Monday, November 06, 2017

Marsannay "Les Longeroies" 2009, Bruno Clair

Poor little Marsannay at the northern tip of the Cote de Nuits is not widely respected. It's a small village, it has no premiers or grands crus and often suffers with a lack of ripeness if the summer is cool and damp. To try and distinguish itself, the vignerons specialize in a rosé. Despite these handicaps, it is a wonderful appellation to buy in warm vintages from reliable producers. And that was definitely the case in 2009. I have opened this Marsannay 2009 from the always-reliable Domaine Bruno Clair at the peak of its powers. A deep black cherry and plum colour announces a pinot with good ripe berry fruit and structure. The aspect is more Vosne than Marsannay. A bouquet of plum, cherry, eucalyptus, violets and rosehip is very engaging. There is pinot purity here. The real joy is on the palate as this combines rich black cherry with mature oak tannins and a ripe plum and cooked orange finish. Scores 28/30 for a Marsannay. 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Volnay 2010, Comte Armand

There is an argument to be made that 2010 is, with 2015, one of the two finest vintages for red Burgundy in the last decade. These wines have flesh and poise which is a rare combination. From the famous Domaine Comte Armand in Pommard this 2010 Volnay has a medium red cherry colour which has a clay tinge on the rim. Sweet cherry nose followed by violets, cooked orange, star anise, wet slate, hawthorn, late summer hay and a waft of truffle. A tremendously enjoyable bouquet! Medium plus acidity, ripe red apple, medium to light body, its bright but not sharp, more tangy than other 2010s I have tried but with fine tannins. Oozes quality and careful husbandry of the vineyards. Lacks a bit of fruit content and depth on the palate. Glad five more bottles remain... 

Fixin "Les Herbues" 2008, Michel Defrance

I have always been a fan of the 2008 vintage since it exhibits pinot characteristics with pinpoint accuracy and has enabled wines to evolve gracefully and with added complexity every year. There is good balance between aromatic richness and fruit ripeness. Wines like this from a modest domaine in Fixin sum up the appeal of the vintage. A good plum colour announces a wine with earthy, black cherry, portabello mushroom and roast meat aromas. The palate has plum fruit, savoury tannins, blackberries, leather and tangy undertones. This is a true Fixin and impressively ripe for 2008 from the northern tip of the Cote d'Or. At its peak of evolution this is a very enjoyable wine.  

Anderson Valley 2013, Ant Hill Farms

On my recent return to NYC I dropped into Flatiron Wines which has a tremendous selection of pinots. As I have heard rumours that California wine-makers have realized that masses of ripe jammy fruit and potent alcohol do not a fine wine make, I thought I'd try something new. This Anderson Valley 2013 pinot from Any Hill Farms is a semi-opaque, black cherry colour. Its viscous yet has a curiously watery rim, murky but not thick and a very slight spritz. Not ideal! Immediately open plum and cherry nose which is ripe to over-ripe. Touch of strawberry jam. Exhibits the aromas of a warm to very warm region. Very ripe blueberry. Sweet vanilla and ends on egg custard. Medium plus fruit, medium velvety tannins with low granularity. Flavour profile reminiscent of summer pudding. Not much evolution on the nose away from the very ripe berry and black/red tree fruits. Finishes on a strawberry coulis and baked clafoutis (cherry pudding) taste. What can I say? Enjoyable wine but still very much a prisoner of the very warm region and I am doubtful that it is possible to produce pinots with real finesse in this region. It's not an old world/new world thing given what has been achieved in Central Otago. It's just terroir and climate.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Meursault 1er Cru "Les Poruzots" 2004, Chateau de Puligny

My house in Puligny sits in the grounds of the Chateau de Puligny and I bought this bottle back in 2009 from the previous owners. Recently, the domaine has been acquired by a parvenu from Volnay! How awful... it's truly a tragedy. I would agree with everyone who reads this that cellaring a bottle of 2004 white Burgundy from one of the lesser Meursault premiers crus is not sensible. First world problem. This 2004 Meursault 1er Cru has a nose dominated by lemon with a halo of vanilla. There is cantaloupe, courgette, butter, meadow grass, hay. It develops towards cooked egg white, white cabbage and honeysuckle. A fascinating harvest festival of fruit, vegetables and protein! Reflecting the Meursault terroir this 2004 has a creamy texture and is perfectly integrated. Superb wine-making skills combined with the freshness of the 2004 vintage have resulted in a 13 year old wine which still has medium acidity, excellent balance, length, a scrape of chalk, and Cote d'Or limestone on the cheeks. Truly a fine wine with a good thick texture and fruit weight. When I popped the cork I feared I would be drinking a dessicated fossil but I discovered a fresh wonder. 

Saint-Aubin 1er Cru "Derriere Chez Edouard" VV 2014, Hubert Lamy

The 2014 vintage in Burgundy was probably the most challenging for pinot since 2004. I wonder what will happen in 2024? This was a vintage with a pleasant spring and a wet and cool summer. Whilst conditions improved in late August and September, the lack of heat and sun through the middle of summer has resulted in wines that lack ripeness. Well situated sites in villages like Volnay and Pommard (at least those not pummelled by hail) will have achieved full phenolic ripeness. But sites at higher altitudes or with a less southerly exposition, like this Saint-Aubin, didn't quite achieve full ripeness. This 2014 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru from the well-respected Hubert Lamy domaine run by Olivier Lamy now for many years has a bright ruby colour. The nose is an explosion of fresh berry and red tree fruit fruit with a noticeable oak edge. The red cherry and red plum melds with licorice and over a few minutes the nose becomes sweeter with a dab of raspberry and red apple. Medium plus acidity on the palate, it's definitely tangy, the tannins show some rusticity, overall a bright and lively wine. Softened overnight in the bottle which suggests another 2-3 years of bottle age will result in a more enjoyable wine. I'm missing the impact of the vieilles vignes which usually adds depth and ripeness. I'm not complaining but nor am I thrilled. 

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru "La Grande Montagne" VV 2008, Bachelet-Ramonet

I have fond memories of the tasting at the Bachelet-Ramonet domaine in Chassagne when we were there in 2011. Madame would ask a question: "Qu'est ce que vous pensez de la Chassagne rouge 2008?". When I answered: "Aromes de fraise, un peu de cassis, un tout petit peu boise", Monsieur guffawed with laughter and cried out "Fraise! Fraise! Bah!". Hopefully this was just their jovial shtick rather than a blunt criticism of my tasting skills. This white Chassagne 1er Cru from the glorious vintage of 2008 is an absolute peach of a wine. A clean and consistent hay yellow colour introduces a fragrant nose of orange blossom, short crust pastry, icing sugar and pear juice. This Chassagne blanc stars on the palate. It is plump, yet has lovely balance from the perfect acidity of 2008. To boot there is a rich finish which is slightly dry showing the wine's maturity. Fresh and fleshy, not drying out. There is pear, there is almond there is a hint of hazelnut, cooked lemon, really delicious. This is a poised, perfectly mature wine with no flaws. And such a treasure given it is 9 years old. Brilliant.     

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Saint-Aubin "Les Castets" 2007, Hubert Lamy

The 2007 vintage was similar to 2011. A drab, damp summer followed an early and very warm spring. This tends to give wines an attractive bouquet, good acidity but a lack of body and fruit ripeness on the palate. Keeping a bottle of village quality Saint-Aubin for ten years in a vintage like 2007 is potentially risky, even from a very good producer. This 2007 Saint-Aubin has a thick ruby colour with a brown suede rim. It's smoky, with notes of dried fig, brambles and cloves. Wine-soaked peppercorns and a trace of star anise. A bonfire night wine with hints of gunpowder, smoke, leather. Tangy bramble fruit on the palate. As one would expect, the berry fruit and tannins are fully integrated. Medium plus acidity. Soft, savoury and starting to dry out. Leather tongue finish. A little sour. This Saint-Aubin has aged exceptionally well and offers an super bouquet of tertiary aromas whilst still having sufficient substance on the palate to accompany pheasant, pigeon or pintade. Scores 26/30 for a Saint-Aubin.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Marsannay "Clos du Roy" 2015, Ch de Marsannay

Tasted at the Justerini & Brooks annual Burgundy tasting as one would expect the "Clos du Roy" (the King's Close) is considered to be one of the best sites in Marsannay. This pinot has a good vibrant ruby colour. An appealing, soft nose of red cherry and red plum. Elements of violets and iodine pointing to good phenolic ripeness. Attractive cherry and raspberry fruit on the palate with impressive intensity for a Marsannay. Very good. Scores 23-25/30 for a Marsannay.

Marsannay "Les Favières" 2015, Ch de Marsannay

The most northerly of the Côte d'Or's vineyards is often over-looked by wine buyers since the village has no premiers crus and tends towards less impressive pinots. Hence the popularity of its rosé wine. But in a ripe year like 2015 Marsannay has the potential to be more complete and flavourful. This entry-level Marsannay has a decent berry nose, on the palate it is linear, tight, dominated by red currant and raspberry. Lacks a bit of charm and the mouthfeel is a little rustic. Scores 18-22/30 for a Marsannay.

Pommard 1er Cru "Clos des Epenots" 2015, Château de Meursault

A second red wine from the Ch de Meursault at the Justerini & Brooks tasting. This Pommard from one of the most sought after premier cru vineyards has a strong nutty bouquet ranging from hazelnuts to Brazil nuts. There is also raspberry and blood orange on the nose. Tight, structured, good length, ripe tannins. A good savoury Pommard. Possibly missing some riper red stone fruit given the rich vintage. Scores 19-21/30 for a Pommard premier cru.

Beaune 1er Cru "Les Trois Journaux" 2015, Château de Meursault

Having tasted the white wines from the Château de Meursault at the annual Justerini & Brooks tasting I found myself enjoying the wines but wasn't bowled over by the quality or style. I am more enthusiastic about this red Beaune 1er Cru which has an attractive floral nose, delicious ripe berry fruit, a good structure, medium plus tannins and a pleasing length. The price makes this a good value wine from the ripe and pricey 2015 vintage.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Champs Canet" 2015, Château de Meursault

Tasted at the annual Justerini & Brooks Burgundy tasting this Puligny 1er Cru from the Château de Meursault has a closed nose giving a few hints of vanilla and toast. Green apple flavour and a fresh mineral structure. There is no real length to this wine, its decent but not really exciting. Not sure where it's going. Scores 18-21/30 for a Puligny 1er Cru. 

Meursault "Clos Des Grands Charrons" Monopole 2015, Château de Meursault,

Tasted at the annual Justerini & Brooks Burgundy tasting where I discovered that Château de Meursault and Château de Marsannay have the same owner. Thirty per cent of this monopole vineyard's grapes are aged in new oak barrels giving a wine with vanilla, almond pip and lemon drizzle cake aromas. Relatively soft on the palate with a pleasant ripe lemon flavour. A nice wine reflective of the plump 2015 vintage. Scores 21-23/30 for a Meursault.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Referts" 2015, Etienne Sauzet

This Puligny premier cru typically has good concentration which means good ageing potential as evidenced by this 2008 tasted in 2014. The 2015 Puligny-Referts dpfrom Sauzet shows amazing quality. Pure, ripe citrus fruits ranging from lemon to pomelo to satsuma. Superb concentration, medium-plus acidity (possibly didn't have full malolactic fermentation). This wine has been designed like a piece of Cartier jewellery. Scores 25-27/30 for a Puligny 1er Cru. Cellar until 2020.

Puligny-Montrachet 2015, Etienne Sauzet

In a lot of people's minds the Sauzet Domaine is one of the big three Puligny producers along with Leflaive and Chartron by dint of their expansive vineyard holdings in premiers and grands crus. Tasted at the annual Justerini & Brooks Burgundy tasting this Puligny is fresh, crunchy and tightly wound. Minerality squared on the palate. Shows mastery of the ripe vintage to produce a classic Puligny style. Will require more ageing than most of the approachable 2015s. Very good but at this stage not exciting. Scores 23-25/30 for a Puligny.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Central Otago "Gibbston Valley Reserve" Pinot Noir 2014, Gibbston Valley

If the NZ wine authorities create official classifications for the seven districts in Central Otago I imagine they will have a headache dealing with a winery which is named after (and in a sense created) one of the districts. This reserve wine is produced primarily from the Schoolhouse vineyard. Reflecting the 14.5% alcohol this wine has a rich, unctuous plum colour. The aroma is heavy on the plums (ripe), with hints of tobacco leaf, sweet French thyme and black cherry lurking in the background. Lovely texture on the palate from superb black cherry fruit interwoven with ripe red apple freshness. This is a suave wine, think Frank Sinatra's voice in a glass, with integrated acidity, good fruit tannins, more substance from the oak without it protruding. This very successful pinot is ripe, long and incredibly tasty. At the price of NZ$120 (€81) from the cellar door.

Central Otago "Le Maitre" Pinot Noir 2015, Gibbston Valley

Planted in the mid-1980s this wine features a portrait of the founder of the Gibbston Valley winery. For people interested in understanding the future potential of the region this is one of the essential wines to collect due to the age of the vines compared to most other plantings. This pinot has a charming nose of mixed red berries accompanied by floral aromas of hawthorn, clover, orange blossom and honeysuckle.  Right cherry and raspberry flavours presented in an elegant structure with fine tannins reminiscent of a very good Chambolle premier cru. A really impressive wine among the top three tasted in the region. Cellar door price of NZ$100 (€68) which means it competes at high end premier cru and low end grand cru for the favour of your wallet.

Central Otago "Glenlee" Pinot Noir 2012, Gibbston Valley

Following on from the 2014 Glenlee this 2012 vintage shows significantly more evolution. The French oak barrels (220 litre version) have turned into notes of fudge, warm cat fur, vanilla and salted caramel. Wild strawberry and strawberry tart put in an olfactory appearance on this elegant and evolved nose. Medium acidity, fresh, saline. In a cooler year like 2012 the young vines have not produced sufficiently concentrated berries to merit the high volume of new oak resulting in an unbalanced wine dominated by oak aromas. All part of a learning process in this fascinating new region. 

Central Otago "Glenlee" Pinot Noir 2014, Gibbston Valley

Produced from vines in the Gibbston Valley near the old gold mining centre of Arrowtown this 2014 pinot has initial aromas of pine nut, cedar and red plums. There is a touch of strawberry and a hint of cooked orange. Lots of pretty berry fruit on the palate this is a more tangy wi evthan for example the less expensive Bannockburn benchmark from this winery. Bright raspberry and blood orange flavours  leave a long impression with a fresh finish and an elegant style. Medium to low tannins this is very different from the Schoolhouse 2014 produced from Bendigo grapes. The vines were only planted in 2003. Cellar door NZ$68.