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30/05/2019

The Hill I am willing to die on…

by Sylvain Lepeltier (Rhone, Spain & New World Buyer)

I was never going to turn down the chance to be invited to Hampshire for dinner to welcome an old friend of BI who was visiting us from the Napa Valley. DW, along with a few of the team at BI, is a big fan of fly fishing and for the uninitiated, this is always a good excuse to open special bottles.

Disruption on the Southwestern line didn’t stop me and the two-hour journey was certainly worth the wait as we were welcomed by a glass of Champagne Substance from Jacques Selosse, a solera made wine with multiple vintages in the bottle. Slightly oxidative, it offers a great structure and vibrancy with tangerine, citrus, almonds and hazelnuts. It’s certainly a rich champagne but shows a lot of layers. Very unique and delicious! 95Pts

While distracted by the very attractive smell coming from the beef meatballs with broad beans and lemon we were going to have for dinner, I couldn’t help but notice the 4 bottles of wines which were waiting for us: I recognized the labels… Hermitage… 4 different Hermitages…. hold on…. the vintage… I have to check it twice in case my eyes have failed me…  but no, all wines were from the great 1990 vintage. What a treat! The excitement was definitely building and as we enjoyed the superb food made by our generous hostess, we started our vinous journey. The memory of those wines will stay with me forever.

1990 Hermitage Le Greal, Marc Sorrel

Ruby, the nose is very rustic and shows a traditional style of Hermitage. The palate is very delicate, with red plum, sour cherries, and shows a very earthy character with some forest floor and slightly dusty, refreshing tannins. It is a very good wine, very Burgundian in style; delicate and rustic, it is drinking well now but will hold for another 5-10 years. 96Pts    

1990 Ermitage Le Pavillon, Michel Chapoutier

Dark, and rich, with complexity and weight. Still pronounced fruit for 29 years of age, it has blackcurrants, smoke and licorice. There is a good layer of minerality and acidity which balances very well the weight of the fruit but after coming back to it an hour later, the fruit had started to dry out a little. That being said, it was still an incredible wine with an impressive length. Maybe slightly too on the ‘sunny’ side for me personally but an amazing wine. 98Pts

1990 Hermitage La Chapelle, Paul Jaboulet Ainé

Deep in colour, it doesn’t give away its age. Dense in style but very voluptuous, it has aromas of blackcurrant, violet, chocolate, spices, and smoked meat. It is very rich at first but very fresh, and becomes more generous as it develops. Very profound and complex. This has to be one of the best wine ever made – it’s certainly one of the best wine I’ve ever had. It just gets better and better with aeration. Timeless! 100Pts

1990 Hermitage, Jean Louis Chave

Ruby, translucent, this is a completely different style from the previous three. Intense yet very delicate, and light on its feet; super fine and elegant, it has enormous complexity and is drinking very well now. Red berries, red currant, dried flowers, wet stone, huge minerality, a very long persistent finish which is slightly saline at the end. Superb acidity. This is a textural wine. Ready to drink now, it has a good 10-15 years in front of itself. Effortless. 100Pts (but totally different to the last 100pts!)

Huge thanks to our generous hosts Mr and Mrs B for the remarkable food, wine and company.