London off-line: assorted fine wines

Some notes from an “off-line” gathering at Ransome’s Dock restaurant in London whilst I was down for the International Wine Challenge. This was a friendly and comfortable venue with fine food, an unusual and extensive wine list and moderate prices. The company were wine enthusiasts, all of whom had met on the Net, mostly through the Wine Pages site. As the restaurant practically had to kick us out in the wee small hours, it was difficult to believe this was the first time most of us had met in the flesh. Another positive vote for the power of the Internet!

A couple of unusual wines were brought along by arrangement with the restaurant, others were chosen from their list. It really was a most enjoyable evening with plenty of good food, drinking and conversation.

Laville Haut-Brion (Graves) 1979xPale straw colour, becoming a little thin. Slightly herbaceous nose with aromas of lime and waxy parcel-string. Some nuances of honey and almonds. Rather astringent on the palate, but intriguing non-fruit flavours – mostly herbal and mineral. Signs of serious complexity, but fading.

Barratt (Australia, Piccadilly Valley) Uley Vineyard Pinot Noir 1996
Beautifully lush, jammy nose with plenty of spice, vanilla and black cherry. Some leafiness. On the palate velvety texture and less openly fruity, with some chewy tannin, spice and great concentration. The finish is very long and harmonious. Lovely.

Torbreck (Australia) Runrig Barossa Shiraz 1995

xSoaring nose of crunchy black fruits, tar, leather, cream and berries. There is a high, confected, sweet-fruited character adding an aromatic top-note. Full-bodied on the palate it is rich and spicy with plenty of peppery, crunchy fruit and sweet oak. A very clean, fruit-driven and concentrated wine. We noticed later on the back label that this, like Cote-Rotie, has a touch of Viognier in the blend – might account for the lifted aromatics.

Ridge (California) Lytton Springs Zinfandel 1995
Big nose of creamy berry and cherry fruit. Lots of cinammon spice and a bitter cherry edge to the fruit. Lovely coffee aromas too. Palate is broad and generous with rugged black fruit and warm supporting tannins. Long and balanced, perhaps lacking a little complexity.

Franz Künstler (Germany, Hochheim), Hochheimer Hölle Spätburgunder Weissherbst Auslese 1992
xI brought along my last bottle of this unusual wine: a late-harvest, semi-sweet, rosé Pinot Noir from a top German estate. It has a pink/gold colour. The nose has figs, raisins and honey. The palate has a balance of sweet dark fruit, fine, steely acidity and good length. A lovely, understated wine that is just beginning to lose its fruit.