[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Europe Wine Diary 1998

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Friday, May 8, 1998

Participants gather before dinner in Gilbey's garden.

Dinner at Gilbey's, Ealing Broadway

Still shaking our heads and trying to hammer our psyches onto British time after a long overnight flight from the U.S., Mary and I were delighted to meet with a contingent of friends from the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group and CompuServe Wine Forum for an "offline" dinner at Gilbey's, a very pleasant place in the Ealing Broadway section of London, a suburb on the far west side of the city not too far from Heathrow Airport. The following notes were posted by Nick Alabaster and Jamie Goode, who told it at least as well as I could have, maybe better ...

Jamie Goode:

As Nick reported below, we had a cracking time on Friday night at Gilbey's in Ealing. About half were WLDGers, the rest compuserve buddies of Robin. I was a little apprehensive at the prospect of meeting fellow board members for the first time. Would they all be wierdos and, more to the point, what would they think of me? In truth I was very pleasantly surprised. Board regulars Simon Goldberg, Tom Cannavan, Nick Alabaster-- and of course Robin and his wife -- are all nice people and are thoroughly good company.

Nick made a fair assessment of the wines in a posting further down the board, so I don't have much to add. But for the record, here are the wines we tried, along with brief comments -- I didn't take formal notes and all the opinions expressed are my own.

Pouilly Fuisse Forest-Andre, Vergisson, 1996 Soft, 'boiled sweets'-style chardonnay fruit with moderat acidity and lacking focus. Dull-ish.

Chassagne Montrachet 1996 Premier Cru Les Vergers, Michael Lamarthe One of the stars of the evening -- a sophisticated complex wine with a smoky nose and a structured, mineral-like palate that has some developing to do.

Pheasant Ridge English Table Wine 1996, Hambleden A surprise for those who haven't tasted English wine before, this is a perfumed, clean and lively white with high acidity -- could do with a touch of residual sugar, but I like it.

Blaauwklippen Cabernet Sauvignon 1984 One of the wines generously provided by Simon Goldberg, this is a fully mature Stellenbosch (SA) wine from the apartheid years. It has a wonderfully lifted nose of sweet fruit and cedary oak, and although the palate is dry the fruit is still there.

Nouveau Gamay Noir, Villeria Estate, Paarl, 1998 The first 1998 for most of us (courtesy of Simon Goldberg), this is a joyfully lively gamay with a huge bubblegum/banana nose and fresh cherry fruit. Colares Chitas 1970, Portugal Very portuguese. Still deep red after nearly 30 years, but with hardly any fruit left and some rather odd woody flavours. 1995 Ch. Leydet Figeac, St Emilion Big sweet leafy nose. Soft and anonymous on the palate.

1995 Ch Belles Graves, Lalande-de-Pomerol Dullish Bordeaux.

1995 Beaune Les Aigrots Premier Cru Dubois Pleasant and soft but served too warm.

1995 Aloxe-Corton 'Les Brunettes' Dubois Good soft Pinot with some complexity, but again served too warm.

Gigondas 1993 Domaine du Pesquier, Boutiere & Fils Which was quite hard and tannic.

Julienas 1997 'Coteau des Vignes' Thiery Descombes, a rather simple Beaujolais.

Chablis 1er cru 1995, 'Montee de Tonnere' Domaine Testut, simple and not as good as it should be for the price.

Chardonnay '96 G. Stiegelmar from Austria, which was much better than expected, with full flavoured fruit underlaid by piercing acidity.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1982 A third kind offering by Simon Goldberg, for me this was the star of the evening. I'd heard about this famous, ancient muscat-based wine style but never had the chance to try it before. It is golden, with complex fresh fruit elements (including orange peel), with a big acid kick. Rich and unctious, it was a fitting end to the evening.

Overall, the restaurant wines were a little disappointing, but the great company more than made up for it. I'm looking forward for our next chance to get together.

Nick Alabaster:

I know Jamie (Goode) took all the notes, but as I'm offline until Tuesday, just wanted to say what a great night out yesterday. Thanks Robin for providing the impetus! I hope everybody felt the lengths to attend were worthwhile. My only regret is so many new people and such a short time. (Robin - you were right not to wait much longer for a train - when we turned up at 12, the last Central line train had just left!)

The food and surroundings were excellent, but although I didn't find the restaurant wines to hit the spot overall, no matter, the company alone made it more than worthwhile - and Simon (Goldberg) provided some excellent drinking from SA in the form of delicious cherry bubblegum styled '98 Noveau styled Gamay, a sweetly oaked Spanish like '84 Cabernet Reserva and Klein Constantia '92 dessert wine which combined rich late-picked muscat like fruit with lovely zippy acidity (I've know doubt Jamie will post more details)

Although the list provides plenty of value, the high turnaround with the direct sales business meant many of the wines simply too young. Conversely though, I found the first wine we drunk, Chablis 1er 'Montee de Tonnerre' 95 Domaine Testut, just a little soft and evolved and lacking the zip and freshness I would expect from Chablis. The real find was the Chardonnay '96 G. Stiegelmar, Austria , it had excellent fruit concentration, no obvious oak, and wonderfully fresh acidity and bone dry (almost too dry) finish. The cheapest wine of the night - and certainly amongst my favourites. The other whites included a good, toasty Pouilly Fuisse '96 'Les Crays' M Forest. Young and clean fruit but may evolve into something with a bit more interest. The Chassagne Les Vergers' '96 from M. Lamanthe was also good but not top league. The oak was fresh and obvious at first but some bitter lemon type fruit came though on the nose balanced with a buttery edge on the nicely weighted and balanced palete. Another wine which should benefit from a bit more age.

The reds were more disappointing, although youth had quite a lot to do with it. The Julienas '97 Coteau de Vignes T. Descombes was, however, some pretty respectable Beaujolais drinking for now. The Gigondas '93 Pesquier has some reasonable southern Rhone nose, although quite lean considering it's size (14%). The palate however clamped down with some pretty astringent acidity. Will this improve with age - it might I suppose, but I'm not too worried about finding out. The Chateau Leydet-Figeac '95 was a suprise. After hearing how precious the Right bank was in '95 and having some pretty forward '95 Medoc's, this came across as a bit raw and unformed. The nose is some suprisingly lean red fruits and oak shavings. The palate has too much acidity to really offer much for me at the minute, but it's probably soften into a simple elegant wine. The Ch. Belles Grave '95 was slightly more approachable with more integrated oak and broader fruit, but this is clearly not the time to drink it ! Unfortunately the two burgundies from Dubois ('95 Beaune and Aloxe-Corton) where served too warm. The Beaune seemed well made with some good fruit, but I didn't find it pleasant to drink. I passed on the Aloxe.

So much for my quick post, I do rattle on sometimes..... :-)

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