A half century celebrated at Lord’s

Business and pleasure rarely mix… unless of course you are lucky enough to work in the wine trade. You really can’t beat a good tasting… unless of course that tasting is accompanied by lunch or dinner in an establishment of quality. Having just returned from Burgundy, you could say that I’ve had more than my fair share of such things over the last week. A week that started in the best possible way, I couldn’t resist an incredibly generous invitation to attend a client’s 50th birthday lunch at the spiritual home of English Cricket on Sunday. As settings go, the famous Long Room at Lord’s has to be one of the finest I have ever tasted in – and I haven’t even mentioned the wines yet!

Lay & Wheeler Wine Tasting

Upon arrival guests were met with a steady flow of 2007 Franck Bonville Millesime Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, a fine grower’s Champagne with elegant notes of white flowers and subtle bready notes held together with a fresh vein of acidity. The starter of Dorset crab and shrimp cocktail was well matched with two high quality white Burgundies, the younger of the two a 2008 Champs Canet 1er Cru Puligny from Jean-Marc Boillot showed a little puppy fat with a hint of gunflint smokiness – all tied up with a lean mineral structure. This was followed by a wine fifteen years its senior, from Jean-Marc’s father – Henri Boillot, a 1993 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. Situated next to the Grand Crus of Bâtard and Bienvenues Bâtard- Montrachet, this is a vineyard of substantial standing which in this case has yielded a wine of immense breeding, still remarkably fresh showing a little tertiary development and an impressively complex and long finish.

Main course was a fillet of beef with horseradish creamed mash together with two well chosen (and incredibly rare) wines. Both requiring a great deal of patience and a delicate hand upon opening and decanting – a pretty nerve racking experience for yours truly when you consider that we’re talking about 1962 Château Lafite and 1962 Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva! An amazing pair of wines and a thought provoking combination, tasked with introducing the wines for 100 or so assembled guests I couldn’t resist borrowing Neal Martin’s wonderful quote; “Inserting a bottle of Único into a flight of equivalent clarets would be like inviting a porn star to a vicar’s tea-party. Old Único is a brazen hussy of a wine, raucous and decadent and paying little heed to growing old gracefully. Whilst clarets grow old like Conservative members of parliament, these unruly Únicos age like the Rolling Stones.” And so it was that whilst the Lafite showed its age with a delicate scent of dried wild flowers and barely discernable tannins, the Unico was bold, structured, and still amazingly fresh.

A dessert of tarte tatin could not have gone better than with what was for me the stand out wine of the afternoon, Domaine Huet’s 1962 Le Haut Lieu demi-sec. Sourced directly from the domaine, this showed gorgeous honeyed and caramel notes with baked apples and a finish longer than the Long Room itself! A tough act to follow, unless of course the wine that accompanies the cheese board is a 1962 Château d’Yquem… A deep orange in colour with a remarkably complex nose of marmalade and candied peel together with roasted nuts and an unctuous texture supported by a fine acid structure.

What better way to start my working week? How about a four day visit to Burgundy… don’t mind if I do!

Will Hepworth

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