MS White Burgundy 2012 Tasting


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Some of the finest expressions of wine made from the Chardonnay grape emerge from the region of Burgundy in France. Once tried, they are wines that are hard to forget, if you are the type who refutes the idea of “A B C“, and fully embraces what I believe is the Queen of Wines.

When joining a fine wine society that maintains a cellar, you do it expecting to encounter the finest of the world’s wines from time to time. This was one of those occasions.

RE produced a wonderful set of notes to accompany this tasting:

Last year we tasted six White Burgundies from the 2011 vintage. It’s probably fair to say not all of these were to everyone’s taste – some tasters clearly had issues with reduction and acid, from a lean vintage that seems prone to those criticisms. Of course, others feel the 2011s are lovely, and anything with a pH greater than 3.2 is pretty flabby anyway…

The 2012s we are about to taste should be quite different. I expect them to show good ripeness, and more even acid. Of course, reduction is always part of White Burgundy and those sensitive to Sulphur compounds will no doubt find at least one of the wines “challenging”. It certainly promises to be interesting, yet again.

The region and vineyards

Burgundy sits pretty much a little to the East of central France. It’s quite a large geographic area, with Chablis sort of halfway between the Cote d’Or and Paris. One of our wines is from Chablis and we shall be unsurprised if it tastes a bit different from the others. The next “outlier” will be the Corton Charlemagne, being in the Cote de Beaune but 20 odd minutes by car from Puligny, the Southernmost of the villages we are tasting from. For me, the real magic of the region is right there – Puligny and its neighbours Meursault and Chassagne, where the world’s greatest Chardonnays are made. It’s fascinating how wines grown in such close proximity display quite distinct characteristics.

Pucelles is just north of the Grand Cru vineyards Batard Montrachet and Bienvenue Batard Montrachet. It’s generally considered one of the “best” 1er Crus, but then so are several other ones. Pucelles sits at the bottom of the Cote d’Or slope, where the incline is less pronounced than higher up the hill. Henri Boillot owns 57 ares of vines that are around 50 years old.

Champ Canet is on the northern border of Puligny, next to Meursault. It’s located mid-slope and just above Combettes and on the same sort of line as Perrieres. Geographically, one of the best sites, and Sauzet has some of the oldest vines here (going back to 1939 plantings).

Genevrieres in Meursault is right in the heart of the 1ers there, south of the village. The name of this appellation comes from the juniper trees that used to grow there a long time ago. It is sometimes said that the taste of the flowers of this tree used to be felt in the wine. It is also said, just sometimes, that this is complete nonsense. Latour-Giraud is definitely a strong performer in the village and with Genevrieres in particular. The Domaine’s own website description is too good to pass up:

“The history of Field LATOUR-GIRAUD extends over three centuries and goes up at the end of XVII. The known ancestor oldest is Jean Latour-Boillot born about 1680. At that time the vine was already the principal wages. The presence of the Latour family on the vineyard appears during the French revolution by the person of Jean Latour-Mouquin, born in 1748 and grandson of Jean Latour-Boillot”

Charmes is also in the south of Meursault, right next to Combettes and Referts in Puligny. Charmes is located on a gentle slope at the bottom of the Cote d’Or escarpment, and is not as steep as some of the vineyards on the hill above (e.g. Perrieres). Roulot is one of the “superstar” producers nowadays and wine-searcher provides you with plenty of opportunity to spend over $700 on this wine.

Corton Charlemagne, further north, is on the hill of Corton, a large outcrop of limestone set slightly apart from the main Côte d’Or escarpment. Emperor Charlemagne is said to have ordered the planting of the first white grape varieties on the Corton hillside. The red wines he loved so much stained his long white beard, and one of his several wives is said to have pressured him into drinking white wines instead… Whether true or not, we all appreciate having white Corton Charlemagne. The Henri Boillot wine is from their Maison business.

Preuses in Chablis lies at the northern end of the Grand Cru slope, where Kimmeridgian soils and a sunny aspect make for an excellent terroir. It crowns, or is sandwiched between, Bougros and Vaudesir. It’s actually yet another vineyard that – in a fit of originality – is pretty much called “Perrieres” (old French term for quarry) because apparently Preuses is simply what the original “Pierreuse” corrupted to in this instance. I couldn’t easily find how many vines and how old they are in this instance, but Billaud Simon has been around for 200 years odd.

How was 2012 as a vintage?

2012 was another miserable vintage, with quantities low due to hail damage. A cold wet winter and Wellington-esque weather across April to June. Yet again saved by much better conditions thereafter, except the storms and hail of course. While “professional” opinions were or are somewhat split, my view is that the wines are rather lovely. Good ripe fruit and enough structure to keep things interesting. Of course, as is always the case with Burgundy, producer matters an awful lot, and we are fortunate to be tasting wines from some of the best.

Decanter is probably low-balling in its assessment – 3½ / 5 for Cote d’Or Whites and a more generous 4 / 5 for Chablis: “Drink soon. Hailstorms slashed quantities on the Côte de Beaune, and Chardonnay was badly affected. Yet after a turbulent summer, the grapes were picked in healthy condition, although quantities were, in some places, risible. But there is no stylistic signature to the vintage, and there are skinny whites and fat ones, making generalisations all but impossible.”

Vinous (Tanzer) goes into good detail with a dollar each way and avoiding generalisations while making generalisations: “In fact, 2012 has turned out to be a very good vintage for the white wines of the Cote de Beaune, yielding many flamboyantly rich, concentrated, sexy examples (I will taste the reds in depth later this fall). It’s also an uneven vintage because, as is often the case, weather conditions on the Cote de Beaune were even more extreme than those on the Cote de Nuits. So although there will be many outstanding wines in 2012, buying the vintage will require selectivity. And prices will be high, owing to the very short crop.

… My early look at hundreds of wines suggests that the 2012s are generally very rich, generous, full-bodied wines with a lot of dry extract, very much reflective of tiny yields and small grapes. While some growers consider their 2012s to be classic white Burgundies, others find the wines to be over-concentrated. As I have written in these pages through the years, some of Burgundy’s most intelligent white wine producers are convinced that chardonnays made from tiny yields will never be the most elegant style: they will always have some sort of imbalance reflecting the extremes of their growing season.

Indeed, I found a number of 2012s to be too powerful to be considered classic, often with a tendency toward heaviness. These wines are robust but not austere; with their major levels of baby fat, they still need to be refined during their last months in barrel or tank, and may well benefit from a fining before bottling. Some growers believe that the wines have good inherent minerality but that it’s currently blocked by the wines’ fat. They expect their wines to gain tension in the months leading up to the bottling.

Many 2012 white Burgundies are thick and rich in the way of some of the expensive boutique chardonnays from California. Finally, a white Burgundy vintage that will not be steamrolled by California wines in early blind tastings.

Happily, relative few wines show obvious signs of surmaturite, so the aromas of these wines can be quite fresh and complex. If anything the 2012s are weightier–more outsized–than the 2010s, but they rarely have the tactile, dusty minerality, the density of texture, or the bracing acidity and inner-mouth tension of the earlier vintage, which is looking more and more like a once-or-twice-a-generation vintage. But where the 2012s do have enough acidity, definition and grip, they are extremely impressive and should age very well. The combination of sheer richness of fruit and lively, harmonious acidity makes the best 2012s exceptional. These latter wines will probably outperform their older 2010 siblings for at least the next several years.”

Jancis Robinson appears positive on the vintage, saying: “Generalisations about burgundy are particularly dangerous but I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that, while there are examples that are too soft, I found some of the whites extremely high in acidity and feel that the best may need a few years in bottle to round out while others may always be a bit skinny.”

My personal view is that the 2012s are yet another fine White Burgundy vintage. Since 1999, there have really only been a couple of weak vintages: 2003 and 2006, with many wines from the latter coming right. Modern approaches and technology have helped significantly – it’s quite possible that 20 years ago the weather conditions we saw in 2012 would have meant a flat out disaster.

What about premox?

Premature oxidation continues to be an issue for White Burgundies. At least, more producers now acknowledge the issue openly and are trying different things – e.g. closures. No doubt some of the wines tonight will show Sulphur compounds and it’s a shame we don’t have copper currency any more.

In Issue 73 of “A View from the Cellar”, John Gilman laments the issue at length, and says he has already seen “a fair bit of premox in 2012s”. His gut-feel is that it’s probably global warming and the horse has bolted – i.e. no matter what steps producers try to put in place, the good old days of White Burgundies peaking at 20 years old are gone. Of course, he then goes into contortions about why the drinking windows he provides in his tasting notes are framed as if premature oxidation didn’t exist.

So in essence, we don’t really know anything more about it than we did last year.

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The wines we’re tasting tonight:

I have provided tasting notes and scores from a couple of critics for each of the wines tonight.

2012 Latour Giraud Meursault Genevrieres

“Bright, light yellow. Aromas of yellow peach, orange peel, acacia blossom and spices convey an impression of punch. Then dense and creamy but firm in the mouth, with ripe acidity and dusty extract leavening the wine’s ripeness and extending the ripe, sweet, refined finish. Very fresh and complete Genevrieres, and more complex than the Charmes.” (93, Stephen Tanzer)

“(from 40+ year old vines from a huge 2.5 ha parcel in Genevrières Dessus). Here too the nose is markedly reduced and tough to tease out the fruit composition though again it does seem ripe. The solidly dense middle weight flavours possess excellent intensity and plenty of minerality while retaining a lovely sense of refinement allied with a sophisticated mouth feel, all wrapped in a cool, linear and well-balanced finale. This restrained effort is an exercise in harmony and this too should amply reward 6 to 8 years of bottle age. Recommended. (90-93)/2019+. A Sweet Spot Wine!” (90-93 Burghound)

 

2012 Roulot Meursault Charmes

“From vines planted way back in 1942, the 2012 Meursault 1er Cru Charmes has a very harmonious, intense bouquet with citrus lemon, fennel, mint and orange zest that are all beautifully defined. The palate is vibrant and tense on the entry, a shard of orange peel that is really penetrating from start to finish. Extremely focused but quite flamboyant, this has everything you could ask for in a Meursault Charmes. This is simply fabulous even if it now does come with a hefty price tag. Drink 2016-2030” (95, Neal Martin, Wine Advocate)

“This isn’t quite as elegant but it is even more complex with its expressive nose of really lovely purity that features cool floral, pear and green apple aromas trimmed in just enough wood to notice. The super intense and restrained beautifully precise middle weight flavours brim with an underlying minerality that adds lift to the seductively textured finale that displays outstanding persistence. Despite all of the refinement this remains a powerful and concentrated wine that possesses almost painful intensity and this should age effortlessly for years to come.” (92-94, Burghound)

 

2012 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Pucelles

“White orchard fruit and the hallmark honeysuckle scents give way to punchy and impressively concentrated medium-bodied flavors that possess a highly refined mouth feel if not the sheer depth of the Clos de la Mouchère. To be sure this is a lovely wine that could aptly be described as notably bigger and more powerful than is typical for Pucelles. Tasted: Jun 15, 2014. Drink: 2018+” (91, Burghound)

“Green-tinged medium yellow. Ripe stone fruits, pear, honey and hazelnut on the inviting nose and palate. Fat, rich and chewy; this extract-rich wine boasts terrific solidity and depth of fruit. Finishes with outstanding force and length. Has the palate presence of a grand cru. (Incidentally, there’s no Folatieres in 2012; Boillot only made his domain bottlings from Puligny-Montrachet.)” (92, Stephen Tanzer)

2012 Sauzet Puligny Montrachet Champ Canet

“A sexy note of reduction to the peach, hazelnut and nutmeg aromas. Rich, dense and deep, showing youthfully subdued white peach and mineral flavors. Finishes very long, very dry and broad, in need of time in bottle to reveal more personality. From a crop level of just 21 hectoliters per hectare due to hail, according to Boudot, who noted that he declassified his tiny, hailed-on Hameau de Blagny production into his Puligny villages in 2012.” (92+, Stephen Tanzer)

“**Note: from a full 1 ha parcel of 40+ year old vines though some of them were planted in 1938 at the same time as the Bienvenues; aged in approximately 1/3 new oak with a slightly longer élevage than the prior wines**

Here the beautifully layered nose is openly exotic with spicy aromas of mango, apricot, peach and mandarin orange. The medium weight plus flavors are more concentrated still with a sleek muscularity that contributes to the unctuous but not heavy mouth feel, all wrapped in an extract-rich, suave and beautifully balanced finish. While not nearly as mineral-inflected as the prior two wines there is simply more underlying material and ultimately this should be the better wine and certainly its track record would lend credence to that prediction.” (92, Burghound)

2012 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne

“*Don’t miss!* This is aromatically restrained to the point of being almost mute and only grudgingly displays notes of citrus peel, green apple, white flowers and wet stone. There is excellent verve and intensity to the detailed and mineral-inflected broad-shouldered flavors that culminate in a focused, complex and powerfully long finish that is markedly austere and saline. This superbly long effort will need plenty of time to unwind as it’s presently very, very tight but it should handsomely repay extended cellaring.” (94, Burghound)

“Pure aromas of lime, linden blossom, crushed stone and spearmint. Plush and fine-grained but also quite penetrating, offering lovely lift to the concentrated lemon, lime and stone flavors. Very young but already quite suave, this round, rich wine finishes very long, with a youthful metallic minerality. Boillot told me that this was his only Chardonnay parcel untouched by hail in 2012–and the only one affected by hail in 2013.” (94, Stephen Tanzer)

2012 Billaud Simon Chablis Preuses

“This is restrained to the point that aggressive swirling is required to coax even a glimpse of the otherwise very fresh aromas of floral, iodine, tidal pool and soft pear scents. There is superb intensity to the subtly layered medium weight flavors that exhibit an undercurrent of minerality before culminating in a dry and mouth coating but not really austere finish that goes on and on…” (93, Burghound)

“The 2012 Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses does not quite have the penetration or delineation of the Vaudesir on the nose and I would have preferred more spiciness to come through. The palate is clean and precise on the citric entry, laced with orange peel and saline notes, although again, it needs to develop more personality and spiciness on the conservative finish. Drink 2016-2025.” (89, Neal Martin, Wine Advocate)”

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And so we came, and poured, and here are my thoughts on the wines:

2012 Latour Giraud Meursault Genevrieres – Brilliant pale gold. This had me at hello. Upfront bold and rich hit. Sulphur/reduction, golden stonefruit, peach and mandarin aromas. Essence of Meursault. Sweet attack in mouth. Bold rich body of fruit, with freshness and balanced acid. A “joined-up”wine.  Apple-pip finish. Shows maturity. Gold. My third wine.

2012 Roulot Meursault Charmes – Brilliant pale gold. Wow. Fine and floral, lovely and elegant. Shows such good aromatic intensity. A hint of reduction (I like). Gorgeous fruit weight flavour and silky mouthfeel. Balanced with glorious ripeness and acid. Harmoniou s and long. Gold. My Wine of the Night (WOTN)

2012 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Pucelles – Brilliant gold. Rich and golden, with gorgeous golden fruit aromas, and spice and oak, warmth, sweetness, and slightly reductive. Crisp ripe fruit on palate, balanced, effortless. It had rewarding body, crunchiness, oily-ness, balanced in weight and acid, but showed a thrillingly lively citrus character. Nutmeg. Power and reticence for some, overthinking it. Gold. My second wine.

2012 Sauzet Puligny Montrachet Champ Canet – Brilliant pale gold. Fine, bold, flinty – Seashells? Slight unripe peach character. Complex and layered (I can’t write that without thinking of Shrek and his “layers” J) melon, sweetness, lanolin. Light golden peach flavours, slightly unripe compared to others in this flight. Shows some honey, and gorgous weight with food. Who knows huh? Apple pip on the back, again. A ‘struck match’ character for some. Tension and power without artifice   Gold.

2012 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne– Brilliant pale gold.  Fresh crisp aromas, dewy apple, spicy and oaky, deepens on standing. Solid. To taste: fresh, with body. Sweetness and apples. Crunchy mouthfeel. Oaky and hot on the back palate. Simple?  But not.  Silver.

2012 Billaud Simon Chablis Preuses – Brilliant light pale gold. Refined and elegant white peach florals with a hint of honey on the nose. Lively attack, clean entry, crisp green flavours of apple, restrained, somewhat short, dry.  Delicious.  A nice wine. Gold

It was remarkable how the aromas differed across the flight, exhibiting true variations in winemaking approach, terroir and grape clonal variety. Bottle 2c showed Pre-Mox (lean fruit, dying, faulty) which we all sampled to fix in our sense memory what this condition shows as.

The tasting result reminded me of that old football gag, “Football is a simple game played for 90 minutes[ ] , and at the end, Germany wins”.

In this case, for Chardonnay, for me, Meursault wins again!

Thanks to MS and ER for the tasting and guidance.

MS Tasting – White Burgundy


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2011 White Burgundy

The first white Burgundy I ever drank was while having lunch with my sister at Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous Michelin three-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Hospital Road in London in 2010. It was a Meursault, possibly the house wine, and sold by the glass. They don’t sell muck: it blew me away. This remains, along with the 2007 Sacred Hill Rifleman, one of my two touchstone Chardonnay wine experiences…

So to have the chance to try a horizontal of white Burgundies, including two Meursaults, was not to be passed up. And I wasn’t alone, the tasting was packed out….

The wines we were to try:

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere

2011 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne

2011 Latour Giraud Meursault Genevrieres

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Combettes

2011 Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets

2011 Roulot Meursault Charmes

There were some excellent notes compiled by AM to accompany the Society tasting:

Chardonnay

“By nature, this great grape is non-aromatic to the nose, full-bodied by mouthfeel, and lively in acidity. Chardonnay is relatively easy to grow, and to make into ordinary wine. These features leave scope for many things to influence the character of the finished wine, from first glimpse through to finishing resonance, and perhaps even to produce extraordinary wine. These factors include: the nature of the vintage, the character of the soil and site, and methods of vinification and maturation. Especially as expressed in white Burgundy, chardonnay has a natural tendency to produce wines of some power. In good hands, it can also produce wines of finesse and complexity.

Issues & Trends

The stellar reputation and high price of a good white Burgundy depends partly on its track record of maturing and developing long and gracefully. This reputation has been complicated and somewhat qualified by the premature oxidation (a.k.a. ‘pre-mox’ or ‘pox’) that has afflicted too many bottles from the late-20th century to the early 21st century. When this affliction began, how prevalent it still is, and what its causal specifics are, remain frustratingly ongoing points of uncertainty and controversy.

One consumer response to premature oxidation has been to mitigate risk by drinking white Burgundy younger than previously. One producer trend, part response to premature oxidation, but perhaps also partly of independent stylistic origin, is to increase the levels and prevalence of reductive sulphides in bottles. These sulphidic notes, with their flinty notes of struck match – ‘le matchstick’, some call it – are associated with ‘reductive wine-making’, where exposure of wines to oxygen is deliberately limited during ageing. Techniques amenable to this style of wine-making include: minimizing new-oak influence, limiting lees-stirring or dropping it altogether, minimizing movement of wine from one barrel to another or making such moves in the absence of oxygen, and completing ageing in tank rather than in barrel.

Some wine-makers claim that reductive character is simply delivered to them by their soils. Other commentators share Jancis Robinson’s view that: “It is only very rarely shaped by what goes on in the vineyard … but usually it is the decisions a wine-maker makes in the cellar that make the difference”. Here is the summation of Jean-Marc Roulot, whose much-admired Meursault wines feature in tonight’s line-up: “there has definitely been a change in the way that producers, and consumers, view reduction, which, thanks to premature oxidation, is now seen as something more positive. There are also some widely admired producers of white Burgundy who have opted for marked reduction so that reduction has come to be perceived by consumers as a sign of quality”.

Jancis Robinson counts Domaines Leflaive and Coche Dury amongst the most influential producers that have moved, through a series of small steps, in a more reductive direction. The trend is widespread, both in Burgundy and throughout the wider world of chardonnay.

A traditional complaint against reduction in wines is that it tends to deaden freshness and flatten or even obliterate natural fruit character, producing wines that are boring and wearying to smell and taste. This line of criticism has been renewed or continued by some current commentators. Perhaps with a mix of empirical observation and wishful thinking, for example, Jancis Robinson claimed in early 2015 to: “sense the creak of a pendulum beginning to swing in the opposite direction”, especially in the most influential producers. There are also influential producers who actively oppose to le matchstick in wines. Dominique Lafon puts this into a rhetorical question: “Why should I start making reductive wines just to avoid the premox problem?”.

These notes do not comment on where tonight’s producers sit on matters of oxidation or reduction, but please do attend closely to what the content of each glass tells you.

Vintage 2011

The white Burgundy vintage of 2011 was more challenging than the ripe 2009 or the more classical 2010. Here is Jancis Robinson’s two-sentence summary: “Less ripe than the previous two vintages, needing chaptalisation in many cases. Chaotic weather made this a tricky vintage overall”. As always, even a glance at thoughtful reviews of particular wines by leading writers confirms that many able producers handled this tricky vintage beautifully. Let us hope our senses deliver this message to us also on the night, through this tantalizing set of wines.

Producers:

Domaine Henri Boillot. This domaine was formed in 2005, when Henri bought out shares of his father’s domaine from other siblings. According to Henri, his “white wine is all about vinification”. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed, clarified fairly thoroughly, then vinified without any batonage. Elevage is in 350-litre barrels from Francois Freres, using a balance of new and one-year-old barrels. Morris comments (2010: 367): “The white wines are very pure, with a little crisp toastiness … but no sense of being over-oaked. They are supported by good acidity – an essential part of great white burgundy for Henri”.

Domaine Guy Roulot. At this outstanding Mersault domaine, Jean-Marc Roulot has been in charge since 1989. Morris (2010: 412-413) comments: “he has since brought a fine domaine into the very top league. He is one of the few producers who has managed to move from heavier to purer wines but not lose anything of the potential quality and complexity”. Where grape skins are healthy, Roulot prefers to crush before pressing, saying he finds a greener juice that way, with a degree more acidity without changing the pH. No more than 20 percent new wood is used for village wines, and 25-30 per cent for the crus. About the Charmes bottling, Morris comments: “Rich yet pure and balanced: a classical lower-slope Mersault”.

Latour Giraud. Apologies: no information sourced. Knowledgeable members – please fill the gap here verbally on the night.

Domaine Blain-Gagnard. Most of the premier cru whites are from Chassagne Montrachet. The grapes are crushed then pressed, debourbage, fermentation in barrel, lees-stirring, one racking, and blending in tank. Jean-Marc Blain pursues elegance rather than power, and selects his coopers and forests carefully (Minier in Chagny is a favourite). He uses just 10-15 percent new barrels for village and premier cru wines, and 30 percent for grands crus. About the Chassagne-Montrachet bottling, Morris comments that the (2010: 456): “plot runs the full length of the vineyard: the marl above gives weight to the wine, the white soil lower down provides elegance and finesse … a very complete wine, with subtleties of flavour despite its evident power”.

And to the wines:

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2011 Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets – Pale gold colour. Honeyed, rich, with notes of caramel and light florals. Sweet entry on palate, crisp acidity and freshness, lean & minerally. Good plate weight. A lovely wine to start. One taster smelled Acacia flowers. I scored this Gold, and it was my 3rd Wine of the Night.

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere– Pale gold colour. Oaky, soft and round, with spice and ripe stonefruit characters. Some reduction/ touch of sulphur. Tight acid on entry, salty and sharp. Fine mouthfeel, freshness, balance and length. A lovely leanness to this wine. I scored this Gold, and was my 2nd Wine of the Night

2011 Latour Giraud Meursault Genevrieres – Pale gold colour. Somewhat mute to start, then showed light fruit, butter & lemons, and white peaches. Minerality, lemons, ginger  and spearmint in the mouth. Piercing acid is underlined in my notes. It finished sweeter and softer. I scored this Silver. This wine lacked a bit of age.

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Combettes – Pale gold colour. Reductive, flint on the nose. Flat, steely and fresh in the mouth. Salty, linear and crunchy. Apple seed finish. Interestingly angular this wine, with great length and persistence. I scored this Gold.

2011 Roulot Meursault Charmes – Pale gold colour. Complex, beguiling, perfumed and opulent. Poised and tense, layered, and  fleshy with a touch of spice. In the mouth was depth and power and finesse. Showing lemon freshness and acidity and lingering persistence. Fruit cake! And showed TIME. I scored this Gold and my WOTN (wine of the night).

2011 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne – Gold colour. This is what we all came for. The heavyweight on the bill. Serious, heavy, complex, burnt matchstick reductive and chalky characters. Great palate weight, fruit and sweetness, huge and long. The biggest and richest Chardonnay of the flight. A true Grand Cru. I scored this Gold. A majority in attendance saw it as their WOTN.

My impressions over the flight was that the wines started off quite mute, but opened up over time. And when they did, I saw quite a beguiling perfume. Another feature over the flight was the piercing acidity. More than what I was expecting, and I think masked any great complexity (with the exception of the Charmes). Meausault wins again!

A wonderful opportunity to try some rare wines with a hefty price tag on this side of the world. Many thanks to our guide and host and our cellarmaster.

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And as it was our last meeting for the year, we finished with a piece of Christmas Cake and several sweet wines to taste. Yum:

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MS 2006 Red Burgundy Tasting


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This was the first tasting of the Magnum Society that I could manage to get to this year. And it was a heavy hitter as well. The reason why I joined in the first place…Six wines…Four Grand Cru, one Premier Cru and a Village. Unlikely to repeated, due to the exorbitant prices being demanded for current vintages of these wines…

The wines we tasted were:

  • 2006 Cathiard Vosne-Romanée, Malconsorts
  • 2006 Dugat Py Gevrey-Chambertin, Coeur de Roy
  • 2006 Drouhin-Laroze Bonnes Mares
  • 2006 Henri Boillot Clos Vougeot
  • 2006 Humbert Freres Charmes-Chambertin
  • 2006 Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos des Ruchottes

 

The tasting was ably presented by HD, and I have taken the liberty to crib from his excellent tasting notes:

Cathiard Vosne-Romanée, Malconsorts – Aux Malconsorts [ ] is regarded as an exceptional Premier Cru vineyard, for example it is rated by Jasper Morris MW as one of his three favourite Premier Cru sites in all of Burgundy.

This is the flagship wine of the domaine, even though the Romanée St-Vivant may theoretically be even grander. It is a hauntingly lovely wine with a depth of flavour unmatched by Cathiard’s other premiers crus, and exceptional persistence.

Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin, Coeur de Roy –This Villages level wine is made from 3 ha of vines of 50 to 95 years of age situated throughout Gevrey-Chambertin in Epointures, Combe du Dessus and Les Marchais. The wine was aged in 65% new oak and vinified with 50% of the stems.

Meadows’ latest review (2009) says, “Interestingly given its exposition, this is notably ripe with an expressive cool red berry and pungently earthy nose that slides into rich, full and distinctly serious middle weight flavors that offer an appealingly textured mouth feel on the velvety and slightly floral finish that is admirably persistent. This too delivers outstanding quality for its level.”

Drouhin-Laroze Bonnes Mares – Bonnes Mares is one of the most historic and famous climats in Burgundy. Of the total vineyard, 13.54 ha lies in Chambolle-Musigny and 1.52 ha in Morey-St-Denis. Morris says, with its complex terroir, Bonnes Mares is a hard vineyard to get a handle on. He says it does not taste entirely like a wine from Chambolle-Musigny, probably it has more kinship with Morey-St-Denis, giving it a wilder streak.

Meadows’ review of a barrel sample is, “Here there is more aromatic breadth with a pure and enveloping nose that combines red and blue pinot fruit plus lovely floral notes, particularly violet, before introducing rich, full and serious flavors that are detailed, fresh, powerful and distinctly austere on the impressively deep and long finish. This is a really lovely Bonnes Mares that offers a bit more elegance than normal but plenty of taut muscle as well.”

Henri Boillot Clos Vougeot – The Boillot was made with purchased grapes. It has not been possible to trace from what part of Clos Vougeot it was sourced. (Since at least 2008 Boillot’s Vougeot has come from a 0.34 ha parcel in Grand Maupertuis, next to Anne Gros plot. However, the pre-2008 wines seem to have come from another parcel).

Meadows (2008) reviews it very favourably, “A superbly complex and notably ripe nose of earthy red berry fruit and attractive floral notes where there is also a bass note of something slightly sauvage that continues onto the intense, detailed and unusually fine flavors that don’t lack for power, depth and excellent length. Still, this is on the refined side for a young Clos de Vougeot with less finishing austerity than one usually finds. Terrific.”

Humbert Freres Charmes-Chambertin – Charmes-Chambertin is often regarded as the weakest of the Grand Crus. Morris attributes this to the sheer size of the climat. With a total area over 30 ha, Charmes-Chambertin is too diverse to be a homogeneous block. This wine is from 60 year old vines located in a 0.2 ha vineyard in Mazoyères-Chambertin. Mazoyères-Chambertin wines are usually labelled as Charmes (as here), or they can be labelled as Mazoyères.

Meadows (2009) rated the Humbert highly, “This is clearly the ripest wine among these ’06s with an exceptionally pretty nose of fresh red pinot fruit nuanced by notes of dried flowers, game, warm earth and underbrush that is also picked up on the supple, sweet and detailed flavors that possess a really lovely mouth feel on the muscled and beautifully long finish. This is not robust but it knocks on the door while keeping all the individual structural components in perfect balance. Recommended though note that patience will be required.”

Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos des Ruchottes – The 3.3 ha Ruchottes-Chambertin divides into the 1.1 ha upper part (Clos des Ruchottes) and the lower part. The Clos des Ruchottes is a monopole, entirely owned by Domaine Armand Rousseau. The ‘Rouchottes’ name is believed to be a corruption of rochots (little rocks). The Clos has a stony, thin topsoil above oolitic white marlstone. Morris observes that this soil typically yields a wine light in colour and full of subtle nuances, rather than overpowering weight.

Meadows in 2011 said, “An ultra-elegant and high-toned nose speaks of cool and almost aloof highly refined aromas of truffle, mineral, floral hints and red pinot fruit that merge seamlessly into precise, intense and tautly muscled medium full flavors that deliver excellent depth and length. This is really a lovely effort as the balance is impeccable and the length is flat out superb.”

In summary, HD writes, “Quality 2006s have begun to fully express themselves and show well. The better examples, like those we are tasting, are pure, finessed, precise and crystalline, with refreshing but not over-prominent acidity. Tannins are typically fine grained. The vintage is relatively transparent, potentially allowing the terroir and the winemaker imprint to show through in the better wines.”

MS Red Burgundy 2006 2

And so to the wines…

2006 Humbert Freres Charmes-Chambertin – Dark carmine tending brick – floral, with depth intensity and power, still pretty on the nose. Freshness and intensity carries through on the palate; there is a lovely sparkle of acidity at the back, secondary flavours balanced with spice, red cherries and red apple skin fruit flavours. Mouthwatering. Sweetness emerged with the supper. 94 points

2006 Henri Boillot Clos Vougeot – Dark carmine tending brick – Light and feminine, some stem, perfumed with spice. Elegance, grace and balance to taste. Fine tannins. Secondary flavours, red cherries, & a bright acid line. Minerals. Iron. 87 points.

2006 Dugat Py Gevrey-Chambertin, Coeur de Roy – Deep dark carmine tending brick – opaque colour – aniseed and vanilla and oak bouquet, warm and soft. Delicious dark red fruit, still primary, rich and taut, with acid brightness;  dry finish and persistent. 89 points

2006 Drouhin-Laroze Bonnes Mares – Deep carmine colour. Initially dumb in this company. I had to work hard to get an impression of this wine on the nose. In the mouth there was elegance of style, deep ripe fruit, power and intensity. Softer than the first three wines tasted. 92 points.

Cathiard Vosne-Romanée, Malconsorts – Deep bright carmine colour. This was showing the second most development of the flight. Deep fruit, taut structure, sweetness on bouquet. Rich and fine, tight and taut. Persistent and packed with deep fruit  flavours for savouring. Lovely, just lovely. My wine of the night. 94 points.

2006 Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos des Ruchottes – Lightest carmine colour. Another dumb wine at first look. Quite advanced, most tertiary. Age was starting to peek through and disrupt the fruit flavours. A ripe and beautiful wine, lightness and finesse, fine fine tannins. Delicious with food. 93 points.

 

My own thoughts on the tasting were firstly, that the wines showed great freshness at the 10 year mark. This is an obvious testament to the care taken in the winemaking and cellaring, the quality of the grapes, and the fine terroirs. The wines showed wonderfully with food – they softened, filled out, became totally charming as a group.

I also saw what the fuss was about these wines – these vaunted examples of Burgundy. They showed wonderful purity and strength of fruit, persistence and grace. They were memorable.

On the downside, however, two of the wines opened for the night were corked. One in six.  A poor result really. These wines were expensive, and were carefully cellared for years. Only to then be binned as faulty?!

And finally, the high prices demanded for these wines did not tally with the pleasure given by them. I know it is a consequence of scarcity, and is to be expected in a global marketplace, but it’s a sad day that these wines can only be afforded by most enthusiasts to be tasted irregularly, in small quantities and ever-so carefully and formally, when they deserve full, splashy glassfuls, dipsily sloshed around the dinner table over a rich roast chook.

I guess that are what Rhones are for, now.

Straight to the Pool Room – July 2015


Pool Room July 2015

Here are a selection of wines I scored from the Negociants tasting of earlier in the month:

Pra Soave Classico 2013 – $$ – Italy – Drink now, maybe next year.

Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore 2011 – $$ – Spain – Drink 2015-2018.

Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008 – $$$ – Spain – Drink 2015-2018.

Dom. Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers 1er Cru 2011 – $$$+ – Drink 2015-2021

I am really excited to possess my first 1er cru Burgundy. Berry Bros & Rudd website notes sez of this wine: “Faiveley are the talk of Burgundy at the moment, a change of generation with Erwan Faiveley now in charge has resulted in a change of style since 2007 (the old style was often very tannic). I have to say I love the new style and the famous Gevrey Premier Cru vineyard of Cazetiers epitomises it. Beautiful lifted nose, with red cherry and some bramble fruits. The palate is seamless, seductive almost, with the same red fruits showing and a lovely pepper spice finish. Burgundy of the very highest order”

What’s in the glass tonight January 18th


Ohau River Sav Blanc 2012

Wellington Anniversary Weekend

There few things more enjoyable than a dinner party at home with good friends.

L and I invited several couples over for dinner in the weekend. Great food and conversation was enjoyed, washed down with delicious wine!

We enjoyed as aperitifs wines such as Sileni Cabernet Franc Rose Marlborough 2013, a favourite of L’s; the classic and perfect Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2013 provided by M&G; and a bottle of Ohau River Sauvignon Blanc Horowhenua 2012 – a softer styled, round and well balanced sav from north of Wellington.

Dry River LH Riesling 2008

With our dinner of roast chicken with olives and tarragon, D&D provided a wonderful white Burgundy – J Drouhin Macon-Villages 2012 from Beaune – lean and clean, classic restraint, a wonderful simple food wine. With the dessert of nectarines, ice cream and warm toffee sauce they treated us again with the notable Dry River Late Harvest Riesling 2008 – classic kerosene notes, golden honey and stone fruit, and that gorgeous Riesling ‘tang’. Yum.