Sunday, May 17, 2015

SPNS dinner, 12th May

On Tuesday night, it was over to the Savile Club for the next instalment of the Chronicles of the Swiss Pinot Noir Society. I arrived to find a wedding party coming down the stairs but elbowed them out of the way of them as nothing was getting between me and a much-needed glass of fizz. T and I found D waiting for us in the bar extension sandpit and decided to crack on, with G and P joining us a few minutes later.

"Two from New Mexico" announced D with a flourish, and the look on T's face was priceless.

The first was a Brut from the Gruet winery. This surprised us all, I think, except perhaps D and G who had tasted it previously. There was something unusual about it, and I remain unclear about the grape varieties being used. Some doubted that grapes were involved, as opposed to, say, cactus. It was certainly interesting to try: pleasant, floral and light, and it improved with time in the ice bucket.

After the straight Brut, we moved on to the Brut Rose, from the same establishment. If anything, this was even weirder. It wasn't quite as bad as the "badly-dissolved paracetamol" Romanian pink fizz that T famously inflicted on us a few years ago, but nevertheless it produced interesting facial expressions all round. P made a comment along the lines of "this is what happens when you let the primary school make wine on their day out". I don't think any of us really liked it, with the possible exception of D whose comment in the book is carefully neutral.

We moved upstairs to the dining room, which was very busy. G had provided this Bernkastler Doctor 1985. It was a beautiful colour.

Diesel and meths were detected on the nose, which fortunately dissipated fairly quickly. It was drunk with some pleasure but the consensus was that it was elderly and past its best. We remembered a previous occasion when we'd drunk a similar 2009 wine too young - the notes are here. Maybe next time we'll get it right! G and T had a starter of scallops and black pudding risotto which apparently went very well with it, and petitions are being made to have this put on the menu as a regular feature, which I'd welcome as I was quite envious.

P had provided two reds: a 1994 cabernet sauvignon from Durney Vineyards in California, and a 1997 Chateau La Grave Figeac. The Durney Vineyards wine was the highlight of the evening - fully mature but not over the hill, with dark, ripe blackcurrant fruit. Nobody had a bad word to say about it, except perhaps regret that we were drinking P's penultimate bottle. P told us that this winery had a bad vintage the year after (if I was paying attention) and closed, but it seems to have been resurrected in the form of Heller Estate Organic Vineyards.

The Chateau La Grave Figeac was very pleasant, well-integrated, medium-weight and approachable, drinking nicely. It just didn't excite quite as much as the Durney Vineyards. Possibly this is because it was primarily merlot, whereas I'm a cab sauv kinda girl myself.

It's hard to see in this terrible photo, but the Durney is on the left and is slightly darker than the claret on the right.

With the cheese course, we moved on to my contribution, Le Vin de Francois 2010. This is a South African red which I was given by a colleague. It seemed to be quite prestigious judging from my internet seaches, so I'd saved it for this occasion. However, to be honest, it wasn't my cup of tea at all. It was 14.5% alcohol and one of those big new world blockbusters that to me just tastes like a hangover in a glass - completely lacking in subtlety. Others were kinder and descibed it as "jammy" and "gooey". It went all right with the cheese, I suppose, but it wasn't a patch on what had gone before.

Finally, we had this Eiswein 1998 from Weingut Hafner in Austria, made from pinot noir grapes, which was T's contribution for the evening. This was well-received - it was a great dessert wine with sweetness and finesse, and a very long finish. T had brought along two half bottles but only one of them was drunk, as the evening had gone on for some time and we were practically being kicked out of the dining room at that point. I've taken custody of the other half and will bring it along on another occasion, as it certainly seemed that there was no rush.

All in all, another fascinating evening and thanks to everyone for sharing your interesting and in some cases lovely wines with us!

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