Monday, 25 July 2011

Mature Burgundy lunch - and a Lazarus 1923!

By Matthew Hemming, Fine Wine Manager

I had lunch today with the generous client who'd provided the old Aussie wines for tasting the other night (see other post).

He'd been kind enough to line up a magnum of 1979 Burgundy so I dug out a couple of interesting, but ullaged and potentially challenging, old halves. In case of a complete wipe out I had some young white in the car, but luckily it stayed there!

We ate at the restaurant of a friend who had been a guest at the Australian tasting and he pulled out all the stops for lunch. I haven't got pics but I'll list the dishes at the end and urge anyone visiting Bristol to check out the Pump House. Today's lunch was awesome.


Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches rouge 1979 - Drouhin.
From magnum. Evolved mahogany colour and bricking. Had a bewitching aroma of sweet red fruit and rose hips that kept evolving and changing in the glass - impossible to pin down. On the palate it was cool, silky. Perhaps not the most complex but with gorgeously unforced and natural sweet strawberry fruit. With time it gained in breadth. The finish was long and coated the palate with scent. Lovely and at peak now. 17+

Clos du Tart 1945
From a domaine-bottled half bottle. This is the second time I've had this in the last year, the first being an awesome bottle at lunch with Neal Martin (of www.erobertparker.com) at the same restaurant last year - it appeared on both of our 'wines of the year' lists. This was strikingly similar. Brilliant, youthful colour that was essentially younger-looking than the 1979. Aroma of crisp, red Pinot Noir fruit and spice, developing spicy musk notes. Bloody hell this was good. Over a 4 hour lunch this grew and evolved, never fading. The palate showed some leather notes and rich incense spice. Really lively and still showing plenty of fruit and even some delicately chalky tannin. Layered, rich and yet light on its feet. This was an absolutely stunning glass of wine with a long, beguiling finish. The 19/20 has nothing to do with the vintage - it was JUST THAT GOOD!

Le Musigny 1923
Another half, with significant ullage, bottled by Averys. This would suggest a Vogue wine, as that's where most of our old Musigny came from, although I've never had one this old. The cork crumbled but the base came out intact. On opening I was extremely sceptical - totally brown with a dead fruit, maderised, molasses aroma. The palate showed the vestiges of rich fruit and weight, but it was essentially DOA. Nevertheless, with a mag and a half bottle between two of us (and all the passing staff we could persuade to have a glass) we kept this in hope that a bit of oxygen would work some magic. Guess what...it sort of worked. The wine remained oxidised, but some sort of Lazarus-like thing happened. It gained in depth and fruit. Spice appeared and the sherried element receded - although not entirely. By the end of lunch, and the end of the half, I could get a sense of black fruit, depth and power. You could sense the richness of the year. Far from a perfect 1923 but a fascinating drink and a real treat. No score for this as there's no point.

As for the food...

We had two pre-starters that we hadn't ordered. First up, a trio of cured salmon, assembled as a bite-sized terrine sort of thing, served with a horseradish-filled beetroot ravioli. Great palate cleanser and fluffer of the gastric juices. (we didn't start the red Burgundy with this)

Second was smoked quail with a pickled quail's egg yolk on a savoury meringue (made with the white) and rocket foraged from just over the road in an abandoned building! Superbly smokey and the yolk was gorgeous.

My starter proper was squid and seaweed with samphire. Two types of seaweed foraged from beaches on the Severn estuary were delicious. Something called lava seaweed was thick, toothsome and quite fishy, a bit like some sort of nori wrapper. Toby had also made some sort of bisque that he'd set as little jellied spheres, some coloured with the squid ink, that made cavier-like explosions on the palate.

My guest's starter was a gorgeous take on lambs liver, bacon and onions that I've had before. The liver having been cooked in a water bath and being meltingly fine, all served in a gigantic, battered onion ring. Looked and tasted a lot better than it sounds.

For a main we both had guinea fowl served on a smear (is there a better word?) of black pudding puree, with a sausage that was some sort of black pudding / guinea fowl combo with brilliant mustard mash and green beans. Neal Martin and the guys had had this at our Cheval Blanc / Petrus lunch last week and I'd been gutted not to have picked the same. Today's did not disappoint.

We decided to skip dessert, but Toby sent down a tasting plate of English summer fruit type concoctions, including some sort of canneloni of raspberry filled with a flavoured cream, and lots of fresh elderflower, gooseberry, strawberry type flavours with texture coming from meringues, jellies and suchlike. Can't remember the details, but it was fresh, light and lovely.

Finally we wrapped up with a bit of cheese.

I need to hone my food writing before I can do justice to meals like this, but the wines were stonking and I really can't say enough nice stuff about the Pump House in Bristol (google it - no connection other than they're friends of mine and I spend too much money there).

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