You may recall earlier this year we were somewhat waxing lyrical about our inaugural BYOB party where the focus was Burgundy. In a quest to continue to the revelry, on Tuesday evening we brought another end of harvest celebration to London but this time focussing on the Rhone.
Traditionally, 'La Reboule’ is an end of harvest celebration in France’s Northern Rhône Valley where grape harvesters, winemakers, and cellar staff get together at the end of a successful vintage to toast with great food, wine, and merriment.
The venue for our revelry this time around was one of BI’s most frequented haunts: HIX Oyster & Chop House. We kicked off with a few Gilpin's G&Ts just to 'prep the palate'. The food: a complete HIX blowout menu including all the BI perennial favourites: cockle popcorn, whipped chicken livers and Yorkshire puddings, oysters, prawn cocktail, roast chicken, chicken dripping chips, pork chops, steak, apple and blackberry pie… Need I go on?
It is rather fortunate, therefore, that there were just a few (…) great bottles from the Rhone to wash all this down. Now the generosity of our clients was borderline detrimental as I couldn’t possibly get to all the bottles in the room… but I did give it my best shot and here are some of my highlights from the evening…
M.Chapoutier ‘Le Pavillon’ Ermitage 1993 – in a whopping great imperial
Wow. This was pure testimony to just how beautifully great wines can age in large format bottles. This wasn’t just visually impressive but on so many other levels. A deep garnet colour in the glass with a stunning earthy nose – still so strikingly youthful on the palate with plenty of ripe black fruits. I would love to try this again in years to come to see how much further it can go. (I also can’t help but get a little bit excited when I drink something from my birth year!)
Paul Jaboulet Aine Domaine de Thalabert, Crozes-Hermitage 1990
The wine I drank with my pork chop and which elevated said pork chop to dizzy heights. It was unmistakably Syrah – big, rich and powerful and yet another wine proving the ageability of wines from the Northern Rhone.
Two Chateauneuf-du-Papes Cuvee Reservee from Domaine du Pegau – 2007 and 2000 en magnum
A really interesting comparison from two next door tables here – the 2000 en magnum was definitely (fully?) mature and arguably at peak. It still had a bit of rubyness in colour but far less so than the 2007. Big, powerful and quite concentrated on the palate and with plenty of earthy characters which made it so drinkable. The 2007 was gutsier for sure, really voluptuous with lots of fruit characters and a really long finish. And the winner? The 2000 by a small margin but perhaps that is because it for me just said classical ‘Chateauneuf-du-Pape’ far more.
Munjebel Rosso cru PA 2014 by Frank Cornelissen of Etna North Valley, in double mag
Now we don’t discriminate at BYO events, especially not where there is an opportunity to confuse, intrigue and delight even those with the most concerted palate… Enter the Munjebel Rosso from the North Etna Valley in a most impressive double magnum which was served blind. Its dark aromatics and heady full body murmured Northern Rhone Syrah - but in fact it was instead 100% Nerello Mascalese; most notable was its really distinctive perfumed nose with lots of herbs and aromatics on the palate with a cracking finish… Intrigued, confused, delighted!
Chapoutier Ermitage de l’Oree Blanc 2000, en Magnum
Last but not least and for me probably the most memorable wine of that night and something really special. The nose was honeyed, buttery, floral – ridiculous amounts going on. It was the texture, though, that really stood out with a weight and yet lightness (however contradictory that may sound) with dried apricots, honey and some floral notes – the finish was just so long and complex. Basically just delicious and classy and even better from magnum – I only hope I get to drink this again! Hardly surprising that this got the perfect 100 from Robert Parker.
Well we certainly feasted, revelled and drank very well. We’re already looking to celebrate another region in BI’s BYOB style soon. Perhaps beyond France this time… We’ll let you know…
Thank you to everyone who joined us and so generously brought such fantastic bottles and to the team at HIX for, as always, providing excellent service and the best chicken and chips in London.