By Juel Mahoney
It is not every morning you taste 12 Grand Cru vintages before 9.30am. But by Day 3 in Burgundy our taste buds had become laser sharp to the nuances in the vineyard and we were picking the difference between Clos-de-Beze from Bonnes Mares at twenty paces.
Although the nature of the 2010 vintage made it easier to distinguish vineyards; unlike 2009s powerful fruit, 2010 had a more distinguished taste of the vineyard: mineral was a word that kept coming up. So much so I was scrambling to find another word…
Thank you for the responses to my question on twitter, “Does anyone have another word for minerality?”
Flint, flinty, granite, stony…. stoned… not sure about that one. …
I had heard so many good things about Nicholas Potel both from winemakers (“He is a good man for Burgundy” said Nicholas Denogent on the first day) and he has plenty of goodwill with the best growers in Burgundy. His father initiated tasting groups of young people to exchange ideas, to come in and help with making of the wine and to choose their own barrels. I knew he had some tough times after the death of his father in 1996 and despite developing a good name for himself, parted ways with the label that still bears his name. You can still find wines from Nicholas Potel, but he now creates wines under the label Maison Roche de Bellene.
Nicholas Potel explained the 2010 vintage – “It is very much like 1991 (big and rich) but is more focused – like 2002 in glycerols, but better. A very fresh vintage, good acidity, balance and colour.”
From one legend to the next: Grandmaster of Meursault, Pierre Morey.
After spending time with Pierre Morey, it is almost inconceivable that there are no Grand Cru vineyards in Meursault. The top vineyards from Domaine Pierre Morey are benchmark wines and well-known to be equal to Leflaive – in fact, Pierre Morey was the head winemaker at Domaine Leflaive for 20 years, before focusing on his own winery.
When I asked him about it, he explained how in the 50′s there had been attempts to claim Perrieres vineyard but nothing eventuated. Domaine Pierre Morey’s Perrieres Meursault is rich and almost buttery, and even though it has a flinty core, it has an endless satin texture with no hint of acidity on the palate. Because some of the vineyard is being replanted, only 5 barrels are produced.
When we left the cellar, the rain began to pour. We were on our way to Chassagne-Montrachet at breakneck speed along the Routes des Grand Crus to Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard.
2010 is a classic vintage for Fontaine-Gagnard and Chassagne-Montrachet. The small berries at harvest created a very concentrated, powerful style of Chassagne-Montrachet, although this could never be called over-ripe. There is a clear line of acidity through the wines that bring to mind 2008 but, again, the wines showed great fruit concentration.
The Caillerets vineyard, planted in the 1960s, exemplified the style of the 2010 vintage. From a very stony plot of land, which had an early harvest, this is a very balanced wine between strict, linear minerality and sweet, full-bodied fruit.
After a morning of spectacular white Burgundy, lunch was spent in the car with ham sandwiches picked up from Carrefour supermarket while we waited outside Latour-Giraud.
Ah, the highs are high and the lows are low.
Again, it was a shock to see so little wine in the Latour-Giraud winery. For 2010, the white wine production is down by 40%. But what remains may be small in quantity but it is also high in quality: the Meursault-Genevrieres has a spicy enlivening nose with a crunchy white peach character on the palate. We also tried the 2009 vintage which shows the contrast between the two vintages. If you like fruit, go 2009: this is very opulent Meursault and is a real pleasure to drink now.
If the morning was not enough of Burgundy highlights, the afternoon upped the ante. Amy walked out of the next winery and exclaimed, “I feel like a changed woman!”
We descended into the 244-year-old cellars to taste wines at Fourrier.
Jean-Marie Fourrier studies how wine was made in Burgundy 50 years ago. This was a time when no one had knowledge of extraction and no new oak was used (“why the wines show different tannins and lighter colour”) and of course, way before carbonic maceration or racking.
He said, “I don’t make wine for scores, I make wine to drink. If I don’t sell the wine then have to drink it myself so might as well like it!”
Domaine Fourrier also looked half empty of barrels (down by 40% on average yearly yields). He even said he had to change the sorting table vibration settings because the fruit was so small this year (as small as peas) the fruit fell through.
We left on a high note tasting the incredible Fourrier Gevrey -Chambertin Clos St Jacques 1er Cru. Unfortunately this looks like it will be even more difficult to secure this year.
(A picture of my messy notes and wine spilling)
It was approaching dark when we arrived at Alain Chavy. I have to admit, I was flagging a bit by now. Palate fatigue had set in. And I was craving a double espresso… Once we got down to the business of tasting Alain’s wine, all this had been forgotten. It was as if we had found a spring mountain waterfall in the middle of the Beaune – it was that refreshing to the mouth and mind.
His 2007 Puligny-Montrachet is like a breath of fresh air by the seaside with pine and spice characters. This is enlivening white Burgundy from Alain, one of the humblest winemakers in Burgundy; I doubt even he is fully aware how magical his wines can be for the jaded palate. Despite all the great wines tasted during the day, Alain Chavy’s wine was what all the chatter was about in the car.
We ended the day at J. Confuron Contetidot. When Burgundy hums along like an old Bentley, it is fantastic to taste something idiosyncratic and individual. That is one way to describe Yves. I even spied a bottle of Vietti Barolo Rocche 1998 in the cellar.
Once we had tasted through the 2010 vintage, Yves opened some crazy but brilliant wines. 1993 Chambolle Musigny village which had the texture of chamois with dark chocolate, cocoa and hazelnut characters with truffle, earthy beetroot and crunchy fruit on the palate.
The 1989 Nuits-St-Georges had the taste of orange and dark chocolate, but the last wine was the most unexpected.
“Wait, this is the first wine I made….”
The 1996 Passetoutgrain? A Passetoutgrain is a motley crew of grapes made up of Pinot Noir and Gamay. It is simple wine meant to be drunk young. I have never seen, let alone tasted, a 1996 Passtoutgrain. There’s alway a first time. This was Yves’s very first vintage: very, very surprising – concentrated and rich.
After a long day tasting we ended at Caveau des Arches Restaurant in Beaune. Too exhausted to navigate the menu we had the set Burgundy meal with obligatory snails and beef bourguignon. The wine? After a day of Grand Cru we opted for the humble local grape, Aligote, from the not-so humble Coche Dury. Perfect!
Read all the notes from our 2010 tasting trip to Burgundy –
Tags: Alain Chavy, burgundy 2010, Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Domaine Pierre Morey, Fine Wine, J. Confuron Contetidot, Jean-Marie Fourrier, Maison Roche de Bellene, News, Nicholas POtel, Wine Woman & Song