What to drink after 1921 Château d’Yquem? That was my problem yesterday lunchtime – a pretty upmarket one, I’ll admit, but daunting all the same, as I didn’t want to get it wrong. My old boss – he had the misfortune to endure my typing for four years in the mid-1970s - had invited me to Terroirs to share a bottle of d’Yquem of his birth year. The other guests were my ex-Managing Director, who is a MW of 50 years standing; another ex-colleague with keen palate, and Jack’s son-in-law, who had given him the bottle in the first place, along with his grandson who is new to wine and keen to learn.
The d’Yquem could only be described as fabulous and venerable. It was deep amber in colour and elegantly honeyed on the nose, with the unmistakable note of botrytis. The palate was that fabulous combination of richness, elegance and maturity, with a long lingering finish. It was certainly a wine that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was ageing gracefully, but like my ex-boss, who still plays a regular round of golf, very far from being on its last legs. 1921 was one of the great Sauternes vintages and I think the wine more than surpassed our expectations.
And then came the thorny question: what do we drink next? The wine list was thrust at me. If you ever find yourself in London, wondering where to have a meal, Terroirs near Charing Cross, is the solution. The food is delicious, with French country flavours, terrines, charcuterie, boudin noir, bavette, seafood, and so on, and the wine list comes from one of the UK’s most original importers, Les Caves de Pyrène who specialise in organic wine and make a point of seeking out quirky wines from off the beaten track in France and elsewhere. So I was spoilt for choice.
The question was which wine to choose? Give me a clue, I said. No you choose; we are both very out of date declared the octogenarians. France or Italy? I had spotted a friend’s Brunello di Montalcino. France they said. And then my eyes alighted on the evocatively titled Sous les Cailloux des Grillons (under the stones of the crickets) from Domaine de Gravillas in the village of St. Jean de Minervois. John and Nicole Bojanowski produce some of the most original wines of the area, and more often vin de pays rather than appellation. The name of this particular cuvée conjures up warm sunshine in a glass. Let’s try something different, I thought. Jack won’t want to drink claret – he’s got plenty in his cellar at home.
I admit I held my breathe as the assembled company tasted the wine. The octogenarians wouldn’t hesitate to voice their opinion. Would they like it? I certainly did. It had a lovely red fruit and brambly nose, and on the palate, the vibrant flavours of fresh fruit, with some acidity as well a hint of tannin, with some intriguing flavours, that I could really only describe as funky, with a touch of appealing rusticity. The combination of sunshine with fresh flavours was delicious. Imagine my relief when they started to purr with pleasure. They liked it just as much as I did. The crickets had come up trumps!
My next appointment of the afternoon was a Côtes de Provence tasting. Well anything would be an anti-climax after such lunchtime drinking. But more in my next post.