The Krug Institute of Happiness

Even if, like me, you have been wise/lucky enough to make your hobby your job and therefore spend most of your time talking about something you feel passionate about for a living, there is no doubt that some days are simply better than others.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a perfect example of one such day – our Director Dave, our Queen of Reserves Niki and I were very kindly invited to travel down to Highgate, London and join another 13 lucky so-and-sos from the trade in experiencing the new concept cooked up by the LVMH marketing bods’ fertile minds: The Krug Institute of Happiness. (I know, I know, you probably already hate us. However, do read on, it gets better!) .

Inspired by the discovery of a document dating from the very early days of the Champagne House and showing Joseph Krug’s ideal that his wines should provide pleasure and joy to those who drink them, the Institute of Happiness is the attempt to provide guests with a complete experience where every sensorial aspect contributes to creating a higher level of contentment. A few days before the K-day, we were sent questionnaires asking what our favourite film, music or sweets were – needless to say this was enough to sharpen our curiosity and we couldn’t wait to get there.

Michelin-starred Viajante’s chef Nuño Mendes, one of the pioneers of the pop-up restaurant concept, was the gifted artist preparing the food for this fantastic lunch, and his concoctions were indeed happiness-inducing and a great pleasure to eat .

The tone was set as soon as we arrived. On a cold but gloriously sunny winter day, we arrived at one of the most impressive private homes in London, a Grand-Designs-like concrete and glass affair bathed in light and overlooking Highgate cemetery with Waterlow park on one side and Hampstead Heath not far off in the other direction. Greeted and ushered upstairs to  the kitchen, we found ourselves a glass of champagne in hand standing on the balcony  in the sun and watching calm and affable Nuño  whilst he prepared some of the most thought-inspiring and delicious canapés we ever tasted– ice cream on a crispy chicken skin (much better than it sounds with an amazing depth and length of flavour) or Black olive cake with yeast and crushed potatoes were two of the best. Krug Grande Cuvée was free-flowing from magnums and this played no small part in the rapidly rising levels of happiness in us.

An hour and one more set of stairs later and we were in the dining room, sitting at long, convivial tables with a hugely talented pianist playing inspired versions of all our favourite songs in the background while we started on the starter of Cured Lobster, Spring Onion and Consommé with Spruce bark accompanied by Krug 1998. This is the second time I have had Krug 1998 in the last few weeks (sickening, isn’t it?) and I must say I am hugely impressed with how well it is drinking at the moment. Full bodied, rich, creamy with hints of honey, marzipan and truffe to name but a few flavours, it is stunning. The lobster was one of the most delicate yet flavoursome seafood I ever tasted and the Spruce bark infused snowflakes were fabulously fresh, somewhat nutty and utterly different.

The fish course of Halibut with seaweed sofrito and seafood rice broth matched by Krug 2000 was a study in Umami taste and complementary textures. Krug 2000 is a voluminous, round champagne with a dominant citrus flavour – I expect this is only at the start of its drinking life and that it would benefit from a couple more years in bottle, but the match was just great.

Moving on to the meat course and the Aged pigeon buried under fallen autumn leaves with Krug Rosé. In my personal and professional life, I have long been an advocate of Rosé champagnes with meatier birds, and ever the typical Frenchman, I was glad to be proven right here. The gamey flavour of the pigeon matched the savoury, sparkling Grand-Cru Red Burgundy style of the Krug Rosé, and the various thins or “fallen Autumn Leaves” brought in a great texture to the dish.

As my colleague Niki commented on the attention to detail – one of the waiters had just noticed she had the sun in her eyes and promptly planted himself on the balcony with an umbrella to  shelter her so she could be more comfortable, our Pianist asked for a few minutes of attention as he played a medley of songs he had arranged so the whole would be greater than the sum of its part, much in the style of Krug’s master blender concocting his Grande Cuvée. The raw energy and  musicality of young Stephen Ridley were outstanding and we were all blown away by the performance.

Finally, the dessert arrived and with it we were back on Krug’s flagship wine, the Grande Cuvée. Milk. “A return to the beginning, happy memories of home! Beautifully simple and fresh yet once again showing Nuño’s amazing touch when it comes to delicate flavours and textures, this was incredibly satisfying. The chocolate truffles that accompanied the coffee weren’t bad either! But sadly it was time to get back to real life and leave the world of Krug for our perhaps more mundane existences.

From this absolutely fabulous afternoon I take away a few things: first of all, the elegance of Nuño’s cooking. Flavours are never intrusive and don’t “explode” but instead they just perdure and stay with you for an impressive amount of time. This delicacy and length are probably consequences of much of the main ingredients being cured rather than cooked. All the dishes were beautiful and the constant attention to textures made them vastly satisfying and rewarding. Second of all, the absolutely amazing ability of all Krug’s wines to marry food, and how complex and simply delicious they are. Krug 1998 is drinking absolutely perfectly right now, but my feeling that I shan’t refuse a glass of Krug in this lifetime was greatly reinforced.I guess if one HAD to find something to moan about, a flaw to the afternoon, it could only be the fact that we are now all spoilt and would be only too happy to drink nothing but Krug for the rest of our days. That, alas is unlikely to happen any time soon, but our hosts can hardly be blamed for this!

Niki Clarke, Customer Reserves manager: “the whole day was very surreal and left me a bit speechless.  The Rosé was a knockout and something to savour.  The Institute of happiness did not disappoint in any way!”

Dave Smith, Lay & Wheeler Director:“For me the venue, lobster and Krug 98 were the stars. I feel a little guilty not to include the amazingly talented pianist but somebody’s got to lose!”

 Ludovic Surina

Château Mouton-Rothschild Dinner

Lay & Wheeler Michel Roux Jnr Wine TastingRoux at the Landau,  Monday 12th November 2012

Fourteen guests assembled in the private dining Postillion Room at the Roux at the Landau restaurant. A glass of 1996 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque established a thrillingly high standard for the evening whilst a frisson of excitement rippled around the room as Michel Roux Jnr. introduced himself and welcomed each of the guests.

Monsieur Hervé Gouin, Sales Director of Château Mouton-Rothschild, took his turn to welcome all and expressed how, even for him, the assembled range of wines was a rare and privileged treat. He provided informative insight and humorous asides into varied matters through the course of the evening: the wines, the unique artwork for each vintage, the history of the Château and the decision of Château Latour to withdraw from the en primeur system, amongst others.

The wines and the food?

2003 Petit Mouton with poached lobster, cêpe mushroom cream and roast bone marrow

The 2003 Petit-Mouton is at once rich, textured and opulent whilst being compact, focused and delineated. A fine example of 2003 which reinforced how the northern Médoc was notably successful in this hot vintage.

1998 Clerc Milon with boudin noir de lièvre, swiss chard and toasted walnut compote

The 1998 Clerc Milon demonstrated admirably the inherent quality of the vineyards of this fine estate. It has a reined-in style whilst remaining balanced and perfectly in-tune – a lovely, flowing, pure style of intense fruit, a fine dusting of structural tannin and an underlying freshness. Everything is ‘just so’, perfectly pitched and drinking very well indeed.

2000 Mouton-Rothschild & 1995 Mouton-Rothschild with spit-roast sirloin of beef and horseradish glazed salsify

The 2000 is remarkably accessible and expansive in aroma and texture. Still primary in fruit character with a concentrated core of fruit it gives the impression of a wine that has shed its exuberance of youth but has yet to progress onward to developing secondary complexity and flavours.

The 1995 initially required coaxing from the glass and with time revealed a scented bouquet of essence-like red fruits and violets. This is not an exuberantly styled Mouton; it reveals its complexity and class with subtlety and detail. It possesses an overall harmony and balance and is a 1995 that is on the cusp of entering its prime.

1989 Mouton-Rothschild & 1986 Mouton-Rothschild with Farmhouse St Nectaire, Comté and Vacherin Mont d’Or

The 1989 leapt forth from the glass with notes of dark plum, hedgerow fruit, smoke, liquorice and cigar box amongst many scents. The structure is characteristic of numerous 1989s – large scale, ripe textured fruit with a frame of (by modern-day standards) coarse tannins (but wholly in-keeping with the style of the wine). Brash and confident in style, and hugely enjoyable precisely for that style!

The 1986 came with an enhanced expectation given R. Parker’s 100 point score. Reticent to begin with, it unfurled with time in the glass. Similarly, the palate revealed its nuance and sheer depth of flavour with time and swirling (despite having been decanted for three hours before pouring). It is seamlessly balanced, richly textured with a swathe of concentrated fruit that smothers the density of tannin. This is a wine which invites attention in order to fully appreciate its beautiful detail.

Adrian Heaven
Fine Wine Sales

Inspired and tempted? Browse our selection of Mouton-Rothschild vintages here

Robert Parker releases 2010 Rhône scores in bottle

Robert Parkers Rhone 2010 Scores

Robert Parker has just released his in bottle 2010 Southern Rhone scores. He has pronounced what we already knew, that it really is a special vintage, producing wines of great concentration, but what makes them really special is the freshness, energy and precision they possess.

“2010 is a great vintage that is extremely close in quality to 2007. The wines are not as exuberant, flamboyant or unctuously textured as the top 2007s, but they have the advantage of being slightly more delineated/focused with greater freshness. They are just as high in alcohol as the 2007s, but the fermentations of the 2010s were easier, and the wines come across as having slightly higher acids…Moreover, the greatness of the 2010 vintage has been widely recognized throughout the world, so the wines are being gobbled up at almost unprecedented rapidity.”
Robert Parker Wine Advocate # 203

We have the following wines still available.

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tradition
Domaine Clos du Mont Olivet

RP 91 pointsRobert E Parker Rhone 2010 Scores

“The 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition offers abundant aromas of Christmas fruitcake, cassis, kirsch, spice box, smoked game and charcuterie. The wine hits the palate with a thunderous display of sweet glycerin, rich, ripe fruit, some structure and a moderately tannic, long finish. It will be even better with 2-3 years of cellaring, and should last for 12-15+ years.”

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel

RP 95 points Robert Parker's Rhone 2010 Scores

“Interestingly enough, even though many of the 2010 Perrin et Fils selections from the southern Rhone were scheduled to be bottled right after my visit, the 2010 Beaucastel had already been put in bottle. This is a gorgeous wine, a classic blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise and the balance the other permitted varietals in the appellation. Deep purple, with loads of bouquet garni, beef blood, blackberry, kirsch, smoke and truffle, this wine is full-bodied, rich and showing even better than it did last year. I still think it needs 3-5 years of cellaring, and it should last for 25-30 years, as most of the top vintages of Beaucastel do”

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine la Roquète

RP 92 points Robert E parker, Lay & Wheeler Parker Rated Wines

“The 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape is made from 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah and Mourvedre, all from the famed lieu-dit Les Pialons, which is located only a few miles from Vieux Telegraphe’s La Crau, although it is normally harvested at least 15 days later than La Crau (an extraordinary illustration of the difference in micro-climates in a compact area such as Chateauneuf du Pape). The deep, rich, dark ruby/purple-tinged 2010 does not compare to the magnificent 2007, but it is a top-tier wine that was aged 18 months in concrete tanks. Abundant raspberry, kirsch, lavender and spice box characteristics are present in this beauty. Enjoy it over the next 15 or more years.

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de Mon Aïeul, Pierre Usseglio

RP 97 points Parker 97 Point Wine

“The 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul (cropped at 12-16 hectoliters per hectare) comes from the estate’s finest vineyards in the southern part of the appellation (Les Grandes Serres), the eastern sector (the famed La Crau) and the northern sector (Guigasse). The wine is aged primarily in stainless steel tanks with a small percent (less than 20%) kept in 600-liter demi-muids. Despite the 16.5% natural alcohol, there is not a trace of heat in this wine. It is stunningly concentrated with great intensity as well as classic blueberry, peppery, incense, camphor, fig and licorice characteristics. Rich and full-bodied with slightly more freshness than their profound 2007, the 2010 Mon Aieul should age effortlessly for two decades.”

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos Saint Jean

RP 93 points Robert Parker's Rhone Scores

“The classic-styled 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape exhibits plenty of kirsch, Christmas fruitcake, pepper, spice box, smoked herbs and loads of raspberry and black cherry fruit. It is a full-bodied, slightly more reserved and less exuberant effort than the 2007 was at a similar age. It will benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age, and last for 10-15 years.”

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Signature, Domaine La Barroche

RP 92 points Domaine La Barroche

A sensational effort, the 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape exhibits jammy black raspberry and black currant fruit intermixed with licorice, camphor, incense and hits of truffles as well as pepper. With velvety tannins, abundant glycerin, a nicely delineated mouthfeel, a sumptuous texture and a long finish, this 2010 should drink well for 12-15+ years.

2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition, Domaine Giraud

RP 94 points Domaine Giraud Parker Score

The 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition (made from the same blend as the 2011) is incredibly rich, concentrated and complex. The best value in their portfolio, it offers a dark plum/purple color along with copious notes of garrigue, pepper, licorice, black raspberries and kirsch. A super, full-bodied Chateauneuf with terrific purity and palate presence, it can be enjoyed over the next 15+ years

Al Luffingham

Burgundy 2011 Day Five: Pulignys in Pommard, masterclass in Volnay and mature bottles

Our last day in Burgundy was much more about getting home to our respective families before the weekend than it was about wine tasting, but we did manage to squeeze in a couple of tastings in the morning, and very nice they were too.

Lay & Wheeler En Primeur, Burgundy 2011

First stop was Jean-Marc Boillot’s house in Pommard to taste his range of Puligny-Montrachets (confusing, isn’t it?). Jean-Marc is a very loveable character, passionate, articulate and very thorough in his responses to our insightful questions. Oh yes, and he also has fabulous vineyards inherited from the original Sauzet estate (his Grandfather’s) from which he makes some of our favourite whites in the entire Côtes de Beaune. His wines are most impressive for the terroir expression, lifted aromatics and precision they show, and choosing a favourite between the tense, precise and mineral Réferts, the fat, creamy and opulent Combettes, and the exotic fruit, mineral finish and brilliant length of the Truffières is very hard indeed.

Domaine Michel Lafarge was our last visit of the week. It really is a treat to visit this domaine, partly because the Volnays here are among the very best, but also because the combined experience of father and son means that one always leaves a little more knowledgeable about Burgundy. The Volnay village was a model of purity, the Mitans reinforced our newly-found love of this vineyard, and the Clos des Chênes demonstrated just how powerful a wine can be whilst remaining lifted, complex and elegant. Pretty much as good as wine gets!

A quick stop in the local bakery to pick up the ingredients for our lunch on our way to the airport, and we finally had a chance to reflect upon our visit. 2011 Burgundies, from the great addresses we work with, is particularly interesting for the purity and freshness of the fruit. It does not boast the sort of intensity and concentration of 2009 or 2010 but the elegance and pretty nature of the wines means they will have a deserved space in any Burgundy amateur’s cellar, especially as they won’t require quite the same level of patience as its predecessors before they hit their peak.

Our final thoughts as we started the long way home lingered on the few bottles of mature Burgundies we were lucky enough to try during the week. The 2001 Latricières-Chambertin at Rossignol-Trapet; the 1979 Vosne-Romanée Aux Beaumonts at Domaine Georges Noëllat, and the vertical tasting of Chambolle-Musignys (’95, ’96, ’99, ’00, ’01 and ’02) at Maison Roche de Bellene. These bottles showed us, as if it was needed, why it is worth investing time, energy (and, let’s be honest, money) in Burgundy. Whilst the barrel samples are delicious in good vintages like the past three, the complexity, liquid velvet texture and mind-blowingly intricate flavours these wines develop with age are just fabulous, and any of these bottles would have been quite enough, we feel, to convert any non-drinker of Burgundy into a die-hard aficionado. We went home full of renewed enthusiasm for the region and a common resolution to drink as much old Burgundy as our livers and wallets will allow.

Ludovic Surina

Burgundy 2011 Day Four: Marathon tastings, New shoes and Pear Ciders…

Our penultimate day in Burgundy started with a visit to the thoughtful Etienne at Domaine Jean Grivot. His caveat that he prepares the samples in the morning and they taste better as the day goes on is an interesting one, as most wines already showed vey well indeed. His focus on maintaining freshness in his wines really shows and the fruit was generally stunning, especially (on that day) in his Chambolle La Combe d’Orveau, Nuits-St-Georges Les Pruliers and his Echezeaux. Reports that he and Mathilde (his daughter, set to take the reins in the future) get on famously promise a smooth transition and a bright future for this great estate.

Burgundy 2011 En Primeur

A quick emergency shoe shopping trip in Nuits-St-Georges (don’t ask – suffice to say the previous pair were apparently not made for walking) and a coffee break (perhaps not ideal to refresh one’s palate, but we all have our needs) and we were back to Vosne and off to Domaine Méo-Camuzet, expecting the usual, gorgeous lusciousness and polished wines. Our expectations proved spot on and the quality was fabulous for wines from their own vineyards as well as from the négociant side of the business (the Marsannay in particular was great. The richness of their Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Murgers, the massive power of their Clos de Vougeot, the exquisite precision of their Echezeaux and the amazing complexity of the Vosne-Romanée 1er cru Cros Parantoux were the highlights from a great tasting.

3 out of the 4 of us were tasting at Domaine Leflaive for the first time, and the sense of anticipation was palpable in the car as we drove down the motorway, Puligny-Montrachet-bound. We were NOT disappointed. The precision of fruit, minerality, and length in all the wines were quite simply phenomenal. This very precision meant it was incredibly easy not only to distinguish the different vineyards’ personalities, but also made for the easiest set of tasting notes of the entire week – I am sure very little editing will be needed on those!

Next was Domaine de Montille and their welcoming American winemaker Brian. Tasting at de Montille is always interesting thanks to the variety of vineyards they have in both the Côtes de Nuits and the Côtes de Beaune, which really helps getting one’s head around the vintage as a whole. These wines show an excellent balance between silky, rich fruit and grippy tannic structures and should age very well. Their Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans was, with its beautifully aromatic nose and seductive fruit, the best on the day for me, although this could be more to do with the vineyard, if later tastings at Maison Roche de Bellene and Domaine Lafarge are anything to go by…

Maison Roche de Bellene was the final appointment on the day with a marathon tasting (44 wines – not quite matching a personal record of 57 in one sitting at the same address…) followed by a delicious picnic-style supper. Nicolas Potel is one of the best-connected (and best-loved) people in Burgundy, and he seems to be able to get access to great fruit from hallowed vineyards almost as easily as one can secure a loaf of sliced white from Tesco’s. His knowledge and passion for the multitude of different climats in Burgundy is fabulous and tasting the wines here is a lesson in terroir expression. His Nuits-St-Georges Vieilles vignes, Volnay 1er Cru Les Mitans (again), Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les St Georges and Chambertin Clos de Bèze in particular showed magnificently. Supper was accompanied by as vertical tasting of Chambolle-Musigny he sourced for his Bellenum range: 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002. This was a real, rare treat for us and just fascinating. All were good, although the 1996 and 2001 were the best for drinking right now. 1995 and 2000 were excellent too, a little less concentrated than ’96 and ’01 but perfect for a slightly simpler food/wine match. 1999 and 2002 need more time but will be great in 5 years’ time. Keep your eyes peeled for those in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future…

After a  busy day of tasting, we very much deserved a couple of beers with Nicolas so off we went to Le Square in Beaune, a “rustic” wine bar owned by the son of the owner of Ma Cuisine, a restaurant vying for the title of Best Loved Eatery in Beaune within the wine trade. Quite an interesting place to be, especially as it seemed that half the next generation of winemakers from top Burgundy domaines have elected it as their favourite haunt… A Magnum of Poiré Granit (Pear cider) from Eric Bordelet (some names just can’t be invented…) was a revelation! A refreshing 3.5% alc. with the most beautiful, pure pear taste and minerality, it is no wonder why this is the drink of choice of young and trendy winemakers looking for a respite after a hard day tasting red wine cask samples…

Ludovic Surina

A half century celebrated at Lord’s

Business and pleasure rarely mix… unless of course you are lucky enough to work in the wine trade. You really can’t beat a good tasting… unless of course that tasting is accompanied by lunch or dinner in an establishment of quality. Having just returned from Burgundy, you could say that I’ve had more than my fair share of such things over the last week. A week that started in the best possible way, I couldn’t resist an incredibly generous invitation to attend a client’s 50th birthday lunch at the spiritual home of English Cricket on Sunday. As settings go, the famous Long Room at Lord’s has to be one of the finest I have ever tasted in – and I haven’t even mentioned the wines yet!

Lay & Wheeler Wine Tasting

Upon arrival guests were met with a steady flow of 2007 Franck Bonville Millesime Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, a fine grower’s Champagne with elegant notes of white flowers and subtle bready notes held together with a fresh vein of acidity. The starter of Dorset crab and shrimp cocktail was well matched with two high quality white Burgundies, the younger of the two a 2008 Champs Canet 1er Cru Puligny from Jean-Marc Boillot showed a little puppy fat with a hint of gunflint smokiness – all tied up with a lean mineral structure. This was followed by a wine fifteen years its senior, from Jean-Marc’s father – Henri Boillot, a 1993 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. Situated next to the Grand Crus of Bâtard and Bienvenues Bâtard- Montrachet, this is a vineyard of substantial standing which in this case has yielded a wine of immense breeding, still remarkably fresh showing a little tertiary development and an impressively complex and long finish.

Main course was a fillet of beef with horseradish creamed mash together with two well chosen (and incredibly rare) wines. Both requiring a great deal of patience and a delicate hand upon opening and decanting – a pretty nerve racking experience for yours truly when you consider that we’re talking about 1962 Château Lafite and 1962 Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva! An amazing pair of wines and a thought provoking combination, tasked with introducing the wines for 100 or so assembled guests I couldn’t resist borrowing Neal Martin’s wonderful quote; “Inserting a bottle of Único into a flight of equivalent clarets would be like inviting a porn star to a vicar’s tea-party. Old Único is a brazen hussy of a wine, raucous and decadent and paying little heed to growing old gracefully. Whilst clarets grow old like Conservative members of parliament, these unruly Únicos age like the Rolling Stones.” And so it was that whilst the Lafite showed its age with a delicate scent of dried wild flowers and barely discernable tannins, the Unico was bold, structured, and still amazingly fresh.

A dessert of tarte tatin could not have gone better than with what was for me the stand out wine of the afternoon, Domaine Huet’s 1962 Le Haut Lieu demi-sec. Sourced directly from the domaine, this showed gorgeous honeyed and caramel notes with baked apples and a finish longer than the Long Room itself! A tough act to follow, unless of course the wine that accompanies the cheese board is a 1962 Château d’Yquem… A deep orange in colour with a remarkably complex nose of marmalade and candied peel together with roasted nuts and an unctuous texture supported by a fine acid structure.

What better way to start my working week? How about a four day visit to Burgundy… don’t mind if I do!

Will Hepworth

Burgundy 2011 Day Three: Whites and more Côtes de Nuits

Day three of our 2011 Burgundy tasting week and the brief was simple though very different for each team: whilst Adrian, Edwina, Lucy & Will would get under the skin of the 2011 Chardonnays up and down the Côte de Beaune, Al, Kat, Nick and I would have to tough it out and taste (mostly) reds at some of the Côte de Nuits’ most hallowed addresses. Clichés revolving around tough jobs having to be done notwithstanding, we set out with our usual professional veneer and child-on-Christmas-day excitement in our hearts.

Lay & Wheeler Burgundy TastingHaving tasted at Patrick Javillier & Michel Bouzereau in Meursault, Hubert Lamy in St Aubin, Jean-Marc Pillot, Fontaine-Gagnard in Chassagne and Philippe Chavy in Puligny, L’Equipe de dégustation des Blancs started getting their heads around the vintage and found the wines very easy to taste, showing plenty of fragrance and elegance. The general style is very classic and the wines are endowed with decent amounts of fruit and plenty of freshness and energy. The wines of Michel Bouzereau were tasting particularly well today and are deserving of a special mention.

Meanwhile, in Gevrey-Chambertin, our morning started pretty well with tasting at Domaine Armand Rousseau. Needless to say that the wines were absolutely fabulous, very classical and with excellent structure. Not many domaines would show well after such an amazing collection of Grand Crus, however Domaine Ponsot was one of the only addresses where there were even more on show! Laurent’s fascinating stories and theories made the tasting very enjoyable as always, and Clos St Denis Très vieilles vignes (planted in 1905!) was in my humble opinion the wine that showed best today. The other highlights of our day, besides the lunchtime beef cheeks at Chez Guy in Gevrey, were the purity of Rossignol-Trapet’s wines (and an absolutely fabulous 2001 Latricières), and a great visit at the very lovely and gregarious Louis Boillot and Ghislaine Barthod. Their wines were simply excellent and we look forward to more tomorrow!

Ludovic Surina

Burgundy 2011 Day Two: foray into the Côte de Nuits

Côte de Nuits, Burgundy After the warm weather of yesterday and our team barbecue at our gite in the evening, the mist and cloud was not a welcome site today, making the slopes of the Côte impossible to see at times. As the full group was now in the region, we split into two groups this morning and headed off on our various visits.

The first team out of the doors had a packed day, including visits to Clos des Lambrays, Humbert Frères, Arlaud, Domaine de l’Arlot, Jean-Marc Millot, Michel Gros and Mugneret-Gibourg. There are mixed views as to the highlights of the day – by all account there were too many – but it seems that Clos des Lambrays, Arlaud, Mugneret-Gibourg and Domaine de l’Arlot featured highly in most accounts.

The second team, of which I was a part, headed across to Comte Armand, before heading speedily north to Lamarche, Georges Noellat, Taupenot Merne, Duroché and finally to Cathiard. Taupenot Merne and Duroché are not producers currently listed by L&W and Georges Noellat has only featured in our lists from this year, but all had very impressive wines. Lamarche’s Echezeaux and La Grande Rue are exceptional and the wines of Cathiard are unsurprisingly excellent. 2011 is the first vintage with Sébastien Cathiard at the helm, but the wines have not suffered in transition at all – Malconsorts is still the beauty it always is!

So far, the 2011 vintage has impressed us. Purity and freshness seem to be watchwords in both the reds and whites. The reds are relatively approachable compared with the 2010s at the same time last year, with very pretty and expressive fruit. The whites are generally more reined-in and austere, very classic in style, but mouthwateringly delicious when at their best. We will have some great wines to offer this year and for our clients to taste in January.

We’re now back at our abode, comparing notes on the wines and the best toilets in the region, as we enjoy a couple of beers and a few glasses of wine. Another busy day tomorrow…

Burgundy 2011 Day One: Côte de Beaune Whites

At the end of the first day in Burgundy, we have collapsed in our gite and are enjoying a cold (ish) beer before lighting the barbecue. It has been a glorious day on the Côte de Beaune, amazingly warm and sunny, the vines changing into their autumn hues. One could not ask for Burgundy to be prettier right now.

Lay & Wheeler's Tasting Team in Burgundy
It was a day of whites for us, today, mostly, starting with Comtes Lafon, where we were met by the charming Dominique Lafon, who dashed round his cellar, pipette in hand, talking us through his 2011s. Having said that this was a day of whites, he started with his reds – his elegant and pretty Monthelie not being a bad way to begin a day! His great Meursaults were unsurprisingly excellent and included – for the first time this year – wine from his new parcel of vines from 1er Cru Les Bouchères, light on its feet and beautifully expressive. It goes without saying that Le Montrachet was great, although still obviously a baby.

From Lafon, we headed over to Chassagne, to taste at Domaine Paul Pillot, a domaine that produces a range of St. Aubin and Chassagne, made – under the guidance of young winemaker Thierry Pillot – to a reined-in and subtle style. Lay & Wheeler does not currently offer these wines, but tasting the 2011s, it seems likely that this may well change in the future.

The last tasting pre-lunch was at Martelet de Cherisey, high up in the Blagny area of Meursault, where we enjoyed a quick tour of the domaine, before tasting through their 2011s. Late ripening, due to their elevation, the wines also ferment more slowly, giving them an interesting complexity. We were very kindly given a bottle of 2006 Meursault Blagny to enjoy with our lunch, so had that with cold cuts, bread and cheese on the terrace at our gite. While wine tasting is a lot of fun, it was hard to leave!

But leave we did and joined Philippe Colin, where we tasted his Chassagnes, Puligny and Chevalier-Montrachet. We have loved his Demoiselles for a long time and we have not changed our opinion for the 2011s, it shone in the line-up.

The final visit of what has been a gentle start to the week, was with Charles Ballot at Ballot-Millot. Tasting in his “games room” (most of the team slightly distracted by darts, pool and a shiny bike), we were thoroughly impressed by his Meursaults – especially Genevrières and Perrières, which were tautly structured and delicious. We finished, as we started, with a few reds, including another pretty red Meursault – all bright and fragrant fruit.

Kat Wiggins

Burgundy 2011: we are on our way…

Sunday marks the start of our annual pilgrimage to Burgundy to taste and assess the previous year’s vintage from barrel. The excitement in the office is palpable as the two teams receive their itineraries for the week: Who’s got Rousseau? Who’s off to Cathiard?! Such is the strength and depth of our Burgundy list, that all of our visits bring smiles to our faces.

The lie of the land in Burgundy reveals itself in the wines if one looks (tastes) close enough. It is this region, probably more than any other, that really only begins to make sense when viewed from the vineyard (or through the car window as is more often the case with us, as we drive from cellar to cellar invariably running late).

We shall be tasting the 2011 vintage. Stay tuned for more news…

Adrian Heaven