Recently at a friends’ house we had an excellent supper, with lovely food accompanied by excellent wine, great company and lots of mirth. When we offered to have the same eight people to our place for a repeat performance, someone suggested it could be like a Harringay Dine Wine Me, where we would all get scores for our showing. Gulp!

This was particularly awkward and scary as we’d just had a fantastic evening that included rolling our own sushi no less. I didn’t fancy being scored and far less marking someone else, which is a pretty ugly thing to do. Not to matter, we risked comparison and went ahead anyway. Here’s what we drank when they all came to ours…

With some antipasti we had a bottle of 2008 Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes from Domaine Paul Blanck. Auxerrois is a lovely, friendly variety unique to Alsace that’s a variant of Pinot Blanc, another Alsatian variety. There aren’t that many examples around but it’s well worth getting some if you find it. This one was from £14 from Waitrose, but I grabbed a case when they did their 25% off all wines weekend, a twice a year super-bargain that everyone should avail themselves of. A lovely, lip-smacking moreish wine, I would highly recommend getting some whilst they are still stocking it.

Next we had a bottle of Alsace Grand Cru Brand Pinot Gris 2004 from the Cave de Turckheim. I bought it from the producer the time before last when I was over there for about €16 I think (the last time I was buying 2007s, which I just started drinking). Rich, spicy, but dry it’s a terrific wine from one of the best Grand Cru sites in Alsace (the Brand vineyard) and is great with spicy stuff – ideal with harissa prawn skewers and courgette fritters as we had for example. It would be well over £20 in the UK and shows what good bargains you get when you buy from source.

Reverting to the clean and lean, we followed that with had a bottle of 2010 Rías Baixas (an appellation from Galicia in NW Spain), which is made from pure Albariño, an excellent, crisp, slightly aromatic but quite full variety that’s perfect with seafood or crisp zingy fish and is getting ever more popular. This one was from the producer Pazo Señorans and we had it with a salmon cerviche. They currently sell it in Berry Brothers for £17 but I paid £12.50 when I bought it from the Wine Society a few months ago, but they don’t have it there at the moment. I’m not sure I’d spend £17 on it, but it’s a lovely wine for £12.50 showing strong varietal character and a lovely freshness.

For the main course we had swordfish with a pomegranate molasses marinade. This was accompanied by a couple of red Burgundies, which being on the lighter and more elegant side of red wine are good matches for meaty fish, like swordfish or tuna. The first was my penultimate (sniff) bottle of 2004 Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode from Domaine Pavelot. I bought this excellent Burgundy from Hugues Pavelot a few years ago. He’s probably the best grower in Savigny, which is highlighted by the fact that although 2004 was no great year, he made a superb wine. Good value too, at less (just) than €20. The premier cru vineyard La Dominode is known for being a late maturer and the 2004 was just on the money at nine years old. No matter, I’ve got a case of 2006 to come!

The second red Burgundy was a bottle of 2007 Marsannay ‘Les Longeroies‘ from Domaine Bruno Clair, also bought from the producer a few years ago, for about €15. By contrast this was the first bottle I had broached in a case of six. Also quite a later maturer, it was still a tad young at six years old, but nevertheless it had just started to show really well. Certainly no hurry for the other five bottles and I’ve plenty of protection in other red Burgundies, so they’ll be safe for a year or so at least. A terrific wine from an appellation (Marsannay) in Burgundy where you can find some really good wines offering much better value than their neighbours down the road in Gevrey-Chambertin.

On to the cheese, we had a staple classic; Cune Rioja Reserva 2004. Reserva is the benchmark style of Rioja that all good producers should make a good example of, which Cune certainly do. It’s long lived and 2004 was a first class year that’s only just starting to drink. I always find Rioja great with hard cow’s milk cheeses, which this certainly was. Currently you can pick up the 2006 (also a very good year) from Majestic for about £14, which is a very fair price for a textbook Rioja Reserva that’s being sold at six years old, just about ready to drink.

Moving on to blue cheese and seamlessly into a couple of tarts for pudding, we had a bottle of Grande Maison’s Monbazillac Cuvée du Château 1996, that I bought for the ridiculous steal of about €18 in a deli / cave in the market town of Riberac in the Dorgogne. A joke price that is almost the same as the current release (probably 2008 or so) from the producer! The bottles had been in the cave of their shop for years so I asked the chap to go and find all the older vintages he could in his cave (well stored), which he did, resulting in me coming back with about three mixed cases of excellent, mature but not over the hill wines that should have been at least twice the price. Happy days! This Monbazillac was still fresh and vital at 17 years old (96 was a very good year) with full rich marmaladey flavours (from the botrytis). A superb pudding wine to finish a (hopefully) lovely supper.

And so with the evening over did anyone sink so low as to give us a mark out of ten? Fortunately not, though I’m still wondering every time I see my friends on the street if they’re about to hand me a scorecard.


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