Notes from a wine dinner.

1990 Pol Roger (magnum) – things started off very well with this wine,
which was correctly guessed as a 1990. It showed not as much colour as
some from this vintage (perhaps being from magnum helped) was clean
with bright acidity and no oxidative notes, just apple and nuts in the
nose and a pleasant yeastiness that adds to complexity. Long clean
finish.

Served with quail eggs three ways – halved eggs topped with truffle
paste, black olive paste and whole egg dipped in EVOO and rolled in
za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that includes sumac, salt,
sesame, thyme, marjoram and oregano.

Next up were a pair of Chenin blancs from the Loire.

1999 Bourillon d’Orleans Vouvray Coulee d'Argent Vielles Vignes Sec –
I was a bit worried about the dry Vouvray at this age but it came
through beautifully. Light colour, clean lemony nose, interesting
wine.

1997 Domaine Closel Savennieres Cuvee Speciale – I had pegged this as
having a better chance of having held up over time (the initial
acidity in young examples mandates a 5-7 year aging period if you
value the enamel on your teeth) but it was showing more colour, and
more age than the Vouvray. More complex flavours on entry, but it
tailed off a little at the end and was less engaging.

I served the wines with scallops in saffron cream sauce with hints of
white pepper and cayenne, which played well off the wines, I think
improving them over the tasting experience without food.

1999 Dr. Thanisch Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese – I always
find that with the sort of food I was serving, a Sauternes tends to be
too sweet and overpowering, as well as often lacking the same degree
of acidity needed to cut the fat of the food, and I usually opt for a
German Spatlese or in this case, an Auslese. It was instantly
identifiable as to grape, with a classic Riesling petrol nose, quite
rich in the mouth with a long clean acidic finish, nicely balanced.

I served a slice of duck foie gras (a kilo among 8 people), seared and
with coarse salt, on a simple bed of sautéed endive and apple,
deglazed with Sherry wine vinegar.

After that combination I needed to serve a palate cleanser. I heartily
disagree with the all too common use of sweet sorbets as alleged
palate cleansers, when in reality they are palate cloggers, too sweet
right before you start to taste the most serious wines of a dinner. A
non-sweet sorbet does work well – rosemary or unsweetened Earl Grey
tea sorbets for instance. I chose instead a plate of sliced avocado,
which in texture segued nicely from the rich fatty foie gras, and
dressed with lemon juice, soy sauce fleur de sel, and a drizzle of
EVOO (in this case from Waiheke Island in New Zealand).

The next trio of wines was blind, but rather than mixing up several
different Bordeaux, I served three in a vertical as I always find that
an informative exercise.

1983 Ch.Grand Puy Lacoste – mellow claret nose with slight tea hints,
and in the mouth the relative lack of fruit made the remaining tannins
seem harder and more dominant than they would have otherwise seemed.
OK, but almost certainly better a few years ago.

1982 Ch.Grand Puy Lacoste - this turned out to be my favourite.
Excellent nose of cedar and currant, a lovely sweet entry, which made
it very appealing, and a long smooth elegant finish. Nothing not to
like here and it will last a long time yet. One of the nicest 82s in
recent memory.

1970 Ch.Grand Puy Lacoste – I had always enjoyed this wine but hadn’t
opened one in several years, so wasn’t sure what to expect. It failed
to live up to the 1970 idiom, in that it didn’t fool people into
thinking it a decade younger than it was. It showed its true age and
although what was there was pretty good, the fact that I remembered
what it had been blunted the enjoyment. Not to say the wine was flawed
or bad – it certainly wasn’t, it was just fully mature claret. It was
still showing a nice sweetness on entry and some good fruit in the
middle, with medium long finish, and was pleasant to drink, but
tasting it along side the 1982 made it seem less than it really was.
That’s always the risk of vertical tastings!

I served boneless rack of lamb, first coated in a mix of cumin,
cinnamon, cloves, aniseed and cardamom and seared off, then cooled and
wrapped in phyllo pastry and cooked rare, served on a Port reduction.
The accompaniments were roasted fennel and leeks, finished with
balsamic vinegar, and potato strata with baked garlic, fresh thyme,
and bacon included.

With a selection of cheeses, I opted to open the first bottle of a
wine I had obtained from London 20 years before. It had never been
labelled, but shipped straight from the bins with the cork branded and
the top of the cork marked with the vintage, and the obligatory splash
of white paint to guide cellaring position.

1963 Fonseca Port – opened several hours a head and double decanted.
Far deeper colour than many 63s currently show. Nose seemed a snitch
warm to star with but either it changed or I accommodated and after a
bit it seemed just right, showing red fruit, spice and tarry caramel
components. In the mouth it was….damn near perfect! Layers followed
layer of complexity and the length was monumental. This is the best
Port I’ve tasted since the 1927 Taylors a few years ago. I know there
have been differing reviews of this wine, not at all surprising given
age and varying cellar conditions, but this bottle was superb – Port
doesn’t normally get much better than this. I hope the other bottles
show the same!

We finished with coffee, chocolate truffles, and ripe strawberries
with black pepper ground on them.

I intend to open a bottle of another 1997 Closel later today, the Les
Coulees, to finish off the quail eggs, and to see how that bottling
has held up. Happy to have a couple of bottles more of the Bourillon
Vouvray in the cellar