A dinner was organized at Ibiza in New Haven last night with the concept of bringing a 'bottle of pain' - one of those rare or expensive bottles in the cellar you're always looking for an occasion to open, but never end up opening. Drinking a lineup of those wines over a long, leisurely dinner was anything but painful though, especially in a lovely setting with an absolutely outstanding meal. We had a few corked and dead bottles (also a couple of old Northern Rhones from the 1970s that were both DOA where I didn't note names), but the bottles that showed well were for the most part stellar.
1995 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
What a way to start the evening. Stunning aromatics that just keep building and developing with air; fresh citrus, peach and lemon zest augmented by richer doughy, caramel and vanilla cream elements. There's amazing power and length here, a stunning sense of purity and focus to the flavours and a remarkable finish that just keeps resonating. Flat out wow.
1985 Krug Champagne Brut Collection
Gentler and more restrained than the Salon; showing its age with developed toasty, nutty and caramel aromas around a core of rich fruit. There's also a high toned floral quality that develops with time, and a sense of real finesse and focus on the palate that makes this really easy to drink, though it suffers slightly in comparison to the Salon, not showing the same depth or persistence.
2010 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Clos la Néore
Stunning as ever. High toned minty and herbal notes, a core of pure grapefruit flavours and a chalky mineral undercurrent all conveyed with amazing elegance, focus and a finish that never leaves. This is incredibly young right now and needs so much more time, but the balance, depth and purity here make it absolutely compelling.
2002 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Clos la Néore
Oh, my. Starts with an intoxicating perfume that keeps building and changing with air; the classic Vatan fragrance combining spearmint, fresh herbal flavours, ripe grapefruit and a vivid minerality. There's a sense of restraint and calm here; flavours that don't impose themselves but gently unravel and amazing purity, depth and persistence.
2007 Lur-Saluces "Y"
Really struggles following the pair of Vatans; I suspect I'd have enjoyed this more in a different context as being poured right after the 2002 and 2010 Vatans, it comes across heavy handed, extracted and lacking in finesse. There's ripe grapefruit, an exotic strawberry-like character and high toned herbal flavours, a sense of creaminess and density on the palate but it leaves me wanting more acidity and precision.
1995 Henri Boillot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières
Great stuff. Thankfully this isn't premoxed; instead offering a dazzling fragrance combining orchard fruits, almond butter, toasted hazelnuts and higher toned spicy elements. There's a sense of tremendous power and elegance in the mouth, a mineral undercurrent beneath the layers of fruit and savoury flavours and striking length, though it finishes just a touch warm.
2007 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Brand
Something's quite off here. Rather spritzy, sour and showing barely any fruit; not sure if this refermented in bottle or what happened here, but this doesn't taste anything like what I'd expect from ZH and is unrecognizable as Riesling.
1996 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
I've found some of Guigal's LaLas too oaky or heavy-handed in the past, but this bottle's really fantastic - vividly smoky and meaty with pure black olive and red fruit flavours and a sharp saline/umami aspect on the back end. It's quite light on its feet with the fruit fresh but not heavy and a bright acid spine beneath keeping it very well balanced. Lovely wine.
1990 Château Cheval Blanc
Jawdroppingly great. A spectacular fragrance that starts with green herbal and forestal notes framing rich fruit, cedar and cigar smoke, and with air it becomes increasingly exotic and spicy. There's tremendous intensity and power on the palate yet there's stunning balance and finesse, a flamboyant spiciness to the flavours and incredible length with the savoury and spicy flavours lingering long after each sip. Thrilling wine.
1995 Château Lafite Rothschild
At first this is almost like tasting a barrel sample. Painfully young, reticent and tannic initially, yet conveying a sense of remarkable power and grace even through the wall of tannins. With some time in the decanter and glass it eases up a lot as a lovely perfume builds and it becomes much more accessible with cedary, tobacco, graphite and rich blackcurrant and other dark fruited flavours all coming together. There's wonderful purity and balance to the flavours, though this has such a long time ahead.
1981 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 890
Corked. Aw, crap.
1970 Château Lascombes
Fully mature and drinking beautifully right now. There's a remarkably vivid minty fragrance, and high toned herbal flavours, mature red fruits, cedar and leathery notes coming together on the palate. It's not a big or intense wine - medium weight with a spine of bright acidity still keeping it very lively and vibrant, but it's quite lovely to drink.
1966 Château Palmer
There's certainly a touch of brett here with leathery and iodine scents, but it's not particularly prominent and only adds to the mature earthy, truffled, tobacco and gentle red fruited flavours here. This is in that zone of perfect maturity with the fruit gentle though not yet faded and tinged by a patina of developed flavours, and the tannins perfectly integrated giving it a polished, silken mouthfeel. Lovely stuff.
2000 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
Absolutely glorious after spending a few hours in a decanter. An almost hypnotic fragrance that combines sweet floral and red fruited scents with more savoury and earthy notes, and amazing finesse and polish on the palate - flavour conveyed with amazing intensity yet barely any sense of weight, and that silken finesse I expect from Musigny. Wow!
1994 Ridge Monte Bello
Still very youthful and rich, but really great to drink now. Rich, ripe, sweet blackcurrant and plummy fruit framed by vanilla, oak spice and more exotic sandalwood notes, but turning more savoury with some time in the glass. Power conveyed with great balance here, and wonderful length.
There were also a couple of dessert wines poured after (a '76 TBA and an Eiswein), but my palate was pretty shot by then and I was content just to smell the last few drops of the Musigny.
An amazing evening - thanks all!