No, not that immature eatery, situated on the edge of a car park somewhere near you – but a Friday evening of really good food (which my fellow poster will write about) and excellent, as well as interesting, wines. Richard’s generosity was very much in evidence as you will see from the list. Two whites, both decanted – a Condrieu 1997 and a Hermitage 2000 were followed by two reds – a Domaine de Grange de Pères 2005 and a Prieuré St Jean de Bébian 2007.
The Condrieu, produced by Vernay, was labelled Coteau de Vernon and served slightly cool, but not cold. The appearance was a clear, bright, deep amber and showed some viscosity but not as much as the alcohol content would suggest. The bouquet was enticingly smoky and deep with very slight acidity that reminded us of quinces – a smell that we didn’t tire of and we kept finding different nuances as the wine developed in the glass. Wonderful! The taste was that of mellow burnt caramel and it had a silky, creamy mouth feel. It was Viognier at its very best, which has now rather spoiled me for lesser offerings, I’m afraid. I gave this wine 10 out of 10 in my tasting notes – it is a just a pity there is no more to be had. Its match with Janet’s goat’s cheese tart was spot on.
Chapoutier’s Le Meal Hermitage accompanied a monkfish soup with aioli and homemade fougasse bread. Another high alcohol (15%) wine, this was very deep amber/orange in the decanter. Another intriguing nose – this time toffee apples and butterscotch were aromas that were bandied about the table, meaning a good balance of sweet fruit and acidity. On the palate it was more assertive than the Viognier, with a harder edged, almond taste thereby matching the strong flavoured soup perfectly.
Two great whites – both fantastic to taste and very difficult to replace.
[Richard: I’ve always been keen to try wines of this style and this seemed a perfect opportunity. In the excitement I forgot to photograph the bottles, hence the rather low-res labels. The Condrieu came from Yapp – their ‘Archive Series’, a collection of old bottles, mainly from the Rhone. The Ermitage was from the Wine Society. Both were expensive – but – once in a lifetime and all that. As Geoff said these wines are very difficult to replace and both are now sold out at their respective suppliers. As to the taste I’d broadly agree with Geoff. I think the wines benefitted from decanting – an underrated practice with white wines. I was also pleased with the food matchings. All recipes came from Sud De France by Caroline Conran. Not the best looking book ever but a good read and some intriguing recipes. Thanks to Dave for the aioli, something I’m terrible at as I lose patience and add the oil too fast. And, as Geoff said, the cheese and olive tart had a subtle flavour which suited the wine perfectly.]