Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,
I recently visited Burgundy for the 2nd time in six months. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! The 1st visit (my first time in Burgundy) came at the behest of the President of the Bourgogne Wine Board, Francois Labet, to take the challenging Bourgogne Wine Ambassador Program. That whirlwind week had 10 people from around the world, including 2 Master of Wines and 1 Master Sommelier, traveling and tasting through many small AOC’s in Bourgogne. The trip focused more on the lesser known regions such as the Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and the northern stretches such as Auxerre and Vezelay. The trip was unbelievable and unforgettable as we tried through multiple vintages such as the rich and vibrant 2015’s and the structured 2014’s. We discussed the major issue of Premox (premature oxidation) that has plagued the royal white wines of Burgundy for the past couple of decades. Fortunately, I passed the rigorous exam and became a Bourgogne Wine Ambassador for the next 3 years. The only hole in the experience was that we only spent one day in the Cote D’Or. As most of you may know, the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay come from this stretch of land in Burgundy.
My 2nd trip was more focused on the ‘big guns’ of Burgundy as we spent most of the time in the Cote D’Or whether it be the Cotes de Nuits or Cotes de Beaune. I was able to taste many of the 2017’s in barrel and get a real feel for the quality of the vintage while also peppering the vignerons about the potential quality of the 2018 vintage that had just been harvested.
A tough decade for yield in Burgundy but Nature smiled in 2017 and 2018
It has been a rough decade for the vignerons of Burgundy with issues of hailstorms, frost, rot, etc.. that led to low yield in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The low yield does not attest to quality though, as the 2015 vintage is of extremely high quality. The 2017’s and 2018’s vintages smiled on the Burgundy as both yield and quality are quite high. The vignerons truly needed these two vintages as many growers have been struggling to keep the doors open with such little wine to sell over the past several years.
THE 2017 VINTAGE
Overall my impression of the 2017’s are very high. It is a high quality vintage with plenty of freshness and purity. Much of France was frost stricken, the Bordelaise had big issues, but Burgundy for the most part was unaffected except for Chablis. Frost threatened in April and Chablis had substantial loss with 15 nights of cold weather. Warm weather followed which allowed for ample ripening throughout Burgundy. Hail affected Morey St. Denis on July 10th, but was mostly confined to that area. Much needed rain came to Burgundy in August helping vines bring their fruit to fuller maturity. Harvest started in late August/early September. All through the Cote D’Or, the harvest was plentiful and healthy especially in the Cotes de Beaune with Chardonnay.
FARMING AND SUSTAINABILITY
There is a definitive trend in Burgundy towards sustainability, organic, or biodynamic in the vineyards whether it be one or all three. Vine tenders are taking a more natural stance and it is showing in the wine with a purity of fruit that seems to have come back into the wines to give an extra charm.
I also noticed many of the ‘younger’ generation wine makers are starting to implement the whole cluster method to some degree which many believe adds an extra layer of complexity and density to the wine.
Had me landing in Charles de Gaulle and taking a train to Champagne then arriving to my destination in Epernay in just enough time to change clothes and head up to a new and quite posh Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa (wow!) to have dinner with Jean-Francois Clouet, who just happens to produce some of my favorite Champagnes. He is an extremely charming and affable man and while we talked shop for a bit, the core of the evening was spent enjoying company and getting to know the people at the table. Oddly, we did not have any Clouet bubbles that night, but we did enjoy a masterfully crafted Pierre Peters Reserve Oubliee Grand Cru.
Had us starting early and meeting Sophie Couveur of Champagne and Villages, which has a portfolio of small RM producers. The first appointment was at Camille Saves, a sustainably farmed winery whose first vintage was 1959. The wines were elegant and precise with very little added dosage (usually 6-7 g/l).
The gem was the 2012 Millesime.
It is 80% Pinot Noir/20% Chardonnay solely from Grand Cru vineyards in Bouzy with 7 g/l dosage with an average age of 35 years for the vines. Red berries, strawberry, raspberry mousse, brioche, nuts, citrus, lemon with mostly red fruit on the palate. Very Fine. Touches of cake batter on the finish. Linear backbone. James Score: 93 Points
The next appointment led us to the quaint Grand Cru village of Chouilly and into the tasting room of Vazart-Coquart. This 3rd generation wine maker offers amazing Grand Cru and Special Club bubbles. Every wine I tried here rated 90+ in my notes. The best was:
Vazart-Coquart Special Club Cuvee Blanc de Blanc 2010 with a dosage of 3.5 g/l. Light, pale straw, toasty, rich, nuts, more complexity coming with some oxygenation. Round, creamy, mushroom with a dusty mocha, citrus, wild flowers, and vanilla. Disgorged July 18th of 2018. James Score: 94 Points
We then had lunch with Sophie and opened Jacques Picard, Serveaux, and Didier Ducos.
Serveaux was showing a 100% Pinot Meunier that was quite yummy with red roses, fresh flowers and cream brioche. James Score: 92 Points
We finished the day at the office of DIVA NORD tasting through 20+ wines all from (oddly enough) the Loire Valley and Jura. Weird that I have to go to Champagne to taste Loire!
Dinner offered Jean Charton 1er Murgers des Dents de Chien 2015 St. Aubin and Pascal Prunier-Bonheur Auxey-Duresses 2016 with escargot!
We started the sunny morning at Pierre Morey with daughter Anne showing us their wines in a cellar that was under construction. Pierre Morey was the wine maker for Domaine Leflaive for twenty years. He is somewhat of a rock star in the Cotes de Beaune. The tasting was adjoined with a jack hammering from the construction, but not even the deafening sounds could stifle the quality that was in the glass. We tasted through wines from Monthelie, Meursault, Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, and Batard-Montrachet. The Gem:
Meursault 1er ‘Perrieres’ 2017 showed quite well: Melon, tropical touches, cream and nuts with a balanced mouth feel. Good acidity with hazel and lime on the finish. Very nice. James Score: 92-93
Next up was Benjamin Leroux located in the heart of the city of Beaune. Ben is a younger gentlemen that has an undeniable fire and passion for his craft that exuded from his pores with every breath about his wines.
We tasted through a large amount of wine from barrel and tank. We tried 2017’s of Aligote, Bourgogne Blanc, St. Romain, Auxey-Duresses, Meursault, Batard Montrachet, Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Nuit-St.-Georges, Mazoyeres-Chambertin, Chambertin, Clos de la Roche, and Bonnes-Mares…..LOTS OF WINE!
Favorites– Meursault 1er Les Genevrieres 2017– A hedonistic wine with lemon, green apple, butterscotch, cream, nuts, melon. Supple and balanced with excellent structured acidity. James Score: 93-94 Points
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses 2017– Lavender, red fruit, spice, violets, potpourri, creamy oak, nuts and graham crackers. Elegant and silky perfection. James Score: 96-97 points
Chambertin Grand Cru 2017- Beautiful. Red fruit, candied red apple and cherry, spice, cream, new oak. Finish shows currant and raspberry cream. Silky, yet quite structured with a richer texture. Well Balanced. James Score: 96-97 Points
STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE STORY….
James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS