A Pomerol Evening with Neal Martin

On Wednesday night we were privileged to have the company of Neal Martin at a small dinner in the private room of the brilliant Chez Bruce. The theme was, of course, Pomerol and Neal’s recently published book on the region.

Wine and food first. The aim of the wine selection was to be eclectic rather than simply aiming for the trophies, and Bruce Poole kindly put together a menu designed to match the wines, so after a glass of 1999 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (this is very good, and very serious; nicely mature, and a Champagne
with real depth) we started:

Feytit Clinet 2005

Tartare of venison with warm wild mushroom, Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnut and truffle salad

The Feytit-Clinet was the bargain of the evening. The completeness of the vintage was clear, as was the resurgence in quality at this tiny property. Full-bodied, with just a hint of development, this wine more than held its own against the grander wines that followed. As Neal noted – this is a property to watch.

Eglise Clinet 2004 and La Fleur Petrus 2000

Oxtail ravioli with poached ham hock, French onion broth, vacherin and thyme

Despite four years between them I felt that these wines were at a similar stage: just beginning to open up and show their class. The Eglise Clinet showed just how good some 2004s can be – freshness and coolness were what stood out to me, with a mineral edge that I felt it shared with the richer 2000 La Fleur Petrus. This is clearly from a very serious vintage and, whilst this was just starting to come round, it will keep and keep.

La Conseillante 1989 and Evangile 1990

Roast Pyrennean leg and burger of lamb with dauphinois croquette, wild garlic and roasting juices

The Conseillante was, I think, Neal’s wine of the night. Perfectly mature and an example of just how good this vintage is, particularly on the right bank. The wines just have a cool and classy restraint to them. Indeed this wasn’t far off perfect. The 1990 Evangile was highly impressive and very much a drinkers wine rather than a taster’s wine. There was a slightly rustic edge to it which added to its appeal to me.

Nenin 1964 (& 89 Clinet)

Warm truffled brioche with Challerhocker (a lovely hard, Swiss, red-wine-friendly alpine cheese), chestnut honey and walnuts

1964 Nenin was the risk of the evening. Any wine of this age is a gamble, but one that paid off. The wine was alive and well. Not particularly complex, nor particularly deep, but impressive nonetheless – the risk of the night turned out to be the surprise of the evening. It was a little like watching an old dog chase a stick: heart-warming.

A very generous guest treated us to the final wine, 1989 Ch. Clinet in magnum, tasted blind. The wine had been delivered ex-storage that day, and was clearly suffering a little from the journey. That said, it clearly had that zip of energy to it that for me can define a truly great wine; on another night and with a little rest this would have been spectacular.

Bruce’s menu paired perfectly with the wines, which Neal talked us through in his own inimitable style, very much the style of his book. “Pomerol” is very much about the character of, and the characters behind, this intriguing appellation, and is a must for any wine enthusiast. Indeed the evening that followed our dinner, “Pomerol” won the John Avery award at the 2012 André Simon Food and Drink Book Awards.

Thank you Neal, and thank you to Bruce Poole and his team for such an enjoyable evening.