Welcome Back to Crystal Palace Neil Warnock

Thursday, 4 September 2014 by Stephen Browett

Last night the owners of Crystal Palace Football Club welcomed our new manager Neil Warnock (back) to the club with a dinner featuring some classic wines from Farr Vintners. It's been a really hectic couple of weeks since the previous manager left, several players have joined the club including England Internationals Wilfried Zaha, Martin Kelly and Andrew Johnson, Scotland midfielder James McArthur, Ireland striker Kevin Doyle and former Norwegian captain Brede Hangeland.  A celebratory glass of wine or two was in order now that we finally have our 2014/2015 squad assembled and our first point on the board after an exciting 3-3 draw at Newcastle United on Saturday.

Hunting Hill 2007

We started with the fabulous 2007 Hunting Hill Chardonnay from Kumeu River. This wine is a dead ringer for a top White Burgundy and if it had been served blind to me I'm sure that I would have nailed it as a Puligny Montrachet from a leading grower. Whilst having plenty of weight and density, there is fabulous freshness and minerality here with a fine backbone of citric acidity in perfect balance with the ripe melon-flavoured fruit. It's no wonder that this gorgeous, yet subtle Chardonnay scored 94 points in the Wine Advocate and at seven years of age it is still as fresh as a daisy with a long life ahead. 17.5 points for me.

1990 was a great year for Crystal Palace FC as well as a fantastic vintage in Bordeaux so I thought that it would be a good idea to serve four of my favourite 1990 clarets from the four classic communes of the Médoc. Those of you interested in football may remember the amazing 1990 FA Cup Semi Final when The Eagles beat the mighty Liverpool 4-3 at Villa Park and then participated in an exciting FA Cup Final that ended in a 3-3 draw with Manchester United.

But back to the wines, all of which were showing beautifully at 24 years of age.

First up was 1990 Château Rauzan-Ségla. This is now revealing a mahogany colour with some fading at the rim but there is great intensity on the nose. It has a multi-dimensional bouquet with rose petals, spices and herbs dominating more than obvious fruit notes. I picked up more than a hint of Chartreuse, something that I don't remember smelling in a Bordeaux before. The palate is smooth, polished and sweet with lovely complexity. This is no blockbuster but it is beautifully subtle, feminine and delicate with a silky texture. Really individual and full of character. A great glass of Margaux. 17.5

Rauzan-Ségla and Léoville Barton 1990

Next up was 1990 Château Léoville Barton. This is a very different style of wine. At nearly a quarter of a century old it still has a black colour and is powerful and intense on the nose with wafting aromas of cassis, vanilla and liquorice. The palate is packed full of chewy, black fruit. This is an impressively concentrated, powerful, masculine and classically proportioned claret. There are hints of forest floor and tar on the mid palate and a long, chewy finish. A macho claret. Slightly austere and dry but very impressive. 17.

We moved on to Pauillac and one of my all-time favourite wines. Grand-Puy-Lacoste 1990 just never lets you down. I've tasted it many times but would hate to be served it blind because I think I'd guess it to be a Pomerol. The fruit is so ripe, creamy and opulent that it's hard to believe that is a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine.  The colour is fading a little now but it still has great intensity on the nose and palate. Gorgeously smooth, with impressive glycerine and a silky texture. Ripe and plummy, it has low acidity and soft, melted tannins. One of the most seductive Pauillacs ever made. Wonderful wine. 18.5

Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Cos d'Estournel 1990

Our final wine of the night was from Saint Estèphe. Cos d'Estournel 1990 still has an impressively deep colour, red at the rim and purple/black at the centre. The relatively high Merlot content here gives this wine a rich, plump body with succulent black fruit and a sexy whiff of Asian Spices, nutmeg, cloves and liquorice. The texture is smooth and polished. Exotic, yet balanced. This is seductive and sweet, yet serious. A wine for hedonists and purists alike. 18.

Neil Warnock and Steve Parish with the 1990 clarets

Neil told us some great stories about his 34 year career as a football manager with particular reference to some of his "favourite" referees. He is a charming and charismatic man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and footballers and there could be no more experienced manager to guide our club this season. He liked my wine too! Let's hope that this season ends as well as 1990.

As we prepared to leave, former England rugby captain (and wine fan) Laurence Dallaglio popped over to try a glass or two. I've never met a man with such enormous hands! In the photo here it looks like he's holding a half bottle, but it wasn't. I was hoping to polish off the last glass of GPL myself but, in the circumstances,  it was maybe best not to pick a fight over it.

Laurence Dallaglio loves Grand Puy Lacoste 1990

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