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16/10/2013

Ponsot, Partridge and Porcini

by David Thomas (Head of UK and European Sales)

A couple of weekends ago the Gods must have been smiling and relaxing with a G&T, allowing us mere mortals what one could only described as a perfect weekend. Let me explain…

The order of play was as follows: dinner Chez Boom with some old mates and the finest Chicken Pie; this followed by a day out knocking a few partridge out of the sky and finally a morning sniffing around the New Forest on the first porcini hunt of the year.

 

Act One – Chicken Pie and 1990 Burgundy

Arriving at the house you know that there will be some stunningly good and beautifully aged bubbles awaiting the guests – and once again GB mixed it up, serving Dom Perignon Rose 1990 and the majestic Salon 1990. I have to ask, would there be many people anywhere in the world drinking these together tonight? Dom Perignon Rose 1990 still remains the greatest Champagne to have passed my lips, the last time being en magnum on a boat just off the coast of Paxos (I will have you know)… the colour alone is enough - delicate amber, with a touch of Rose – the aroma is white peach and fresh raspberry mixed in with hints of brioche and spice, and the palate is extraordinarily beautiful. This bottle was a little richer than the magnum, but either way I am happy with this in my glass. My first taste of Salon 1990 – with the hype of one of the true ‘greats’ of ageability of the champagne world – wallop – still sharp and tight, with massive body and complexity. It’s still an infant but with the grace and elegance of a wine with years to give, a vinous revelation. What a start.

On entering the dining room, the following Burgundies were sitting on the shelf, opened and breathing, slowly coming to life after 23 years of resting in perfect conditions. These were all purchased EP by GB, and once again it really does highlight the benefit to be gained from allowing wines to relax into middle age with as little movement as possible… fresh out of their ideal conditions, all wines were showing utterly without fault.

First off a pair of 1990s from Jadot. Chambertin 1990 is growing old gracefully; it’s extremely charming with red-berry fruits and spice, earth and leather. The fruit is still wonderfully fresh and alive and slowly melting into secondary characters, the tannins softening, but with the acidity still very fresh. Bonnes Mares 1990 was showing brilliantly, eclipsing the Chambertin in my eyes. Dark and brooding, with dark cherries and plums, licorice and truffles, this is a great, great wine and one guest instantly ordered the 2011 & 2012 over dinner... speaks volumes.

1990 Meo Camuzet Vosne Romanee les Brulees is still rich and ripe, with blackberries and raspberries on the nose. It is full bodied and dense and with ripe tannins and the perfect acidity from the 1990 vintage. In my eyes I would like to see this again in 3-5 years. Then just to finish the 1990 theme, we moved onto Ponsot Griotte Chambertin 1990, all spice infused cherries and earth. The most perfumed and seductive of the quartet, with velvet and tannins and such length and complexity, it is a wine that deserves 2 hours of contemplation… but we had more bottles to try so just 30 minutes was allowed before two more fascinating wines were served.

No Boom dinner would be complete without some Rousseau – read ‘genius’. I am not sure if there is some form of addictive drug added to all wines from the Domaine at the time of bottling, but my lord this has to be the most pleasing, drinkable, rewarding and in-demand estate in the world right now… wine after wine (and I admit it is not that many), the more I have from Rousseau the more I want. In fact, rather worryingly I become restless and aggressive without a hit every now and then. Clos St Jacques 2003 – ahhhhh ‘the hit’, the rush – the aroma alone has me relaxing and feeling less tense – pure delight, simple as that. Then came a real treat, a very rare wine indeed – Chateau Rayas, Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Syrah 1991. I think production on this bad boy is around 250 cases for the world – and some have questioned why they don’t just add this to the straight Fonsalette CDR; well, on tasting, you know exactly why. It must be one of the purest expressions of Syrah I have ever come across. ‘Electric’ fresh raspberry and redcurrant, pepper, herbs and such intensity – a true ‘wow’ wine with years to go. The palate was wonderfully soft and approachable yet with perfect grip and length. Really for a CDR this is brilliant and again, another dinner guest ordered a case on the night (if we can find one!)

And now for something completely different – Gaja Barbaresco 1958 – this absolutely stank when first opened, almost to the point of ‘ohhhh my lord, what a waste’ – but then slowly, ever so slowly the stink lifted and pure, fresh fruits revealed themselves; it suddenly came to life. Layers and layers of complexity with figs, nuts, dried fruits, leather, tar and truffles. This is a beautiful wine, with age on its side and time running out… but at around £165 a bottle it is a must try for any wine lover (contact your favourite wine merchant to see if they can find you any).

And finally, Fonseca – in my eyes the greatest of the Port houses, especially with proper age – so Fonseca 1963 is drinking perfection and I question how much longer the pricing for older Ports can remain unfashionably low; all dark berries and figs, spice and walnuts, juniper and cloves, it is beautiful thing.

 

Act Two – Partridge & Las Cases 1985

The following morning began with bacon sandwiches and coffee, chatting to old friends and drawing pegs. The morning’s entertainment consisted of three drives with a regular pause for a glass or two of homemade Sloe-gin or Damson Vodka, then it was back down to the hut for one of the great shoot lunches: roast pork with all the extras and a separate mountain of perfectly crisp crackling. Sluicing this down was the venerable 1985 Leoville Las Cases,one of those ‘must-have’ clarets. It never lets you down, always delivers exactly what you want from aged claret and we had the extra delight of this being served ‘from jeroboam’; all sweet dark cherries and blackcurrants, pencil shavings and cigar box, hints of blackcurrant leaf and spice. The tannins are perfectly aged with grip and poise, fruit still alive and great length. It’s a tough life, sometimes.

 

Act Three – Porcini and Sauzet

The final thrill of my perfect weekend lay out in the wilds of Hampshire. As long as I promised never to go alone and raid the ‘patch’, the Booms very kindly allowed me to join them the next morning on a Porcini hunt in the New Forest. The conditions were perfect: a little rain a couple of days before, new moon just past and the sun freshly out – it had to be our day. Within 30 seconds of entering the ‘Area 51’ of the forest a shout went up, well, a hushed shout, “Ceps, Ceps, Ceps!” – you absolute beauty – very fresh, very firm and in perfect condition (see pictures for some of the finds of the day). Then home for a open fire and Porcini Risotto made with Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2007 – slightly rude, but what the heck, life is about living...

As ever thanks to the Booms for the hospitality and thanks to the Gods for chilling for a weekend and indulging me        .