Mercer’s Birthday: A Vertical Tasting

Last night marked a milestone for “Fun with Wine.” We celebrated Mercer’s 61st birthday. Mercer’s birthday last year provided the grist for my first blog. So now we’ ve come around again. It won’t be long before the rosé auditions begin.

Margaret prepared a Belgian dinner, consisting of mussels with celery, stoofvlees with roasted potato and Flemish-style asparagus, endive salad with Chimay cheese, and chocolate mousse.

We greeted our guests with J. Lassalle Préférence. The four of us have consumed a few bottles of this stuff in recent weeks, and congratulate ourselves each time we pop the cork. It is a lush and elegant grower’s champagne, gold in color, ripe peaches on the palate and a hint of lime on the finish. The bubbles are abundant and foam on the tongue.

When we took our seats, I poured out a 2009 William Fevre Chablis, Champs Royaux. I’ve been selling this wine for months and was glad for the occasion to try it. The wine has more promise than it delivers – another year or two in bottle should work wonders. Notwithstanding, the wine’s crisp acidity and taste of wet stone worked well with the mussels, especially when scooping up the broth and lapping it up from a shell.

With the stoofvlees, a beef stew made with Chamay Ale, I opened 2 bottles of Château Picque Caillou, 2000 and 2005, for a vertical tasting. We’d been drinking the 2004 in the country; the 2005 was new to us, and we haven’t had a 2000 in years. I went around the table in my best sommelier fashion, filling eight glasses.

Both were excellent vintages, but as might be expected the 2000 was brilliantly balanced, while the 2005 seemed to be all about the fruit. In the nose of red berries there was another element, maybe blueberry, that I couldn’t identify. Ellen called it licorice; something definitely absent in the older wine. The 2005 was also 13% alcohol, half a degree higher than 2000, perhaps as a result of riper fruit at harvest, or to meet the changing tastes of wine buyers, who like fruit bombs.

I’ll put my second 2005 away for a few years, but it’s time to drink up the 2000. It had body and grace, red and black berries, and soft leathery tannins that lingered. We killed off both bottles during the salad and cheese course. At the bottom of our 2000 glass were wine diamonds, Weinstein in German, crystals of tartaric acid, a mark of quality winemaking.

For a chocolate mousse, made with 80% Belgian Chocolate we carried home from The Haag years ago, I chose another wine I sell, a sweet, low-alcohol 2009 Brachetto by Icardi. The wine was deep red, lightly effervescent, moderately sweet and had a slightly bitter tannic finish that worked wonderfully with the toasted almonds Margaret had sprinkled over the top.

Over the top indeed. Happy Birthday, Mercer.

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