SuperBOWL 2003 pre-event 2

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The pre-event “mega” dinner

reporters: Tom Cannavan (TC), Nick Alabaster (NA)

We booked a table for the pre-superBOWL mega wines dinner at the wonderful Braidwoods restaurant in Dalry, about 30 miles from Glasgow. Briadwoods is a multi-award-winning, Michelin-starred restaurant and Keith and Nicola Braidwood provided us with a stunning five-course dinner:

Lobster cake
roasted breast of quail
Duchilmoor lamb
Cheeses from Iain Mellis
Chocolate soufflé or passionfruit panacotta

Each participant brought along a “mega-wine”. There was no stipulation of what should be on the table, except it must be an exceptional wine of the very highest quality. Elitist? Maybe, but then we had to close the doors on the dinner once the first 10 wine nuts had leaped on board, so maybe not that elistist after all. (TC)


Pol Roger (Champagne) Sir Winton Churchill 1990
Lovely nose of woodland and mushrooms, with plenty of almondy and salted nut notes. Plenty of finesse here. Good mousse, quite soft but persistent. Full, sturdy palate with such a fine, dry stony minerality and suggestions of lime and citrus. Some more fig and truffle complexity and good length. Still very young. Excellent. (TC) A rich but not too deep looking colour. Aromas of biscuit with a toasty development; gently earthy/mushroom complexing notes too. Palate of buttered toast, very expansive and certainly ripe, long and full. Perhaps missed a bit of verve, but conversely hadn’t really chilled much below cellar temp which could explain that. Showing nice maturity, but certainly could go 5+ more. (NA)

Raveneau (Burgundy) Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 1991
Nose is typically Raveneau, with complexity obvious under a forbidding mantle of minerals, stone and oyster shells, with nuances of acacia honey. On the palate there is sweeter custard and apple fruit, with a nutty quality. Pure and balanced, there is that fantastic minerality and poise, stretching out into a long finish. Excellent. (TC) A youthful light yellow colour. A changing nose of beeswax and lovely floral notes – quite open and penetrating. A little vegetation with time, but only adding to the overall complexity. Lovely rounded palate, buttered fruits with just the right acid cut – complete from start to finish and a long finish at that. Certainly very fine Chablis, albeit not in that leesy, Burgundy style. (NA)

Niellon (Burgundy) Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Chevenottes 1989
Quite odd at first, perhaps a little candied fruit, but a distracting hint of grilled mackerel (no, we were’nt eating fish at this point!). Some oatmeally quality on the palate, but I am finding this a bit disjointed and hard work. Moderate, possible a little past it? (TC) A deeper colour but not overly so. Very chilled, and seemingly the reason for a very unforthcoming nose; although only opened a little further up with warming. A lovely honey and butter palate, although not very complex. Certainly good underlying acid and overall rounded and balanced – but really not with the complexity that Burg can usually offer. ‘Lasting well’ was my overall thought, which is often what I think when I come across highly rated, ageworthy New World chards, but likewise without the complexity, or indeed promise of anything better to come. (NA)

Château Haut-Brion (Bordeaux) Graves Blanc 1992
Fantastic nose, with terrifically opulent marzipan, turpentine and waxy wool notes over cashew nut and ripe apple fruit. The palate is beautifully dry and waxy, with lime and quite lush, apricotty fruit, then a lovely dry acidity that lengthens the finish. A great wine, and Excellent. (TC) Well I wasn’t at all expected such high VA – the really distracting paint-stripper kind on the nose. It makes its presence felt also on the palate but with a nice honey streak coming though. Couldn’t really get any of the fruit barring a touch of the waxy Semillon – not even the hint of vegetation and decay I was expecting from the sauvignon. Interesting, but unacceptable VA making it less complex than perhaps it should have possessed (NA)


Comte de Vogüé (Burgundy) Musigny Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes 1991
The deep cherry red colour is very youthful, though just a hint of brown at rim. Essence of truffle, woodsmoke and damp woodland floor, with a ripe cherry and blackberry fruit character. Plenty of sweet vanilla in the background. Fine, earthy, gorgeously animal palate with bloody notes suffused with dried cherry and tobacco. Great acidity, powerful tannins and rather young, though fabulous length. Excellent. (TC) Very youthful looking ruby/burgundy colour, no signs of age. Nose was likewise very primary with intense black and red fruits – even signs of a smokey, sweet oak lift still present. Palate equally primary, dense, full bodied with balanced but full tannins. Good long finish although tannins still pop out. So little signs of development, needs 5 years at least, perhaps 10-15 to really hit the best this wine could offer. Very impressive, but so little of its potential unlocked. Did get a bit ungainly after an hour or two, but I put that down to its size and youth – bottle age will surely tame and round this wine out. (NA)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Burgundy) Richebourg Grand Cru 1990
Colour of dried blood. Tight, deep nose is quite closed, though glimpses of kirsch-like cherry fruit and an aromatic camphor, incense and smouldering ash character. Meatier, bloody aromas emerge, and a slightly cooked plum fruit depth. The palate is quite muscular and lean in comparison, but it opened out over half an hour in the glass to show more of that soft, earthy fruit amongst polished tannins and cherry acidity. The gamy notes are in there too. Quite a difficult wine to assess in some ways, though complex and obviously of superb quality, I am not sure if it needs time to knit togther a little more, or if this is just the style of the wine. Excellent/Outstanding. (TC) In comparison a moderately deep garnet core and very obvious tawny at the edges. Quite unexpected as I though this would show the least maturity. Indeed the storage was the issue with this wine only truly cellared in the last year or so. A dense meaty, bloody nose at first, and the first notes to come through was somewhat nutty, showing signs of oxidation. But just wait a bit and what come through screams quality Burgundy – a hint of soy/balsamic vinegar give a touch of VA lift only adds to the spice fruits, earth, undergrowth and mushroom. Classy, elegant balanced, expansive and long. This bottle has been brought to rapid maturity, and it’s difficult to believe this will be the best this wine could offer, but in the complexity stakes it certainly did a bit of Musigny butt kicking (NA)

Château Montrose (Bordeaux) 2eme Cru 1961
This has such a lovely old sweet, bloody, claret nose, with nuances of game, leather and sweeter violet and dusty aromas. On the palate some soft, old cedary wood is nicely layered with remnants of sweet cassis and soft, autumnal berry flavours. Sweet tannins and low acidity are resolved into quite a long, mellow finish. Lovely stuff and excellent. (TC) Meaty, aged mixed fruits. Although still missing the focus, denser fruit than the bottle opened last week (as you do!). Although reached a good level of maturity with style, certainly signs that this is starting a slow decline. This bottle seemed less balanced and supple than before, with a somewhat drying finish. (NA)

Château Haut-Brion (Bordeaux) 1er Cru 1983
The colour is a rich, browning ruby. The nose displays a lovely hint of horsey, sweaty saddle, old leather and a definite touch of Brettanomyces, which is absolutely not a problem here, but adds to a complex character with some bay leaf notes and deep, sweet, berried fruit. The palate is beautifully balanced with a terrifically polished character of svelte tannins adding grip, and good fruit that still has life about it. Fine length here, and this is drinking better than a bottle I had a couple of years ago. Absolutely a point on this evidence. Excellent. (TC) Well that didn’t take long – earthy/spicy/horse saddle complexity was certainly brett, but with enough fruit to mean it was in balance. On the palate though it did seem to pull up short with a drying finish. Maybe the wine has peaked, or maybe the brett has got in first. It doesn’t carry it quite as well as the ’86, and I wonder how this wine would have shown without it, but it still makes for a complex and enjoyable claret. Especially shows well with food. In retrospect it may have actually led to the following seeming a bit simpler in comparison. Brett – can’t seem to live with it, or live without it! (NA)

Château Pichon-Lalande (Bordeaux) 2eme Cru 1982
A 100-Parker-point wine that I last drank about a year and a half ago. This has a very deep, dense colour, with fantastic sweetness on the nose; much more ripe and lush than the Haut-Brion, with pure cassis and a touch of sweet Asian dried plum as well as plenty of mellowing, cigar-box and background oak. The palate is so much sweeter too, with an amazing depth of glossy black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, with depths of plum and cocoa. Impeccable balance, with silky tannins and integrated acidity. Gorgeous stuff, and Outstanding. (TC) Youthful seeming with good bright black currant fruit with a chocolate-mocha like development. A smokey quality gets a touch more cigary in time. Good weighty fruit with lovely balance and sweetness. Rounded and long. A disarmingly easy claret to enjoy, and in a way a benchmark wine – but more complexity, definition/fuller structure would have taken this wine higher. More complexity will come in time I’m sure, but I don’t think that will be without some of the fruit giving out – albeit the balance is very fine and perhaps deceptive. Complaint would be too string award, but calls that the wine was a bit boring overall – I can kind of understand – but I’d suffer this level of boredom any day of the week! (NA)

Henschke (Australia) Cyril Henschke Hill of Grace 1986
Dark, thick, blackish colour immediately suggests a change in character here. Big, powerul, resiny, slightly volatile aromas with leather, spice, incense and caramel, sweet blueberry fruit and a touch of damp, truffle character. The palate has plenty of ripe, open cherry and plum fruit. A real fruity core, with suggestions of liquorice and chocolate-coated caramel and a mocha coffee finish. A very impressive wine with good structure and good length, though perhaps suffers after three such classy and very differently styled wines. Excellent. (TC) A lifted nose of sweet black fruit, perhaps a touch of menthol. Not surprisingly a very elegant wine for Oz, with lovely fruit and overall balance, but ultimately even on its own, it’s difficult not to want more complexity (it certainly made the Pichon seem complex in comparison) and depth, but it undoubtedly a very fine Australian wine. (NA)


Château d’Yquem (Bordeaux) Sauternes 1er Cru 1983
This has quite a deep, burnished gold colour. Big marzipan and vanilla-loaded nose dominating some honey and barley sugar notes and sweet, almost minty tropical fruit reminiscent of banana. Full, opulent palate with ripe nectarine fruit and gently honeyed flavours. Seems very fine and very resolved. There’s a good core of lemony acidity, and those layers of oak sit beneath the fruit. I think this still needs some time, but it has beautiful sweetness and length. Excellent. (TC) I’m sure I’ve had this wine before and been impressed by its youth, but this time around, even its youth is no match for the very high levels of plastecine like VA that soars from the glass. The VA better on the palate than the Haut Brion, but I got some good weighty botrytis honey fruit. That fruit comes more to the fore with air, but for me it is utterly lost in the VA cloud. I know this wine will be better in 50 years time (apparently the ethyl-acetate reacts further to complete the transition to acetic acid, which is ultimately less volatile and less likely to impede), as its complexities will out – but I’ve no idea what is the minimum time for it to move into some form of maturity and balance. (NA)

Hochheimer Königin Victoria Berg, Rheingau Riesling 1971
I actually preferred this; more reticent on the nose perhaps but still showing lovely balance between freshness and development. Certainly had great cut too. Not sure if it’s going up or down, but it certainly is a joy to drink today. (NA)

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