This year's birthday party did have a theme for a change: four decades of Bordeaux! A bottle or more from each decade since the 70's.
And Champagne and Mosel to make sure our hearts were filled to the brim.
Vilmart, Grand Cellier Rubis, 2011
A wine that I always wanted to drink turned out to be too young still, even after eight years. Even in an unpromising vintage. Surprisingly young and backward at first, showing very fresh strawberries and not much more, it starts to hint at mineral aspects after fifteen minutes or so. It never loses that reserve but its depth is very impressive.
Chateau Montrose, Saint Estephe 2me Cru, 1974
1974 is considered one of the worst vintages in Bordeaux, but this has held up very well, and has not only survived but has retained loads of freshness and finesse. It has the mellow friendliness of deep maturity but has not fallen into the sink of generic old age. It's not very long nor complex but is rather tasty in a lean, mouth cleansing style, with aromas of cedar and tobacco leaves, and actually continues to develop aromatically.
Chateau Montrose, Saint Estephe 2me Cru, 1995
This is more typical of Saint Estephe, a muscular, complex, deep wine, with notes of iron, leather and minerals. Sweet, soft tannins that provide structure and definition without impinging on the fruit. An hour later, it evolves into a wine to swoon for, with additional facets and nuances. This, and the Chevalier, is the reason we love Bordeaux.
Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Leognan, 2000
A great wine, initially outplaying the higher ranked Montrose (until the second glass of the Montrose and even then it’s a close shave). Complex and deep, black fruit infused with mint, smoke and minerals.
This is the second wine of Lynch-Bages. It's in no way a great wine, just a good, foursquare luncheon claret (muscular black fruit with notes of olives, tannins that will continue to dry the palate until the fruit runs out), yet the wonder of Bordeaux is that this is the only wine tonight, except for the Montrose 74, which is obviously in an iffy spot, that couldn’t thrive and improve for another ten years.
Chateau Trotanoy, Pomerol, 2008
A good runner up to the Chevalier and Montrose (the difference in age makes such comparisons problematic, but what the hell), this was opened at least ten years too early but is nonetheless a great showcase for Merlot. Another wine defined by smoke and minerals and elegant muscularity - or should that be muscular elegance? - it seems we picked the perfect wines for the terrific slabs of steaks served at Hudson.
Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Domprobst, Spatlese #7, 2005
Barely halfway through its life voyage, this is still as young and fresh a Mosel as you can imagine and the purest essence of the freshest apples you can dream of. What the fourteen years in bottle have done is mold the fruit, sugar and acidity into a very precise, crystalline form. Of course, you have to start with a great vineyard and inspired craftsmanship.