I rather liked the ham

We dropped by our lovely friends, James and Katie, for dinner; the ham was brilliant. The wines were decidedly good too, apart from a totally knackered bottle I brought along. Thanks for hosting us, J&K!

Chablis Grand Cru Preuses 2004, William Fevre

This was a bit cold to start with and so not terribly eloquent (serving quality Chardonnay at fridge temperature is an improvident use of wine), but as it is warming up I’m getting a panoply of nuts, lemon fruit and flinty minerality on the nose. Is there a hint of new oak here? I think so but it is decidedly subtle and terribly well integrated, just adding to this wine’s appreciable complexity without drowning it. This nose has power but also restraint: a champion sumo wrestler throwing salt and holding back a few moments before completely twatting an inferior opponent . Yeah, really serious Chardonnay, great stuff. And it tastes even better. A powerful palate alright, but it is not in the slightest bit heavy or flabby, it just frolics across my palate like a singularly fay entity. There is beauty here in spades: I always call my cat a spayed. With the brilliant harmony, sensational complexity and undoubted depth to this wine it has the capability to age very well, but I’d be more than happy to drink up my supplies soon as it delivers the goods in tempting style already. Yeah, go for it, boys and girls, drink and enjoy!

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Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2003, Chateau de Beaucastel

Totally oxidised and shagged out, bums! This doesn’t really surprise me that much but I shall be sending it back to the wine soc.

Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1997, Rousseau

Oh beautiful, beautiful Pinot! This is a gorgeous nose of seductively mature Burgundy that just sends a thrill of love down my spine with every little sniff. Clearly profoundly serious too, it takes a serious vineyard to be so superlatively beautiful and surpassingly complex. Distinctly mature, though, with a set of aromas which make me think you should be drinking this soon. Suppose I’d better drink it, then. The palate is soft, silky and consummately ravishing, oozing with complex, mature fruit and a full, deep earthiness. Really rather long with that silky fruit and velvety texture taking much time to relax their tender embrace with your palate. Without reservation the very best example of this vineyard I’ve had from Rousseau, every preceding bottle has been markedly disappointing and in no way as rapturous as this bottle of sybaritic enchantment. Drink soon, chaps and chapettes, it is showing tremendously well now and will not be getting any better. We were presented this and the next wine blind and I guessed this as Dujac Chambolle 1er Gruenchers 1991, which is a ludicrously glowing compliment but this was a thoroughly pleasing bottle of wine.

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Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 1997, Dominique Laurent

The last wine was distinctly mature, this one looks a lot younger. Smells younger too, with very ripe fresh fruit that seems quite vigorous. I feel there is something floral about the nose and it vaunts rich layers of earthy complexity. Clearly a rather serious wine, engorged with class it throbs with sophisticated style. The palate also seems on the young side, with a shade of rigour to the tannins and its flagrant fruit seem very fresh. Perhaps the oak stands out a bit, but some people go for that and I don’t think it really harms the harmony to any appreciable extent. This palate is indubitably complex with a finish that goes on and on. My wild stab in the dark (which is what anyone who laughs at my blind tasting ability will receive) as to the identity of this wine was Dujac Clos de la Roche 2005 (another seriously positive compliment). I was quite staggered to find this was a 1997, it seemed palpably young to this taster. If a 1997 from Laurent tastes so young how long does it take their serious vintages to mature? My life is only going to be so long, you know? A very impressive, striking bottle which lives up to the grand vineyard name on the label, but I’m not sure its lack of maturity is a good thing; wine is for drinking, not ageing forever in a cellar.

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Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Escherndorfer Lump 2001, Horst Sauer

No, I’m not going to crack a ‘Sauer grapes’ joke. Cripes, this stuff is distinctly brown, it looks totally knackered and completely past it. By bums, it doesn’t smell all that shagged out, there is some vivacity, hooray! Staggeringly botrytic with loads of candied fruit it is a really intense nose of demented yet oddly attractive personality. I admit there is a shade of oxidisation to it, which I suppose you would expect from a TBA, but the degree of vigour on the nose is quite staggering given its colour. The palate is preposterously sweet, big surprise there, but it has an outlandish acidity which just about brings what might approximate to harmony in this style of wine. Acidity is so important in a wine, doubly so in a wine as tooth-putrefyingly sweet as this, so I am pleased it is not lacking. Ultimately I’ve got to admit it is quite simple: it has prodigious quantities of sugar, plenty of candied fruit, gratifyingly Sauer acidity (sorry I couldn’t restrain myself), sugar, more sugar, and that is pretty much it. But what do we solicit from an encounter with a TBA? I feel this pretty much delivers what one might reasonably expect from a nine year old Riesling TBA found languishing on Fortnum’s shelves, albeit with a decidedly browner colour than one might presume drinkable Riesling to be. TBAs rarely erupt with dimension, you drink them for the lunatic extreme sugar action. This really was quite nice given its intensely bonkers character, but I do find such lunatic extreme sugar action only provides a limited amount of pleasure.

  • Richard B

    Yes, TBA is a bit much. I love the sugar acid thing, but I think the potential complexity of this kind of wine is better realised around GKA level.