Not a question I normally have to trouble my head about, I admit but which was prompted by an extraordinary wine dinner I went to last week at The Don in St Swithin's Lane.
It was organised by an old friend Maria Adderley who now runs a PR and events company which specialises in laying on top level wine dinners for City boys and other well heeled punters. Not only was there Yquem but Smith Haut Lafitte, Mouton Rothschild and Margaux (both from the 1995 vintage and both in magnum) and Anglus and Tertre Roteboeuf 1998. An embarassment of riches.
Anyway the Yquem issue. Whether to drink it first - with foie gras, natch - or last. It was the 1996 vintage bottled in half bottles - really spectacular even by the standards of the other wines that were presented by MW Richard Bampfield. I think that alone should have probably dictated it should have been the finale but the dish it was paired with - a creamy, caramelised foie gras ‘brulée’ (below) that was more like a pudding than a starter made it an uncomfortably rich start to the meal.
It also dictated that the second course had a note of sweetness so the switch to savoury was not too much of a shock, in this case a dish of scallops with lime and vanilla beurre blanc which was paired with the 2007 Smith Haut Lafitte and Laville Haut-Brion Pessac-Lognans. (Although I love Smith Haut Lafitte whites - the 2010 is amazing - I thought the tauter, more minerally Lavill Haut-Brion worked best but at a dinner like that you’re hardly going to quibble.)
We were on safer ground with a rack of lamb with a light rosemary jus with the Mouton and the Margaux (good to avoid an over-extracted sauce) and the cheeses stacked up fine with the Tertre Roteboeuf and the Anglus which was my favourite wine of the evening. Interestingly the cheeses were quite bland - deliberately chosen I suspect - with no stinky washed rind cheeses, strong blues or even a farmhouse cheddar to disturb the equilibrium of the wines.
To tell the truth the whole experience, while fascinating, was slightly overwhelming. It seems churlish to cavil but I think I’d have rather had one or two great wines than nine. (There was a pair of Smith Haut Lafittes in the middle which were shown on their own). Still who’s going to turn down the chance to attend a dinner like that? Certainly not me.
I attended the dinner as a guest of Wine Connections.