Red – Château Haut-Brion (France) Pessac-Leognan 1989
Also extremely dark, with just a little ruby at the rim. Fantastic nose, just fantastic. Lots os sweet, toasty oak but layered with earthy black fruits, truffle, woodsmoke and little glimpses of exotic spices, briary wood and cedar. This is a real show-stopper. Superb sweetness and complexity on the palate, with a little burnt caramel note, silky, glycerine-rich texture and fine concentration and complexity. Acidity and fine tannins really make their presence felt into the finish which is extraordinarily long. Possibly my wine of the night. I last tasted this just two months ago with very consistent notes. A simply outstanding wine. (10/00)
White – Château Carbonnieux (France) Graves 1947
Astonishing deep amber, barley-sugar colour. Wonderfully sweet floral elements on the nose and a certain leafiness. There’s some custardy oak still and just a hint of maderisation (not unpleasant). On the palate such a sweetness of fruit and an almost oily texture and flavour. Real custardy oak still rounding it out but a streak of minerality that focuses the long finish. Superb. (04/00)
Budget red – Normans (Australia) Old Vines Grenache 1998 – £7.99
Wine of the week 12/11/00. This blends a wonderful nose of juicy, full blackberries and rich chocolate and plum with a gorgeously spicy but subtle oak. The beautifully-honed palate is just like biting into ripe, crunchy raspberries and blackberries with bittersweet fruit flooding the mouth and again that warming, deep, velvety depth of fruit and silky, ripe tannins endowing the wine with a sumptuous quality. It is all kept fresh by gentle but crucial acidity. Long and just gorgeous, this has concentration, ripeness and power, yet superb balance and lots of class. Safeway.
Budget white – Dom. des Deux Roches (France) St-Véran 1998 – £7.65
Wine of the week 19/03/00. This outstanding wine has an absolutely typical nose of melon, pear, honeysuckle and a hint of butter. On the palate it is weighty and full-textured with rounded but clean flavours of apple and pear, a certain lusciousness and nuances of brazil nut and cinammon. Acidity is subtle but ample and the finish is moderately long and fresh. Delicious. Berry Bros & Rudd (www.bbr.co.uk).
Sweet – Brumont (France) “Decembre” Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh 1990
Another rare and highly desirable wine at a relatively bargain price in a southern French restaurant. I am a huge fan of Brumont’s sweet wines, especially the “Novembre” which is available in a few specialised outlets in the UK. I’d never before tasted the much more rare and expensive “Decembre”, of which very little is produced. At £35 per 50cl ($50US) it would have been a bargain in any vintage, but as this was from the fabulous 1990 it really was a bit of a giveaway. I drank half of this with foie-gras as a starter and half with a tart tatin dessert. The colour is a very deep, burnished orange/gold. The nose has beautiful botrytis (not a feature of the Novembre usually) and sweet aromas of orange and quince, flowers and summer fruit. On the palate it is full and luscious, the flavours though quite light with only a honeyed edge to more marmalade orange, apricot and delicate, sweet white fruit. There’s an intriguing marzipan note too and the wine finishes with superb length and fine palate-cleansing acidity. Absolutely superb. (07/00)
Sparkling – Nyetimber (England) Sparkling Wine Brut 1993
Stunningly rich and complex, this has a pale golden colour and lovely streaming bubbles that are pin-prick sized. The nose is bready and rich with a brioche butteriness and nettle complexity as well as fine citrus fruit. The palate is broad and generous with a rolling mousse carrying peach and nut fruit edged by good lemon acidity. Mature and complex, this is without a doubt a fine, fine sparkling wine. Served to me blind, I guessed it as vintage Champagne, probably Pol Roger. (01/00)
Fortified – Niepoort Vintage Port 1997
I tasted a barrel sample of this wine a few months before release and thought it was superb, so a nice chance to try it again, especially alongside the ’97 Taylor. Opaque black colour. Immediately elegant and classy on the nose with finely-wrought fruit and a sweetness of violet and candied cherry. Massively ripe and concentrated on the palate with superb fruit. The whole picture is clamped by gripping tannins, but there is a great purity of blue/black fruit that is beautifully focused. Outstanding. (04/00)