In September 2016 I ventured North for my first visit to Newcastle as is documented HERE. It was a cracking evening and a repeat was planned for November just gone (2017). The venue was to be the same – 21 Newcastle – and we were equally well looked after. I haven’t done any food pics but rest assured it was very good, as ever, I ate far more than I needed to! It was a terrific chance to catch up with two blog stalwarts – “Halifax“Newcastle” and their better halves – on their turf. Good also to be joined by fellow wine-trade man Aaran.

The line-up in reverse

After a G&T or two we were seated and the wine started to flow. Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill 1988, En Magnum was up first. On first tasting it was worryingly mature and yeasty whilst tart on the finish but with some time in glass it opened out nicely to reveal much more balance and freshness. It is almost always a very rich vintage that shows power and that was the case here, the cepage of 57% Pinot Noir with 43% Chardonnay surprised me as I expected more Pinot Noir, a good, and generous, start.

With the starters, very good crab in my case, we turned to white Burgundy and a pair of Domaine Leflaive 2008s – Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres 2008 & Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2008. This was the first vintage where I did a whole week in Burgundy tasting the wines. Its a quirky vintage which was lauded at the time for great whites and decent, sometimes slightly scrawny, reds. Over time I have loved the reds more and more and found the whites to be a less consistent, some are great, some more lean with an overpowering acidity. These two were on good form. The Folatieres was lively and poised, a little showey too, a shade of reduction, good wine – a bit of a flirt to be honest. The Bienvenues had a broader feel which made it harder to assess right now, I think there is more to come here. A good pairing.

From a pair of white Burgundies to a pair of reds and the producer here was Rousseau –  Clos de la Roche 1997 & Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 1995 – were the specific wines. The Clos de la Roche was a soft, tender, melded wine with a lovely smoothness, lovely right now, good but not profound. The Clos st Jacques was that little bit richer, the vintage having an influence here for sure, and there was a brilliant “stripe” of salinity to it. The Rousseau style – this could be negatively read, it shouldn’t be – showed more too. Delicious now and great to savour. One of Burgundies best producers showing just why.

From memory we were now onto main courses we started with – Monfortino 1995 – which is on the young side for drinking right now in some peoples view but I find I increasingly like wines at this exact stage. The 1995 has a little bit of spice against a classical maturing Nebbiolo fruit, good depth.

Now Bordeaux – Latour 1955, Trotanoy 1982 and Margaux 1986 – a really fascinating trio. I think the first time I ever met Newcastle and Halifax we had a bottle of Haut Brion 1955 courtesy of “Sussex”. The 1955, and this is a real first world comment, is the best older vintage of Bordeaux that I have come across. I must have had 7 or 8 different Bordeaux from 1955 and found them all to be superb, why? I just don’t know. This Latour had dark degraded fruit, good density and richness, I simply can’t imagine quite what it must have been like when first bottled. Like all (well 99%) great wines it has a profoundly ripe sweetness. The Trotanoy is from a spell when they were doing a lot of replanting and is good but not a patch on what you see from 1990 onwards to my mind, classical and well put together. The Margaux 1986 is a style you don’t see too much now. Very Margaux but from a time before the endless selection one sees in so much of the wine world now. There is a stalky slightly (good) green tannin and a freshness. I don’t want to sound flippant but I sometimes think there is almost too much precision now in some wines. This classical, stemy, slight stalky, cooly black fruited wine may help to make that point better than some. Does this contradict my “great wine has sweetness” comment? Well quite possibly, but when talking about great wines I mean the top 0.5%. I just like the idea that “everything” goes in.

Climens 1971 was a great end to a splendid evening – that great rancio character and richness from intense sweetness, a pudding on it’s own.

What an evening! Looking forward to the hat-trick!

Iconic labels, great bottles – much fun!