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Ten Best Dinners & Tastings

Only God knows how many memorable dinners and tastings I have enjoyed over the last ten years and no doubt when I get to the Pearly Gates I will suffer some kind of medieval torture to redress the imbalance, maybe forced to listen to Westlife for all eternity. Please note that I have omitted the infamous 40th birthday dinner at The Ledbury when Brett Graham risked his reputation as one of the countries' top chefs by rustling up the entire KFC menu and serving it in buckets, but if you want to read about it, click here. So putting Colonel Sanders aside, here is a list of the ten most memorable dinners or organised tastings, which is always a combination not just of wine, but of place, setting, occasion and most importantly, the person or persons that you share them with. None of the below would be listed if I had been alone.

Le Pin 1982 bottle

Vieux-Chateau-Certan/Le Pin weekend - Los Angeles - November 2008

Two days tasting through legendary vintages of Vieux-Chateau-Certan back to 1928, with the added bonus of a complete vertical of Le Pin back to the debut 1979 with Alexandre and Jacques Thienpont? Yes please. This epochal tasting by Bipin Desai was worth flying back and forth over a weekend for. Wolfgang Puck's white truffle pizza was also worth the transatlantic schlep.
Click here to read original article (eRP subscribers only).

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 1955-2005 - London - May 2008

I have undertaken countless verticals, but it is rare for a property to show EVERY vintage, even the crap ones over such a lifespan. This was organised by Farr Vintners and Prince Robert de Luxembourg at The Square restuarant in London. It is memorable for Jean-Marc Quarin commending the 1963, which to my nose smelled of over-boiled cabbage. Each to their own. The additions of the 1945 and 1929 over lunch was a welcome bonus.
Click here to read original article (eRP subscribers only).

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1966-2007 - London - June 2009

Sure, Linden Wilkie had already organised splendid verticals of Inglenook, Heitz and Ridge, but he actually found difficulty in selling out tickets for the final tasting devoted to Robert Mondavi's Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Yet this is the one that elicited the most elation and joy. The wines were a revelation to myself, older vintages exceptional from an impeccable cellar. To my memory, it is the only one of Linden's events where attendees loitered long after the tasting had finished because we felt so bouyed by these wines.
Click here to read original article (eRP subscribers only).

Old South African wine tasting - Paarl - May 2012

The one tasting, organised by Michael Fridjhon, where all my preconceptions were banished within a few minutes. Whilst not every example lived up to expectations, there were enough gems here to convince me that South Africa can produce wines that can age exceptionally well - even Pinotage. The Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1959, Lanzarac Pinotage 1961 and Backsberg 1985...these were all wonderful.
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Dinner at St. Julien restaurant - Bordeaux - April 2006

Accompanied by those rascals from Bordeaux Index, the Good Bishop Gill, Bernard Vandendriessche and at the strike of midnight, Jean-Charles Cazes (all pictured in this grainy black and white photograph that Jack Nicholson lifted off the wall of The Overlook Hotel) this was one of those rare evenings where everyone had bought old bottles and every one of them just shone. I can remember Chateau Lynch Bages 1899, Montrose 1924, Pavie-Macquin 1928, La Mission Haut-Brion 1943 amongst countless others. The fact that we nearly died on the way home by crashing into the stone wall of Las-Cases simply added to the evening.

Dinner at home - West Norwood - December 2003

Do you ever encounter one of those evenings when you think "Sod it. Life is for living. Let's just open the most expensive wines in my cellar." So it came to pass that with my wife and two good friends, Joel and Jude (who I was hoping to set up together...I failed and for the record are now either happily married or about to be), ensconced in my tiny kitchen and drank through the likes of Chateau Lafleur 1985, Leoville Las-Cases 1969, Margaux 1947, Cos d'Estournel 1945, Yquem 1971. Hangovers all round the following morning.

The White Club private dinner - Zurich - March 2013

I have not written this up yet, but Rene and Malene of The White Club organised a special dinner for my Pomerol tome in Zurich. I will not give away all the wines, but you know it is something special when the warm-up bottles for the main event are the calibre of La Tache 1978 and 1962.
Article forthcoming in Wine-Journal (eRP)

Restaurant t'Fornuis - Antwerp - February 2013

Another memorable dinner coming in the wake of my Pomerol tome that kicked off with a Montrachet 1992 from Anne-Claude Leflaive and for the star flight. Petrus 1947, 1949 and 1955 anyone?
Article forthcoming in Wine-Journal (eRP)

Madeira bottles

Roy Hersh's Terrantez Madeira tasting - New York - March 2012

So, the "Batman and Robin" of Madeira, Roy Hersh and Mannie Berk, gather the world's leading Madeira nuts and congregate every legendary Madeira from the virtually extinct Terrantez grape. They were all here, the 1795 from Barbeito, the 1802 from Acciaioly, 1760 and 1862 from H.M. Borges and so on. The fact that I was both jet-lagged and suffering food poisoning did nothing to diminish from these magical wines.
Click here to read original article (eRP subscribers only).

Seguin-Manuel Old Bottle Tasting - April 2005

No, it is not DRC, Roumier or Coche Dury, but a tasting in London organised by Linden Wilkie (yet again) who had gone and purchased a number of bottles auctioned off by Thibault Marion to help finance his resurrection of this old Burgundy negociant. The wines, which dated back to a Richebourg 1906 and focused mainly on the inter-war period, were astonishing and elicited the most number of perfect scores I have ever given in a single night (three.)