To get things started a 2010 Vidal ‘Legacy’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. This has been a success in wine shows, and may vary on from the all-conquering 2010 Villa Maria ‘Keltern’ version from the sibling team. Packed with those complex sulphides that exude flint and smoke, this was a solid, rich and weighty wine, with a ‘thickness’ of texture. A delicious, if somewhat grunty start to the evening. Next on the agenda was a 2002 Fevre Chablis Grand Cru ‘Valmur’. Unfortunately, “corked” was the pronouncement by The Man Non-Other and The Orbiter. A crying shame.
The serious part of the evening then began. A series of Bordeaux reds, not that we knew it was going to happen that way. Setting the scene was the 2002 Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien. Not regarded as a great year, but clearly plenty of wine to drink here. Identifiably claret with its dry texture and classical blackcurrant style. Quite a chunky and soft-textured wine quite truly approachable now. The acidity a little low, and the negative herbal and funky meaty brett nuances well integrated, making it no problem to drink. If I had it in my cellar, I’d drink it over the next 5-6 years.
We were then served a wine blind. Dark colour with mahogany hues, clearly aged, but with real depth. Robust and powerful with complex savoury black fruits and loads of secondary aromas and flavours. A real mouthful with great body, extract, grip and length. Loads in the tank to go, in the muscular style. I guessed Old World, closest to the Seine River, rather than a river in Africa or the Americas. SWMBO was correct in guessing 1995 and older, whereas I saw the sweetness in the savouries and firm tannins to make it a 1996-2000. I thought Merlot also, but it was Cabernet Sauvignon based. But correct again on Pauillac rather than St Estephe. The final question showed the class of the wine: Lafite, Latour or Mouton? This was no retiring wine of refinement. It had power and firmness. Though possessing layers of flavour, it wasn’t opulent in the Mouton mould for me. So my opinion was Latour. Wrong, it was Lafite- Rothschild. Clearly the wine has an understated power in youth that can emerge with bottle age? It was certainly a treat to have 1995 Ch. Lafite-Rothschild.
Then onto another named wine: 1983 Ch. Petrus Pomerol. Not quite the 1982 tasted a few years ago. Far more elegant than expected, with the classic tobacco Merlot aromas and flavours, a touch of dried herbs, and secondary earth and cedar. No trace of the dreaded brettanomyces. Still with fine and firm tannins, the acid quite integral, and a little drying going on now. Not the sensation that the 1982 was for sure, and even a little disappointing for Petrus. Considering the vintage, this was in good condition, and a pleasant drink.
An equivalent Aussie rarity, but with better provenance and vintage followed. A 1990 Penfolds Bin 90A Cabernet/Shiraz, the Cabernet from Coonawarra, the Shiraz from Barossa. Essentially a step-up from Grange as Grange is a step-up from Bin 389. Dark, youthful compact and concentrated, tight and elegant, slowly revealing all it had. Layers of ripe blackness, with waves of succulent sweetness and just detail after detail. Beautifully fresh with energetic tension and acidity. There’s no mistaking this Australian classic for anything else but an Australian classic. At nearly a quarter of a century of age, this was still a youth. Another quarter-century, even a half-century lies ahead for this one.
How do you wind down from a wine of such pedigree and potential as the Penfolds? You can’t out-do it, so go for something that won’t challenge it, but will please in every way. A 2005 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Not nearly the concentration, extract or richness, but the flavours still strikingly different, sitting between Australia and Europe. Some currant and eucalypt, still fine in tannin to provide plenty of texture and line. Again, plenty of life ahead, but with a softness and approachability. You couldn’t help but enjoy the drink.
Then onto the finale, the 1983 Ch. d’Yquem Sauternes. Deep golden colour and burnished. Volume on the nose and palate with rich, ripe barley sugar, caramel and toffee with waxy honey and marmalade. Restrained opulence, with power, and detailed decadence unfolding all the wine. The acidity and sweetness in perfect poise. Only the flavours showing that this is now approaching its plateau of maturity. This was sitting perfectly at ease. There’s greatness here for sure, but it didn’t shout it. It just invited us to drink it as a wine. After all, that’s what it was made for.I’m sure we all enjoyed the wines for what they were. A stroke of luck indeed.