Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Great Whites

We had another inspirational get-together the other week, and the theme this time was white wines. The folks in the group were generous as always to share interesting bottles from their stash. We started out with a powerful and richly scented 1998 Corton-Charlemagne-Louis Latour, which is just starting to come out. Full, elegant, and very long, it is still some years away from peak. A plate of smoked salmon matched the wine's richness.

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Next ones up were a pair of Chablis Grand Cru Valmur from Verget, one a 1997 and the other a 1995. Both were lively, vibrant wines. The 1995 was soft and lush, really seductive that evening, while the 1997 was more mineral, very long, and complex; not yet peak and showing great potential in a few more years. 1997 Chablis vintage has really turned out some nice bottles. These wines were delicious with a plate of juicy white asparagus wrapped in crisped bacon.

The pair that followed were a 1991 Chevalier-Montrachet-Leflaive and a 1994 Corton-Charlemagne-Louis Latour. The Chevalier had a powerful, mineral nose but is very reticent still. Towards the end of the dinner it opened up some more revealing signs of its excellent potential in probably another five years or so.

In contrast, the '94 Corton-Charlemagne was almost overwhelming in its heady, rich vibrant flavors which kept unfolding in the mouth. Structured and very long on the finish. This is a great white Burgundy with years of enjoyment ahead.

With this pair we enjoyed an amazingly succulent and perfectly cooked baked halibut in white wine (the '98 Corton Charlemagne) and toasted pine nuts. For white Burgundy fans this is a recipe to treasure.

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Probably the highlight of the evening was the duo of white Bordeaux, sister wines from the Graves actually. A 1981 Laville Haut-Brion (the white of La Mission Haut-Brion) and a 1982 Haut-Brion Blanc, both in glorious condition. The Laville, still pale and light in color, displayed an attractive mineral, citrus nose; a very elegant body; and luscious flavors underpinned by its delicate minerality. It is bone-dry and well-balanced. Drinking just right and probably will not get much better than this.

The '82 Haut-Brion was simply unbelievable. Not that I've tried many, but this has got to be one of the greatest whie Bordeaux ever made because it is hard to imagine anything surpassing it or even equaling it in overall performance. In color it is still light and pale. Apart from the aging label, the wine itself appears not to show its age as its bouquet and flavors are deliciously vibrant as well as very richly layered and powerful. The oak is still quite evident, and the wine is so well-structured with good acid balance that it is easy to expect it to drink well for at least another decade. Phenomenal! This from a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon. About 1,000 cases were made.

Ah, but that's not all. The excellent Veal Piccata we had truly brought out all the goodness in the wines, providing the necessary foil and contrast to such wonderful bottles.

Finally, I can not say enough about the half-bottle of 1977 Kopke Colheita, a vintage tawny that's so rich and dark it's not easy regarding it as a Tawny. A spectacular bottle that's drinking at its best. Powerful, but velvety smooth and fresh-tasting, with a lingering finish that is very seductive. A great bottle to polish off the evening.

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