Wine-dinner by From Grapes to Wine
Last SUN, on November 20, 2011, I organized my first Wine dinner themed: Bordeaux of the ’90s. The place was the cozy and fancy The Vineyard section from Crowne Plaza’s La Veranda restaurant. We were 16 people all together and enjoyed an almost 5 h dinner and 6 courses meal. There were 11 foreign wines scheduled for tasting, plus another 3 Romanians that we served before and after dinner.
I uncorked the wines around 18:00 and I was happy to discover that almost all corks went out in one piece. The most difficult to pull out were the corks of the two oldest wines: 1970 and 1975. However there was no problem to uncork them and no piece of cork managed to fall in the bottle.
The event initially scheduled for 19:30, started around 20:00 when all the people arrived; meanwhile a 2010 Sole Sauvignon Blanc from Recas was served to open up the appetite for what was scheduled to come. An easy drinking wine that served its purpose very well.
The first course of the meal was Tuna Tartare with baby greens and avocado served with two Champagne’s: a white vintage from Moutard and a rose Bollinger NV.
2003 Moutard Cuvee des 6 Cepages Brut Champagne
This is a rather unusual Champagne as it contains all six grapes varieties allowed to be grown in Champagne. Most of the producers use only the three well known Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Moutard uses for this blend also Arbanne, Pinot Blanc and Petit Meslier. These latter three grape varieties are grown only marginally in Champagne and considered to produce a wine of lesser quality. Moutard is a well known producer of spirits and until 2000 its Champagnes lacked raciness and were rather average. But a major shift in quality was made in the early 2000 and the level of quality continues to climb every year ever since. There is even a 100% Arbanne Vieilles Vignes Champagne produced by Moutard which unfortunately I did not taste so far.
2003 was a challenging vintage in Champagne in the face of an unprecedented heat wave during the summer months. The frosts conditions early in the season led to the demise of half of the crop, so the Champagne production from 2003 was severely restricted. The harvest began as early as the last week of August, in a way similar to 2011. As a result, grapes enjoyed exceptional ripeness and fruitiness, but low acidity. Pinot Noir fared better than the Chardonnay.
The 2003 Cuvee des 6 Cepages Brut has a light gold color with microscopical, subdued bubbles. The nose is rich, intense and evolves with aeration, exhibiting complex aromas of biscuit, dough, citric fruits, baked apple and even an interesting old cognac-caramel aroma. In the mouth, this medium plus bodied Champagne is racy, creamy and well focused on the palate, showing good tension and pure flavors. The finish is medium plus long, with a refreshing mix of minerals and citric fruit peel aftertaste. Really good purity of flavors. (92/100)
Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut Rose NV
This Champagne was kindly provided by the importer: Cramele Halewood. Bollinger is one of the few producers that uses oak casks during the first fermentation process.
The color is a light pink salmon with smooth bubbles. The nose is more showy and less refined than the previous Champagne, intense, with sweet aromas of small red fruits, dough, baked apple and sugar cane. It probably has a higher dossage because the taste is fuller, but still creamy on the palate. A medium finish with red fruits in the aftertaste. (88-89/100)
The second course of the meal was Foie-gras terrine with caramelized apple served next to three German Rieslings from the left bank of the Ruwer river, about two kilometres before it joins the Mosel.
1993 Maximin Grunhaus(er) Abtsberg Riesling Kabinett trocken 10% alc
1993 was a small, excellent vintage: lots of Auslesen/botrytis, with near perfect harmony. Wonderful to drink now.
There is a medium gold color. The nose is well developed and youthful, intense, with a strong aroma of petrol, exotic fruits, tangerine, pineapple and wax , a nose with great typicality. Medium bodied, showing a tremendous acidity and lively palate, very youthful, a dry wine, with a medium and fresh finish. The flavors are not very intense in the mouth, but the balance is really good. A good surprise from a simple Kabinett with a real sweet nose and a dry to off dry sensation in the mouth. (88-89/100)
2002 Maximin Grunhaus(er) Abtsberg Riesling Spatlese 7.5% alc
2002 vintage is a small miracle how the Riesling grapes survived one of the wettest harvests on record to give ripe, succulent, lively wines (mostly Kabinett and Spatlese), and attractive drunk young or mature.
A medium gold color, similar to the 1993. The nose is more reductive, but more elegant, with a lighter aroma of petrol, and with good exotic fruits and honeysuckle. Full bodied, well balanced and showing a really lively palate, with great intensity of flavors. The finish is medium plus long, with racy acidity and lingering flavors. This remains an elegant and delicate wine from the nose to the finish. (91-92/100)
2009 Cati Riesling Spatlese 9% alc
A wine kindly provided by the importer: Winero. The wine comes from the small 2 ha property owned by the same partnership that owns Enira in Bulgaria: Stephan von Neipperg and dr Karl Heintz Hauptmann. 2009 was, as far as I understood, their first vintage produced.
A medium gold color. A Riesling with good typicality, with intense aromas of petrol, exotic and tropical fruits, pineapple, peach, yellow apples and citric fruit. The aromas are more intense than in the 2002 but do not have the same complexity and delicacy. Full bodied, with good acidity, good balance and a medium plus fresh finish. A more rustic wine than the previous, but charming nevertheless. (89/100)
Next course of the meal was Pancetta wrapped Atlantic cod, corn and mushrooms with veal jus vinaigrette. For this dish the chef suggested the oldest wine of the tasting: a 1970 Pomerol.
1970 Chateau Nenin Pomerol
1970 was successful throughout Bordeaux, but St-Emilion and Pomerol produced many of the top wines.
A ruby red color with a brick rim. A completely matured nose, with discreet aromas and very little fruit left, even a bit metallic and dusty. Medium bodied and unfortunately past its best, there is still some acidity left but the wine finishes very quickly and there is virtually no aftertaste. Past its drinking window. Probably tasted in the first 30 minutes of uncorking it, the wine would have fared better. (70-72/100)
The Beef Mignon with potato puree, foie-gras Ravioli, wax beans and veal reduction was served in the company of three wines: a 1990 Saint-Emilion, a 1994 Pauillac and a 1995 Pessac Leognan.
1990 Chateau Pavie Decesse Saint-Emilion
1990 was overall a hotter and drier year than 1989. Sugar levels were close to the highs of 1989. Because of the size of the crop, many conscientious estates practiced green-harvesting in July to reduce the yields. It was also the driest year since 1961. Overall 1990 was an excellent vintage.
The wine has a red garnet, youthful color with surprisingly light signs of aging. The nose is well developed, elegant and maturing, sweet, with good intensity and aromas of smoke, red currant, cedar, red fruits and dry plums, mint and even a light touch of balsamic notes. Medium bodied, lively and youthful in the mouth, well balanced, with appealing juiciness, with ripe tannins and finely balanced, and flavors of tobacco, leather, black tea and red fruit. The finish is fresh and medium plus long, with aromatic black tea and plum in the aftertaste. There is reasonable concentration and length. (91-92/100)
I was talking to a friend some time ago and mentioned him the wines for this tasting and he was convinced that the 1990 Pavie Decesse is a dead wine. I am happy to confirm M. that not only this is not dead, but the wine is really charming and pleased most of the guests.
1994 Chateau Baron de Pichon Longueville Pauillac
In 1994 conditions looked highly promising by early September, and then from September 7 the rain began and continued for most of the month. Fortunately temperatures were fairly cool and there was little rot, but the wet weather did cause some dilution. Growers did not delay the harvest, as the grapes, especially Merlot, were as ripe as they were going to get, and there was nothing to be gained by waiting. The red wines turned out to be dark, quite rich and tannic.
A red garnet, still youthful color. A well developed and Cabernet nose of considerable sweetness, youthful, with good intensity, and aromas of black currant, cedar, tobacco, green vegetables, bay leaf and quite ethereal. Medium bodied, youthful, forward and easy-going, not too extracted, subtle red fruit and tobacco, round and mellow tannins, but still well structured and balanced. Medium plus finish with a drying black tea like sensation. (91-92/100)
1995 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac Leognan
Some critics declared themselves unimpressed by 1995, but with time it has become clear that this is easily the best vintage since 1990, and the best wines are evolving slowly but impressively. They will be long-lived.
A youthful red garnet color. A well developed nose, a bit more closed than the previous wine, with Cabernet like aromas of green vegetables, black and red currant, mocha and a bit of stinky brett. Medium bodied, with a sweet palate and assertive tannins, youthful, and similar flavors as on the nose. There is a medium plus finish, very minty, with an aromatic black tea aftertaste and chewy tannins. The tannins are still strong and there is plenty of life ahead for this wine. (90-91/100)
I was a little bit nervous about this Smith Haut Lafitte because I already had a bad experience with a corked 1995 ( a couple of weeks ago) and a cooked 1985 almost one year ago. Fortunately this bottle showed well.
The Cheese with beetroot jam dish was served with a 1992 Saint Julien.
1992 Chateau Leoville Las Cases St-Julien
1992: this was the wettest summer in fifty years. Green-harvesting was essential to reduce potentially enormous yields. Rain fell in late August and again on September 20, the day before the harvest was set to begin, and intermittent rain and cool conditions continued for 3 weeks. Rot made selection essential, and muddy conditions hampered estates used to harvesting by machine. Sugar levels were modest in both Merlot and the Cabernets. The quality of the wine was lackluster, with much dilution; the Northern Medoc fared best. This proved a wretched vintage on the Right Bank, where there was widespread rot, although in Pomerol, where picking was under way before the heaviest rains fell, some adequate wines were made.
The 1992 Leoville Las Cases has a red garnet color, still showing youthful. A well developed nose and youthful, with aromas of forest floor, red fruit, sandalwood and green vegetables. Medium bodied, pretty tannic, perhaps too extracted, going for concentration at all costs and ending up rather charmless. The finish is medium plus with red fruit and tobacco. (90/100)
For dessert we had Quince and plum crumble with Vanilla ice-cream and was served in the company of three wines: a 1975 Sauternes, a Romanian sweet wine not yet launched on the Romanian market and a 2007 Stirbey Feteasca Regala Genius Loci, which for me is a classic wine to pair with a crumble dessert. I am a big fan of 2007 Genius Loci but I absolutely love it paired with a tart like dessert.
1975 Chateau Filhot Barsac Sauternes
The year was acclaimed as great, but it became more apparent that many wines had more tannin than fruit. There is great variation from estate to estate. Many of the best wines came from precocious soils, such as Haut-Brion, Cheval Blanc and Petrus. In Sauternes an Indian summer permitted the gradual spread of botrytis. The wines are fruity and stylish and still drinking well.
The 1975 Filhot has a deep amber color. The nose is developed but somehow not that expressive. Full bodied, in the mouth the wine is lush, peachy, with flavors of marmalade, a touch of pepper from alcohol and a tendency to be caramelized. The finish is long and sweet. The acidity is really good and balances very well the natural sweetness, therefore the wine is unctuous without cloying or being sticky on the palate. (92-93/100)
The night finished rather late for a regular SUN evening, but I am glad that we were able to enjoy the food and talk about wines and wine regions. I am also glad that my audience had a lot of good and interesting questions about what we had tonight and it was not just a simple presentation and a monologue from my side. Therefore I would also like to thank my guests for their presence and I am looking forward to taste wines together again.
For more pictures from this event please go here.