spain we had the 1982 Vega Sicilia Unico out of magnum, a very classic, full bodied Unico with notes of black currents and plush tannins. Our first Italian, a magnum of 1990 Parusso Barolo that was sadly too corked to offer us anything past the nose. To round out the flight, a magnum of the legendary 2004 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. This took some coaxing out of the glass but when it loosened up was phenomenal. I am not the biggest fan of Sangiovese in general, but this was brilliant. Black cherry and cashmere tannins. A great way to finish the round of reds. Another tie after the initial round of voting, the Soldera took the flight.
The top three reds were: 1959 Chateau Latour, 1996 Ridge and the 2004 Soldera Riserva. Winning red of the night? The single bottle of Chateau Latour. Congratulations SG on the win.
Stickies to finish….
We had a very generous donation of a 1969 Domaine Huet Perlant Sec from a member of the group now based in Singapore. Having done a massive vertical of Huet across the various styles back in December with Noel Blanc 2019 (blog posted here too), this was a pleasant return to the wonderful world that is Chenin Blanc. The bubbles were still there, it was surprisingly sweeter than expected with the Sec neck tag. The telltale Huet acidity is muted by the intense sweetness, but nevertheless comes off as a very balanced wine. Next a bottle of 1967 Ch Suduiraut – classic botrytis, lots of caramel, orange peel and burnt sugar with an herbal, savoury note. Lovely. The final wine of BASBN 2020 is a bottle of 1976 Massandra Collection Wine Surozh Kokour Dessert, “Crimea’s Liquid Crown Jewel” as described by Jancis Robinson MW. Founded in 1894, the Massandra Winery makes Crimea’s answer to Sauternes. This particular wine is made from the Kokur grape variety, indigenous to Ukraine, and displayed notes of black tea, tropical fruit and marzipan. I found it a touch on the ripe side. It managed to take the crown as top Sweet.
Before the mass exodus began, we did the final round of voting for the best wine of BASBN 2020. The contenders: 1970 Delamotte in magnum, 1983 Bouchard Pere et Fils Montrachet Grand Cru in magnum, 1959 Ch Latour in single bottle and the 1976 Massandra Surozh Kokour Dessert. In yet another first for BASBN, a white won wine of the night! Lucky for us that the magnum wasn’t left out!
Many thanks to everyone for the generous donations from your cellars.