This dinner was a long time coming after the initial need to postpone the dinner for 3 months to allow time to secure, ship and rest a suitable replacement bottle for the one that was damaged during shipping at the end of 2012. So I am sure you will understand when I say everyone attending was very excited indeed when the day finally arrived. As with all my dinners there is much time spent preparing the bottles, from dropping them off in the middle of the week to give them a few days rest before serving, to the photography and very careful packaging precautions taken both abroad and here in Sydney when transporting them. On top of this there is also the preparation of the booklet to lead us through the wines on the evening and of course how could I forget all the efforts taken to ensure provenance and time taken to put such a collection as this together. To be quite frank this was one very special opportunity to try a superb collection of Burgundy from some of the greatest and rarest vintages of the 20th century. For me each and every dinner starts very tense and nervous as slowly each bottle is opened and checked to ensure that nothing is oxidised or tainted. There is a great deal of pressure that comes with doing dinners such as these because no matter how hard I try to guarantee the quality and provenance of each bottle it is very difficult to cover 80 years of time and a trip round the world. For me the last thing I want is to have any of the wines I serve turn out undrinkable, perished or tainted but sometimes the law of averages will rise and the inevitable has to happen.
In the end this was a true once in a life time wine experience that far exceeded any and all of my own expectations and an evening of wine experiences I will never forget. Now bring on those old Burgundies!!
We started opening the White Burgundy first as I wanted them to have a good 1 – 2 hour decant to give them some time to freshen up and show their character. I was extremely pleased when we pulled the first cork. The 78 Lafon, a little musty but certainly plenty of life, next was the 47 Corton which showed stunning minerality for a 65yr old white wine, this was followed by the 86 Laguiche a muscular and rich wine flexing its Montrachet muscles and last but not least the 00 Ramonet Batard-Montrachet which was fresh and powerful with not a hint of Premox in sight. A very fine start in my opinion as all wines seemed very much alive and in fantastic condition. With the reds there is much debate about opening and serving straight away or whether you should pull the cork only and allow them a little air or even decant for some time and allow them to open up. I chose to pull all the corks, check each wine and then decant for no longer 20-30 minutes before serving. This seemed to work well for all wines except maybe one which I felt was perhaps a little better when the cork was first pulled but it was also the bottle with the lowest ullage and most surface area wine to air ratio.
Regardless we pulled the corks on all but the DRC and La Tache before all the guests had arrived and I was now very much relaxed and relieved as not one of the reds was suffering any signs of oxidation or taint, in fact they were all showing magnificently for their age. As the guests arrived and the room filled with conversation, opinions, ideas and anticipation I left the Sommelier to work on the last two bottles and set about mingling with my guests, some of which had travelled great distances to be here tonight. Before we knew it the time had come to take our seats, the Mumm Cordon Rouge had settled everyone in for what was going to be an amazing night of Burgundy wine history. The notes on this occasion have been scribed by the great Cam Wheeler (thank you Cam) who possesses a very fair and honest style of wine critique. Before we move on to Cam’s notes I need to take the time to say that while the food for the most part was over shadowed by the attention given to such amazing wines in wonderful condition it was an excellent degustation meal that was executed with brilliant culinary precision. I cannot thank Mark Best and the whole team at Marque enough for such a memorable evening with dishes that were nothing short of exceptional on every level. Now onto the wines and photo’s which help to tell the story of this wonderful journey into the history of Burgundy and its wine.
1985 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Rare – France, Champagne
Disgorged 2007. Redcurrant, earthy, lemon and honeycomb notes on the nose. There is lovely vibrant acidity to go along with the medium weighted richness. Great length and really impressive, especially considering Rose Champagne often leaves me underwhelmed. Good bottles will continue at this very high level for some time to come. 93/100
1947 Louis Violland Corton-Charlemagne – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Almost the same golden colour as the 1978 Lafon, this was just slightly darker in the core. The nose does have lots of aged elements, but it retains a sense of freshness – there is orange peel, lots of nutty aromas and some old oak and mint. The palate has a fantastic line of acidity, which some felt was clearly added by the winemaker but I thought was nicely integrated. Alongside this bright acid and framing minerality is good richness that built when given time in the glass. A very classy wine in brilliant form. 93/100
1978 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
Grilled almonds on the nose, with ginger and a little resin element. The medium length palate is fairly soft but has glimpses of minerality that held my interest. Very good but it would be great with a little bit more drive and persistence. It is holding but I don’t think it will improve from here based on this bottle. 89/100
1986 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Montrachet Grand Cru
Quite reticent nose with light florals, honey and some pineapple, possibly from some botrytis influence. The palate has rounded out well and has very good balance, assisted by a flash of acidity at just the right moment. Improved in the glass after some vigorous swirling and while I liked it a lot, it didn’t quite deliver enough complexity to rate this higher. Drink now. 91/100
2000 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
The token young gun at this tasting. Mint, lime, spicy/toasty oak and apple aromas. The palate was especially true to the Ramonet house style – with layered and powerful fruit paired with superb tension, focus and length. Above all, though it is a outstanding wine already, the potential to improve is very much evident. 94/100
1919 Leon Rigault Vosne-Romanée – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée
Bramble, raspberry, rhubarb and very nice clove and earthy aromatics. Medium bodied and with a real purity to the fruit that is just unbelievable for the age. Not only is the palate fresh and lifted by this pure fruit, there is earthy complexity and even has fine structure with tannins still there to guide the wine. Totally outstanding. 94/100
1929 Joseph Drouhin Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
A stunning nose – spices, tea, cherry, roses, autumn leaves and some cocoa. The palate is beguiling, still possessing alluring red fruit and complex earthy spices. The layers of flavour, texture and especially the length are verging on out of this world. While it doesn’t have the outright structure of some of the other wines tonight, it is beautifully balanced and drinking perfectly now. Magic. 96/100
1923 De Beuverand & De Poligny Nuits St. Georges – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges
Opened up wonderfully even a short time after pouring with tar and roses, musk and ground coffee all present. The structure on the palate had me reeling in consideration of just how good it was – at 90 years of age it was not my expectation but the tannins were perfectly placed and really gave the wine a feeling of great purpose and balance. Not quite as complex as some of the other wines that were highlights tonight, but I loved it all the same. 93/100
1929 Pierre Bourée Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Clos de la Justice – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
I adored the nose on this wine right from the first moment, it subdued a little bit over time but they still had me captive – complex spices, incense, cherry, pencil shavings and earth. The nose was hard to live up to, and for me the palate didn’t really manage it – it was taut and not willing to give much back, the length was good but it terms of depth it just wasn’t there as much as I tried to find it. Still very good and on almost any other night it might have starred. 90/100
1937 Bouchard Père et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
Incredibly pretty aromas right away – highly perfumed florals, spice, truffle and a wisp of smoke. The palate has superb poise, it is balanced with a precise line of acidity and some delicious cherry fruit. Complex, depth and having great texture, this is a wine of immense class that is both appealing and extremely interesting. 94/100
1951 Arthur Barolet et Fils Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
The nose is earthy and nutty, with a fair bit of volatile acidity and a yeasty character. The palate is better with some acidity to carry the light fruit but it is still lacking a bit in interest and depth. There is still life and it is entirely decent to drink, however it was just not up to scratch tonight with the interest that the other wines had to offer. 87/100
1961 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
Very earthy nose, it is smoky with mulch and an edge to it that is port like. The palate for me was showing less obvious aged character, it has a sense of structure and fruit rather than either being obvious. Drinkable but probably not a bottle in great condition and certainly not meeting the lofty domaine reputation. NR/100
1961 Pol Mairesse Richebourg – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
A nose that took some getting used to – there is dettol and deep heat, with lots of charcoal, gunpowder, stems and boot polish. It had plenty of interest, though it is not particularly easy to like. The palate is more conventional, with cherry fruit and some of that stemmy character coming through. The finish is a little bit short. Overall even though I think it was a bit too confronting for me, I can’t recall drinking anything quite like it and I valued the chance to try it. 87/100
1928 Chevillot Tâche-Romanée Grand Cru – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, La Tâche Grand Cru
A very fitting way to end the burgundy flights. There was plenty happening on the nose with five spice and hoisin, coal, red cherry and strawberries. The palate was quite elegant and restrained and while it did become a bit more expansive with time, it didn’t end up having the power or weight I might have expected from a La Tache based wine. Despite that, it was still lovely to drink with medium length and a gentle finish. Some people mentioned that it was more what you might expect from a 1928 compared to some of the other wines that were still quite impressively vibrant – not that this was falling over but it was certainly time to drink it. 91/100
1976 Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt a. Main Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese – Germany, Rheingau
Good freshness and plenty of style on the nose – there is apricot, pineapple, pear and peach along with dense honey and caramel. The palate is lovely, with the acidity really driving and lifting the wine into a long finish. I do feel like this wine was on the cusp of brilliance and others at the table that have had another bottle indicated that the previous bottle had more intensity while maintaining the same impressive balance, something that I think would take it onto that next level. 92/100
With such an amazing evening of wine now drawing to a close the heart racing ohhs and ahhs that swept the room with many of the first flights of wine were but a memory to be cherished by all those fortunate enough to attend. It was a shame to skip a beat with the poor showing of the 61 DRC Richebourg right towards the end. It is particularly frustrating for me as an organiser and for all those who attend to have what should be one of the high points of night fail to stand tall and impress, but this is the luck of old bottles and with only one bad bottle one shouldnt complain. With so many rare and wonderful Burgundy experiences and bottle after bottle in such amazing condition the whole night through this dinner was definately a high lighted success. To sum it up in the words of one of my first time guests “I came here tonight not knowing what to expect but i am leaving here tonight over whelmed by what i received, a truely great night that far exceeded my expectations”
I would like to thank all those who attended for your words of enthusiasm and thanks. I am sure you have all taken away some great memories from sharing a very special evening with some extremely rare vintage wines. Thank you as always to Jeremy for the bottle photos, Tim for the booklet and Cam for the notes and photos on the night. Your contributions and efforts are always appreciated by myself and everyone who attends. Last but certainly not least thank you to the Marque Restaurant team: Mark, Yann, Dennis and all the staff who helped make this a night to remember for a very long time.