A Night to Remember

Wednesday, 22 October 2014 by Thomas Parker

Last week a few of the Farr team went for dinner with a long-term friend and customer of ours for what would prove to be one of the best wine nights of our lives. Medlar was our restaurant of choice, and they were on top form again to provide excellent accompanying dishes for the wines, adding in a delicious middle course using the white truffle our guest had generously brought along for the evening.

Stephen Browett was providing most of the wines for the evening and we all had an idea of how special the night would be from the first wine which was, forgivingly, not served blind. It was his last magnum of Krug 1959 - a legendary vintage for Champagne, as well as Bordeaux, and also Stephen's birth year. We were all excited from the first pour the wine was a burnished golden-orange colour, showing very small but persistent bubbles. The nose was still rich and lively, with caramel, luscious honeysuckle, bread, marmalade, and smoke. The palate was simply stunning. Vibrant and broad with incredible opulence and a wonderful balance of flavour and acidity. Big notes of toasted brioche, marmalade, butter, cream and that persistent smokiness. The mousse was very fine but incredibly persistent for a wine of its age, giving a wonderfully smooth texture and a long finish. Despite the age, we all agreed that this still had the unmistakable character of Krug's full bodied, rich, and complex style. For a 55 year old wine to show such typicity was simply stunning. Left in the glass for an hour or more it continued to develop and show further complexity, the mousse was astonishingly persistent over this time. We discussed the benefits of buying and keeping Champagne in magnums as the perfect format, and this really did show to be the case yet again tonight. It was a unanimous 20/20, or 100 points from the table.

Krug 1959

Next up we were served a solitary white blind, with my note as follows: Vibrant gold colour, the nose is opulent and ripe with lots of honeysuckle, peaches and cream, and dried mango. Creamy and rounded on the palate with good viscosity but still a line of acidity giving great balance and freshness.  Exotic fruits, buttery and honeyed. Hints of minerality too. Balance of developed honey but still lots of fresh fruit. Must be a great, warm vintage. Still has a long finish.

It turned  out to be Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1992 from Verget. I was surprised that there was so much age on the wine given the vibrancy of fruit and balanced acidity, it was so fresh. I was also assuming a more "prestigious" name than Verget, but looking back when aligned with 1992 this also makes sense, as Jean-Marie Guffens' wines from 1992 were always lauded as great from this vintage. This still has some life in it and was absolutely delicious, and went perfectly with Medlar's signature Crab raviolo. - 18.5/20

The first red of the evening continued the high standard and was not served blind, though I think the quality would have been evident regardless. The stars aligned for Georges Roumier's 1995s, a great vintage that was harvested at seemingly the perfect time and then made flawlessly. The Bonnes Mares that we were drinking certainly confirmed that. Medium ruby in the glass, the nose was hugely aromatic. Perfumed with dried violets, super-ripe red cherries, blueberries, and vanilla yet earthy and developing at the same time. A real purity to this excellent nose. The palate was precise, focused, with laser-like precision and perfect balance of ripeness and acidity. Rich and round with great intensity of plummy blue fruits, vanilla, kirsch, blackberry and cherry. Slight hints of earth and a truffle note added to the complexity. Rich, rounded and creamy, this still managed to be fresh, with fine tannins and a very long finish indicating this had more than a decade to go. I would love to see what it would be like then - 19.5+/20. The aroma of great red Burgundy floating around the table was soon compounded by the wonderful smell of truffle that had been generously grated over a simple plate of tagliatelle. The white truffles this year are the best I have tasted and this one was so aromatic it must have filled the whole restaurant. I'd like to thank our guest again as it was a real treat, and the earthiness partnered the ripe complexity of the Roumier superbly.

Truffle

It was at this point in the evening that Stephen confidently stated the next three wines would be better than the first. I must admit I thought this would be a very tough task, but the proof is in the drinking... We started with a pair of reds served blind that we were told had a link, but no more than that.

Deep ruby at the core but clearly showing some age at the rim. Very ripe nose initially - blackberry, liquorice, black cherry and black pepper. Exotic black fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, a hint of leather. The palate is succulently ripe with sweet black cherries, blackberry, damson and kirsch.  Silky, velvety texture with very fine tannins that have all melded into the wine. Layers of complexity from star anise, nutmeg, leather, and clove. Plush but perfectly balanced.  A real intensity and great length. Continue to change in the glass with layers of further complexity. Very supple and moreish but so much depth. Absolutely stunning, a perfect wine. - 20/20

Medium-deep ruby, again showing age at the rim. Herbal nose - mint, eucalyptus and black Assam tea. Clove, graphite, and cassis with a little black cherry. Tobacco and tar. Palate has smooth entry of black fruits and mint, gaining complexity from cigar box and leather. Mid palate weight of fruit and warmth from alcohol. Still showing youthful character of blackcurrant and black cherry despite all the complexity of age. Black fruits and tobacco on the finish which is long, spicy, and has a little grip from tannin. - 19.5/20

In my head I was formulating guesses from 1982 at the oldest, and thinking of top right bank Bordeaux for the first and perhaps left bank for the second as it had more grip and flavours showing more Cabernet style. There were other shouts for 1980s as the wines still showed such youthful notes despite their evident age. Little did we know Stephen had really pulled some very rare, legendary wines from his cellar. They were indeed two Bordeaux from the same vintage, both from the right bank. However, we had completely underestimated the age. Both were from 1959! Such youthfulness and ripeness, I was astounded. These were the first (and quite possibly the last) 1959 Bordeaux I had tasted. I certainly won't taste better.

Petrus and Ausone 1959

Wine 1 was... Petrus! The wine really stood up to the legend. This is the best wine I have ever tasted, and tops my all-time list. Wine 2 was... Ausone! An excellent showing that really displayed the 50% Cabernet Franc in the wine with that extra grip and herbal character. I'm certain that in a different context I may have given this a perfect score, but it was slightly outshone by the truly unbelievable Petrus on the night. Two true greats. They were both superb, but Petrus was the unanimous winner on the table the sweeter, riper, and fuller of the two wines, with Ausone just behind. A truly outstanding pair of wines, and both great bottles on top form.

The final wine of the night was something of a legend. 1931 is one of the greatest vintages of Port in the last century, perhaps all time. It is also a rare vintage - many port houses were overstocked with wines from the 1920s (particularly 1927), and so decided not to declare. The quality of the vintage therefore lies heavily with the wine we were drinking - Quinta do Noval: A tawny colour in the glass, the nose still has a very sweet aroma and is hugely intense, with a blend of fig, clove, cinnamon, coffee, and bitter cocoa. The palate is concentrated, sweet, and very powerful. Incredibly youthful given the age, lots of figs, raisin, hazelnut, muscavado sugar, clove and cinnamon. There is warmth as you would expect in port, but it is kept wonderfully in balance with the succulent character of the wine. Dried red fruits that are almost creamy on the mid palate. Incredibly long with a rounded, ripe finish. As good as port gets! Easily 20/20.

We finished off the Quinta do Noval with a wonderful round of cheese before heading our separate ways, armed with big smiles on our faces. Without everyone's generosity I would never get to experience such a night, and was left wondering whether my life as a wine drinker had already peaked at the age of 25...



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