Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for July, 2010

Burgundy 2009 – first impressions

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

A trip to Burgundy last month courtesy of the BIVB (the Association of Burgundy Wine Growers) helped me to understand a bit more about the highly praised 2009 vintage. I can’t pretend to offer a comprehensive account, but my early impressions are that the white wines are enjoyable but not terribly special. They are low in acidity and will probably be best drunk soon. The reds are a different matter. There are some outstanding wines, but they too are often fairly low in acidity and may not turn out to be as balanced as the best 2005s. They are concentrated and vividly fruity, but perhaps express their  terroir less distinctly than in more average quality harvests, including 2007 and 2008.

Romain Taupenot told me that some cuvées in the region had higher volatile acidity than usual and that the malic was often very slow to begin. Pascal Arnoux confirmed that some growers decided to acidify their musts to raise the level of tartaric. Bernard Jaillot, the oenologist at Dufouleur Frères commented that 2009, in his experience, is a ‘bit uneven’.

The most up-beat account of 2009 was given by Elodie Roy, the assistant to Anne Gros. Her headline summary is that 2009 offers ‘une belle qualité‘.  A tasting from the barrels proved her point.

Hautes Cotes de Nuits showed layers of pure, ripe, soft and supple fruit;

Bourgone Rouge showed wonderfully vivid fresh red fruits – raspberries and cherries – and perfect balance.

Chambolle-Musigny was far richer and more powerful but also a fine degree of elegance

Vosne-Romanée, lieu-dit Barreaux, from eighty year-old vines showed mulberry-like fruit, great concentration, spice – a lovely tension between the fruit and the structure of the wine, and then a mineral finish.

Echézaux (a plot purchased in March 2007) was enormously spicy, with rich and savoury fruit, plenty of power and a fine silky texture.

Clos de Vougeot (eighty year-old vines) had an impressive concentration of crunchy red fruit flavours – and a well balanced structure.

Richebourg (seventy year-old vines) was the star – wild and exotic and amazingly complex, with stunning purity of fruit, great length and firm tannins.

None of these wines was marked at this stage by excess oak – it seemed  very finely-judged, with fruit well to the fore.

We also tasted two white wines from 500 litre demi-muids:

Hautes Cotes de Nuits – deliciously fruit, with white peach grapefruit and floral aromas and gentle minerality.

Bourgogne Blanc – rich, soft and open with the scent of herbs and good minerality.

Barrel samples tasted with Pascal Arnoux revealed good, rather chunky, concentrated wines:

Chorey les Beaune soft and rich, with a good concentration of red and black fruit;

Savigny les Beaune: crunchy morello cherry fruit in abundance

Aloxe-Corton: plenty of very ripe red fruit

Corton: more concentration and great richness.

Pascal’s Aligoté 2009, something of a speciality at Chorey was fresh, elegant and mineral, softer than usual. The ripeness and low acidity of 2009 offers Aligoté a real opportunity to seduce drinkers with unusually attractive fruit. Jeanne-Marie de Champs of the Domaine et Saveurs Collection showed us two remarkable examples: Domaine Chanzy, Bouzeron Clos de la Fortune – clean and fresh, but with a real explosion of almost exotic fruit and a fine minerality and Paul Pernod, Aligoté 2009: very floral indeed, soft and easy and almost a hint of sweetness. In the Yonne, P-L and J-F Bersan’s 2009 Aligoté shows frangipane and lemon and is much softer and richer than normal (the wine has been bought in the UK by Sainsbury’s).

Generous fruit and a supple texture characterises many wines in the Yonne in 2009 – red and white. Guilhem Goisot believes that in general 2009 is more ‘gourmand‘ and fruit than 2008 and will mature earlier (2008, he says, is ‘more mineral and tight’).

This difference is very clear in the basic village Chablis produced by William Fevre in the two vintages. The 08 is classic, mineral and green-apple – wonderful wine; the 09 is rich and almost peachy, soft and far less markedly mineral.

The remarkable red Irancy of the Colinot family were also very successful in 2009 as again barrel and tank samples showed, with great concentration and purity of fruit. Jean-Pierre Colinot calls 2009 ‘sublime‘. The wines he and his daughter have crafted are certainly the best red wine from the Yonne I have ever tasted, especially a cuvée of ‘Très Vieilles VignesT ‘ and great elegance, spicy richness and an enormous generosity of ripe cherry fruit. Mazelots 2009, aged in casks showed even more concentration and complexity and meltingly soft tannins – quite unusual for Irancy.

Not quite Champagne and definitely not Sekt

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The sparkling wines of Bailly-Lapierre – Crémant de Bourgogne began life in the 1970s as an attempt to make something good from grapes that had previously been sold to the to the Germans to be transformed into Sekt. From 1972, the newly-formed co-operative cellars in Northern Burgundy – the villages to the south west of Chablis – sought advice from neighbouring Champagne, put it to good use, and have since turned out highly creditable fizz.The wines spend far less time on the lees than most Champagne, but make up for this with an often appealing freshness.

On a recent visit I tasted the current range, but was also treated to a sample of a Blanc de Noirs from the 1985 harvest, disgorged in 1987. What a surprise! I’ve previously taste a wine from here from the early 1990s, but this was even fresher – lovely and rich was the flavours of confit lemon and lime and soft acidity and an almost minty, herby finish. It is a powerful testament to over a generation of careful wine-making.

Of the current releases ‘La Réserve’, a blend of five permitted grapes (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay, Sacy and Aligoté) and just nine months on lees is a simple, fruity bubbly with fairly soft acidity and some of the body of red fruit.

Rosé Brut is refreshingly strawberry with a host of other crunchy red fruit flavours. It’s not masively complex, but is very appealing. The same wine is in Waitrose under the Blason de Bourgogne label. £12.99 and well worth it.

The Pure Pinot Noir, longer sur lattes, is richer, with good crispness and even a little minerality.

Chardonnay 100% is very Chardonnay indeed: lighter, with the smell of white peach and a marked, fresh minerality. Marks and Spencer sell a version of this under their own label.

Noir et Blanc is delicious. Rich and complex, almost buttery, with lots of fruit and a fine tension between the fruit and acid.

Ravizotte, Extra Brut, based on Pinot Noir is surprisingly delicate, yet almost floral and open, with a clean mineral finish.

Egarde, from organically grown grapes, is complex, herbal and richly ripe, with a greater degree of elegance than in any other wine – and more length. It is my favourite.