Sunday, 31 January 2016

A meeting of minds @ 67 Pall Mall

This was a fun Friday night dinner at 67 Pall Mall, the wine club I've joined. Great glasses, good service and decent food mean that I imagine more and more blogs will be coming from there. It's featured already on the DJP blog. The evening was to introduce two great wine lovers - Jordi and Rajiv - to  each other, it was terrific that Neal Martin could join so it became four members and six bottles and lots of chat.
We started with a pair of whites that I brought along, knowing that I wouldn't be able to compete with the  maturity of the reds. The pair were:

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 2011 and Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres 2011 both from Francois Carillon. This was the second vintage of Francois' estate. I chose the 2011's over the 2010's or 2012's as they are more open and just lovely to drink now. Interestingly the Folatieres seemed to slightly steel the show. The Combettes was more opulent and "tarty" initially but possibly a little simpler. The Folatieres, in contrast, was a little leaner, more saline, classier, very balanced. Will be interesting to track these over time.

So, onto the reds, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 2007 from De Vogue was up first courtesy of Rajiv. We felt it would need the most air so we wanted to get it in the glasses first. I love 2007's as I have said many times. This though is a more serious interpretation of the vintage. There is quite a lot of body here and a richer texture, the nose is more refined and 07' like, a little orange peel. It is a wine to be patient with as was shown by coming back to it at the end of the night when it had softened a little.
We were then firmly into the "Jordi-Zone" with the mature bottles of which there were, very generously, three. First up was Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets 1962 from H.Boillot. The nose here was degraded and sweet, opulent, with a whiff of green spices. The sweetness stayed and the texture added to this somehow. Often wines like this have a flattering opening and then turn savoury of even bitter, not so here, just a lovely fully mature bottle of sweet, floral, Volnay.
Musigny Grand Cru 1979 from Domaine Jacques Prieur was next and given that I am getting to know the Domaine Jacques Prieur (DJP) wines more and more this was an exciting prospect. The siting of the DJP Musigny is something I commented upon in this post. None of the older Burgundies were decanted, just popped and poured. The nose here was initially quite reticent and the texture a little nervous but all this settled down and ultimately this was voted WOTN. There was a masculine purity but also a refined saline edge as well, this made for both intensity and moreishness. A little spice and funk by the very end, all in all a cracking bottle of proper mature Burgundy.
Then Jordi decided we needed one more bottle, no arguments of course, Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Beaumonts 1989 from Leroy it turned out to be. This was rich, full of iron and minerals, there was an intensity to the colour that suggested it was far younger (mid or late 90's even), it had a showy, almost exuberant side. There is a spice too but never overpowering, a lovely wine that is, may be, 5-10 years from its peak...

This was a splendid evening with some great bottles being drunk amongst good chat in just the way I like it. Respectful but not deferential - these are made to be drunk. Having them from good glasses and served in small but regular pours does, of course, help.

I have a strong feeling this wont be the last time this little gathering occurs!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

DJP - a couple of cracking days...

Last week it was great to have Edouard Labruyere head of Famille Labruyere (Domaine Jacques Prieur, Chateau Rouget, Domine Labruyere and soon to be Champagne Labruyere) in London for a series of tasting, visits and dinners. This followed on from a launch last year and another post I did with a fair few notes, mostly about the 2013's. I am keen to state that I am writing this from a rather biased standpoint but I wanted to record what I found to be a brilliant range of wines.

The notes below are taken from three tastings of the Domaine Jacques Prieur (DJP) 2014's and two meals - one a dinner at The Stafford Wine Cellar and the other a lunch at  67 Pall Mall.

A "nice" lunch time line-up
I made various notes from each time Edouard spoke, which is does unusually well. It was a real education. Rather than the fact that he rushes between the four regions in which he works, being a distraction, it seems to give him a fresh approach to each.

I will try to weave a few DJP details into the wines but it is fair to say that there are two key people, Edouard who took over the reins in 2008, and Nadine Gublin who has made the wines for 25 years. In those 25 years, the quality has risen markedly but it might be fair to say that since 2008 they have taken an even steeper upward curve. No Battonage, no filtration...less new oak, less (usually none) stems. The estate is now reveling in the holdings it has - "a duty not a right" Edouard says - and what holdings they are. Nine Grand Crus and fifteen 1er Crus!

2014 Reds
Beaune 1er Cru Greves - Such a tricky year here with the hail, ultimately just 17 hl/ha as a yield with the site needing 4 "harvests" - 29th June post the storm, late August, early September and then the "real" one in mid-September. There was just one pushdown and one pump over in the winemaking. The wine sees 20% new oak from 5 different coopers. There is a nice opulence to this wine on the nose but also a citrusy drive. Red fruits for sure but a little spice and a reassuringly "proper" structure.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Santenots - This is a walled monopole inside Volnay Santenots, at the top and north of the vineyard. Only 4 barrels were made and the wine sees 50% new oak (when you only have four barrels the choice obviously comes in increments of 25%). Whilst tasting this wine Edouard made an interesting observation, this was that of all the vineyards that were hit so hard by hail - 80%-100% destroyed - in 2012/13/14 it was those that practised Biodynamics that recovered the most, others having been literally destroyed. This wine has a real vibrancy and lovely texture...Edouard observed that it was like a Cote de Nuits Grand Cru but in Volnay...there is certainly something in that.
Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru - "The bad boy of the Domaine" was Edouard's opening here. The DJP Clos Vougeot is in the middle of the Grand Cru, no limestone, mostly clay. This sees 20-24 months in 30% new oak (used to be 100%) and includes 20% full bunches. The wine itself is punchy and rich but fresh with a good texture, darker fruits as you would expect but not without a hint of red. Violets and vibrancy as well as structure. Very much what it should be. As an aside I have twice tasted a range of Clos Vougeot's blind and both times it has included the DJP - Clos Vougeot 2011's & Clos Vougeot 2013's 

Musigny Grand Cru - And so to one of Burgundies most iconic terroirs. DJP is the 3rd largest owner of the Musigny with 0.7hectares sited at the southern end with La Combe d'Orveau above it which provides a fresh channel of air. This is very impressive and has lovely salinity (a trait I love), again darker fruit but freshness like the Clos Vougeot but another world in terms of the complexity and poise, serious for sure but not without showing its breeding...special.

2014 Whites
Beaune Blanc 1er Cru Greves - On the top of this site there is more limestone and that is where the Chardonnay is planted. DJP first made this wine in 2009. There is a lovely lushness to the wine initially but then a nice zip of citrus freshness, stones and sherbet both spring to mind and then a lovely cool finish...impressive.
Meursault Clos de Mazeray Monopole - A few of interesting things here. Firstly, this is the Domaines only non 1er Cru but this is in fact only a result of the owners not wishing to pay more tax back in 1936 when the classification was set, they elected for "village" status. Secondly being a walled Monopole they used it for all the experiments in Biodynamics as there were no outside influences to worry about or contaminate findings. The site also has 0.25ha Pinot Noir as well as the 2.75ha of Chardonnay. Moving onto the winemaking this is a wine that is now raised in oak vats, 25hl each, rather than barrels. A move I get the impression Edouard and Nadine will expand. There is open lushness to the palate and a sweetness to the tip of the tongue (this seems a trait of the wine as the 2011 shares it later). The palate is generous but in check. One to wallow in!
Meursault 1er Cr Santenots - Santenots will tend to mean red wine and be Volnay, not Meursault, you gotta love Burgundy for complications...This site was planted in 2000, young therefore in many ways but with Biodynamics it was suggested a vineyard gets to a certain level of maturity (25yrs being something of a benchmark historically) that bit earlier. This was driven and had stones and minerality on the palate, then a more generous side before a lovely lemon finish. Really rather lovely.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Combettes - Every, of the three, times I tasted this I was very impressed. I like Combettes but it does sometimes try too hard, trying to prove it is "the" Grand Cru white that isn't. This though has all the drive of Puligny and then a little of the texture of may be Batard but certainly with a nod to the steelier Meursault. I couldn't resist the comment that maybe it is the "Grand Cru that Meursault doesn't have" as it borders that great village. Well, either way it is special and I most intrigued to hear Edouard say that in 2014 this saw/will see 50% barrel ageing and 50% oak vat ageing. A good way to counteract the potential over exuberance of this cru. Stunning.

Montrachet Grand Cru - Well then...having been staggered by a wine before Montrachet you wonder if the most famous white wine vineyard in the world will let you down? No chance. DJP own 0.6 hectares with one "batch" lying, more conventionally, east-west (gives structure and body) and one that is north-south (power).  This wine Edouard describes as Fort Knox on account of the observation that it is rather difficult to know how to get in! I do know where he is coming from and this is a wine rather than solely a white wine that will repay cellaring in spades but it is beautiful now as well, opulent lemon, long, weighty on the finish but not clumsily so...this is a wine to own.
Dinner in the Cellars of The Stafford...
Lunch & Dinner Wines
Meursault Clos de Mazeray Monopole Blanc 2011 - Interestingly we served this at the beginning and end of dinner and only at the end of lunch. I hate great red wines being served with only cheese when they deserve the main dish and also white does the cheese job better. I won't repeat the Clos de Mazeray notes of above. This though, plays perfectly to the loveliness (though probably never profundity) that is 2011 white Burgundy. Easy and sweetly delicious with acidity too but never too much of anything. Lemon and honey, some stones, a dash of saline then, when warmer, a little popcorn (salt not sugar). I could drink this all night long without ever feeling the need to concentrate.
The red "meal" wines
Beaune 1er Cru Clos de la Feguine Rouge 2007 - I'll start by saying I love 2007 reds when done well and this is in the ball park. Poise, elegance, fragrance and red fruit should be the watch words and this does that. Edouard commented that, in 2007, picking date was crucial. If too early you lost the maturity of the tannin. He also said how light extraction (and this was the lightest colour of the "meal" wines by some way) was crucial in order to avoid the green notes. The nose is gentle but confusingly pungent with herbs and oranges as well as red fruits, aromatic would be a good word, as much in common with great tea as a delicious wine. It is pretty but that seems patronising, it is a delicious wine that will hold well but I can't think I would like it more than I do now. A good illustration of why you should find producers you like and buy each the next few wines proved you need something to keep you busy and keep your hands off the gorgeous but patience deserving (demanding?) vintages.

Volnay 1er Cru Santenots 2005 - This is sited near to Volnay 1er Cru Champans and was picked quite early. It shows a certain age in its seriousness but not in its lack of freshness, it has a crunchy menthol and herbal sprightliness. There is a real power to this but never a heaviness. We had a discussion over lunch on when you would drink this and once I got passed my slightly glib comment of "it depends how you like it?" I think we settled on the fact that you would look again in 2-4 years and go from there. Lovely.

Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2009 - Edouard observed here that Corton is "the underestimated guy of Burgundy". The site they have is east-south-east facing and he likes to pick quite early and often uses whole-bunches here, 50% in 2009. A very interesting observation was of the note of cloves you get from Corton, I like cloves! There is a lovely richness to this, decadence almost, quite glossy as it is the only wine that has shown any oak, not worryingly so as it'll soon disappear into the wine. Opulent but very correct, becomes a little more savoury with air, some bacon and what I described as sweaty spices...oh how I would love to see where this is in 5 years.

Chambertin Grand Cru 2010 - They have, including their Clos de Beze, almost a hectare here and they make essentially two wines, one from the older vines (generally 65yrs +) and one, that often gets declassified to Gevrey-Chambertin, from the younger vines. This is an intense wine, really beautiful but also brooding. There is meat and spices and a delightfully savoury, saline edge that make note writing very hard. Completeness is probably the word to use. Edouard was interesting on the differences between '05, '09 & '10 he said in  both of the former the key thing was to pick relatively early, don't wait for too much ripeness. Whereas in the later the acidity is the key. Whichever vintages you might think you prefer they are going to be quite a trio to follow.

A really splendid few days!!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Seeing in 2016!

I have come to really enjoy New Year's Eve. We have the same couple of families around and just eat and drink. There is now the odd girlfriend joining here and there but essentially it is the same each year. We always host which means I can select the wines. One of my quests of recent times is to get more and more people appreciating the variety and quality of many whites. For food Mrs H did two spectacularly large and brilliant potato Dauphinoises to accompany a vat of green beans with three lovely hams, the nibbles and puddings arriving with the guests.
The line-up I chose started with the cool complexity of Scharzhof Riesling 2009, Egon Muller. It was my last bottle of this which was a shame. It has real balance and is off-dry with nice gentle fruit, it seemed to go down well. Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2011, Vincent Dampt certainly surprised a few who thought Chablis was a very dry, slightly astringent style. I love Vincent's wines and buy them a lot, I hadn't had any of the 2011's for a while, this 2011 was lovely and balanced, totally open now, as most of them seem to be. We stayed in Burgundy and had the opulent, slightly toasty and showy Saint-Aubin 2012 from Francois Carillon, this from his third vintage on his own. There is an intense ripeness to a lot of the 2012's I think. The pinnacle of the Burgs was Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2004, Bonneau du Martray - there are really variable bottles of this wine, entirely down to cork supplier. The estate seems to have a cracking record from 2006 onwards and pre 1995 but in between there is a mix. This bottle, I am delighted to say, was electric, so poised and getting better and better with air, a lovely bit of reduction. One final white is a wine I hope I will keep a few bottles of Que Bonito Cacareaba 2011, Benjamin Romeo as it is a fascinating wine, rich, toasted and juicy. Made from a field blend of old vine fruit in Rioja. It changes more than most wines as it warms up and could almost be served as a red wine that happens to be white.
Stu had dropped a bottle of Duhart-Milon 2004 off with us about a month before so I decided we would have it alongside the Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2004, I know the Carmes well and this wasn't a particularly vibrant bottle of it, a little dull. The Duhart was exactly what you would hope for, some of the iron and savouriness of Pauillac balanced by the ease of the 2004 vintage. A fun pair but the Duhart winning pretty comfortably by a stoppage in the late rounds. Although we moved on to the Sauternes and Port we did dip in and out of the magnum of Cotes du Rhone 2012, Domaine Charvin during the rest of the night and very good it is. I find southern Rhone 2012 to be a little bit of a gem. People don't seem to speak about it but I think it is pretty serious.
The Corney & Barrow Sauternes 2010 from a half was delicious, opulent, not overly complex but this and the other half I had over Christmas were both lovely. In many ways the wine I had been most looking forward to was the Noval 1963. A gift from a kind customer and friend. It was interesting as well as just lovely in quality. Really quite light in colour, think aged tawny, when poured through muslin as the cork disintegrated. The wine grew in depth and structure with air which I've not come across. It was always fruited with delicate sweetness and just a joy to drink. I've had a few bottles of mature port ('63/'66/'70) recently and it really id pretty joyous stuff...a missed opportunity by many.

A fun evening with friends as we saw in 2016...
Mr B liking the Noval 1963
and Stu too
The whole gang...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Burgundy Pairs - 2009 and 2010...Coche, Rousseau, Clos de tart...that sort of thing...

2009 & 2010 Burgundy Pairs – Zucca 29/10/15
I'm not quite sure how I missed this blog but I've only just realised that I didn't actually get my notes written up. This is a tasting that I will want to look back at so I think "better late that never" justifies this very tardy posting. Mr East was the kind organiser, for which many thanks, the dinner was a trade affair with one notable exception who arguably drinks better than the rest of the trade put together. The brief was simple; bring two bottles of the same wine, one from 2009 and one from 2010.

For a better write up (with the wines fresh in his mind) have a look at the post by my friend Joss on his blog. The location was Zucca and for me it followed a rather liquid lunch, also a Zucca (I did get back to my desk in between), so my notes are not quite as "robust" as they might be. Plenty has been written about the growing seasons and the perceived styles of wines from 2009 and 2010 so it was interesting to get to taste things side by side.

We started with a Gosset Celebris 2002 from magnum. I have always liked Gosset as a house finding the style to be a good middle ground between the finesse and focus of the Blanc de Blancs houses and the more generous, biscuity style of the Pinot noir orientated producers. This though is 2002 and in magnum, it has a long way to go, briney and almost Chablis like this is moreish and all the better for it. Even in bottle it'll repay another 3-5 years.

We were then into the meat and drink of the evening, whites then reds. First wine was:

Meursault Poruzots 1er Cru, Maison Deux Montille - the 2009 I noted this as generous, slightly degraded with a lush open texture, enjoyable if not massively complex. The 2010 was, as you might expect, steelier, more saline, minerality to the fore. Good texture. "Tonight" I might drink the 2009 half the time but I'd want to own the 2010.

A rare combination.
Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru from Boisson-Vadot - was up next. I am lucky enough to be getting more and more exposure to the wines from this producer, almost always in company with many of the friends at this table which tells it's own tale. The reputation is of being an aspiring "School of Coche" style. The 2009 is a wine with nuttiness, a waxy generous texture whilst being big and pretty bold. It is also kept in a framework that makes it complete enough. The 2010 was pretty spot on it has to be said, driven but not so tight as to miss the point of being Meursault...really enjoyable, a quality wine. It was definitely a harder wine to write a note on which I often take as a positive.

Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru, Coche-Dury - To follow Boisson-Vadot with the very "same" wines from Coche is quite a treat. There was a contrast though which was thought provoking and pattern-breaking. The 2009 in this pairing was better than the 2010. Now there was some questionning of the quality of the 2010 bottle but on the grounds that it was not corked and not oxized I feel that (for now, though god only knows if/when I'll ever have it again) I shouldn't just say "not valid". The 2009 was great, open but with good focus, reduced and with that lovely (if you like it as I do) whiff of gunpowder and struck match. There is a school of thought that with Coche being an early picker he over performs the perception of vintages that are often described as "warm" or even "hot". He certainly seems to have nailed 2005, not that this is news to anyone. The 2010 was too limey, too steely, then a little dry and ultimately had a slight dry toffee note...I just concluded "odd, odd, odd". So rather than worry about the 2010 I think it is worth noting the 2009 is exceptional and that to dismiss 2009 as a possibly sub par white wine vintage vintage is dangerous, generalisations alwasy are, especially in Burgundy.

That concluded the whites, there were a few pairs I had been tempted to take and will continue to look at whites from 2009 and 2010. My thoughts on 2009 and 2010 whites from this and other tastings are that the styles of the wines made in these years are more different than the pure quality assessment. In 10 years time would a tasting see 2010 hailed as better? Yes I think so BUT 2010 will always come with more expectation and sadly, human nature to blame here, more disappointments. For the next 2-5 years I would just serve 2009 whites cooler and undecanted, whereas 2010's I would decant and let breathe. If you don't put too much though into it there is a lot of fun to be had with 2009.
Start of the reds
The reds:
Volnay Champans 1er Cru, Lafon - I do not have that much experience with Lafon, an iconic producer, and was enthused to taste. I think I came out of this pair with more questions than answers. The main problems is that I love the Pinot-ness of Volnay. I would argue that actually if you look for the essence of Pinot then Volnay is the place to go, not to say it is my favourite village in Burgundy for reds but it one that far too many people overlook (to digress a little it is like people buying Barolo and ignoring Barbaresco). The 2009 was a wine I would never has called as Pinot let alone Burgundy. Minty, rich, savoury, with high acidity, this was more Brunello-like than anything. I would love to try this as an older wine. I have a feeling, more a gut feel, that it may get to "mature" status quickly but then actually mellow nicely. The 2010 had the same weight but more focus, still a shade crude for me and certainly a wine with a frame that would suit Gevrey rather than Volnay.

Volnay Champans 1er Cru from d’Angerville - Bias aside this is more the Volnay I know. The 2009 smacked of a wine made to be deliberately toned down. You might expect the warmer 2009 vintage to produce a bigger wine but with this as a pair the 2010 had the slightly darker fruit and the 2009 was redder, glossier, may be more feminine. The 2010 is, for me, comfortably the greater wine here. Refined and long with lovely focus and minerality, this is persistent and impresive.

Pommard Clos des Epeneaux 1er Cru by Comte Armand - This 2009 played well to the vintage character, it was opulent and slightly "slutty", a little glossy with oak showing but not too much. The 2010 was more saturated with fruit, moreish and mouthwatering, worthy of good ageing. Whilst I haven't written masses here I was very impressed with this pair.

Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Rousseau - We had a few issues in voting on the next two pairs - a good "1st world problem". I was slightly out on my own in preferring the 2009, slightly as a means of being contrary but I think I just preferred it. The 2009 so enjoyable to drink right now, ripe but correctly so, a lovely salinity to this and just a delicious meld of red and black fruit. The 2010 had an element of star anise and some spice, this was a shade darker of fruit. A stunning pair and one that proves that quality producers do their stuff every year.

Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St Jacques 1er Cru by Fourrier - I'd love to try more Fourrier. The 2009 was a little like Burgundy on steroids which I think is how a few people perceive the vintage and if there is balance this is not an issue. There is density to this and a certain boldness too. The 2010 is lovely real Grand Cru stuff, the structure of dark fruit with the freshness of red fruit...pretty smart!

Clos de Tart Grand Cru - This wasn't long after Clos de Tart day that I wrote up. I agree with Joss' comments that these might have shown better earlier in the flights. The development over the course of Sylvain Pitiot's time at Clos de Tart has been towards purity and elegance over power. This bottle of 2009 I didn't think was showing quite as well as some but was still decent. The 2010 I think is a very very fine bottle with freshness and more red ruit than you might expect as well a little spice. A wine I really look forward to following over the next few decades.

My conclusions on the reds are not that different from the whites. Burgundy as ever is all about the producer and their interpretation of the vintage. If you bought 2009's and 2010's from producers you like, you did the right thing.

I haven't mentioned the food, this was Zucca, so it was good. The chat was, as ever, as much fun as you make it. These dinners always act to remind me, in case I forget, what a fun trade it is that we all work in...well done all...there was chat of a 2009/2010 Bordeaux follow up...