WINE OF THE MONTH
Each month I select a bottle of fine mature Burgundy which has come my way recently. Not necessarily a grand cru, (though why not?) for I do not drink grands crus every day, but something worthy of being given an accolade.
Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noellat
I first began calling on Alain Hudelot in 1983 or so. At that time he didn't export much. It was Alexis Lichine, who bought wine from him in bulk, who put me on to Hudelot. I liked the man. I liked his wines. And what an array there was: Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Clos de Vougeot, three of the best Vosne premiers crus (but aren't they all good, I hear you cry) and much more. Though in, as you would expect, small quantities. But not too small.
There are 28 ares of Richebourg, at the north end, overlooking Suchots. This will make three or four casks. This 1990 is fullish, fragrant, ripe and intense. There is lovely, smooth, balanced fruit and plenty of vigour. A delicious wine.
Domaine De Chevalier Blanc, 1983
A Bordeaux for a change, and an example of a white wine which will keep.
Nevertheless, it was with a certain trepidation that I opened this, the last of my bottles. Was 34 years a bit too much to ask?
In fact the wine is remarkably fresh. The colour is full but very youthful; and there is not even a hint of any age on the nose. It is still very concentrated, subtle and multi-dimensional on the palate, with only the merest hint of oak, and a splendidly long complex finish. A really fine wine, and a tribute to how marvelous top white Bordeaux can be. Why don't more Graves growers make white wines like this?.
This is a most delicious wine. Indeed a great bottle. Like many of the very finest, I suspect that, once softened, it has not aged further, and has remained, and will remain, just as is is for some time to come.
It is fullish, smooth and silky, intense, fresh and with the most lovely combination of red and black fruit. The follow through is very pure, very elegant, very complex, very concentrated and very lovely. Quite brilliant !
Domaine Robert Arnoux
Pascal Lachaux, son-in-law and heir of Robert Arnoux, produces very sophisticated wines: rich, fullish, gently oaky and with plenty of class. The domaine owns 35 ares of Romanée-Saint-Vivant, down at the southern end below those of Sylvain Cathiard.
This 1999 is a wine of considerable distinction. It drinks beautifully now, but there is absolutely no hurry to finish it up. A great Burgundy.
Nuits Saint Georges, Aux Boudots, 1996
Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron
Many of the Confuron vineyards run alongside those of the Domaine Leroy, as both have their origins in what must have been, in its hey-day, a splendidly extensive estate belonging to the Noëllat family. Alain and Sophie Meunier, herself a Noëllat descendant, run this domaine from modern premises in Prémaux, and make clean, gently oaky, concentrated and intense wines; elegant rather than blockbusters. This is delicious. You could hold it for at least another decade.
Clos De Vougeot, 1995
Domaine Denis Mortet
The Mortet domaine's 15 ares of Clos de Vougeot lie up in the extreme north-east corner of the climat; not, it has to be admitted, in the choicest part of this vineyard. Yet, from the early 1990s onwards, following the split between the late Denis and his brother Thierry, this has been regularly one of the best Clos de Vougeots of the vintage.
Full, firm, rich and balanced, with plenty of backbone and grip, this 1995 is now in its prime, but will keep admirably.
Richebourg, 1999, Domaine Anne Gros
A really fine bottle this month: full, rich, backward and concentrated; above all persistent, profound and harmonious. The finish is splendidly long and silky-smooth. It is barely ready, even after 16 years, and can still be held for ages.
An aristocratic wine. Brilliant ! Brilliant ! Brilliant !
Volnay Santenots Du Milieu, 1990
Domaine Des Comtes Lafon
Dominique Lafon's piece of Santenots is, as the label says, in the middle of this climat, the best bit. And he possesses 3.5 of the 8.0 hectares of this sub-plot. Arguably – Michel Lafarge fans would contest this – it produces Volnay's best wine. This 1990 is still a big, virile bottle; the second glass out of the bottle being a distinct improvement on the first. There is still a little unresolved tannin here at first. But it is, au fond, a very lovely fragrant wine. It will still keep for ages.
Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier
Only a village wine. But what a village wine ! This is as good as many a top premier cru. Pure, fragrant, intense, harmonious and utterly beautiful: it shows not a trace of age. Here we have all the joyous fruit we search for – often in vain – in the wines of Chambolle. It is very lovely. JFM is a master wine-maker.
Nuits Saints Georges Les Boudots, 1998
Domaine Jean Grivot
Les Boudots, at the north of Nuits-Saint-Georges, marches with Malconsorts, at the southern end of the commune of Vosne-Romanée, and not surprisingly, produces a wine with a hint of this adjacent village. There is the muscularity of Nuits, but touched with the firm purity of Vosne. You find it here: this wine is quite tannic, and still, after more than 15 years, has a grip and a dimension to accompany the richness of the fruit. Etienne Grivot makes wine of great purity. This is a very fine bottle.
Savigny Les Beaune, Les Lavieres, 1993
Domaine Chandon De Briailles
Claude de Nicolay has been responsible for the wines here since about 1983, and the domaine has been fully bio-dynamic since about the time of this vintage. Vinified with the stems, and matured in this case with only a modicum of new oak, this Savigny comes low down in the domaine's hierarchy after several splendid Cortons, but is nevertheless a wine of elegance, fragrance, succulence and balance. Fully mature, and without a touch of undue age, nor any undue hint of the stems, this is an example of how delightful – and splendid value - a 'lesser' wine of the Côte de Beaune can be.
Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos Des Ruchottes, 1990
Domaine Armand Rousseau
The firm of Thomas-Bassot used to own just over two hectares of Ruchottes-Chambertin. The family sold this when they wound up the company after the death of the heir apparent in a car crash in 1976 and the buyers were Dr. Georges Mugneret of Vosne-Romanée, a M. Bonnefond of Rouen, who set up a share-cropping arrangement with Christophe Roumier of Chambolle-Musogny, and Charles Rousseau, who acquired just over a full hectare, making him the largest owner in this steep, much fragmented vineyard. Rousseau has the exclusivity of the Clos des Ruchottes.
Ruchottes lies above Mazis, in leaner, cooler soil, and the wine can be correspondingly a little austere. This, however, from the celebrated and warm 1990 vintage, is splendidly lush and generous. Even at 25 years there is not a trace of age about it. A very fine wine.
Vosne-Romanee, Les Suchots, 1996
Domaine Gerard Mugneret
There are several Mugnerets in the village of Vosne-Romanée. Gérard is a first cousin of the Georges Mugneret family, and was for a time a share cropper of some of their vineyards. This wine, though, is exclusively his; all of 38 ares. It is made in an impeccably neat cellar, completely de-stemmed, vinified at temperatures which are allowed to climb to 34°, and given one third new oak.
The result, in 1996, is a wine which is a bit austere at first – a signature of the vintage – but rapidly opens out to give you a fragrant, delicate, elegant wine with no lack of depth and substance. Very long on the palate, and very pure. Lovely.
Domaine Frederic Esmonin
Frederic Esmonin's wines can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes thay are a bit four-square; muddy; lacking succulence. This, however, is a winner. Full bodied, yet not too tannic, with a delightful fruit and balance, and, twenty years old, no sign of age. You can still keep this.
Alsace, Riesling Clos Sainte Hune, 1983
F. E. Trimbach
Clos Sainte Hune, below the village of Hunawihr, and a monopole belonging to Trimbach, is the greatest site for dry Riesling in the world. The 1983 is perhaps the best wine they have ever produced. At 32 years of age, there is not even the merest hint of decay. The wine is full-bodied, rich and profound, splendidly concentrated and harmonious. Well-nigh perfect.
I drank this, my last bottle – unless I have mis-binned the 15 or so Clos Sainte Hune examples in my cellar (keep your fingers crossed for me !) for Christmas. Utter delight – like listening to Clara Haskill play a late Mozart piano concerto.
Gevrey-Chambertin, Lavaux Saint-Jacques, 1995
Domaine Claude Dugat
In my view the best of the Gevrey premiers crus lie above the village: Clos Saint-Jacques and its neighbours. Lavaux and Cazetiers vie for second place after Clos Saint-Jacques itself. I have had a soft spot for Lavaux since I sold a 1964 while at the Wine Society in the late 1960s. The wine was shipped in cask from Remoissenet, and I have always wondered who was the original supplier. Was it one of the Dugats of that generation?
This is a delicate wine for a Gevrey and a 1995. Intense and succulent and medium full, it is now fully at its peak, and should not be kept for too long. But is lovely and naturally sweet, fresh and stylish. A fine mature Burgundy.
Clos Vougeot, Grand Maupertuis, 2006
Domaine Michel Gros
Following the 2006s last month, here is another 2006 Clos Vougeot (Michel Gros does not spell the grand cru with a de), and from a particularly favoured site (next to cousin Anne) behind the Château.
It is an unexpectedly lovely wine, with a natural sweetness at the end which is rare in this vintage. Ready but will keep well.
Clos De Vougeot, Domaine Gros Frere Et Soeur, 2006
Grands Echezeaux, Domaine Gros Frere Et Soeur, 2006
Richebourg, Gros Frere Et Soeur, 2006
Three wines this month. I have never been particularly enthusiastic about the 2006 reds. They generally lack elegance and succulence. These three are different, however, and much more commendable. They are certainly quite sturdy, but the tannins are ripe and the wines are rich. They will still benefit from further aging. Naturally the Richebourg is the finest, as well as the most backward. I preferred the Grands Echézeaux to the Clos de Vougeot, but only just.
Puligny-Montrachet, Les Demoiselles 2002
Domaine Michel Colin-Deleger
I have probably had more problems with prematurely oxidized bottles of vintages from the late 1990s from Michel Colin-Deleger than with anyone else: to the extent that I gave up ordering his wines in the local restaurants. I did buy this wine, however, and I have been following its progress over the years. At first, like many top 2002s, it was splendid. As it has aged, while not showing premature oxidation, it has lost some of its initial sparkle. Today it is a 'fine' (just) example of white Burgundy. Rich, nutty, fullish and balanced. Drink it soon though. I now have two bottles left. I'll drink them by Christmas.
Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg
One of the stars of my Ten Year On tasting in June was a magnum of this wine, as elegant as the three Mugneret ladies who produce it. Medium-full body. Still a bit closed. Gently oaky. But above all ripe, harmonious and stylish. Very high quality fruit here. Can just about be touched now. But better kept another five years.
Echezeaux, Les Lochausses, 2012
Domaine Anne Gros
When I was in Milwaukee in April, the local Sous-Commanderie of the Chevaliers de Tastevin invited me to present a tasting of Burgundy and then join them for a Paulée, where everyone brings along a bottle from their cellar which is then circulated round the table. This was the youngest of the wines. And the best.
Not a blockbuster, I noted, but splendidly ripe, rich and profound. Very lovely pure fruit. Drink from 2022.
Domaine Christophe Roumier
Here is a wine of great refinement. It is by no means a large wine. It is even quite delicate, with an almost Chambolle-Musigny touch. It is now mellow, but concentrated, intense and persistent, with great complexity and finesse. Delicious. It can still be kept. Now to 2020.
Charmes Chambertin 1995
Domaine Claude Dugat
Fine colour, still very young. Delicious nose. Pure, refined, concentrated and profound. Still with a underlying touch of oak. On the palate full bodied, rich and complex. Lovely long, lingering finish. A very impressive wine which will still keep for ages.
Vosne-Romanee, Les Beaux-Monts, 1999
Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron
Large, heavy, dark bottle. Splendid nose. Rich, full, pure, gently oaky, harmonious and very profound. This is the sort of Beaux-Monts which would put many an Echézeaux in the shade. Splendid fruit. Very lovely. Only just ready. Now-2030.
Good colour: still very youthful. Firm, but rich on the nose with at first a slightly hard tannic aspect, but this mellowed as the wine developed in the glass. Full and rich. Masculine. Good grip. Plenty of depth and dimension, and most agreeable after it had softened up a bit. Not great, but fine. Still has plenty of life. Now-2020 plus.
Beaune, Clos des Ursules, 2002, Louis Jadot
Beaune, Clos des Coucherias, 2002, Louis Jadot
Two wines this month. These are the two best premier cru Beaunes in the Jadot portfolio, and both are monopolies. The first lies in the Vignes Franches, under Clos des Mouches on the Pommard side of the vineyard, while Coucherias is located above the Grèves just on the northern side of the road which leans up to the Hautes Côtes in the centre of the appéllation. These are usually my favorites among the dozen or so first growths that Jadot have to offer, and in 2002 I bought both.
The former is well coloured, rich and sturdy for a Beaune; it shows its Pommard proximity. The second is more fragrant – ethereal even – and very elegant and persistent. Both are delicous now, but will keep for at least a decade.
Domaine Denis Bachelet
Deep colour, now just about mature. Glorious nose; a touch of oak, plus the most sumptuous, rich, concentrated fruit. Full, balanced and mellow. Absolutely in its prime now, but will keep well. A glorious bottle. A great wine.
Volnay, Santenots du Milieu, 1998
Domaine des Comtes Lafon
There are few domaines (as opposed to merchants) who can claim to be equally proficient in white than in red - and vice versa. One is the Domaines des Comtes Lafon. With recent acquisitions, Lafon can now offer all the white Meursault premiers crus. His major red wine is his lion's share of the best part of Santenots, Le Milieu.
This 1998 has a vigorous, mature colour. Is firm and fragrant on the nose, and rich and silky and long on the palate. A delicious high quality wine for drinking now. No hurry to finish it up.
Volnay, Clos Des Ducs, 1993
Domaine Marquis D'angerville
Here is a wine I would instantly call fragrant. The wine is a monopoly and comes from the back garden of the domaine, high up under the hills, away from the rest of the most renowned premiers crus.
Fully ready, as it should be after more than twenty years in bottle, yet not a bit lacking in vigour, we have a wine which has the most lovely, gentle yet persistent fruit. There is nothing a bit lean about this wine. It is delicious.
Clos De Vougeot, 1999
Domaine Robert Arnoux
While this still says Robert Arnoux on the label, the wine was made by the late Robert's son-in-law Pascal Lachaux, and more recent vintages sell under the Lachaux-Arnoux name. This is an important domaine, based on the main road in Vosne-Romanée, and with holdings in Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Echezeaux and a number of premiers crus as well as in Clos de Vougeot itself. Biological culture, low yields, total destemming and quite a lot of new oak is the recipe here, and a well-coloured, rich, meaty but classy wine is the result. It will still last a decade or more.
Courtesy of John Marsh
So there I was, in balmy weather at the end of August on the shores of Lake Erie, facing four vintages – 2005, 2002, 1999, and 1996 – of the best that Jean-Francois Coche-Dury and his son Raphael have to offer. They own 34 ares, enough for five casks in a normal vintage, and the vines could not be better placed. By the time the wine emerges from the pipe-line at the retail level it is frighteningly high priced, and you may be tempted into wondering whether it is worth it.
On the basis of my recent experience, the answer is yes. The 2005 is an infant. Leave it alone until 2020 or later. The 2002 I adore. What concentration! What energy! Again is still needs to be held. The 1999 approaches its zenith; ample, succulent, surprisingly youthful for a wine of 15 years age, and showing absolutely no trace of the high volumes produced in this vintage (though not by the Messrs Coche, I'm sure). Finally the 1996. Here we can appreciate a fully mature wine, with a richness and a depth of impressive proportions.
In all, a privilege. Long live great wine and the chance to enjoy them in the company of good friends and fine food.
Vosne-Romanee, Clos De Reas, 2006
Domaine Michel Gros
Michel Gros is one of Burgundy's master wine-makers, and this Premier Cru is his monopoly. 2006 was a good if not great year, but if carefully vinified – not too extracted so as to let all the fruit spring out to the fore – has resulted in lovely bottles, ready now.
This wine is medium bodied, fragrant and succulent, round, fresh and juicy. Not a great wine, but thoroughly beguiling. It will last until 2020.
Volnay, Taillepieds, Domaine Marquis D'angerville, 1999
In many cases bottles of the 1999 vintage can be accused of being more 1999 than a wine of its particular provenance: the vintage is masked by the terroir. (This is not to say that it may not be delicious!). But here we have a wine which is a true Volnay, as well as being as rich and as concentrated as one might expect.
Taillepieds lies in the heart of the best part of Volnay. Clos de Chênes is upslope. The 60 Ouvrées of the Caillerets just on the other side of the road. The wine is firmer than the latter; more refined than the former. Here is a lovely, elegant, fragrant, harmonious wine. Now ready, but you could confidently hold on to it for another decade.
Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Caillerets, 2008
I find it odd, selfish and dispiriting that the vast majority of the comments on recent Burgundies concentrate merely on the super-stars – as if it needs us, the critics, to point out that the wines of such as the DRC are exceptional. Surely that can be taken for granted? I have always considered that the wine-writer's role is to earmark those who are less well renowned. Their wines, after all, will be often very much less expensive. We should be pointing out these values. When one well-known critic was recently asked why he never (yes, never!) visited the Domaine Lamy-Pillot the retort was: 'I havn't the time.' Shame on you, sir!
For the record, this wine, which I drank with American friends in a restaurant in Beaune last week, is simply delicious: crisp, pure, complex and splendidly elegant. The man who has been in charge for the last decade or more is Sebastian Caillat, son-in-law of Réné Lamy. He does a super job, as do another dozen or so of his peers in the village (Chassagne) whose wines are also never assessed by the press.
Vosne-Romanée, Aux Malconsorts, 1998
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard
Continuing my research into the 1998s (see WOTM passim) here is a very lovely wine indeed.
Cathiard owns 74 ares of Malconsorts, half way up the slope, enough for nine or ten barrels. The vines are old. The wine is profound, the tannins soft yet vigorous, and the fruit balanced, elegant and simply delicious. This is a wine of great finesse and intensity: round and naturally sweet and very long indeed on the palate. Enjoy now or keep another ten years. Outstanding quality! Well-nigh perfect!
Domaine Simon Bize
In honour of Patrick Bize, who sadly died six months ago, I opened this bottle, alongside a Vosne-Romanée, Clos de Réas, 2007, from Michel Gros. Michel's wine was good, but no more than that. The Bize wine, however, had a sweetness, a richness and a depth which was a real surprise for this vintage, a year which offers little to get really excited about.
The domaine farms 40 ares in the Latricières, enough for six or seven casks. The wine is made using some of the stems, and some 30 percent new oak, and bottled after 18 months. This 2007 is still very vigorous. You could keep it until 2020. A lovely bottle.
Domaine Denis Bachelet
The 1998s are now in their prime, and very attractive they are. I bought quite a lot, and not being a rich man, bought mainly in six packs. Moreover, the domaines, with not much of the top wines on offer, preferred me to buy six and not twelve.
Denis Bachelet owns 43 ares – enough for six or seven casks – of Charmes-Chambertin in two parcels in the best part of the climat. The vines are old and the quality is very high indeed; very often the best Charmes-Chambertin of the vintage. This 1998 is fullish in body, rich and naturally sweet, harmonious, vigorous and very complex. Ready, but it will keep another decade. Delicious!
Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos Saint-Jacques, 1997
Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils
Here is proof that today you will find delicious bottles; even in the least touted vintages, provided you stick to the best growers and climats.
This wine is soft, gently oaky, attractive and well-balanced. It doesn't have the greatest backbone and depth, but it is a thoroughly pleasant, classy wine. You could still keep it a few years.
Riesling, Clos Saint Hune, 1985, Trimbach
For a change, a wine from Alsace – but what a wine!
The Clos Sainte Hune comes from the limestone grand cru of Rosacker in Hunawihr, just down the road from the Trimbach headquarters in Ribeauvillé. I have always contended that fine old riesling is the best wine to drink with smoked salmon, and so I picked out one of my last bottles of the 1985 for Christmas. Fully mature, of course, but with splendid energy and depth. Very delicious indeed. While more and more fine white Burgundies, even those not prematurely oxidised, seem to give up the ghost after a dozen or so vintages, it is gratifying to be able to worship at the other end of a glass of a vigorous (almost) thirty year old riesling.