Saturday, 21 February 2015

La Tache - decades and decades...

A wonderful dinner that was years in the organising by Jordi Orriols-Gil. It was a quite wonderful marathon all in all from a kick off at 7pm we finished at midnight…The notes below are a little erratic that is only because with some flights there was a bit of quiet and everyone was quite studious with others the conversation flowed and I wrote far less. As always when dealing with great wine the notes end up being comments and observations, or even character assessments, rather than descriptors.

A mention must go to The Square whose service was good as ever and whose menu was really delicious (a couple of pics at the bottom).

Salad and Tartare of Highland Wagyu Beef with Nasturtium and Bouton de Culotte

Ravioli of Wild Mushrooms with Melted Onions, Parsley Oil and Snails

Glazed Veal Cheeks with Cauliflower, Chanterelles, Parmesan Caviar and Truffle 

Breast & Croustillant of Pigeon with Confit of Vegetables and Trompettes de la Mort 

Burgundian Cheese

Rhubarb Fool

So, on with the wines:

Bollinger RD 79 en magnum - Rich, opulent, a little dry Tarte Tatin, enticing with some saline.

Montrachet 1950, Comte de Moucheron – The Comte de Moucheron were the owners of Chateau du Meursault and the owners of the plot of Montrachet that was later sold to the Domaine in 1966. This was alive but fully mature, as you’d expect. A dry butterscotch and orange character, tangy.

The wines were then served in flights of between three and six wines. The glasses used were mid sized, bigger and some of the delicate wines would have been too prone to oxidation as we were 14 people to each bottle. No wines were decanted just poured straight from the bottle. Other than the magnum of Bollinger everything was from bottle format.

Flight 1: A brilliant flight of young wines that really showed exactly the characters I expected of the vintages.

1999 – Such amazing vibrancy, so rich with fruit but so focussed, a shade of graphite minerality but essentially a wine of opulent fruit, some of that fruit is quite dark. Really very special, on reflection one of the wines of the night. I have had this a few times and it is a stunningly exciting wine, no doubt about that. If you own this be very excited.
2000 – A shade more bruised in fruit character, mulled fruit a little, a dash of orange rind but only a tiny bit, light and elegant, no blockbuster, gentle, good focus, became more generous, easily nice, a little grip on the end but essentially very complete if short of being profound.

2002 – A shade degraded as you would expect, very 2002 to the 1999’s purity. “Mulchy” there will be undergrowth to come soon, some mushroom but also sweetness, young but on track to be a wine that has superb secondary and tertiary class. Structure is very good, definitely there but very balanced, retains it’s sweetness. On revisiting later is tightened up and kept it’s focus.
Flight 2: Possibly the flight where I learnt the most, wonderful differences.

1980 – Interestingly Aubert noted that this was the second vintage (after the ‘79) where they did no racking, straight from barrel to bottle so as not to lose anything. This wine reminded me of the Romanee Conti 1965 we had had the previous evening. Incredibly clear, clean and pure, so persistent, like rosewater, consommé and savoury notes all at the same time. Amazing and in most peoples top three wines of the night, who would have thought…
1985 – More red colour and depth than the 1980, sweetness, life, very fine. Three of those assembled commented that it was not as perfect as another bottle they had previously drunk together but to me this was high class and really pretty decadent.

1989 – This had a strictness and correctness but certainly a lack of charm. Good weight and density as well as darker, thicker colour, more robust but also a little clumsy. The tannin ws definitely there, as was dark fruit but somehow the two did not meld as they might. I was very re-assured by Aubert’s observation that this was a wine that went into bottle “in a bad mood and has never really changed”. In isolation a good wine from a vintage that has never been as great in Burgundy as other European regions.

1990 – Superb, decadent nose, very 1990. There is an element of the 1999 about this but may be more degradation. There is a little savoury side but fundamentally this is a wine of dark but fresh fruit, succulent texture and a dash of cleansing saline at the end. Odd though this may sound but it reminds me of a Burgundian Haut-Brion 1989 in so far as it is just so hard not to like it and yet it stands out as being of the vintage as much as the site. Delicious.

1991 – If the 1990 has always been the opulent, generous, crowd pleaser then the 1991 is the purists vintage, all freshness and red fruit with acidity to focus and sort of perfect leanness. Such focus and life, nervous energy if you like. Aubert commented that it corresponds exactly to the type of wine that he likes to make. Poised and classy.

Flight 3: It is fair to say this was comfortably the most under performing flight, even those that were good had a degraded, powdery colour and texture.

1970 – It was noted that this was a very difficult vintage with botrytis almost floating in the air as in 1965 and 1967. The wine had some bruised oranges, then quite quickly mushrooms and mushroom water*, it was a little weary but I did like it, long as well.

1971 – We tried two bottles. Neal Martin, whose birth year this is, said he must have cursed the wine. The first was promising but ever so slightly corked and once you noticed this you couldn’t avoid it. The second bottle was more correct but not (cork aside) as good as the first. A shame, you could though tell in that the first showed real class and texture as well as savoury persistence.

1972 – Oranges and Verdehlo Madeira, a zesty powderiness, it was like must, pretty exhausted, so beyond mature but my note finished “bizarrely enjoyable”.

1974 – This was noted as a rainy vintage like 1967 and 1977. There was sweetness there and dry wood, a good surprise, not serious but really enjoyable.

1976 – Aubert commented that there are others who probably made better '76’s. It was very hot but picked in the rain that finally came. Someone asked about 1976 and 2003 being similar and Aubert felt that 2005 has more in common with 1976 than 2003 does. I like this wine, clean, precise and really quite dense, a great effort.

1978 – Sadly this was not as it should be. A Bual character and drinkable due to some sweetness but… 
Flight 4: A lovely flight, clear candidates for the wine of even this night.

1962 – Not correct in colour or tasting

1964 – Wow! Stunning, fresh and pure, red-fruited bliss, energy and life, vibrant. Not heavy just weighted perfectly and balanced, feminine even. Exceptional.

1965 – Some soy and balsamic, nice, on the savoury yet focussed side of things. Some mushroom came out and the colour did brown in the glass, elegant.

1966 – Delicious, nervous, so elegant, sweet yet savoury, some wood and nutmeg, real depth, I could see the ’99 developing this way but then I could say that for the 1964 as well and yet the two wines are quite different.

1969 – I made very few notes here sadly – I had it down as good but lacking a little fruit sweetness.
1964 – Another bottle, a little less “red” than the other, very good though, slightly more saline and savoury notes but the same focus. A magnificent bottle on any night but just shaded by the over 1964.

Flight 5: What our host would call mature wines!

1950 – Tea, some orange but lightly so, citrus, sweetness, almost some butterscotch, a little vanilla, lovely, elegant...with air some coffee notes appeared…fascinating. It was very interesting to note that this vintage was all but written off by the critics…it certainly “shouldn’t” be alive now!

1952 – Delicate, lovely, fresh, bright, a little edge to it but there is some volume, fascinating.

1953 – Sadly not in taste-able condition.

Romanee-Conti 1953 – Clean and clear, very very good, very persistent and focussed, real weightlessness but also sweetness. Light and elegant, very fine.

1958 - Sadly not in taste-able condition.

1959 – A dash of caramel, a real similarity of character to the Romanee Conti 1959 tasted a few weeks previously. There is a viscosity and intense sweetness, incredible.

Flight 6:

1937 - Sadly not in taste-able condition.

1943 – Bacon on the nose to a degree, richness but a light framework, in one place. It has an energy albeit delicate…surprisingly long.
Not that any more wine was needed but Jordi always likes to keep the line of vintages going back so we went into the 1920's with:

Climens 1929 – Very much Brulee initially, dried fruits quickly appear, good but fully mature of course.

Doisy-Daene 1928 – Fresher, lovely, toffee apple character even some pecan

What an evening, a great reward for Jordi's hard work in assembling these bottles. Certainly a tasting I can't imagine will ever be repeated. I don't think anyone has ever doubted La Tache's place at the top table of vineyards in the world let lone Burgundy. Possibly the most true identifier of a great site is the ability to perform year in year out and in a series of different vintage conditions. La Tache does this from extroverts like 2002, 1990, 1959 to the refined and elegant dancers of 1980, 1991 and more…wonderful (however biased I may be)...

The beginning and the end...
Salad and Tartare of Highland Wagyu Beef with Nasturtium and Bouton de Culotte
Ravioli of Wild Mushrooms with Melted Onions, Parsley Oil and Snails

*Mushroom water - this is a note I have started to use a fair bit, it describes the smell you get when soaking dried mushrooms in hot water. This normally signals that Mrs Hargrove is making her mushroom risotto, always a good thing! 

Monday, 16 February 2015

All aboard the Cutty Sark

This was a very special evening however biased I may be. With Aubert de Villaine in town for a dinner at the Cutty Sark. We had a champagne reception on deck with access to the middle deck for those that might not have had a thick enough coat with them, or forgotten hat and gloves! Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV from magnum is always a good option and drinks so well. For the actual dinner we moved downstairs to eat at tables of ten under the hull. Coated in copper it is a striking place for a dinner. Aubert amusingly noted it was also a wise choice given it was one of the few ships of note that had not fought the French. The menu was a good one that worked very well, the standard especially given it was for 100 people was superb.

Confit sea trout, sweet pea puree, roasted lobster oil

Wood pigeon, barley risotto, balsamic jus, lemon thyme

Thyme roasted guinea fowl, anna potato, salt baked carrots, cavelo nero

Sourdough toast, griddled mushrooms, parsley butter

To start the Domaines wines for the evening, all of which had been collected from the estate just 3 weeks before the dinner, we had the Bâtard Montrachet 2000. The Domaine have enough land, two ouvres which is 1/12th of a hectare, in Batard to produce about two barrels. From a conversation I had a few weeks before it appears that the harvest here is always done at the same time as the Montrachet. This was purchased with the Domaines Montrachet in 1966. The wine is never released for sale and in fact this was a very rare excursion outside the Domaine. There is a touch of the tropical about the nose but then there is a balancing saline edge, a lovely richness but it does have freshness. Aubert commented that, like Montrachet, you can really let this get fully ripe without worrying about a lack of energy. As less wine was left in the glass there was a phase when it was a little smokey like lapsang tea and then the empty glass had a lovely dash of butterscotch. A cracking start to the evening.
Échézeaux 2000 and Grands Échézeaux 2000 came next, It was a really good pair. The vintage is one that slightly gets overlooked given it falls in amongst '99, '01 and '02. Aubert made a very good point during the evening that to speak nowadays about "great" and "lesser" vintages is really a little pointless, it should be "easy" and "difficult" as there is so much that can be done in the vineyard and in selection. So how were these two wines? Without sounding silly there were both great, but in different ways. The Echezeaux had a delightful airy nose, stones and minerals then berries and raspberries, very bright and wonderfully accessible. The Grands Echezeaux was far more restrained and muted on the nose but then the palate comes alive with so much fruit, really impressive. I finally think after about 16 years I am starting to understand this Cru. It is never showy, always more restrained but serious.
For the main course it was another pair: Richebourg 1991 and La Tâche 1991. Aubert mentioned how 1991 was neither as spectacular or seductive as 1990 but has a long way to go, "the type of wines I really like to make". I have been lucky to have a fair few 1991's from the Domaine in the last few years and I love the vintage, elegance and focus tend to be the words I would use. These two both showed well. The Richebourg was the darker and richer of the two as you would expect but the focus of the wine and precision of the fruit was a massive, good, surprise for me, there was a moreish minerality behind the fruit, really lovely. The La Tache 1991 is always a star, very hard to write about, focussed with red fruit and some gentle spice, "complete" is the word.

From the 1991's we then went to a blind vintage of Romanée-Conti, not an everyday occurrence, this got all sorts of guessing games going. It was precise, elegant, not heavy but very persistent with some gentle red fruits and a tea-like purity, clearly not from a big warm vintage but a wine with refined texture and beautiful weightlessness. The reaction when it was revealed as 1965 was excellent. The fact that a 50 year old vintage that was not in anyway a showbiz vintage showed this well is wonderful.
There was one more "drink" to come Marc de Bourgogne 1979. I think most people were still re-tasting and wallowing in the wines so this may be didn't get a fair crack, I had a glass and liked it as usual, I was though past the stage of tasting notes.
The dinner worked so well as we had wines from 6 different Grand Cru sites and they all showed their characters very clearly...this is exactly what you, well certainly I do, want from Burgundy at the top level.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Another great visit...Case Basse...

My third visit to Case Basse and the first that I have blogged. The company I work for represents Soldera in Asia and as the resident Italian "nut" in the office I am delighted that I get the call to visit. It is a unique site and Mr Soldera is a wonderful, and often miss understood, man. It was also special this trip to meet Monica and see that the future of this great estate it in terrific hands.   
Having flown out to Rome on Sunday we got up early on the Monday morning in time to be at Case Basse for 11am. Driving up through some of the most glorious countryside, you get taken as you approach Montalcino by how there are pockets planted to vine. This is nothing like the continuous vineyards of Bordeaux or Burgundy (and no I am not saying they are the same!). There are clear choices of where Sangiovese will work and were it won't. 

After a meeting we went down to the cellar to taste the 2014 we had been discussing:

2014 Tasted from Botti – Primary, fresh, pure and silky but at some cost, only about 5000 bottles will be produced as it was a year when there was a lot of water both in the winter before (2013-2014) and in the summer. Rich yet fresh red cherry fruit with a clean and long finish, this will gain weight and depth in cask…exciting.

From the estate we then went to see the brilliant Roberto Rossi at his il Silene restaurant. It was wonderful to hear he had got his first Michelin star - frankly I assumed from the previous meals I've had there that he had 1 or 2 already. With a lovely elegant lunch, and some of Roberto's legendary olive oil we had three wines.

2007 – Immediately lovely, some dark cherry fruit with a savoury lift but then more red fruit shows, lovely balance as always – total balance in fact. A dash of vanolin that leaves quickly, heady yet pure at the same time with such poise. There is some grip but it is so pure that you are almost unaware of it, lifted cool red fruit again at the end, it actually tightened up over lunch, got a shade more dense. Very impressive indeed...

2008 – Richness and immediately a more masculine persona, the fruit is darker cherry with a shade of black fruit but then there is a cool minerality, stones and wet earth as well as saline that freshens the dense fruit and adds vibrancy. There is a wonderful savoury dimension to this wine, there are layers it has, and places it will go that are so very exciting…intense yet light on "it's toes"…my note finishes “Wonderful”…
2007 & 2008 were bottled Feb 2014

1985 Intistieti, this was one barrel that was ready for bottling after 3 years in cask. Picked on 8th October 2007 at which time they were still dressed for high summer. This had a degraded leathery sweetness and life, there is a lightness of touch, very special to drink this wine.

From there is was a rush back to Rome airport. I always leave this particular trip with a massive smile on my face...wines, people, opinion and laughter... 
Some of Roberto's brilliant pasta...

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Two wonderful days...

A third post from the biennial meeting of the DRC agents...the two previous ones are
first - the 2012's and then second - the tasting of a lifetime. This is a summary of a few other wines tasted or drunk at meals. It was a brilliant two days, really quite humbling the wines were all served immaculately and humbly. Never is there a feeling that these wines are priceless and too precious, they are wines to be drunk and enjoyed, just exceptionally good ones! 

The first lunch we had was at Le Bistrot du bord de L’eau in the Hostellerie de Levernois, a lovely spot outside Beaune.

Le Pot au feu de Queue de Boeuf au Foie gras, Consomme au sel de Celeri

Le Tournedos de Volaille fermiere, Champignons et Gnocchi, sauce au Vin Jaune

La Selection de Fromages Frais and Affines

L’ille Flottante et Crème Vanille

We had two wines:

Batard-Montrachet 2000
This small parcel was bought at the same time as the Domaines Montrachet holding. It is never sold and is used by the Domaine for "family" use. The style is delicious, quite opulent but always with a cleansing salinity. 
A little mocha and almost coffee but very mellow, saline, very good balance, lovely fruit that stops short of being tropical. Rich and quite savoury but with an easiness and sweet fruited element. There are notes of dry botrytis. Finish with a clean note of toffee on the outside of a toffee apple.

Vosnee-Romanee 1er Cru Duvaut Blochet
Given the name of this blog it is always a pleasure to drink this wine.
Slightly bruised red fruit, some iodine and a little subtly minty eucalyptus, a nicely dry edge that is very “2008” and good length. Interestingly the fruit freshened up with air and became “cleaner” and redder.

Later the same day:

A Gala dinner at Domaine de la Romanee Conti

The food was cooked by Chef Thomas Collomb who has two restaurants:
La Rotisserie du Chambertin in Gevrey-Chambertin and La Maison des Cariatides in Dijon

Vol au Vent de Cuisine Bourgeoise

Pintade de la Ruchotte, puree a la truffe noire

Assortiment de fromages

Tartelette aux chataignes de L’Ardeche, sorbet au gingembre

The wines served were:

Corton 2009 (from magnum) which we tasted just before being told what it was. This is a really easy wine to drink, taste, enjoy, lovely sweetness, not so much a Corton, quite bold with sweet black cherry and good acidity but always an easy 2009ness about it.

The following three wines were then served blind!

Romanee Conti 2011 – this stumped me completely it had such pure red fruited elegance that I thought it may well be 2010 Romanee-Saint-Vivant, it had a seriousness as well to the structure which made me think of 2010. There is a slight graphite minerality and massive amounts of pure character. I think this is a wine for the serious long term not because it is a blockbuster but because there will be very serious layers of elegance to come.

Romanee Conti 1961 – I don’t think I ever imagined I would taste or drink this wine twice in one day. This bottle was a lovely middle-aged colour, a little red but mainly tawny. The nose was multifaceted and immediately difficult to pin down to decade let alone a year. There was a little funk and an sweet animal edge. A warm year such is the high-toned elements. Heady and rich but not heavy may be bold is a better word. Of the wines earlier in the day it reminded me of a sweeter 1971. Magnificent and only improving and dancing in the glass.

Le Montrachet 1983 Methusalem (6L)
The oldest Montrachet from the Domaine that I have tasted. Butterscotch and crème brulee, toffee notes, lots of botrytis but none of this made it too heavy. Some briney notes on the palate and finish give this lift and also make the slightly rancio full-on nose not cloy. Honey with a dash of lemon. Dry and intense yet with a sweet fruit character. Amazing. If you want mature, intense Montrachet…this is it.

Chateau de Fargues 2005
Good, rich but not over the top, a lot of warm fruit and an unctuous density with just enough density.

I was lucky to sit next to the engaging and energetic Nicolas Jacob, vineyard manager (chef de culture) and therefore asked him a few questions:

The hardest vineyard to work? Certainly RSV, the soils have more clay.
And the easiest? The top section of La Tache simply it is lighter.
How big is his permanent team in the vineyards? 20 people are exclusively for the Domaine.

The following day we had one last meal again at the Domaine. Cooked by the team member – Claude Menetrier - you can well see why the team here must be happy during harvest if Claude is in the kitchen. Very classical Burgundian food but deliciously so.

Jambon Persille

Poulet Gaston Gerard

Mont d’Or


The wines were both served blind after having had the Domaine’s Champagne Method Rose (100% Pinot Noir). I had never been aware it existed and it is made off site.

It was then time for Blind wines again.

White: This was absolutely stunning. A shade reduced, in perfect balance, some richness and white fruits but also a little botrytis if kept in perfect check by the acidity. It is wonderfully moreish and hedonistic at the same time. So we got to having to have a go at the wine…on our table I was quick out of the blocks with Montrachet 1999, others then followed with 2000, 2001, 1995 etc…and it was actually Batard-Montrachet 2005. A stunning wine.

And then it was time for a red…sadly I turned round at just the wrong moment and caught the “LT 07” on the bottle out of the corner of my eye. Nobody noticed I had seen this but in the interests of wine karma I immediately declared it and counted myself "out". The La Tache 2007 was just lovely, in fact "lovely" is damming with feint praise and that is wrong…it is open and ready to be enjoyed, not that it will not see decades more, it will. It has a quite primary nose with the full spread of dark red fruit with a dash of spice, there is a lovely “shells on the beach” minerality. I love a lot of the 2007’s and this is the best I have had…gracefully gorgeous.

With a train to catch from Dijon back to Paris then London it was always going to be tight to see if we could taste the 2013's but fortunately we could:

Tasted from Barrel at "pace" after lunch, hosted by Bertrand de Villaine. I made very few notes. As with 2012 there will be no "Duvault Blochet"...

A nice darker fruit character, not overly hard but with structure, a little puppy fat, cherries and freshness.

A lovely spicey density here, very “grown-up”, pure as well.

Grands Echezeaux
Broad and quite bold, long, some fresh fruit but not too red, density but poise is the lasting impression.

A little bit more savoury than usual but this may be to do with the slight reduction, serious, especially for R-S-V.

Very pure and lifted, exceptional fruit. Good structure also.

La Tache
Superb nose here, very hard to describe, power and sweetness but not at the expense of the complexity, really very fine.

Sustained red fruit, really brooding. There is a really elegant power to this wine, it has depth and power and structure too, it is hidden by the gorgeous fruit.

And that was the end of two amazing days in Burgundy.