These days of recession, stagflation and credit crunch have ensured that most visits to the City are rather gloomy affairs. Not so last week. I was invited to the Wallbrook to taste eight recent vintages of Ch Guiraud followed by a Gavroche prepared lunch accompanied by Domaine de Chevalier 1978 and Mondotte 1999. They were delicious but it was when the cheese arrived that the real excitements began. Guiraud 1906, 1942 and 1961.
Ch Guiraud is under new ownership. Four heroes have bought out the Narby family and their aim is to make Ch Guiraud the leading Sauternes. Displacing Yquem might be difficult but watch out Climens, Rieussec etc.
The new owners are Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier, Stephan Von Neipperg of Canon La Gaffeliere and Mondotte, Robert Peugeot of the motor car fame and Xavier Planty, the long time wine maker. This disparate group were brought together by a real love of Sauternes and Guiraud in particular. They are convinced that with additional investment they can not only make even better wine at Guiraud but they might be able to run the property at a profit. I love their optimism as it is appallingly difficult to make money out of a Sauternes Chateau. With their marketing skills and knowledge of the wine industry they just might do it.
The pre lunch tasting was excellent. The 2001 and 2007 were the undisputed stars but two less heralded vintages showed quite exceptionally well. The 2002 and 2006 had purity, balance and length that was outstanding and showed that one doesn’t just need to buy the “great vintages” to drink well. The 2003 beloved of the US market was much better balanced than one might have expected and the only vintage that I wouldn’t want in my cellar was the 2004.
It was when we got to the cheese that things really hotted up. The 1906 was the colour of molasses, still very drinkable and a huge treat but it was the 1942 that was truly remarkable. Known as “le vendange des femmes” this was still wonderfully fresh, a lovely deep yellow and just delicious. How could they have made such good wine when occupied by Stephane’s relations? Unfortunately I had to leave at 3.30 before the 1961 was served. It’s a tough life but I have been assured that it was quite wonderful. However by then I think that most of the guests would have found a glass of Black Tower a real pleasure.