Last weekend we had the good fortune to visit the Tully family in Jersey. Whilst Edward Tully and I ran the Oxford University blind tasting team we tasted quite a lot of wine together; indeed, in one academic year over three thousand different ones. Student life was not always a trial. Our last trip to Jersey was cancelled due to volcanic activity so it was a great delight to finally be able to fly over and see Edward, Kathryn and their young (and remarkably tall) daughter Lydia.
Edward had a few old bottles of dubious provenance that he had picked up very cheaply at an auction and, sadly, some were simply dead. These included a half of Heidseck Dry Monopole 1928 and Chateau d’Yquem 1960, both of which would have been intriguing if in condition. The rest of our drinking was rich and varied, with some bottles absolutely engorged with pleasure and others which were quite surprising. Here are the notes on the whites:
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Vin de Laurence 1998, Mas de Daumas Gassac
This was our first drink on arrival and by arse was it a weirdie – given it blind I asked if it was supposed to be as it was and suggested it might be stupendously shagged-out Sauternes or really freaky Madeira. It is brown. There are lots of funky, oxidised, acetone aromas here and virtually nothing in the way of fruit. That being said, if you like Madeira, or possibly are a necrophiliac (please don’t tell me if you are a necrophiliac, I just don’t want to know that information), there are characters you might enjoy. It certainly isn’t simple. The palate has good acidity, plenty of sweetness and perilously little in common with normally-made whites. Real length to the flavours, though, and if you can recognise that conventional does not equate with attractive you may well see merit in this wine. Ageing potential? Cripes! How much more spent, knackered and absurdly crapulent can it get?
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Riesling Kabinett Scharzhofberger 2002 auction wine, Egon Muller
When Mr T told us he was going to pop this my excitement was protrusive; I tried it at the Grosser Ring tasting years ago and it was super-beezer. I am surprised by how muted the nose is. Sure, there is lime fruit and great minerality, but it doesn’t explode with refulgent brilliance. I fear this is in a bit of a middle-aged hole. Yeah, that is what I get from the palate as well: the fruit is demure and the minerality burns with merely timorous intensity. It is clearly an incredible kabinett of real style and class, but it is so tightly wound at the moment it takes my most perceptive and analytical tasting faculties to disinter its sophisticated charms. Come back in five-plus years time.
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Brut Chardonnay 1995, Pol Roger
Can I be ego-maniacal briefly? Well, it is my site so if I cannot here then I don’t know where else I can. So: we were given this blind and I nailed it instantly – it was a true piece of blind-tasting mastery. Ho ho ho. Brilliantly biscuity on the nose with an incredibly stylish lemon fruit character – this is a stunning, pure-Chardonnay fizz from an extremely serious Chardonnay vintage. Serious class, I’m telling you. The mousse is delightfully fine, and the interplay between mature flavours, ripe lemon fruit and great acidity just leaves me gagging for another taste. To me, this is clearly superior to and in far better condition than the bottle of Salon 1996 I popped a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve got some of this in your cellar then you have purchased supremely wisely, it is great now but clearly will just keep on getting better for many years to come. Blanc des Blancs Champagne at its most tumescently satisfying.
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Champagne Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1996, Pol Roger
Wow, such density and depth on this nose. The Pinot influence is strong but it doesn’t seem overbearing or ponderous. Very attractive, in all honesty. The palate is scrumptious. Its fruit is ripe and strident with a fiercely bold whack of acidity and the flavours just go on and on. If you want scale and decent complexity in your fizz-necking experiences this delivers all one could possibly ask. Excepting sparklers at the loony-nutcase-hatstand end of explosively stylish greatness, such as [link2post id=”4836″]Krug 1996[/link2post], this is the complete Champagne experience.
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Riesling Clos Ste Hune Vendanges Tardives Hors Choix 1989, Trimbach
The ravishing purity and finesse of this nose speak to and emotionally effect me in a allure-charged, beauteous style I find hard to articulate. It is bewitching. Considering this is a selection of old vines that have been late harvested in a hot vintage it seems amazing that it is not power that defines its set of aromas but rather svelte, understated sophistication and carefully composed elegance. Yeah, there is candied orange fruit, lots of ripe lime characters, some petrol and all that stuff one is supposed to find in mature Riesling, but that isn’t what this nose it is about. It is a coruscating entity of breathtaking purity and unrestrained beauty. Its alive, and it knows it is good. The professional wino in me feels I should talk about the fine acid, rich minerality and layers of candied fruit which this obviously possesses, but reducing this scintillating entity to a list of component parts seems risible. As I swirl it around my palate I feel its lambent intensity and fulgurous exquisiteness shining focussed beams of enjoyment directly into my pleasure-centres. Tasting this is an incredible experience both viscerally and intellectually – it is intensely flavourous yet totally delicate and beguiling. The harmony is, if I may say a rude word, frankly mind-buggering. Bottles like this show that the limits of pleasure really are yet to be defined or reached – totally up for drinking and the best bottle of this I’ve witnessed.
Part 2 (the reds) will follow in a few hours.