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RWJ 10,000

December 22, 2010

Achieving 10,000 hits for RWJ (6 months after hitting the first 5,000) seemed like a really good opportunity to crack a few top drops. A dinner worthy of the occasion was arranged on 23 November 2010 with the usual suspects at Garibaldi, where the maitre’d Paolo, as well as Gilbert (all formerly of Iggy’s), were on hand to take care of the evening’s proceedings. I’d let loose that I’d be bringing a 100-pointer…now hang on…RWJ doesn’t score wines (it’s all in the tasting notes, man), so what are we talking about here?! But everyone got the idea, and the entire line-up (save for the champagne) was double-blinded. Hiok and I had double-decanted our wines, while the remainder were decanted there and then. We drank them in the order described, after which each of us had to declare specifically what we thought we’d drunk.

Kieron got us started with a 2000 Pierre Peters Brut Cuvee Speciale “Les Chetillons”, probably at its best this particular evening since Boon (Wein & Vin) first introduced it to us back in July. Liquid gold. Highly complex on the nose with lifted notes of vanilla, promising deep nutty flavours that broadened on the palate with plenty of sparkling minerality, roast, toast and smoke. Very lively and rounded. Lots of similarities with Krug, a tad less dense, but there’s no lack of complexity, the wine continuing to evolve all the way through dinner. Astonishing results for a vintage that’s not particularly exceptional. Perhaps 2000 has been underrated for champagne? Whatever it is, this wine has yet to peak, and I’m not opening my 5 remaining bottles anywhere in the near future. A superb start.

Now what about the solitary white , courtesy of David? Brilliant luminous gold. One appreciates the sophisticated density and great concentration, layered with a buttery, creamy texture supported by firm minerality without being metallic. Very lifted, with a distinctive oiliness  in the middle lined by some vanilla, displaying superb focus and linearity matched by amazing depth and great persistence. A wonderful experience. This is a white Burgundy of impeccable pedigree. I was reminded of a Corton-Charlemagne. I ventured aloud: Bonneau du Martray? Close. A 2005 Domaine Faiveley Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. Very, very lovely.

One look at the 5 blinded bottles of red and we knew from the bottle contours that they’re all Bordeaux, or some sort of Bordeaux blend. The first red (courtesy of PS), bright crimson, was immediately reminiscent of a Ch Leoville Las-Cases on the nose (called out by Kieron, and I tend to agree). There’s plenty of that signature old leather, cassis, slight ferrous minerality and austere mustiness to the fore, peppered with a bit of spice. Rounded, obviously mature with well-integrated tannins, its excellent structure still intact. But later, after having tasted the entire line-up, I thought this was likely to be St-Julien, although probably not a Las-Cases because by then it had developed some sweetness at the edges. A 1982 Ch Ducru Beaucaillou?

The second red (courtesy of Hiok), obviously another mature red judging by its evolved crimson, possessed a slightly herbal, medicinal quality covered with sweet overtones that leapt from the glass. There was quite a distinctive barnyard note on the nose coupled with a hint of rusticity, consistent with the gravelly texture and a steeliness that imparted a sense of toughness on the mid-palate, replete with sexy tannins within a large frame, though somewhat short at the finish where the medicinal tinge again reared its head, the wine threatening to dry out after 2 hours in the glass. Ch La Mission Haut-Brion, 1986?

The next red (courtesy of Victor) was immediately different from the above two. Deep inky red. Highly homogenous on the nose with an abundance of Burgundian aromas full of sweet roses in full bloom. Big on the palate with full-blown but ultra-smooth tannins, gravelly in texture and slightly austere at the finish.  Not as layered, but it’s beautifully focused. Hmmm…St-Estephe? Ch Montrose?

The fourth red (courtesy of Kieron) was also remarkably similar to the preceding one – deep ruby red with a tightly-knit nose suggesting lots of gravel and heated stones. Medium-full, smooth and seamless and beautifully integrated with a greater degree of depth that wasn’t quite there in the previous wine. This is almost as if we’re drinking some distilled essence, with a bit of biting tannins at the finish. Superb, but what is it? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

When the final red was poured, murmurs of “Lafite” went round the table, uttered with confidence. Immeasurably complex with characters of undergrowth and liquer on the nose, glycerin and graphite on the palate, concentrated yet imbued with layers of subtle nuances that arose from its depths. It gradually opened up over time to reveal highly structured, tightly-knit velvety tannins. Just lasts and lasts. Powerful, yet backward with a certain degree of aloofness that’s completely in keeping with the character of this great estate. No, I knew it cannot be Lafite. Everything about this wine spells Delon. It must be the 1986 Ch Leoville Las-Cases I’d brought, a wine that’s already 24 years of age, but still far from its peak.

So what exactly did we drink?

Red #1: 1982 Ch Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Red #2: 1982 Ch Pontet-Canet

Red #3: 2000 Gaja Sperss

Red #4: 1997 Gaja Sperss

Red #5: 1986 Ch Leoville Las-Cases

Well, at least I guessed my baby correctly. It is fascinating how well the 1982s are still performing after all these years, and how the GPL punches way above its weight even from those days when techniques in the vineyard and the cellar were nowhere near today’s standards. That showed just how fabulous 1982 was. It was also fantastic having 2 vintages of Gaja Sperss side-by-side, the vintage of 1997 underlining ts superiority. And finally the 1986 Leoville Las-Cases, which has evolved into a more open wine since the last time I had it some 5 years ago (courtesy of Hiok), when it was still very backward, dark and brooding. It’s simply amazing how the complexities of this wine easily matches that of a First Growth. As far as I’m concerned, Las-Cases is a Premiere Cru through and through. And that concludes a most enjoyable and memorable dinner that, really, would not have taken place without the continued support of everyone who regularly logs onto RWJ.

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