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Hangin' with Mr Cooper

by Gareth Birchley (Buyer)

Here at BI we’re a sociable bunch, but few would entertain the idea of exposing themselves to me for an ENTIRE weekend (so to speak). To my surprise and great delight, this is exactly what my great friend and colleague Giles Cooper decided to do while his wife and kids left him for sunnier climes. There are a few things you need to know about this individual: not only is he an educated man of letters (especially when it comes to grammar), he bears an uncanny resemblance to John Lithgow when he eats cheese.

The main plan for the weekend was to head to my house by the sea: eat, drink, be merry ... and for me to beat Giles at golf. Fortunately, this was only Giles’ second experience of Links golf and so understandably, it took him a while to get to grips with hitting a well struck 4-iron 34 yards in a category 5 hurricane. Although this was entertaining in itself, it very much played second fiddle to the primary objectives of the weekend.

We started off gently on the Friday evening with some local salt marsh lamb - stuffed and roasted breast alongside a couple of juicy racks. To drink? Leoville Poyferre 1978, a venerable old “luncheon” claret that ironically was still delicious at dinner. Wines like this are worth their weight in gold and continue to provide great enjoyment to lovers of mature Bordeaux. Alongside it, a wine that has been great on more than one occasion before - Borgogno Barolo 1958. It’s no secret that Italy represents less than 1% of my cellar, but this beauty makes you realise how great these old Barolos can be – great acidity and still in great shape!

Saturday night was less of an exercise in restraint. Matching Krug, the greatest of Champagnes, with light summer cooking is not the easiest of tasks - so we didn’t try too hard!We began with a belly of Gloucester Old Spot, sautéed leeks, caramelised onions and pureed potatoes (think “mash”) alongside the current release Grande Cuvee, and an incredibly rare and wonderful beast that I managed to buy earlier in the year: Grande Cuvee 1988 base year. The current release was as exceptional as always but the ’88 base showed exactly why you buy and age this wine. A truly monumental example of Champagne and, for me, the wine of the night.

The main course was an easy choice. When you check your diary and it reads “Week Commencing August 12th“, it signifies a lot more than the third week of the most overrated month. Of course, grouse was on the menu (with the traditional trimmings) paired with Krug 1996 and 1990. These wines are polar opposites in style and stage of evolution but absolute peers in terms of quality. The ’96 was pure, elegant, focussed and not showing much off; by contrast, the 1990 was masculine, rich, powerful and open for business; as Giles would say, “the Dannii versus the Kylie.”


The final pair we enjoyed was the current release 1989 Krug Collection, and the original release 1982. The Collection is far less advanced than the original release, and for me, it’s poorer for it. The ’89 is so youthful, so tight, and by this stage I’m usually impatient. ’82 by contrast was just getting towards its perfect state. These wines age at a glacial pace and this baby was just hitting its stride: savoury, rich and incredibly tertiary in style; a wonderful match with the Bernard Antony 2011 vintage Gruyere and Comté.

We finished the evening with Suduiraut 1988, meringues, fruit, intellectual debate (Giles and co) and nonsensical noise (me). A great evening all round and not an iota more to eat – well, until the Old Spot sausages and bacon 8 hours later… what else are weekends for!?

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