Boot-Full of Wine
Tasting notes from Italy (and beyond)
One of the most important events on the calendar of the Institute of Masters of Wine is the Annual Burgundy tasting. This year, the 2008 vintage was featured, and the tasting was organised in association with Les Domaines Familiaux de Tradition. I was lucky enough to be able to attend.
2008 was a difficult year in Burgundy, and has been christened “the miracle vintage”. The miracle to which they refer is the burst of sunshine the region experienced, accompanied by fresh (and, importantly, drying) northerly winds from the second week of September to the beginning of October.
The cool and humid start to spring was a harbinger of things to come. The whole growing season was wet and cool, with the crop beset by coulure climatique (physiological failure of fruit set) and millerandage (variation in berry size). 2007 was also a cool and wet vintage, but by the end of June, the 2008 vintage was further than three weeks behind where the 2007 grapes were at the same time.
Rot and mildew were a constant threat (those growing organically or biodynamically were particularly challenged), and called for attentive vineyard management. The period of sunshine helped greatly to keep these maladies at bay in the weeks before harvest, but though the sun shone, it was cool, especially at night. Thus the wind concentrated the sugar in the grapes, but full physiological ripeness was difficult to achieve.
The other key to producing good wines in this vintage (other than obsessional vineyard practices) was strict and often laborious sorting. I have heard that some producers rejected up to 40% of their fruit, giving yields as low as 16hl/ha.
As a result, I went to the tasting expecting that acidity levels would be very high (they were – in fact malolactic fermentation took ages to be completed), and that some wines (both red and white) would be a bit lean (indeed some were).
My overall impression was that whites fared better than reds, and that the Cotes de Nuits shaded the Cotes de Beaune (though I enjoyed several of the wines from Corton). I will confess that I am, as Michael Schuster puts it, one who likes my white Burgundy “taut, refreshing, aromatically complex and minerally”. There were no fat white Burgundies here!
But this vintage (though some would argue, every vintage) was more about the producer than the provenance of the wine. Those producers who were fastidious in both the vineyard practices and in their sorting were able to do great things. Below I will highlight a few producers whose wines I thoroughly enjoyed.
Chassagne-Montrachet – Les Chenevottes – 1er Cru (White). Lean and tight, rhubarb and citrus on the nose, good length and depth of palate. 17.5 pts
Beaune – Clos des Féves – 1er Cru (red). Wonderfully complex and balanced, amalgam of fruit and secondary flavours, silky tannins. 18.5 pts
Savigny-lés-Beaune – La Dominode – 1er Cru (red). Bright red translucence, very expressive nose, fruit and savoury elements, elegant and balanced. 18.5 pts
Chambolle Musigny (red). Sulphurous initially, which blew off. A thoroughly well made wine – each element of fruit, tannin and acid playing a part, but not individually intrusive. 17 pts
Morey-Saint-Denis – Clos de la Bussiére – 1er Cru (red). Lifted nose of sweet strawberries and cherries. A leanness to the palate but fruit flavours not unripe. 17 pts
Bonnes-Mares – Grand Cru – (red). When one tastes wines like this one realizes why people just go crazy about red Burgundy. This was a near perfect expression of pinot noir – cherry fruit, silky tannins, austere but with a rustic edge. Controlled power. 18.5 pts
BONNEAU DU MARTRAY
Corton-Charlemagne – Grand Cru (white). Full, rich and powerful, with layers of complexity – palate variegated but integrated. Effects of battonage, MLF and oak evident, good acidity, and very persistent length. 18 pts
Corton – Grand Cru (red). Intense fruit concentration, with ripe tannins. Far too young – has a great future ahead. 18 pts
Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet – Grand Cru (white). A bigger yet balanced expression, stylish, subtle and long palate. High quality oak. 17.5 pts
Gevrey-Chambertin – Les Cazetiers – 1er cru (red). Serious nose gives way to a serious palate – with fruit and savoury flavours, silky mouthfeel, good balance. 17.5 pts
Mazis-Chambertin – Grand Cru (red). After the initial sulphur has blown off, this is the proverbial peacock’s tail. Aromas keep building in the glass, flavours likewise on the palate. 18.5 pts
Chablis – Grand Cru – les Clos. Citrus minerality, austere and lean. Acid levels high. Evidence of oak and malo (not atypical for Grand Cru Chablis) 17.75
Beaune – Clos des Mouches Blanc – 1er Cru (white). Depth to olour and flavour. Wet stone and lychee notes. Elegant mouthfeel. 17.5 pts
Grands Echézeaux – Grand Cru (red). Depth to aroma and palate, cherry and even soy. Again, far too young, (and in this case, a bit cold also – new bottle recently emerged from the cellar and opened ~12 deg C. Showed better when warmed.) 18 pts
Vosne-Romanée – Aux Malconsorts – 1er Cru (red). Hints of coffee on the nose (probably from oak). No lack of phenolic ripeness here – the particular mingling of fruit and tannins and acid suggest long aging potential. 18.5 pts
Latriciéres-Chambertin – Grand Cru (red). Layers of complexity, luscious and classically expressive. 18.5 pts
Ciao for now!
** Chanson is not part of Les Domaines Familiaux de Tradition but is an Institute sponsor