G's Madeira Dinner, now in its 5th year, has become something of an institution, and every year I look forward to it immensely. Not only do we drink some fascinating and historic wines, but it's a great chance to catch up with old friends. This year the focus was on the wines of Leacock, many of which came up at auction at Christies in December.
Shortly after 7pm the crowds began to assemble in the ballroom at the Savile. We soon discovered that there had been an accident earlier in the day resulting in the breakage of half the Club's port glasses. Undaunted, we commenced the tasting, with the 1930(?) Verdelho (G's dad made off with my notes, so I'll have to check!) which G bought vast quantities of and which I must confess I've never liked. The most interesting thing about it is the shape of the bottle it comes in, which is attractively bulbous.
Then we had a couple of sercials, which were on the dry side. P described one of them as soapy, which was accurate, although it wasn't quite as soapy as the famous cheese we had from the cheese shop in Beaune which smelt of Dettol. After that it was the jewel in the crown, the "very old" Verdelho. G thinks this was from the 1880s but one of the pleasures of these kinds of things is the mystery and the fact that we'll never really know. This was much sweeter and richer than I'd have expected from a Verdelho and later on G pointed out that back in those days, the Madeirans could make sweet or dry wine from any of the grape varieties, so you could have a sweet Verdelho or a dry Malvasia, it was all a question of at what point you stopped the fermentation. This wine cheered everyone up, even T - a tricky customer to please - and after that the evening really got going.
For dinner we had a chicken consomme with two more Sercial style wines, including "WW" which stands for Waterloo Wine and which G confidently told us was the last bottle in existence. Then we had steak and truffled mashed potatoes with a somewhat disappointing cru bourgeois claret, then cheese, and then tarte tatin with two sweeter wines - a Bual 1966 which I really loved (it had a particularly gooey mouthfeel, like drinking a soothing cough mixture) and the Malvasia which was drier than expected. This had been bottled in the most extraordinary wonky bottle which I was able to rescue at the end of the evening.
G made an excellent speech and was then given a ceremonial green stripy dressing-gown type thing and a bottle burka by SM who'd flown in from Afghanistan specially for the occasion. A memorable evening!