A new friend visiting from the Golden State was a good enough excuse to open a few choice bottles. Off we trotted to one of London’s finest, Bocca di Lupo; belly up to the bar, we enjoyed sea bream carpaccio, crispy, meltingly delicious deep fried Buffalo mozzarella bocconcini, deep fried artichokes and spicy salami. This was followed with a ‘fossil fish’, sea bream coated in salt and chargrilled (leaving the inside incredibly fresh, firm and moist) and a fat, succulent chop of suckling pig. Surely this is some of the best food in town and the service – well it’s like being with old friends. No wonder it can take 2 months to get a table.
GB provided the bottles and as usual they were very much ‘up to snuff’.
First a Chave Hermitage Blanc 2005. GB had recently had his first ever oxidised Chave Blanc and I myself had only ever had one so there was a little tension in the air when we first opened this bottle and there was a faint tell-tale tang on the nose… but after 10 minutes or so in the glass any unwelcome characters had dissipated. We were left with something splendid, all honey, beeswax, dried herbs, toasted peach and fresh hay with a supple texture that coated the mouth. A knockout with the robust snacks. 95 points
Second up was Chateau Rayas 2005. This is a true conundrum of a wine; not in quality terms obviously – it’s utterly magnificent, no denying it – but in terms of its unique character. Served blind you are in Burgundy all day long. The colour is pure, bright ruby, far too pale to be Grenache. Aromatically you continue to be led down the garden path, with blood orange and red cherry – then the palate plays its own game with amazing finesse, energy, freshness, density and lift. There’s a thread of iron, then at the end there is Asian spice. It’s bloody Musigny, you’re saying to yourself. Then with time in the glass there is the merest hint of grilled, peppered steak, of blackberry liqueur, which gives a hint towards the Rhone. It’s otherworldly stuff this. Hard to imagine how wine can get much better. 99 points
Finally another Rhone treasure. Guigal’s Cote Rotie La Turque 1995 is an age-defying wine. At 24 years of age and after 2 hours in the decanter it’s still coiled and cagey. There is a density and richness here, a sublime, thick, powerful intensity of blackcurrant, blackberry and wild raspberry fruit, shot through with an almost citric freshness. The balance is compelling and it’s only just starting to really show any secondary characters of flamegrilled meat and warm spice. How long can this wine last? Parker (circa 1999) says drinking dates are 1999-2019. I call nonsense and would venture it’s a 50-75 year effort. Stunning. 98 points
Top wine, grub, company and conversation. Many thanks BDL, GB and FV.