1996 Grand-Puy-Lacoste and friends

It has been a good couple of weeks.  The 1996 Grand-Puy-Lacoste was so good that it warrants a post to itself, and may well get one. In the meantime I have been lucky enough to drink the following wines over the past fortnight or so.

1996 Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac

One of two bottles supplied by Clarethound. One of them was corked, which again could or should warrant an article in itself. Much as GPL is one of the few Pauillacs at this level that represents value, it is nonetheless an expensive liquid. Clarethound bought it EP back in 1997. It was bottled in 1998. And, like a dark secret, it was corked from the start. A tragedy.

Indeed it is all the more tragic as 1996 Grand-Puy-Lacoste is quite, quite brilliant. It is one of those wines that is inimitable: you put your nose in the glass and it’s like you’ve come home. At 21 years old it is reaching its peak, though I’d say has a fair way to go yet. This is proper, proper claret; indeed if you want to know what Pauillac tastes like then open a bottle of this. Bravo.

2000 Ch. Montrose, St Estephe

The stand in for the second bottle of GPL. I nailed the chateau so quickly that Big Phil, who had ordered it, thought I had seen it on the list and promptly told me to shut up, which I did. A moment of glory lost. Montrose, you see, always smells – and I apologise for this but there is no other way that I can put it – very slightly of, well, poo. Sorry. But it’s true, and it’s not a denigration either. So 2000 Montrose is immediately Montrose but the vintage is harder to nail. It has a youthful creaminess to it, and the fruit is still there. Sober deduction (though by this time sobriety was gone) may well have led me to 2000: it’s clearly very good, and clearly isn’t 2010, 2009 or 2005. If you have this in the cellar I suggest you leave it there for a few more years. For the moment it is very impressive though tastes a little out of focus.

1996 Ch. Cos d’Estournel, St Estephe

This particular bottle had enjoyed a unique serving preparation: having fallen through the bottom of its bag at the train station, the bottle had a clean break at the neck. Helpful employees of both South West Trains and Hedonism enabled the juice to be rescued and double decanted into an empty Burgundy bottle. The evidence suggests that this is a pretty good way of preparing 1996 Cos for serving, though it’s obviously a bit of a hassle.

The wine itself is textbook, and as exactly you would expect it on a good day. The acidity of the vintage and the austere freshness of the appellation is what is prevalent. The core character is again inimitable claret. I think that one of the great things about 1996s is that they taste exactly of what they are. No fancy winemaking; no over-done glossy oak. Proper wine. It doesn’t match Grand-Puy-Lacoste but it’s not a million miles behind. And it will keep for ages.

2002 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru, La Petite Chapelle, Dugat-Py

Another bottle with a story. This particular one was sold, by me, to one of the larger Hong Kong retailers last year along with three others. And then Octavian couldn’t find it. The buyer was understanding, thankfully, and a credit note was issued. And some poor chap in Wiltshire had to find them. It took him/them a few months, by which time we decided that the easiest thing would be to drink them. Less paperwork. Something like that.

I have bought and sold wines from Dugat-Py many times, though am ashamed to admit that, prior to last Thursday, I had never actually drunk one. My understanding was that the style was chunky, a bit modern maybe, and I knew that they were expensive. The experience was an excellent one, and this was a cracker of a bottle.

2002 Gevrey La Petite Chapelle from Dugat-Py is not your typical light garnet Pinot colour. It is a darky.  And the nose is plush.  This is not simple and pure, this is rich and swanky. It’s not turbo-Pinot, though it is clearly a wine that has been crafted rather than left to make itself. And it is very well-crafted indeed.  As with many 2002s, it is coming out of its slumber and stretching its legs – it tastes youthful at fifteen years old. It struck me as a very well-preserved bottle, which is to say that as much effort had been put into bottling the wine as to making it (see Ente below and GPL above..)  If you are lucky enough to own some then you can get stuck in now or wait another ten years.  Yum.

2008 Meursault, La Sève du Clos, Arnaud Ente

Gosh.  Back in the day at BBR I used to buy Ente’s Bourgogne Blanc for myself and, whilst they were rare, his wines weren’t particularly expensive.  These days they are almost impossible to find and the prices are, to quote a luncheon companion, “Wild West”.  Which is to say that buyers, and sellers, of these wines on the secondary market are either chancing it or making it up as they go along or, more likely, both.  I have been lucky enough to visit the domaine a couple of times.  The wines were always extraordinary, though Mrs Ente occasionally distracted one from the task in hand, and I felt that the reductive style of the wines was a little overwhelming.

La Sève du Clos comes from a particularly old parcel of vines in the corner of one of Mr Ente’s plots. It is his masterpiece.  From barrel the wines were occasionally so energetically taut that they were almost painful to taste.  I knew that our host was going to be opening this one and was intrigued as to how it would show.

Based on this bottle, both the hype and the cowboy hats are justified.  I’d take it ahead of pretty much anything in terms of white Burgundy and if intense and precise concentration is your thing, it’s up there with Mr Coche-Dury, though it’s more mouth-filling, more meaty. It made a bottle of 2012 Meursault Vireuils from Domaine Roulot seem, if not pedestrian, then  certainly merely jogging along. The nose is impossibly clean and precise and in the mouth there are layers and layers of depth.  And it went on and on and on, and got better and better in the glass – to be honest I think we missed the best of it.  Impeccable white Burgundy, which isn’t something I say very often these days…

And, like the Dugat-Py, this bottle seemed very well preserved – like it was bottled yesterday. If my recollection is correct (and I was distracted by Mrs Ente), Mr Ente reckons that a lot of the oxidisation issue in white Burgundy is about how you bottle it, and with how much SO2. The evidence of this bottle suggests that he knows what he is on about.

Briefly, and to finish, food:

Brooks’s Club, St James’s: the dish to pick is sausages and bacon. The snorkers are a solid 8/10 though the bacon 6/10 on this visit.  Your surroundings are impossibly civilised save for the fact that one can’t take one’s jacket off at the table. This is a little like drinking in the sunshine – the effect of the alcohol is increased by about 30%.  And, of course, they’d never have me as a member – this only adds to the experience. 7/10 (or B+ as most members would understand).

Outlaws at the Capital Hotel: this was my second visit. Food was pretty much 10/10. Service compromised by a stand-in sommelier. The set lunch is a bargain. Surroundings are conservatively discreet. If your priorities are what is on the table and who is at the table rather than what surrounds the table then this is very, very tidy. 8/10.

I thank Clarethound, Big Phil, Manners, The Yorkshire Academic and Pete.