Let’s keep this simple. 5 of us sat down to lunch. 12 bottles later and I had to leave for a dinner appointment... but it was, without question, one of my favourite lunches in a number of years.
Opening the order of service - Chateau Latour 1996 was a drinking delight, a wine that continually offers the absolute ‘glass of aged Pauillac’. Double decanted early doors to allow time to breathe, it is dominated by cassis and dark berry fruits with cigar box and mocha and such elegant tannins it just floats across your palate. It feels awful to say this but unfortunately this beautiful wine was soon forgotten as further wine after wine was delivered to the table. 97+ points
La Mission Haut Brion 1982 – a sleeper of the vintage, and often sitting the shadows of the other highly regarded (and with good reason) First Growths. However the two HBs are now taking on the position of the best of the ‘82s. Aromatically beautiful with dark berry fruits, spice, minerals and tar, mocha and touch of fig, pencil and tobacco... highly complex, but the balance, development of fruit, power and weight was stunning. A great glass of wine - so thank you to my fellow lunch companion for raiding his cellar and bringing this bottle. 98+ points
Haut Brion 1959 – wow. Thefirst bottle was so good, the guest opened another 3 from his private reserves at Oswalds, and each bottle was absolutely on point. If the ’82 La Mission was aromatically beautifully then this was close to aromatically perfect. It is always a risk when opening older bottles of wine (especially when you have supplied them originally to the guest!) but I have to thank Bacchus for these 4 bottles. Even when freshly opened the aromas danced from the glass – intoxicating spices and dried fruits, leather and roasted meats, truffle and wild mushrooms, dried figs and mocha. Wine as close to perfection as you could ask...100 points, no questions
Haut Brion 1989 – as we have said many times, this is quite simply one of the greatest wines ever made, and given the price has moved from £11,500 to £27,500 per 12 bottles in the last 2 and a half years, I have a feeling that a few people globally feel the same way. It is not easy to approach this after the 1959, and it certainly took time to open and show its true colours. Intense and brooding, a wine of absolute class and balance, it has a hidden depth in the palate, an extra layer of concentration and complexity that few wines demonstrate. It would be fascinating to taste the ’59 alongside the ’89 at the same stage of development – impossible I know without a time machine – but I would put money on the ’89 just coming on top... 100 points – now and forever....
Cheval Blanc 1964 – As with a few other 1964s this is a wonderfully rich and powerful wine, even now after 54 years. Very rich and ripe fruit still dominates the palate with dark berries, spice and almost chocolate aromas. Massive palate weight and depth that defies its age. This actually sits very well after the pairing of ’59 & ’89 HB – 95+ points
Petrus 1973 – an absolutely dreadful vintage. Almost across the board, the wines were thin and lacking in structure, volumes were excessive. However Petrus has often been regarded as the wine of the vintage and on this showing I can see why. Once again you have to remember the company this was keeping... but it showed so well, again with great fruit depth and palate weight. It sat extremely well in the company listed above – 94 points
Vega Sicilia Unico 1989 from magnum – ‘ouch’; a little young on first tasting – hardly surprising – but I love Vega and this does not disappoint. Classic ‘Vega’ aromas of vanilla, dark jammy berries and blueberries, spice and leather. Very velvety on the palate with extremely soft and generous tannins, berry fruits and fresh raspberries. This will be a wonderful wine but a little young at present. 95 points
Chateau d’Yquem 1976 – I have to admit my memory and palate at this point of the lunch was fading slightly, but what better way to reignite the senses and freshen the focus for dinner... Yquem do not make bad wine in any vintage, but the acidity, given the age of the wine, was remarkable. It really underpinned the exotic nature of the palate – dried fruits, pineapple, mango, orange rind with classic creme brulee and roasted apricots. Just delicious – 97 points
Unquestionably this was a lunch of legendary status with every wine we opened showing perfectly. I cannot thank my fellow guests enough for their massively generous nature.