Sometimes, you just strike gold. Not only was this an an amazing evening with no bombs, so many people brought Bordeaux it inadvertently became a theme night, making it an easy write-up.
Mullineux, Swartland, Iron, 2015
I'd tasted the entry level Syrah from this South African producer, but this is the first time I've had a look at one of the Mullineux single vineyards. It's very well made, the fruit obviously sourced from excellent terroir and nothing appears to have been forced or over-extracted. The fruit is ripe, masking the tannins to an extent, but no more so than any young Syrah from a big, warm vintage or a sun drenched vineyard. There are faint nuances of black pepper, but other than that, it's still at a very juvenile stage.
Chateau Kirwan, Margaux 3me Cru, 2000
This is a very classic claret and I hope I'm not being too vain when I say it would have been very easy to recognize it as a Margaux in a blind tasting. The bouquet is very elegant, black currants and flowers with just a touch of iron. The form of the palate is very graceful, even though the tannins leave a slightly rusty impression on the finish. It would have been the absolute wine of the night had it been the only Bordeaux, but here it had to contend with two mature peers at their peak, and vintage mate that overshadowed it.
Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000
Riper than the Kirwan and even more powerful, as befits Pauilliac. While the Kirwan seemed ready to go, this still feels like it needs another five years and could easily last a couple of decades. Like the Kirwan, it shows a fine balance of elegance and power, it simply has more of both.
Chateau Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac 2me Cru, 1975
1975 is considered a brutally tannic vintage, irregular at best. I don't have first hand experience, I've been reading up. Considering the fact that Pichon-Lalande had no second wine at the time and that sorting was almost unheard of, the final stop in the 44 year journey this bottle has made is a minor miracle. I found the palate, at first, to be slightly frayed, with plenty of flavors, though. In the glass, the tannins started to assert themselves, yet without overwhelming the mellow sweet fruit. Short finish, though. But before I got that far with the palate, I was already taken with the delicate nose, which showed a depth of character and nuances, requiring, and worthy of, much concentration and appreciation.
Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 1986
Easily the wine of the night, showing the power and elegance and magic of a Bordeaux at the top of its game, at the peak of its form and aromatic complexity.
Cantina Del Glicine, Barbaresco, Currà , 2010
With the Bordeaux out of the way, but not forgotten, we moved on to an enlightening Piedmont mini-flight, a pair of wines that demonstrated with great clarity the differences between Barbaresco and Barolo. From what I've read, Currà is considered one of the best cru in the Barbaresco commune of Neive, but this reputation has been recently earned, thanks in part to the work done at Glicine. This is complex, nuanced and delicate on both nose and palate, one instance where the comparisons to Burgundy make sense - a rendition of Piedmont very close to my heart, both soft and powerful, with the classic notes of tar, roses and spices.
And then there's the ironclad, muscle bound side of Nebbiolo. The fruit is darker in tone, the tannins powerful and drying. Despite that, at its core, this is lovely, but if I had another bottle, I'd leave it alone for another decade and enjoy the likes of Glicine in the meantime.
Thierry Allemande, Cornas, Reynard, 2011
And now we've come full circle back to Syrah. And what a Syrah! One of the legendary wines of Cornas, if not the whole of the Northern Rhone. A big, incredibly young wine (even eight years post harvest in a vintage regarded as mediocre), yet deft and elegant at the same time. While many wines of Cornas have tamed the wildling character of the appellation, as elegant as it is, Reynard always expresses itself with aromas and flavors of iron and raw meat. Just one of those contradictions great wines throw at you.