Thursday, 29 January 2015

The tasting of a lifetime...

This is the second post from the biennial meeting of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti agents from round the world, the first one, a tasting of the 2012's can be found Here. This tasting is very probably the most special and unique tasting I will ever do. I thought long and hard about whether to post this as I do not want it to appear remotely like an attempt to show off, on balance I just thought that wine is for enjoying and to not post it would be silly. We had been "warned" at a light lunch (see next post) that there was a special tasting coming in the afternoon but I don't think anyone dared think it might be what it was.

When we entered the room and saw the set up it was instantly exciting, then it became clear it was to be:
10 Vintages of Romanee-Conti

There was an instant feeling of something simply unique. In terms of the details, the wines we all served in Reidel Burgundy glasses, poured and tasted as we went, unlabelled bottles at the perfect "cool" temperature.

The only wine in this range I had ever had before was the 1971 when Aubert received the Decanter Man of the Year. After each vintage there is the date of picking and then the yield.

27th September
Aubert noted that this was a small harvest where tweezers were used to select the good grapes.
There is some Bovril brown to the colour but it has the vibrant colour of young Bual Madeira. The nose has a beautiful degraded sweetness, so clean and vibrant. There is an amazing primary note to the fruit, red fruit but not light red. Initially on the palate the nose is confirmed, fruit again but a dash of white pepper freshness, persistence on the tongue, such life. This is a vibrant and lively wine almost exactly a third fruit, a third savoury and the final third is a saline, mineral structure. There is good focusing acidity.
The length is superb, minutes long and fresh, almost more fruit as time goes on, so elegant yet so firmly persistent. There is nothing you would change about this wine.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting it had mellowed and melded together even more. Almost a raisin and red fruit combination.

5th October
Aubert’s second year at the Domaine.
Similar to the 1971 in colour, a shade more tea like and a little paler to the rim. So pretty, my initial reaction is to say this is more feminine that the 1971. There is a touch more salinity on the nose, very fresh and very airy fruit, weightless. Such persistence and rigor to the nose. Both the nose and the finish have such exceptionally wonderful fruit. A shade bruised and degraded but pure. The palate, in-between is more rich and has a savoury depth. With air a few more meaty and stock-like notes appear. Long again, the finish changes from fruit to tea and herbs. Superb.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting I found wonderful fruit, almost citrus, orange and tangerine. So lively.

4th October
A more saturated or thicker colour, not quite as pure in colour either, quite bold and thick to the rim. Initially there are more tertiary notes and more animal, less red fruit but still has an amazing vibrancy. It is at a different stage, there is a tiny bit of spice, some sweet leather. Then there is fruit, the palate has a monstrous complexity but still a fundamental lift, there is a “bricky” tea leaf element. With air there is a lot of degraded sweet fruit. A long finish and one that goes from savoury to fruit.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting I found more degraded sweetness, real intensity, lift but depth, some caramel-like sweetness.

7th October
Similar colour to the 1964 but with a little more purity. The nose has a note of mushroom then with air a heady, spicy fruit with a saline and berry fruit lift. Initially on the palate there is such amazing sweetness, a little lively note on the tongue, a lighter almost rosewater finish follows, this is delicate and tender, the finish is a perfect foil for the sweetness of the attack. Almost a green pepper note, but it is one of life and intensity, really special. 
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting it was a little more herbal, spicy, smokey almost a shade nutty.
The most famous cross in the wine world
26th September
A shade deeper in colour in the middle. The nose is only describable as “WOW”, so much life, caramel in abundance, extrovert, sweet and showy.  Power and prowess, so hedonistic. Very difficult to describe, such is the density of the sweet almost fudge-like nose. There is fruit but it is sweetly degraded. In a way this is like a warmer older brother of the 1971. There is more weight to this that any other vintage in this tasting. I think it is fair to say it does not have the multi-dimensional complexity of some. It does though show the intensity and ripeness of the vintage. The biggest yield and earliest picking date of this tasting.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting it was just confirmed that in the nicest possible way this is a “Freak” of a wine.

14th October
Clear and pale but definitely a tanned colour. Following the 1959 is rather difficult, but this has unbelievably persistent fruit, and lots of it, airy light fruit that dances, this is so elegant on the nose. The palate is a little more savoury but the fruit returns quickly, little or no saline edge. I would imagine this has always been elegant and pure…tea aromas, splendid wine.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting I found the fruit was still so poised, some of the fruit character is a little more orange like, a very complex wine.

NOTE: I felt that the 1961, 1959 & 1955 were like three siblings with very different characters.
1961 – A late bloomer.
1959 – The school boy hero…captain of the rugby team.
1955 – The quiet achiever.

29th September
The first vintage after the tearing up of the vineyard, the vines therefore were only 5 years old. There is a sensible argument made by Andrew Noblet that the bunches in this vintage profited from the “mulch” that resulted from the soil being fully turned over during the replanting.
Deeper in colour than the 1955, full tawny with no red at all. The nose is a little more muted than many. There is a more resinous note and it is a little pine like. The texture is lovely and it is “all there” just a little closed. There is a herbal edge and a persistence.
When coming back to this at the end it had become a little darker and with more soy.

8th October
Yield not known
This was the last vintage before the grubbing up of the vines and was a difficult vintage. Some tobacco then almost perfect mushroom aromas, like soaking dried mushrooms in boiling water.  Again a touch of soy. Very, very classy and precise, herbs did show as well. Very persistent and fine, more breadth than depth. A little Asian spice and a long, long finish, I really like this.
On re-visiting there was more and more life and more and more cep.

15th October
Yield not known
Very pale with hints of copper. Tea leaf and life with a dash of Sercial character. There is complete maturity here as you would expect. So light in colour but so flavoured and strong. There is a note of coconut and dry pineapple. This does have a tangy, slightly orange-like character. The aromas change every time you put your nose in the glass. You could just drink and enjoy this or spend 3 hours writing down all the nuances. A beautiful wine.
Alpine notes, herbal on re-visiting.

2nd October

“Bright” brown, almost a hint of rose about the very light but clear colour. A “manure” nose initially with very farmyard aromas. There is no madeirisation at all, very mellow indeed. It does have very gentle fruit sweetness. With every swirl, and on coming back after a few minutes it is far less farmyard and more complete. Prettier and prettier. Amazing for a 96 years old!

A truly wonderful tasting that I will never forget, it that more than showed off the staggering beauty of this Cru.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

DRC 2012's...I am biased but...

This is the first of three posts from the biennial meeting of the various Domaine de la Romanee-Conti agents from round the world. On the second morning we tasted the 2012's from bottle with 1 hour in the glass before tasting.

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 2012’s
I have not commented on the colours here for two reasons, I am not good at it and in all honesty I do not feel it tells you a great deal at this stage.

My over-riding impression is of wines with a wonderful balance of fruit density and proper/serious structure, I imagine the vast majority will close down a fair bit in the next 2-3 years, this appears to me to be a vintage for the long term, like the 2010’s. While there will be charm early I think these wines need and demand time (more so than 2007, 2009 and 2011 for instance).

No Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Duvault-Blochet” was made in 2012 (nor in 2013). You may think given the name of this blog that this would be a disappointment but in honesty I like that it is not made each year. One day I would love to sit down and taste them all... 

Charming, quite dark fruit, the nose is true to Corton but with charm. You can feel the whole bunch vinification. The palate at this stage does not have the density, nor depth, of fruit that you get from the nose. There is good grip but it is not overpowering. Complexity will come with time for sure.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting and with more air the forest fruits were coming out.
Score: 17-17.5
Drink: 2020-2030

A shade reductive, which I like, lovely "complete" nose with an earthy element, multidimensional. There is fruit and as usual for the Domaine's Echezeaux it is red, it releases more and more with the air and swirling. The palate is red fruited also, more delicately but it grows. There is a good structure, not harsh but definite, very grown-up. I like this a lot, a very good Echezeaux.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting and with more air it became more decadent and of course less reductive, the fruit is ever so slightly degraded, real complexity – I’m very impressed.
drink: 2021-2034+

Grands Echezeaux
Less animal and more primary than Echezeaux in character, though less expressive, may be the most muted of all the wines in this tasting. Very complete, quite brooding and serious, alluring and academic.
On re-visiting at the end of the tasting and with more air it made me think that this will go more to the savoury end of the spectrum in time.
score: 18 – 18+
drink: 2022-2032+

I seem to love this wine more every year. I also feel the purity of fruit character is the closest to that of Romanee-Conti itself. Mellow yet precise red fruits hit you. There is a light freshness of orange peel as well. Easier to assess and easier to love than Grands Echezeaux. To counter the red fruit there is a gentle white pepper spice that I often find in Romanee-Saint-Vivant, it never overpowers but always balances the fruit. Very poised and attractive on the nose. It is though the seriousness of the palate that I think really marks the outstanding quality of this wine. Whilst the nose makes you flirt with it the palate makes you sit up and pay attention. There is a depth of minerality on the palate that lifts the complexity of the wine and makes it so moreish, a persistent and fine structure here that almost goes unnoticed but is there as a serious frame to the lovely fruit. As might be obvious I have really rather “fallen” for this wine.
On re-visiting I was delighted to have all the above confirmed, this is a superb Romanee-Saint-Vivant – seriousness to balance the attractiveness.
score: 18.5 – 19
drink: 2022-2035++

Tasting and reveling in the differences between Romanee-Saint-Vivant and Richebourg is one of the greatest parts of any tasting with the Domaine’s wines. Darker-fruit, more cherried and with some damson there is a certainty about Richebourg a rugged confidence, just short of swagger and so it is here. The palate shows a little less weight of fruit than the nose, not quite so brooding, more charm. The structure is clear but ripe.
On revisiting I found the biggest difference of all the wines, some animal a little graphite and cool savoury minerality as well as a good structure, may be the sleeper?
score: 18 - 18.5+
drink: 2024 – 2036++

La Tache
I got a tiny note of “grain” or as I noted, popcorn “unpopped”, immediately the glass was swirled it went. La Tache is so often the “confident senior sibling” and so it was here. The glass that was most empty at the end of the tasting. I find this often the hardest to describe but then tend to waffle. There is an earthy power, some links to Echezeaux here, that is very La Tache, this is expressively complex, more “sharp minded Bon Viveur” less the “intense academic”…There is a lovely structure a little mouthwatering dryness that leads to a dash of pepper, pink not white, herbs and gentle spice. With more air it gets more complete and harder to describe, this is a serious La Tache for the long term but as ever it is also charming and welcoming.
On re-visiting the above was just confirmed.
score: 18.5-19+
drink: 2022-2036+

Romanee Conti
The lift of fruited excellence that you see in Romanee-Saint-Vivant with some of the earthy complexity in the background that was evident in Echezeaux and La Tache, lovely. A striking balance of black and red fruits, powerful and brooding yet not too closed or too tense. This is serious, a keeper. There is sweetness but it is kept in check with a persistent and definite, if lightly worn, structure. To say the integration of the fruit, structure and texture is perfect is too technical but so true.
On revisiting there is so much depth and complexity, near perfect.
score: 19.5+
drink: 2024-2040+

Le Montrachet
The colour is confusing as everything is there, flashes of green, yellow, gold even. Real power and almost a spritz of youth. There are notes of brine and lowland malt mixed with white flowers and yellow fruits that stop just short of the tropical. The palate is so lively, so driven and focused, as was commented there is an almost Corton-Charlemagne tension like, verve and drive to the attack then the tongue is left in no doubt that this is Montrachet. There is an impression of sweetness and a textural weight to come. My hand written notes finish with “Epic potential”. This may well be a legend…so sad that there is so little but may be that plays a part?
score: 19-20
drink: 2019 – 2032++
Bernard Noblet spoke about the vintage after we tasted. 
One additional observation:
Were I to pair the reds on the basis of similarities of overall character it would be easy to my mind:
Corton with Richebourg
Echezeaux with La Tache
Romanee-Saint-Vivant with Romanee-Conti

As always, a privilege to taste the whole line-up and even more so to do it in Vosne-Romanee itself.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Famille Labruyere...a new and exciting relationship...

...New contacts and relationships in the wine world come about in different ways and take different lengths of time to come to fruition (when they do!). "Gestation" can be anything from weeks to years, decades even...every one is different.

They often result from a chance comment being well followed up. Famille Labruyere and Corney & Barrow is an example of exactly that. Headed and driven by the Family's 6th Generation - Edouard - Famille Labruyere comprises four estates.

Domaine Labruyère

Domaine Jacques Prieur

Château Rouget

Champagne Labruyère

Following at least four different meetings, tastings, dinners - in Bordeaux, then Burgundy and then London we got the "nod" not long before Christmas - very good news. It takes time because it has to work for three main parties - producer, merchant and most importantly the customer. A link to an official press release is HERE. That's enough background, the wines:

The tasting below took place for the whole team. Champagne Labruyere is the newest of the estates and will be tasted later in the year. The tasting was hosted by both Edouard and winemaker Nadine Gublin. 
Domaine Labruyere then Domaine Jacques Prieur

Domaine Labruyère - Moulin-a-Vent  Website
The oldest estate in Moulin-a-Vent, the most northerly and serious of all the Crus of Beaujolais. Yields are kept very low at around 28hl/ha when they can by law be as high as 58hl/ha. In terms of winemaking the clusters are 100% de-stemmed and very little new oak is used, some barrels from Domaine Jacques Prieur are used. The tasting was from a spread of vintages but it is interesting to note that Edouard commented of 2013 that it was a "late harvest with big wines, built more for the future".

Moulin à Vent Grande Cuvée 2012 bottled Jan 2014
2012 was a small crop, made with logically small yields, the harvest was around the 10th/12th of September.
Red/black fruit with stoney minerals and a lovely crunch to the nose, freshness, quite bold, persistent, depth, berry fruit all the way, there is a graphite and stones scenario…very balanced, serious but starting to be approachable.

Moulin à Vent Le Carquelin 2011 bottled march 2013
Le Carquelin is a 45 year old site, shared with Jadot, on a light soil. This 2011 was harvested on 30th August with good ripeness. “One of the best vintages, balance of the power of 2009 with acidity of 2010” says Nadine.
Blacker deeper fruit, more grip, delicious, balanced, nothing over the top, has a good length, a little more wood, only 10% new, very good length of mulberry fruit, long, good. Very complete.

Le Clos du Moulin à Vent 2011 (bottled April 2013)
Edouard describes this wine as “Fort Knox”, it is a monopole of 0.92 hectares with vines of 70 years of age and more, graphite and sand, very defined terroir (south facing). 15 % New oak. Good rich chewy red fruit, real crunch, some rhubarb, has depth, blacker, warmer - fruit, delicious but also serious, Long and persistent. Very age-worthy.

The three wines really give you a sense of the seriousness of the estate, there is a lovely balance between the savoury and the fruited.

Domaine Jacques Prieur DJP Website
This Domaine has an unbelievable breadth of holdings: 21 hectares with 9 Grand Crus, 13 Premier Cru and 2 Lieu dits. The Cote de Beaune wines have been bio-dynamic since 2009 not that this appears on any labels. The Domaine uses four or five different coopers with very low levels of toast. The wines are always racked and kept in tank before bottling. The Grand Cru use 75-80% new oak.
A monopole and two Grand Crus
Beaune Clos de La Féguine 1er cru rouge 2012 (MONOPOLE)
Clos de la Feguine is 1.75 hectares across red and white. South facing, "looking" at Pommard. 2012 was harvested in the middle of September at 20—25 hl/hectare with open wood vats, sorting tables and no pumping, just 25-30% of new oak is used. The wine was then bottled in Feb 2014. Edouard commented that this is the "Most delicate wine we have".
Rich redcurrant and spices on the nose, persistent on the nose a dash of orange rind, proper, quite bold, texture is superb, long, very persistent. Richness and boldness.

Corton Bressandes Grand Cru 2012
Between clay and marne, a blend of terroir. Edouard commented that the ripeness is always good with this wine. The 2012 was bottled in May 2014.
Slightly more of an oak framework, lovely nose of airy minerals, very balanced, some orange peel comes through, fruit is more red than you might expect, very good, like this, not dry (which I can find in Corton), long.

Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2012
The holding here is 1.20 hectares. It is always the last of the DJP wines to be bottled. In this instance July 2014. The site that the Domaine enjoys is very near Ch de La Tour.
Richer, decadently textured, more Christmas cake fruit, depth and power, some sternness too, bold with some drier notes, not exotic. Bold, some rich tannins, long and quite exotic. Blacker fruits, warm earth and tobacco (a little), chewy (in a good way), very Clos Vougeot…

DJP - Whites
It is interesting to note that from 2008 there is no battonage at the Domaine...

Meursault Clos de Mazeray (MONOPOLE) 2012
This is the only "lieu dits" wine in the the Domaine's line-up. Three hectares (2.75 ha is planted to Chardonnay,0.25 ha to Pinot Noir) at the southern edge of Meursault, under 1er Cru Poruzot, this is a wine of richness. In the production process; big vats and also 1-2 years old barrels get used a lot.
Exotic, rich fruits and full, has a saline note (reminiscent of a delicate Lowland Whisky) that comes from the youth. This will be yeasty in time, pears and peaches comes through, some aniseed, salty notes. Good length, Generous. Hedonistic.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 2012
From the middle of the slope facing east. Many stones, it can be very hot in summer. Edouard noted that one has to be especially careful with the harvest date on this site. They pick early for the freshness. It is the last parcel at the north of Puligny near Meursault-Charmes. The wine sees 100% Barrels, 30% new and this was bottled in March 2014 having had two months in tank before bottling. Again the lowland whisky note, salt and air, a ripe brineyness, more focus and elegance than the Clos de Mazeray, really very persistent and long, very balanced, rich and really well Handled. (I have had this again since and been very very impressed).

Montrachet Grand Cru 2012
Bottled July 2014. The holdings are 0.6 of the 8 hectares. DJP have two sections, one planted each way (with the slope and across it). The racking and bottling dates are so imperative. Edouard noted they are very often the same date as DRC for picking…
Text book high tones of Montrachet, that decadent almost botrytis-like, a tiny dash of brine but the natural richness rides this. So long and with beautiful nuts (hazelnuts) on the middle of the tongue, a rich texture also, hedonistic, no reduction, very fine indeed, bold also, so "Montrachet"

The notes here on DJP are very consistent with my observations from other tastings.

Château Rouget Website
Famille Labruyere bought Rouget in 1992. Edouard’s first vintage was 2008. They plant in a high density and generally the viticulture is organic with four hectares being bio-dynamic. Almost uniquely 30% of full bunches are used. The blend is a conventional 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. There are only 2 rackings in 18 months and the blend is done before the Malolactic fermentation. From 2008 there has not been a green harvest. They are one of the last to pick in Pomerol. As a note the 2014 is 38hl/ha.

We had a mini tasting.

A vintage "saved" by a good September.
I found this to be in a slightly awkward phase, not strange with for an adolescent Bordeaux. On the nose it was slightly stewy, a little bit developed. Some leather then some red fruit, quite old school, longer and fresher on the palate than the nose. Some iodine and a slightly ferrous blood-like core, does have freshness but not loads of it. Will be interesting to re-visit.


A late vintage, hot summer, lots of rain too, large volume.
This is fresher, less dense, bright and red, then the palate is lower of acidity, drink now, lovely, bright and fresh. This is not serious but it is really enjoyable.

"Vintage of the century a bit like ever year" was Edouard's amusing verdict.
Blackcurrant, rich and deep, serious, a little spice, very good palate, smooth but balanced and substantial, some truffle, dark, good concentration and grip but not too much. Really liked this.

And they say, is that...wines true to their regions and most importantly - exciting...