Like high rollers in a Las Vegas casino, some very lucky members of the trade were invited to Keith Prothero’s latest Roulette Wine Table where every bottle of wine is a minimum £800. Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn was our fortunate eyes and mouth around the table at Chez Bruce.
As wine evenings go they don’t get more exclusive than Keith Prothero’s Austerity Dinner at Wandsworth’s Chez Bruce
Last night I was privileged to have gained a seat at one of Keith Prothero’s Roulette Wine Tables. The Austerity Dinner was open to all; you just needed to tender a suitable bottle of wine (worth around £800 cost) to gain a place at the table. Only eight seats were available, and a few extra bottles managed to get on the list with a total of 16 wines served, with a few of them priced significantly over the entry price.
It was hosted in the private upstairs dinning room at Chez Bruce, a wonderful food and wine haven.
Starting with Dom Perignon 1995, often overshadowed by the 96, escalated in depth and flavour the longer it was left in the glass, deeper and richer than the 96, lots of layered fruit and vibrancy, soft underlying tones of butterscotch.
The two whites were completely different as you would expect, and the Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 1957 is certainly made in the cellar, highlighting the draconian historic buildings of Lopez de Heredia with its unique aromas. Sherry like to start with dry flavours then evolved into a rich succulent wine with luscious pineapple on the palate.
The 2008 Chevalier – Montrachet Dom Leflaive was big and boisterous and needs time, classic style, rich textured, spiced, ripe yellow peaches, toasted almonds. The rich warm crab and celeriac tartlet was a perfect match with the richness of the brown meat coming out well, and such delicate pastry.
Time for Bordeaux
The four Bordeaux wines were matched with a lovely delicate lamb dish, lightly outing with sweet flavours of lamb, sweet onions and rosemary with pillows of melt in the mouth potato gnocchi. ,
On first impression I was very excited with the 1961 Lafite Rothschild, savoury and refreshing in the same mouthful, fresh berries bounce around the palate balanced with some dried cranberries, delicate sweet spices.
The 1985 Chateau Lafleur was closed to begin with but then opened up with a flourish, luscious bright full juicy fruits, harmonious, soft smokey chocolate, juices of lightly cooked legs of spring lamb, the purity is fantastic.
The 1986 Chateau Petrus, a rare privilege to try, was slightly clumsy, with tea flavours and earthy overtones with the fruit somewhat hidden, whilst the Chateau Ausone 1986 was a touch oxidised and not showing at its best.
The delicate sweet calf’s sweetbread with fresh peas, wild garlic and morels was a great introduction to the flight of Burgundy. The 1993 Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru DRC was pure on the nose, hedonistic, delicately perfumed, waves of silky fruit with very delicate flavours from the stems, fabulous wine.
But then came the 2002 (correction from the 2000 on the menu) this was sublime, distinctive gentle farmyard nose, overtaken quickly by the fresh bright piercing fresh berries, candied, seductive, aromatic, this was simply awesome, and a wine that will carry on growing, but why wait ? Drinking something this special is a rare treat.
The final Burgundy was a magnum of 1985 Grotto-Chambertin, Domaine Ponsot, sadly overshadowed by the previous two wines, but a fabulous wine in its own right, lovely density and richness to this wine, dark berries, spiced, truffled with an aromatic perfume that lifts it, much deeper and fuller than the DRC’s. Whilst the sweetbreads were perfect for the DRC, something gamey would go well with this wine.
Room for more reds?
Tender delicate Anjou pigeon, served pink with hints of thyme welcomed the three final reds. The 1947 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Tinto from R. Lopez de Heredia was clean bright with clear flavours of meat blood, it was focused and the fruit and oak well integrated, 10 years in oak, and racked twice yearly, its freshness was wonderful, brick like colour, very much like an aged Bordeaux, sweet, savoury and just wonderful.
Whilst the Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1942, which had spent a bit longer in oak (44 years) the first of the 1942’s were bottled in 1986, this was so different to the Tondonia, rich and jammy to start then evolved, yoghurt ice cream, savoury rich juicy, even some PX notes, not for the faint hearted but a great wine if you like a wine with balls.
And then the star of the night; 1985 Cote-Roti, La Mouline, E.Guigal, richly textured, aromas of a South African Braai, textured, layers and layers of fruit and truffles, smokey fatty bacon, spiced, dark and red fruits come together in harmony. Not a cheap wine, with Fine & Rare seeking just under £1,000 a bottle, but a must try wine, it certainly is on my Christmas list.
A wonderful Chez Bruce interpretation of Welsh Rarebit followed, which helped with the cleaning up of the reds.
Finally the sweet wines, a special bottling by Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia for the evening of a wine only made twice once by her father and once by her, this 1991 Vina Zaconia was intense, focused and different, layered with bags full of acidity and freshness, yet there were streaks of savoury and sweetness flashing through, nutty, tinned exotic fruit.
The 1988 Climens offers a hint of medicinal nose, then evolves into a honeyed, deep rich botrytis wine with fresh acidity at the end. The Vina Zaconia was a better match to the stunning dessert of Honey Vanilla Bavarois with Strawberries and Fresh Almonds.
An outstanding evening of fine wine great company and a rare chance to try some pretty fabulous wines outside my normal reach in a perfect environment.
- Roger Jones is owner and Michelin star chef at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.