The 10th Wine Dinner – tasting notes


A write up of last Tuesday’s Wine Dinner from one of our shareholders:

The tenth biennial Wine Dinner put together by Johnny Goedhuis and his team from Goedhuis & Co, with much help from Maggie Heath. The charities this year were the National Society for Epilepsy and Macintyre, which helps those with learning difficulties. The dinners are always very well supported by the trade, with many chateaux generously donating a case of wine for the tasting or for the dinner, or to provide one of the lots for the two auctions (the live auction superbly conducted, once again, by Humphrey Butler). This means much more of the ticket price (£500 this year) feeds through to the bottom line. 270 people attended this year. Sir Mark Prescott gave an entertaining and suitably politically incorrect speech. City money was in evidence again after a slight hiccough at the previous dinner in 2008 — a 300 bird day of pheasant shooting with Angus Barnes in the West Country went for £19,000 (50% over value), and a trip for six to Burgundy for 3 nights, visiting Lambrays, Grivot, Rousseau, Meo-Camuzet, Cathiard & Sauzet, lunching at Drouhin Laroze and dining chez Ponsot, made £18,000. Interestingly this was half as much again as the similar trip to Bordeaux fetched, despite the high quality visits on offer to Margaux, Lafite & Latour, lunch with Anthony Barton at Langoa, and dinner at Grand Puy Lacoste. A reflection, perhaps, of the burgeoning interest in Burgundy. The ten dinners have now raised well in excess of £2 million for their charities.

This year the theme was 1998 Bordeaux, as always tasting only red wines of the mainstream chateaux at the very top end of the market. But no garagistes, except, by long tradition, Le Pin; and no new wave wines from the Perse stable or its followers. All very British and traditional, and quite right too! The wines were double decanted, two hours before the tasting began. In my view none of them was fully ready to drink as yet, although one or two were drinking reasonably well (Haut Brion, Palmer), and my overall impression was that the majority are only 3-5 years off the start of their optimum drinking periods.

1998 is often hailed as a Right Bank vintage, but on the strength of this tasting, I wonder whether that assessment may need revisiting. On the night, Latour and Haut Brion shone, and Cos, the two Leovilles, Palmer and Lynch Bages showed great potential. In contrast, only Petrus truly stood out among the Libournais, Le Pin was definitely disappointing, and the VCC left me wondering if it would ever fully resolve its high acidity. But the L’Evangile with dinner was fine, and none of Latour a Pomerol, Eglise Clinet or Conseillante were in the tasting. They might have redressed the balance. On verra.

Right Bank

1998 Pétrus – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Lovely deep colour. A nose of intense fruit, blackberries and blackcurrants. Some acidity on the palate, beautiful fine tannins, and lovely complex black fruits, with some red fruits as well. Not yet fully ready, but even now a wonderful summer pudding, very well balanced by the acid and the tannins. Long and delicious. Loved this. My joint WOTN (with Haut Brion). (98 pts.)

1998 Château Le Pin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Very good deep colour. Simple fruity nose. A fruit bomb on the palate, again very simple and straightforward. No obvious tannins. Finishes slightly medicinal, a vague impression of antiseptic or cleaning agent. A second mouthful was sharper, more tannic. Didn’t really like it. (89 pts.)

1998 Château Cheval Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Lighter in colour than Petrus or Le Pin. Lovely perfume on nose, slightly sharp, quite delicate but persistent. Also perfumed on the palate, and still delicate, lovely for a while but I think I might tire of the perfume in time. Noticeable acidity. Exotic in a frail way. Some sweetness, of a floral kind. Not robust, but persistent. Still too young. I have a case of this, but I think I may sell it and buy some Haut Brion. (92 pts.)

1998 Vieux Château Certan – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
1st bottle badly tainted by brett. Next bottle — clean bright medium colour, nose quite acidic. On palate clearly in an awkward phase, sharp, indeed very sharp. Acidity very prominent, overlaying the fruit which I assume is there, although it is not obvious tonight. Not at all sure this acidity will ever resolve. Oh dear, I have two cases of this in the cellar! (85 pts.)

1998 Château Figeac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Deep limpid colour. Very good clean gravelly nose, predominantly cab sauv it seems to me. But on palate the wine is not in a good place just now. Sharpish tannins; fruit not showing very well, although it is certainly there. This one will resolve I feel, whereas I have doubts about the VCC. I hope so, as I have a case of this at home as well! (90 pts.)

Left Bank

1998 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Deep full colour. Classy minerally nose, typically Latour. Very rounded, deep, authoritative mouthfeel. Lovely cool, deep mix of cab sauv & minerals. Beautifully balanced, will be majestic. Long and persistent. More approachable at the 12 year stage than I expected. Still immature but very special. One of the very best wines of the tasting. (97 pts.)

1998 Château Lafite Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Medium colour, lighter than Latour. Some perfume and sweetness on the nose. There are still some unresolved acidity and tannins on the palate, but they do not mask the underlying sweetness. A gentler and more delicate wine than Latour, it lacks the stamp of authority which that wine has. I have a case of this, but wish now that I had the Latour instead! But the Lafite has length and persistence, and I am left with a predominant impression of agreeable sweetness. Very good indeed. (94 pts.)

1998 Château Mouton Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
We were being chased into dinner before I reached this wine, so a briefer note. Medium colour, not a very forthcoming nose. Very good, still quite tannic, definitely not ready yet. Did not really have time to do justice to this one. (92 pts.)

1998 Château Margaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Again, we were being chased into dinner before I reached this wine. The bottle I sampled was heavily tainted by brett, which persisted. The colour was deep and attractive, but on the palate I could only detect some unresolved tannins over the farmyard tastes. A spoiled bottle. I did not have time to try another bottle. (FLAWED)

1998 Château Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Beautiful deep colour. Vanilla, almond and even a hint of fig on the nose, and some gravel. Very Graves. More vanilla and minerals on the palate, and blackcurrants, but with a lovely sweetness and roundedness (if such a word exists). Quite tannic initially, although the wine is very well balanced. Impression of figs persists with the blackcurrant, but in a very positive way. Seems way too young tonight; at least five years to go before it reaches its peak, but it will stay on a plateau for many years after that. Really lovely wine, joint WOTN for me (with Petrus). Later — it is one of the privileges of being a Goedhuis & Co shareholder that you can take into dinner a glass of one wine from the tasting if there are some part empty bottles left after the tasting is over. Or, at least, the privilege goes this far — if you help yourself to such a glass, no-one is going to stop you! So I went into dinner with a full glass of this HB. Over the next 2 hours it mellowed, insofar as the tannins receded, and it was a most splendid glass to accompany the food. Cool, creamy and minerally. No doubt my palate was somewhat jaded by the time I ate dinner, but despite the retreat of the tannins it still seemed to me that this wine was not really ready, and will improve substantially further after another 5 years in bottle. Lovely stuff. (98 pts.)

1998 Château La Mission Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Dinner was called whilst we were tasting this one, and we had to hurry along to taste two more. So not the fullest of notes. Deepish colour. Nose quite closed, heavy, dumb, some mineral. On the palate much more tannic and aggressive than the Haut Brion, definitely not balanced tonight. Very good though. Try again in 5-7 years. (93 pts.)

1998 Château Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Deep limpid colour, very Palmer. The black label always seems appropriate for this wine! Touch of brett on the nose, but it blew off. Very complete on the palate, very full, but perhaps a little one dimensional. Some sharpness and tannins still. A good drink tonight, but room for further improvement. Very good. (92 pts.)

1998 Château Léoville Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Very dark, full colour (only Latour is comparable tonight). On the nose deep, dark & brooding; fruit and gravel are in there somewhere as well, along with Heathcliff and Gordon Brown. On the palate a very complete wine, well-balanced but reticent at this stage, the tannins still showing but in harmony with the fruit and the minerality. Feels slightly like a sleeping monster tonight, certainly it needs more time, but I think it will turn out very well in a somewhat austere way. A big wine. (94 pts.)

1998 Château Léoville Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Deep colour; fine Cabernet nose, perhaps still on the dumb side. Less harmonious than the Las Cases at this point, with some unresolved acidity and tannins which catch the back of the throat. Seems a little dry as well. But going to be very good indeed. Needs 5 years. (92 pts.)

1998 Château Lynch-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Lovely full colour. Good complex cab sauv nose, giving off fruit and even a little caramel. On the palate very elegant. Lots of fruit, but in balance. Not there yet, but will be very good indeed. (93 pts.)

1998 Château Cos d’Estournel – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Good deep colour. Vanilla and creme caramel on the nose. Lovely wine now, quite possibly will become excellent. Very clear, delicious sweetness. Still some acidity. Very long. A complete wine. Fine. (94 pts.)

At Dinner

2008 Château D’Esclans Côtes de Provence Garrus – France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
Not really fair to review a rose downed as an aperitif after tasting no less than 16 top clarets of 1998. Yet it stood up remarkably well to the challenge, even though it is only early March and we normally put our roses away from October until Easter. Pale rose in colour, with a gentle fruity nose. Not a fading flower on the palate though, very provencal, light but tasty, and none of the heaviness I so dislike in roses from Bordeaux or Burgundy, which are really just red wines with the grape skins removed at an earlier stage than normal. I truly hate pink merlot as an aperitif — guaranteed headbanger! None of that here, though; just a very pleasant light wine, not unlike our staple St Baillon, but perhaps more fully flavoured. Must get some. (88 pts.)

2006 Philippe Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embrazees – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
Again, pretty unfair to the wine to rate or write a note about it after tasting sixteen 1998 clarets and quaffing a large glass of tasty rose. So don’t take this note too seriously. An enjoyable and well-chosen wine to accompany Scallop Souvaroff (slow-cooked scallops and foie gras in a champagne sauce). Silky and smooth, quite pale in colour, and well-flavoured. It made the juices flow at the back of the mouth, always a good sign. Enjoyed it. (89 pts.)

1998 La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Didn’t make full notes at dinner, so this is more of a memory. Good colour, perfectly well-made wine, ready, perhaps not very long. I still had a large glass of Haut Brion 1998 Grand Vin at this stage, so it was never going to compete with that! But of the three additional 1998s served at dinner this was perhaps the least impressive. (87 pts.)

1998 Domaine de Chevalier – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Served with a roast sirloin of beef after tasting sixteen 1998s, and several glasses of other wines. No contemporary note, but I recall a good colour, a typical Graves nose and taste, and a cool, minerally wine with nice fruit. More or less ready, unlike nearly all of the wines in the tasting. Very enjoyable. (90 pts.)

1998 Château L’Evangile – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
This was the best of the three additional 1998s served at dinner. Seemed fully ready. deep colour, nice nose of fruit. Delicious, but this note does not do it proper justice. Served with the roast beef. Perhaps it would have had a higher rating if it wasn’t the 21st wine of the night, and if I hadn’t still had some of the exquisite Haut Brion 1998 Grand Vin in a glass beside it at dinner! (92 pts.)

2003 Clarendelle Amberwine – France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée
Billed as Monbazillac on the menu card, I had never heard of it before the dinner. Very sweet, quite cloying, unsubtle, perfectly ok. A sensible wine to serve as the 22nd wine of the night, and most people seemed to enjoy it. A quaffer at that stage of the evening, though! Fine for the occasion, but I wouldn’t buy it. (86 pts.)

Bravo, and many thanks, to the Goedhuis team!