A neighbour was moving house and asked if I had any surplus wine packaging going spare; in return for a few cartons retrieved from the recycling, he proffered a bottle from the cellar, with the warning "It's a bit Madeirised, but hopefully OK".
I decided I had got the better end of the bargain and decided to put it up against another aged Riesling and some food from Alex Rushmer's Vanderlyle.
Opening the wine was surprisingly easy, if somewhat unconventional; applying the corkscrew, the cork slipped down the neck of the bottle irretrievably, so I pushed it all the way in then fetched a decanter-plus-tea-strainer and out it poured.
What else to pair with an aged Riesling but another aged Riesling?
Peter Ranscombe had recently tipped a 2014 Marlborough Riesling from Aldi and I'd been intrigued enough to buy a few bottles.
Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Riesling 2014 (£7.99, Aldi) sealed under screwcap, it has not evolved as much as a similarly priced and similarly aged Mosel Riesling from The Co-op.
Honeysuckle, citrus and a hint of petrol, zippy and fresh with lime marmalade and a slatey mineral thrill; falls away quickly but mineral-persistent on the finish. Thoroughly pleasant and off-the-beaten-track.
Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker Riesling Spatlese 1983 golden topaz in colour, or Earl Grey tea, with aromas of bruised apple, a touch of old leather and some cellar mustiness but nothing approaching diesel or kerosene.
On the palate, stone fruit and citrus with toasted brazil nut and cashew, sultanas, beurre noisette and savoury, caramelised butterscotch; sweet-sour, saline-mineral and long. A well-knitted, complex and harmonious mass of wonderful contradictions; starts sweet and finishes dry, mellow yet energetic, fruited but savoury, oxidised yet fresh.
Drink as an aperitif or match with lighter game or mushrooms.
Domaine de Fontbonau Cotes-du-Rhone 2012 (£12.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants) Alex had suggested a gutsy Malbec to go with his main course, a multi-stage, two-day chili, so I picked out this warming, mature red.
A bin-end, fire-sale wine that had been destined for the restaurant trade; I bought several cases of this, and also sent a bottle to Peak District-based PR Francesca Gaffey as part of Dan Kirby's twitter wineswap.
Mature Rhônes are somewhat unusual as they tend to be consumed young, but this is ripe yet savoury, intense and supple with very fine tannins.
The Food - Vanderlyle
Vanderlyle and MJP@TheShepherds are the Blur and Oasis of the Cambridge Dining Scene; Alex was a Masterchef finalist and Mark has held a Michelin Star.
Rapeseed oil focaccia with blackened salsa; tomatoes and roasted chili, with cardamom and fennel seeds. Warm the bread, dip into the salsa; more amuse bouche than starter but very well-made.
Carlin Pea & Morita Pepper Chili
Aged Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese
Braised Spring Greens
Spicy-savoury and rich; it took a few mouthfuls before we realised it was vegetarian (or at least meat-free); appropriately hearty and warming for a late-spring chill.
Orange Poppyseed & Olive Oil Pudding Custard
More a light cake than a pudding, the most adept and elegant part of the meal.
Vanderlyle "Black & White Biscuit"
A homemade Oreo - but so much better.
Footnotes: Deidesheim is a small, highly prestigious wine-growing village in Germany's Pfalz wine region. It is best known for its Riesling, which is by far the dominant variety here. Like other Pfalz wines, Riesling made here is fuller-bodied and richer than most other German Riesling, thanks to the region's relatively warm, dry climate.
Most Deidesheimer Rieslings are trocken (dry). Situated just a few miles north of Neustadt town, Deidesheim lies right at the heart of Pfalz's top vineyard area. The village and its vineyards sit at the foot of the Haardt mountain range, giving them a much-prized easterly aspect and sheltered position. This, combined with the rain shadow cast by the peaks above, makes for a warmer, brighter and drier macroclimate than those a few miles away.
Jancis Robinson says of the 2009 vintage of this wine:
Georg Mosbacher, Deidesheimer Hergottsacker Riesling Spätlese trocken 2009 Pfalz 17 Drink 2011-2014
100% Riesling from Weingut Georg Mosbacher, a family-owned estate with nearly 45 acres of vineyards in the picturesque wine village of Forst, in Germany's Pfalz region. Vines are planted on clay sand with a high percentage of stones. The grapes were hand-picked and fermented with temperature control at 18°C with selected yeast in stainless-steel tanks. Bottled in May 2010.
Winemaker Juergen Dueringer. TA 7.1 g/l, RS 3.1 g/l.
Great to see a supermarket bothering with top-quality Germans! Honeyed nose. Very broad peppery palate. Lovely well-balanced stuff that is already drinking well and is chock full of fruit but not sugar. Really good! 13% £16.99 Waitrose (8 stores)