Red: Artadi (Spain) Viñas El Pison 2004
Extraordinary depth and vibrancy of colour here again in this single vineyard wine awarded a 100-point score by the Wine Advocate. Deep, dark, tightly wound nose of muscular, sensuous black fruit. Plum skin and glossy black cherry notes come through, and a sinuous, deep-set coffee and chocolate darkness. Little floral and spicy notes, and a certain smokiness, with layers of mocha, black fruit coulis and vanilla. Fabulous concentration of fruit. Very closed and dense, with liquorice and a certain minerality, but the blackcurrant and Morello cherry brightens, and the structure of tannins and beautifully polished wood marries with vibrant acidity to give great tenacity and purity, whilst staying warm and rich. Hugely promising for the future. 97/100. Around £200.00, See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.
White: Leeuwin Estate (Australia) Art Series Chardonnay 2003
Leeuwin’s Art Series Chardonnays have a huge reputation, made in a very Burgundian style with only French oak barriques employed in fermentation and ageing. This 2003 has a typically seductive cashew nut and oatmeal quality, with intelligent use of oak layering warmth over ripe, succulent peach fruit. On the palate that sweetness and ripe, almost pineapple-edged quality of orange and peach fruit is wrapped in that meally, nutty framework, but there is such decisive lemon and pithy grapefruit acidity that this stays sharp and focused, even though it is fairly thick textured and dense on the mid-palate. Very long too, this is exemplary stuff. £38.00, See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Budget Red: Berry’s Extra Ordinary Red Burgundy (France) 2005
Made for Berry’s by Nicolas Potel, one of Burgundy’s hottest young winemakers. From an extremely good vintage, this has a vibrant but delicate garnet colour, and a very expressive Pinot Noir nose of sweet, damp earth, sous-bois and gentle cherry fruit. There is spice and a lick of sweet vanillin in the background. On the palate this wine has lovely poise and precision: there’s a freshness about the crisp raspberry and red cherry fruit, and just a gentle support of truffly, leafy character and background oak. This wine is long and focused, and the role played by the wood – adding gentle spice and toast – is always secondary to the refined fruit and crisp tannin and acid structure. £11.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, or £10.75 by the case.
Budget White: Crios de Susana Balbo (Argentina) Torrontés 2006
This wine from fruit grown in the Cafayate Valley 600 miles north of Mendoza has a haunting, alluring nose, with a gentle suggestion of honey and spices, and a soft, peach down fruit quality. There’s a hint of dried apricot, and a little lemony zest too. On the palate this is a beautifully tempered example of Torrontés, brimming with bright oranges and lemons fruit, with a lovely core of acidity but none of the harsher edges that sometimes show up with this variety. Gorgeous stuff, with a long finish showing hints of spice and lemon zest. The best example of Torrontés I’ve come across so far. £5.99 – £6.99, See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Sweet: Cossart & Gordon (Portugal) Madeira Bual Vintage 1908
This wine has a very dark old varnish colour. The nose has oxidised, almost bloody notes, with dark stewed tea and stewed fruit compote aromas. There’s a little note of walnut fudge too. On the palate this has an unctuous, mouthfilling sweetness. It is like a thick paste of rich, pruney fruit flavour plump sultana and Muscovado, and still some cherry brightness. Though it is balsamic in its thickness, sweetness and touch of volatility, the acid is beautifully balanced and the whole picture is exquisitely long and still very powerful. A very profound and complex wine – and wine experience. 97/100. Around £300, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Sparkling: Pol Roger Vintage Champagne 1914
What an extraordinary opportunity this was, to taste a wine that, according to Patrice was “Harvested to the sound of cannon fire, but drunk to the sound of victory trumpets.” This is not a Blanc des Blancs, but a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Deep, rich golden colour, slightly hazy, with perhaps a tiny effervescent still discernable. The nose has a fabulously rich opulence, with honey and buttery mint aromas, and a sherried background showing some toffee and nuttiness and touch of wild mushroom. On the palate it is oily and buttery in texture, with plenty of sweetness (this may well have been a rich style), with little notes of Cognac and nuts, and a lovely freshness still. There is still harmony here, with really quite a pure character into the finish, perhaps just showing a little oxidised edge. What a brilliant experience. 95/100.
Fortified: Williams & Humbert (Spain) Oloroso Sherry 1952
Slightly darker caramel/gold with a hint of ruby. Intense, more raisined nose, with still that iodine and deeply mineral note, and a background of dusty walnut husks and vanilla. On the palate this is searingly dry, with a massively concentrated palate. The dark Seville orange fruit broadens slightly on the palate, and there’s even a hint of sweetness in there somewhere, but the huge, dry, nutty character and firm acidity drives through the long, nuanced, very concentrated and decisive finish. 96/100