A major birthday celebration


The bunch of wine fanatics that I hang out with normally has a schedule of 3-4 get-togethers every year, but whenever one of our number has a special birthday we gather out of order, as it were. In January of 2013, one of us, Kaj Kristensen, turned 60, so on 19 January 2013 we met at the slightly dorkily named restaurant Arti’kok (this is an attempt at a play on words that mean artichoke and well-behaved chef in Danish…) in Valby, Copenhagen, to celebrate the momentous occasion.

We sat down to a sumptuous dinner, and as usual blind-tasted a range of some of the best wines we have in our cellars. These are the tasting notes:

Wine 1:

This was an aperitif from the restaurant’s own cellar. Sparkling wine. Fairly dark and serious nose with sourdough rye autolysis, bruised apple and hay. Medium weight and fairly round, with the dosage slightly too high for my taste, mature. Good length repeating the impressions from the nose with a bit of added florality. The wine: Collet Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Art.

Wine 2:

White wine. Round, broad, fairly intense and mature nose with hazelnuts, ripe apple, minerals and a touch of volatile acidity. Medium weight verging on broad, dry, mature. Long and full aftertaste, roasted hazelnuts, ripe apple, hint of butter, lightly roasted herbs and vegetables. Handsome and complex, perhaps just slightly beyond its peak. The wine: Domaine des Remizières Hermitage Blanc 2000.

Wine 3:

White wine. Intense, mature and slightly reductive nose of gunpowder/sulphur/fart(!), herbs, cream, minerals, peach and touch of toasted barrique. Full, intense, very good acidity and hint of wood tannins. Long, still fresh, with roasted nuts, dark minerality, lightly bitter herbs, hint of perfume and vanilla. A handsome, intense wine, just slightly marred by the initial reductive whiff. The wine: Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts 1997.

Wine 4:

White wine. Faulty nose with sulphur and wet cardboard, then hints of toast and peaches. Medium weight, dry and somewhat messy in the mouth. Not long, dry, unclean, with hints of rotten sea weed, gunpowder and wet peas. Definitely faulty, although not TCA. The wine: Camu Chablis Les Clos 1999. What a pity!

Wine 5:

White wine. Fresh, delicious nose with crunchy apple, fresh flowers and light perfume. Fresh, medium weight, rounded, but with good acidity, firm and dry. Good length, pure and elegant, with fresh apple, hint of herbs, excellent length of minerals. Still a young wine with excellent prospects for further complexity. The wine: Matrot Meursault-Blagny 2000.

Wine 6:

White wine. Dark, creamy nose with ripe apple, fresh hazelnut, boiled herbs, minerals, slight spiciness and a hint of rancio lending further complexity. Powerful in the mouth, intense, dry, handsome, elegant, firm and with good acidity. Very long, repeats the aromatics from the nose with intense minerality. Great wine. The wine: Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre 1989.

Wine 7:

White wine. Dry, creamy nose with nuts, boiled vegetables, slightly bruised apple. Full, creamy, slightly aged acidity, dry. Long and quite intense, with a hint of rancio, bruised apple, toasted nuts and a creamy/caramelly touch. Just very slightly hinting at premature oxidation, but very good. The wine: Jacques Prieur Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 1996.

Wine 8:

Red wine. Juicy, spicy, slightly smoky/herbal nose with cherries, mulberries, hints of tar, meat and flowers. Powerful, elegant, good acidity and tannin. Long, repeating the nose in a slightly aged context with emphasis on spiciness and hints of meat and Bovril. The wine: Louis Jadot Échézeaux Grand Cru 2004.

Wine 9:

Red wine. Powerful, intense and darkly spicy nose with cherries, smoky garrigue and barnyard. Powerful and intense, yet elegant, in the mouth, with big tannins and good acidity. Very long and intense, repeats the aromas from the nose, with lots of spices, mineral, flowers and meat. Wow! The wine: Elena Fucci Aglianico del Vulture Titolo 2009. I had brought this wine along, partly because I simply love Elena Fucci’s Titolo, partly because I want to show the world how great Southern Italian wine really can be, and partly because – while the usual selection of Burgundies, Bordeauxs and Rhônes is always of high quality and great satisfaction – I have started to feel that a sense of curiosity and new discovery has somewhat disappeared from our group. The significance of it being me bringing this wine will be revealed at the tasting note for the next wine I brought along, wine 18.

Wine 10:

White wine. Nose with a hint of dank cellar, then apricot, burnt sugar, light flowers, acacia honey and minerals. Medium full with evident sweetness balanced by light bitterness, low on acidity. Long, with mineral, botrytis, hint of dank cellar. Not quite clean. The wine: Albert Mann Alsace Grand Cru Steingrubler Gewürztraminer Vendange Tardive 1994.

Wine 11:

White wine. Nose with hugely intense botrytis, then minerals, grilled peach and juicy watermelon. Medium full with intense sweetness balanced by great acidity and a hint of bitterness. Very long, dominated by botrytis and repeating the nose. Extremely convincing. The wine: Château Suduiraut Sauternes 1986.

Wine 12:

White wine. Broad, sweet nose with coconut, grilled peach and minerals. Powerful, sweet, with OK acidity and a hint of bitterness. Long, with golden syrup, burnt sugar, coconut, peach and a hint of botrytis. The wine: Château d’Yquem Sauternes 1999. We subsequently briefly discussed the merits of the two Sauternes wines, and while the majority seemed to find the Yquem the better wine, I opted for the all-out power and botrytis madness of the Suduiraut. As you can imagine, the reason for the three sweet whites when we had just started on the reds was a plate of foie gras. We are unrepentant sinners in the foie gras department, and there has been no wine dinner that I can think of without that essential element.

Wine 13:

Red wine. Dark, powerful nose with a smoky olive element, iron, garrigue, blackberry, apple, liquorice and beef stock. Medium weight, mature, elegant, seamless. Long and extremely complex, with blackberries, cherries, black olives, iron, garrigue, roasted meat, minerals and liquorice. Beautiful wine, at its peak. The wine: Paul Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1985.

Wine 14:

Red wine. Delicious, charming and elegant nose, with strawberries, raspberries, sweet spice, soft herbs, underlying earthy beetroot and liquorice. Light to medium weight, elegant, beautiful silky-smooth mouthfeel, lovely balance between fruit sweetness, acidity and soft tannin. Very long, essentially repeats the aromas from the nose with a hint of scintillating star anise. A beautiful, delicious, flattering, charming, weightless yet profound wine; utterly great. The wine: Domaine Dujac Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1989.

Wine 15:

Red wine. Dark, dry, spicy, serious nose with iron, Bovril, mulberries and black olives. Medium weight, fresh, with good acidity, softened tannins. Long, very minerally, repeating the aromatics from the nose. The wine: Domaine des Remizières Hermitage Cuvée Emilie 2000.

Wine 16:

Red wine. Beautiful, intense, earthy nose with raspberries, cherries, light touches of beetroot, anise, forest floor and umami-rich mushrooms. Light to medium weight, elegant and intense, good acidity and softened tannins. Very long, repeating the nose with added emphasis on earthy beetroot and soft spices. Beautiful! The wine: Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche 1997.

Wine 17:

Red wine. Lightly perfumed mulberry nose of good intensity, with black olives, grouse blood and violets. Medium weight, fresh, with handsome strong tannins. Long, fresh and complex, repeating the nose + violets and iron. Lovely, a class act, strong Northern Rhône terroir. The wine: Vidal-Fleury Côte Rôtie 1995.

Wine 18:

Red wine. Strong, intense, darkly fruity nose with plums, anise, minerals and hint of tobacco. Large, handsome tannins, dry and juicy, yet fat and round. Long, with plums, tobacco, violets, minerals and rock dust. Wonderful. The wine: L’Oasi degli Angeli Kurni 2009. This is a 100% montepulciano wine from a very special terroir near Cupra Marittima in the southern Marche.

One of our number now had become utterly fed up with being served other than Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône and felt the need to express his great disdain for the wines I had brought along. He felt that they had been made in an international style that wiped out any imprint of terroir, and that they were not recognizable as coming from anywhere in particular, or from any identifiable grape variety. I managed to say something to the effect that since he was not in any way knowledgeable about the grape varieties in question (aglianico and montepulciano) and since he did not know anything about the areas from which the wines came (the Vulture area and southern Marche), I had difficulty accepting his verdict as to terroir fidelity of the wines. On the contrary, I felt that both wines were extremely good expressions of the combination of variety and place, to the point of presenting the apotheosis of that combination for their respective areas. My friend insisted that the wines were devoid of personality and bland in an internationalized manner. We could not come to any agreement on this, and for the sake of being able to continue the celebration had to promise to revisit the discussion at some other and more opportune point in time.

I think that this discussion, to some extent, reflects two diverse temperaments in respect of the need for novelty and the challenge of comfort zones. I have to admit that I am a bit of a novelty seeker, and that I soon get bored with endless repetition on the same theme. My friend is a highly accomplished taster with a great love of Burgundy in particular, and decades of experience with the greatest classical wines of France. His appreciation of these wines and his great experience with the terroir expression of them are unequalled in our little group, and I would defer to his opinion within those fields at any time. However, his curiosity for the wines of eg Southern Italy has never been very great, and so his experience as well as his knowledge of recent developments is correspondingly not very great. I look forward to continuing our discussions later, but in the meanwhile have no wish to change my approach of trying to introduce other areas and wines than just the classical ones:-)

Wine 19:

Red wine. Round and fruity, but somewhat reticent, nose with humus, beetroot and a hint of spice. Medium weight, with a somewhat dry disposition, but good intensity, with quite strong tannins and good acidity. Long, with strawberries, cherries, anise, beetroot, humus, leather and a hint of sweet meat. Handsome wine, masculine, seems in need of more ageing to reach its peak. The wine: Trapet Latricières-Chambertin 1995.

Wine 20:

White wine. Nose with dark botrytis, candle wax, putty, raw mushrooms, minerals and grilled apricot. Light and fresh, quite sweet, but balanced nicely with good acidity and a hint of the slight and appetizing bitterness that can appear with age in strongly botrytized wines. Long, very complex, repeating the nose with added emphasis on botrytis and burnt caramel. Great. The wine: Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Auslese 1976.

 

That marked the end of another wonderful evening in the fantastic company of good friends and great wines. This time ’round even with the promise of vigorous debate on the existence of terroir in Italian wine for the next time we meet. I can’t wait.

 

Yours truly

Ole

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