Two new nicknames but not two new people to the blog – “Across the Mersey” and “Lions” – had been planning this dinner for quite some time (arond a year!). It was held at 67 Pall Mall and the wines were all to be served blind to the other two of us…Mr H and I.

We started with Clos des Goisses 2002 from Philiponnat, sadly I had to declare that I glanced the bottle in the sommeliers’ hand (the only error all night). In honesty this didn’t help all that much…I was left to try and get the vintage whilst Mr H was trying the whole deal. The blend here is 65% Pinot & 35% Chardonnay and very much tastes that way round. The nose has dry nuts and was a little short. Where the big surprise came was that we were 15-20 years out on vintage. I think we guessed 1985 or 1988. I know this is sometimes a Champagne that people decant and maybe the savoury intensity of it means it is just in a phase, there is no point deciding on one showing. I’d be fascinated to see how it develops. It was disappointing on this showing.

White wine now – Montrachet 2001 from Ramonet – Kerosine and lanolin, mint, a little bacon fat, some reduction too. A little asparagus and a light refreshing palate, very good and very intriguingly complex. Some nuts and ginger…it was this last note that made me plumb for Ramonet…I was rather pleased (relieved too!). I can’t remember what we thought for vintage. This was very good and I wish I had kept some in my glass to re-visit. The only note of any weakness I would add it that it had a little lack of the Montrachet intensity on the palate but that’s a very minor thing…a precious bottle to share.

Next up we were served a trio of blind reds. Mr H took control on the deductions of vintage and house with a little help from me, he/we did well. They were a stellar trio with one of the three just peeping its head out above the others. Sometimes a “winner” can diminish the other two wines but that was not the case here.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Clos des Papes 1990 – Foursquare and fairly robust initially, a little bretty, in a good way. Savoury with some soy in the mix, fully mature without any weariness. Cracking wine, serious, will make good “old bones” too.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rayas 1990 – Luscious, sweetly fruited (like almost all great wines!) with a raspberry tang and some white pepper, an absolute gem, I could drink any (?!) amount of this any time…stellar. A benchmark for me.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rayas 1989 – A wine I had never had before, there was a link to the 1990 but not an overpowering one. This was more degraded, a little bit of iodine in the mix as well as some “mushroom water”. A delightful, tender, wine.

After the trio, two more CNDP’s followed, purely through generosity of our hosts:

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Beaucastel 1990 – I think this is more what people generally would expect from CNDP, herbs and spices over a darker fruit character and a little more (blacker) pepper, beefy and uncompromising. Proper.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de Capo 2000 from Pegau – Now the Pegau estate is one that has quite a reputation, firstly they were/are much admired by Robert Parker – this can be a mixed blessing. They make many different wines, reds and whites. Capo is their very top Cuvee. I had never previously drunk it (only tasted a couple of times). It is full for sure, possibly only in second gear, the fruit is darker, deeper and rounder…I feel it will live forever but where is it heading in terms of grace and complexity? It was very generous and I really enjoyed it. I guess it just came up against the persistent elegance of Rayas and the softening character of great, more mature vintages.

This whole evening further added to my education on CNDP much of which came from this Epic Rhone trip – it’s a genuinely great region…There will be another blog soon on some White CNDPs as well.

Mersey and Lions – thank you!