The Eleventh bottle

A couple of days after the most recent installment of our Eleventh Bottle dinner series we received a thank-you note from one of our regular female attendees.  She had decided that an Oscar Wilde quote was fitting to sum up the occasion.  And we don’t disagree.



Aside from being an inveterate dandy Mr Wilde did coin a few choice phrases that very much embody the crux of the matter.  Our favorite for the purposes of describing why we go to such lengths to bring people together to enjoy the finer things in life is as follows:

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

And so, for us, at least, The Eleventh Bottle is a chance to live.  To breathe the heady fumes of shared experience.  To hear stories and create stories.  One of our number had conceived a child with the aid of one of the very wines we were drinking.  Who knew?

The company was splendid, the stories aplenty, and the food and wines perfect for the occasion.

Our preferred wine tasting lexicon is far simpler and to the point than Mr Parker’s, but alas often includes NC-17 rated portions, so we have included more conventional notes for those with interest below, courtesy of our Resident Wino, “JC.”

Peasant:  ***** Food fit for a King
Bordeaux: ***** Certainly the good stuff
Pig’s Ears: ***** Somewhat akin to the dog’s danglers.

1995 Grand Puy Lacoste:  A slightly younger wine for context, just beginning to open up and show what it has under the hood, double decanting definitely helped here. Still broad and deep cassis, very primary, very Pauillac lead pencil without being pushy.  Quite a modern wine but still has the soul of Bordeaux.

1989 Cantemerle: 
The little Chateau that could, a monumental effort from this smaller property, best wine they made in years. Floral and lovely, perfect profile and taught structure, long and lithe, very pretty, very berry, am I still talking about the wine?

1985 Gruaud Larose: 
Old reliable, old warhorse, good old Gruaud with lots of saddle leather and horse hair here, one of the last old school Gruauds, lush and fleshy perfectly mature, a plummy delight now, but don’t push it, many miles and pleasant memories from this wine over the years.

1985 Cos d’Estournel: 
Spicy and smoky nose, almost exotic in the best sense, incense and darker fruits here, quite youthful though very complex, almost sweet attack but with a drying finish that maintains the dignity of this classic Claret.

1989 Pichon Baron: 
Darker fruit still, the Baron is a dark knight indeed, with almost steely minerality and finely tuned tannic, spine.  This is a wine built for the long haul, though giving much pleasure now.  Velvety texture, almost like chocolate, a noted critic calls is, “awesomely endowed,” but you’ll have to ask the ladies.

1986 Pichon Lalande: 
Always a lady, with a bit of sass, the Comtesse half of the Pichon estate is almost buttery with tender red fruits.  Touch of a cinnamon and red pepper, she has a nice body, still holding its form, becoming more cedary and earthy on the finish.  Her tannins have finally softened a bit.

1994 Le Gay: 
Going over to the right bank, always a bit different here, figgy, quite fruity and delicious, round, soft and quite refreshing after the tannins of the Pichons.  Good drink for now, but don’t hold.

1994 l’Evangile: 
Quite opulent almost framboise here, a very seductive wine.  Licorice and nettles, long and layered, still youthful and balances the exotic qualities of a Pomerol with the structure of a left bank wine, “Lafite a Pomerol?”

Words by Duncan Quinn Photos by Henry Hargreaves