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Fine Wines like a String of Pearls

Dinner last night with very generous friends provided a real fine wine and food experience, the relaxed and happy atmos of the occasion serving to underline the very purpose of communal breaking of bread and pulling of cork i.e. bringing people together, loosening their tongues, giving them a sense of humour and warming the collective cockles. So…

Nibbles were accompanied by Jacques Selosses champagne, disgorged in early 2000 and cellared for, I would guess, 3 or 4 years since its purchase. 100% chardonnay. Very bready; a touch of complex oxidation. Focussed and phenomenally long.

A delicious starter of fresh scallop risotto. First white: 2002 Meursault Clos de la Barre from Dominique Lafon. Someone has suggested to our host that these '02s are already drinking well. Highly impressive wine; very concentrated, with glittering fruit like a lemon and lime crystal. This was fascinating wine, but I would hold for a further two years before checking it again.

Second white was the unfiltered Chardonnay from Newton in California. I get to drink so few American wines, I cannot remember the last time that a Californian chardonnay past my lips. This is a goodie. Our host made a comparison with a homemade jam his wife had entered into the village fête; a jam that had been spurned by the judges who damned it with faint praise with the descriptor, "rather highly flavoured". I could see his point. The nose here (I am embarrassed to say I have forgotten the vintage; 2002 also, I think), was a real concentrated compote of quince jam and pineapple chunks. Complex it surely was, and with none of the late-palate alcohol burn one found in the US chardonnays of old. Impressive stuff if this is one's style.

Wiener schnitzel and the trimmings was punctuated by 3 vintages of a super-Tuscan: Percarlo, about which I knew next to nothing. This is a 100% sangiovese wine, first vintage 1985, produced in Chiantishire by San Giusto a Rentennano.

First up, the 1997: softened with cellaring, deliciously à point; leather and spice aromas and warm, singed hair. Very "come hither". Second vintage, 1988: more structured, perhaps more serious; a more claret-like shape. Very impressive. Third vintage, 1990: holding brilliantly; rich and dark and completely tertiary. Cold tea, perhaps, woody aromas. Dark things going on. Fabulous. N.B. Both 1997 and 1988 receive tre bicchieri in Gambero Rosso, the top award in that encyclopaedic guide.

Vintages two and three were bisected by a bottle of 1990 Fontalloro, Felsina Berardenga, which was black and focussed and fabulous too, although outgunned by its Tuscan running mate.

What a succession of superb, thought-provoking wines and what a way to be spoiled in the run-up to Christmas!
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