The proceedings began with an NV Lanvin & Fils Champagne Brut, a bottle with around five years of age since purchase. Normally, this is a wine that is opened on purchase, and when fresh, it usually wins gold medals. Tonight, it was still a pleasure. Much softer and quite restrained compared with a fresh shipment, the toasty development was quite modest, and the wine with a satisfying, smooth texture. A little more zip might have been the order of the day, but the mellowness of the wine suited the mood perfectly. Still with good bubble, this was lively enough to tease the palate.
Two same vintage Chardonnays followed, and worked as well with the fresh oysters as did the Champagne, even though they were well-oaked. A 2007 Obsidian Waiheke Chardonnay first, and now drinking well with a sense of style. Showing good body and power, without going over the top or broad. All the componentry in the right proportion, and some secondary nutty interest appearing, and with hints of flinty complexity. Altogether an all-round pleaser. The 2007 Moss Wood Margaret River Chardonnay is a bigger, more powerful and concentrated number. Huge citrus, mealy flavours with masses of oak toast and a whack of struck match. This is an out-there wine, but with the oysters, strangely calmed down.
Older reds preceded the lamb and the heavier, fruitier reds. Two from the Antipodes. An historic 1987 Stonyridge ‘Larose’ Waiheke Bordeaux-blend. This is the wine that set Waiheke Island on the map. Dark red colour, and very concentrated and packed on nose, with a wonderful core on palate. Dark earthy, red berry fruit with developmental leather and funky game hinted, but really quite fruit focussed. The tannins have moderated, but the mouthfeel still has structure and line. And wonderful acidity for elegance and energy. This developed layers of funky nuances in a very supporting and unobtrusive way in the glass. This was paired with another illustrious wine, a 1976 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. Black garnet-red in colour, this was still sweet with its ripe, warm-climate fruit. Less dimension and detail and more of an essence of blackcurrant and earth flavour, especially when comparing it to the Stonyridge. Quite deliciously juicy in a linear way, and as the wine saw air, the secondary and tertiary notes peeking through a little more. The tannins were resolved, but the wine had good body and line. This was a Jimmy Watson Trophy winner. Those Aussie judges were good in those days.
Claret with lamb is the best combination. Two second growth wines, led by a 1989 Ch. Gruaud Larose St Julien. Brettanomyces marked and marred, but underneath it was a plump and grunty wine with breadth and structure. No shortage of ripeness too. But the bane of the wine drinkers rearing its ugly head again. It was a no-brainer for the Left Brainer to tip it down the sink. The 1990 Ch. Cos d’Estournel St Estephe was the star of the night for me in wine terms. Dark and looking youthful for a wine over two decades of age. Beautifully ripe and well-defined black plum and black berry fruit, lifted by shiny, toasty oak that added interest and opulence rather than taking over. Just hinting at layered secondary complexities, and all supported by the finest tannins. This is what good Bordeaux is all about.
Another great match is chocolate and liqueur muscat. Only the Tinklers ‘Usher Gordon’ Muscat is a little different. From Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley, with the raisin, fig and fruit-cake flavours, along with balanced wood-rancio characters amounting to balance, freshness and decadence. The Left Brainer and Joyful Janet found this treasure on one of their jaunts, and we all benefitted. Maybe this could be a wine for being stranded on a desert island?