Part two of my report on the Ile d’Amour larks is about the red wines. Edward has a bit of a thing for Claret, which my long-term reader will know I view as over-priced, over-hyped and just so god-damned dreary. But I liked the two he popped (hmmmm… liked? Perhaps ‘endured with a smile’). The Beaucastel reminded me why I used to buy the stuff and also that it can be a solidly enjoyable drink. It had characters reminiscent of the 1981 we must have drank fifteen-odd bottles of whilst students with access to historically-priced supplies from college cellars.
It was certainly a delight to share a bottle of Port that was totally mature and showing impressively well. Now all the old wine team lads and lasses have dispersed across the globe one doesn’t get much chance to revel in the sharp-end of Port experiences all that often. That Fonseca 77 was brill.
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Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1995, Château de Beaucastel
When at the right age, Beaucastel can be gloriously scented with titillating meat and herbal aromas – this is just getting into that zone. And yes, I cannot deny there is a suggestion here of the tonnes of sheep shit the Perrin brothers dump on their vineyards. That is ok, though, as when there is the brooding Mourvedre darkness coupled with the plummy fruit of Grenache and peppery spice of Syrah (and Christ knows what characters from the 10 other grape varieties included) the sheep shit seems a mere drop in the ocean of an intricate and compelling whole. It is great that at Beaucastel they don’t feel the need to make their wines from grapes so ripe they’d revolt a raisin producer, the alcohol level is just fine. I do like the texture of the tannins, which have some soft mature characters but enough rigour to keep everything lively and energetic. More of that good meat action to the mouth-feel as well, and a very satisfying savoury character. Getting into its stride but no rush at all to drink. Chateauneuf done properly: not 15.5% of alcohol-fuelled, palate-annihilating terror but richly structured and complexity suffused with abundant charm.
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Cos d’Estournel 1988
Mr T and I used to drink this embarrassingly frequently thanks to Christ Church[ref]Speaking of college cellars Mr T’s frequent and disgracefully affordable access to Figeac 85 and La Mission Haut-Brion 83 was nearly enough to make a Pinotophile prematurely bald with worries about the veracity of their aesthetic ideals.[/ref] before we got old and spent, which probably accounts for my impressive identification ability when served this bottle blind. If you are obliged to drink Claret best that it has some elegance and refinement to it, which I think this does. It is a classically structured Bordeaux, robust tannins support ripe but definitely not jam-tastic fruit and its acid-level isn’t that of a stewed, soupy wine contrived from obscenely over-ripe grapes. Cedar-wood characters present, I fancy, which there should be with Claret in good health. Even given my virulent enmity toward Claret I cannot deny quite liking this, but it is really very far from an unchaste romp in a hayloft with a curvaceous consort in terms of the sort of pleasure I’d prefer my wine experiences to lavish upon my meriting palate.
Château Palmer 1964 – half bottle
Hooray! One of Edward’s risky purchases was a success! A soft, scented nose of mature fruit and plenty of earthy richness. OK, there is some dry dustiness to it, but I’m getting enough fun sniffing this to merit the few notes it was secured for. The palate is a bit dry as well, but more than enough soft plummy fruit to hold one’s interest. I’m also quite impressed by how this is lasting in the glass, it really isn’t falling apart in moments which is what I would expect from a half-bottle of Claret this old. Yeah, good. I suppose it’d be a statement of the bleeding obvious to say, “Drink up”.
Vintage Port 1977, Fonseca
Now Port is large-scale wine done properly and this is in super condition. The fruit is very ripe, round and stylish, but it is not buxom to the extent of having its complexity driven out of it by a misguided quest for massive vinous bouncers – indeed there is sophistication here in abundance. I love the contrast between its soft maturity and the thrilling fiery edge. The palate is really rather silky and beguiling for such a powerful wine from a structured vintage. Even though it has manifest scale I am drinking this with delightful ease and it is such a pleasure I’ll welcome the undoubted pounding head when I stir at four in the morning. A really top Port of definite class which is drinking superbly well now.
Many thanks for hosting us, Edward and Kathryn, it was great to see you both and finally get to meet Lydia. We also were rather taken with Casper the kitten. We’d be very happy if we could engineer seeing you all with less of a gap than the one before this trip (volcanoes permitting).
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