A recent farewell to a friend who will be living in Burgundy for a year. So some of our usual group of wine lovers came together to send him off as best we could.

Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame 1996
Opened pretty powerfully on the nose, but seemed to become reclusive after a few minutes in the glass. Fresh green apple, dough, citrus peel and sherbert. The palate is soft and fluffy and while it isn’t overly broad, it does seem to be lacking a bit of definition and focus. I don’t think that this is going to age very well, it just doesn’t seem to have the expected acid structure (especially for a 96!), but I enjoyed it for drinking now.

Pol Roger Cuvee de Reserve 1979
Gentle, meandering bead. Caramel, lime, bread, hazelnuts and olive oil on the nose. The palate is distinctly earthy. Shows great restraint, as though the flavour is desperate to burst out but is held in check by the core of acid. Excellent length and a most enjoyable wine if you are a fan of aged Champagne.

Gerard Chavy “Les Folatieres” 1er cru Puligny-Montrachet 2002
Sulphur dominated initially, and while it remained prominent in the time it was in the glass there were also some aromas of stonefruits, citrus, restrained oak and minerals coming up as time went on. The palate is quite lovely with delicious focused fruit richness across the excellent length. Delicious to drink.

J.L. Chave Hermitage Blanc 1995
Copper gold in colour, much darker and a bit more advanced than the previous bottle opened a month or two ago. I still quite enjoyed it, with those perfumed aromas of citrus peel, pineapple, peaches and ginger still present but probably not quite as explosive. Palate tells a similar story, there is still good length and the balance is fine, it is just not as complex OR youthful as the last bottle. Very good, but knowing what it could have been is a bit of a disappointment.

Faiveley Clos de Beze 1999
Very expressive and exaggerated on the nose, and I could see how some might not enjoy it, it is in some ways a caricature of Pinot. You are hit with aromas of spearmint, toasty oak, rhubarb, cherry and raspberry. The palate is very approachable with bold flavour, good length and pleasing mouthfeel. The tannins were certainly there, but they are very fine and not obtrusive.

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache 1983
The nose on this is multi-layered, intoxicating and memorable with fennel, earth, leather, five spice, tea leaves and smoke aromas. The palate is a different story and is sadly looking a little bit tired and lacking in fruit. As a consequence the acid and tannins stand out a bit (although the tannins are clearly very fine), with a bit more fruit I’m sure that they wouldn’t have been a problem. Still, it’s not every day one gets a chance to drink La Tache, and I am thankful for the opportunity.

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1998
This wine is incredibly classy. The aromas of pencil shavings, iodine, graphite, gravel and juicy blackberry really burst out of the glass. The palate is serious and youthful, but has superior balance and is a delicious joy to drink. Great length and so open and enjoyable compared to what I had imagined that it may be and it still has the potential to get better.

Chateau Leoville Poyferre 1996
Probably a faulty bottle, there was a line of wine running up the entire side of the cork from memory. Very much dominated by earth, vegetables and vegemite on the nose and tannin on the palate. Flavour fell away on the mid-palate and never returned. Cleaned up a very slight amount in the glass, but it was still pretty un-enjoyable.

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 1982
Mid purple in colour. Brooding nose of crushed rock/gravel, tobacco, blackcurrant, spice, floral hints and cedar. Superb concentration and rather amazing length. So young and with so much densely coiled fruit and potential. Needs another 10+ years to fully show what it is capable of. A superb, beautiful wine that was somehow humbled by the next bottle in line.

Cheval Blanc 1964
This wine almost brought silence to the table, with people on the verge of speechlessness but for an occasional uttered superlative. It was as though people just wanted to savour being in the presence of this wine. My notes for this night have been held up by this wine, what can one say to do it justice? On one occasion sitting down to write about it I was almost overcome with emotion just thinking back about the experience of drinking it.

Incredible colour, no bricking around the rim – in fact it is even more youthful in colour than the ’82 LMHB side by side. Utterly seductive, layered aromas of cherry, spice, raspberry, rosemary, cedar and truffles. The palate continues the stunning trend with peerless structure from the finest tannins I can imagine and breathtaking balance from the ripe, layered fruit. There are the youthful, luscious flavours that come together in harmony with the more complex and layered aged textures and flavour. Endlessly long on the palate, and will spend the length of my life in my memory.

The third wine that I’ve given 100 points, and like the other two, it took a couple of weeks of thought to be certain that they were deserving of the score and that it wasn’t just the emotion of the moment, but I am now certain that it is worthy.

Guigal Brune et Blonde 1985
This wine stood up well, despite having an impossible act to follow. Spice, earth, smoke and meaty, animal like aromas that could be off-putting to some, but I personally thought were enjoyable. A good, balanced palate without a great deal of complexity but drinking right at its peak and providing a lot of pleasure.

Dom Perignon 1996
The third time I’ve had the chance to try this, the first was stunning and the second couldn’t have been more disappointing as it was corked! This bottle was very much the equal of the first and served at a perfect time in the meal as an incredibly indulgent “palate cleanser” before dessert. Citrus peel, lemon meringue, toast and cherries on the nose. Beautifully elegant on the palate with brilliant acid structure and depth. Outstanding length and even though it is young, it is already an incredible wine.

Chateau d’Yquem 1983
Looking slightly advanced in colour compared to some bottles that other people have had of this wine. On the nose there was butterscotch, apricots, honey, marmalade and a nutty element. Fine balance between acid and sweetness on the palate, with richness across the excellent length and then finishing dry. Very good, but I think the palate is a bit simple in order for this bottle that seemed to be at its peak to be amazing.

Chambers Rare Muscat NV
I had the Rare Tokay around a month ago, so it was going to be interesting to compare. The nose starts off with some expected aromas of toffee, caramel, brown sugar and raisins and then all of a sudden there was a surge of coconut and chocolate. Quite different on the palate to the Tokay, there is an astounding richness to the Muscat, much more so than the Tokay that is still powerful but a little bit more controlled and complex. This on the other hand is so unrelenting in its rich flavour that it is hard to find anything else on the extremely long palate. So the Muscat is a little bit one dimensional on the palate, but oh man what a dimension! I love it and find it incredible regardless.

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