A Mag-nificent Experience: Altare, Palmer & Rieussec

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey’re empty now. All four and a half litres of them. Separately consumed at the relevant time by a party of fourteen willing imbibers. That’s a 321 mL ration each if we’re playing even stevens. Of course who is kidding who that there are not some more voracious than others. They were three magnificent magnums that did themselves proud by shielding their precious contents from the unpredictable vagaries of the corks that sealed them.

It was one heck of a Christmas party. And oh sure, there were other bottles too, but this trio stood out as the highlights – not just because of their imposing format…

Elio Altare Vigneto Arborina Barolo 2005, Piedmont
It is so difficult to pick favourites but this Barolo by the legendary Altare was pretty hard to beat. The high notes were sweeter than the Rolls Royce of sopranos: old heritage roses, violets, red cherry, raspberry, bitumen, worn leather and an appreciable crushed herb nuance all danced harmoniously in the glass. With luscious texture and weight on the palate and ripe, elegant tannins it was gone within the blink of an eye. 94 points

Chateau Palmer 2006, Margaux, Bordeaux
56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Merlot make up this blend from Chateau Palmer in Margaux – the Cabernet comes through with power yet finesse: its luscious currant, blackberry and cedar notes mercurially delight. There’s deep dark cherry and plum fruit, gorgeous uplifted florals of violet and a sweet smoky periphery from the oak. It has a very defined, fine nose – qualities that persist on the palate. Lots of structure with earth, new tobacco, and smoke weaving in and out of the linear course this wine sets. It conforms skillfully to the femininity Margaux so delicately asserts. This vintage a real treat now but will only get better with a bit more cellar time. 93 points

Chateau Rieussec 1er Cru Sauternes 2007, Bordeaux
One of my all time favourite Sauternes and an superlative vintage in a magnum! It was certainly Christmas. This was just a rapturous experience, especially when paired with a delectable tarte au citron. Wild honey, caramelized lemon, orange peel, glace pineapple and sweet honeysuckle floral notes predominate on the nose with stunning botrytis marmalade characters backing this up. On the palate it has fantastic acid to give length to its weighty richness – there’s simply oodles of fruit, and the flavour complexity is wicked. Initially we were guilty about committing pseudo-infanticide but with the absolute generosity and profoundness of this wine from the first pour it was clear there was no need to live in sin. 96 points