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

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