A recent dinner with some friends in Canberra, including the very best red wine I have been lucky enough to taste.

I know I have been talking about a fair few international wines recently which is a deviation from the theme of the site, but I hope to get back to more Australian content shortly with some international wines just every now and again.

All wines were tasted blind by me as I was the recipient of kindness from some of the most generous people you could hope to meet, and was asked not to bring a bottle.

White wine bottles

Seppelt Keppoch “Rhine” Riesling 1977
Light golden in colour. The nose is nice, still exhibits vibrancy but also the secondary aged characters – very waxy as well as butter, toast, lemon rind and some nuttiness. Acid is still there, propping up the palate, exhibits good length but perhaps lacks a bit of depth to take this to brilliance.

Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldcapsule 1988
Orange marmalade coloured. Nose shows peaches, apricot, honey, marmalade and some slate. The palate has plenty of sweetness and while it is not over the top, it feels like the acid isn’t quite there to balance things out. Good, but looked a bit tired based on this bottle.

Domaine William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2000
A little bit of sulphur initially that mostly blew off quickly in the glass. Has a tight nose – some pear, lime, minerals and a dab of aged cheese. The palate is super lovely, with precision and focus driving towards the finish that is of exceptional length. Superb structure and greater rewards will come with patience.

Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru Millésime Champagne 1996
This wine was showing a fine bead with good mousse. Has a rich and powerful nose of brioche, toast, yeast and some oxidative characters. To me, the palate is almost the opposite, exhibiting great freshness and zing, with awesome length and depth of flavour. I suspect it is drinking close to its peak already, no need to hold onto this before enjoying it.

Domaine François Raveneau Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre Chablis 1997
A tight, somewhat mute nose which started to open up a bit to show quite a bit of sulphur as well as soap, lemons and bananas. Palate is rather restrained as well. This bottle probably didn’t have the structure to come out of the other side of whatever rut it was in.

Red wine bottles

Domaine Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes 1995
There was just a hint of browning around the edges of this wine. The nose seems quite nice, stalks, pepper, blood and cherry. The palate is rather a let down though after the complex nose, out of balance acid and tannins smothering other elements. Shows some flavour intensity on the mid-palate but then finishes short.

Château Le Gay 1982
A great vibrant youthful red hue. Nose shows aromas of tobacco, cedar, well integrated oak, plums, chocolate and blackcurrant. A very elegant palate with lovely balance and length. Drinking superbly now, but in no danger of falling over soon.

Château Cheval Blanc 1985
The first thing I wrote was “A complete step up in class from the previous wine”. The Le Gay was lovely, but this was totally magnificent!

A superbly layered, lifted, complex nose of tobacco, coffee, earth, liquorice, cherry, raspberry and fresh thyme and rosemary. Has an entrancing, completely seductive palate with flawless structure and balance. Brilliant, endless length. Somebody help me, I’m running out of superlatives. Well stored bottles that survive the cork lottery will surely live for decades.

I’m glad I tasted this blind, because I wonder if I would have let myself love it so much if I had known in advance what it was.

Château Rayas Reserve Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1988
A nose of olives, leather, nail polish, roast vegetables, sizzling bacon fat and burnt toast. To be honest, my description of the nose doesn’t accurately describe just how terrible it was. The palate was drinkable but stripped of any likeable characters – thin and acidic. I left a half glass for a number of hours, trying to coax something to like out of this, but in the end had to give up the cause as hopeless.

Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 1982
Very youthful colour with no signs of browning. Nose has aromas of smoke, raw meat and some bretty notes. Lots of sweet red fruit on the well balanced palate.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 1982
Deep youthful violet colour. Nose that conveys essence of capsicum as well as some roast vegetables, cedar, stalky green notes and tobacco. Palate seems harsh and a bit short. Not at all like the superb bottle that we had at the Australian wine night that showed brilliantly, another victim of random variation.

Sweet Wine Bottles

Château d’Yquem 1981
Mid-golden colour. A fairly typical (in my experience) medium intensity Sauternes nose of botrytis, apricot, honey and marmalade. A rich palate, with good acid structure but bitterness on the back-palate ruins the finish. Very nice, but I probably didn’t like it quite enough to buy for my (poor vintage) birth-year drinking.

Dr. H. Thanisch (Erben Müller-Burggraef) Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling-Trockenbeerenauslese 1994
I thought it was German TBA straight away, but imagine my surprise when options veered to 1980s Australia. Wild stabbing in the dark identity guessing ensued until the deceit was unveiled 😉

A deep golden-orange colour. Has an intense nose of honey, spice, slate and caramel. Very intense sweetness on the palate which dominates the acid just slightly. For me, more interest and complexity than the D’Yquem. This was ready, willing and able to be consumed now and in the near future.

Penfolds Great Grandfather Grand Old Liqueur Limited Release 2 “Tawny Port” NV
A generous gesture by our host at the end of the evening to open this rare fortified wine for us. A complex, intense nose of roasted walnuts, oak, caramel, toffee, rancio and raisins as well as some initial alcoholic heat. The front of the palate lacks balance with alcohol and oak dominating – still has a very nice rich texture to it as well as shrugging off the imbalance at the mid-palate stage and showing a 30+ second finish.

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. The Cheval Blanc sounds sublime.

    By the way, learn something new every day, we share the same birth year. Any suggestions of wines or regions with great vintages in that fine year?

  2. Murray, ’81 is somewhat a blessing as well as a curse.

    It wasn’t a spectacular vintage anywhere really, but this also means that prices for wines from ’81 can be a quarter of the price of ’82 which is regarded as being a great Bordeaux vintage.

    Champagne from ’81 gets the thumbs up from a friend who is knowledgable in these things, but they aren’t exactly frequently available. Grange should be good and Australian vintage fortifieds are in the good value spectrum.

    I’m going to a dinner with some people later this month with the theme being “birthyear wines” and I believe among the 81s we are having are Trimbach Clos St Hune Riesling, Tyrrells Vat 9 Shiraz, Grange, La Mission Haut Brion and Haut Brion – so I’ll certainly report back on how they are going.

    I don’t expect there will be anything much around for my birthday from about my 30th onwards, so the plan has to be to get married in a great vintage 😉

  3. Sounds like you have those marriage plan priorities straight Cam! Good stuff 😉

  4. It sounds like it was a wonderful evening!! That’s what I love about wine. Even though you have raved about the wine it probably was just the highlight of a fantastic evening of conversation and friendship. It seems that good wine, and a love and appreciation of it, just adds to and accentuates special occasions.

  5. Absolutely Mal, I’ve met some tremendous people through a shared love of wine – even if half the wine on this (or any) night had been terrible, it still would have been plenty of fun.

  6. […] The Wine: When Neil sent the list of Champagne that he had access to, one name immediately caught my attention – Egly-Ouriet, one of my favourite producers in Champagne. The wine that he listed was the Grand Cru Cuvee Non Dose NV which is a wine from the Egly range that I haven’t tried before (I have spoken about other Egly-Ouriet wines here, here and here). […]

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