Crystal Palace vs Manchester City a fortnight ago was quite a match. We lost in the 90th minute after a quite brilliant game, one that I thought we might just nick. In spite of the loss it was an outstanding showing for Palace against what is probably the best team in the country. A couple of years ago the analogy for the comparison would have been Tour St Bonnet vs Lafite or Potensac vs Latour but this year it’s more Grand-Puy-Lacoste vs Lafite, and we nearly, just nearly, matched the trophy squad.
Pre-match I enjoyed three bottles. I think that at least one of them was selected with me in mind though I’m not sure the theme was intended: giant-killers. Or, at least, some relatively small names that can easily mix it with the best. Those that say buying en-primeur is pointless should look at wines like these ones, particularly Lafon-Rochet. They were 2009 Roc de Cambes (I’ve written about this before, here), 2010 Les Cruzelles and 2003 Lafon-Rochet. The 09 Roc de Cambes was a bit wild, I reckon. A touch dirty, in a Rihanna sort of way (this comment lead to the question: how will it age?); this is a wine that is alive, and funky. The Cruzelles was pristine in that Porsche showroom kind of way that a lot of 2010s are: surgically clean, immaculately presented and faultless. Well, almost faultless: the funky bottle of Roc had a bit more character. Cruzelles was the Beatles, Roc de Cambes the Stones. Then 2003 Lafon-Rochet. I could drink an awful lot of this. £150 a case on release and now at its peak or just tipping over it. Falling gracefully: a diver in the jack-knife.
I came out with my usual twaddle as above. Indeed I described the Cruzelles to my friend Bollox before we even tasted it: cleaner, more precise than the Roc de Cambes. More definition; less character. And I was right. Not a great deal of rocket science here: I know both wines and both vintages, vintage being the key. 2009s are lush; 2010s, as well as being wildly over-rated, are strict, focussed wines. But the point is twofold: suggestion and, by turn, objectivity.
Ten or so years ago a couple of colleagues gave me a glass of something and told me it was 2003 Mouton-Rothschild. I stamped my foot in appreciation as I tasted it. As the wine developed in my mouth it dropped a couple of points; as I was told what it was (it wasn’t 2003 Mouton, it was a decent £10 claret) it dropped twice as many. I’ll concede that, at the time, I didn’t have the special powers I have now but it illustrates the point. I expected grandeur (2003 Mouton is a stonking wine, whatever Mr Parker thinks of the last bottle he tried) and this got my brain into the necessary gear. My palate was, for a short while at least, fooled.
Back to the football. Manchester City won the game. A fair result, if only just and if not ideal. But the two teams weren’t leagues apart. It wasn’t first growth vs cru bourgeois. We were all over them in the first half and for the last fifteen minutes of the game.
The wines were similar: on the right day 2003 Lafon-Rochet, 2009 Roc de Cambes and 2010 Cruzelles could take on the big boys, I reckon. On an objective basis. With maybe a little bit of suggestion.
Thank you, Mr B, for the bottles (again); thank you, Boy Wonder, for the ticket.