Last night the Elitistreview boys had a field-trip to Winchester’s Kyoto Kitchen to dine and drink with Simon and Gordon, from Stone, Vine and Sun, and Susie and Peter, Saturday Kitchen’s Masters of Wine. I have a lot to write about covering just the wines, so I shall only briefly talk about the food. A full review of this marvellous restaurant will follow soon.
When the Editor and I fell in love with Winchester’s multitude of charms we just wished it had a Banh Mi supplier and a Japanese restaurant. Miff Kayum (of Bengal Sage and Bangkok Brasserie brilliance) has wonderfully plugged this gap in Winchester’s food scene. It is a restaurant that greatly satisfied us and we will be regular attendees.
The menu has most Japanese favourites that you’d want and they all seem well-executed at the very least, with some being extremely good. A testament to Miff’s dedication to finding the best ingredients and securing serious chefs is that the restaurant always seems full. Wintonians have an eye for quality nosh.
A few dishes that you will want to try include the chicken gyoza, little rice pastry dumplings stuffed with high class chicken. The prawn tempura are really great, with a fantastic flavour and texture to the prawns and lovely, light batter on the outside. I think we ordered three portions of the soft shell crab roll, a house special that we thought was simply spiffing. Definitely go for the yellow tail slices in ponzu sauce. Don’t miss out on the nigri; you have to pay a wallet-haemorrhaging amount of money to get sushi as good as this in London.
It is a great restaurant, in summary. Even greater because Miff was willing to let us bring a stunning amount of our own wine. His brother, Shah, who was on duty, didn’t even mind us getting rather raucous in the private dining room all night. Hooray! Let’s dive into the ocean of wine we necked!
Brut 1988, Georg Breuer
I need to audit Gordon’s cellar if he has things like this in it. There is no way I would have identified this as Riesling if presented it blind, it was broad, damp and a hint malty. It was closer to an old sparkling Vouvray in character. Good acidity and still plenty of fizz to it, but not really fruity or amazingly fresh. Quite interesting, but perhaps should have been consumed ten years ago. Georg Breuer wines are quite bonkers, I bet there was some barrel-action in the vinification of this, and whilst it wasn’t bad it definitely posed the right questions about his sanity.
Riesling Polish Hill 2002, Grosset
I love Polish Hill when it is young, it is so full of vim and verve, but even though I’d kept this in impeccable conditions I was worried it was going to be dead. I was slightly relieved that a contact told me earlier in the day that it was a nice drop, but then he ruined it by saying it was probably better three years ago. The nose was a calmed my concerns a little, but it wasn’t utterly lovely. It had the limey linearity of good Clare Valley Riesling, but it had hints of vegetables that have been hanging around too long. ‘Hints of rotten vegetables’ isn’t a super brilliant note of a Riesling nose. The palate didn’t show this so much, which was good. The lime fruit was more muted than in young examples, but still very present and direct. It had a suggestion of minerality too. However, it hadn’t really changed so much from when it was young and those slight changes were not improvements, it just lost energy and excitement. I’ll not keep them for a decade in future.
Riesling Spatlese Trocken Deidesheimer Kalkofen 2002, Dr von Bassermann-Jordan
Oh yummy, yummy, yummy! What a scrummy nose! It bursts with lovely peachy fruit and rather complex minerality. I’m rather surprised that it has a hint of an alcohol burn to it as well, but it’s not hot enough to bother my finer aesthetic sensibilities. Indeed, the old aesthetes are rather tickled by this nose, it’s extremely charged with charm and complexity. Now that is a nice palate as well. I love the focussed acidity, which could well be an intense young lady focussed on giving you a good working over with a cane; it just keeps the whole palate lively. There’s pretty fruit and a definite degree of weight to it was well. I normally drink Trockens expecting severe chastisement, and this delivers a bit of that, but it’s really rather friendly about it. One of the most totally pleasing Trockens I’ve had that just had me grinning (and pouring myself extra slugs when no one was watching).
Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg 2007, Kientzler
Cripes! This nose is tighter than a swan’s sphincter, and that’s water-tight! It’s a tightly-wound, burning star of minerality and pure lime fruit. Extremely intense, and I bleeding love the minerality – it’s so stony it could be a stone resting on a pile of stones in a quarry. Great, exciting nose that just makes you want to leap in to the undoubted battle that will be the palate. Yeah, now that’s lively! Great, searing acidity, incredible crushed rock flavours and brilliant lime fruit flavours all for coruscatingly intense you half expect your sips to burn through the bottom of your palate and drop out of your chin. Very long and great intricacy to the flavours as well. I wonder how long this will take to become fully mature, if it ever will, but this is one of the most simply super Alsace Rieslings I’ve had in a period of time. I remember thinking much the same about a 1991 I opened with Captain Peter and Hanneke Wilson when I was an undergraduate; maybe I’ve been away from Kientzler too long…
Riesling Kabinett Oberemmeler Hutte 2005, von Hovel
Very fresh on the nose but the fruit has more than a hint of that 2005 buxom ripeness – it’s certainly charming my socks off. The fruit and minerality work together to create a very satisfying whole of style and class; this is no minor wine, it’s from the top tier just isn’t the ripest little number from the vineyard. The palate is lovely and vibrant, with fresh acidity, nervy stone flavours and really gorgeous fruit. You’d really have to be a bit of a fun-hating miserablist not to derive an enormous amount of pleasure from a wine that must have cost less than an Ayrton on release. Showing perhaps at it’s very best right now I think if you have some of this you want to be popping a bottle on every slightly warm afternoon that’s left in this summer until you run out. The civilising and gratifying effect that’ll produce will generate almost as much enlightenment as reading Elitistreview regularly.
At this point we tasted a 1997 Schloss Lieser Spatlese. However, the label had long-since vanished, so we didn’t know the vineyard, and it really was a bit on the tired side (pre-Thomas Haag days, I think) so I’m not going to write it up.
Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile Vendanges Tardives 1990, Trimbach
This was one of the great pleasures, but also one of the great disappointments, of the evening. It started off too cold and difficult to taste, then it showed brilliantly before falling apart quite quickly. Oh dear! For the brief period it was lovely there was candied fruit a-plenty, incredible stoniness and really vibrant acid. It seemed very Trimbach in style – Trimbach when they made wines that age. This wine has given us extraordinary pleasure over the years and it was great to get a little glimpse of that brilliance with our final bottle.
Savennieres Roche aux Moines 2006, Chateau Pierre-Bise
Brilliant, it’s Savennieres! I love Savennieres! And one sniff shows it is brilliant Savennieres – hooray! There is the incredible weight and density one hopes for with Savennnieres on the nose, but quite amazingly it’s rather clean. The normal damp, rotting aromas are muted and the stoniness screams out with vigorous enthusiasm. Rather alcoholic, but that’s what I bloody want from this appellation; yeah, booze-up! Now the palate is breath-taking – crivens! What density, what power, yet all charged with incredible acid and mineral life. Huge but thrillingly vibrant. The complexity of flavours is really sigh-worthy, but again it really is quite cleaned up as far as these bonkers Chenin Blancs go. Bonkers enough to tickle me turquoise, oh yes! A wizard Savennieres that was a rocket-fuelled-up rollercoaster of excessive insane pleasure to drink. Who knows what’ll happen to it if you age it more, not me that’s for sure, but this was quite the marvel to drink now.
Another disappointment followed. Simon brought a Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru les Clos 1999 which I had hopes of potential opinion-changing quality for, but it was totally oxidised and dead. Bum wipes! Pity about that, Simon, but cannot be helped.
Riesling Auslese Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg 2006, von Schubert
Not the super-greatest vintage, 2006, but there was nothing to condemn this wine on the nose. Indeed, I thought it was a sculpted, poised entity of refined allure and elegant seduction. Smelling it just made me really happy. I like ‘really happy’, don’t you? Delicious fruit with all the intense purity of the Ruwer and extremely mineral. A nose of a Riesling made by an ‘in-form’ producer. The palate fizzed and sparked with burning acidity; top bunny! This was allied with focussed lime fruit and great slate mineral flavours. The sweetness was high enough to combine with the acid and minerality to make it incredibly refreshing and moreish. You’d want to drink this all day, all night, all the next morning and only stop when you feel the stomach acid pain might interfere with you enjoying lunch. I think this will have plenty of cellar potential, but much as with the Saar Kabinett this is a really attractive age to drink nervy, thrilling, fun Riesling. Electric! OK, not quite the electric sex pants that JJ Prum is, but electric thrills nonetheless.
Julienas Vieilles Vignes 2009, Bernard Sante
This won’t be much of a tasting note as I detest almost all Beaujolais. I should say that whilst Dani and I were cuddled tightly together in our loathing of this tannin-free, insipid, dreary thing of awfulness everyone else really rather liked it. I cannot see why, and we were soundly told off for being the heretics. Tests to that – I couldn’t stand it.
Volnay Premier Cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs 2008, Benjamin Leroux
A first, hasty sniff had me thinking, "That’s rather oaky!" I gingerly sniffed again and was consumed with ripe, polished aromas of total beauty. The fruit was gloriously ripe and very pure, with a direct soil tang and nary a hint of high alcohol – it smelled like a perfect Volnay. Smitten, oh yes I was smitten indeed. Tasting delivered direct acidity and good, structured tannins, but the fruit was extremely poised and very delicate. Intricacy was a definite feature of this palate and I found it highly attractive. Good length with an array of complex flavours persisting and unfolding as you swallowed all charged with a glorious energy. Some suggested this was too young, and I won’t deny it has a super squirrel future ahead of it, but I just loved it last night.
Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile Selection des Grains Nobles 1989, Trimbach
Oh… You want more? I’ll try…
This was one of those special wines that is very hard to describe so moving was the experience. It wasn’t terribly sweet, it was rather acidic, it was extraordinarily complex and in extremely good condition. And it was:
Many thanks Simon, Gordon, Susie and Peter for making this such a jolly evening, and extra-special thanks to the Kyoto Kitchen’s crew – you made us full of food and fun. I promise a glowing review will follow our next visit. What a great night!