So we celebrated this year’s Bring A Special Bottle Night earlier in the year than in previous years, but as usual a strong team gathered at Crown Wine Cellars to pit their wits and wines in a competitive joust of fine wine appreciation. Our host, Mr G, made it clear in a rousing opening speech that this was a competition, pure and simple, and may the best wine win, and here is what unfolded. Crown Wine Cellars once again provided a magnificent tasting menu, with much credit going to their patient and understanding staff.
Two lovely Champagnes to kick off, a really youthful mag of Pol Roger 2004 (put that young puppy back in the cellar and don’t touch it for another 10 years) and a particularly refreshing Thienot 1995 which had a spring in its step and lively whistle on its lips. (Both 16/20). Good start. Palate cleansed.
Then some acidity provided by a beauty from the late Didier Dagueneau, a Pouilly Fume Silex 2009, still fresh and lively, like an orchard on a crisp February morning. Up next a thoroughly youthful Oliveiras Sercial 1875 Madeira which was most impressive for a wine at 140 years old (had been taken out of demijohn and bottled in 2013). The oldest wine yet served at a BASBN. (“Rasins dragged through honey” and “burnt orange peel” both featured as notes). Silex 16/20, old Mad 17.5/20.
Then on to the White Burgs. A magnificent, super fine and complex, layered Le Montrachet from Dominique Lafon 2011 (18.5/20) which should have been a contender for WWOTN was utterly magnificent, even if a bit young to be out this late, followed by a magnum of slightly flabby Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne 1998 (15/20), before an ageless Puligny Combettes Domaine Leflaive 1996 (which I brought, so a biased 19/20). Our host then supplied the worst wine of the night, Corton Charlemagne Domaine Roumier 1996 (9/20) best described as “tasting like a can of Campbells tomato soup BEFORE you cook it.” Then there was a controversial Meursault Charmes Lafon 1990. I’m afraid I didn’t agree with those who voted for it as the white of the night and gave it 15/20. Lovely nose but fading on the palate. After a number of re votes and then some ridiculous uncalled for negative canvassing by our host, the prize for white wine of the night eventually went the Leflaive.
Then onto the reds, and as at other gatherings we put the older, likely-to-be-more-delicate, wines in first. The top wines in this category often show well as the participants’ palates are still relatively fresh, and this year we had three beauties in the flight. Up first DRC Grands Echezeaux 1979. What a stunning wine. Utterly glorious complex floral nose, delightful velvety palate and harmonious finish. An early contender for wine of the night! (19/20). Then we had a disappointingly oxidised and past its best Barolo Pio Cesare 1961 which had come direct from the estate, so clearly adverse to long distance travel (12/20). The Cheval Blanc 1953 in magnum was fantastic, now fully mature with pure, soft fruit, and a lovely long lingering finish. (18.5/20 and the eventual winner of the WOTN). We had a magnificent Castillo Ygay Reserva Especial 1935 a few back which won the WOTN and this year the 1942 put in a very strong showing. Still quite oaky (had only been bottled and released from its wooden surroundings in 1983) but with great length and complexity and another 10-20 years of life ahead? Mr G thought it smelt like “˜melted butter’. (18/20). Final wine of the flight was a rather oxidised magnum of Talbot 1961, which the owner admitted had come out of his cellar 15 years too late. (12/20).
We then moved onto 1970s Cabernets. Two Mondavi Napa Cabernets kicked us off, the 1970 from magnum was leafy minty with a greenish tinge, a slightly dry finish but overall showed very nicely, with a savoury profile (16/20) and then a sappy, moreish, fresher, longer, finer 1978 from bottle (this score was from the better of the two bottles 17/20). The off to Bordeaux for a surprisingly delicious, well made magnum of Ch Lascombes 1978 (16/20), a double magnum of Ch Pichon Lalande 1978 which was absolutely ready to drink with tannins thoroughly resolved, had a bit more subtlety than the Lascombes, where the large format has really preserved a sense of freshness and complexity. (17/20). Last wine of the flight was Ch Latour 1979, which was a bit dried out, lacking a bit of fruit. Structured and solid rather than sweet and ripe. (15/20).
Then onto a very strong flight of 1986s. A 1986 Margaux that was is terrific condition and playful form, with lots of ripe fruit and plenty up its sleeve in the years to come (19/20 and voted 3rd overall as WOTN). Then off to California for a Mayacamas 1986 Cabernet (in magnum), dark in colour, fruity and long (“smells of tea” from Mr G and someone else commented “Brazilian!”) which I scored 17/20. The final 1986 was a beauty, Ch Lafleur, super ripe and complex, with dark fruit and a sweet finish (18/20).
Then we were spoiled by a flight of 1982s (and although the Gruaud Larose was technically served a bit later I have added it into this flight). A sweet, gorgeous, almost now fully mature Ch Cheval Blanc 1982 got things going in fine style (19/20 and runner up as WOTN), followed by a very impressive Ch Beychevelle 1982 which was by no means out of its depth with dark, rich, blackberry notes and a long impressive finish (17.5/20). Then we moved onto a super ripe Ch Ducru Beaucaillou 1982 which is absolutely open for business now, concentrated and complex on the finish (18.5/20). The last 1982 was one of my favourites and a wine I had brought to this very dinner in 2013, Ch Gruaud Larose 1982, which continues to punch above its weight, and again showed itself to have a good life ahead (18/20).
In honour of Serge Hochar who died in late December 2014 we had a fine Ch Musar 1994 which was tested by what had come before it. (14/20).
Onto the sweeties, a sadly corked Ch Suduiraut 1995 and then an Yquem 2002. This is not an opulent Yquem, but it was honeyed, layered and sweet, but relatively simple and straight-forward lacking that bit of magic we expect from this brilliant estate. (15.5/20).
The final wine of the night was a “˜69 Moet & Chandon in magnum. I have been informed that it was a lovely, mushroomy, complex wine, with much more freshness and effervescence than expected. As I had already left I was unable to give it a score.
Another sensational evening – thanks to all for your magnificent contributions.