Bordeaux, dinner and a Mouton

I haven't attended a lot of wine tastings where a first growth Bordeaux is in the line up.  Maybe I usually attend the wrong sorts of tastings.  After all, I am shortly attending one on "natural wines", so my judgement may not be sound.  This occasion though was an importer's dinner at "The Botanical" in Melbourne: a restaurant that has always been very smart, with a more than handy wine list.  Here are some rambling observations on the food and wine.  The atmosphere was rather festive, so I have offered thoughts rather than scores.

The dinner kicked off with a casual glass of Chateau Brondell's Le Rosé de Brondelle 2009, a rosé from Graves, consisting of an even blend of cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.  This wine was ably accompanied by canape style servings of ocean trout "gravlax" (raw, thinly sliced and cured, I believe) with creme fraiche and salmon roe.  The rosé itself was not really my style.  A viscous palate was accompanied with a touch of alcohol on the nose, together with minerals, short of medium acidity, stone fruits, peaches and short length on the palate.  But it is $22, dry, and certainly quaffable.

The first set of wines was matched to a glorious dish of mambo scallops with "air dried sea essence" (I don't know either) and beurre blanc.  It's hard to go past good scallops.  And these were good scallops - plump and fried just right.  Here, we met 3 semillon-sauvignon blanc blends, all from Graves.  All of them were good wines, and highlight the convergence, in my humble opinion, between some new and old world wine styles.  Much is said about the new world wines seeking to ape the old.  Less is said about the inverse.  I am particularly sensitive to this convergence, because I will shortly be examined blind on it, and it seems an unreasonable development as a result.  The first, Chateau Magneau Blanc 2009 from Graves is a blend of 45% sauvignon blanc, 45% semillon and 10% muscadelle.  It had some new world echos in style, with a developing medium intensity aroma of grass, hay, gooseberries, minerals and citrus.  On the palate, there was medium acidity, length and stone fruit.  A good quality wine.  The second, Chateau Brondelle's Grand Vin Blanc 2009 from Graves is a very good wine, designed to confuse any blind taster (I was not tasting blind), by its shroud of oak.  This time it is a blend of 50% sauvignon blanc and 50% semillon.  A pronounced aroma of oak and almost tropical fruits blew off, after a while, to reveal some grass and minerals.  The palate had good length, good oak and presented well.  The third wine was Clos Floridene's Blanc 2009 also from Graves.  This wine presented as the more balanced and interesting of the set with classic aromas of grass, minerals and stones, and a medium length, minerally palate, though I suspect the second wine is in fact the better wine.

The second set of wines was matched to a tasty suckling middle white pig porchetta (a boneless pork roast - who says wine requires translation?).  And here we got stuck into the serious (oops red) wines.  The first was the Chateau Les Clauzots "Cuvee Maxime" 2005 from Graves.  I'll say it again, buy anything from Bordeaux from 2005 that costs more than about $25.  Seriously.  I've reviewed this wine previously and liked it very much.  The next wine was Chateau Chasse Spleen 2005 from Moulis-en-Medoc.  This would be an insider's wine, were in not for the fact that it is well known and not generally cheaply found in Australia.  It had a developing aroma of fruit cake, cigar box, black fruits, and on the palate good length, quite pronounced tannins at this point, and perhaps, I thought, a touch of extraction.  It's very good though and will last years, and I have a few of these stashed away.  The third wine was Clos du Marquis 2005 from Saint Julien - the second wine of the esteemed Chateau Leoville Las Cases.  Blackcurrants and slightly surprising buttery popcorn like oak were there on the nose.  On the palate, which shone brighter, it had quite pronounced length laced with blackcurrants.  Undeniable quality there.

More please
The third set of wines introduced the star of the show, and was set to red wine braised beef cheeks with "reform" garnish.  I can't explain that one.  This dish looked nice, but since I've formed the mostly unfashionable view that I in fact don't like beef cheeks very much, I prodded it studiously.  I am very fortunate to have tasted the wines in this bracket.  First, we met Chateau Leoville Barton 2001 from Saint Julien.  2001 is often rated as highly in France as 2000 for the vintage, an observation I have found valid to this point, so I looked forward to this.  It disappointed a little: an aroma of capsicum and varnish, with more than medium tannins and medium acidity is all I wrote down.  My expectations of Leoville Barton may be a little high, as I wasn't convinced with their 1996 either in an earlier review.  The second wine, Chateau Leoville Barton 1989 was much better, performing with ease at 22 years old.  It surprised me how plausible it seemed to simply pop the cork on a Bordeaux from 1989.  The wine had a towards light fragrance of cigar box, herbs and a balanced palate with blackcurrants, medium acidity and length.  It would have been the star of the show, except that next to it was a Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1989 from Pauillac.  First growths have a certain magnetism.  More than one person wrung the bottle.  The wine itself had an aroma of utterly vibrant blackcurrants and oak, with a pronounced intensity and a timeless quality.  The palate soared with long length and blackcurrant flavours.  If I am to be a little pernickety, it perhaps lacked a little stuffing and raw power in terms of overall mouthfeel, but its balance, length and aroma were sublime.  An outstanding wine.

The dinner concluded with chocolate truffles matched to a Domaine Sainte Croix Rivesaltes 1909, a fortified wine made principally from grenache in southern France.  This wine was simply lovely, soft, with obvious oxidative handling.

Reflecting writing this, the wine world can do a good dinner.

Disclosure: I attended this dinner as a guest of the importer, Bordeaux Shippers.

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