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06/05/2014

The Cult of Conseillante: Harwood Arms with Jean-Michel Laporte

by Tom Chadwick (Trade Sales)

Last week we had the great pleasure of hosting a brilliant evening at the ever fantastic Harwood Arms under the spell of the friendly and charismatic Jean-Michel Laporte, Director and winemaker at the great Ch. La Conseillante.

The tasting sold out in a matter of hours; this is testament to both the lure of the restaurant and more importantly the wines of La Conseillante - BUT... what I later discovered above and beyond my pre-existing enthusiasm for the wines is that there is an almost cult-like following of this great estate. I spoke to several clients throughout the evening who commented on the fact that this, for some, was the 3rd, 4th or even 5th time they had made the effort to attend a tasting and or dinner avec Monsieur Laporte.

On first sight Jean-Michel looks like he comes from the French rugby South, with his imposing physical frame and 24/7 stubble… in fact this most knowledgeable man is a charming intellectual who seems to have a gentle character and, certainly the winery, a deftness of touch more akin to a dancing Welsh fly-half than a marauding French back row.

The evening was a palpable success: the food – always smashing -  and then to the main event, the wines.

As Jean-Michel noted wrly: ‘our wines are a blend of Cheval Blanc and Petrus - both neighbours - but at a fraction of the price…’

Situated on a plateau in the east of Pomerol abutting the St. Emilion appellation, its vineyards literally touch those of L’Evangile, Vieux Chateau Certan and Cheval Blanc. Famed for its purity, freshness and elegance the wines show an almost Burgundian elegance and when you consider just how tiny the production is (just 3,500 cases on average) it has even more in common with Burgundy than first meets the eye.

And so to the feast…

On Arrival:

Smoked cod roe on soda and cauliflower cheese croquettes

2004 Pol Roger
This is in prime swing and whilst youthful, it is so elegant, classy and refined. If you have drunk your stocks already it’s well worth adding to the cellar and trying to keep your mits off; this will be drinking beautifully in years to come too. 94 Pts TC

London Particular soup, Game rissoles, Venison scotch eggs, Wood pigeon and prune faggots

2010 Duo de Conseillante
Primary, youthful and forward. Plenty of backbone in here and in my mind warrants a little longer in the cellar. Worth noting only roughly 500 doz produced. 89 Pts TC

2007 La Conseillante
This appeals massively; under valued, under priced and gorgeous to drink now. DON’T compare to other vintages, if you do you will only realise what a bargain it is. 92 Pts TC

Roast ribs and short ribs of Belted Galloway beef with creamed potato, root vegetables, hispi cabbage and smoked bone marrow

2005 La Conseillante
Whoosh, this is going to be an absolute belter; don’t get tempted, there’s plenty of gas in the tank and you can thank me later. It has real intensity and concentration and suggest leaving this until closer to 2020. this will certainly rival the best Conseillante of bygone years. 95+ Pts TC

1998 La Conseillante
From a legendary right bank vintage and almost hitting its drinking window. Well worth trying a bottle if you have a case in the cellar to gauge the evolution. Fine and showed very well. This has a real depth to it hence keeping a little longer. 93+ Pts TC

1999 La Conseillante
Not quite the same pedigree as the 1998 however a cracking little drinker. Ripe, balanced and rather charming. Don’t hold back on this one. 92 Pts TC

Three British Cheeses with rye crisps and boozy chutney

2001 La Conseillante
Wine of the night for me and one I would be hugely pleased about owning and having a few cases of in the cellar. If you don’t have any and you enjoy proper drinking Pomerol then grab it when you can; refined, balanced and sitting perfectly with enough secondary characteristics matched by acidity and firm tannins. Lovely with the cheese. 96 Pts TC

To Finish:

Treacle ice cream with stout, chocolate malt and pear / Sweet clover doughnuts with lemon curd and sour cream

Loved the wines and food. Bravo Monsieur Laporte and thank you for your time.

A few comments from clients:

'Thank you very much for the kind invite and for hosting the La Conseillante dinner. It was a great evening, as always fantastic food, very interesting wines and a very well organised event... Nicely done! Thank you.' -ER

'We had a great night and the food was sensational.  As for the wines they were very good and well matched.  Nice bunch of people and good fun but paid with a sore head this morning!!' -RK

'I just wanted to thank you and the BI team for such a fantastic evening.  It really was memorable, and I hope to attend another dinner soon.' -HF

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