Neal Martin’s Bordeaux Olympics

19th November 2004
Restaurant La Trouvaille

£25 inc corkage.

OK, the wines …

All the wines were amazing, any one of which would have been quite outstanding on their own or in more “normal” company.  This was a remarkable collection and some wines that would, as I say, have otherwise been outstanding suffered in invidious comparison with others.  Congratulations  and thanks to Neal for assembling such a splendid selection of wines.

Round 1: Sparkling  Opening Ceremony

Two sparkling wines: which is the real champagne; what’s the champagne house and what is the vintage?

  1. Yeasty, oldish nose with an orangey hint.  Becomes more citrussy with time.  Nice character, soft mousse.  Quite light, but very classy.  Clearly the champagne and I can tell from the bottle shape that it’s most probably Dom Perignon.  I’d put it mid to late ‘80s.
    Dom Perignon 1993
  2. Much fizzier when poured.  Confected earthy nose.  Lost its mousse very quickly.  Rather dull and a bit flat tasting, as well as simply flat.
    Mount Neptune Sparkling Semillon 2002, Hunter Valley.  Méthode charmant.

Round 2: Guess my age

A red and white burgundy: guess the vintage and guess the village cru.

  1. A deep gold.  Our end of the table settled on the nose being heavily redolent of clarified butter, which was spot on: hot beurre just before it becomes noisette, heavy on the dairy, with waxy, nutty lanolin notes.  Ripe, oily-textured fruit with huge, huge depth and concentration.  Almost a bit too powerful.  An extremely impressive wine.  Guess at 1985.
    Puligny Montrachet 1961, Henri Boillot
  2. Pale red, farmyardy sweet fruit nose, perhaps just a bit too sweet for comfort, with strawberries turning to raspberries.  Light mature flavours.  Woody spice on finish.  Massive length on finish.  Guess at 1979 Gevrey or Charmes Chambertin.
    1982 Comte de Vogue Bonnes Mares

Round 3: Spot the first growth

Three wines: which is the first growth, and what is it?

  1. Youngish mid ruby colour, which for some reason makes me think of 1994.  Sweet cedary nose.  Very pleasant.  Lightish, fairly elegant.  Not bad.
    1987 Ch. Haut Batailley
  2. Lacking fruit, this is a bit corked, yet I force myself to taste it.  Not too bad on the palate actually: maybe the acidic wet cardboard and damp leaves on the nose are something other than TCA.  But definitely missable in my book.
    1987 Ch. Pichon Baron
  3. Lovely musarey nose.  Gorgeous ripe fruit with excellent structure.  This is a really classy wine.  If the first growth is the best wine of the three, then it’s clearly this one.  With a bit of time it becomes quite meaty.  A really excellent wine.
    1987 Ch. Haut Brion

Round 4: Which is the Parker 100 pointer?

Three wines, one of which was awarded 100 points by American critic, Robert Parker.  But which one?

  1. An even garnet colour, making me think of the early 1990s.  Lovely plummy nose.  Immediately attractive but falls away quickly to just a bit of light spice.
    1982 Ch. Léoville Las Cases.
  2. A good even ruby.  The nose is very earthy with a touch of brett.  A truly beautiful elegant wine on the palate with lovely structure.  A fabulous wine.  This is really gorgeous and so far my wine of the night.
    1982 Ch. Léoville Poyferré
  3. A very dark ruby.  Very closed nose.  Ripe fruit.  Big structure.  Lots of tannin.  This has a certain rusticity that is not unattractive.  This is likely to be the 100 pointer.
    1982 Ch. Gruaud Larose

Round 5: Who am I?

Two wines from the right bank – but which is older, what is the vintage of each and what’s the chateau?

  1. An even relatively mature ruby.  I don’t find the nose particularly impressive: rather a lot of VA dominating.  Lovely attractive attack, but falls away and apart a little.  A preponderance of sweet fruit makes it seem a little simple.  Yet still very delicious.  Undoubtedly tastes the older of the two.  1961 or 1964?
    1964 Ch. Canon la Gaffelière, St Emilion
  2. This looks to be the older wine: very even, with a hint of bricking.  A truly fascinating nose that I could sniff for ages: layers and layers of varying fruit.  Mmmm ….  This is really lovely.  Lots of depth and complexity.  A really interesting, fascinating wine.  Guess at 1966.
    1967 Ch. Figeac

Round 6: Who am I?

Two wines from the left bank -  – but which is older, what is the vintage of each and what’s the chateau?

  1. A light, mature ruby.  Very strange, old nose: a bit bretty-stinky with a sweet richenss, with a hint of volatility and reduction.  Very light and remarkably fresh tasting with a fine acidic streak.  Guess early ‘70s.
    1960 Ch. Montrose (a wine which is so rarely seen as apparently to be not even mentioned by Broadbent)
  2. A deep very very old almost mahogany ruby.  I can’t really find much going on on the nose.  This just seems very old indeed on the palate.  Quite simple and a bit over the hill.  Though I should add that my glass was a bit sediment-y, which might have coloured my views.  But it just doesn’t seem to have the redeeming features of a really great old wine that would lift it from being merely an old curiosity.
    1958 Ducru Beaucaillou

Round 7: What’s my year of birth?

Three wines from the same vintage: one from the right bank, one from the left bank and a Sauternes.

  1. An intermediate ruby.  Acidic wet underbush with sweet blackcurrant on the nose.  Straightforward, light, with lots of tannins.  This reminds me of a prematurely aged 1976 St Emilion I had a few years ago.
    1962 Ch. Pichon-Baron
  2. A lighter more mature ruby.  Fascinating nose.  Very deep, concentrated ripe fruit.  Quite meaty.  Lovely round and mature.  Very integrated.  Very nice.  Lovely.
    1962 Ch. Figeac
  3. (Obviously the Sauternes!)  A brassy caramel colour.  Rich, concentrated caramelly orange nose.  Lovely balanced attack.  Very elegant and integrated with nice acidity on finish.  I’ve not a huge experience of Sauternes, but there’s something about it that reminds me of a Suduiraut that I had three or four years ago, though this is much older, although it seems younger than the two reds in this flight.
    1962 Ch. Suduiraut

In addition to the organised heats, there were three additional wines;

  1. (brought by Linden Wilkie)  A youngish ruby.  Highly perfumed nose with lots of sweet cherry.  Plenty of upfront fruit, and the same perfumed cherries appear on the palate.  Feels really rather young.  An Australasian pinot noir.
    2002 Wither Hills Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand.
  2. (brought by David Pope, and tasted rather hastily as I was busy pouring the next wine)  A mid vaguely mature ruby.  Smoky nose.  Light on the palate with nice, clean, pure fruit.  Really rather good.  Revealed to be 1995 St Jerome Cabernet Merlot from New Zealand, a revelation which brought a surprised exclamation of “fuck!” from New Zealand wine-maker C.P. Lin, who was presumably in another continent entirely.
  3. (my wine) Smoky old, unusually fragrant riesling nose.  Sweet and rich, yet remarkably light for what it is.  This had many puzzled, though C.P. Lin was the first to identify its country of origin.  This was quite an interesting wine, but – for what it was – rather poor, which explains people’s puzzlement (they were heading off in late harvest scheurebe type territories).
    1971 Kreuznacher Gutenthal Riesling Beerenauslese, Weingut Carl Finkenauer, Nahe  AP 1 710 033 006 72.