We had a dinner last weekend to celebrate my daughter’s eighteenth birthday. Naturally, we served wines from her birth year – nearly! My bottle of 1999 Hunter Valley VAT 1 Semillon has disappeared for the moment. I’ll find it for her 21st. Instead we opened up a bottle of 1997.

As always, you take a risk storing a wine for long periods. The cork on the 1997 Semillon disintegrated, and the wine was oxidised. The Tardieu-Laurent Côte Rôtie caused a few disagreements around the table. Some thought it lightly corked. I thought it just earthy, but with a dirty element that could mean corked. The wine had some sweet stewed prune fruits, but was dominated by powerful oak flavours of caramel and vanilla – after 18 years! Certainly not my style of wine.

The two stars of the dinner were:

1999 Bollinger Grande Année Champagne

Entrancing developed aromas of toasted hazelnuts and white fruits. The palate was equally good, a gorgeous mix of peach and dried fruits, toasted nuts, a little brioche and a firm dry finish. Exquisite champagne; I wish I had a few more in my cellar.

Côte Rôtie 1999 Domaine André François

This was given to me by a very generous ex-customer when I visited him in Boyle, Co. Roscommon earlier this year. He travels to the Rhône every year, visits his favourite producers, and returns with a car full of wines to ay down. This was drinking perfectly. ‘Olives’ according to my daughter, ‘smoky’ said my mother-in-law. Both were correct. This was a wine delicate and fully mature with mellow elegant savoury dark fruits, plus olives and wood smoke, and a nice long finish. Memorable wine.


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