The idea was to try a few wines of greater maturity than I normally open and save a bit for The Editor and I and our enlightened guests to take home in the evening or the following day. No, we polished off every bottle before we moved onto the next, sediment and all. We remained remarkably analytical and focused until Ricard hit the Port. Silliness followed. However, we did have one final wine which has made The Editor classify the resultant pictures as ‘redacted’. Some of the wines, one in particular, delivered more than one could have reasonably asked of their appellations and vintages.
Here is the line-up:
What larks, eh?
Champagne Brut Nature Millesime 2008, Legret et Fils
A zero-dosage fizz… hmmm… I often find these to be thin, lacking body and punishingly acidic. Not this delicious aperitif! Lovely weight and density with good tertiary aromas and flavours that give it real dimension. It has a delicious palate full of toasty, nutty favours and an incredibly fine mousse.
Quite a stylish champagne, I am surprised that it has aged so well, zero-dosage Champagnes do not normally age as impressively as this one. The grower is biodynamic and, amazingly for a fizz producer – the incredible risks turn off almost all fizz producers – it is fermented with wild yeasts!
Good grief! As I am a relatively open-minded opinionated swine, I feel confident that it is these bonkers choices which have resulted in the fizz ageing so well, developing an array of complex flavours that put this bottle of fizz on a far higher shelf with much more dark plastic wrapped around it than the average vintage Champagne.
Top bunny, cheers for sending us that one, Jeremy!
Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fevre
I have drunk more Grand Cru Côte de Beaune whites than you. Just live with it, it is true. Now, with all this experience of really flash Chardonnay vineyards, you might be surprised to learn that I consider the William Fevre interpretation of this Chablis Premier Cru the greatest Chardonnay vineyard in the world. You can search this site for short forms of my justification for this point of view, or save it for an argument next time we meet in the pub, but it is bloody true!
Given the greatness of the vineyard and the pleasing nature of the vintage, what could go wrong with this wine? It turns out that the problem is that Nathalie et Gilles Fevre made it.
The sods used far too much of new oak and used it with a sickening lack of talent.
The nose was a stew of over-toasted new oak and nauseating levels of new oak vanillin. There was a vague white wine/possibly Chardonnay set of aromas fighting to get out from under this, but they nowhere near approached the awesome complexity of Vaulorent. What was also disconcerting about these questionably-specific set of white wine aromas is that they had a distinctly baked Muscat whiff to them. In Chablis? The utter bastards!
I did not want to taste this, and I would have been correct not as the wine had enough residual sugar to fill an endocrine ward with diabetics. The only other flavours that were there were unbalanced, emetic oak-derived filth.
This is my favourite Chardonnay Cru in the world, and Nathalie et Gilles Fevre did this to it… This is a shocking insult to life itself. Does anyone have any spare JDAMS I could borrow along with the GPS coordinates of Nathalie et Gilles Fevre’s house. I will never buy a wine of theirs again unless I can have a huge bribe and give the wine to a vague acquaintance to taste.
Meursault ‘Les Tillets’ 2001, Domaine Roulot
Jean-Marc ‘The Nose’ Roulot vinifies all his Meursault villages-level named vineyards separately, he calls them deuxieme crus. These vineyards may be historically recognised, but since there is no legal classification for vineyards that are not Premier Crus, they are, legally speaking, only villages-level wines. If you were opening a Meursault AOC wine from almost any producer when it was sixteen years old, would you expect it to be in good condition?
No? Well, that is because you do not buy enough Roulot!
Roulot wines are very reduced when they are first released. With lots of aeration you can coax delicious aromas and flavours out of them, but you still get the feeling that there is a impenetrable, coruscating core which is holding back all its effulgent wonderfulness from you. The trick is, of course, to age them and that works the magic.
Magic indeed! If you like your Chardonnay buttery, fat and rich firstly you are a uncultured, shameful Philistine, secondly you are NFI to any event at which I will be opening my couple of remaining bottles of Roulot.
Some people would not even recognise it as being made from the same grape varietal as those foul, fat, flabby, sweet, stewed, sick-soaked fool swill wines. You see, this is a beautifully constructed entity, it is astonishingly small scale compared to all but the finest Chablis Crus. It is sculpted with a light touch to give it exceptional vivacity, purity and freshness. Freshness from a sixteen-year-old ‘village’ wine!
It did grow a bit in the glass but basically remained a wonderfully exquisite charmer whose resonant frequency has been tuned, by meticulous viticulture, wine-making with a light touch and a long time in excellent cellar, to exactly that of the pleasure centres in the brains of the aesthetically enlightened.
I could do all that, “There are scents of nuts, lemon and stone…”-stuff, but no, what you need to know is this Meursault is a nec plus ultra member of the wine Illuminati, but displays its prodigious powers with a light hand and its grand eloquence is delivered with a soft voice that only the worthy can understand.
Hermitage 1996, Jean-Louis Chave
I have had a few bottles of Chave 1995 recently – a finer, more powerful vintage – alas they were quite obviously beginning to shuffle off this mortal coil and join the bleedin’ choir invisible. This made me a touch worried about this 96.
However, when we popped it there was some good fruit, which was really rather attractive on the nose. The palate had that good fruit and hints of its manly structure still noticeable. Fortunately, it did not suffer from ‘1996 syndrome’, which is to say it did not have too much acidity for the palate to be balanced.
Balanced it certainly was, alas we all noticed that there was an ever-increasing ash scent on the nose and flavour on the palate. Once we had confirmed these characteristics with each other I would estimate the rest of the bottle lasted about 90 seconds as we wished to enjoy what remained of a great Hermitage made by the great Hermitage maker Gerard Chave.
Peter kept a little in his glass for a few minutes after the other three of us discussed its dying characteristics; about another 90 seconds later it was totally dead.
Thank you, Peter! I have drunk this wine so very many times it was nice to say a final goodbye as it snuffed it.
Yecla ’Vina al lado de la casa’ cepas viejas de Monastrell 2000, Castano
As impenetrable and vacuous as a Gender Studies paper. Why?
Bandol ‘La Tourtine’ 2000, Domaine Tempier
The last vintage before a new winemaker replaced all the Brett-infected fermentation vats and barrels, cleaned up the winery and began harvesting so late that potential alcohol levels would make a cult Napa Cabernet grower weep with jealousy – the same with their lack of acidity and dearth of proper structural tannins. But that was before this wine was harvested and vinified…
Wow, a real, maturing Bandol. Yes, there is some Brett-derived shit on the nose, but it just seems to work with the grilled meat and earth of the maturing Mourvedre that is the main constituent grape of this wine. It is warm, scented, soft and deliciously complex.
Why do I say ‘maturing’? Because this wine could continue to age in a good cellar for… oh… about another decade – there is a rigour to the backbone of this wine that could gently soften slightly, the fruit, floral and meaty aromas become further intertwined and more complex, the already considerable charm become more convivial.
La Tourtine 2000 still has a great future ahead of it, but that is not to diminish what an engaging, compelling and god-damned delicious experience it is now. We all seemed to feel more relaxed and charged with friendliness as we tasted this and discussed its voluptuous, dissipated intemperance.
The intemperance clocked in at a positively uproarious 14.5%, so as we raced through this totally saporous, middle-aged stunner we found that we were stunned ourselves. That is ‘stunned’ in the sense of getting sottish.
I apologise that my following notes will be even vaguer recollections of the final three wines than those I have presented already.
Cote-Rotie 2001, Bernard Burgaud
Burgaud wines have left me distinctly vexed in recent years, I do not mind telling you. The problem is that they are all to often far too Brett-influenced. This has led to most of those I have had smelling far too much like an enthusiastic chimping session where everyone has dysentery. This has often totally eclipsed the fruit and characteristics of the vineyard. It also results in uneven maturation so one often has no idea what state the bottle one is planning to open for dinner will be in. I do not mind Brett in Bandol, Brett is varietal character for Mourvedre, but it is a pain in the arse in Cote-Rotie.
Having ranted about Brett in Burgaud wines, I was surprised how little Brett shittiness was in this 2001. Hell’s bells, it was almost clean!
There were lovely mature Syrah flavours, supported by a structure that was still rigorous enough to give it vivacity. Good acidity is there too. My crapulent neurones told me this was mature but still with plenty of life ahead of it, and, if you are lucky enough to have a cleaner bottle, in five years it will be even more complex and sumptuous with maturity.
Cote-Rotie 2005, Jasmin
Yes, there is a reason one spits at a serious tasting. This is far from serious by now, it is a boisterous, bottle emptying fest of friendly fun.
This was a lovely, fruity, reasonably minimalist Cote-Rotie. I really liked something about it but I am buggered if I can remember what its USP was.
Vintage Port 1997, Niepoort
20 years should be enough to mellow a bottle of Port, do not you think? Well, not with this bottle! I can manage its fieriness, but those rough, harsh, drying tannins are bloody horrible. Terrible bottle of Port, I am really rather irked.
I am afraid my notes on these wines were generally short as I am feeling beyond drained because of my Fibromyalgia, I am in pronounced pain from my back operation site and I am feeling generally rubbish thanks to some pesky infection that has, so far, fought off my immune system’s best efforts. So if you read this, understand that writing it hurt, a lot. If you actually liked it, you are welcome to give me a gift to cheer me up during the several days of severe pain that will result from its creation. I also take donations of cash.