Château Talbot Saint-Julien 2003

On December 4th 2017 I was finally discharged from hospital. The surgeon checked me over one last time, pronounced that I was healing “remarkably well”, and told me I was allowed to do everything I’d been missing out on for the past ten months.

“Everything?” I asked.
“Everything” he replied.
“I can even drink alcohol?”
He said I could.

So I left the consulting room, ecstatically texted my friends to tell them I was finally allowed to socialise again, walked out the front door of the hospital, got on a bus… and immediately went to the wine shop. 

I first discovered Huntsworth Wine early in 2017, just before I got ill. (The getting ill had nothing to do with the wine, I hasten to add.) I was having some people over for dinner and I didn’t know which wine would go with the food I was planning to serve. Then I remembered I’d walked past a Bordeaux specialist on my way to Notting Hill a while ago, and I decided this would be a good time to try them out. I went inside, asked for a wine to go with venison, and was given a recommendation. I bought four bottles and we had a very nice evening.

That was in January 2017.

Fast forward to December 2017 – eleven months later – and I thought I’d go back. I needed a celebratory bottle, so I wanted it to be special, and I also wanted it to go well with a nice camembert. So off I went.

When I walked through the door, I was stunned when the proprietor remembered not only my name, but also where I lived. Personally I have a terrible memory for faces (thank goodness I don’t work in retail anymore) so I’m impressed if anyone remembers who I am. But to remember both of those things from almost a year ago, when I hadn’t been in since… that was even more impressive. But then impressive is something Huntsworth do very well.

I asked for a bottle of wine that would go well with a nice camembert. They recommended this one. When I asked for some tasting notes, I was told it was “old-fashioned in a good way”, which was just intriguing enough to make me want to try it. I then asked for a camembert recommendation, and was told to go for the Mons which I could find just down the road in Whole Foods. Off I went.

A few days later, curled up in my living room on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I popped open the wine and baked the camembert and had one of those wonderful meals that’s almost a spiritual experience.

This is the only wine I’ve drunk (and I’ve drunk a lot of wine) that has immediately evoked a picture of its vines in my mind. Whether they’re the right vines I’m not sure, of course, but as soon as I took the first taste I had a vivid image of some gnarly, twisted old vines under a French sun. Perhaps it was just my mind longing to be somewhere other than rainy England, but it felt wonderful.

The wine was complex enough to be interesting on its own, but of course a wine that evoked vines + a good camembert + some excellent Spanish olives was going to be a fantastic combination too.

It’s kind of dark and tastes old before its time. Like it’s spent a few years going through some stuff, and now even though it’s only middle-aged it has the wisdom (and the peppery, smoky undertones) of your favourite uncle who’d slip you a sip of his whisky and tell you gory tales about the war.

For a middle-aged uncle who’s been through the wars it’s surprisingly well-balanced, though. Not too rich, not too fruity, not too herby. Heavy on the oak but not overpoweringly so. The faintest hint of sweetness under all the layers of complexity; but again, not so complex as to be difficult to drink. You could easily down this one in an evening (I held back, because I wanted to see how it tasted the following day – very good, as it turned out).

An excellent reintroduction into drinking wine again, this has skipped its way up the ranks to become one of my favourite wines.

Buy it from: Huntsworth Wine.

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