Twenty years ago I celebrated by thirtieth birthday with my friends the wine journalist Matthew Jukes and restaurateur Clive Greenhalgh who share my inglorious birth year. We dined at Leith's in Notting Hill Gate and had a wonderful time although some of our wine selections from the challenging 1967 vintage were already past their best. As we all turn fifty this year we thought it would be fun to reconvene and sample some more 1967s to see if they were faring as well as us.
We all felt a half-century merited a memorable meal so elected to pre-book a canard à la presse at Otto's restaurant on the Grays Inn Road. Otto learned his duck-pressing skills at the Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris and is the proud owner of a magnificent baroque silver duck press; which is a great rarity and worth a small fortune. He also owns a lobster press but (sensibly) refuses to press lobster and duck in the same service as it is too physically demanding. Our remit was to pitch up with two bottles each from our birth year to allow for probable 'duds' and plenty of variety.
Clive opened the batting with a Palo Cortado sherry from Gonzalez Byass which was a revelation. With a dark tawny colour and incredible concentration and length it made a perfect foil for some duck livers on toast but Otto insisted on purloining half of it to add to the jus to accompany the duck breast. With that we sampled a bottle I had been given by my father – Château Beychevelle - Saint-Julien. With a Parker score of 70/100 and a 'drink by' date of 1980 I had pretty low hopes but it was a delicious mature claret – fading for sure, but refined and elegant and magnificent with the tender meat. Our next course of the roasted duck legs, pommes soufflé and green beans was paired with a brace of brilliant Barbarescos – the 'Cru Moccagatta – Reserva Speciale' from the Produtti Barbaresco (Matthew) and the celebrated 'Gaja' bottling (Clive). Both exhibited a wealth of soft cherry fruit underscored by an amazingly fresh acidity that clearly showed why 1967 is considered a superior vintage in Piedmonte.
Our next wine, which again had impeccable provenance from the paternal cellar, was a Côte-Rôtie from Marc Chapoutier which was served with a selection of fine cheeses including an unimpeachable Brie de Meaux. It is well-known than good vintages of Northern Rhône Syrah age well if properly cellared and this was a case in point. With gentle forest floor scents and precise and pure palate of stewed black fruit with fully mature tannins it was an absolute treat.
Last but not least was Matthew's second offering of a Rivesaltes from Château Prieuré du Monastir del Camp which accompanied a sensational warm raspberry soufflé. It made for a terrific finale to a wonderful evening – with a fine concentration of sweet, dark fruit and a long, clean finish you would never have guessed it was five decades old.
Our conclusions were that you can enjoy wines from just about any vintage if you select carefully and ensure you source wines with great provenance, and that twenty years is far too long to wait for a re-match.
À la prochaine!