Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Moueix Monday..........

It was a Moueix Monday this week with the great man himself, Christian, in London for our Moueix Dinner at The Groucho Club. This was an evening as much about Moueix the merchant as Moueix the owner, and lets face it when you have Petrus, Trotannoy, Magdelaine, Hosanna etc in the stable it is easy for people only to think of these very great names. Their own website explains well what they do (www.moueix.com) but essentially Moueix are Château owners (producing, marketing and distributing their own wines), Wine Merchants (buying, maturing and selling the wines of other right bank estates) and also a Negociant dealing on the Bordeaux marketplace in the futures market. Interetsingly they never get involved in whites wines, focusing purely on red (not black!!) wines.

The tasting dinner was planned to co-incide with our Christmas offering of Clarets sourced by Moueix exclusively for us. The format was a relaxed walk around tasting of the six wines below :

Lafleur Beauséjour 2005, Côtes de Castillon – Ripe but classical and drinking well now will improve for decanting.
B de Belair 2001, Saint-Emilion – The third wine of Belair St.Emilion, now re-named Belair Monange and also owned by Moueix (but wasn’t when this was made), starting to develop but not earthy, good fruit and structure, perfect now.
Haut Roc Blanquant 2002, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – We joked that this was a super blend between Haut Brion, Roc de Cambes and Cheval Blanc (ok the Cheval bit was too ludicrous even for us) but actually it was the surprise of the night for me, glamourous, well fruited and with a kiss of oak. I am not a 2002 fan but this was very good.
L’Hospitalet de Gazin 2006, Pomerol - Second wine of Gazin and a wine I know well…..really good honest Pomerol that is versatile and very reliable (why does that sound bad ?), try it...
Capet-Guiller 2005, Saint Emilion – I hadn’t tasted this in a little while and it is a surprisingly serious wine, earthy and structured and in need of more time in my opinion, very good potential.
La Grave à Pomerol 2004 – I have always had a soft sport for the relatively easy charms of La Grave a Pomerol, soft and succulent but with lots of life left too.

A really good tasting of wines that are easy on the palate and good with food but have little pretence to profoundity.

Dinner Menu & Wines
To wash the palate and accompany the Crab Risotto we had a glass or two of Mâcon-Verzé 2007 Domaines Leflaive, still only the fourth vintage but already becoming an old friend, just starting to fatten out too, if you have 2 cases, start one!

We then moved on to two vintages of Certan Marzelle the 2003 & 2004 with slow cooked rump of lamb, mashed potato, pea purée, glazed beetroot, thyme jus. Certan Marzelle is 100% Merlot and when Moueix bought Certan Giraud (last vintage 1998) the estate was split as there were two distinct soil types, one half was made into what is now the mighty Hosanna, the other portion became Certan Marzelle. Both vintage are showing well and for those that like younger Bordeaux, starting to drink well, the style is one I like. Christian, who was on sparkling form all evening, possibly helped by the bottle of Certan Marzelle Adam and Christian shared at lunch, wanted the floor to vote on which wine they preferred. This vote went to the 2003 in a 2:1 ratio. Myself and Paul (Marus) were firmly in the 2004 camp, Adam firmly in the 2003 camp…some things never change.

Next up……Latour à Pomerol 1999 & La Fleur-Pétrus 2003 – a lovely contrast of vintages and properties. A vote would have been interesting but it was not to be. I thought the Latour a Pomerol was absolutely spot on, combining savoury nuances with sweet gamey fruit character and finished with a mineral edge. The La Fleur Petrus had a very un2003 nose, pure fruit, but to me was just not as balanced as the Latour…I think a vote may have been 50:50.

A great evening and not a mention on 2009!!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Peter Sisseck @ 1 Lombard Street

Last week was a hell of a week with three dinners amongst the many releases and offers we were putting out at the minute. There was no doubt about the highlight though….the Sisseck tasting and dinner at 1 Lombard Street. The format of the evening was a relaxed walk around tasting of the recently bottled 2007’s and the 2008 cask samples. The wines were stunning although well structured as you would expect. For me the highlight was the simply awesome length of the 2008 Pingus. The Psi 2008 and Flor de Pingus 2008 were still very youthful and not yet giving away much but the mouth feel (I hate that expression but it is useful here) and texture show that it is all in there. The 2007 finished wines got better and better in glass and had a real richness and power but with a freshness under it all, quite an achievement at 14% and more. The Psi 2007 is growing in stature with every tasting and as Peter said almost apologetically “I’ve made quite a serious wine here”…not necessarily the aim but more of that later.

From the tasting it was a glass of Delamotte NV from magnum en route to the dining room, everyone seemed to agree the Delamotte was on fine form, the perfect “refresher” before moving on to the dinner wines. Adam then introduced Peter having given a brief history of the relationship between Corney’s and Peter which goes back to the very beginning of the Pingus Estate and beyond as Peter’s uncle, Peter Vinding-Diers, is an old supplier and friend of the company. Peter then spoke about the 2008 and 2007 vintages and the “PSi project”. Psi – taken from Peter’s initials – is a project aimed at helping small vineyard owners who have no real interest in making a wine but have some great old-vine fruit. Peter helps them to produce the best they can (organically or a near as) and pays them a fair price, we then get a cracking wine that drinker earlier than Flor de Pingus…it’s a winner all round!!

At dinner we had Flor 2003 and 2001 with Game Pithivier with Cabbage, Foie Gras and Truffles. I loved the combination, there seemed to be something of an agreement that before eating the Flor 2003 was possibly the pick of the two but I think it became clear when combined with the food that the 2001 although still young was more complete and had such harmony. Both mighty impressive and starting to drink but if I had a case of each (sadly I don’t!!) I would wait 2 years and have another look then. The Flor 1996 is stunning now and there is no doubting that the raw ingredients of Flor are better now than then. It is worth mentioning that all the dinner wines were carefully double decanted at about 4pm the same day using the tried and trusted out of the bottle and back in again technique! See the Pictures.

Then we had Pingus 2004 & 2001 with Peppered Loin of Venison wrapped in Speck. This was stunning, the food being the perfect foil. The 2004 - being Peters first 100pointer (his wines are always in the 92-100range and love or hate scores they are a validation of achievement) - was stunning but very tight…it had been quite incredibly fruited when we had first decanted it - and was still going well 2 days later – this is a wine to marvel at but then leave alone for 8-10years and more (much more). The 2001 Pingus was as with the 2001 Flor more integrated and nearer to drinking but still very youthful. If you can find 2001’s snap them up. Cheeses followed and the tasting wines came out again. All in all a very memorable evening and certainly not a standard Tuesday!!

Note to self.....make sure your camera flash is working!!
Next week "Moueix Monday"

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 5 - d'Angerville and Clos de Tart

As the photos below suggest our last morning was a cold, foggy and damp one….I had been looking forward to both the day’s visits - d’Angerville and Close de Tart - as I have recently met both Guillaume d’Angerville and Sylvain Pitiot in London and both struck me as charming yet serious “Winemen”, a nice balance I think.

Earlier in the week we had managed to take a picture (left) from the very top corner of the Clos de Ducs Monopole for which d’Angerville is best know and it really showed the different aspects and the unique nature of the vineyard, not to mention the steepness! As soon as we arrived Guillaume suggested a tour of the vineyard, Alison and I jumped at the chance and go into Guillaume’s run around. First we went through the Village and out the other side straight into Taillepieds (the north eastern corner of whch is in the photo on the right) which sits just above the larger Champans. As much as anywhere in Burgundy you really get the feeling in Volnay that the various vineyards have such different slopes and aspects and soils. It was a fascinating tour including some new holdings (Clos des Anges 1er Cru). After the tour we were back at the Domaine to taste the 2008’s. Starting with the Bourgogne Rouge, which doesn’t come into the UK, and working our way all the way up to the Clos de Ducs before trying the one white, Meursault 1re Cru Santenots. The overall impression was of a sleek, feminine and above all pure vintage. The wines gradually climbed in stature with it hard to differentiate in scoring terms but easy in taste terms. The Taillepieds and Caillerets possibly pipped it for me with the stunning Clos des Ducs the most clearly in need of time. The Meursault was stunning too…one to buy for me! It was very kind of Guillaume to give us so much time and this was another visit that left me impressed by Volnay.

And then for the weeks last visit…..Clos de Tart. Sylvain Pitiot met us at the immaculately kept domaine and we went straight into the vineyard, the first thing you notice, or at least you should, is how the vines run north-south rather than east-west. This helps to prevent soil erosion on the slop, it is also much harder to work the vineyard but then it is not the easy life that Clos de Tart wants it is all out for quality. Surprisingly the size of crop will be almost exactly the same in 2008 as it was in 2007, most other domaine’s were down in 2008. Sylvain explained that this was down to a massive amount of work in the vineyard that meant there was very little selection to do when the harvest was brought in. Each plot of the vineyard, there are 6 distinct parcels, is vinified separately. Really there is only one wine produced here (there is sometimes a La Forge de Tart from young vines but whether this is made is not decided until much later), we tasted three different cuvees, one the young vines, one from whole bunches and one 50% de-stemmed. A really interesting exercise, the young vines combined red with black fruits and good concentration, the “whole bunch” pressed wine tasted more structured (as logic would dictate) with a touch of white pepper and spice, great length. The 50% de-stemmed was a little more subtle with a classical nose, delicious mix of red and black fruits, big but balanced…impressive. It is the continual experimentation and questioning of the status quo that makes Clos de Tart so exciting.

And that, as they say, is that, the car (no C&B limo) was left at Dijon station…..slept on the train to Paris, lugged my half broken bag back home and now Burgundy makes a whole load more sense……I’ll be going back.

Burgundy – Day 4 – Negociant, Varoilles part 2, Darnat & Cyriot Buthiau

The sun was well and truly out again, first visit was at a Negociant house we don’t deal with but that we had been asked to visit / taste at by a UK contact. The wines were good and as the range is wide and the use of oak subdued there may be some business to be done in the future but probably more with a view to restaurants who need to buy regular stocks rather than anything more but I guess we’ll see, very worth while though.

We were then due at Domaine de Varoilles to taste some older vintages with a view to getting some for a pre Christmas offer. It is a difficult task sometimes to balance doing well selling wines on release but then also having something to get your teeth into for drinking a year or two later. Varoilles (as well as few other Domaines) keep some stock back for just this reason. Essentially we tasted the 2001’s and 2002’s. What was interesting was that the 2002 were starting to show a little “animal” development where the fruit and the body were becoming one and the farmyard aromas start to come through, with sweet fruit this makes for good balance and great food wines. The 2001’s by contrast were more obviously Pinot and more primary with definite red fruits on the nose and palate. Clos de Varoilles 2001 was a real highlight. A delicious contrast and we will definitely me buying!! There was one curveball of a wine which was 2007 Yvorne L’Oraille from Varoilles sister estate in Switzerland…my note has Chablis meets sancerre…it was a nice “lunch-time” style wine

Back to the main road and down to Meursault for a quick lunch in the square before getting to see Henri Darnat (Pictured). Marc-Emmanuel Cyriot, who’s own Domaine (Cyriot-Buthiau) in Pommard we were to see later, looks after the commercial side for Henri. The wines Henri makes, always with classical music in the background, are almost Chablis-esque in minerality and there is little or not new oak (5% at most). The colour is very light and the wines are beautifully elegant, definitely good decanting whites. It was the 2008’s first up there are two Pulignys; Villages (17) and 1er Cru Champ Gain (17-18) and two Meursaults; Clos du Domaine (17), a Liet Dit that includes Henri’s back garden and 1er Cru Richemont (17+). Having tasted the lithe and tight 2008’s we then tasted the same wines from 2007 which is such a classical vintage that it really plays to Henri’s style….a Domaine to get to know if you like producers like Matrot and Javillier.

From Henri’s we went over and up the road to Pommard following Marc-Emmanuel (left, talking with Henri and Alison)in our trusty car (see Day 5 for photo – we may have Warrants but we’re not proud!). The Cyriot-Buthiau Domaine was newly formed in 1989 but from holdings that essentially go back to the 1920’s. From 1999 a decision was take by Marc-Emmanuel and his wine maker brother to invest and change the winemaking, 100% de-stemming in most vintages (possibly not in 2009), with 5 days cold maceration and pigeage not remontage. The Domaine is not certified BO (organic) but has not used any fertilizers in over 8years. As we tend to buy the Cyriot-Buthiau wines when finished and in bottle we tasted the 2007’s which will in time follow the 2006’s we currently sell. The wines were very true to their appellations – Santenay, Volnay and Pommard. There is an elegant structure about them and I can see them getting better and better.

Only Day 5 to go but what a day…..D’Angerville and Clos de Tart

Monday, 9 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 3 - Trapet, Javillier, Rossignol Trapet, De Vogue & Lafarge

Bit misty this morning but it burnt off eventually.

As for day 2 we started in Gevrey - Domaine Trapet was first up with Jean-Louis and Andree as welcoming as ever. The tasting was big (24 wines) and diverse. There is so much to like about the Trapet wines, Jean-Louis’ inquisitive nature means there is always something new being tried (1998 saw an early move to biodynamics) and this year it is a “Flowform Mixing System”, which sounds more Ibiza than Burgundy, but actually it is a mixing system for biodynamic “preparations” used for amongst other things, actively aerating organic compost tea, creating liquid fertilizers, improving water quality in ponds and mixing of juices. The basic idea is of two rotating paddles that go in opposite directions therefore creating an infinite flow in the vat. Anyway enough technical stuff the actual wines (2008’s) were mighty impressive, the relatively humble Marsannay being a real star. Moving up through the Gevrey’s (Ostrea a bargain I think) to the Chambertin you have really great balance and very much proper Burgundy. We then tasted through the 2007’s. I think that comparing 2007’s and 2008’s over the next decade or so will be a really enjoyable; there is a similarity between the vintages in terms of weight but a very different style. The 2007’s, having been in bottle for a little while were a bit more reserved and suggested a little time was needed but there was a sublime balance. Then we were onto the 2008 whites, the Marsannay with 10% Pinot Gris, they were opulent and almost drinkable now. Following that we tasted the Trapet’s Alsace wines – I think I will write them up another time. A good tasting!

The emphasis then shifted towards whites as we sped down the road to Meursault to find Patrick Javillier, this is not easy as there is a shop in Meursault with his name on it, a sign to his house but no signs to where we were tasting. Alison decided to use “the force” and managed to locate it straight away…this became a theme whenever we over thought about where things were we got lost but as soon as we just drove it all seemed to work!! We were supposed to be tasting with Patrick’s Canadian agent but sadly he was ill. The tasting with Patrick and his daughter Marianne was very informative. The Javillier style is all about pure citrus fruit and minerality with incredibly subtle use of, mostly older, oak. We discussed decanting and Patrick is very much a fan of giving his whites, when young, 30 minutes in a decanter – I certainly advise this too…the fruit really comes out. The watchwords on 2008 here were “vivacity, acidity and typicity”. We started with his two Bourgogne Blancs, in my opinion two of the finest there are, Cuvee Forgets and Oligocene, lovely elegance and minerality. We then tasted his Savigny and the Meursaults – Clos du Cromin (elegant, no new oak), Tillets (lovely), Clousots (a blend of Les Crotots & Les Clous), Tete de Murger (a blend of Les Caisse Tetes for minerality and Murger de Monthelie for power). Lovely balanced understated wines for the true burgundy lover.

And then……back to Gevrey again!!

Interestingly we were now tasting at Rossignol Trapet. Interesting because there was initially one Trapet in Gevrey but in 1990 the family domain was split into the two Domaines of today Trapet as tasted above and Rossignol Trapet. The styles are slightly different but the quality at both very high. Brothers Nicolas and David met us and we tasted with both. Due to a cycling injury to his hand Nicolas couldn’t wield the pipette. The style especially at the more entry level is for quite big broad wines with the fruit more on the black side than red. The Bourgogne rouge and Beaune Teurons were both masculine and structured. We then tasted the 4 Gevrey’s – Villages, Etelois, Clos Prieur 1er Cru and Petit Chapelle 1er Cru – the quality and complexity climbed through the four. Latricieres Chambertin and Chapelle Chambertin were next with the Latricieres showing a lot of structure and coming across as a “vin de garde”. Chapelle showed a little more fruit and flesh but was also brooding. The Chambertin followed and was decadent with an element of fruitcake, very impressive. We had a taste of the Etelois 2007 which was more feminine; this was followed with a real treat in the form of Latricieres 2004 (18-19+ gorgeous), Chambertin 2004 (stunning and for anyone who is unsure of 04 they should try this). The very last wine was Petit Chapelle 2003 true to the style of 2003 and therefore rich but with a way to go. When you look at the relatively humble prices of the Grand Cru’s here I think it is a Domaine to follow!

De vogue was next on the agenda so what had already been a good day was just getting better. We taste through the reds with Francois Millet (winemaker) the whole production of this very famous estate comfortably fitting into a room half the size of a tennis court with only two barrels high – the minute amount produced by the Domaines takes viewing to believe. Francois described 2008 as a “watercolour” vintage in artistic terms, by this meaning it is an elegant and graceful vintage with everything balance and nothing overpowering. The finesse of the wine was quite staggering with each one building in stature of the previous but always with a grace and reserved charm. In Francois’ own words 2008 was no easy vintage and until September there had been “only five days of BBQ”. My tasting notes just finish with the phrase “so true and elegant”, not released until march next year, these will be mighty fine wines.

Next up was Domaine Lafarge in Volnay and I was intrigued as to what this would like. My previous experience of the wines was incredibly limited. After two hours of tasting (19 wines) and conversation, with the father and son team of Michel and Frederic, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a tasting more and came away glowing and feeling I had discovered a new favourite!! The cellars are very old fashioned in the sort of way that makes you wonder how they know what is what and where it is! There were bottles of 1958 (Frederic’s birth year) on a step that had so much fur you could barely make out the bottles at all. We tasted the 2008’s from Aligote (awesome for an Aligote if atypical) to Volnay Clos du Chateau des Ducs which was a 20/20 in my book. The style has everything, structure but charm, fruit but also minerality. Simply staggering!! I’ll be buying what I can afford!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 2 - Roty, O.Leflaive & Bonneau du Martray

The day broke with blue skies again, perfect for getting the all importance sense of location and space. The autumn colours were showing every vineyard in a different shade, a real patchwork effect. On route to our first tasting we were stopping at signposts to take pictures for the marketing team who had demanded, well, asked anyway, that they were needed for offers the website etc. C&B embracing the modern era. Having spent the second night in Dijon it was also time to decamp to Beaune but this would have to wait until after the first visit of the day.

I had been really looking forward to seeing and tasting at Roty, Domaine Joseph Roty and Philippe Roty (pictured, below) are both producers that we have worked with for ages but so sought after are the wines that we rarely have any to taste in bottle, having sold them all on release. Really this is one Domaine with two names the only difference is that Philippe’s wines are made across the road (literally) whereas the Domaine Joseph Roty wines are Philippe, his mother and sister as a collective. A little like Gilles Jourdan this is not for those wanting any sort of marketing or “showroom pampering” this is about good winemaking with good ingredients and top quality results. It’s also not a small tasting with 19 wines all from 2007 – 2 whites, 1 rose (the only one of the trip…in my eyes a good thing) and 16 reds. Roty release their wines a year later once in bottle hence tasting the 2007’s not 2008’s. The winemaking is kept simple with, generally, 18 months oak for the reds (little of it new) and 100% de-stemming. Philippe said that 2007 was “very much their sort of vintage”. The whites were very mineral and will repay patience as is the case with the majority of 07 whites. Interestingly the Bourgogne Blanc is a blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. The rose was good but not my sort of thing – apologies but I’m not a rose fan. Moving to the reds there is a very “Pinot” feel about them with the fruit always expressive and backed up with a genuine but not over powering structure and a really wonderful minerality. There are four Marsannay’s, a lot by anyone’s standards, but they are mighty fine and I have “buy” written large by the Marsannay Ouzelois. Likewise for the Cotes de Nuits from Philippe’s own vines. Having said that there is a real step up to the Gevrey’s with the Champs Cheny tasting superbly. The Gevrey La Brunelle (picturd on right) is a Clos (walled vineyard) in the “garden” out the back of the Roty’s house and it very much has it’s micro climate. The Chambertin Grand Cru’s of Mazis, Griottes and Charmes were all superb with all three scoring 18-19+ with me. Philippe and family gave us lots of time and the visit was a revelation, for me one of the highlight’s of the whole trip.

We then dropped our bags in Beaune despite parking trouble that meant the car park was shut for a Fete that never actually appeared all week, grabbed a quick lunch and set off for Puligny.

Franck Grux (below) met us at Olivier Leflaive and offered a very kind and massively useful trip round the vineyards. For me this was a real education as Franck knows every inch of the finest white wine vineyards in the world, argue over it if you like, but from Meursault down to Chassagne has to be the place for the world’s greatest whites. We set off from Puligny towards Meursault looking at how the slope and aspect largely determines the classification – which wherever you go nobody seems to disagree with. In general the flat land at the bottom of the slope is Bourgogne Blanc then as the slope starts you have villages, then on the middle of the slope we are into 1er Cru or in places Grand Cru and then at the top you have an assortment of vineyards that can be real gems, St.Aubin above Montrachet or Auxey-Duresses above and beyond Meursault. Once we had been round Meursault, taking in Clos du Cromin (below right, with Meursault behind), we made our way up to Auxey-Duresses along the top of the Puligny 1er Cru’s to St.Aubin and then back down to the crossroads (left) where you have Le Montrachet top left, Batard Montrachet top right, Criots Batard front right and Chassagne Blanchots bottom left - all just showing how intricate a region Burgundy is. Having done the tour we jetted back to Oliver Leflaive to taste. As we have already offered the 2008’s Olivier Leflaive wines Franck decided, sensibly, we didn’t need to taste them all but instead we would look at three 08 Liet Dits (named single vineyards but not 1er Cru’s) and then compare them to three 1er Cru’s. The first three were Meursault Clos du Cromin, Puligny Les Meix (a personal favorite) & Chassagne Les Blanchots – all tasting well with the Puligny just the pick for both Alison and I. We then compared them to Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots, Puligny 1er Cru Les Referts & Chassagne 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot – the step up was abundantly clear in the texture and length as much as anything – a good experiment. We finished off with Puligny 1er Cru Les Referts 2005 which whilst still young was starting to show well, to drink now I would decant first. We then had to leave in a little bit of a rush to head north but managed to say hello to Olivier himself on the way……Thanks go to Franck for his time and energy!

Next stop was currently the most northerly Grand Cru white (can you name the one that is further north but not currently produced?) – Bonneau du Martray, somehow in nearly a decade of working with the wines of Bonneau du Martray I have never met Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Moriniere. We arrived in darkness which was a shame but it did have the advantage of Jean-Charles saying I must come back to see the vineyards…..that is an offer he wont need to repeat. Having discussed the market and presented the “fresh of the press” offer - the 2008’s are already all but sold out – we went through next door to taste. To say that Jean-Charles is a perfectionist is almost not strong enough a phrase, everything is examined and considered every step of the way. The barrels used for ageing the wine (a third of which is new oak) are all hand selected and the coopers even return to taste the wines from their barrels. Since 1969 Jean Charles has only missed one harvest, the hot 1976. We tasted (short notes):

Corton Charlemagne
2008 Elegant and fine with beautiful texture.
2007 Still tight and very classical, all there but hiding! Beautiful.
2006 Broader (relatively speaking), more lush and a little more flashy, still very Bonneau.
2005* Some smokeyness, a little closed, texture is superb. Delicious with Pata Negra - top tip from Jean-Charles
2003* Such a charmer, opulent but not overblown, delicious
1999* Very much my sort of Burgundy, lovely and beginning to drink well
1991* Good texture but possibly to my mind the one wine that had suffered from being open so long.
*opened 3 days previous – we like to do this in the tasting room here too, gives a good idea of the wines potential and pedigree, we encourage producers to do it too

There is always a wonderfully crystal clear and light colour about the Corton Charlemagne that is often not seen in other wines, the style is all about elegance but with a taut core that allows for gracious aging.

2008 Good structure, white pepper and dark fruits
2007 Classical Pinot nose, rd fruits and violets, impressive
1995 Some age showing in a good way, red perfumed fruit with slightly degraded cheesecloth….good wine!

The tasting did not finish until 8.30 and Jean-Charles was very generous with his time. We very much hope to do another dinner or Masterclass this year, I was delighted to have finally made it to Bonneau. Next years release (2009) will be our 10th anniversary – I can’t believe how quickly that has come around.

Over dinner we discussed the wines and tried a 2005 Volnay from Lafon that was dense tight and not for drinking now (as seems the way with so many 2005’s now). The group on the table next door to us were in Burgundy tasting on a trip from Canada and very kindly offered us a taste of their Vosnee Romanee 2005 from Meo Camuzet which sold the same story….good but not now!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 1 - Jourdan, Arlot, Matrot, Varoilles and Ch de La Tour

Having arrived in Dijon on Sunday afternoon via the Eurostar the evening was spent planning the week: tastings and visits, charging cameras, laptops and phones. Alison (C&B Buyer) has been many times before but as it was my first visit I was less sure what to expect.

Day 1
En route to Gilles Jourdan in Corgoloin we drove down the Route des Grand Cru taking in the various communes as we went. I found this invaluable as a way of getting my bearings and trying to make the maps in my head make more real sense. If you are after pomp and ceremony
Gilles Jourdan is not the man for you (The U2 ring tone was a surprise!) but if good burgundy at a good price from a smaller commune is, then he’s a producer to get to know. Gilles was first introduced to C&B by Clive Coates MW and it has been a great little partnership since. The cellar is small the holdings not grand, by Burgundy standards, but the results are elegant and superb. There are a few wines in the range but the main ones have become real team favourites; Bourgogne Rouge, a Cotes de Nuits Villages and then two single vineyard wines (also Cotes de Nuits) – La Montagne and La Robignotte. The 2008’s were really good with great contrasts between the wines. We also re-tasted the 2007’s which Gilles is very proud of. The last wine tasted was a bottle of La Robignotte 2000, really showing what Gilles can do. A good visit to a grower I have bought from myself.

From Corgoloin we went back up the RN 74 to our friend Olivier Leriche at Domaine de L’Arlot in Nuits St Georges (NSG), Olivier had been over to London recently and it was good to seem him again. We tasted the wines in the cellar as is the usual drill in Burgundy especially when tasting straight from the barrel. The NSG Clos du Chapeau got things going and right through that to the Petit Arlot (young vines of Clos de Arlot), Les Petit Plets (young vines of Clos de Forets St Georges) and onto the Clos de Arlot and Clos de Forets St Georges themselves the wines gradually got better and better. There is a really elegant style here with balance the key…very good wines. Olivier was kind enough to show us the Vosnee Romanee Suchots and the Romanee St Vivant as well, both of which showed the Domain at their very best. Having “done” the 2008’s we discussed the older vintages and as L’Arlot keep a little back (we’ll offer some soon) we chose to try a couple of wines from a trickier vintage, 2004, Les Petit Plets and Clos des Forets St Georges where both developing well with great red fruits and a touch of decadence. As a contrast next on the agenda was a Clos des Forets St Georges 2003 – hedonistic and my tasting note starts Rich, Rich Rich. From there we decamped to Olivier’s living quarters for a “light” four course lunch with his charming wife Florence – lunch was accompanied by the 2008 whites we hadn’t yet tasted, NSG La Gerbotte and Clos de Arlot, both were stunning and in many ways the La Gerbotte stood out (great salad of walnut, leaves, light walnut oil, cheese and apple worked really well). The lunch was brief but there was just time to try another tricky vintage in the form of Clos de Arlot 1998 which was elegant, harmonious and sensibly “under” extracted……an estate making good wines and in very good hands.

Down the road to Thierry Matrot in Meursault……already running a little late - a feeling we got used to!! Thierry started by saying how difficult a year it had been – not quite the positive marketing we’d hoped for….but actually what he was saying was very true…the harvest looked like it was going to be very awkward but then as September arrived so did the sun and three glorious weeks made for perfectly ripe grapes. Thierry has a lovely area in the cellar in which to taste - Thierry’s range of wines is expansive from Bourgogne Blanc (fresh and ready to go, in screw cap) to Meursault Charmes, the tasting note for which starts “YUM!”. If ever someone deserved to have some Grand Cru vineyards it is Thierry. I thought the white highlights were St Aubin (such an under-rated appellation), St Romain (had a few good ones during the week, value to be had), Meursault Charmes and Puligny Les Combettes. There is real refinement here and never an over oaking of the lemon fruits. Having said that there is one “Technical” wine (Thierry’s phrase) that has a real oaked richness and is called Puligny Quintessence, 50% Chalameux 50% Garennes and 50% new oak…something lost in translation possibly but the point is there. The reds were good too, particularly the Volnay Santenots and Blagny 1er Cru Sous les Bois. Thierry’s wife Pascale (the Domaine is Thierry and Pascale Matrot) was also about and I look forward to seeing them in January in London.

Back in the car and up the road this time, not doing so well on the Carbon footprint, past Gilles Jourdan and Arlot to Gevrey Chambertin to see Domaine de Varoilles – we were met by the ever Charming Swiss owner Gilbert Hammel, I think Varoilles is a really good Domaine that is much lesser known than it should be. The wines have a more opulent rich and hedonistic feel than many of the Domaines we follow, later in the week - Day 4 – we tasted the 2001’s and 2002’s with great results, this was about the 2008’s. The wine showed well and Gilbert gave us something of a master class in oak barrels by showing us samples from the many different types of barrels, some with differing lengths of seasoning and others with more of less toasting. The differences at this stage can be quite marked but later when the blending has been done harmony can be achieved. All the wines except the Charmes Chambertin are Gevrey Chambertin; Clos de Meix des Ouches (a Monopole) and 1er Cru Champonnet were both structured and rich with good tannin but there was a real step up to the 1er Cru Monopoles of La Romanee and Clos de Varoilles itself with the Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin doing as you would expect, by the time we’d finished tasting it was dark but there was still one visit to do and dinner to follow.

I was starting to get a bit of first day palate fatigue but arrival at Francois Labet’s Chateau de La Tour situated in the Clos Vougeot vineyard seemed to perk me up. Francois views that differ from some on winemaking and has two separate “hats” – one Chateau de La Tour Clos Vougeot and the other Domaine Pierre & Francois Labet based mostly around Beaune. Francois has been organic since 1992 and this year started to encourage the growth of natural grasses between the vines to compete with the vines. He also sees 2008 as like 1996 and said there was a very long fermentation for the whites. There is no green harvest (taking bunches of the vines to help others ripen) and no de-stemming (grapes and stalks go into the vats). Francois’ whites where lovely and opulent. We then moved onto the reds and saw a really good concentration and a tight structure..these aren’t even “born” yet after all. There was a new wine though, a Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes from 3 different locations. The Clos de Vougeot itself was impressive with big fruit but also real balance and charm. The Clos Vougeot Vielles Vignes even more so…we then had a small taste of the 2009 Clos Vougeot which was little more than impressive grape juice at this stage – it has been through fermentation but not Malolactic..and so off to dinner back up the road in Dijon at Francois lovely house. Whilst on the topic of Dijon it is so weird that the city all but ignores its closeness to some of the most prized vineyards in the world…more interested in Mustard and Museums!

Dinner was a real treat with Francois his lovely wife Miriam and daughter Lorraine, we were very well looked after….we started with Meursault Tillets 2006 – Taut lean and just as I like it served with Chestnut soup and truffle shavings…delicious. Clos de Vougeot V V 1990 - Touch of age on the rim but otherwise good colour to the core, eucalyptus and licorice with a lovely fruit sweetness, masculine and in great spirit will last and last. Served with awesome truffle mash (there’s probably a phrase for it but that’s what it was) and the most tender Lamb….stunning. Then as the cheese was readied Francois inleashed a bottle of Clos de Vougeot V V 1959 – most encouragingly there was a really similarity of character with the 1990. The wine was alive and well, served blind I do not think I would have said it was older than 1970…thank you Francois. Dinner was rounded of with Lorraine's chocolate pudding and some Vin Jaune. A wonderful evening and a great way to end the first day in Burgundy!!