At the beginning of the week Jeremy Rata held his annual Paulee over at the Devonshire Arms. Basically about 30 people from the trade are invited to a spectacular blowout to which they bring a couple of bottles of cherished wine from their collection/cellar/store. Its usually a slightly worrying time for me, because my MD and Rata and David Nicholson from Holbeck Ghyll have this kind of schoolboyish rivally thing going on where they try to outdo each other with what they bring. This has led to trying to find something so obscure and left-wing that no-one will be able to guess what it is when its served blind. Weve had a really obscure white burgundy that is made from Pinot Blanc, Champagnes made from Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Gris as well as the three "traditional" varieties, and several other oddities. I have to confess that looking at the list of wines that were shown afterwards I get a twinge of jealousy at the blockbuster wines that are consumed. Im eagerly looking forward to reading this years list and seeing what was on offer.
This year I decided to try and focus on something extra-ordinary, a top-end Burgundy from one of the undisputed masters of the region. So I sent the boss along with two bottles of Armand Rousseau's Charmes-Chambertin 1996 Grand Cru. 1996 was the vintage that they introduced the stainless steel vats into the domaine, and I think that this shows in the smooth silky elegance of the wine. Quite floral, with notes of Violets and a background earthyness that I smelt last weekend, as I potted my seeds in the garden, with the rich earthy loam I was using as potting compost. At first the fruit character is quite restrained, but as it opens out it starts off with almost under-ripe black cherries, with alpine strawberries and a touch of redcurrants. The aromas grow into a kind of black-forest gateaux richness of cherry, red sauce and a touch of chocolate about it too. This wine charms the pants off you, quite literally, and it is that smoothness, elegance and yes, I suppose charm, that helps me to identify it. I understand from the boss, that until he left at around fourish (pm not am!!) it was undisputed star of the event. Im glad, but Im saddened at the possibility that this might be the last one he attends. Apparently there is only so much fine wine and food one can manage, and the event has grown into such a spectacle of one-upmanship that it has become difficult to appreciate all that is on offer.
Oh well I shall have to see what was on offer this year when the list becomes available, and who knows what the future may hold.