Regular readers, yes all four of you, will know that I have the privilege of joining a great group of wine loving friends on a trip each year, the blogs of these, now rather legendary excursions, are below. Whilst the group – we’ve never been more than six on the trip but those who have gone on one or more trip numbers nine – get together in drips and drabs through the year we have only done one “official” get together before – Pre-Piedmont warm up. Back in October we decided a mid-year “AGM” was required so we convened at 1 Thomas More Street for dinner, the theme? A simple “bring a magnum” scenario which worked well. There were apologies from a few of the team but we were quorate.

Tuscany – May 2017 “Do you mind if I kiss you”

Rhone – May 2016 – A Rhone Epic, En Parallel.

Piedmont – May 2015 – “Foxes behind ears”

Burgundy – May 2014 – A very special trip

We started the evening with Fiscali’s contribution – Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2002 – and delicious it was too, lovely energy with shade of mellowness too, a little biscuit but with a lifting lemon zip. We then sat down for a pair of whites (from bottle not magnum), both from places, as can be said for the Champagne, that we haven’t been to on the trip. They were a contrasting pair too Wehlener Sonnenhur Auslese 2003 from JJ Prum in the Mosel and HdV Chardonnay 2012 by Hyde de Villaine in Carneros. The Prum is a wine I know well, a touch of mint to the nose with the honeyed ripeness and while it has clear residual sugar it drinks as a wine of texture and intensity rather than sweetness per se. The “Hyde” is another wine I know well and this has a bit more savoury richness than you might expect from the sometimes a little over new-oaked California Chardonnays. This was a good balancer to the Prum and offers a lovely contrast. Moreish and perfect now. As the anecdotes rolled forth we moved onto the reds.

Raw kicked us off with the Ermitage 1995 Le Pavillon from M.Chapoutier a producer we visited on our trip to the Rhone. This is a wine only now stepping up to second or third gear. It’ll peak in 10 years or so. In saying this it is not monolithic or out of any balance it is just that there are layers of tertiary and degraded maturity to come. As a contrast of drinkability we then had, well alongside, Grange 2003 from Penfolds courtesy of Leechy. I find myself confused by Grange at times, there is never any lack of fruit intensity or power of precision it is just that I sometimes wonder, on release, if it will ever be ready to drink and not primary in character. 2003 helped me with this. This magnum was delicious for drinking now, development yes but without any lack of the vivaciously dark fruits. So much more that a bold exercise in fruit. I contrast this with the much lauded 1998 which whilst a brilliant wine is stuck in first gear. It was a terrific pair.

From here on in it was Italy all the way with a Tuscany pair before we headed north – Biserno 2010 from Tenuta di BisernoSoldera 2008, Case Basse being the Tuscan duo. Biserno 2010, via Boycey, is a lovely decadent but mellow wine with Cabernet Franc leading the way. The 2010 is good now and will drink well for sometime to come. Soldera 2008 is a stellar wine that I simply love. The signature note for me with Soldera is the smell of wet beef (top quality wet meat) allied to ripeness +1day strawberry fruit and white pepper, simply said, I don’t know a wine that drinks so well early and will age so well – maybe Tertre Roteboeuf comes close.

We were in improvised form from here with the ever brilliant Barbera Francia 2014, Giacomo Conterno – the acidity and deep crunchy fruit working well with the saline side of this wine. One “lighter” bottle to go now! Alzeo 2007 from Quintarelli – this is a something of a unique wine. To get techincal – made up of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot. Harvested before most other grapes at Quintarelli, at the end of August and beginning of September, after that harvest the grapes sit in wooden boxes or on rush mats. Dried grapes are pressed in mid-December and after 20 days of maceration, alcoholic fermentation begins with indigenous yeasts. Fermentation lasts approximately 50 days. Wine is then aged in French barrels for two or three years, then racked into Slavonian oak barrels for four more years. During this ageing process, additional alcoholic fermentations take place. All this essentially means we have Bordeaux varietals produced in the same way as Amarone. It does come in at a refreshing 16.5% volume but is balanced – a meditation wine. There is a mocha, coffee and dried fruit character with is decadent and a perfect finish to a long night.

Next years destination was much discussed and though not written in blood it has been narrowed down to two options…I could tell you but…

Thank you for your bottles chaps.