The run up to Christmas in the trade for me is less a bunch of parties and more just a good opportunity to catch up with a few friends and customers and share some bottles. First up was a Zucca Lunch with a fellow wine trader, my senior in every way, known to wear the odd bow tie (no more clues). Two wines were shared. Chassagne-Montrachet 1999 from Bernard Moreau which I thought, when trying blind,  was a decent mid 90’s Meursault 1er Cru. It was in great shape, not complex but delicious and further added to the good record I have had with the 1999’s I’ve been lucky to try. It is not a grower I know but a little research reveals he has nice if not stellar holdings. My bottle was rather cheeky being Porcaria 2009, Tenuta di Passopisciaro. I said it was something different so there was no blind tasting stitch-up in operation. This is the second  of the Contrada’s, for contrada think “Cru”, from Andrea Franchetti’s estate in Sicily that I have had recently. We are talking 100% Nerello Mascalese the fruit expression is bright red and very vibrant, delicious and lightly decadent, the palate needs some time but cracking stuff. Lots of topics covered from Premox (groan) to skiing.
The next lunch was at Alyn Williams at The Westbury in Mayfair. Very good food, we did the tasting menu and I think I am going to vow not to do any tasting menu’s again…they just don’t suit me. That is probably one of the most obnoxious things I’ve said but it is true. The dishes in this meal were all complex and show of the chef’s very clear talent. The rabbit was especially stunning. The setting is lavish and a little decadent, a good thing. The wines were Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition, Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane 2007, Domaine Leflaive and Barolo Riserva 1964, Giuseppe Mascarello. The Champagne was a new one on me with 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay and a lowish dosage of 5-6g. It was very much a toasty wine and never bad but never either vibrant or out and out rich enough, one to try again I feel. Anne–Claude Leflaive’s Meursault is a wine that is getting better and better. The cross over between a Puligny Producer and a Meursault vineyard in a focussed and taut year like 2007 works really well to my mind. This is not a pretentious wine it is just a very good one. Now on to undoubtedly the most interesting of the 3 bottles. Sourced well from a private cellar my co-luncher had got this bottle from the last vintage, we believe, before Mascarello started to make Monprivato. 1964 is a fabled vintage in Barolo and along with 1967, 1971 & 1978 one of the best mature ones. The wine was most confusing, bright and translucently candied red almost like a new born Volnay. The cork, a short one as it correct, came out whole and in good order. The nose had definite notes of maderisation but not of oxidation, the acid was still high. The wine stayed focussed and stayed in the same candied fruit profile, it was some experience, neither amazingly great nor disappointing. It would be amazing to try it again…fat chance!
The evening after Alyn Williams a more relaxed meal was to be had, early supper at Zucca again. This time the main event was a cigar out the back of The Woolpack (also on Bermondsey street and recommended) after food. We started supper, the instruction had been humble and interesting rather than grand, with my offering – Langhe Bianco 2008 from Josetta Saffirio. It is a wine I have had several times now and really enjoy, 100% Rossese and like a fresh Rhone white with more acidity but also a waxy texture. Joe’s wine was the first red – Beaucastel 1995. Good, elegant for CNDP, red slightly bruised fruit and balance, possibly a dash short but really enjoyable. It was during this supper and the cigar that followed that I realised how much the joy of good wine and good cigars is just enjoying them and the conversation that sparks out of the gathering. This is not chat specific to the wine, quite the opposite as often you have a good wine, say “bloody hell that’s good” and then conversation flows in all directions. The next two reds were Parker Estate First growth 1994 and Branaire Ducru 2002 which should have been an interesting pair but sort of wasn’t. The Branaire sadly wasn’t 100% clean, you could tell from what we had that is was very decent and medium weighted, just the job for this evening. The pair wouldn’t quite have worked anyway as the Parker was a notch up in volume and precision too, very youthful in as much as it was still quite primary, an impressive bottle. With the bottles gone and lots of pasta and veal chop consumed we went to the pub for a cigar each and a couple of pints of Landlord. Cigar chat ensued as the four of us are all fans. I finally smoked a customer rolled robusto I was given nearly a year ago and dam good it was too.
Unsurprisingly the fourth meal here was also at Zucca, my last visit of 2013, with a customer now friend who I have dealt with for 10 years and who loves Conterno. We started with Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2003, JJ Prum and a few fish orientated starters. The wine was lovely, the normal Auslese release, it had lemon sherbet zip to it, a little spritz and I would have been amazed if anyone would have called it as an 03. Very good and as always with Prum even better at the end of the meal than the beginning (wines to double decant if ever there was one). The main red was Monfortino 2000 from Giacomo Conterno, any Monfortino day is a great day in my book. I have had the 2000 before but not this year. The fragrance and graceful power is quite something. I really enjoyed drinking this, if I owned it I would say drink from 2018 and for two decades thereafter. It also worked so well because Sam (@Zuccasam) added in an extra course and arrived with fresh and gorgeous white truffle. After this we had the awesome linguine with Duck Ragu and chatted away…just what wine is all about, a cracking pre-Christmas week done!