It's all too easy to assume that the finest wines must be preserved for some hallowed occasion, a well-planned and memorable lunch or dinner; that they are somehow only relevant to fine dining, hushed tones around a well-stocked dining table with lots of reverential sipping and 'oohs' and 'aahs'.
Well on Sunday last this was exactly the case - but not as you might have pictured it.
The hallowed occasion? England vs Wales at the Home of English Rugby. The fine dining? Smoked salmon, lobster canapés, slow roasted lamb with the trimmings, a selection of epic cheeses - in the sun-bathed surroundings of the Cardinal Vaughan playing field next to the stadium. It's fair to say the 'oohs' and 'aahs' came slightly later in the day (the 'oohs' from the English cooing over the exquisite scrum-half play of Danny Care, the 'aahs' directed towards the travelling Welsh - some all the way from west London or even Hampshire). The only thing missing was the sipping... As a group of 6 friends, clients, colleagues enthusiastically worked their way through a few sumptuous bottles.
You know by now that we are hedonists by nature at BI so it will come as no surprise that when wine is required, corners will not be cut. Provided from the generous combined cellars of our host and our own David Thomas, the mixture of bottles was as diverse as it was delicious.
Turkey Flat Sparkling Shiraz NV
Anyone who considers this type of wine an abomination must try it on a spring day with a piece of tender lamb. Beautiful blackberry and black and white pepper notes, a whiff of white flower and a fascinating texture which combines tannin and delicate mousse... It just works.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1996
What a beauty. Huge Comtes fans as we are, this is from a magnificent vintage and whilst beguiling now, with beautiful BdeB characters of toasted brioche and baked lemons, it has years ahead of it.
David Leclapart 'L'Artiste' 1er Cru 2006
My first taste of this 'Selosse Disciple' and what a stunner it is. Soft and gentle on entry, it rapidly builds in the mouth with beautiful English hedgerow, vegetal characters balancing the pure citrus fruit and buttery biscuit notes. Huge finish. What an extraordinary drop - if you haven't tried this then I urge you to seek it out...
Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin 2005
Ah, my old friend Rousseau. What trouble you often lead me to. There's something about the crystalline, finely textured, granular, explosive intensity of Rousseau's wines that puts them into a different stratosphere. Despite being a baby, this was already hugely satisfying with layers of perfectly ripe cherry, wild strawberry and pomegranate mixed with the whiff of soy and Asian spices which characterises the top level of Burgundy. Chapeau, in the strongest sense.
Clos des Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2000
A side-step of fitting quality, this took me by surprise with its unbelievable depth and richness and yet it was sublimely elegant and with a touch so delicate, it whispered across the palate. A mind blowing combination of flavours from the deepest, most complex kirsch liqueur to baked meat, night flowers and sweet spice, it was a wonder. I later discover this is 100 points from a certain critic... I can see why.
Dopff au Moulin Tokay Pinot Gris Vendange Tardives 1996
Sweet, light on its feet, mouth coating in its glycerol richness but with the finest boned acidity, this was like magical liquid marmalade. A truly awesome partner to the cheese board, this complemented the tanginess of the blue, the saltiness of the Alpine hard cheeses and the sour creaminess of the goats. Red wine with cheese? Forget it.
A very big thank you to our generous host and 'good loser' David Thomas for the wines.