It’s just over 3 weeks now and I am still in awe at one of the most amazing wine dinners I have ever held or attended. The memory of each and every wine will live long in my memory as one of the greatest wine experiences of my life. For a number of years now Rare Wine Dinners has been collecting and procuring some of the great wines of Europe and earlier this year I had decided it was time to present a dinner that would focus on some of the Bordeaux treasures in the Rare Wine Dinners cellar. It was always going to be a great night with high expectations when you have 1945 Petrus, 1961 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 1926 Chateau Margaux and 1964 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon on the list of wines to be consumed.
To take you on a journey through the evening and allow you to share this experience, the views and opinions below are not only mine, they are a collection of thoughts, feedback and notes from some of the very lucky 10 guests who attended this dinner. When I thought about writing up this dinner so that others could share the experience I didn’t want you to hear it just from me. I wanted you to hear about and share the evening with those who experienced it firsthand. Here is our report on what is surely one of the greatest wine dinners held anywhere in the world in 2015.
One of my guests summed it up perfectly in an email the following day: “WOW! What privileged people we are to have been part of that night last night. Absolutely brilliant. When you have very high expectations, and then they are exceeded…now that’s amazing.”
While another had this to say: “I can’t eat or drink today, still basking in wonderful memories”
Now let’s take a look at the incredible list of wines in order of serving before we head into the detail:
1964 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Champagne
1975 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Kabinett Riesling
1976 Roland Thevenin Le Montrachet White Burgundy
1926 Chateau Margaux Medoc
1934 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion Pessac Leongnan
1945 Petrus Pomerol AC
1959 Chateau Talbot Saint Julien
1961 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Paulliac
1975 Chateau Haut Brion Graves
1937 Chateau Gilette Creme de Tete Sauternes
Its Saturday 1st of August around 6:30pm and most of my 10 very lucky and excited guests had joined me in the private dining room at Bentley restaurant in Sydney. As we mingled and conversed on the night ahead there was clearly much excitement and anticipation in the air. Some took shots of the bottles of wine lined up on the serving table while I gently opened and decanted the Egon Muller Riesling and Roland Thevenin white Burgundy. The color of these two wines thrilled us all and with great glee i declared that both were in excellent condition and unscathed from the vagaries of cork.
It was now closer to 7pm and time to get the evening underway. As I eased on the 50yr old cork in the 1964 Dom Perignon a light puff rather than a strong pop could be heard but this is just what we wanted to hear. 1964 was an excellent vintage for Champagne and this wine is said to be one of the all time great Dom Perignon. To my absolute delight this wine did not let us down and instead set the pace for what was to be an evening of great wine, after great wine, each and every one in wonderful, if not perfect condition for their age. My opening speech on this occasion was somewhat short as the excitement had taken hold and I was all out of words for the wonderful condition of the Champagne and my anticipation of the wines to come.
1964 Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Champagne, France – Scallop Ceviche, Rhubard, Horseradish –
My notes on this wine read: Stunning! Rich citrus, Hazelnut, Marzipan, candied Lime, toasty with lovely acidity keeping it fresh and alive, so much presence, so long and powerful, what a treat. Meanwhile someone remarked how brilliant the condition of this bottle was in comparison to the one which they had tried a few years back. Another person noted, “ One of the evenings highlights for me. Wonderful” while another wrote, “At the wonderful juncture of primary fruit and secondary complexity. Could not expect anything more….” A table full of smiles talked about how well the pace had just been set for the night ahead. Over and over we dipped the glass to our nose, smelling and slowly sipping away on the amber colored, liquid gold that matched ever so well with the canapés and Scallop Ceviche.
Another guest wrote: “Wow. What a start to this tasting. Aromas exploding from the glass. Violets, florals, rose. Mushrooms. Brioche. The palate is so rich. Still has freshness, with such a long and elegant finish. Amazing wine! The oxidative notes are harmoniously blended in with the other flavours. After some time, earthy notes lead to caramel, honey and toast. The wine creates a wonderful salivation when in the mouth. The finish lingers longer than 1 minute. Terrific bottle indeed”.
1975 Egon Muller, Scharzhofberger, Kabinett Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany – Honey Bugs, Sea Blight & Buttermilk –
So much precision and balance in this wine, honeyed Citrus, lime, slate steely minerality, YUM! Another wonderful wine that had someone else write: “Mineral but still a lot of fruit too – so “balanced elegance” (or is it elegantly balanced?) Drinking perfectly, honey sweetness, refined. Well paired with the food (Honey Bugs)”. It is no wonder this estate and vineyard is held in such high esteem.
1976 Roland Thevenin, Le Montrachet, White Burgundy, France – Murray Cod, Charred Spring Onion & Scallop Roe – 1976 was a very good albeit hot vintage for white Burgundy and I have thoroughly enjoyed every experience with these wines and the vintage to date. For me this was quite big in that make you sit back, say Woh! taking a moment to think about it on the first sip. This was all about spice, ripe stone fruit and wonderful minerality, so, so long. I just can’t get enough of this stuff. As we sat and marveled at yet another perfect and wonderful wine and the last of the whites, someone jokingly remarked “this is the white you have when you want a red!” Another wrote “Astounding power and length, framed by hazelnuts, butterscotch, ripe peaches, and muesli” another stating “first sip exploded, but then it settled and felt very comfortable”
Ring the bell! It was time for the Bordeaux. I think I can safely say while the last 3 wines did an excellent job of setting the pace for the real focus of the evening. The next wines were to take us to heights beyond all our expectations.
1926 Chateau Margaux, Medoc, France – Venison, Brassica, Juniper and XO sauce – 1926 a great but hot vintage is still one of the best of this decade, yet often forgotten behind 1921, 28 and 29. 1926 is now a very difficult vintage to find, however the longevity of this vintage is well known as is its power and quality. You could not have asked for better, a completely elegant and seductive wine, a true chameleon, constantly changing in the glass as it opened, lightly floral much like smelling old Burgundy then savory, cigar box, smoke, leather and game giving way to chocolate, coffee, caramel and a core of sweet dried red berry fruit running right through the middle. A sheer pleasure to drink and experience, this was my favourite wine of the night.
Others thought “An absolute highlight IMO. Cigar, pipe tobacco. Amazing. Nose was very strong at first but felt mellower with food. A hint of mint, richness like caramel, sweet berry, precise layering”. Another thought this wine was “esteemed and noble, with game, yeast, pine resin, cedar and mint. Acid and tannin bringing up the rear with effortless poise. Compelling and dynamic, if not a chameleon wine”. While another stated this wine was “the most memorable” of the evening.
And this note from one of my guests: “Incredible brightness in its fading, burgundy hues. Raspberry notes jump from the glass. Then cedar and cigars. Spicy notes, and then a touch gamey. Iodine and blue fruits. Maybe even just a hint of Brett, but it’s not at all distracting. After more time in the glass, there’s malt, and then mint. Florals too. It’s layered, complex, appealing. It’s giving off something new with each minute and sip. The palate still has lifted notes, and elegance. Some acids are still there, which combine beautifully with the fruits and developed flavours. Even after 20-30 minutes in the glass, it continues to open out, stretch, and feel comfortable that it’s finally been released from the bottle. An absolutely terrific bottle, and a pleasure to drink. Wow”.
1934 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan, France – Pork Cheek, Garlic and Yoghurt puree, Radicchio, Jamon – This wine gained so much depth in the glass it just kept expanding over a good 45mins. Seemingly youthful at first with the hallmarks of smokiness and mint. “Classic tomato leaf/bell pepper that built in the glass, a touch of brett on opening retracted rather quickly…. really enjoyed this with weight and depth astounding for a 80yo wine”
Another guest noted: “Looks almost young in the glass! Incredibly bright, with deep colors. Sweet, black fruits, leafy, tomato leaf. Slightly barnyard aromas which clean up in the glass after 10 minutes or so. Palate is light/mid-weight. More fruit sweet than the 1926 Margaux served just prior. The balance is very nice here. Concludes with a finish of decent length also”.
While someone else said: “I do agree with the notes, the 1934 Chateaux La Mission Haut Brion had a feminine and silky structure.”
1945 Petrus, AC, Pomerol, France – This wine needs no introduction; it is the wine that shot Petrus to stardom among wine lovers around the world upon its release. This wine was served on its own without food. Everyone in the room watched with enthusiasm and eagerness as I ever so carefully removed the cork and decanted the wine before immediately pouring and serving. While decanting this wine its fragrance filled my side of the room, brimming with smiles I could hardly contain my excitement and joy, this wine was in perfect condition! An absolute powerhouse it rocketed from the glass, a perfume of kaleidoscopic proportions, huge presence, sweet jammy black fruit with smokiness, this was hedonistic.
One guest remarked “its like fireworks”. and wrote: “A majestic and regal wine with poise, intensity of plush, fleshy fruit and aromatic fireworks on a sumptuous Burgundian like nose that scaled enormous heights (smoke, rose petals, cigar, orange peel, cherry, gravel). An intoxicating wine in every respect with seamless balance, gargantuan length that soars and soars to ever lofty heights, a fragrance so perfumed it will rarely be forgotten”. “Even better than the amazing 1950 Petrus last year”.
While another guest wrote: “On the nose, fantastic aroma’s of black fruit, smoked food aroma emerged in the glass after some initial swirls. At 70yrs old this surely good to 100+, it just seemed to have so much runway ahead of it. As Shannon noted, its amazing what they can do with Merlot. Quite possibly one of the best wines I’ll ever drink; rare, special, and historic – and just so “complete”. Massive and impressive on every level – this was very exciting, a treat”
And these comments from another: “The provenance of this bottle was unquestionable. The colour is extraordinary! Wow. We are in for a real treat here. So aromatic. There’s a rich nose, jammy in a way. Raspberry compote. The palate is seamless and so incredibly balanced. Mid-weighted. Not a thing out of place. Smokey notes, red florals, pines, meaty spice, dried herbs. The aromas and flavours are intoxicating. The nose especially, is ethereal. Absolutely “perfect”! Have we opened it too soon?!”
1959 Chateau Talbot, Saint Julien, France – Rangers Valley Wagyu, Broad Bean Shouts and Native Plum –
1959 is another of those vintages that has been touted as the vintage of the century, the wines are massive and rich in every sense. Following the 45 Petrus was always going to be tough for any wine let alone this one; however elegance and character allowed it to shine in effortless fashion. Just so easy to drink it had everything that is great about Bordeaux in perfect balance. One guest remarked “This is exactly as I remember it with the bottle drank 2yrs ago, just lovely”.
Another guest wrote: “a touch of astringency gives way to classic Bordeaux cigar box and capsicum, blackberry and earth before the tannin blanket comes through. On its own, an excellent wine, but tonight we were in the Valley of the Giants!
1961 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Paulliac, France – This wine was served without food.
I have had this wine on one previous occasion and I was glad to confirm the consistency with the last bottle. 1961 is hailed by many as the vintage of the 19th century. 1961 Bordeaux wines were almost undrinkable on release, many needing 30+yrs in the cellar before being approachable. To me this wine is all about the floral nose, Violets and Roses, such a pretty wine. I could spend the whole night just smelling the intoxicating aroma, so seductive. One guest commented and wrote: “Delicious, is there anymore please?”
Another wrote: “Archetypical (and perhaps atypical) Bordeaux with a bewitching, gorgeous nose of violets, rose petals, sweet plums, and sweet strawberries marry with a seamless and perfectly balanced palate. Utterly beguiling, a feminine counterpart to the extraordinary 61 Latour, and no less a wine”. While another guest had this to say: “Very floral nose, alongside the ‘typical’ characters of old Bordeaux. Very pretty. The palate is sublime! Lifted, bright. Encourages salivation. It is so elegant, with the faintest touch of tannin to finish. There’s tobacco, herbs, rose, violets. It is absolutely delicious, and this bottle was right in the zone”.
1975 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves, France – Cheese, Fleuron Vache Brebis –
An absolute cracking bottle of this wine. Deep and dark, this helped put the age factor into context for all of the wines tonight. Dark and brooding with ample depth and tannin, rich dark berry characters, a lovely and powerful way to finish the red Bordeaux for the evening. While one of my guests referred to this wine as an “outrageous riot of black fruit, blackberries, plums and cassis intermingling with Xmas cake”.
One guest wrote “This wine concluded a 7 decade flight of wine, any of which would have been ‘wine of the night’ in lesser company, Fruit, berries on the nose. Tobacco and leather, lovely color. Impressive”. While another guest wrote: “Compared to the other wines in this tasting, this bottle was so full on! It was the youngest, and so it had youth on its side. But this was just outrageous! Blackberry, cassis, tobacco. So rich and voluptuous. Almost like fruit cake. So balanced and long. Opulent black fruits, ripe tannins filing the mouth with immense pleasure. On this showing, this wine has decades in front of it!”
1937 Chateau Gilette, Creme de Tete, Sauternes – Violet Ice Cream, Cocoa Honeycomb & Blueberry –
Now on the home stretch, how else could you end such an impressive array of vintage wines? well with no other than one of the greatest ever vintages for Sauternes, 1937. To take us out on a high note I had chosen Chateau Gilette and their 1937 expression of Crème de Tete. Fabulously rich and unctuous you could have almost cut this with a knife, absolutely loaded with rich semi dried apricot, treacle and crystallized orange rind with just enough acidity to keep it somewhat fresh and clean on the palate. A perfect end to our best tasting and dinner yet.
Other’s wrote: “Remarkable. Scrumptious. Lovely aroma on the nose. Sweet of course, but not to the point of distraction. Apricots, crème brulee and maybe honey or fruit rind. Yet another special and impressive wine to finish a shocking good evening”.
And this “Again we are treated to a bottle in pristine condition, even given its age. The nose is so expressive – apricot, orange rind, bees wax, creme brûlée. Wow. Outstanding mouth feel, and length to burn. Tremendous”.
I was almost speechless to start with and upon finishing this dinner I was speechless again but with a smile from ear to ear. An outrageous evening of pinnacle wine after pinnacle wine, with some of the very best food I have had the chance to taste in quite some time. The wines were breathtakingly good with numerous speechless occasions throughout the dinner. Tonight the concentration was on the wines and food. The menu for this dinner was purposely built and engineered by the Bentley restaurant team with the assistance of sommelier Nick Hildebrandt. There were some signature dishes off their present menu along with a number of dishes created just for this evening.
The company, as always was outstanding and engaging, I could not think a better group of people to have shared such wonderful and rare, once in a lifetime wines with. I would personally like to thank everyone who attended for their company and conversation. I would also like thank you for your support which allowed me to present this epic night of wine, with special thanks to Jeremy for the photo’s and Tim for the handout. Even more thanks to my guests for allowing me to share their thoughts, opinions, kind words, experience and notes on the wines in this report.
For those of you who are reading and wondering just how good this experience was, I would say, I do not believe words alone can do justice to a night of wine and food such as this. You need to be there to truly comprehend this emotional and sensory experience. These wine and food experiences should be experienced at least once in every wine enthusiasts lifetime, however you may well find yourself choosing to return again and again and again.
Some final words from some of my guests taken from email in the few days following the dinner:
“Thanks again for a sensational night Shannon. Everything was just perfect”
“Just an awesome evening! Feel Honored to have shared this experience. Have been bragging to my Wino friends and reliving the evening”
“Each and every wine was outstanding. They sat in the glass, just opening out and revealing their magic that they had held on to for so long. I was personally thrilled and speechless with meeting them all in such intimate surroundings. And as you say, the food was sensational, the company engaging.
It’s one of the best nights of indulgence in my life.”
“Bring on next year!”
Speaking of next year, do you want to join us in 2016? Then read on below (and be very quick!)>
For the many of you that had expressed your serious interest to attend this dinner, please accept my humble apologies that there was not space for you to join us on this occasion. However, I would suggest you do not hesitate, and right now, click the link at the end of this report which will give you the opportunity to book seats for my next Grand Bordeaux experience in February 2016 in Sydney. The seats are again very limited for a wine occasion, journey and experience that money can rarely buy and words alone will not do justice. Seats are available until sold out by clicking the link below the photo which will take you to a page with all the details.