If you were born in 1983, the great news is, it was a very strong vintage. Julie Dupouy chooses wine for milestone birthdays …
This month I am celebrating a big birthday and I am planning a night with friends minus my beautiful toddler. I am naturally looking forward to a couple of glasses of wine and I intend to treat myself to mark the special occasion. Twenty years ago, I would have happily spent the night dancing in Copper’s, drinking vodka and cranberry. I would then sleep a few hours and wake up almost fresh as a daisy, ready to face my twelve-hour shift in a restaurant with only a croissant and a quick coffee fuelling the day. During my 30s, nights out turned into days in, enjoying long birthday lunches with friends. Discovery and sharing novel wine experiences was the focus. New grape varieties, new producers, new regions – it was such an interesting time from both professional and personal perspectives.
An annual birthday splurge gave me the opportunity to try some very special wines. However, reassuringly expensive doesn’t apply to wine. Wine does not come with a guarantee, and it is awful when the wine has spoiled or is just opened at the wrong time in its evolution. The right bottle on the wrong day is sure to leave any drinker puzzled and disappointed. We hope, as consumers, to enjoy wine at its very best, or close to it, and to feel good about every euro we have spent. Which wines are worth the splurge? It can be all to easy to splash out on a good bottle and be left wondering what all the fuss is about. So, as 40 is rubbing her hands, awaiting my arrival, which bottles are likely to be at my birthday party?
The first name on the team sheet is almost certainly Champagne. Grand Marques houses offer superb quality and reliability year in, year out, while artisan or “grower” Champagnes offer more personal expressions from their winemakers. Some outstanding producers include Egly-Ouriet, Laherte- Frères, Frederic Savart and Stephane Regnault. It would be hard to imagine a celebratory meal that wouldn’t include some great white Burgundy, a top German or Austrian Riesling or even a Gruner Veltliner. At the lighter, crisper end of Burgundy, producers like Thomas Pico and Louis Michel in Chablis seldom disappoint. For a richer, deeper and complex option, producers like Bernard Bonin, Comte-Lafon or perhaps Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey in Côte de Beaune produce incredibly reliable wines year after year. A “Grosses Gewächs” Riesling from Germany, equivalent to a Grand Cru in France, often delivers a headspinningly complex and racy wine. These wines really need a minimum of five years ageing to start showing their complexity but mon dieu, when they do, they are sublime. Of course, there are endless wild card options. Top Italian and Spanish whites and Australian Semillon or Chardonnay can be excellent, so keep them in mind when asking for recommendations from a trusted merchant.
The right bottle on the wrong day is sure to leave any drinker puzzled and disappointed.
Lighter-bodied reds start with Nebbiolo-based wines from Italy’s Piemonte region. Barolo or Barbaresco really need age. Five years of bottle ageing is ok, eight to ten or more is preferable if you can find them. Younger examples can be quite astringent, with tannins and acid dominating, before they settle on reaching maturity. Certain producers of red Burgundy have brought a smile to my face time and time again. Opening these bottles would make any meal feel special. Classy, elegant, charismatic and as seductive as they are complex, red Burgundy wines, when they show well, are the quintessential “special bottles”. Some go-to domaines include Sylvie Esmonin, Marquis d’Angerville, Bruno Clair and Sylvain Pataille. Reputable Côte Rôtie or Hermitage from the Northern Rhone Valley can be just as satisfying. Deep, savoury, complex and vibrant, these wines are excellent and well-rounded partners to red meat such as lamb, venison or beef. Take trusted recommendations.
Brunello di Montalcino, top Chianti or even some of the very special IGT Toscana wines would make a superb gift. They make wonderfully versatile wines for the dinner table. Gamey, savoury and truly noble, they are certainly worth those extra euros when they have a few years of bottle age. I have enjoyed great moments with wines from Col d’Orcia, Montevertine, Poggio di Sotto and Grattamacco. Consider larger formats for big celebrations. A magnum or jeroboam makes a great talking point on any dinner table, and confirms beyond doubt that the celebration is a special one. Larger formats also age more gracefully than 75cl bottles and as they are a little slower moving off the shelves, you can occasionally get lucky and find gems with a few more years of age.
Big birthdays are a super occasion to open wines from your birth year. If like me, you were born in 1983, the great news is, it was a very strong vintage. The picks of the bunch for 1983 were exceptional bottles of Port, Sauternes and sweet wines from Alsace. 1973 was a trickier vintage. Most wines will have passed their best by now. Your best option could be to invest in a bottle of 1973 Armagnac or whiskey. 1963 unfortunately was a very poor vintage overall but one region reached a legendary status with this harvest– the Douro Valley and its port wines. Agree, disagree, compare and discuss the wine that you will serve at your birthday party. Great wine brings people together and good bottles truly only become great bottles when shared with your nearest and dearest. @JulieDupouy @julie_dupouy
BIRTHDAY LUNCH WINES
Champagne Egly-Ouriet, Les Vignes de Vrigny, €80; www.mitchellandson.com.
Bolgheri Superiore, Podere Grattamacco, €90; www.whelehanswines.ie.
Riesling Smaragd, Ried Kellerberg, Weingut Knoll, €60; www.greenacres.ie.
Nuits-Saint- Georges Clos de la Maréchale, Domaine JF Mugnier, €140; www.siyps.com.
Bas Armagnac, Château Laubade, 1983, €205; www.harveynichols.com.
Côte de Nuits Villages, Sylvie Esmonin, €58; www.greenmanwines.ie.