Lunch with Keith Prothero

This will be a brief report, but I hope to capture the brilliance of the occasion that was lunch with Keith Prothero. Not only is he a lovely fellow, but all his friends are too, and all share exquisite taste in food and drink. Best lunch I’ve had in ages – well done Nigel P-M and The Ledbury.

Every wine we drank at lunch was a winner. Since three of them were Clarets some of you might be surprised to hear me report this, but I am prepared to indulge in the greatest of experiences, as long as they don’t drain the madness-vouchers so much I cannot do it again. The Clarets we had were tongue-engorgingly gratifying, but there was better in our little meal.

It’s worth giving a quick summary of The Ledbury – it’s the best two star I’ve been to. The food is always inventive and assembled with creative ability with a focus on intense enjoyment value. The service is unobtrusive and calmly in control and (not that we used this) it has an ace wine list. There are more slack and louche destinations in London, but if you want fine dining forget Ramsay and Tom Aitkens, go to The Ledbury. Or La Trompette, but The Ledbury will keep you chortling well into the night.

Stuart modelling the white wines.

Our white wines where Meursault Premier Cru Poruzots 1999 from Domaine Francois and Antoine Jobard and Trimbach Clos Ste Hune 1973. The Meursault started off tasting a touch quaquaversal and I thought it was a touch over the hill. But as it had time to breathe and grow in the glass it expanded into a powerful, intense entity of style and class. Incredible acidity and minerality for a 1999, a vintage I often think of being a bit fat, it ended up drinking supremely well. Lots of enjoyment value here. Modesty forbids me from waxing lyrical too much about the CSH 1973 but it was amazing not only how fresh it started out but moreover how much it expanded and improved with air. Supremely fine, incredibly delicate and utterly refined. Happy birthday me.

Lunch with Keith Prothero is always going to include some cracking Burgundy and the three we tried may have still been early stages of development but were supremely fine and ravishingly enjoyable. 2001 Clos Vougeot from Chateau de la Tour was one of the greatest Clos Vougeot I can remember having. Many years away from maturity it had a robust yet delightful structure intertwined with gorgeously complex fruit. A stunningly fine wine.

That's a lot of red wine left, I drank all of mine...

Closer to drinkability was 2001 Nuits-Saint-Georges les Vaucrains from Domaine Chauvenet. This was a svelte and sophisticated Nuits that was brilliantly structures but with no hint of toughness or hard, unyielding tannins. It didn’t need so much more time, but I got a lot of pleasure from this bottle – very refined Nuits.

Finally there was a 2001 Latricieres-Chambertin from Rossignol-Trapet which showed all the accessible polish one wants from this producer, but still rather a long way from maturity. I quite liked it but found it so awkwardly hung between youth and maturity it just left me thinking I could have bought something more approachable and pleasure-delivering. It was well-received, though.

Mission 82, Mouton 89 and lovely Keithy P!

Then there were Clarets.

I had pre-judged two of them as being rubbish, and bugger me if I wasn’t wrong. The Mouton 1989 was very elegant and refined, with a sophisticated, serious structure and precise, defined fruit. This is normally the kind of Claret I hate but I found myself drinking this with a great deal of pleasure. Damn.

Even worse was the Montrose 1989, a wine I am pathologically determined to hate. Much to my chargrin this bottle had classy structure, complexity and an awfully large amount of pleasure value. It wasn’t blowsy and overblown, nor was it lean and miserable, it was quite what one would wish for if one could imagine such a thing as a fun and reasonably mature bottle of Montrose.

Finally there was La Mission Haut Brion 1982. I’ve long maintained this is one of the only two Clarets worth bothering with and this bottle demonstrated that with embarrassing ease. With its gravelly texture, mature, ripe fruit and sophisticatedly silky tannins it was a joyfully pleasurable experience for someone who hates red Bordeaux as much as me. Quite, quite brilliant, and obviously it has a long and glorious future ahead of it. Perhaps not another 1966, 1970, 1975, 1983, 1988 or, 1990, but close and definitely a great vintage of La Mission that I hope we were all suitably gobsmacked by. I was.

Finally we finished off with a Mullineux Straw Wine from 2008. The considered opinion was that this was for ageing 20-30 years or more. I wasn’t quite on that wavelength as, like brilliant German eisweins, I think this super sweet intense mega bombs are hilarious when young and I drank mine with gusto and great pleasure.

I must finish by thanking The Ledbury for a brilliant meal, which was somewhat eclipsed by transcendent wines, my dining companions for providing such wonderful wines and scintillating company and, most of all, our host who made the lunch with Keith Prothero experience even more exciting, fun and enjoyable than even my most enthusiastic spies had reported. Thank you Keith, you did it for me in my pleasure centres today.


4 Comments

  • Keith Prothero wrote:

    Excellent report and tasting notes David—–many thanks for your vinous contribution to the lunch and,above all your company . It is never dull when you are around !!

  • Tom Blach wrote:

    Just sampling the 76 Clos Vougeot Chateau de la Tour, after a much needed long decant. Keith would love it and David would find it much too old.
    I’m starting to believe that it is always a mistake not to decant these old burgundies well in advance. In my experience they always blossom rather than fade and it’s so easy to write them off too soon.

  • Isabelle Clark wrote:

    And while you were at the Ledbury, Mac Forbes and I were enjoying the ‘orher Ledbury’ with Brett Graham’s residency at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. A great evening after a busy day in the winery!

  • David Strange wrote:

    Isabelle, even though hard work makes me ache, I am extremely jealous of you doing the vintage with Mac. I know you already know more than it is possible to believe, but I think working with him would be highly instructive. Of course, Mac is deeply charming too, and it’s nice to associate with lovely people.

    I found it so enlightening each time I worked at Dujac as well. It’s a bit odd, it seems as if there’s not so much to the wine-making lark (ignoring the physical work), but the amount of care, thought and planning that goes into it is quite impressive.

    ‘Quite’… Hmmm… Like ‘rather’ and many other words in English demonstrate that we from Blighty find nuance of expression difficult.



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