Wine tasting 1 at the RAC Club
A private dinner ‘a deux’
Generously hosted by noted collector ‘Clive St Hune’. As ever, Clive was thinking – and drinking – big. All the wines drank during dinner and afterward were served to me blind. Having discussed white Burgundy at some length in the beautiful courtyard at the RAC I had arrived at certain conclusions about the nature of the wine tasting before putting a glass to my lips, thus setting myself up for an embarrassing start to the evening…
I initially distinguished myself by (miss)identifying 2006 Camel Valley Bachus firstly as Chablis, secondly as Alsace Riesling and finally as Savennières, before retiring from the fray with my pride and professional reputation in tatters. Clive looked on benevolently, highly amused by my ineptitude. To be fair I am not served 8 year old English wines very often. In fact not ever, until now.
The Great Gallery restaurant at the RAC Club, which I’d never been to before, is, incidentally, magnificent and the service was impeccable. Our waiter dealt with the pressing requirement for 3 starters each (preceding our main courses naturally) with equanimity and even nonchalance; meanwhile the sommelier was fully briefed to keep the considerable array of bottles coming at regular intervals. Before readers baulk at what may sound an implausibly large volume of alcohol, I should say we absolutely did not drink the whole of every bottle which was served !
Two wines were opened but were not served on the basis that they were oxidised – both Sauzet 1er Cru from the mid 1990s. Sadly this was not a surprise to my host or I.
2006 Bacchus, Camel Valley
Pale colour. Crisp, taut scent with notes of green fruit and quince. Very good on the palate with modest weight but very good intensity – before (metaphorically) falling on my sword I was convinced I recognised the briskness of Chablis, the aromatics of a (fine) dry Riesling and finally the quince notes of Savennières. Crisp and long. Nice.
………………..Thereafter the evening settled down into more familiar territory, as follows:
1983 Tokay Pinot Gris ‘Rangen de Thann’, Vendange Tardive, Zind Humbrecht
Full gold colour with hints of orange. Rich honey and quince aromatics with smokey spice notes emerging. This initially smelled a bit oxidised and soapy / flat, but freshened considerably in the glass. Full bodied with creamy quince and baked apple flavour. Just fractionally sherried but still pretty delicious. Also savoury and smokey. Clive commented that it was fresher than several other bottles he’d had recently.
2004 Le Montrachet, Laguiche (Drouhin)
Pale gold colour. A big blast of rich orchard fruit – ‘essence of Chardonnay’ on the nose. I took this to be old fashioned white Burgundy – but did not guess it as Montrachet. Notes of apricot and peach. Initially big and creamy, but slightly grubby. The waxy note blew away to reveal an impeccable, full bodied Chardonnay with the hint of diesel that you can find in Le Montrachet. Tightening in the glass over the course of evening, it became a very serious wine, although not one with the race or definition for greatness. Very good.
2001 Le Montrachet, Laguiche (Drouhin)
The second of a pairing obviously, but not recognisable as the same wine. Full gold colour suggesting a much older wine. Rich with scents of honey, butter and even burnt toffee. Overblown palate with pear and peach flavours. Big but no hint of Grand Cru finesse. Is this a bottle which is out of condition or is it typical ? If the latter it is a huge disappointment. Drinkable and still pleasurable if your taste run to the riper and richer end of the spectrum but sub-par for Montrachet on this showing.
1996 Puligny Montrachet, Leflaive
Pale, bright lemon colour. Super pure on the nose with hints of gravel, lavender and citrus. Hints of smokey matchstick also. Really fine, long and pure. Without the flesh of the 2004 Montrachet but has more race, freshness and elegance. Lovely dry mineral and limeflower finish. I took this to be a considerably grander wine. A welcome reminder of how good mature white Burgundy can be, even at village level.
2008 Pinot Noir, Ryan Vineyard, Calera
Moderate ruby colour with no obvious sign of ageing. Very attractive fresh strawberry notes running through to deeper notes of mulberry and spice. Medium bodied but ripe and round with lush Pinot Fruit. Nice finish of orchard fruit and honey. Not fully mature, but delicious because of the silky texture.
1989 Riesling Clos St Hune Vendange Tardive “Hors Choix”
I wish we’d tasted this earlier in the night as possibly (make that very likely) my palate was jaded by this point ! – thus my score in parentheses. Modest gold colour. Fullish bodied, but very fresh, creamy and ripe, with lovely candied orange flavour turning to beeswax and cream at the finish. Lovely. Really delicious but I am not sure I was capable of fully discerning the finesse of this wine after its predecessors and four food courses.
A heartfelt thanks goes out to my host, Clive, for a great evening in every respect !