This was a cracking luncheon well orchestrated by Irish Pete. The drill was to eat at The White Oak in Cookham and then have a gaunt on the river post lunch. Five of us gathered on a muggy day with each bringing a bottle and Irish proving the focal point – never a bad thing when that focus is Rousseau. The food we were served was delicious, simple, elegant and just the foil to the wines, well worth a trip.
We kicked off with two vintages of Dom Perignon the 1996 and 1990. The 1996 served first was absolutely delicious, I have often said that prefer the bottle ageing of Champagne to the yeastier and, in my view, clumsier ageing you get on the lees. These were both original release bottlings. The 1996 was just at a lovely stage, youth giving way to the first signs of maturity, there was still plenty of drive and focus. The initial elements are strawberry fresh but then citrus before a little biscuit takes over, in short this is spot on now. I would imagine magnums are worth holding for 2-3 years but bottles, on this showing, are bang on. The 1990 is mature in my opinion, not over mature mind you. More open, more flesh, apples but good apples then a little butterscotch. There is more roundness and consequently less drive to the wine. Both were delicious and cracking start, serving them in big burgundy glasses also helped. As I write this I’d love to have a bottle of the 1996 chilling in the fridge!
From there we were Burgundy-bound, whites first. Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2007 from Domaine Leflaive and Meursault 2005 from Coche-Duty were the two whites in question. Sadly, there is always a little suspense before opening Leflaive these days and also a thought for Anne-Claude. This was a bright and delicious bottle, a lovely youthful colour (or lack of colour). Great balance, elegant for a Batard, a little whiff of reassuring reduction, it really opened up well in glass to reveal white and yellow fruits, more the classic zip of 2007 that the “broad shoulders” of Batard, lovely, the lunch deserved a good bottle and so it was. Coche-Dury is probably the only producer who make a village wine that would fit at such a lunch. The “supplier” of this has been busily hoovering up the 2005’s from Coche. This village wine showed so well and reminded me of another occasion when Irish and I had enjoyed the wine, from 1993 that time, courtesy of Mr G. This 2005 had aniseed and fennel as well as an exuberance, cracking stuff.
Now it was time for the “main course” in all senses of the phrase. Mr H sensibly suggested the next two wines were served in a staggered format to avoid too quick a comparison, very shrewd as there can always be a tendency for instant comparison. In itself this is ok but it is so often to the detriment of one of the wines. This was not the aim here. First out the blocks was Chambertin Grand Cru 1993 from Rousseau. I have been very lucky to have 1990, 1991 and a few other vintages of this genuinely iconic wine. This was gorgeous, poised, it encapsulated the Rousseau signature, for me, of depth and intensity without weight, it was fresh and defined, redder of fruit than I expected. Youthful but not immature. In short stunning. It was then joined by it’s sibling Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 1993 from Rousseau. The wisdom of the staggered start was clear to see. In some ways there was more density, more intensity, more fruit, less savoury. This struck me as a little brighter and redder, a little younger tasting. Reflecting back on it later there was a suggestion that the Beze was a 100% bottle and may be the Chambertin a mere 99% or at least that the Beze was a more youthful example. When I did ulimately decided which I “preferred” for me it was the extra savoury dimension added to the Chambertin but both of these wines are extreme examples of what Burgundy can be…
Clearly that pair were going to be a near impossible act to follow. So we had two wines of different style, one still in Burgundy – Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 1990 from Mongeard-Mugneret and my offering, surprise surprise, Monfortino 2002 from Giacomo Conterno. The Clos Vougeot was re-assuringly different from the Rousseau’s. Quite chunky, not over the top, not 1990 soupy which can happen it has a good sweetness to go with that Clos Vougeot grunt, it stood up for itself very well. The Monfortino, watch out for the usual bias, was lovely, very young, we actually put it back in the bottle to cool it as it had got a little warm on the muggy day. It is a wine just getting into second gear, there is a good green freshness as well as dark lifted fruit and that savoury saline signature.
It had been an absolutely splendid meal, lots of good conversation and a keenness to make sure that those who did not attend knew what they had missed. It sounds like we might set this as an annual event – I do hope so!
As we fragmented three of us, Irish, Mr H and myself headed back to the riverside for a ride up the river. As we were in Henley, not sure how I missed mentioning that before, and the rowing was starting the following week we got a good view of the course and a few crews out on the river practising. Of course you can’t do that with an empty glass so we took Ruchottes Chambertin Grand Cru 2002 from that splendid Rousseau chap. It was so wonderfully primary for an “02”, several of which I have found (admittedly at other “lesser” addresses) to be a little prematurely gamey. This was not a waste to drink now, so bright and dark red fruited. It was a brilliant end to a really cracking day…just what summer fridays are for! Thank you all from your bottles and for organising.