Instead of an annual Bordeaux en primeur tasting, our usual group decided to do something more interesting and arranged a dinner at The Ledbury, one of, if not the finest restaurants in the UK. Our friend and leader arranged the table and asked his good acquaintance to match the wines, magical pairings and once again, fantastic food, seamless service and great fun had by all.
We started with:
1996 Dom Perignon Oeneotheque brut
Light in colour, light effervescent mousse. Leesy nose, lemon skin, stony, then smokey which lasted wonderfully. Tart acidity with concentrated mineral and fruit, with great persistence, leaving a slightly chewy finish. Still seemed really very young. Excellent
1996 Larrivet Haut Brion blanc, Pessac Leognan
Dark asparagus pee colour, reminiscent of exotic fruits and hints of aged sauternes, lemony apricot and stony nose, with underlying vegetal slightly tomatoey nose. Honeyed hay, lemon curd, some intensity, with smooth seamless finish, with some underlying tomato again. Not completely appreciated by the table, the vegetal quality (semillion?) did not appeal. Medium finish. OK
The next wines were served in pairs with the beef dish
1996 Calon-Segur, St Estephe
Dark but starting to show some age around the rim. Dark smokey sweet coffee nose, sweet earth, heathery, cedary and woody, with high toned phenols. Nose kept us captivated, a really flirty wine (Frankie kept referring to this as Cologne Segur, very appropriate). Red and black currants, with savoury and sweet fruits, chocolate with sweet integrated tannins, leaving a very slightly chewy but then long fine finish with caramel aftertones. Really excellent. A showoff wine!
1996 Montrose, St Estephe
Showing no signs of ageing at all, darker than the Calon. Deeper darker fruit tones, rich earth, garrigue, liquorice, with more high toned phenols. This really evolved after 30 mins. Ripe blackcurrant with great acidity, tannins very fine but evident and well integrated. Persistent tart fruit providing a nice attack, and then leaving a fine long finish. Great wine, needed a couple of more years to really show its best.
The next two were served in pairs with the lamb (wowsa!)
1996 Lynch Bages, Pauillac
Deep and dark. Sweet perfumed blackcurrants, herbs and earth. This just grew and grew. Pure sweet fruit of blackcurrant, with spices. Purity on earth, leaving a concentrated line right down the middle of my throat. Excellent acidity balancing the tannins and sweet fruit, with just a hint of fresh tobacco. A deep rich finish that just went on and on and on. This is what great Bordeaux can do, just amazing. My WOTN.
1996 Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Dark dark wine, like the Montrose. Lead pencil and earth, with blackcurrants, herbs, tobacco, and high toned phenols. Took ages to give way. Still very tannic, slightly dry bitter edge, but with sweet currants. Chewy and persistent, intense. Very closed with a hot linear finish. A baby, come back in 5+ years. Very good but hard to say when this will turn.
A small cheese course was served to match the reds, some real wizardry here. A gruyere, a pecorino, a fougerus (like a camembert) and a delice de bourgogne. All great matches, but I felt the fougerus would have been better with a nice red cote de beaunes.
Dessert, served with fabulous small madelaines, some filled, some not. Fantastic!
1996 d'Yquem, Sauternes
Medium light in colour, not showing much age. Exotic fruits, perfume, pears, vanilla, apricots, white flowers, lemon and minerals. Grapefruity then petrolly flavours with a cloying sweetness, melon, vanilla. This is still a baby. Great finish but I really feel this needed another 10 years to show its best! Will be excellent one day...
The usual discussion ensued about whether a digestive was needed. I resisted while my fellow diners chose a marc de bourgogne. After the sommelier brought 3 glasses, they insisted on me joining in, and despite my protestations, I was brought a glass. Pure clear and clean, and when I sniffed, it showed no aroma. A small reluctant taste told me it was.... water. So, after making a big song and dance about really not wanting to drink it, I shot it straight down, challenged my friends to do the same, sat back and smiled - then thanked the wonderfully inventive sommelier for her great stunt! Brilliant.
Our heartfelt thanks to the professional, friendly and helpful staff at The Ledbury for a wonderful evening. They are a class act.