That said, it seemed to me to be a night where although we had no duds (and thankfully no corked bottles) nothing really outperformed the perhaps punishingly high expectations. Pol Roger's Winston Churchill 1990 was ripe, quite evolved (as I've said before, 1990 is a forward vintage), full of flavour and delicious. Raveneau's Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 1991 was one of my wines and I have drunk it before and found it intriguingly complex and interesting. Neil Martin detected cockle-sheds on the nose and there is something of the sea about it. A bottle of Niellon's 1989 Chassagne Chenevottes seemed rather evolved and while having that lovely creamyness I wonder if there might be better bottles. My bottle of Haut Brion blanc 1992 split the table with some talk of paint stripper and nail-varnish remover. I thought it had a fantastic nose of candied fruits and amazing concentration - heavily oaked certainly but it carried it off.
And so to Burgundies: de Vogue's Musigny Vieilles Vignes is a famous wine and the 1991 was not yet at peak with strong tannins and fantastically dense, pruney fruit. It may rate a fifth star in time. The Richebourg 1990 from DRC was controversial - it had spent a few years looked after in a cool area in a house rather than in proper cellarage and perhaps this showed in the quite mature fruit and relative lightness. On the other hand this was a ravishingly complex wine full of excitement and with none of the cooked-fruit character that mars a lot of 90s to my palate. I settled on for this bottle but could imagine better ones.
We drank the old Claret first: Montrose is one of the great terroirs, as good as anything in St Estephe. Their 1961 is not the best you will ever taste from that vintage but it is an excellent, dry, savoury old Claret. And then two younger Clarets: Haut Brion 1983 sexy, animal, complex, earthy, nicely balanced as this property usually is - which is why it is many Claret enthusiasts' favourite first-growth. The complexity, was probably partly down to brett as several brett-spotters pointed out. Pichon Lalande 1982 was in some sense very great: pure, concentrated, structured and complex but it didn't really sing for me. Perhaps we caught it at a difficult time but looking back in Fine Wine Diary I notice that I had this wine a couple of years ago and was also underwhelmed, at least given its reputation. This is a very fine wine but I do wonder if Pichon doesn't produce its most interesting (possibly even its best) wines in more modest vintages: I am thinking of the 1979, the 1981 and the 1991.
It was a mistake in retrospect to put the Hill of Grace 1986 after the Clarets because while beginning on a downward slope it had aged very gracefully to a complex mature wine that mcould almost merit four stars - it had none of the blowsy leafiness of a couple of similarly aged Mt. Edelstones I have had recently. The 1983 Sauternes are beginning to show maturity - I suppose they are 20 years old but I tend to think of it as a recent vintage. Even the Yquem seemed to be close to ready although doubtless it will mature interestingly for years: this was not a weighty wine but beautifully complex. Waiting for the minicab to take us back to town for a busy day's tasting at the SuperBOWL I opened a bottle of Hochheimer KonigenVictoriaberg Auslese 1971 from Pabstmann: very nice, drinkable old Hock to start us back towards reality!