This year our much loved BASBN started badly. Two weeks before the event our host, mentor and inventor of the Bring A Special Bottle Night said he couldn’t make it as he was travelling on business. He passed the mantle to the gifted and hilarious JW who presented the night with both skill and aplomb. With due respect to all the generous attendees who had dug deep in their cellars to bring something worthy of the occasion, he was missed.
So could we survive without the great man? Well initially no. Everyone had bought reds so we had no white or bubbly arranged. Luckily the CWC team moved swiftly into action with some delicious Donnhoff Riesling and then we had a very generous donation of the forward open and inviting Louis Roederer Cristal 2006. It was delicious and ready to go.
So Christian Pillsbury and I had the job of presenting the red wines in the order we felt would allow everything to sing in almost perfect harmony. This is how they rolled…
First up – Bordeaux (lots of old Bordeaux so we thought we’d let them out first)
Latour 1926 – still alive and singing, with plenty of fruit and was clearly a great wine in its day, but at 88 years of age the high notes were fading. 16/20
Cos d’Estournel 1953 – offered by the host in absentia, this was a beauty, and blind we’d have been 15-20 years out. Youthful with lots of fruit, very playful. 18/20
Latour 1953 – both Latours were generously provided by Toby, this was just edged out by the Cos but a lovely example of mature First Growth Pauillac. 16.5/20
Gruaud Larose 1961 (magnum) – leafy minty (as Clive Coates would say) but in a positive, savoury style, a beauty with lots of life ahead. 17.5/20
Calon St Georges, St Emilion 1961 – very soft and easy, a really lovely surprise from a Dubos bottling. 16/20
La Mission Haut Brion 1964 (magnum) – Though this vintage is remembered for favouring the right bank, this wine was still in fine shape. Likely one of the most successful ’64 lefties, a bit lighter and perhaps a bit diffuse (reflecting the vintage), but had elegance to spare. 17/20
Phelan Segur 1982 – Invite an Irishman to BASBN and he’ll find a way to bring an Irish wine! For many the WOTN, this was a very fine ’82 that has not yet begun to fade. Drinking beautifully right now, a delicious wine with plenty of ready pleasure. 16.5/20
Magrez Fombrauge 2004 – The clear outlier. A modern style St Emilion that served to provide a great perspective on how differently the wines from the 50s and 60s were constructed. It was big, but had little of the leafy elegance of the preceding wines. 16/20
Next round – other old stuff
Castello Y’Gay 1934 – My notes show 5 ticks which means either a) I was slightly euphoric or more likely b) this wine was just superb. We have had old Ygays before and they do seem to age fantastically well. Another strong showing. Combines its age with a youthful texture and balance, in perfect harmony – as RP would say BRAVO! 18.5/20
Vega Sicilia Unico 1966 – a very generous and kind offering, unfortunately this bottle was oxidized. NR
Chianti Classico Castel Greve 1978 (magnum) – wild card and if I’d been told it was a Chianti from the mid-1990s I would have believed it – lovely. 16/20
Groth Reserve Cabernet 1987 (magnum) – a bit leafy and vegetal on opening but was singing like a canary when served some 2 hours later – savoury as opposed to fruity but lovely balance. 16.5/20
Louis Martini Californian Mountain Zinfandel 1947 – Cheval 1947 it ain’t, and this was oxidized but I bet it was a player in its day. Fascinating though as lots of fruit in there. 14/20
Vergelegen Cabernet (South Africa) 1999 (Vergelegen means situated far away) – really Greg, again. This is not the first time I have this with and it remains delicious and fruity. Could be cellared for another 10 years. 16/20
If you would like to visit any South African wine estate like Vergelegen please contact Greg De’eb. He is the HK ambassador for SA wines.
Nebbiolo Knights of Alba (Piedmont) 2003 – as Greg and SW had bottled this, and had a few on the way too, I was very impressed by this wine, and the simple fact that it had made it this far. Pure enjoyment and the owners love it. No probs. 15/20
Mas de Daumas Gassac 1985 (magnum) – delicious, fruity, youthful and lively, a great example of aged Gassac. 16.5/20
Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Ch de Beaucastel 1989 (magnum) – intense wine with depth and complexity, all wrapped up in a confit a stunning the darkish fruit. Still youthful, could be drunk in 20 years’ time, no probs. My wine of the night 19/20.
Ch de Beaucastel 1990 – a beauty, but alongside the HAJP 1989 it did suffer, but it could stand alone and happily deserve a better score than my (conservative rating) 18/20
Ch de Beaucastel 1998 – outshone tonight by the 1990 and the 2003 but give it another 10 years. A very serious piece of kit in need of time. This could turn out to be one the greatest vintages for Beaucastel. 17/20
Ch de Beaucastel 2001 – a man in a suit – serious, and in need of a bonus and some time! More forward than the 1998 tonight but a long term wine, and a great one. Just so lovely. 17/20
Ch de Beaucastel 2003 – really open and clearly enjoying life – I love the 03s from both the Rhone and Burgundy at the moment in this joyous form. I think Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) would call them “a hoot”. Brilliant and playful but maybe not for beyond 2040. 17.5/20
Clos des Papes 2000 – much more elegant than expected – showing nicely but still young, could be popped back in the cellar for another 5 years. 17/20
Penfolds Grange 2007 (magnum) – Absolute infanticide, but a clearly a great wine and was much appreciated by the crowd. The most intense wine of the evening, and you needed to shout to be heard at this point in the evening. 17.5/20
Blind work – not a clue as palates beginning to fade by now
The wines were Ch Montrose 1994, Stags Leap Artemis Cab 2006 and Ceperello Isole e Olena 1997 which we all thought were younger than their years and proved the point that most of us drink too much wine way too young. (And sorry I lost my scores on those).
With many thanks to all the generous contributors of the wines that they brought, Stephen in absentia, Jason for filling in and Christian Pillsbury for helping me fill in the blanks for this blog.