Dinner on Jens Lehmann the other night because some friends foolishly bet me that Arsenal would beat Barcelona in the Champions League. So I found myself at the Relais & Chateaux property Cellars Hohenhort, where the restaurant is called Greenhouse (it has trees growing through it) and a young Frenchman is behind the pots. The food was good on average, but what interested me more was that the sommelier had organised some wines in advance, knowing my friends were wine-lovers. Brampton Viognier 2005 was their first choice with the starters – a rich and heavy wine, positively smothering itself in an ingratiating desire to be lovable. As a result, I could barely drink a glass. At least the wine was in screwcap.
Then a Backsberg “Pumphouse” Shiraz 2003 which was so named I guess because it was pumped up by… yes, viognier. Put the wine to the nose and that was all you first smelt, second and third too. Not a poor texture on the palate, but again cloyingly sweet and twee.
To rescue the situation and take control of our vinous pleasure, my friend ordered a 1997 Cordoba Crescendo. The winemaker Chris Keet reckons this may be his finest (although the 1995 is superb). It’s a cabernet franc-led wine, and still so incredibly fresh and pure it’s astounding. Besides its obvious class, it had that most winning quality of being drinkable.