I am incredibly late writing up this truly wonderful evening that happened before Christmas last year. The evening was all about Petrus. The location was the stunning Dumfries House. It’s an easy thing to say but this was a truly memorable time. The hosts were a combination of three of the team from Corney & Barrow (of which I was delighted to be one) then Christophe Jacquemin Sablon (CEO) and Olivier Berrouet (Winemaker from 2008 having taken over from his father Jean-Claude who was in charge from 1964-2008) from Petrus.

We started the evening with a tour of the house and a small explanation of the amazing works that go on all over the estate (this continued with a driven tour the following morning). It is a fascinating estate and story, one worth looking at the website to find out more about it.

We then gathered in the drawing room and started the evening with the rather splendid Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 1996 En Magnum. The 1996 was a vintage of Delamotte that all got sold to the Japanese market so I had never had it before. A lovely combination of toastiness and freshness with a lemon shortbread finish, very moreish and very appetising

We were then piped through to the spectacular dining room and a delicious looking menu of:

Half Lobster with Beurre Blanc

Roast Pigeon Breast with a Pea and Bacon Salad

Dumfries House Estate Venison with Market Vegetables, Roasted Shallots, Potato Puree and Thyme Jus

A Selection of Locally Sourced Cheeses (Aiket, KIlbride, Cheddar and Arran Blue)

With the opening speeches and the first course we had Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011 En Magnum from Bonneau du Martray which, whilst on the youthful side, is drinking very well now like the vast majority of the 2011’s. It has a steely classicism but not quite the searing acidity that you might expect of Bonneau at 4 years of age. Very good indeed with the delicious Lobster, quite a combination.

Now of course, it was time for Petrus, this most famous of Pomerols. I have been very lucky to have both visited and drunk my fair share of Petrus over the last decade or so. This 11.5 ha site with vines of 45 years age on average is planted, historically, with 97% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. The wine is actually now pretty much 100% Merlot. We were to have the vintages served in two pairs. Older, and from more difficult vintages, first then the younger stellar vintages. This has the advantage of showing grace and maturity before power although it is not necessarily the conventional order. Olivier Berrouet did comment, with a twinkle in the eye, that of course these were his father’s wines and he could not be “blamed”. The wines had all come from the Chateau a moth or so earlier.

Olivier speaks…

Petrus 1969 – This was described as a lighter style of Petrus by Olivier, “a style that doesn’t really exist anymore”. The wine was delicate but persistent, not tired. The nose had notes of grapefruit and citrus almost a cool tropicality. I loved it, a shade of menthol and a good gentle balance.

Petrus 1979 En magnum – A growing season with quite high rainfall and limited warmth. This was by contrast to the 1969 (and accentuated by the format) a richer more succulent wine all round. Very iron-like and savoury, a wine to wallow in, a wine of depth and texture. As with the 1969 this far exceeds the vintages reputation.

Petrus 1990 – Velvet and superb weightlessness, supreme even, so moreish with a battle between red and black fruit. My note is clearly too concise, quite rightly this was a wine to enjoy and drink rather than write about. There was a brief comment about the contrast between 1989 and 1990 for Petrus. Olivier said that in 1989 the spring and early summer were hot then it was cooler later, pretty much the opposite in 1990.

Petrus 2000 – Savoury, granite, stones, so youthful, delicious, packed with fruit, decadent and rich. Stunning balance…depth, depth, depth, so much texture but without being heavy. I was trying to compare it to the 2001 that I once had and it seemed less extrovert than that vintage, may be more serious, more understated confidence.

The combination of the food, the wonderful conversations and the fact that there are never going to be enough occasions in life when you have four vintages of Petrus in front of you made for a wonderful atmosphere. The receptiveness of everyone to the Grahams 1970, bottled by Whighams of Ayr, was tremendous, I find myself saying it often but we don’t drink enough good Port! We did on this occasion.

As the harpist, oh yes you have to have a harpist, played her last, rather brilliant notes we were joined by a singer and a fiddler…this went well with the Hine 1987 Early landed Cognac, bottled in 2006, which I find to be the most drinkable of all spirits, so mellow and refined…

The evening carried on late, with singing and cigars back at the lodges, a few sore heads in the morning…

What fun!