September seems like ages ago now but David Whitaker gave the NEWTS a tasting that will stay in memory for a long time with a selection of fine and rare Burgundy Premier Crus. Dave had made connections in Burgundy Wines to provide superb quality reference information on the different Appellations of to go along with the tasting, although the most impressive thing by the end was the number of small lot wines that were finally shown, including some with with a production of only 50 – 150 bottles!
The starter wine was a gentle introduction to Burgundy Chardonnay with the Maison Louis Latour 2010 Bourgogne Chardonnay (Waitrose, £8.75, although now it’s £10.99). This Beaune based négociant-éléveur (one that owns vineyards as well as acts as a broker) has remained a family run business since its founding in 1797 and has a good reputation for white Burgundy. This Chardonnay was from 30 year old vines fermented and aged for 8-10 months in stainless steel.
It had a fresh, fruity nose with sweet, toasty flavours at the top of the palate but didn’t come across as overly oaked. It was a little green around the edges with sour apple and elderflower and fresh citrus acidity. Pleasant enough it was a little soft and simplistic and a touch hot on the finish.
After this the Premier Cru wines were approached in flights of two comparing different Appellations, starting with St. Aubin and Chassagne Montrachet for the whites.
The Olivier LeFlaive 2009 St. Aubin1er Cru, En Remilly (£25 in France) comes from a small négociant-éléveur with a reputation for high quality, winemaker Franck Grux vinifies all the grapes brought into the Puligny-Montrachet based winery.
The 1er Cru En Remilly vineyard (or Climat) sits on the western slopes of the famous Montrachet hillside and the 2009 gave a matchstick and oak nose with fresh, mineral acidity on the palate. A little woody at the front this had noticeable texture with delicate, subtle, integrated flavours, although was a touch one dimensional on the finish.
In comparison the Domaine Darviot Perrin 2008 Blanchots Dessus from neighbouring Chassagne Montrachet (£43 in France, £65 from Howard Ripley) was a fuller wine with a rich, fruity nose. Showing sharp acidity at the front it developed richness on the mid-palate; creamy, elegant, sharp and complex with some pineapple and apricots on a long finish. This wine was from the 150-case production of the Blanchots Dessus vineyard (adjacent to the Grand Cru La Montrachet) from the husband and wife team of Didier and Geneviève Darviot who produce wines at a slow pace in their cool cellars, often releasing a vintage a year later than their neighbours.
The next pair were from side-by-side vineyards in Monthelie and Volnay in the Côte de Beaune.
LeFlaive & Associés 2009 Monthelie 1er Cru, Sur la Velle (£21 in France, £35 from Corney & Barrow) is from one of the best vineyards in Monthélie, effectively a continuation of the Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Chênes. Anne-Claude Leflaive (& sister of Olivier LeFlaive) set up this new négociant for biodynamic wines sourced from around the region but managed by Eric Rémy, of Domaine LeFlaive. Vinification is carried out at the Domaine cellars in Puligny-Montrachet, itself fully Biodynamic since 1997.
The wine had a mature colour of “typical Burgundy” and youthful fruit nose. There was a sweet palate with strong tannins and smooth, raspberry flavours although the fruit was a touch candied and a little one dimensional. The finish was lean, going a touch bitter.
Across the appellation boundary the Maison Roche de Bellene 2009 Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Chenes (£23 in France, £39.50 at Berry Bros) is made by Nicolas Potel (who started, but no longer owns the name to, Maison Nicolas Potel). 160 cases of this wine were made, the Climat named for the oak trees that line the Western edge alongside Monthelie.
This had a typical Pinot Noir nose with some raspberry, wood and spice. There was an approachable, smooth attack with light, sweet fruit and mushrooms on the mid-palate, mellowing in the glass, but also a sharp edge going a little bitter on the finish.
The next pair of reds were also from adjoining vineyards – Haut Marconnets in Savigny les Beaune and Clos du Dessus des Marconnets in Beaune, separated by the A6 main road to Paris – and made in miniscule production, 150 bottles and 50 bottles respectively!
The Domaine Martin DuFour 2006 Savigny les Beaunes 1er Cru, Haut Marconnets was a strange wine with enamel/cassis on the nose and a little green and vegetal, akin to some Chilean Cabernets. Edgy on the palate, it came across as over-extracted, tannic with a concentrated texture and a touch of chemical to it – pleasant, but not what was expected from Burgundy or Pinot Noir.
Its partner was a different matter, the Domaine Pierre Labet 2009 Beanue 1er Cru, Clos du Dessus des Marconnets (£33 in France, £27.75 from Corney & Barrow) was classic Pinot Noir with a youthful fruit nose, smooth spicy tannins with a tang of acidity. It was clean with good texture, balanced and showing a precise finish, making it a very elegant and drinkable wine.
The final pair of the night were from the Northern Côte du Nuits and some of the most recognisable Burgundy appellations, Nuits St. George and Vosnee Romanee. Domaine de la Vougeraie 2008 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Damodes (£57.50, Berry Bros) comes from a 139 case production and gave a a clear colour in the glass and a savoury-mulchy nose. This was a light, elegant wine (the term “feminine” was heard), not thin as such as it carried so much flavour along with it, supremely subtle with some raspberry and floral aspects and good length, making it a hard act to follow for the Domaine d’Ardhuy 2005 Vosnee Romanee 1er Cru, Les Chaumes (£39, Burgundy Basement).
The Les Chaumes Climat is across the street from the Grand Cru La Tâche vines so we were expecting something special encouraged by a depth of colour in the glass and a powerful yet integrated nose. Spicy and smoky with a little root liquorice behind the savoury fruit this gave a slightly bitter mid-palate with tannins and dense, New World flavours – a weighty, well made wine.
At the end there was well deserved applause for David having put together a superb tasting from a notoriously difficult area, especially for his resourcefulness in sourcing low production wines within the NEWTS Budget (less than the UK retail prices shown in most instances).
The Domaine Darviot Perrin 2008 Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru, Blanchots Dessus was the stand-out white, with the Domaine de la Vougeraie 2008 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Damodes one of the best Burgundy Reds I’ve ever tasted – although as their combined price tags come to £100 this shouldn’t be a big surprise. There wasn’t a bargain wine in the tasting, but at £33 the Domaine Pierre Labet 2009 Beanue 1er Cru, Clos du Dessus des Marconnets came close as a true to type Burgundy which had nearly anything you went looking for in there.