Sunday, March 28, 2010

BYOB Championship

(Our host preparing food)

Before my wine group and I started to do personal fancy wine tastings at some of Copenhagen’s finest Michelin restaurants, we used to do private BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) events. I remember when I was hosting these events – preparing a 7-course dinner and washing up porcelain and glasses 2 days in a row. I love having guest, but man it’s hard work for the host.

But this time, it was my city neighbour, Claus who hosted and Claus decided to put on a little game of fun: The BYOB Championship.

I wish I could say the rules was simple, but as some brought 3 wines and some only 2 and some of the challenges even ended up tied - I don’t know how we picked a winner ;-). But we did, and I must say, he was the right one.

Claus prepared a rather extensive menu, from seafood Ravioli, two different kinds of Risotto and lamp chops, which were grilled outside @ midnight while the rain was pouring down. If you are reading this, Claus – thank you for a fantastic menu…you are insane my friend ;-).

Let’s just start and you will see how the challenges worked (All wines tasted blind)

Challenge 1: Moderate priced Champagnes (Limit 67€)

2004 Agrapart “Avoizoise” (my Champagne)
NV Bollinger

I wasn’t allowed to vote in the Champagne categories and I was competing vs my friend Max.

The challenge ended tied: 2-2. Had I been allowed to express my opinion, I would have picked Agrapart as a clean winner. Bollinger is not bad, but it’s lacking in tallness and just expressing what I like about a Champagne. It’s fairly charming though – showing pockets of oxidation, smoke, vanilla and butter. “Avoizoise” is beautiful, a fresh breeze in comparison filled with luxuries fruits of preach and mango. It’s however also very mineral attached, making it stand far taller in the glass. Even if it were a clean winner to me, I would still say that Bollinger is the best big house NV out there and very fair prices when you can find it on sale.

Challenge 2: Expensive Champagnes (No limits)

(A tiny drop of 2004 Venus - in the Juhlin Champagne glass)

2004 Agrapart “Venus” (My Champagne)
1982 Krug

Again I couldn’t vote. Once again a draw / 2-2. Was this fair? Maybe the right question was; can you even compare these two Champagnes? It simply ended a draw, because those in favour of Venus didn’t like what they defined as the smell of “old” Champagne. They loved Venus for it’s vinous touch and it’s graceful style. If I could have voted, I would have picked Krug as the winner. But man I was “proud” of having brought such spectacular Champagne as Venus. It’s a mineral beast – with majestic tallness and floating chalky feeling on the palate. Breathtaking and remember how young it is – It will be fascinating to follow it.

Krug ’82 – wasn’t convincing from glass one. It’s farting a bit with that smell of “old” where these specific notes are overpowering the Champagnes ability to show layers of complexity. But it was about airing the monster and I ended up having as much as 3 glasses of it. Spectacular how it unfolds with air and it’s like a painting, coming to life. Some of the notes not necessarily a winner in my book; - burned acacia honey, sourdough, yeast and malt beer flavours. It’s simple the combination of them together and the strength of them, which makes this Champagne seriously scary. It’s miles better than the 1985 Krug Collection and almost head to head with the 1988, which is my favourite Krug Vintage. A Champagne with ridiculous concentration - incredible mouth-watering - majestic and yet so graceful – my god.

(1982 Krug and Claus making risotto in the background)

Challenge 3: Piemonte – Moderate priced (Limit 67€)

2001 P. Scavino Barolo “Bric del Fiasc”

A clear winner of this category – 6 first places if I remember correctly. Why? Well to me it was about red fruit and attitude. Still modern made as the cherry notes and sweet and lush, but the allure from violet and red fruit it just knockout beautiful. On the palate it’s almost even better, as it has so much grip and that classic dried Nebbiolo palate touch, which I just happen to adore. And yes – I have this one in my cellar. Will provide at least 10 years of drinking pleasure from now, but I would recommend a test-drive now.

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo “Cicala”

A very seductive wine – but in fact the wine I preferred the least. It’s very intimidating with red fruit, but the cherry notes providing the "red touch" are almost overripe and it’s overpowered by a vanilla - almost powder sugar sweetness, which simply takes so much backbone out of the wine. It’s evident on the palate, where it falls apart in my book, with simple lack of vibrant acidity. The good thing is however, that there is loads of fruit here. Cellar at least 3-5 years more.

2003 Roagna Barbaresco “Paje”

Even if Cicala was overpowering sweet, the black sheep in this flight, was this wine. Shyer, slimmer, even with tar and pepper - and it feels so much younger. But the taste is so nice, classic, clean and feminine. Could be interesting to taste this in 5-6 years time.


Challenge 4: Tuscany (No price limits)

2004 Casanova di Neri, Brunello di Montalcino “Tenuta Nuova”

This wine won this flight 5-1. I was the only one not voting for it. It’s very pleasing and easy to like. The nose holds tons of fruit with medicine, roll bandages, vanilla, sweet overripe cherries, blackberries and a fair amount of alcohol. Taste is round big and pleasing, but again with the alcohol annoying my taste buds somewhat. It’s doesn’t posses any complexity whatsoever in my book, but having said that, I can see why such a wine would this challenge, as “lowest cleavage” tends to win. Just shows how tricky one-glass wine tastings can be.

2000 Ruffino Romitorio di Santedame IGT

I am not sure this bottle was in perfect condition. Presenting itself far more evolved with dull fruit, pepper and high-pitched alcohol. Not good.

2001 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino “Case Basse Riserva”

For sure I was happy to see that I had picked wine no.3 as this winner, when the bottles was revealed, as Case Basse is my favourite Italian red wine. As I believe wine no.2 was flawed, Case Basse was in direct battles with “Tenuta Nuova” – and what a clash in styles. Case Basse is not particular giving – in fact it’s very shy, but not entirely closed. On the nose there are traces of bright and clear red fruit, which is certainly not hurting my preferences. But the nose is really tight – it’s the taste, which takes the credit this time. It’s has such a wonderful pure and slim curl around the tongue with enormous sleekness and aftertaste. I had the chance to get a second fill of this beautiful wine, which was even better in glass two. The structure is really impressive and I guess we are talking 4-5 years before it enters a long drinking window. Not many wines offer what Case Basse does – where an endless numbers of wines offer the commercial style of “Tenuta Nuova”.


Challenge 5: Piemonte (No price limits)

Also in this flight I picked another winner than the official winner. I am not 100% sure, but I think wine no. 1 won it by 4-2.

2001 Monti Barolo “Bussia”

This wine won the challenge, but it wasn’t my no.1. It holds: smoke, dust, herbs and fairly classic Barolo-like. The taste is also nice with firm attitude and good balance between fruit and structure. However I missed some nerve if to vote is the winner of this flight. But still it was a really good wine.

1999 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo “Corette” (Magnum)

Never ever heard of this wine before – and even if it ended as no.3 in my book, it was still a good wine. Opens up with classic dust, forest and mushroom notes – but also rather reserved. Taste is intense, but the alcohol is again teasing my taste buds and ruins some of the balance. Not much else to say.

1998 Bruno Giacosa, Barolo “Faletto”

My winner. The first note I wrote on my paper was; Red fruit – and that simply brought the wine one step ahead of its flight revivals. Cherries dominate the red fruit, but also a wonderful violet/rose note came to life. Secondary aromas of medicine did also appear and this actually made me guess; Giacosa out of the blue. As a normal donkey in blind guessing I was seriously proud when the bottle was revealed. But let’s not forget the taste, which is brings stunning palate warmth without burning alcohol, but also reveals a wine with solid structure and in need of further cellaring.

(Barbecue at midnight while the rain was pouring down)

Challenge 6: Red Burgundy (No price limits)

1996 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques

The weakest wine in a divine flight. Red fruit is there, but it’s also a very rustic wine with notes of mushrooms and meatballs (for the Danes; Frikadeller og varm leverpostej). Taste is a little strained – dropping short and again leaves with a rustic impression.

2002 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques

A wine I have always loved. It has these amazing 2002 spices, which normally are so seductive sweet. This time – maybe because it’s served in a Bordeaux glass, it holds back a bit. The cherry notes are there for sure, but the spices takes a bit from the purity. However it holds enormous intensity and on the palate the spices works better as you end up chewing on these wonderful flavours (food friendly also) in a long genuine aftertaste. It ended no.2, but it was a close call.

2000 DRC, “Romanée St. Vivant”

I took me a while to pick this wine as the winner. It’s not an instant winner, as it’s not as intense as ’02 Clos St Jacques. But on the elegance barometer it’s the best wine and for my preferences, elegance always wins over power. The nose holds divine light red fruit – sprinkled with smoke and dust and it keeps the taster interested all the time and it takes on in weight all the time. Taste has silky energy, not a finish, which is as long as ’02 Clos St Jacques, but the balance is simply just better. A magnificent wine.

(A happy winner: Max)

That was the end of the official tasting. So who won? Well, if we counted most votes for 1stplaces, I think our host won. But I think we all agreed that Max was the winner, with NV Bollinger, 1982 Krug and 2000 DRC, “Romanée St. Vivant” as his wines. Congratulations Max, looking forward to a re-match in June.

2 bonus wines entered – I was full. One of them was a US-Syrah if I remember correctly 2007 Ethan I have written on my paper. It was a wine far from my preferences, but again – I think a cold beer was the only proper alcohol beverage suitable at this point. The other wine was the 1996 Philip Togni. I have always liked the wines from Togni – as they have a strong personality. This was a very nice bottle, with notes of red and green peppers, buttermilk and goat cheese. Sounds revolting, but it was actually very nice.

No more…


Anonymous said...

Lucky guy, that your home was around the corner.

Happy Easter-Holidays!!!


P.S. Did Bollinger change the style of NV? I had it a few months ago and was disappointed. I missed the big&bold style.

Thomas said...

Hi Martin,

Yep, 300 meters to my bed - magic.

You might be on the something. Juhlin wrote like this when he rated the 1999 La Grande Année:

"I hope that it is not a trend to make the vintage wine with more and more Chardonnay. It feels extremely important that the world of champagne still has its strongest Pinot outpost left! Enough of criticism......."

But that's the only whispers I have heard in that direction?.

Hope you are enjoying the Easter also - take care.


alex said...

Very nice posting! like the idea of a byob championship! Greets, Alex

Thomas said...

Thank you, Alex.

Spontaneous idea, which now seem to have become a tradition.