Don’t be frightened to drink older wines (as long as they are well stored)
We had the opportunity, earlier this week to produce a dinner for a private group of 16 people, where I was invited to explain the wines, at which we used the opportunity to serve some of the older wines in our cellar. Now some people might be sceptical about this – especially the whites. But if they have a good pedigree (let’s not talk about white Burgundies – that’s another story!) and are properly made and not produced for early quaffing deliberately (i.e. cheap and nasty), they should be fine.
Our apéritif was a 1997 Fox Mountain Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma, California, made by the Foppiano family. Many Sauvignons are built to last and this was no exception, but instead of being anglar and sharp, this Sauvignon in the first instance was tempered by the inclusion of 20% Viognier in the blend, although there was no legal requirement to say so. The Viognier, however, gave the wine a lift of aromatic sweetness on the palate – a really enjoyable wine to whet the appetite for the evening. The first course of a chickpea pancake with asparagus, scallops, prawns and a light seafood sauce was accompanied by another Sauvignon Blanc – this time by an Austrian producer from Styria, Walter Skoff, and the vintage was – 1996! This was more austere than the Californian wine, very full bodied, with hints of nettle and bell pepper, just about as far away from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as you could get! But it was a perfect foil the asparagus and the crispness of the wine complimented the seafood as well.
Next a magret de canard served with Venere black rice on a purée of parsnip with a Madeira and Port sauce. With this we has a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon “Il Rosso di Enrico Vallania Cuvée” 1995 from the Terre Rosse estate just outside Bologna. The USP of the Terre Rosse wines is that they don’t use any oak as a mater of principle. The Vallania’s believe that oak masks the purity of the fruit – and who were we to argue? Although almost 15 years old, this wine had plenty of grip and people were amaazed tp discover that it was totally unoaked. The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon actualy stays 5 years in stainless steel before bottling and its commercial release, whilst their regular Cabernet only stays for 4 years.
From an Italian wine made with French grapes, the selectiion of cheeses came with a Californian wine made with Italian grapes – a Sangiovese from the Turnbull Vineyards in the Napa Valley – 1997 this time. This had a pretty hefty 14.5% dose of alcohol and had still retained its upfront fruit, so unlike the true Italian versions of the Sangiovese grape where the wines can sometimes be austere and almost mouth-puckdering on occasions, but this was a real Dolly Parton! A great match for some of the hefty cheeses we served.
The dessert was an ice cream made from Kirsch-marinated wild cherries, cream and eggs, served in a tulipe brandy snap and here we came up with a 2003 Sauternes, Ch. Lamothe-Guignard. (Almost infanticide!) – a most underrated producer. Great balance of sweetness and acidity, it even took the extra Kirsch which Sonia had splashed over the ice cream!