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Chris’ farewell: 1988 Leoville Las-Cases, 1983 Cos D’Estournel, 1996 Lynch Bages…

May 31, 2012

The wines below were drunk over an 11-course degustation menu at Saint-Pierre, 29 May 2012, on the occasion of Chris’ farewell as he embarks upon a sabbatical to the New World. The restaurant seemed to have, yet again, undergone another change of personnel since the last time I ate there. Most of the staff are new, including its sommelier, except for Desmond and, inevitably, this resulted in an uneven level of service throughout dinner. The wine theme was kept informal, each of us simply bringing what we felt would be appropriate for a friend who’d be going away.

The sommelier did well to recommend me the Jacquesson Cuvee No. 734 Brut NV, a blend of chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir, whilst awaiting for everyone to arrive. This proved to be very open and lifted with aromas of yellow citrus and roasted almonds, boasting  excellent weight and great vibrancy, layered with a hint of tropical fruit beneath – most unusual, no doubt contributed by the pinot grapes – and not as yeasty compared to usual champagne, exceedingly smooth. It became even more open towards the end, developing lovely aromatics, almost nectarine in character, as well as some grassy overtones. Excellent.

The rest of the table opened the evening’s proceedings with a 2000 Dom Perignon (courtesy Vic). Compared with the Jacquesson, this wine is much lighter in body but higher-toned, very lifted on the nose, clear, crystalline and seamless on the palate though yet to develop it’s nuances. It became slightly heavier after some time, the classic yeastiness and toasted oak of Dom Perignon coming on along with a bit of sweetness that crept in. Excellent stuff, but it needs another 10 years of rest. The obligatory white that followed came courtesy of GPP, a 2006 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru that was notably restrained, almost muted, covered with just a mild creamy sheen. It could certainly do with a greater degree of fullness in the mid-body, while it is still certainly unresolved at the finish. Some felt that it was highly sophisticated but I begged to differ…a Bonneau du Martray will most certainly put this in the shade.

We drank the three reds simultaneously, although poured in the order, firstly, of a 1983 Ch Cos D’Estournel (courtesy KP). This bottle was popped and poured instantly, as KP and Hiok, who’d had the same wine before recently, felt that it would fade rather quickly. However, this bottle was anything but dead. Some forest floor and barnyard aromas greeted one on the nose but that blew off quickly, revealing some rather glorious fruit that was still remarkably fresh and full, exuding classic aged Old World aromatics that recalled old leather, cinnamon, mushrooms and snuff. It was just a tad short but very satisfying nontheless, the wine retaining great acidity right till the end of dinner. Quite wonderful. What followed next was my penultimate bottle of 1988 Ch Leoville Las Cases (double decanted for 2 hours), predictably dense with a trace of licorice but nobody would have expected the lifted fragrance and fresh acidity to last after all these years, the wine full-bodied, structured and stern on the palate. Absolutely harmonious with great definition. Superb. The final wine, a 1996 Ch Lynch Bages (courtesy Hiok) that had been double decanted as well, was full bodied and intense, throwing off an almost soy-like quality. It didn’t take long for the classic dry Pauillac signature to develop, along with a trace of sweetness at the edges. Still rather tight and backward. Needs plenty more bottle age, but no doubt at all this is a great  wine going through its adolescence.

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