Old Empire Long Lunch II

A week before Christmas last year, four friends convened at a restaurant in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district to enjoy a journey through some brilliant food and wine. Common sense tends to dictate that it is worth repeating the things you enjoy in life, so here we are for the second installment.

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“We’re probably going to need another table”, we say to our host at Duocento Otto restaurant, or 208 as most call it, a modern Italian staple in Hong Kong’s restaurant-laden Sheung Wan district: we’ve come armed with a veritable arsenal of wine. Luckily they have the space to oblige us.

In a real go-slow, we spend the proceeding 6 or 7 hours (who knows) working our way through some terrific wines. A newly-found tradition dictates we start with vintage fizz…

1996 Dom Perignon

Coppery-gold in colour. Meg and I tried this at a friend’s place around 18 months ago; it was largely flat and lifeless, something we put down to the wine going through a “quiet period” in its maturation. Fortunately, this view was proved right as the latest tasting showed it as having come back to life: expressive, it was full of stewed apple and raisins (almost reminding me of a wintery English pud), with a rich autolytic and doughy mouthfeel. Not much citrus, and it seems to have lost some of its early complexity, but the finish was characterised by an interesting roasted fennel character.

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1996 Dom Perignon

2012 Domaine Roulot Mersault

Unlike the first installment, this time we elect to pour all the whites together so we can compare and contrast. Handy coloured dots guide our way. The Mersault has a beautifully appealing nose: so flinty, with citrus with a lovely floral character underneath. the palate was fantastic, power and richness from the oak while it still integrates, but not over-powering. Long finish, excellent wine.

2011 Cloudburst Chardonnay

This boutique Margaret River label (look out for future articles) produces Chardonnay of the highest quality. Tasted adjacent to the Mersault, it was clear it shared so much in common stylistically: a strong mineral, fresh citrus profile, but it also stood out for its marked individuality, specifically stone fruit and mealy biscuit. This wine will age well for at least a decade. Super stuff.

2008 Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay

Providing a fascinating contrast to the above two wines, this “Super Tuscan” (that is, wines from coastal Tuscany made with non-traditional grapes outside designated growing areas) was totally different. You could immediately detect the warmer climate in it: with tropical fruit like mango (always a sure sign the fruit has ripened later) and a fuller body, at first it was less expressive, but opened up with time in the glass. Very rich finish, still seemingly very youthful. You’d expect this wine to become quite “serious” and austere in its later years.

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2008 Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay, 2011 Cloudburst Chardonnay, 2012

Having navigated the Champagne and whites with a selection of cheeses, meats and pastas, it was time to move on to the more serious stuff:

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(Slightly overcooked) Steak Fiorentine with roasted spuds and rocket salad

2012 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche

Very young and dusty. A violet, floral note jumped out the glass before ripe red fruit took over, along with a sulphurous note so often accompanied with young red Burgundy. Probably too young at this stage, it was enjoyable once it had been in its jug for an hour.

2011 Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon

Starting promisingly with rich blackcurrant and vanilla (almost hedonistic), it unfortunately did not show well after that. Alcohol and tannin were fine, but the fruit and acidity were out of whack, leaving the whole palate somewhat unbalanced. Suspect this hasn’t traveled well, because this label is a lot better than this (again, see future articles), but it seemed to be reverting to type as a hot climate, New World offering without any real finesse. Not a poor wine by any means, but a shame, especially in such strong company.

1982 Château Lynch-Bages

In what was a landmark vintage for Bordeaux, arguably the most popular of all Fifth Growths was on awesome form for our long lunch. Gave it around an hour in jug before first pour (fruit was initially pretty ripe). First aroma: the unmistakable note of pure wood smoke, almost like the waft you get when you walk into a centuries-old English country pub in the middle of Winter, with open fire crackling away.

With the patriotic symbolism done, at a technical level the wine looked very vibrant with hardly any tawny colouring (the best indicator of age). Blackcurrant leaf and graphite jumped out of the glass, before moving into lovely ripe dark fruit, especially blackberry and plum. Very refined; some hard-to-place dried fruit in there too. On the palate, it was more concentrated than the Ch. LLS (next up), and the finish – wow – rich and powerful, with a cedar character went on and on. Outstanding; an absolute pleasure.

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2011 Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon, 1982 Ch. Lynch-Bages, 2012 Dujac Clos de la Roche

1989 Château Leoville-Las Cases

This estate has one of the oldest and richest histories of any in the Medoc. A Second Growth, this was a real treat as it came in magnum format. Beautiful Claret nose, instantly recognisable and lovable. Sweet (Asian?) spice there. On the palate it seemed so young: good concentration and, despite some savoury/meaty leads, it was still very fruit-led, with a strong cassis thread especially running through the whole experience. The finish was long albeit slightly on the tart side, but this was a wine of excellent quality.

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1989 Chateau Leoville-Las Cases (in magnum format)
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Nutella calzone to finish (what else?)

Another fine afternoon, and a brilliant follow up to our pre-Christmas get-together. Sense that a third instalment could soon be in the pipeline. The line-up of wines contained some real winners, especially that ’82 Lynch-Bages, but like before it was the excellent company that made this very long lunch so damn enjoyable.

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The complete line-up

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