This was a brilliant luncheon organised by “Newcastle” who features often on this blog. “Halifax” had also contributed some bottles. So it was for the four of us to relax and enjoy a brilliant meal at the hands of Clare Smyth – Chef extraordinaire and Jan Konetzki – Sommelier extraordinaire.

The menu was exceptional and to pick a favourite course would be simply silly, though I did get tempted when looking at the gallery at the bottom. The large and well flavoured early season white truffles are not to be missed and added that unique aroma and flavour to several dishes.

Steak tartare with Oscietra caviar
Scottish langoustine, handmade linguine and white truffle
Cornish turbot baked on the bone with seaweed, palourde clams, sea beet, wild chervil and charred spring cabbage
Smoked potato and poached egg ravioli with lightly roasted garlic emulsion and white truffle
Norfolk black leg chicken Albufera with “Ceps on toast”
Cote de Boeuf with smoked bone marrow, shallot sauce, rainbow chard and lovage
Cucumber sorbet, salad burnet, lemon verbena and mint
Wild Strawberry custard tart with lemon balm, lavender and mascarpone sorbet

So what do you drink with that rather wonderful line-up? Well we started with Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1973 – having had the 1971 three years ago I was expecting quite a bit of weight, an almost coffeed richness but the 1973 is a music played at a lower volume with some mellowly tropical fruit and real moreish drinkability, not a chewy wine as some late disgorgements can be, it disappered quickly with the canapés.

The white wines were served as a blind pair. I had them about 5-7 years apart and I had the older one as Montrachet due to the richness and weight. They turned out to be 19 years apart and from the same site and same producer. The producer part is true but there is a sense of two different regimes about the wines. The wines were Chevalier-Montrachet 2002, Domaine Leflaive and Chevalier-Montrachet 1983, Domaine Leflaive. The difference is that the 1983 was made/overseen by Anne-Claude’s father Vincent and the 2002 was Anne-Claude herself. The 1983 has an old school yeasty richness about it, more oxidative and a little wilder. Really very very good, a superb wine with the food. The 2002 is a marvel, so pure and clean, so bright and so youthful in colour, a wine which manages to have weight but in a very defined and feminine way, lots of minerality here. An absolutely fascinating pair.
From here is was red for a while! A half bottle of Vina Real 1959, CVNE followed as an intriguing interlude. I think I remember plumbing for Bordeaux but being tempted by Italy. there was a slightly vegetal edge but this was in good shape for its age. Bovril, beef stock, iron-rich blood and a little iodine all gave away elements of the maturity but there was a lovely saline edge too, very fun and staggering from a half.

We then had a pair of reds – Clos Saint-Denis 1996, Dujac and Barolo 2005, Bartolo Mascarello. The similarities between Barolo and Burgundy I think are more emotional and complexity/intrigue based than the actually style of the wines. These two made a good pair. The Dujac, was loose and quite sexy, I actually had it as Cote de Beaune (Lafarge I mentioned) and a fair bit older, mid 80’s. There was a slightly grainy easiness about the wine. There was fresh red fruit to start, then more oranges and if anything it actually got younger as we drank it not older. I really enjoyed it – quite a “tart” of a wine but why the hell not. The Bartolo is the first bottle I have tried of this from my cellar. I buy the wine each year and there is a school of thought that this is one of the leading 2005 Barolo wines. This was very youthful in it’s purity, very zippy and fresh, very red fruited, I was impressed but at the same time realise this was near infanticide. I never regret drinking a bottle young and this has a very bright future, if I had 12 bottles I’d look again in 2-3 years but as I have only five it’ll be 5 years before I breach another.

From here we went to Bordeaux. I have had a very good run of Bordeaux recently and much as I realise there is a disgruntled Bordeaux buying public out there when the wines are “on” they are simply brilliant and that much not be forgotten. This was a blind magnum. We got to “serious left bank” quickly and knew there was some good age but I was then playing the man and had this as 1960’s/1970’s Latour. My note reads, letter for letter:

“Proper job, saline, delicious, some herbs, delicious, easy yet elegant, grainy grip. Just lovely, cep and truffle join in…yum…more please”

So what was it? Montrose 1959 in magnum, I was delighted by this as I really like the savouryness of Montrose and much as I was out on the year I do (quietly) pat myself on the back for the “proper” note as that’s what I often say when I mean savoury complexity with fruit but not in-your-face fruit. It was just a great wine to drink, no edges but not simple, richness but not through alcohol. One more red appeared now and was a little different from what went before. It was Arietta H Block 2000 (or I think it was, no photo), this was all about the Cabernet Franc (100%), red crunchy fruit and a refreshing stalky (good “green”) character but ripeness, would love to explore this estate more some time.

Croft 1955 – “odd” label

Cheese!! That means a proper bottle of port on these fine occasions, Jan got the port tongs out and did a mighty fine job. A look into the kitchen at this point was priceless, everything having a place and a process, prep well underway for dinner. As we tucked into the cheese the Port was slipping down a treat, clearly serious age, this was very mellow, elegant with a dash of white pepper, the bottle in question – Croft 1955 – a delight, refined power. If there is one quality wine style that modern life seems to have it “in” for then it has to be the fortified side of things. Port got me into this whole game and Madeira and Port still fascinate me (sherry never quite got me but it has many trade friends). Yet, so often these wines are not given the time they deserve. The great contradiction is that they are all making better wines now that ever…

After the cucumber sorbet – try it, it’s amazing, though may be don’t put it in your mouth in one go – we had a lovely elegant desert to accompany the Yquem 1948. It quite a grunty even savoury Yquem, a meditative wine, with good rancio character, the creme brûlée is intense with only a medium sweetness, there is a wild decadence about this vintage. I would imagine it is almost best drunk now, while the sweet and the savoury wrestle about with each other.

And from there…home…smiling…top wines…top food…top company…just lucky to be there.

They taste every bit as good as they look…

Now this could catch on…

If I had to choose? May be, just may be…
Turbo Turbot
Smoked potato and poached egg ravioli – brilliant dish
There’s rather splendid chicken under the truffle!!
Only “Henry” (old post) ran this close…
Great cheese – Comte to die for…
What a team…