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Bordeaux Dinner with Toby Bailey, 04/00

by Tom Cannavan, 04/00

I was invited to dinner by Toby Bailey, whose long-established tasting notes site willl be familiar to many readers (www.finewinediary.com). The theme was claret and there were some wonderful old wines to accompany a fine dinner: a little tart of crab, tomato and saffron with the white wines, a roast saddle of venison with the reds, and an orange crème caramel for pudding.

This tasting was not blind.

White

Vilmart Champagne 1990 Recently Disgorged
Lovely pale gold colour. Good, small bubbles. Fresh on the nose with citrus fruit but also nice yeastiness and hint of butterscotch. Palate displays a similar combination of crisp, mouthwatering fruit and a richer, biscuity depth. Fine mousse, good length. Really lovely.

Louis Michel Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 1983
This has a very good colour: medium dark gold with no sign of of browning. There's a distinctive burnt, toasted sesame-seed and vanilla aspect to the nose. The palate has a sweetness of nutty, peachy fruit but still lots of apple freshness and good acidity. Savoury and delicious. A lovely balanced wine.

Château Fieuzal (Graves) blanc 1988
Good colour again. A slightly eggy, custardy note but a smokiness too and good apricot, peachy, quite lush fruit. There's a lightness about it too though, with good acidity and notes of nutmeg and cinammon in the finish.

Château Pape-Clément (Graves) blanc 1970
Good golden colour, little browning. A herbaceous note of green beans and straw. The palate has a little peachiness (again) but flavours are much more towards lemon and a hint of greengage. Good acidity, well integrated and with good balance. Decent finish. Drinking well now.

Château Carbonnieux (Graves) blanc 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.

Red

Château Léoville-Poyferré (St-Julien) 2nd growth 1970
Good solid colour. Nose is quite vegetal at first, but a chocolaty richness emerges. On the palate good balance with fine blackcurrant fruit, some smoke and mineral nuances, background tannins and a lemony acidity that freshens the finish. Not a terrifically structured wine, but drinking very well from a half.

Château Léoville-Las-Cases (St-Julien) 2nd growth 1983
Fine ruby colour with amber rim. Wonderful, refined mineral, earth, blackcurrant and liquorice nose. Hints of violet and charry oak. Cool, concentrated fruit on the palate with layers of flavour, fine tannins and sufficient acidity giving some real structure. About the best showing yet for a wine I know well, so maybe still on the up.

Château de Ville George (Haut-Médoc) Cru Bourgeois 1961
Great colour: fading rich ruby with warm amber edge. There's a fantastically fresh sweet blackberry nose with seductive hints of chocolate and spice. Nice finesse on the palate with good fruit and decent length. Still well balanced and has a few years ahead of it. Lovely wine.

Château Mouton-d'Armailhac (Pauillac) 5th growth 1934
This has a gorgeous colour of rich burnt umber. Nose has just a beautiful old-claret profile with sweet cedar-wood, currant and ethereal flowery nuances, hints of exotic spice. Rich, sweet intensley flavourful palate with medium-body. Good fruit, a nice support from fine tannins and a wonderful sense of resolution. No edges to the silky, sweet yet subtle character. Magnificent wine.

A. Rafenelli (Sonoma) Cabernet Sauvignon 1993
With some cheese we decided nothing could top the d'Armailhac, so opted for a complete contrast. Solid ruby/crimson. A peanutty quality and much more extraction comes as a bit of a shock, but a terrific depth of pure blackcurrant fruit emerges that floods over the palate backed up with firm tannins and fine structure. A very nice wine that seems youthful.

Sweet

Freiherr von Schorlemer (M-S-R) Zeltinger Schlossberg Auslese 1971
Quite a deep amber colour. Nose has finely wrought apple and apricot fruit with hints of lime and honey. There's also a little nettle note that's there on the palate too and an initial sweetness that fades elegantly. Drinking nicely, just fading?

Alain Brumont (Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh) Brumaire "Novembre" 1996
Still a lovely wine with honeyed, thick peach and tropical fruit and good balancing acidity as well as plenty of subtle, nuanced flavours and good length.