We have a small and interesting group of mates based in Hampshire that attempt to get together 4 times a year for a very relaxed and informal evening, in essence to allow us an excuse to drink some amazing wines and catch up on life, family and any other nonsense we descend into towards the end of the dinner... I present to you the ‘Cellar Raiding Society’.
One member hosts the evenings and selects the loosely titled theme for the evening. Last night was a little more specific than normal: Northern Rhone of the 1990s - and everyone present had clearly raided to the extreme... so read on.
Our hosts provided some exquisite food and cheese for the evening – alongside a couple of champagnes to ‘wet the whistle’.
As you might imagine, we had so many wines during the evening. I will list them all, but only comment on the wines that merit further chat...
Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee de L’Oree 1995 & 1996 – in my eyes both a little tired and fading. Rather like when you bite into a slightly bruised and battered apple - the taste is a little woolly and the acidity slightly OTT... no more comment.
Chave Hermitage Blanc 1997 – the difference versus the previous wines was just remarkable – still delicate and light in colour – honeysuckle, citrus, stone fruits and lychee. The palate was remarkably fresh and alive with beautiful mouthfeel and balance... in essence this was just brilliant wine. My only irritation was that I did not save any to have with the cheese. 96+points DT
Clape Cornas 1978 – I have to say this was one of the most exciting wines of the evening, not just because of its rarity value but because it was just chuffing brilliant. Sometimes hype makes sense: intoxicating aromas of game and meat, mixed with rich dark cherries and Indian spice, all massively complex and evolving by the minute. Beautifully elegant and velvety tannis, still wonderful acidity and freshness. I went back for a second taste after being ‘La Chapelled’ and it was still fantastic. 97+ points DT
Bernard Faurie Hermitage 1998 – bingo... perfect old style Hermitage, drinking to perfection and with aromas to lift the heart. Slightly stinky and feral (in a good way), hints of dark berry fruits and spice, with soft and gentle tannins. In a word, impressed. 94 points DT
Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon 1995 – 99 points from the Parker, and this wine had many people thinking... I found it had a slightly stewed and baked character, as though the fruit was picked a little later than ideal... but what do I know? It is an extremely polished glass of wine with dark cherry and prunes, with lifted spice notes. The palate, as I said before, I found a little OTT but I think it might be a muted phase – to be fair to him, Parker seems to get it right most of the time... 96 points DT
Chave Hermitage 1999, 1998 & 1989 – I loved these wines, not a constant amongst the group, but to my palate they were effortless and elegant, beautifully poised and extremely well balanced. Classic dark fruits and a touch of pepper, bacon fat and spice. The 1999 was ahead of the pack to start, clearly the richest of the three, but with time in the glass the 1998 developed extra layers of complexity and weight. 1989 was drinking to perfection – developed and ageing, but still with wonderful freshness and fruit density. All three brilliant wines in my eyes.
1999 – 95 points DT
1998 – 97 points DT
1989 – 96 points DT
Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1998, 1996, 1990 & 1989 – 1996 was stewed and fading so leave that... but apart from that, as Chave is the embodiment of elegance and restraint, Jaboulet is power and structure... we are talking Kylie and Dannii here... and depending on your mindset you would swing one way or the other. Both sets of wines were (bar the 1996 Chapelle) beautiful their own totally different way. 1998 was starting on a journey: rich, ripe, dense dark berry fruits, with layers of complexity and jammy sweet fruits. 1990 is immortal – simple as – and if you do not own any, and consider yourself a serious collector, you really should... it is a force to behold. 1989 is only just behind, a touch more delicate and restraint, maybe even elegant – but still very much La Chapelle through and through.
1998 – 95 points DT
1996 – blah
1990 – 99+ points DT
1989 – 97+ points DT
Guigal La Mouline 1996 & La Turque 1996 – prize for the most intoxicating aroma of the evening goes to the 1996 La Mouline. Feminine and perfumed, with floral notes, spice, cherries, fig and a sweet gaminess... it was brilliant and the palate was equal to the aroma, and so so so textural. I loved it and it was my wine of the night. La Turque 1996 is still a brooding teenager, all slightly out of sync and rather closed, but still you can see the class and weight of flavours - it was just a little dumb at this stage compared to the La Mouline. Worth saying at this point that I have never, ever had a bad bottle of the La Las...
La Mouline 1996 – 97 DT
La Turque 1996 – 95+ DT
A stunning evening – delicious food, great company – and as you would hope, every wine caused debate and comment – as the very best do every time. Many thanks to our generous hosts and also thanks to all for bringing along such wonderful wines for a quiet Thursday evening in Hampshire.