The pleasure to be had in a fine wine lunch, say a selection of a dozen fine Bordeaux or Burgundy accompanied with fine Michelin cuisine is undeniable. It therefore seems churlish to say that occasionally some superb wines get lost in the general excellence. It might equally be said that a lunch where assorted wine obsessives bring along random unusual bottles might just lead to confusion. But for some reason, it doesn’t. Not often.
The winter Oddities lunch provided, I think, the best overall selection of wines we’ve had so far. The long table at Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch suits the format, which involves assessing the wines blind and making fools of ourselves as we guess what they are (as I did when suggesting an uncharacteristically non-acidic Aligoté was a Bordeaux white blend).
The school-style tables and chairs might not give much comfort but being crammed together just adds to the atmosphere of bonhomie. As does the food, wonderful as always. Hearty, perfectly judged in quantity, unfussy yet delicious ingredients. I felt yesterday that I could just stick a pin in the menu and be completely satisfied with my choice…and I was. A veal consommé, rosy lamb and blood orange ice cream were delicious enough, but tasting the pressed pig’s cheek and the smoked eel pie suggested these choices would have satisfied equally.
We had fourteen wines between twelve of us, and it would be impossible to describe them all, yet pretty unfair on those not mentioned in detail too, there being nothing remotely approaching a dud.
My main contenders for the “WOTD” accolade were, in order of tasting:
Barranco Oscuro‘ s sparkler from Granada, softly complex, hints of red fruits, deliciously refreshing and remarkably good value if you can ever track some down.
Scholium Project Gemella 2012 a Verdelho blend with Chardonnay et ors from this exemplar of the New California. Herby dryness, tender, quite complex. All Abe Schoener’s wines are fascinating and this one, by no means his most expensive, is up there with the best.
Radikon Ribolla Gialla, Collio 2000 benefited amazingly from fourteen years ageing, a lovely orange wine with no hint of skin tannins (it had two-and-a-half months contact). In some ways a words fail you wine, a treat. Weight and complexity like few white wines, yet retaining elegance and poise.
Pietradolce Archineri Etna Rosso 2010 still youthful, some of the old bush vines here are pre-phylloxera Nerello Mascalese, grown from 600 up to 9oo metres on Etna’s northern slopes in the contradas of Zottorinoto and Rampante . Savoury with an emerging complexity suggesting I really need to buy some of this!
Can Ràfols dels Caus Sumoll 2009 really shows, yet again, what a fine grape Sumoll is. And to think I’d never had one until maybe last year. Also an example of how the area of Spain between Granada and Penedès (this is the latter) is really becoming a centre of excellence. There’s a lightness here that you don’t always get from southern Spain, yet I guess that’s a cliché now. It has something in common with the freshness of the reds from Northwestern Spain (I guessed this as a Bastardo from up there, but the Sumoll is actually a bit rounder).
Vin Alto “Celaio” 2004, Clevedon, NZ was totally new to me. Enzo Bettio established a vineyard overlooking Waiheke Island and the Coromandel Peninsula on the edge of the Hunua Ranges, hence the winery name. Although I think Enzio set out to make Ripasso styles to mirror those of Verona, Celaio is in fact based on the Montepulciano grape, with additions of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. A fine New Zealand red with depth of fruit and a touch of class. A small producer to seek out.
Coteaux du Layon!!! The first of these had almost no label and we thought it was a 1989. Then we saw the cork, which suggested 1985. The next bottle’s label had survived, showing a producer unknown to me called Gaugaud (on whom I can find nothing) with the same name on the previous cork. Good as the 1985 was, the ’89 was a step up, especially in freshness. How delicious these 1989 Layons have proved to be, and this was still going strong.
Very honourable mention must go to a 1978 Echezeaux from Henri Gorgoux, which, despite heavy sediment and clearly a lot of age, was a fascinating wine. As were a Rollin Aligoté, Lincoln Estate Eyre Peninsula Cabernet, a rare Pinot (d’Aunis) variant from La Grapperie (“Adonis”) in Coteaux du Loir (sic), an Orovela Saperavi 2007 and a sweet Malvasia from La Palma (Canary Is).
Thanks to all at Rochelle Canteen for making us as welcome as ever, and for your forbearance as we get progressively noisy by 4pm!