I couldn’t resist an invitation to dinner at the Galvin Bistro on Baker Street, as a guest of Lionel Lavail from Domaine Cazes, especially when the invitation mentioned 1978 Cuvée Aimé Cazes Rivesaltes. Domaine Cazes have just changed importers in London and are now represented by one of the most energetic of shippers, Liberty Wines. See my April posting for more on Domaine Cazes
How often you get the opportunity to drink rather than taste Rivesaltes, and with the appropriate food? To my mind, Rivesaltes is one of the most underrated wines of the Languedoc, or more precisely of Roussillon. We are told how well Rivesaltes will go with foie gras – foie gras is regularly suggested as an appropriate accompaniment to all sorts of wines, even mature Chablis – but here was the chance to find out just how delicious this particular combination is. The foie gras came with a red onion terrine, which did not enhance the dish, but the foie gras itself was delicious and the dilemma was to decide which of two Rivesaltes went best.
The first option was 1996 Muscat de Rivesaltes. No that is not a typing mistake; we were served a 14 year old Muscat de Rivesaltes, when normally it is a wine that is best drunk in its youthful freshness. This has matured beautifully; it was amber golden in colour, with notes of orange marmalade, and it had completely lost any hint of Muscat grapiness.
I think however that the other choice, 1996 Ambré Rivesaltes, from barrel aged Grenache Blanc, had the edge. It had developed wonderfully nutty aromas, with some elegant sweetness and a freshness which complimented the foie gras perfectly.
We were then served two red wines to accompany a venison daube
2008 Marie Gabrielle Côtes du Roussillon, a blend of French, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre, aged in vat rather than barrel. It had ripe mineral fruit on the nose and an attractive freshness and peppery fruit on the palate.
2009 Collioure Notre Dame des Anges was ripe and perfumed, rounded with some spicy berry fruit and remarkably drinkable for such a young wine, especially as it had spent some time in oak. Both went very well with the daube, with its accompaniment of trompette mushrooms, quince and celeriac purée.
Next came another combination that you often hear about, but one which I do not think I have ever tried before, Muscat de Rivesaltes with a blue cheese, Bleu des Causses. The Muscat was 2006, so past its first flush of youth. I found it quite heavy as well as ripe, with a slightly bitter finish, and would suggest that it was a bit adolescent. However the saltiness of the blue cheese softened its edges very effectively.
And dessert was a chocolate délice, with milk ice cream, so very creamy milk chocolate, with a delicate ice-cream, and that was accompanied by the legendary 1978 Cuvée Aimé Cazes Rivesaltes, a white Grenache that has spent thirty years in barrel enjoying a slow and gentle oxidation, turning an amber colour. It was everything that great Rivesaltes should be, with walnuts and hazelnuts, a richness and sweetness, not cloying, but long and lingering. I wondered if I might have preferred a darker chocolate to accompany it, but really the wine stood alone.