1985, 1999, 2003, Armand Rousseau, Auslese, Bonneau Du Martray, Burgundy, Chardonnay, Charmes-Chambertin, Clive Coates MW, Corton-Charlemagne, Donnhoff, France, Germany, Grand Cru, Nahe, Oberhauser Brucke, Pinot Noir, Riesling
I need to preface this post by pointing out that it was my birthday, this was not exactly everyday fare! A half bottle of Dönnhoff’s Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2003 (8.0% ABV) is a great way to start any evening, and tonight was no exception. A bright mid-lemon colour with a sensuous viscosity, it had aromas of pear syrup, ripe peach and the barest whiff of kerosene. The palate had a grace and poise that belied its richness. Medium bodied and medium sweet, it showed honeyed mirabelle and peach fruit, a firm minerally character and fresh acidity in spite of the vintage. In no way tiring, this had plenty of life left in it. The finish was as plush as the palate, its sweetness fading to emphasise the drying minerality. Delightful and moreish.
Next up was a Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 1985. This is a wine which I was fortunate enough to pick up for a song at auction and which is nothing like the museum piece its vintage (or its label!) might suggest. I’ve tried this on several occasions and I always forget Clive Coates’ advice to decant it. Not so this time, although I was rather nervous about how far in advance to pull the cork. As it was, I double decanted it about half an hour before it was poured, but as we finished the bottle an hour later it had just about opened up completely. A 26 year old white wine! Needing an hour and a half to breathe! This wine never ceases to amaze me!
A deep lemon colour was about the only element of this wine that gave a hint to its age; the lemon and saline, gently toasty nose suggested maturity but showed no signs of tiredness or oxidation. As it opened up, I thought I detected a vegetal nuttiness that reminded me of roasted cauliflower – although I’m quite prepared to accept that this was auto-suggestion, given the cauliflower purée that accompanied the fish! Dry and toasty, faintly waxy lemon-scented fruit gave flesh to the skeleton of firm acidity and salty/oyster shell minerality. There was the touch of toffee that an aged, oaked Chardonnay develops, and maybe it was beginning to dry out a little, but the finish rang as clear and bright as a crystal bell.
If these two weren’t enough, the main course accompanied another amazing bottle, a Charmes-Chambertin 1999 from Armand Rousseau (13% ABV). Now twelve, this Grand Cru should have been coming in to its own and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It even looked fabulous: a medium garnet hue with a captivating satin sheen. A soft, red fruit and slightly horsey nose also showed floral, orange zest and dusty oak spice notes. Ethereal yet persistent, I could smell it from the glass on the table. Deceptively delicate, cherry and red fruits were balanced by beautifully judged talc-fine tannins, just a whisper of oak spice and no lack of acidity. The finish lasted minutes. Absolutely faultless; the essence of red Burgundy and Pinot Noir and utterly beguiling.
These were wines that exemplified great vineyards and great winemakers, their memory will stay with me for a very long time. As soon as I win the lottery, I plan to drink their like rather more often!