2010 Bordeaux en-primeur, the “campaign” as we call it, was pretty horrific, hence the silence here. A summary of 2010 will appear shortly, along with the results of a rather special 2009 vs 2010 claret tasting but, in the meantime, a bit of pleasure, which is what this juice is all about.
The setting is Goodmans, Maddox Street. I first heard of this place a few months back, accompanied by the words: “the best steak I’ve ever had”. I have heard this particular voice say: “the best wine I’ve ever had” enough times to have made a joke out of it but nonetheless I took notice and, whilst I won’t announce perfection, I will say that this restaurant does set a benchmark for those that like a bit of meat. Indeed I went back the next day. £75 for a steak does sound rather rich, and you’re looking at a hundred quid a head before wine once you’ve got some truffle chips and similar, but this is rather special. I don’t think I’ve ever noted the length of flavour of a steak before. Exceptional.
The cast are the members of Bet Club 2009 (or maybe even 2008). A grand or so of mutual winnings has been sloshing around for a few years waiting to be spent. All of the members are in the wine trade, once all in the same office but now divided in their employ by the two biggest players in the UK market. And we all love our wine: lunches like this are what I live for….
1995 Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru, Perrieres, Carillon
Not everyone “gets” old white Burgundy. If it’s not your cup of tea it might look like one and at least one of our group thought it the wrong colour, too oxidised and at least ten years too old. Boy Wonder and I thought it sublime, though. Definitely falling, definitely approaching death rather than emerging from birth, it had what it would have lacked in its youth: character. Old wine is like old people: they might not run after the bus like they used to but they can tell you some cracking stories. Delicate and showing what I would describe as the vinous equivalent of wisdom.
2002 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Le Bon Climat Chardonnay
My standard ringer. Still youthful and electric in its intensity. I last served this a few months back; my guest, no numpty and a seriously good taster, was guessing grand cru Lafon, which equates to Le Montrachet Lafon. The UK Burgundy Authority later told me that all the Burgundians miss Clendenen’s wines for Lafon in blind tastings. Serious kit, and I’m doubly pleased because (a) I’ve seven bottles left and (b) the verdict was unanimous.
1993 Charmes-Chambertin, Denis Bachelet
Without doubt the wine of the day. I’ve met Denis Bachelet, as have all present. I reckon his success is rather on account of his being a good gardener. It’s all about the work in the vines. This was sublime: the silkiness that the very, very best red Burgundy has. And something indescribable about a sense of place – one vineyard, one man, one vintage. Perfume and perfection. It is rare that a wine knocks me off my pivot but this did it. A great wine doesn’t need a long note so, simply: heavenly.
1997 Volnay 1er cru, Santenots du Milieu. Domaine des Comtes Lafon
The rule is this: you can either make red wine or you can make white wine. No one can do both with any accomplishment. Mister Lafon is the exception to that rule, indeed the UK Burgundy Authority reckons that Dominique Lafon, despite his peerless whites, is actually better at reds. I’ve not totally bought into this on account of some of his whites being amongst the best I’ve ever tasted but I do see the point. This had a very tough act to follow after the Charmes but did it well. Chunky Volnay weight – more cushioned, if you like, than the Charmes – but seriously good. I reckon it wanted another five years which is either testament to an incredible vigneron in a light vintage or just me being pompous.
2000 Echezeaux, Domaine Dujac
After the silk of the Charmes and the soft cushions of the Volnay this was maybe a bit meaty for me, a little chunky. Like the Volnay, I thought this wanted a little bit more time but it softened out in the glass and the quality of the vineyard and the domaine started to shine. Perhaps this was the most “steak-like” wine, in that it would have matched our long-devoured wagyu ribeyes best, but the moment was gone. And it got better and better and better, which is always the hallmark of something seriously good.
1988 Ch. Leoville-Lascases, St Julien
A mag of 88 Lascases. Bordeaux all tastes the same, as any fule kno. More seriously: proper claret. That’s a full stop.
2002 Ch. Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Leognan
OK. Haut-Bailly does taste different, and Graves is the connoisseurs’ choice, and I love Veronique Sanders, and this would have absolutely walked a Bordeaux tasting, but this (and like the Lascases, really is rather good, indeed right at the top, and one of the best wines you’ll ever taste, and I love the linear style of 2002s, plus the fact that they are as cheap as chips and cheaper than truffle chips, etc, etc) just tasted rather dull after the teenage kiss or grandmother’s story that were the Burgundies.
Goodmans: 10/10. Food and service. I can take the expense if what you’re buying is impeccable.
Wine: Don’t tell anyone, but Burgundy is what it’s all about. Moving on to Bordeaux is like getting out of the Space Shuttle and into a Boeing. One minute you’re shooting at the moon then the next you’re hovering above Hounslow.