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18/03/2014

The Elephant Is In The Room

by David Thomas (Head of UK and European Sales)

When Burgundy is good there is nothing else vinous that comes close in terms of pure, unadulterated wine porn – and Friday night, suitably situated in Soho, was as an evening of such peaks that it will be many a month before another collection of wines hits my senses in quite such a way.

The Event – The Elephant Club Dinner; basically a collection (3) of old school friends who have for the past 4 years each paid £40 a month into a ‘wine hedonists account’ allowing them 2-3 times a year to invite a guest each to dinner and spank as many good wines as they can within the budget. As one of the lucky guests, I lucked out big time as they certainly did not hold back in any way.

The Venue – Mash (Modern American Steak House), the stunning restaurant in the old dining room of the Regent Palace Hotel in Soho; a beautiful, stylish, art-deco themed interior designed to complement the building’s original architecture.

The Food – steak in 5 different forms (all cooked medium rare), bone marrow, chips, truffle Macaroni Cheese and green salad – everything was just delicious:

  • Uruguayan Ribeye
  • Danish Dry Aged Ribeye (aged for 70 days)
  • American New York Strip
  • American Ribeye
  • Australian Wagyu Sirloin grade 9+

The Wines

  • First Pair – Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux 2000;  Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2000
  • Second Pair – Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche 2000 and 1999
  • Third Pair – Rousseau Ruchottes Chambertin 1988; Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 2000
  • Final Treat – Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Bonnes Mares 2000

Let the games begin...

Raveneau makes great wines – simple statement, simple truth; sadly the first (Butteaux 2000) was a little flat, a touch corked perhaps, but still you could sense the energy and tension of the wine, if a little muted – but the second (Vaillons 2000) more than made good. The aroma is so intoxicating with minerals, spice, citrus fruits... and the palate is so perfectly weighted that it wallops your taste buds making the wine feel rich and hedonistic, then the acidity sweeps in to leave you wanting another glass. Is Chablis still the greatest value region of Burgundy? On this showing I believe so.

Dujac Clos de la Roche is his largest vineyard holding, around 2 ha, and the wines highlighted the vintages to perfection. The 2000, much lighter in colour, was open and alive with stunning wild strawberry and raspberry notes, hints of herbs and forest floor... this is Burgundy to perfection and drinking so well right now. The 1999 is such an amazing, long-lived vintage that at times I have questioned if some would ever wake up - but the power and concentration of the Clos de la Roche 1999 combined with the stunning poise and precise nature of the tannins is staggering. I strongly believe this will be a truly great bottle of Burgundy once it hits its true drinking window – like Ronaldo playing for Manchester United: he was always very, very good, but a year or two at Real Madrid and he won the Ballon d’Or.

Rousseau – the hottest name in Burgundy right now? As one client puts it – you could offer a glass of Rousseau to an18 year old, a 75 year old and everyone in between and without question, every single one of them will come back for more... not many growers fit into this bracket of almost unbridled love and appreciation. Rousseau seems to be able to please the most junior of palates as much as the wine expert who has been drinking for 30 years, he really is that good.

1988 Ruchottes showcased aged Burgundy without a hint of fading: stunning secondary characters with truffles and fungi, touches of leather mixed with dark cherries and spice, beautifully graceful tannins and lovely alive acidity. I had a cheeky sniff of the 2000 Clos St Jacques before the others and very gently asked them not to touch the wine until the 1988 had been finished. The aroma alone was enough to stun the table into silence, for that first inhalation, then the chat started... “ohhhhh my god” ; “what on earth is that”; “this has to be vinous perfection” The Rousseau Clos St Jacques 2000 is a wine that, if you like Burgundy in any form, you have to try at least once in your life – sell a kidney, your wife, the odd child – whatever to fund and buy a bottle, it is that good. Dark cherries and spice, dried figs and herby notes, black tea and star anise absolutely roar from this seamless wines  - as RP might say, this wine is profound; but it really is and if you have some, please ask me to drink it with you.

De Vogue Bonnes Mares 2000 – I have many a mixed experience of De Vogue. In the cellars the wines are without question some of the greatest young Burgundy I have ever had the pleasure to taste, totally effortless in every aspect, but then in bottle I have had a few disappointing bottles, so I must admit I was slightly worried about this one. However I do not know if this was a “fruit day”, but the wine started brilliantly and only got better with time. Dark and brooking, with cassis and plums, dark cherries and earthy spice; as with the 2000 Clos St Jacques, the underlying quality of the grower was shining bright – the poise, balance, power, weight and definition of flavours was mind blowing – a wine to kick start my love of this industry all over again.

As an overall experience – the venue, the food and the members of the Elephant Club – this must rate as one of the best wines nights I have had in many a year and I am trying very hard to work out how to gain membership to this most exclusive club!

Finally, in case anyone is wondering – the signatures on the bottle of Clos St Jacques belong to rugby stars Danny Cipriani, Christian Wade and Alex Corbisiero, who were enjoying a steak on the table next to us. Mainly drinking water, I might add, but even they couldn’t say no when we offered them a quick taste of the Rousseau...