If you look back through this blog there are many people I have been very privileged to drink a lot of great wine with…right up there (easily in “Europe” and probably fighting for the title are two gentlemen who go by the monikers on here of “Newcastle” and “Halifax”. Last week I made the remarkably easy – this could become a dangerous habit – trip to Newcastle for a cracking dinner. Both gents were joined by their splendid other halves and much fun was had, as much with the wine as the chat – rugby, racing, golf etc…

We were very well looked after by the team at 21 Newcastle with a lovely menu of; Lobster, Turbot, Beef and Cheeses. The scene need some setting so a few G&T’s were used to hydrate before we made our way to the table.

Salon 1988 was a lovely starting place, fully mature now (like some of us) with a orange-rind and yeasty richness, interestingly this got fresher in glass with a bit of air. Salon is always a very vinous Champagne and so it was here, this reminded me a little of a recent bottle of 1983 mentioned at the end of this post. The slightly oxidative and powder elements gave way to freshness. Its an interesting Salon as it is the only one where malolactic fermentation started what makes it more widely interesting is that it never completed.

Next up with the lovely Lobster dish and then a cracking bit of turbot was, that rarest of beasts, a “double monty” with Ramonet and DRC on display. Montrachet 2002 from Ramonet is one of those wines you know you will not get to drink more than once unless your very lucky. I have a little experience of the wines from Ramonet now and love the style. I like to think it is a touch individual, stem ginger seeming to be a bit of a signature. This was a big wine, though I don’t know for sure, but I would say both this and the 1986 that followed had a good bit of that Montrachet botrytis richness. We choose, wisely I think, to have this 2002 decanted. It has a slight toffee aroma to start, this coming from the richness and the oak but with only a tiny bit of air the ginger started to come out as did layer upon layer of rich fruit. Absolutely cracking and greater and greater with air, some wine. From there we were onto Montrachet 1986 from DRC. I am lucky to try Montrachet from DRC on release each year and through others generosity to have had it a few times with some age but I have never had the 1986 or even a vintage within 4 or 5 years of that. It was instantly a good bottle. We decided there was no need to decant this. The full textural richness was perfect again the totally mature, decadent fruit, really lovely balanced, a wine you couldn’t help but wallow in really. We tried to keen a little bit of each going for a while to try alongside the reds. They were both more just great wines rather than great white wines if that makes any sense.

Time for red now as a vast amount of beef appeared. Soldera 2008 kicked us off, I am biased but this is one hell of an estate. Visits to Soldera are always magical, controversial, inspiring and never dull. I find the wine so easy to enjoy but at the same time as wonderfully complex, as much as the man who makes it. Like so many of the great mono-varietal red wines (Burgundy and Barolo spring to mind but others too) it strikes me as such an error to not enjoy these wines young as well as with age. There is always a note of wet meat (just think of how great raw cool beef smells) as well as a floral red fruit edge before a darker core. Yum!

The next red was Volnay Santenots du Milieu 1993 from Lafon, a great wine to get to try but (and sorry there is a “but”) it was just a little overshadowed in this league. Now, I can hear a few readers here saying “it’s not a wine Will sells” and they are correct, but I like to think bias and all, I say what I think. This was a good medium weight wine with good balance, well made, nice nose, the “but” and it was the same when I did a tasting – Burgundy pairs 2009 and 2010 – with trade mates a while back is all round whether it is Volnay. I think Lafon makes seriously great whites in many different years and with a great richness. The estate doesn’t seem to make great reds, good yes, but true to the Volnay elegance? This is nothing new, D’Angerville and Lafarge are producers I love and they make great Volnay but never hit the heights with the whites they make, nice though they often are. Anne-Claude Leflaive gave up making red…it is just not an easy thing – to do both. Comments welcome on my thoughts here…I can’t make red of white so I am a fine one to talk!

So to the last red – Latour 1964 – now this is Pauillac and so mighty fine. Rich but not remotely heavy, blacker fruit but with iron and power, absolutely perfect now. May be tasting a little younger than 52 years but so graceful, so Latour. The only vintage, as we discussed, that you might have confused it with is Latour’s very good 1970. It was everything to should have been and frankly so was the whole evening, lots of wine, great chat, a chance to catch up and to laugh.

No evening would ever be complete with a few Negronis would it…chaps, and ladies, I thank you…until next time!