Once again this Christmas we ventured down to one of the truly great hotels in England, the beautiful Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest. Ever since owner Jim Ratcliff asked the hotel master Robin Hutson to get involved, Lime Wood has gone from strength to strength – the internal design, the staff, the atmosphere and the chefs cooking in the restaurants have raised the standards and it now stands shoulder to shoulder with the very best venues in the UK.
For this visit, as in the past, we descended with a few good bottles in hand to sit down and relax with over a 4-5 hour lunch, pausing at the bar for a cocktail or two prior to lunch.
This year we went all things Burgundy – and as you will read, it was not a bad selection to help celebrate the end of 2017.
The grub: Glenarm Estate Rib of beef for 6... with truffle chips and green salads... simple, but without doubt one of the best things to eat on the planet.
Now the important bit: the wines.
We kicked off with Rene Engel Clos Vougeot 2002. I will admit to being a little snobby about Vougeot, given that it is (in Burgundy terms) a massive and quite varied vineyard. I feel too often it has disappointed but this time we struck gold. Wonderfully aromatic with dark berry flavours, mixed with hints of spice and roast meats; the palate weight was beautifully balanced and acidity surprisingly fresh. The glasses were finished remarkably quickly, always a good sign – very good wine indeed. 94 points
A fine pair of 1990s came next, and it is worth commenting that both these bottles were purchased on release and having been first delivered had never moved from perfect cellar conditions until today. This brace started with Ponsot Griotte Chambertin 1990: still so young and hints of primary fruits, dark rich cherry with touches of wild strawberry; again beautifully balanced with flavours developing and changing on the palate. I would have liked (if I’m being REALLY fussy) a touch more acidity to freshen up the finish, but still this shows the importance of provenance and storage. 96+ points
Then my wine of the lunch – Meo-Camuzet Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Aux Brulees 1990. I have been lucky enough to have this wine a couple of times and I love it... old Burgundy exactly as it should be! This is Vosne at its best: that perfect combination of subtlety and power, great palate weight yet with real delicacy. It showed wild berries, figs, violets, mushrooms, truffles, spice, leather, meats... it was highly complex with layers being revealed with time in the glass. I had to stop myself drinking this too quickly as it was so delicious, yet constantly changing – totally beguiling Burgundy. 98+ points
A slight curve ball next – and in a way a little palate refresher prior to the final bottle. I have said it before, and will say it again: I’m not quite sure what De Vogue do between barrel and bottling, as so many of the wines which flatter enormously from barrel can disappoint once in bottle. However again we hit an absolute gem – 2000 Bonnes Mares from De Vogue. Dark and brooding, very closed to start with but once in the glass the layers are once again revealed. Deep Indian spice, blackberries and plums; still primary flavours dominate, with beautiful balance and palate weight – this is really very good indeed and begins to express the tru flavours of De Vogue, much closer to the almost religious experience of tasting from barrel. I’m very glad I have a few more bottles in the cellar. 95+ points
And to finish...drum roll please... DRC Echezeaux 1970, a present given to me a few years ago (it is from my birth year). Remarkably light and delicate in colour, as great old Burgundy should be, and most definitely in the secondary phase of its life – dried fruits, forest floor, truffles, game and sweet spices; that perfect, beautiful palate with elegance and grace. 95+ points