On Sunday we had great fun hosting Guy Dennis and his fiancée Marie-Pierre. It was great that Guy had found a partner so charming and generally lovely. Shame only one of the other four things Guy brought along was any good.
The meal was a great success (once again) for the meat of Woodlands Jersey Beef. Once again their ribeyes stunned us with their tenderness and depth of flavour. We couldn’t have wished for better steaks and they were wonderfully complemented by macaroni and cheese made according to the Hawksmoor recipe.
Guy and Marie-Pierre turned up an hour early, which is always exciting. This meant Dani was yet to shave and I hadn’t had a shower and was still wearing my Teletubbies t-shirt. We soon dropped into the swing of an early lunch by popping one of my bottles of fizz.
Champagne Brut Blanc des Blancs 2000, Pol Roger
I admit I didn’t notice when this stopped being ‘Brut Chardonnay’ and became ‘Brut Blanc des Blancs’, but I don’t suppose it’s that important. It had a very attractive nose of bread and complex apple fruit. It seemed fresh but there was a lot going on when you smelled it, clearly more complex, if perhaps not as many laughs, as the Gratien I popped when I came out of hospital. The palate was toasty and complex with many layers of flavour and those flavours really persisted too. As Champagnes go it was utterly delicious and refreshing but clearly showing the style and class to age for a reasonable period of time. I’ve had Pol Chardonnay that I’ve aged for a long time and I see no reason why this would not age just as well. When the 2002 comes out it’ll be cracking!
Then we had the first of Guy’s wines.
Cotes de Jura Chardonnay ‘Fleur des Marnes’ 2002, Labet
Orange, oxidised, dead.
I admit I rarely drink Cotes de Jura Chardonnay, but isn’t it asking a lot of any white wine, let alone one from this appellation, to age and survive for a decade? This could have been very nice at one point, but that doesn’t mean it’ll get better, especially over such a long period of time.
Guy took it home to make vinegar. Presumably that simply required writing the word ‘Vinegar’ on the label.
So Guy opened a backup white.
Macon ‘La Roche Vineuse Vieilles Vignes’ 2002, Merlin
A tiring nose of old Chardonnay with little fruit remaining but a hint of minerality. It was tired on the palate too, but the acidity was pretty good. Never really dies first, the acidity, eh? We were presented this (like all of Guy’s wines) blind and we thought it was minor Chablis from the mid-nineties, I wondered about an anodyne, tired white Rhone as a possibility. It wasn’t bad, but why on earth keep a wine like this for ten years? I bet it would have been an absolute delight when it was up to five years old – I think I’d have loved it on release. When it was ten it didn’t have much to say, it certainly hadn’t improved. What a waste of time and money.
With our cracking steaks we had the first of Guy’s reds. It had been decanted for an hour.
Chambolle-Musigny 2008, Roblet-Monnot
A nose of pepper, spice and stewed, prune fruit. A bit rough and rustic, not much refinement. The palate had harsh, tough tannins and raw acidity – extremely spiky with not much in the way of harmony and certainly no elegance. This was a tough, punishing wine. Again presented blind I thought this was a rather unsophisticated Cornas. Guy then told us that it was not Syrah and I exploded into a rant about how evil bastards should not be allowed to do such things to Pinot and if it had the temerity to actually be from Burgundy I’d be tempted to pay them a visit and disembowel them when I’m next in the area. Not only was it Burgundy, but actually Chambolle. The least Chambolle-like Chambolle I’ve ever been unfortunate not to have avoided. Guy kept apologising that it was too cold, but temperature does not turn Chambolle into Cornas. He also said someone whose taste I rate really liked this wine – I feel there must have been some kind of mistake. This was the worst Chambolle I’ve had since I last opened a bottle of Groffier; it had no redeeming features.
This bottle of Burgundy was so bad I felt offended that someone could commit such crimes and wanted to open something to restore my equilibrium. I popped a bottle.
Beaune Premier Cru les Greves 2007, de Montille
Delicious strawberry fruit nose, really very pretty. It smells soft and charming, with no hint of silliness with alcohol or new oak. The palate has a very slight suggestion of rigor to the tannins, but it is mainly all about that lovely, lovely strawberry fruit. The acidity us spot on to keep it fresh and juicy. Pretty good length to it as well. It may not be the most throbbingly complex bottle of Burgundy the world has ever seen, but it was the perfect 2007 Beaune and, as such, an utter delight to drink.
Guy’s final offering.
Cotes-du-Rhone Villages ‘Saint Gervais’ 1990, Domaine Sainte Anne
A lovely, soft, perfumed nose of fruit, herbs and grilled meat. It’s deliciously mature. Some alcohol shows on the nose but it is by no means excessive and the whole impression of the nose is one of mature harmony and accessible pleasure. Smells rather good! The palate has a hint of dryness, but there is more than enough of that soft fruit to keep you interested. Tannins are a touch dusty, but it is not past it by any means. Good complexity, good length, pretty classy! Tasted blind I thought this was a good Northern Rhone or a sophisticated Mourvedre-based Southern Rhone from the early nineties. Last guess pretty much right, the oldest Cotes-du-Rhone I think I’ve had that’s been more-or-less in top nick. Rather lovely to drink; thank you for bringing this, Guy, we greatly enjoyed it.
We popped a Schafer-Frohlich Auction Auslese 2009 to have with cheese that thrilled and excited with its violet wand-esque acidity, then drew the afternoon to a close. I still needed that shower and after eating rather a lot and fighting through a mixed bag of wines I was feeling rather tired. A nice kip worked a treat.
It was lovely to see you, Guy and Marie-Pierre; shame about the wines.
Happy to see the good news about the Pol Chardonnay.
But Guy, what the fuck are you doing keeping wine like that, and then opening it for other people? You need to do some very severe penance, and promise never to do such things again.
Many people manage to select lovely wines but marry the wrong women. Or to bring good vintages and themselves be very dull. To open a bad bottle is usually a gloriously easy problem to fix, as the 07 Beaune shows.
Olivier Merlin’s wines can indeed be a delight, though I’ve not had a Macon (of any age) of his.
I’ve had a Merlin Macon at around 3-y-o and it was lovely. But to be honest, any white burgundy over about 5 years old is something of a crapshoot these days. Always worth trying, always worth having a reserve ready to go.
Olivier Merlin’s wines are frequently among the ones that show best at Becky Wasserman’s 10 & 20 years on tastings. Last year, a magnum of La Roche Vineuse 1991 was showing beautifully and the 2001 still had excellent freshness. Definitely not passed it.
By comparison, the Côte d’Or wines were showing mostly well, but there were definitely some that had peaked and fallen apart.
It has to be taken into account that the participants are all voluntary, so that presumably, people put their best foot forward and don’t show wines that they know to be flawed, unless they are fair play to the point of masochism (and some of them are).