The last gathering of “The Gang” – Mr G, Irish Peat, Nobby, Chewy, Young Will, and the sadly absent this time Ronaldinho – was for a simply stunning Petrus Dinner back in February and up in the north so it was the turn of London to host, “Irish Peat” got us organised, no easy task, and the Venue was to be Koffmann’s at the Berkeley – somewhere I have always enjoyed since first being introduced. The only sadness was that Ronaldinho could not make it as he was locking people up on jury service. We did have a new diner with us, as yet un-nicknamed.
As everyone gathered and after a little bottle of “grain” to focus the mind we were onto the grape! All wines were served blind and very well by the Koffmann’s team who did us proud. I won’t mention the food too much but all the courses were superb and worked very well with the wines.
The first bottle, or rather magnum, was Ruinart 1998, soft open and ready to go but with good balance, a little biscuit, a little yeast and some citrus fruit and white flower, very nice. As we received our Squid Bolognese-Style we were poured two whites that took us out of our comfort zone, although “Irish” was spot on with getting, St Peray 2010 from Domaine de Tunnel, as white Rhone. It was 100% Roussane and had depth, spice and a little toastiness, whilst a broad wine it had focus and was good not just interesting. We performed less well with the other white in the pairing, trying a few grape varieties before coming to unoaked Chardonnay, this one was Northern-Italian, Franco Toros Collio Chardonnay 2011, clean crisp and with soft but clear fruits, two good palate awakeners.
With the next course of Gascony-style black pudding croque monsieur with egg on the way we were off to more conventional climes – White Burgundy. Both blind as mentioned above these were two wines are of very good quality indeed. Between us we got pretty close without lingering too long. Our “newcomer” was definite on the first being Corton-Charlemagne and despite me trying to put him off he, rightly, stuck to his guns. It was Corton-Charlemagne 1990 from Bonneau du Martray this showed a lot of class, mature, widening out with a little yeasty complexity and a depth of creamy greek yoghurt and honey, a waxy texture and moreish finish, nice, very nice. However the second of these was whilst obviously younger even more exciting for it’s potential. It had that trade mark Coche-Dury reduction, the classiest of “struck matches” and was the Meursault Perrieres 2002. A wine of incredible class and potential, taut and steely but at the same time showing the lurking intensity and depth you would only really expect to find from one of the very greatest domaines. The colour, particularly in comparison to the richer Corton-Charlemagne, gave no real suggestion of 11-12 years of age. A very great wine.
Burgundy was up again with a brilliant Langoustine tortellini with langoustine broth but this time of the red variety. Once we had established it was the same wine in two different vintages we set to work on guessing what and there was a sort of consensus that it was 1996 or 1998 and a 1990 but we were wrong (not massively but still wrong). The wine was Nuits-St-Georges “Boudots” from Leroy and the vintages were 1997 and 1993. The 1997 had a bit of bricky decay (I know what I mean and can never quite describe it) with the fruit in one place then the acidity and a little tannin at the end, it had a very particular texture too. The fruit was black but not too dark (light black?), I loved it despite how that note sounds, it was old school and evolved and just right now. The 1993 by contrast was at an altogether different, earlier, stage in its life. Primary almost, brooding, darker rich colour, long with black fruit, may be holding a little back for itself, brooding and then finally, as my note says, “bloody good”. A great pairing.
With Turbot with Shellfish and fennel Puree we went Italian, Ugo Lequio Barbaresco 2007 from Gallina and Barolo Cannubi S.Lorenzo-Ravera 1996 from Guiseppe Rinaldi. Two very different wines and not just because of the 11 years between them. The Gallina was more delicate, red fruited with almost strawberry or cherry fruit, clean and pure (not always easy in 2007), it has finesse and elegance, will be fascinating to follow it over the coming years. The Rinaldi, my bottle and one of my favourite producers, was earthy with minerality, leather and bruised fruit, it is still a little young but showed well, it has the saline quality that I like just starting to appear, impressive.
On the food front a real signature dish was up next, Pig’s trotter stuffed with sweetbreads and morels, and delicious it was too but I have to say the wines stole the show. It was one of those pairings that I write this blog for, I just don’t want to forget it. The glass on the left was poised, gentle even, with pure and persistent beautiful fruit, red and a little black, amazing length for a wine of this finesse, the balance so good that you could have had in 10 years ago or in 20 years and get the same enjoyment. By contrast the glass on the right was a different animal altogether. More brooding and dense with deeper darker, black fruit, my notes says “brilliant, depth, depth”. Whatever they were they were wonderful wines, contrasting so well. Preferring one is ultimately pointless. The left was La Tache 1991, DRC the right was Chambertin 1991, Rousseau. It all goes to show what a great vintage 1991 was (and 1993 from the previous wines as well), the charms of Burgundy seem to me to be too often missed as people focus in the, perceived to be, stellar vintages (90, 02, 05, 09 and 10). These wines just made me what to have more of them and in turn to look out for the likes of 2001 where the balance is superb but may be the volume is turned down a little, I’m starting (?) to waffle but what I am saying it look at balance not power.
There was still a red pairing to go before the last two sweet wines. And it was a pairing to give any a run for their money. The pair was, La Tache 1999DRC and Clos de la Roche 1990 from Ponsot the La Tache was one of the purest expressions of Pinot Noir I think I have ever come across, poised, red fruited, delicate yet firm, this wine is balanced but still essentially primary, still in phase one of it’s life but in no way is it unapproachable, amazing. The Ponsot had a rich, lavish almost hedonistic side to it, very 1990, fruit a little bruised (in a good way) there was a little spice as well, delicious.
It had been a brilliant set so far but there was one lesson still to learn Yquem 1975 and 
Yquem 1976. I have had both of these before both courtesy of the same source but there is no getting away from the fact that these two vintages in many ways, I think, show you what Yquem is all about. The 1975 has, to my mind, everything, perfect poise and balance, freshness, sweetness but also a savoury edge, it is precise, delicious but still in very much middle age, I absolutely love it and if I had (I don’t!) case I would want to drink it every 5 years as it has a long and fascinating life ahead of it. The 1976 is an altogether different style, rich, almost toffeed, rancio, like the richest creme brulee in a glass, a slight leathery, almost tobacco edge, if you want an idea of what older Yquem is like and want the full on hedonism of the Chateau then go for 1976. Either way they go perfectly alongside each other.
I have said this after a few “gang” meals but really how do we carry on bettering these? But then actually it isn’t about bigger or better just the very best bottles with the best of friends! Until next time…