Preston Wine Club Annual Dinner, 7th May 2005

Many thanks to Stephen Burns for the invitation to this and the incredible organisation he put into the organisation and running of the event. And if that wasn't enough, he cooked the dinner too! 


  • Mediterranean Fish salad (I'm never sure about cold fish, but this had a very nice flavour dressing and the fish hadn't dried out at all, to which especially tuna and swordfish can be a bit prone)
  • Roast fillet of Gressingham duck on chickpea and puy lentils (good dish, Stephen: nice tender duck and the chickpea and lentil stew had a good flavour and texture)
  • Shank of new season English lamb on a bed of champ potatoes, served with roasted shallots, asparagus and baby carrots and minted jus.
  • Summer Fruit tuile with sorbet and crème anglaise (I know it's been sunny and warm recently, Stephen, but "summer"... Very weird and unpleasant tasting anglaise by the way - like it had been smoked.)
  • Keen's Cheddar; Manchego; Camembert; Cashel Blue.


Onto the wines: 

Champagne served blind: 1985 Blanc de blancs, Diebolt Vallois
A mid gold, I'd say putting it around 20 years old.  Very open, fruity nose with apples and some citrus.  Quite creamy but curiously lacking in any briochey/bready notes.  Full on the palate, with a fairly gentle mousse, but also a nice prickle.  Nice elegance.  Huge length.  Excellent.
Guess: 1985 Roederer.

1967 Riesling, Hugel
A deepish teak colour.  Completely shot on the nose - not faulty, just past it.  Slightly raisined feel combining with a bit of oxidation on the palate.  But really this is completely dead.   All bar one of the bottles were apparently pretty much the same: even the one better bottle was reported to be past it, just a little less decayed.  Shame, but that's the risk you take with older wines, particularly the lesser cuvées, even in good years like 1967 (though Hugel talk more of 1967 as being a year for pinot gris).  Not rated.

2001 Cabernet Burdese, Planeta  
A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Quite a scented brambly fruit nose.  Very big on the palate.  A huge modern wine that just stops this side of being over-parkerised.  Huge structure with big grainy tannins.  Very, very spicy with vanillin notes on the finish.  A bit young or needs more time to open up in the glass.  Generally, I tend to prefer Planeta's wines when they have a touch of native Sicilian varieties in them: this is really a "Super-Tuscan", and you do wonder why they bother.  That said it's a very good wine: I'm note sure how it will age, but it needs opening and decanting well in advance.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
I left a glass of this on one side and came back to it, two hours or more later.  Now it's much more accessible on the nose, with delicately perfumed cassis with a strong licorice undercurrent.  Immediately elegant on the attack, backed up by lots of spicy fruit which almost explode in the mouth.  A touch of pepper and warm Christmassy spice appear towards the finish - an impression very reminiscent of a clove-studded orange in mulled wine.  A completely different wine to earlier.  Very Good Indeed.

1964 Reserva 890, La Rioja Alta, 12.5%
13,000 bottles produced (which isn't a lot!).  The Consejo label rightly calls it a Gran Reserva.
A glorious old Rioja nose with more than a touch of volatile acidity, but giving it more of a sweet cherry note rather than anything untoward.  The VA blows off the nose after about five minutes to reveal delicate, fairly sweet red fruit with nice hints of gentle vanilla.  Such a gorgeous nose, it almost seems a shame to drink it!  Never fear ... Fairly sweet ripe fruit on the attack.  My immediate impression was of elegance and incredible liveliness, and the impression didn't fade, right through to the last drop.  Incredibly fresh and vibrant.  Excellent.

1981 Ardanza Reserva, La Rioja Alta, 13%
A tempranillo-grenache blend. 
A lovely mature nose - very soft with some vanilla, but not a lot.  You have to dig deep into the nose for the fruit, but it does indeed come through nicely.  A lovely, elegant attack.  Very delicate and rounded with a good soft tannic structure and some slightly cardamom-soapy notes on the finish, followed by a really sharp peppery spice on the tip of the tongue afterwards.  Very good length.  But after a while, it seems to start to fade, and even to fall apart a bit.  This needs drinking now.  Very Good.

1983 Max Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Auslese, Carl von Schubert, AP No: 3 536 014-15-84  
A ripe, oldish riesling nose: some smoke, some honey and a few gassy mercaptans.  Remarkably little mineral austerity and remarkably little petrol development.  The attack is elegant, rounded and mature and completely distinctively riesling.  Very well balanced; just off-dry overall, but the considerable acidity contributes a lot to that.  Huge acidity on the finish, but it doesn't quite have the fruit to fully balance it out completely on the finish.  Rather the fruit does have a touch of a dried-out air to it.  On the other hand, this is more alive than many 1983s that I've had from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, though not massivley so, other than the very lively acidity, which could perhaps do with a bit longer to tame it fully.  But I don't think it has the fruit to keep it going much longer.  Quite reminiscent of other '83 Auslesen that I've had from the Mosel.  Very Good.

1980 Dow vintage port  
Very medicinal and really rather dusty on the nose.  Really rather strange and I wonder if it's not a bit corked.  As it sits in the glass, there seems to be more of a wet musty smell developing, and I don't think it's just the power of suggestion.  Yep, I'm calling this as corked.  I take a small sip just to check it out further: lacking fruit on the palate and very much completely dominated by aggressive spirit.  Yeah: corked.
A half glass from the dregs of another bottle: Immediate big black fruits with leather and a hint of licorice and cassis on the nose.  Smooth, with huge fruit on the attack.  Good structure with a nice rich character.  But it's still a bit of a bruiser and there's a fair amount of spirit appearing towards the finish.  This could probably do with longer, or at least needs a good strong cheese to tame it!  Very Good Indeed.

1985 Rioja Crianza, Marques de Riscal 
A mature pale ruby.  Sweet and very volatile on the nose.  Light and fresh on the palate with sweet fruit and some acidity.  This is completely ready: don't leave it a day longer.

1996 Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port  (from a half bottle)
Quite a dull nose that's a bit closed and unforthcoming, though with time and aeration, some black fruits and chocolate appear.  Rich and really very sweet on the palate with decent fruit and decent structure.  Bit of spirit on the finish, but it's only fleeting.  This is ready to drink, unlike the Dow '80, which needs more time.  Hardly the most complex and characterful port (often the case with '96 LBVs), but solid stuff for easy drinking.  Very Good.


For further information on the Preston Wine Club, please contact Stephen Burns on 01772 724775.

Andrew Stevenson

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Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:52