This dinner was the brainchild of “Tree” (Katrina in full) a colleague in the Fine Wine Team at work. A simple intention to get a few likeminded souls together for a “bring a bottle dinner”. We were eight in total with “Ditch” (why don’t I have a nickname? Maybe I do and I’m not allowed to know what it is!) also joining from the C&B team. Clive who chefs the dinning room put together a great menu (see below) – simplicity done well – and off we went:

Wild Mushroom pithivier, onion puree

Loin & Belly of orchard pork, roast apples and cider

British cheeses

Coffee and (rather splendid) petit fours

As we congregated it was Champagne time and we had a pair of these. Delamotte Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2002 & Bollinger Grand Annee, 2007. It’s nice to have two contrasting Champagnes and actually drink them rather than taste. The Delamotte 2002 I know well and love, it is perfect now to my taste, mellow and a little maturity but with a soft liveliness, just balanced. The Bolly I know less well and it is clearly a richer style in general but actually the freshness of youth very much balances this. There is a little more latent power under the hood, best in 3-5?

As we descended to the dining room we started with three whites. First up was Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2003 from JJ Prum. I think Auslese is one of the most commonly misunderstood categories of all wine. There is a tendency for people to think is is fully sweet and therefore for puddings and cheese or as an aperitif at a push. Actually the ripeness (as apart from sweetness) allows it to be one of the most flexible of all food wines. This 2003 belies the extremes of the weather in 2003 and has a real zip alongside some lemon citrus and a staggering fresh mint edge, its a cracking drink.

Alongside the Prum we had a pair of other whites: Batard-Montrachet from J.N.Gagnard 2009Batard-Montrachet 2009 from Drouhin – they were quite a contrast and I think peoples views were quite diverse too. The Gagnard, had a heady, rich, dry honey nose and a depth of mature fruit. Big shoulders as you want from Batard. The Drouhin was finer and more linear, tasting younger but also slightly less defined I’d say. This was delicious white Burgundy but maybe less identifiable as a Batard. I liked both but on balance I’d just about plum for the Drouhin, I think I was in a very slight minority!

Next up as moved to the delicious Pork dish was Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St Jacques 1er Cru 1999 from Bruno Clair and Chinon Clos la Dioterie 1990 from Charles Joguet. These were splendid. The CSJ is just opening out, as many 1999s at the “top table” are. It has good dark red fruit, a whiff of salinity and a mellow structure, nothing tertiary yet, the stage I often most like red Burgs – on the fruit. The Chinon was fascinating and not in a novelty way, very proper. Ripe Cabernet Franc is a real joy, this has a lovely easy structure good fruit some slate like aromas and is just perfect now.

We then moved to a wine of different proportions and to Ermitage L’Ermite 2009 from Chapoutier. Inky but nor sweet or cloying this is a work in progress but everything is there. I think it will be serious and savoury in time, a masculine wine but not a brute. It was balanced and graceful inside its large frame, it could have been decanted at breakfast but I don’t like to do that as you can often miss the fruit.

Then a blind pair of related wines – linked via Moueix ownership – Chateau Trotanoy 2006 & Chateau Magdelaine 2000. The Trotanoy was quite hedonistic, in second gear, a little oak waistcoat that will disappear into the wine shortly, lovely fruit and good supple tannins, give it 2-5years. The Magdelaine (now a part of the holdings for Belair-Monange) was ready to drink, youthfully so, a good savoury edge but balanced by good mellow but precise fruit. This will hold and age well but is delicious now.

With cheese I couldn’t resist serving a Port. I love Port and these sorts of evenings are perfect for it. The bottle served (and picture below) was Fonseca 1970 (C&B bottled). From 1975 (in most cases) and certainly 1977 all Port was bottled in Porto and exported as such but prior to this the wines were often shipped in “pipes” (often around 550 litres) and bottled in London and other places. I love the quirkiness and heritage angle that this adds. The cork was a good hard seal but there had been a tiny bit of seepage at some stage and whilst 80% of the cork came out in one go the cork was fully saturated. It had about 3 hours in a decanter before we drank it. Red berry fruit with a little marzipan, lovely right now. A cracking conclusion to really lovely evening. Lots of experiences and stories were exchanged and all in the good name of opening a few bottles.

Wine the way it should be, can’t wait for dinner 2!