At the end of the evening a vote was taken for favourite wine. The group's favourite whites were Trimbach's 1983 Gewürztraminer followed by the 1994 Grüner Vetliner from Prager. The competition amongst the reds was even more closely fought, with the 1996 Savigny-les-Beaune of Maurice Ecard just shading it from Rosenblum Cellar's 1997 Zinfandel, though Léoville-Barton 1975, Borgogno's Barolo Riserva 1971 and Château Musar 1991 were each just one vote behind.
Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2000
Very pale colour. Green bean and asparagus nose, with distinct, vegetal Sauvignon Blanc character. Very Marlborough. Lots of green apple on the palate and a good quality of fruit that is lovely and ripe, with a hint of tropical sweetness before pure, citrus and grapefruit acidity. An older New Zealand SB? Very good.
Prager (Austria) Weisskirchner Achleiten Grüner Veltliner Smaragd '94
Fascinating nose of straw, nuts and minerals, but also something deeper and more buttery, like brazil nuts and a hint of wax. Intense herbal notes too. Lovely. The palate is rich and suffused with peppery, spicy apple fruit and dry minerality at the core. Long and complex, I'd guess at a Riesling, though not sure where from. Alsace? Very good indeed/excellent.
Feudi di san Gregorio (Italy) Campanaro 1999
This has a lovely butterscotchy limpidity with pure, sweet, apple and pear fruit, a touch of vegetal quality and little citrus notes of orange and grapefruit. Fine, juicy, svelte palate with fine acidity and a rich, almost honeyed mouthful of sweet pear and melon fruit. Background of oaky vanillin supports this into a nice finish. Commercial style, but fine and absolutely delicious. Very good indeed/excellent.
Leeuwin Estate (Australia) Art Series Chardonnay 1997
Huge, butterscotchy, toast and vanilla new-oak nose, loaded with rich honey and spice as well as deep apricot fruit. New World Chardonnay. Lovely richness, with a purity of white fruits, plenty of hazelnut and brazil nut oiliness, and toasty oak supporting the finish. Good acidity and very fine. Top Californian Chardonnay? Very good indeed.
Long-Depaquit (Burgundy) Chablis Grand Cru La Moutonne 1992
More toasty, seasame-seed aromas but also a buttery, vegetal quality; slightly cabbagy. Older Burgundy I'd say. A little acidic imbalance on the palate confirms an old wine, but though a little flat, there is quite rich fruit suggesting apples and citrus, and a mineral element. A little short, stopped by acidity. Good/very good.
Trimbach (Alsace) Gewürtztraminer Les Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 1983
Fantastically opulent, musky nose with powerful earth and caramel notes, and heavyweight, sweet, unctuous floral perfume. Must be Gewürtztraminer. Lovely weight on the plate too. This is dense, earthy and rich, the palate perhaps lacking a little zip compared to the nose, but what a nice wine. Very good indeed/excellent.
Domaine Richeaume (Côtes de Provence) Cuvée Columelle 1998
Deep, ripe, spicy, thick raspberry fruit, with fudge and a little toasty, caramelly note. Rich and dense on the palate, with good tannins and a dusty depth of black fruit. Good balance. Not sure what this is. Cabernet-based Italian? Very good indeed.
Domaine de Paradis (Côteaux d'Aix en Provence) Cuvée Marie 1997
Coffee and thick, cough-syruppy nose, with caramel and dense, heavyweight blackcurrant and spice fruit. There's some pepper, and great depth here. The palate has glossy blue/black fruit. Australian Shiraz? There's a bite of acidity and quite grippy tannins, and although this has a fudge-like depth, perhaps this is a touch short of fruit on the palate to be really balanced. Very good though.
Maurice Ecard (Burgundy) Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Serpentieres 1996
Nice nose here of elegant, leafy, earthy, slightly mouldy undergrowth and forest fruit. There's a serious tannic stripe on the palate, and this gives a lean edge to otherwise quite soft and inviting red fruits. Nice acidity, and there is good length. Classy red Burgundy. Very good indeed.
Chateau Musar (Lebanon) 1991
Big, coffeeish, rich nose. Lots of fruit, a bit of smoke, but mostly raspberry and spice. Quite a powerful palate, with more raspberry fruit and grippy tannins. There's really quite a chocolaty depth of texture here, with some spicy oak and good length. Others are saying Burgundy, but I think this might be Grenache - Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a guess. Very good indeed.
Burgaud (Rhône) Côte-Rôtie 1989
Fine, cedary, quite claretty nose. Good black fruit quality, and then some zippier raspberry. There's an inky, dark extraction about this, with a deep black olive quality. Firm and a bit ungiving, this has quality but doesn't grab me somehow. Very good. Southern French?
Château Drai Merlet (Bordeaux) Fronsac 1985
Out of condition.
Château Léoville-Barton (Bordeaux) St Julien 1975
Lovely. Old, cedary, savoury, typical claret nose with old-oak sweetness and plenty of tobacco-tinged fruit. There is still a sweetness of fruit on the palate, with little rose-hip or parma-violet nuances, and complex, earth and mineral notes. Some coffee and smoke emerge too, and there is lovely balance with softening tannins and moderate acidity. Long, poised and just a treat. Excellent.
At this point I abandoned note taking - dinner had been served, we'd had a few glasses, and the conversation was too good! I did manage to scribble down brief notes on a few wines that impressed me, but some very, very fine stuff didn't get written up fully - apologies, but it was a social occasion :-)
Giacomo Borgogno (Italy) Barolo Riserva 1971
No note. I was moderately impressed, but not bowled over.
Rosenblum Cellars (California) Annette's Reserve Zinfandel 1997
Delicious wine. Huge, monster ripe nose of sweet, jammy rasberry fruit. Unctuous, ripe and massive, this is a sensory-overload style, but terrific, with full, sweet, burstingly-ripe black fruits and plenty of spicy oak. A beauty.
Sweet and Fortified
Kloster Machern (Germany) Wehlener Abtei Riesling Eiswein 1983
Lovely old wine from memory. Moderate acidity and good richness.
Château Suduiraut (Bordeaux) Sauternes 1983
Classic, ultra-classy botrytis wine. Loaded with honey, fig and marzipan. Lovely balance. Excellent.
Les Cypres de Climens (Bordeaux) Barsac 1992
I was knocked out when I heard this was the second wine of Climens, and from a poor year at that. I liked this a lot. I wrote: Lovely botrytis. Fine honey, fig, butterscotch, vanilla, Delicate peachy fruit. Very good indeed.
Gabor Orosz (Hungary) Tokaji Azsu Essencia 1975
Another that was just fantastic and I simply sat back and enjoyed. Intense and deep, loaded with nuts, marmalade and toasty bouquet and rich but balanced, complex palate.
Dr. Parce (Banyuls) Domaine Mas Blanc Cuvée St. Martin 1981
I remember thinking this was Port, and that it was a particularly sweet, integrated and easy to drink example. Very delicious.
A terrific evening, and thank you to all the participants for the great wines and great company.