A pre-sale lunch with Palmer ’61

I spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday in the company of Jancis Robinson, John Stimpfig and Stuart George plus a client and Spenser Hilliard, also of Bid for Wine. We had gathered for lunch at The Ledbury in Notting Hill to taste a range of older clarets selected from two cellars we will be offering for auction on the site in March. All the wines were purchased en primeur and have been in the cellars either since shipping from France or from the cellars of The Wine Society or Berry Brothers and Rudd.

We started off in an unusual direction with 2 older halves, namely Pichon Lalande 1966 (4****) and Ducru Beaucaillou 1970(3***1/2). Surprisingly given the format, both were in good condition though despite a superb claretty nose the Ducru will want drinking reasonably soon as it was showing a touch of astringency. The Pichon Lalande was as elegant and fine as this property’s reputation suggests and was loaded with cedar, plums, perfume and tea notes.

An amuse bouche of Beetroot meringues with goats cheese followed. Very clever and absolutely delicious.

The food proper was, as always, top notch – a spectacular starter of raw marinated shellfish accompanied by a horseradish icecream and dill. This was paired well with a pair of 1996 and 1989 Von Schubert Abtsberg Kabinetts. Regrettably the 1989 was corked.

Crisp Pressed Suckling Pig with Trompettes and Pumpkin were up next. This was paired with 1970 & 1975 Chateau Kirwan. The 1970 (3***1/2) was textbook claret with some tannic grip, a nice minerality and time in hand if one wished to hold. The 1975 (2**1/2)) was a fat wine with a touch of something lactic on the nose alongside some cherry fruit . The creaminess carried through on the palate too and there wasn’t a huge amount of definition or structure. One to drink up relatively soon.
Gruaud Larose 1982
We followed with shoulder of Pyrenean Milk fed Lamb cooked for 24 hours with Truffle Creamed Potato and Buttered Celery. Beautifully succulent meat laced with herbs and swept up in a heady perfume of truffles. Alongside this we drank Leoville Las Cases 1970, Leoville Las Cases 1978 (a half of the latter), Gruaud Larose 1982 and Palmer 1961. The 1970 Las Cases (2**1/2) was backwards and burly with a slightly cheesy, sweaty nose – interesting but not loveable. The 1978 (4****) was however divine with a lovely nose of bitter chocolate, pine and smoke over more classic claret characters. More elegant that the ’70 too. Both wines were in challenging company those given the presence of the highly regarded Gruaud (4****1/2) and legendary Palmer. The former was a dark, quite austere wine – notes of pencil lead, blackcurrant leaf and beef stock – quite tannic too. The Palmer (6******) possessed an incredibly rich, figgy and dense nose. Almost some molasses! Very powerful, rich, elegant and long. Still quite tannic. Very fine. Seems almost Rhone-esque from its build and structure. One of those wines which has a huge reputation to contend with but this was clearly something very special.

Pud was a Brown Sugar Tart with Muscat grapes, white Raisin ice cream and Vin Cotto accompanied by a Quarts de Chaume 1990 from Baumard. As I was deep in conversation I didn’t note this but recall an intensely sweet wine with great minerality and a touch of lime.
The clarets mentioned above will be going up for auction in March along with a selection of Port and other oddments. Details of all the wines from one of the cellars can be found here.

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2 Responses to “A pre-sale lunch with Palmer ’61”

  1. keith prothero Says:

    Nice notes Lionel on a great lunch.One of the few occasions,when I wish I was not in paradise!!

  2. […] we’re just about to launch our feature auction of wines from a Wiltshire Cellar (mentioned here). I thought some authoritative notes might be of interest to potential bidders and Jancis Robinson […]

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