|What:||Chateau Lafite dinner|
|When:||14 Feb 11 ,19:00 -22:30|
|Where:||Drapers Hall EC2N 2DQ map|
The following review of the night appeared on www.JancisRobinson.com
Reproduced with permission
Waving farewell to Lafite
17 Feb 2011 by Jancis Robinson
Nick and I spent Valentine's night in the company of over 100 others, members of the Wine Society's Dining Club. The occasion was a dinner, almost more of a wake, because its theme was Château Lafite. As was pointed out in the circular about this event, thanks to China-fuelled recent price rises for this particular first growth, it is almost certain that the club will never again be able to afford a Lafite event. Club chairman Jim Ryan spelt out what was paid for the wines originally and what they are priced at today - which made the ticket price of around £200 a head look stunningly good value.
The meal of crab, venison, cheese and lemon tart was efficiently served in the almost miraculously spacious Drapers' Hall in the heart of the City of London, an oasis of livery company territory surrounded by high-rise financial institutions.
Members of the club are routinely polled after dinner for their scores out of seven (yes, seven) for each wine. I give the approximate average score below each tasting note. The dining club, incidentally, operates quite separately from The Wine Society, the co-operatively-owned wine retailer, itself. The Wine Society's current chairman is an accountant, like her predecessor, who had also bought a ticket to the event. Before dinner I heard the two of them discussing the special challenges of running a business not designed to make a profit.
The Society's Champagne NV Champagne (2004 cuvée) 17 Drink 2006-11
This was bought in 2004 for just £13.40 - what a steal! And what proof that some non vintage champagnes really are worth ageing. The cuvée as always comes from Aflred Gratien (whose own labelled wines can sometimes seem a bit heavy to me) and the blend is based mainly on the exceptional 2002 Champagne vintage. Quite rich and very flattering. I'd drink this sooner rather than later but it gives as much pleasure as many vintage champagnes at the moment. The Society's Champagne costs about £25 today.
Dom Jean-Noël Gagnard, Cailleret Premier Cru 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet 16.5 Drink 2008-11
Lovely clarity. This was another rather rich wine with a low-key whisper of smoke on the finish but overall it is sweeter and less edgy than my dream intellectual Cailleret that tastes more mineral than this and in some ways tastes like a baby Chevalier-Montrachet. It's certainly ready to drink. We had to reject two bottles out of the 24 bought quite recently for the evening at £41 a bottle.
Ch Lafite, Carruades de Lafite 2001 Pauillac 16.5 Drink 2014-22
Gosh the label of even Lafite's second wine looks so classy! Deep crimson. Lightish and elegant but not that much follow through. Still quite youthful. This wine had lots of punch but not much of Lafite's trademark subtlety. I would hang on to it for quite a while if I had some. This was bought in January 2010 at £120 a bottle, which seems absolutely crazy to me, even if it is now changing hands for £300 a bottle, thanks to Chinese demand.
Ch Lafite 1997 Pauillac 18 Drink 2007-20
This for me was the most 'Lafite' wine of the evening, and showed none of the weakness of some 1997s. Amazingly deep ruby. Lift and race. Real racehorse thoroughbred qualities. That lovely Lafite ballerina thing - all charm without any weakeness. Long with just a hint of gunpowder. Just lovely: complete and long. Clever old dining club committee bought it in 2002 for just £53 a bottle when it would cost £700 a bottle to replace it now. Vote: 6/7
Ch Lafite 1989 Pauillac 18.5 Drink 2000-20
On being poured there was real tension in the glass, I felt, between Lafite's delicate style and the big, ripe character of this vintage, warmed as it was by a particularly hot summer, the summer of the bicentenary of the French revolution. There was a slightly burnt note and quite a bit of tannin on the finish. But then it really mellowed in the glass and became super voluptuous. And fragrant. But edgier than the 1997. Unusually spicy for Lafite and wonderfully persistent. These bottles had been bought in 1996 for just £55 each (which probably seemed iniquitous at the time). The 1989 Lafite is now trading at £800 a bottle, a surprisingly low premium on the 1997.
Ch Suduiraut 2001 Sauternes 18 Drink 2011-26
I pleaded for more attention to be paid to the great sweet whites of Bordeaux, and was rewarded by this wine's apparently being awarded the highest score by the room of the night. Certainly the 2001 Sauternes are stupendous and are just starting to be broachable. Suduiraut is wonderfully dependable. Very rich yet tangy with flavours of almonds and citrus zest. There's a lot going on here - real depth of flavour. It's sad in a way that it has not appreciated in price the way it deserves to. This wine was bought very recently for £58, topping up some bottles that had been bought for around £40 earlier.
The evening was completed, as though we needed any more alcohol, with a particularly mellow, copper-coloured Hine 1969 early landed Cognac, but alas I lack the expertise to feel confident writing a tasting note on it.
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