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Neal Martin's celebration bash

Thursday 16 November 2006


Neal and Tomoko Martin

To celebrate being hired by Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate publication, Neal Martin convened a celebratory dinner at The Arches Wine Bar, haunt of a number of wine trade figures. I was delighted to be invited.

It was my first visit to this hallowed venue (see a nice article by Andrew Jefford on the Arches, and Harry Gill, its proprietor, pictured right). There were eight of us, and Neal almost absurdly generously provided most of the wine, the balance of which we bought from Harry's wonderful list, with Harry joining us and contributing a couple of surprise bottles of his own. Most of these wines were tasted blind.

There was a moment of mini drama, where Neal failed to locate two rather special bottles heíd planned to include. These werenít found (although Neal did locate them the next day), but we didnít let this disappointment ruin the evening, which gained pace towards the end with a flurry of bottles appearing in fast succession. Nealís dad even made a guest appearance towards the end.

We began with two white Burgundies, and then two red Burgundies,

Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 1995 Burgundy, France (Tasted blind)
Really interesting: a bit stinky and reductive, but in a nice way, with a hint of boiled cabbage and rubber. The palate is spicy, complex and full with lots of personality. Itís nutty and quite fresh, showing some evolution. Very good/excellent 94/00

Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d'Or 1995 Burgundy, France (Tasted blind)
Honeyed and quite open on the nose, showing fat fruit and just a hint of oxidiation. Thereís a butterscotchy warmth here. Hollows out a little on the finish, but itís a nice wine, still. Very good/excellent 90/100

Christoph Roumier Rouchottes Chambertin Grand Cru 1991 Burgundy, France (Tasted blind)
Earthy, spicy, slightly sweet nose Ė a bit rustic even. The palate is savoury and earthy with an undergrowthy edge to it. Serious and quite structured with some age on it. Quite evolved. Very good/excellent 93/100

Dugat-Py Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2001 Burgundy, France (Tasted blind)
Modern and full with rich, bright, powerful fruit. Slightly earthy, with lots of tannic structure. A bold modern-styled red Burgundy. Very good/excellent 91/100


Joel Hopwood, Alex Hunt and Neal

A pause in proceedings for two wines generously contributed by Harry Gill

Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg Turckheim Pinot Noir 1989 (Tasted blind)
A rarity: a red wine from Zind Humbrecht. I think this vineyard has now been replantedBig, rich and ripe, but also harbouring some green, medicinal characters. Sweet and rich with some evolution, but the greenness is a distraction. Very good+ 86/100

Valandraud 1994 St Emilion, Bordeaux
(Tasted blind)
Soft, smooth nose with a nice minerally edge to it. Refined, ripe and classy, showing sweet fruit and minerally complexity. The palate is quite spicy with lovely soft tannic structure and just a hint of greenness. Thereís a bit of chalkiness, too, with some Bordeaux-style pencil lead character. Very good/excellent 92/100

Then two Bordeaux, including my first experience with Le Pin

Ch‚teau Le Pin 1988 Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Serious right bank Bordeaux here. Sweet fruit with a smooth earthy edge. The palate shows more sweet fruit with a bright expressive character and a bit of leafiness. Itís a midweight wine that is fluently expressive, with a lightness to its personality. Very good/excellent 94/100

Ch‚teau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 1976 Bordeaux, France
Quite firm, almost medicinal edge to the nose which is a bit smoky and quite complex. The palate is firm, evolved and quite earthy. Savoury and full, with nice density and a spicy, drying finish. An old wine thatís hanging in there quite well. Very good+ 88/100


Joel Hopwood pours from a magnum of Voerzio

Time for some Italians, from the Archesí list

Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1996
Sweet, rounded and smooth with good weight and concentration, together with a mineral streak and sime freshness. Nice tannic structure. Quite youthful with lovely ripeness of fruit: serious stuff in a modern style. Very good/excellent 94/100

Luciano Sandrone Barolo La Vigne 1996
Smooth and expressive with lovely sweet red fruits balanced by spicy structure and nice smooth tannins. Superbly balanced and quite elegant. Almost Burgundian: a very stylish wine. Very good/excellent 94/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Sarmassa di Barolo 1998 (magnum)
Fresh, bright nose with a hint of tar. Bright and focused. The palate is fresh with tarry dark fruits. Thereís some firm tannin and a bit of earthiness. Tight and complex with a long life ahead of it. Very good/excellent 93/100


Neal's dad

Other wines:

Ch‚teau Montelena 1991 Napa, California
Lovely stuff. Dark, a bit herby and leafy, but still quite full and dense. The palate is concentrated and slightly sweet with a good density of concentrated fruit with some richness to it. Very good/excellent 93/100

Ch‚teau Filhot 1935 Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Apricotty, fresh, tangy and lemony Ė very evolved. Powerful palate with intense tangy flavours. Complex stuff with real interest. It certainly has some age on it, but it doesnít taste like a 70 year old wine. Very good/excellent 93/100

Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock Shiraz/Cabernet Franc 2001 Heathcote, Victoria, Australia
Wild nose of sweet intense fruit with ginger and spice notes. Itís also a little meaty. The palate is powerful and full with bold, sweet, savoury flavours, and also a bit of mint. Quite odd stuff, but I like it Ė perhaps it suffers in comparison with the distinctly old world wines it was drunk alongside. Very good/excellent 91/100

Parker Coonawarra 1996 Australia
Bright blackcurrantly fruit here with some fresh acidity. A bit tarry, with nice balance. A new world style, but not over the top. Very good+ 88/100

Wines tasted 11/06
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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