Sort of. Valérie and Lolo, long unseen friends, arrived at long last from their holidays in the Dordogne and the Massif Central. Valérie works for Laurent Perrier and is half owner and patronne of Reims’s highly recommended Le Bocal fish shop and restaurant. Bizarrely we had had a lovely afternoon and dinner with Valérie’s partner Nico and his wife in Tuscany just two two weeks ago.
Anne Laure, Nico’s wife also works for Laurent Perrier.
So far, so incestuous.
Anyway their arrival is always an excuse to pul out (rather too many) bottles)and have a bit of a bash. Clémence, Max, Marius and five month old Lison also arrived to complete the party.
Food wise it was the River Café’s simple roquette, courgette and parmesan salad, followed by fennel crusted short ribs and marinated lamb chops thrown on the barbie and all rather delicious. To finish and after the cheese Elodie made a delicious peach salad. The grilled almonds got lost in the mayhem but it was all very tasty.
But of liquidity? Well we went large: starting with a bottle of Lilbert Perle (anciennement a Crémant de Cramant) and then the bottle of Marie-Noëlle Ledru’s 2007 Goulte champagne. It’s been in the cellar for at least three years and at eight was rich, vinous and powerful. A huge contrast to Lilbert’s Blanc de Blanc and all muscle and body. If all champagne had this much character I would drink more.
As we moved crudité-wards a simple 2013 Janasse Viognier slipped down easy; it is becoming more harmonious and less angular with a little age, and frankly for the price – about twelve euros off the shelf – it’s a steal.
And then some big boys. 1985 was a big year in Burgundy and also in the Rhône. I had once been tasked with selling a stock of 1985 Hermitage La Chapelle from Jaboulet and to my surprise the client returned the wines because his client was not much a of a fan. It was a surprise to hear that and as a consequence I have long been awaiting a chance to taste disappointment, as it were. But it was not to be.
I note that the big man from Maryland scored it a 91 which is honourable, especially back then when frankly scores were harder to get (imho). The wine was youthful, vigorous and retains plenty of fine fruit and ageing potential. I couldn’t say it was too early, probably just about right. There were no nasty tertiary flavours, it was just quality, linear, proportioned, fine red wine.
“From my cellar, the 1985 appears to be developing at an evolved, precocious pace, but at the Jaboulets, the wine revealed far more force, vigor, structure, and weight. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2025” RM Parker Jr
As the La Chapelle was drained and the short ribs hit the table we moved on to a bottle of 2003 Sammarco from Castello dei Rampolla. From an unfancied, steamily hot year – in the driest sense of the world – it has always been a difficult sale. But it was singing last night: full rich, no dry tannins and no Italian slutty fruit. Poised, full and rich. Very fine but as it turned out the bottle was just not quite big enough.
And so Valérie and I went off to the cellar to select a final bottle. I broke into the last six bottles of my 2005 Chateau Musar. I loved this when first received three years ago but the previous bottle had been bizarrely off form. But last night it was right up there: gorgeous, proportioned red and black fruit, deliciously soft tannins it was a perfect bottle to finish the night. Complete and well formed in every sense of the word.
To my surprise it was a quarter to three and so I staggered off to bed. It is tribute to the wines that I woke up five and a half hours later with a head as clear as a bell and just the slightest desire for water.