It is always a treat to have Aubert de Villaine in the Uk to show the Domaines wines but for a whole evening over dinner was a real privilege. The setting of the Drapers Hall (as most recently seen in the King’s Speech) was perfect. To start the evening we had Salon 1997 from magnum in the Drawing room, there was a real atmosphere of excitement.

Moving through to dinner Adam and then Aubert both spoke about the Domaine and how the evening would work. Aubert then revealed the first wine…Bâtard Montrachet 1997, what? I can hear you think (if that were possible). This wine has never severed this outside the Domaine. It is usually for internal consumption as the Domaines 1/12 of a hectare only produces one barrel. There was a moment lost in translation when Aubert described it as being served at the Domaine in “happy hour”. What a wonderful thought. The wine was rich with a dash of Botrytis on the nose – The reason for which Aubert related as being iue to the fact that the Grand Crus of “montrachet” are in such a great spot that you can wait for later ripeness without the fear of a flabby wine which you might get in you wait longer in say Meursault – the palate was more savoury and very complex with a lovely length, intiguing and moreish..if only there were more. The Pave of halibut with pea purée and lentils worked well but as through the whole night the wines held the attention the food just helping out.

So after a unique start, where to next? Well, when discussing what to show at this dinner we thought it would be most interesting to look at a comparison of two of the Grand Cru’s as a main theme. The two we chose were Richebourg and Romanee Saint Vivant the reasoning being that they are very similar in quality but different in style. In the hierarchy of the Domaine’s wines you could say that from 2007 onwards the Romanee Saint Vivant has just edged above that of Richebourg.

The first vintage in which we were to compare was 1995. Aubert spoke of the vintage as one that started out cool with rain into June with heat then arriving in August. September was wet again so Botrytus was a concern. Harvesting was around the 5th October and there was lots of sorting needed. My notes for the Richebourg 1995 have lots of phrases like dense, rich, muscular. There was real power on the nose and an almost menthol freshness, a touch of savory character behind this. The palate was balance but also youthful…a very impressive start from Richebourg. Romanée-Saint-Vivant 1995 by comarison was tasting les obviously youthful, more complex on the nose with a braoder spectrum of aromas, almost pine forrest freshness on the palate though, more transparent with more finesse that the Richebourg. As hoped the personalities showed so well in this pair – it is not as simple as Richebourg being masculine and Romanee Saint Vivant feminine but there is a lot of truth in that. Interestingly Aubert mentioned that he was a believer in the adage that you can’t go wrong opening Grand Crus (or the best 1er Crus) at 15 years of age which essentially these were. The individual duck cassoulet was a good partner.

We then had the same two Grand Crus, but now from the 1993 vintage. Aubert described it as a vintage not that different in weather from 1995. A tricky beginning with possibilities of mildew gave way to a heat wave in August followed by a little rain before beautiful weather up to the harvest which was between 20 & 30th of September. I felt the 1993 came across as possibly more wines serious than the 1995’s, a little more structure and acidity. These will repay more time very well. The personalities were all there to see. The fillet of Beef was mighty impressive especially given the numbers and worked well with the added structure.

I don’t think an evening with wines as great as these really has a climax, such is the quality all the way through, but if there was one it was the two Grand Crus in the 2003 vintage. The weather is well documented but essentially – savage sun and heat from April to the end of August with 3 big storms – kind of sums it up…not like any other year. Aubert commented that he hadn’t tasted the 2003’s in a little while. The rule that from bud burst to harvest is 100 days was thrown out of the indow in 2003 – it was 80days!! Also intriguing was the idea that Aubert had been tempted to only bottle the 2003 in magnum but as there was so little produced this would have made keeping people happy very difficult indeed. As the wines age Aubert feels the mark of the vintage lessens and the climat (the specific vineyard site) begins to show. I think this was starting to happen. The Richebourg had an amazing Pinot/Syrah type nose, a unique (to me at least) density for Pinot in Burgundy. I would say it will be a fascinating wine to follow over the years, if only there was more of it! The Romanee Saint Vivant was to my mind a stunning wine with a real balance between fruit and structure. I think in time it will be a stunning example of what could be done in 2003. The marked differences in the two Grand Crus was really evident here. The twice baked cheese soufflé I’m afraid didn’t get a mention here, far too much discussion of the wines. I was delighted we didn’t get into a chat about winners and losers on the night etc, it wasn’t an evening like that and frankly I have no idea which I thought was “best”.

And so baring a glass of “bottled for C&B” Hine 1988 Early Landed Cognac (almost too drinkable) the evening was over. Not a dinner I will ever forget. I was a great opportunity to drink wines such as these with customers and friends who love the wine. Surroundings were wonderful and Aubert spoke in his normal concise, relaxed and informative way. The evening felt effortless, which these things never actually are so a big thanks from me for all the behind the scenes work!

As a note and for accuracy, all the wines had come direct fro the Domaine earlier in the week of the tasting.