Beef & Mushrooms in Port with a Big 2005 Claret

The recipe is from a 1970s Cordon Bleu series and it is still good, in a rich 1970s sort of way. The fruity port lightens the dark tastes of the meat and the mushrooms, and if you serve it with carrots and peas you achieve another degree of balance. It is a big dish that warrants a big wine and I have just decided to start trying my serious (as opposed to frivolous) 2005 clarets.

I brought up the first bottle of Chateau L’Enclos, Pomerol, 2005. It is Merlot (82%), Cabernet Franc (17%) and Malbec (1%), the last being unusual in a claret these days, but 1% isn’t going to make much difference. I brought it up from the cellar just a few hours before the meal on an unusually cold day. I decanted it an hour before the meal and it seemed to have very little sediment. It had by then come up to the right temperature, a few degrees below room temperature. We are getting into detail here because a wine like this is not to be treated casually.

In the glass this was an intense ruby colour, clear and bright.

The bouquet was wonderful, intense fruit with a hint of the structure beneath.

Tasted on its own, that was borne out, with fruit in the lead and, unusually, all the way through with even finish being fruity. The tannin was fully integrated and playing a subordinate, structural role. However I still have doubts about the wines of this vintage. Again, what should have been a velvety taste, came through as furry, almost a texture. I need to work harder at getting wines of this quality – I don’t drink them often – up in time to settle and decanted with a steady hand and a bright light (to see that no sediment gets into the decanter). I used the light and saw no obvious sediment, but I should have brought the wine up a day earlier, perhaps more, to give even the finest solids time to settle.

It may be that this wine needs longer in the cellar – it is certainly reputed to have another 7 years or so. Or it may be that I prefer a different style of claret, something cleaner on the palate. I certainly want more definition and clarity than I got tonight..

Finally, price. I bought this for £14 a bottle. It is now going for 50 – 100% more than that figure. So if I don’t find a way of getting a cleaner decantation or develop a taste for ‘velvet’ I’ll at least be able to sell it at a profit.

Nevertheless it was a great meal and an interesting wine.

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