I was invited by Andrew Campbell of Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP to join his client Trinity Elite at Chester Races on 10 May 2012.
As Trinity Elite are a sponsor of Manor House Stables, a joint venture between the footballer Michael Owen and the co-founder of Betfair Andrew Black, I was delighted to learn that I would be joining them in Manor House Stables’ private box opposite the finish line.
The betting proved less successful than the quaffing; in particular as www.trinityelite.com came third in the 3:40. Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne 1999 (£90) proved to be my favourite: delicate nose; intense, powerful palate; rich white fruits, honey and blossom balanced with autolytic complexity, brioche and hazelnuts; a good finish; and also pretty generous as an all-day offering!
I subsequently met up with Martin Totty of Trinity Elite and a friend to discuss, among other things, tax led property investment schemes. The venue, Amba in Hale, Cheshire, was chosen in part because of its reasonable rate of corkage (£10).
I brought a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 2006 (£80) which was sadly just ever so slightly out of condition. I bought a case of the 2006 en-primeur long before Lynch sky rocketed in price and have kept it since then in the far from ideal conditions of a ‘Kent cellar’. Ideal conditions being: (a) bottle on its side lying down; (b) 8 - 13° Centigrade; (c) in the dark; and (d) away from vibrations. Absent the key element (b), my Lynch had suffered and whereas it should have been “full-bodied palate, with velvety tannins and lots of blackberry and mineral fruit character” it was enjoyable enough but without the grace and power that I would expect from Chateau Lynch Bages.
Fortunately, Martin was generous enough to bring a bottle of Chateau Carruades de Lafite 2003 (£250) which had been bought, like my Lynch, en-primeur in the days when Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s second wine was also affordable.
The high percentages of Merlot in the blend (50% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc) are unusual for Pauillac, being more common in Margaux , and may have lent the wine an advantage in the notoriously hot vintage of 2003. As Merlot is picked far earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the wine has largely avoided the baked excesses of France’s hottest summer for a century. In the glass: rich black cherry, cassis, tobacco, ground coffee beans; silky tannins; balanced alcohol; and an exceptional length. The only negative is the price.
We finished with a dessert wine from the Sauternes appellation of Bordeaux, Chateau Suduiraut 1990 (£60). The Chateau is planted on sand and gravel soil with 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are encouraged to develop noble rot, a form of fungal infection, which has the effect of raisining the grapes and concentrating sugar levels. The shrivelled grapes are then hand-picked and sorted to ensure perfect noble rot condition. The wine: dark gold colour; high acidity, alcohol and sweetness brought together in a perfect balance as a fitting end to a perfect lunch.