Yesterday, I went to a preview lunch of a new series of Wine Dinners organised by the Regent Hotel. These will be held once a month starting on Thursday November 12th, and will be hosted by different chateaux around the region.
Happily for me, the first one is going to be a 'Diner d'Exception avec Chateau Palmer', and Thomas Duroux (director of the chateau) was there to talk us through the fascinating collection of wines he had chosen.
The lunch was held in the Pressoir d'Argent ( www.pressoir-argent.com ), the hotel's gastronomic restaurant, which seems to be woefully under-utilised by the Bordelais. I was told a few times before going there that the lunches were too expensive to consider, but they actually start at 33 euros - a little less than the lunch offer at another top Bordeaux restaurant, the Chapon Fin ( www.chapon-fin.com ).
This dinner will be 150 euros, but that's including everything - a champagne and canape starter, then five courses and coffees. Oh, and these amazing wines.
We started with a wine that I had never tried before, and didn't even know existed until very recently. A Chateau Palmer Blanc 2007. This was the first vintage of this wine, made in tiny quantities and not for sale. Three barrels are produced, and they go only to shareholders in the company. This is nothing like other 'icon whites' from major Bordeaux chateaux, because it is bottled at a Vin de Table, and uses a distinctly unusual blend of grapes. The majority, 65% is Muscadelle, from a masal selection from Robert Plageoles in Gaillac, then 25% Sauvignon Gris. The rest is equally divided between Merlot Blanc and a little known grape variety called Lauzet, which grows mainly in Jurancon.
Duroux said he, 'wanted to do something different from all the other Medoc white wines,' and 'may commercialise it one day, as soon as I am happy the blend deserves the name Chateau Palmer on the label.'
We had this yesterday with the amuse-bouche, a tiny and delicious blend of potatoe, fish soup and rolled monk fish. The wine itself had a sweet almond flavour, layered with apricots, but with a good freshness and length - very interesting.
This was followed by another wine that you are unlikely to experience very often - an Historical 19th Century Wine. Apparently Duroux got the idea for this wine when he was in the US, talking to a wine collector, and saw a 19th century bottle labeled 'Lafite Hermitage'. This was a widely-used practise at the time, to boost Bordeaux wines with the stronger Rhone wines (although, as Thomas rightly pointed out, these wines also have a great balance and elegant, smooth tannins). We had this wine with Smoked eel and foie gras, a cremed of chestnuts, truffles, poached in milk. I loved this wine - a 2006, blended with 15% Syrah from the northern Rhone.
He didn't tell us which producer, but said he has lots of friends there, and goes to taste each year, selecting just a few key barrels. In totaal, 200 cases of this are made and sold each year. We tried to 2006, but it's not made every year, as 2005 was powerful enough in Bordeaux alone, and adding Hermitage would throw it out of balanc, and he's sure 2009 will be the same. I am looking forward to trying the 2007 one day! In terms of taste, it was wonderfully rich and smooth, very similar to Palmer in any good year, but with some added spice, and sweet, smoky sandalwood.
After this, we went on to Chateau Palmer as we know and love her! Firstly a 1999 Palmer with a red snapper (Rouget), with an Iberico chirizo, and a tartare of langoustines. Then an amazing combination of Chatuea Palmer 1995 and 1989, both of which were amazing, with roast Pauillac lamb and wood mushrooms, in this unbelievable caramelised spice sauce (that tasted of christmas, as my neighbour rightly pointed out). This complemented perfectly the gentle spices of the older vintages.
Finally, a Gouda Old Dutch Master accompanied an Alter Ego 2005. Thomas suggested young Alter Ego as a good mix with cheese - or the white wine, but unfortunately that's a little harder to get hold of...