Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Few Good Wines

Tonight got off to a bad start. With a relay of six already sitting on the books, before we had even opened the doors at seven we had picked up another resit for two, the ceiling started dripping water onto table twelve and then we pick up another table of two, who didnt like their booking in the Brasserie. Ten resits was set to be a new record for us, and one that we would rather not set. Resits have the potential to really screw up our evening, if the first tables are late then the likelihood of us getting the table back in time to turn it around for a 9:00pm resit are pissed out the window. But we get our heads down and make the best of a bad situation. Service starts and the flow soon picks up. Ive got a pre-order in for a bottle of Mouton Rothschild 1990, which is a great start to the evening. I have a soft spot for Mouton, more so than any other claret. I must have tried about seven or eight different vintages of Mouton and I can honestly say I havent had a poor one yet, even in marginal vintages it still shines. Of the first growths, the ninety Mouton has probably been the slowest to blossom, but its starting to really open out now, and with another decade or two ahead of it, by good this wine is going to be good.

The label image was one of Francis Bacon's last pieces of work before his death in 1992.

The wine has a brooding spicy note to the aromas of sweet black fruit with jammy plums and xmas spices in there too. Each sniff brings different smells and characters - oaky spicy notes mingle with the fruit and suggest a full flavoured, rich wine. On the palate it is deceivingly soft and feminine with fine tannins supporting rich black fruit flavours, with oaky toasted characters weaving through the flavours. If possible I would say this tastes expensive. It would be interesting to see if I could distinguish it from a cheaper Pauillac tasted blind. An exercise perhaps for when I win the lottery!! I was pleasantly surprised when I opened a bottle of 1995 Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux-St-Jacques 1er Cru by Denis Mortet and found similarities in the nose.

Just over a hectare in size, the Lavaux St Jacques vineyard is a premier cru vineyard just next to the Clos St Jacques. Using old vines and a meticulous vineyard management which includes ruthless de-stemming, debudding and pruning to reduce the yields down to the bare minimum. The fields are all deep ploughed in order to force the vines to dig deep to find nourishment. The end result from this is a very small quantity of super premium fruit, rich concentrated flavours with intensity. This is reduced even further with a severe triage in the vineyard then a further triage at the winery. Only the very best and ripest fruit is used. It is de-stemmed before vinification in concrete cuves of various sizes. With the pigeage being done as many as four times a day at the peak of the cuvaison, that is as much intervention as the wine will recieve. A period of maturation in predominantly new oak, the wines are allowed to undergo malo-lactic fermentation to soften out the acids and then bottles unfiltered and often unfined. That means these are not clear wines, there is often a fine sediment suspended in there, and personally I feel that adds to the character of the wine.

At first the wine presented similarly spicy notes on the nose with plummy fruits in the background and a hint of ripened raspberries. There was a deep aroma of dark chocolate with raw beetroot flavours in there too. Bloody marvelous wine from a dedicated and passionate producer. Tragically he took his own life earlier this year for reasons that are unclear. The legacy of his wines continues.

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