History in a Glass - Ancient History...

As I was saying, one fishtank emergency, one unexpected visit from the ELF (featuring cremant du Jura, prosecco, much beer, and amaretto), one trip to Edinburgh (featuring a wine tasting, a three hour lunch, Greyfriars Bobby, and the Scott monument, as viewed from the top), one visit to A&E, one car service, one two-cousin sleepover with pizza and four part harmony, one broadband installation, a very thin chianti and a wholly atypical muscadet later, here is the rest of last Thursday.

Château de la Garde `La Tulipe` Rosé ('04, cork) is a deep dark merlot based rosé, drier and more flavoursome than most. I served it up chilled, but since I was rashly asserting that it can be compared to what was called 'clairet' in the dim and distant past (say around 1400AD), maybe it should have been room temperature. My favourite rosé wine this year - 15/20.

Carillon Mercurey rouge ('02, under cork). The Carillon family have been making burgundy since 1520, and I like to imagine that this one is very similar to the glass you would have been offered 500 years ago. It's dark, earthy, a rather rough and ready wine, and should you happen to have some big flat mushrooms, or better yet, some random wild fungi, then flash fry them in olive oil and butter (for forty-five seconds) pile them on toast, and eat accompanied by a glass of this. Bliss. Bliss to the tune of 16+/20.

Ducru-Beaucaillou ('97, cork). "Not a good year". "For early drinking". Pshaw! This is a fantastic wine. Savoury, concentrated blackcurrant juice, meaty and dense, with notes of coffee, even mocha, and a gentle woody spiciness. In the 1855 classification Ducru was classed as a second growth, but these days the consensus seems to be that it rivals the first growths. Certainly the consensus amongst Thursday night's tasters was that it was equal first wine of the night. The consensus amongst me was 17/20, just for the bouquet.

The disappointment of the evening was Masi Costasera Amarone ('01, cork), although of course it did have to follow on from the Ducru. Very rich, like chocolate-dipped cherries which have lain cheek by jowl with crystallised figs, but for a twenty quid wine I would expect flavours that lingered rather longer. Sad to say, only 14/20. Made from partly dried grapes, the Recioto wines of the Veneto date back to the fifth century...

...whereas the last red of the evening, Glaetzer Bishop shiraz ('01, cork) only just dates back to the twentieth. It is the vinous equivalent of a fruit smoothie: powerful, fully fruity Barossa shiraz, but with tannins more akin to butterflies kisses than rasping lions tongues. This is the kind of red wine that converts white wine drinkers, and Thursday's tasters ranked it top alongside the Ducru. 16/20.

And finally, a dessert wine. In the seventeenth century tokaji was the wine of kings. It's a style of wine that could never develop today, given that two kinds of microbes insinuate themselves into to the winemaking cycle, and both contribute to the unique flavour of tokaji. We sampled Disznókő Tokaji Aszu 5 Putts ('95, cork). This one definitely divided us: some of us were put off by the somewhat sherried character (I wasn't one of them! I love sherry, In fact, I 'm just going to go and have a glass right now) whereas others loved the rich complexity of it. 15+/20.

We rounded off the evening with a couple of historical oddities. Take white wine, honey and seawater, mix them thoroughly, and you have a delicacy of the Roman Empire. One person compared it to a dirty martini. Most of the commentary was less kind. Our other experiment was sour, unhopped beer - just as a reminder of what booze was probably like for the majority of the inhabitants of Britain for much of the country's history (and prehistory!). Not surprisingly, the vote was Three Cheers For Wine.

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