As we prepare for our second auction of the year in Hong Kong in 2009, I thought it was a good time to look back on a couple of most noteworthy events related to the great city of Hong Kong. The first event was a Champagne dinner before the auction, featuring a stellar selection of bubblies courtesy of the cellar of Robert Rosania. Rob was offering a slice of the world’s greatest Champagne collection in our last Hong Kong auction, and we wanted to make sure that the local clients who had already let us know that they were Champagne lovers had an opportunity to see what aged Champagne is all about. Rob’s cellar was up for the task, as usual, even when halfway around the world.
A six-pack of 1996 Krug was the aperitif, and when that’s the aperitif, you know it’s going to be a good night. I didn’t take a note for that, as I was too busy meeting and greeting. The first official flight was one of Dom, beginning with a 1971 Dom Perignon. Aromas of cracked wheat and honey jumped out of its seductive nose. The palate was rich, long, dusty and spiny with great fizz. It was fresh, zippy and long, with excellent acidity. This was a superb bottle, absolutely delicious, brimming with white cola and honey flavors (96).
A magnum of 1975 Dom Perignon was next. The ’75 was more herbal, but herbal in a good way. There were also more minerals here, with hints of granulated sugar and toast, along with some rye crisp. It was very fresh as well, more spiky in its acidity and drier in its personality. It was still excellent (93M).
A magnum of 1985 Dom Perignon Rose was an infant by comparison. There were aromas of strawberry and some Pinot garden goodness. It was fresh and tangy, with a bit of hay flavors, like a roll in the barn. Very fresh and very young, I look forward to when it finally finds its way (95M).
The second flight went back in time even further. A 1961 Pol Roger was still fresh, with a core of sweet and mature aromas. Honey, beer and caramel were dominant. The ’61 was rich, fleshy and round with caramel and honey flavors to match its aromas. There was more integration here than any of the Doms; the extra ten years had done the Pol Roger well. Its acidity was still special, and lots of vitamin flavors lingered on its finish (94).
A 1962 Philipponnat Blanc de Blancs had a great cereal-like nose, like Frosted Flakes meets Corn Pops. This was not a Clos des Goisses bottle, just to be clear. There was exotic perfume and spice, almost jasmine, and its cereal qualities moved in an oatmeal direction. The palate was nice and yeasty with sugar cane flavors and a long finish (94).
A magnum of 1964 Moet was probably the least exciting Champagne of the night, but still very good. Old Moets can be spectacular, particularly pre-Dom Perignon, during the first twenty years of the 20th century and even older, or so I am told. I have only had as far back as 1900. The ’64 was a magnum that had been redisgorged, not necessarily for the better. It was pungent and grassy both in the nose and mouth. Gamy and zippy, it was good but overshadowed on this special evening (92M).
The last wine of this flight was a 1952 Louis Roederer – not Cristal. I always feel like I need to clarify that, remind everyone that Roederer makes Cristal, and also that the regular ‘Roederer’ bottlings are some of Champagne’s finest from the 1960s on back. The ’52 was long-legged, Mommy long legs. The nose was mature and warm, and the palate was rich with a meaty texture and a hint of bubbles left. More wine-like with delicious tea flavors, this bottle was on the mature side but still delicious (95).
A Cristal followed, the 1969 Roederer Cristal. It, too, had pungency to it, more in a gamy way. The nose was a little oaky, as well as bready. The palate was rich, meaty and lush with vanilla wafer flavors, but the oak stayed on the palate and throughout the finish. It did grow on me and get more honeyed, but having had extraordinary bottles of ’69 Cris before, I can say that this wasn’t the best bottle. It wasn’t off, just a lesser batch, so to speak (93).
The 1979 Roederer Cristal was a classic. The nose oozed greatness. Clean and pure, it was full of butter, scotch, butterscotch (yes all three!) and grain aromas, with a pinch of flower in a gourmet soap way. The palate was fresh and zippy, still young and mineral-driven (95+).
A 1949 Pommery was served on its own, and deservedly so. It had gorgeous and sexy vanilla ice cream aromas. Its palate was sexy and smooth, round and delicious. This was great Champagne, special and honeyed (95).
Krug, meet Salon. The 1973 Krug was from an original bottling, and had that signature Krug vanilla cream sex appeal. Quite tasty, it was full of Wasa rye crisp wafer flavors. This was breed Champagnified and Krug all the way. So good and so tasty, the Krug was round and rich with vanilla wafer flavors as well (95).
The 1976 Salon was out of magnum, which probably gave it an edge. It was much tighter and more minerally with a pinch of white fruits and flowers fighting to be recognized. The palate was longer than the Krug, better, and racy beyond belief. Usually it is Krug that bullies everything else around, but the hallmark Salon acidity was still as sharp as a razor, and this magnum had enough freshness and zip to go for many more decades (96+M).
The 1969 Krug Collection was so fresh, another grassy and pungent one. It was still a baby, endless in its acidity, as fresh as fresh can be, as Krug Collections are prone to be. It had perfect balance to its spice and length, and was a testament to the cellars at Krug (96).
The 1979 Krug Collection was out of magnum, and showed more bread and toast in the nose. It was long, zippy and great as well. There were flavors of citrus tang, bread soaked in egg yolk and more lemon. Despite being a decade younger, there were almost more mature nuances to the ’79. Of course, its finish was long (95+M).
We closed with the 1990 Krug Clos du Mesnil. If there was a fitting closer, it would be Clos du Mesnil, the vineyard equivalent in Champagne to Romanee Conti. The 1990 was so good, so young, like nails on a chalkboard in its pitch. A hint of oak needed some time to integrate, and the 1990 needs time in general to integrate. Its acidity reminded me of Wolverine, ready to destroy anything in its way. It had lots of flavors of earth, minerals and what I would call tombstone, as this Champagne laid to rest everything else (97).
It was a spectacular evening of Champagne, a testament to how well it ages, and a testament once again to Rob’s cellar. I can’t wait for ‘the greatest Champagne dinner of all-time.’ We’ll keep you tuned in for that one.
The other chapter of my Hong Kong diary actually took place in New York. One of our biggest clients in Hong Kong was passing through New York ten days after the auction, so we decided to give him an official New York City wine welcome. We were joined by the Angry Men’s first family, gentleman Jim and Little Miss Angry, as well as Alexander the Great, a welcome addition to any dining experience.
We warmed up with a 1990 Dom Perignon, which was one of the better bottles of this that I have had recently. It was rich, nutty and beefy, a bit of a bruiser, but long and full of structure (95).
A 1990 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was full of aromas of honey, honeycomb and honeysuckle in its creamy nose. There was a hint of floral that Wendy likened to ‘grandma’s lilac perfume.’ Our friend noted ‘chinese herbs.’ It was more ready than I would have thought, buttery and full of ‘petrol flavors,’ as Wendy noted, and she also agreed that it was ‘definitely ready.’ Another guest at the restaurant to whom we gave a taste noted that it was ‘almost like a dessert wine’ due to its sweetness of fruit. There were nice yeast flavors on its sunsetting finish (94).
The 1989 Haut Brion Blanc was a spectacular white. Its nose was pungent, full of glue, straw, cat’s pee and a pinch of twisted honeycomb. That Graves minerality reeked out of the glass. The palate was coy at first yet rich, very regal with tons of breed and acidity. This was the best young white Bordeaux that I had ever had. It retained its character throughout the evening and even became more complex, with more of its floral side coming out, along with jasmine tea, marzipan and coconut. It got more and more delicious as it opened with air (96+).
We traveled to Burgundy with a 1993 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses. The nose was milky, stemmy and earthy, and Jim noted ‘the scent of a woman.’ It was perfumed, in the lavender direction. Its flavors were on the ’93 side, full of leather, tree bark and earth. Its fruit was both black and purple in its personality, and its acidity really came out with time. It flexed and grew stronger, and a little mint came out. I vascillated between 94 and 95 points, and settled on (94+) as it just wasn’t giving me as much as I wanted just yet, at least from this bottle.
Next in line was a 1964 Richebourg, which happened to be the birthyear of our honored guest, so I guess it was fate! The Richebourg was open and hearty, rich and long in the nose. It had the garden, the mint and the menthol of old . Wendy found it ‘meaty and smoky.’ The palate was rich and lengthy, hearty a la ’64. There was nice grit and meat, and Jim noted ‘iron,’ which I saw with a little more air. Gamy, mesquite flavors lingered on its rusty finish, and its acidity asserted itself more in the nose. Alexander liked it more on the nose than the palate, but I enjoyed it overall (94).
We closed with a 1955 Mouton Rothschild, one of my favorite Moutons of the 20th century. Alexander noted ‘liquid lavender,’ and Wendy ‘red licorice.’ Its core of cassis was undeniable despite traces of wild grass around its edges. Wendy then continued her red fruit feelings with ‘raspberry.’ Our guest felt that it needed more time to open and that its aromas were secondary rather than primary for a wine of such an age, and perhaps we were a little eager to experience this wondrous wine. The palate was rich and big, long and still young, with great cobweb and old bark nuances (95).
It was another special evening, and even though it was in New York, I could thank Hong Kong for it. In less than three weeks, we will be back in Hong Kong and with three special events already planned, I am sure I will have more to share soon.
In Vino Veritas,