Albert Givton, one of the many ‘Vintage Personalities’ of that gripping book ‘A Billionaire’s Vinegar‘ & I had a long postponed lunch date last week which was clearly billed to be more about wine than the culinary excellence of Thierry Bourbonnais, the chef at Macéo. Albert proposed to bring a very special bottle, ‘Possibly a Palmer 1966 & perhaps another bottle, we will see’. Loinel Pinot of the exciting new wine blog Haido joined us.
Albert, well hatted, arrived early carrying the promised & splendidly kept 1966. He also bought a reconditioned 1924 Palmer that he had acquired at the Parisian Auction House Drouot quite recently. This interesting bottle had lost its wax seal at the time of reconditioning. We wondered, but only for a minute, if it was going to be a genuine wine.
He removed, with reasonable ease, a cork from the days when the Bordelais were still serious about their wines capacity to age. Without a date, but with the Château’s branding. The level was also very good. Albert decanted the 1924 with great care & served it immediately, wines of this age can so often fade, collapse & die within minutes in the glass.
While this had been going on, we distracted ourselves with the latest classy offering from the Maison Brice in Bouzy. The 2002 Vintage was exactly what we required to prevent us from distracting the Maestro. 75% Bouzy, 25% Avise, this Grand Cru Champagne has spent, as if with the forthcoming Royal attraction in mind, two years in the cellars following dégorgement. A complex & friendly Brut.
Then Albert was ready. In the presence of such a ‘grand old wine’ we were obviously going to pay a bit more attention than usual. Gathered round the bar at Macéo, a cluster of intrigued collaborateurs observed, twirled, sniffed & tasted, all appreciative of the moment.
The colour had something of mature leather apolsotry to it – think of an old Jaguar MKII. But there was still a very pronounced ruby heart to this wine. The first aromas were of fresh champignons de Paris, with a faint medicinal, herbal quality. Hesitation. No, there was a lot of finesse in this wine that simply needed a little air. For 15 minutes we observed the lady awaken in the glass, classic Margaux character becoming apparent in the manner of a sun filled dawn in Winter. A firm tannic structure at the base of a wine that delivered mesmorising visions of pot puri, remaining fine & delicate in the way of a treasured, lively great aunt. We were all struck by the delightful, fresh acidity & tannins that were beautifully wrapped in mid pallet fruit. A wine for those who beleive in ageing populations, as even when we finished our glasses some 30 minutes after decantation, this Château Palmer 1924 was enjoying the party.
Before leaving the bar to be seated Albert set to work on the 1966 Château Palmer, considered to be one of the very best wines of a seriously good vintage. The cork was original & in very good condition given its age. Albert did a splendid job decanting the promising wine & again the twisting ritual returned. This time various noises were made – that any listener would have taken for appreciation.
Leather was again in the back of my mind as the mature rim had something club like to it. Rising from behind the 1924, the more explosively expressive bouquet of infused woodland fruits held everyones attention. All this generously wrapped aroma with a hint of fresh straw, trace of liquorois & the warm ripeness of a blessed vintage. Perfectly enchanting, this wine that needed no lunch to accompany it, the Palmer 1966 delivered a femenin but majestic style from center stage. As in any living thing, one acquired a notion of where it is in its life. In its prime, with the profile of a race hourse on a winning streak. When in the presence of true greatness, one so rarely needs to be told.
Thank you Albert.
Oh, Thierry, the lunch was one of the best I have ever had !
PS Albert made the observation that there are no Médoc or for that case Bordeaux like these Château Palmers made today. The individual unshowy greatness of the Palmer 1966 will not be something we shall rediscover in the equivalent wines of today that are (still) tailored towards 100 point scores. But, on a good day, I like to believe that as markets mature, so the ‘product’ will evolve, progress & rediscover some soul. Possibly some individual greatness too.