A fabulous weekend Chez Boom in Hampshire – the company was invigorating, the food sensational and the wines... unforgettable.
Long awaited and hotly anticipated, a few vintage Negronis set us on the path: Replicating a cocktail served at the Ritz, these remarkable cocktails are a tribute to the sheer tenacity of GB’s hedonism – the ingredients being the result of much rigorous searching. Original 60s bottles of Campari cordial, Plymouth Gin and Martini Rosso were cracked (requiring considerable effort in the case of the Plymouth) and skilfully blended with block ice and orange peel to make one of the best drinks you’ll ever put in your mouth. Grown up and intensely flavoured, with just enough sweetness to counteract the intense orange, honey and herbal characters, this was a winner. We were only too happy to be the guinea-pigs - you could drink these all night long.
We kicked off the wine with 2 x pairs of Champagnes. 1996 Dom Perignon and 1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne were chalk and cheese (well, chalk and toast). The DP was intensely crystalline with candied lemon peel, fresh lemon, a mere hint of brioche and that all-important chalky, wet stone grip on the palate. Tightly wound and starting to reveal its personality, I would suggest this will always remain a fragile, austere beauty (95pts GC). The Comtes was broad, toasty and rich but never unbalanced – slightly richer fruits of toasted pineapple and coconut coated the mouth before the lemony, sherbet-like finish wound things down nicely (94pts GC). I marginally preferred the DP.
These were followed by two of the greatest Champagnes I have ever tasted, and arguably ever made: 1990 Krug and 1990 Salon. The Krug was a marvel of breadth, ambition and power – an almost Amontillado-like depth of savoury flavour and complexity was balanced by cooked green apples, toasted brioche, heather honey and shortbread... but it was the sheer depth and length that stopped you in your tracks (97pts GC). How could we beat that?!
Here’s how: 1990 Salon. Simply the best Champagne I’ve ever tasted. With all the complexity and richness of the Krug but a delicacy and finesse that recalled the DP in its chalky, wet stone style. Candied lemon, fresh pastry, baked apples red and green... and a lightness of touch in both the mousse and finish that defied its depth and intensity. Just stunning. 100 points? Not quite... this has decades ahead of it and one can only marvel at how good it may still become- but it’s got to be close. (99 pts GC)
Then to dinner – belted Galloway rib of beef served perfectly pink, mixed salads from the walled garden and home-made horseradish – all served in the beautiful wooden rotunda on the front lawn. (with the fabric sides rolled down and the heaters on, we could have been lounging in a luxury Safari resort). To match, a flight of Hermitage: 1978, 1989 and 1990 La Chapelle from Jaboulet and, as a contrast, 1989 from Chave. We started with the 89 and 90 La Chapelle, and they made a great pair: the ‘89 was delicately pretty with beautiful balance, a herbal freshness and silky layers of cooked meat, ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, seared fat and an appealing medicinal tang (93pts GC), whereas the‘90 was more overtly muscular, richly fruited and intense. Whilst the essential characters were shared with the 89 in terms of flavour, the 90 was riper and juicier- perhaps a touch on the young side but still glorious (95pts GC).
As a child of 1978 (a vintage not blessed with multiple great wine opportunities) La Chapelle was a wine I had long waited to experience, and I was not disappointed. Still beautifully fruited, this was fully into its secondary stride with smoked meat, seared fat and spicy, black and white pepper notes; the palate utterly harmonious, sappy and long but with amazing freshness. Some at the table said they had tasted ‘better’ bottles than this particular one – I for one was blown away! (95pts GC) The Chave was a good foil to the La Chapelle and really showed how well the‘78 has aged. More chocolatey and sweetly tannic than the Chapelle, the Chave is a beautifully structured wine with rich layers of black fruit and a beautiful raspberry sweetness. Excellent. (95 pts GC)
Retiring to the living room required further refreshment and a quick delve into the cellar revealed more tasty treats. A flippant request for 1990 Rousseau Clos Saint Jacques was met with ‘what, one of these?’ and delight turned to disbelief as it was suggested that an interesting contrast to this bottle might be the Leroy 1990 Vosne Romanee Les Beaux Monts... Corks popped andthe wines were stunning. The Rousseau was ethereal, light on its feet like a prima ballerina, with sweet fruits, a beautiful earthy, beetroot edge and a linear style that faded very gently through the finish (96 pts GC). Quickly becoming a theme for the night, the phrase ‘how do we top that?’ echoed through the room, andthe answer lay in the next bottle. The Leroy was even more densely fruited, haunting in its rose petal, fresh blackberry and sweet leather nose. Utterly refreshing despite being palate-coatingly rich, this was a true knockout (98 pts GC).
We enjoyed the remainder of the unfinished bottles over a lunch of oysters and barbecued lamb at the delightful Watership Down, along with a magical 2000 Batard Montrachet from Leflaive – all toasted lemons, wet stones and fresh pineapple (95 pts GC). In the words of Bertie Wooster, you’d have to say ‘the browsing and sluicing were superb’... thanks again Mr. B for your generosity!