Turn again, Whittington,
Once Lord Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington,
Twice Lord Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice Lord Mayor of London!
So when an envelope drops through your letterbox from the Chief Magistrate of the City of London, also know as the current Lord Mayor inviting you to dinner, you don`t just sit on it. So I find myself at the end of a chilly London February, all decked out in `Smoking` jacket on my way to The Mansion House, with `great expectations`.
Greeted by leather clad guardsman and beakers of Champagne Pol Roger, I look for my host and cannot find him. There are however various characters, even Wine Royalty, from the Wine Trade present so it was good to catch up. Little did I know that we were about to sit down to a formal dinner party, six courses and wines to match on a grand scale. Thus, to enjoy fully the various wines drunk on the evening, I did think that I should share with you, dear reader, the order of the night. They were all very much worth the scribblings indeed.
2006 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill
Upon arrival, and in the midst of the big Pol Roger boss to-boot. I was reminded that it was made only in the very best vintages. Glasses of the white-golden colored 2006 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill where freely poured and offered me, only, a very clear, precise, ripe and complex bouquet with fruity and refreshingly chalky, nutty and brioche notes. Full-bodied and complex on the palate, the wine is supple, round and rich but also fine, elegant, fresh and well structured. It has a harmonious yet tight, persistent and very promising finish that puts this silky textured, Pinot-dominated cuvée (the exact blend is a closely guarded family secret, of course!) on the border of fatty richness. But the mousse gives so much freshness and finesse that everything seems lifted here. Though I have very limited experience with matured Champagnes from Pol Roger and namely Churchill (2002 was my last bash), I suppose the 2006 will benefit a lot from further bottle ageing. But don’t get me wrong: the wine is already gorgeous, I drank four+ glasses and did not feel a thing. Mind you the speeches did go on a bit.
2012 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Oz
The first white wine at dinner was ‘Art Series’ , Leeuwin’s most opulent and age-worthy wine. The bottles are identified with paintings commissioned from leading contemporary Australian Artists. The Chardonnay is Australia’s answer to Burgundy, elegant, structured and beautifully put together with hints of lemon rind, a fresh nutty note and a gentle caress of oak. Delish!
1999 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet
Anne-Claude RiP, made this wine and the domaine still owns, of course, 4.72 acres in Bâtard, comprising of two parcels in Chassagne and two in Puligny, the vines planted between 1962 and 1989. This wine is much richer, broader, more arrogant in its power than the Chevalier, which I adore. The detail of its flavor continues to develop with days of air. By day three, so to speak, it has a multidimensional savor, the perfume and sensual contours of a pear. The wine’s creamy density and vast reserves of freshness turn its sheer mass into something glorious. It totally knocked me out drinking from the Universal (Zalto) so I let it breath a bit in a Bordeaux glass (Zalto). One of the biggest and most elegant whites I have had the pleasure to drink this year so far. More please!
2014 Cervaro della Sala, Castello della Sala, Antinori
This is the full treatment white from rather trendy! Italy (well Umbria, or OombriarR if you are from souff of de river) and it always delivers! unlike Bxt! Aromas of cooked apple, cream, hints of toasted oak and peach. Full body, bright acidity, with tangy fresh fruits. Hints of yoghurt and wood. Complex and truly great. Of course I enjoyed it, but after the Leflaive, hell! nothing to do with it. The table loved it tho“¿ There`s no accounting for taste these days, of course, in The City of London. But then again you cannot take a horse to a bowl of Bâtard-Montrachet and force him to drink. Great, more for me!
Now we went on to the reds…
2010 Opus One from Napa
One of the highlights among the more recent releases from this famed Napa estate, the 2010 Opus One is flat-out gorgeous. Dark cherries, plums, graphite, cassis and pencil shavings are all woven together in a fabric of notable class and elegance. The 2010 stands out for its exceptional minerality, tension and pure power. This is a picture perfect rendering of this great Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintage. Gulp! and gulp more.
1999 Tignanello Antinori
The 1999, which I did not actually know existed until this dinner, is quite beautiful. Cedar, graphite, sweet herbs, licorice and leather add complexity to a core of highly expressive red fruits. There is a silkiness and polish that is reminiscent of something from a hot Claret vintage. However, this one was 75% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, well so the Marquessa told me, from their vineyards in San Casciano Val di Pesa. A beautiful wine! and very Tignanello.
2003 Ch.Haut Brion, Graves rouge of course
It is a blend of 58% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Cabernet Franc that hit 13% natural alcohol (I know as I double checked), which seemed high at the time of the vintage, but given more recent vintages, now is modest. Dark ruby/plum in colour, with no amber or orange at the edge, the wine exhibits an abundance of roasted herbs, hot rocks, black currants, plum, and balsamic notes. Quite rich, medium to full-bodied and more complete, with sweet tannins, this full-bodied Haut-Brion has actually hit full maturity, but do`t panic, as it should stay for at least a decade or even two. Bravo! and yet for me I needed, and did drink a whole bottle of the stuff on the evening, as it was not the favoured wine on my table. Everyone prefered the Tignanello. ¡Madness! but in my favour, of course, for a change. Who are these people? again.
then on to the sweetie … yummM
2003 JJ Prum`s Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel
Introvert and smoky. A fine-boned delicacy, like a feather dipped in apricot syrup and frozen into a snowflake. At the same time there’s apricot kernel and a hint of deliciously ripe fruit, voluptuousness all but hidden under a cloak of coruscating acidity. I need to spend more time with this wine. It is not a quaffer, it`s a goddam Wiggtenstein of a wine. Philosophical all the way thru……oM!
and now, thank you for not smoking (I had to go outside) …
When I last tasted (drank) this port back in 2010, the Fonseca 1985 was going through a particularly pleasing phase, indicative perhaps of the overall quality and perhaps somewhat under-rated capacity for longevity of this vintage. The colour is impressive and the rich but elegant fruit character is evidenced, allied, of course, to a leathery spicy gravitas that has evolved through the gentle and suitably sheltered temporal vista of bottle ageing. Quinta do Noval will always rock my 1985 vintage-boat, but this one aint far off shore, I can tell you that much.
Full and happy and wanting more of everything, I found my way home, just, but I did not find the cat, dead or alive.
Some familiar and smiling faces from 67 P-M were present and pouring which always makes for a tremendous vinous bash. Many congrats to all, especially the fellow sitting opposite me on the table who blew 30 grand on the left over bottles, and all for a good cause, for sure.
NB. Before I went home, I really fancied another glass of Pol Roger to settle down the evening and yet I could not find anyone to open the bottle. However, attached to the wall of The Mansion House I found The Pearl Sword, which I understand was presented to the City of London by Elizabeth 1st (around 1570). Wheiging around 3 kilos and embossed with 1000s of pearls, it was indeed a “verye goodly sworde“ and did the sabbrage effortlessly on the bottle of bubbly.