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Ward 48 dinner at Jade Palace

August 23, 2009

DSC00141Each edition of these dinners for the HOs and MOs seem to reach new heights – the budget goes up, the venue more upmarket, the cuisine more sophisticated. But most significantly, this latest dinner on 20 August 2009 saw a major breakthrough where truly great wines were drunk.

The senior table began the evening with a 2004 Domaine William Fevre Chablis 1er Cru “Fourchaume” (Kieron). Very light toned, with a very attractive bouquet – heavily scented, floral, undertones of peach and honey, carrying well onto the palate. Loads of minerality and acidity, producing a very structured wine that’s almost strict, no-nonsense in character. Finishes sprightly. Good stuff, but, unfortunately on this occasion, it was overshadowed by the next white.

The 2005 Hestan Chardonnay (PS), in contrast, was a lot more flamboyant. Golden hued, with an initial bouquet of grapefruit and pineapples that eventually blossomed at the correct temperature to show off loads of creme and vanilla. Lush, with good body and complexity, although the finish seemed cluttered and unresolved. Less stuffing than a Kistler or Talbott, but it kept getting bigger in the glass, producing a deep note of apricot even right at the end. Certainly stole the show.

However, it was the pair of reds that made us realise that the wine selection for these ward dinners has reached new heights. I was supposed to have brought an ’89 Clerc Milon, but I just couldn’t locate it in my cellar, and had to make do with a 1995 Ch Calon Segur. Rusty red with a slightly evolved rim, giving off a soft, mellow bouquet framed by a hint of rusticity, but there was an unmistakable searing intensity beneath all that softness, reflecting top quality fruit. The entry was soft, almost delicate, giving way to a wine that was totally seamless and harmonious, finishing on a tertiary savoury note. It gave the impression of an ’80s Bordeaux, rather than a mid-90s wine. Never before has this level of wine been encountered at a ward dinner. It does not have the kind of toughness or ruggedness associated with the northern Medoc that I recalled was readily apparent in a 1996 Calon Segur tasted 3 years ago. Some commented that it’s atypical of St Estephe, but I felt this is the kind of peak quality that all great clarets aspire to achieve, regardless of origin. A great wine, by any standard, caught at its peak.

A fantastic pairThe ’95 Calon Segur would have been a tough act to follow, but the 1996 Dominus (K) that followed, most amazingly, matched up to it in every way. A similar rusty red, but slightly more evolved, with a very attractive bouquet reflecting ripe succulent fruit, laced with a touch of glycerin. Great entry as well, seamless, great body, good grip, infused with loads of cigar box and that so-called pencil shavings character. Very Old World. Would have easily mistaken it for a Pauillac. It got even better in the glass, developing velvety tannins, remaining absolutely harmonious and finishing long. Fantastic. I believe this bottle will be quite irreplaceable, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to taste it.

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