Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for November, 2010

Beronia Gran Reserva: 1973 to 2001

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Bodegas Beronia was founded in 1973 and makes wine mainly from grapes grown in Rioja Alta. It was bought by Gonzalez Byass in 1982. I posted notes on some of their wines on October 21 and, as promised, here are my notes on their top wines – a remarkable flight of Gran Reservas shown in London by chief winemaker, Matias Celleja on 29 September. More information on the estate can also be found my  article in today’s Journal.


2001 Gran Reserva

Deep and young with good, tight, plummy, spicy fruit, with hints of coffee and chocolate. Soft at first then quite grippy with fine, lingering tannins and a touch of minerality.

1995 Gran Reserva (a dry, cold winter and a short vegetative cycle of 192 days and harvest 6 days earlier than expected, nevertheless rated ‘Excellent’ by the Consejo Regulador)

More evolved colour. A big, almost meaty nose, then rich, powerful and savoury in the mouth, with soft, ripe tannins.

1994 Gran Reserva (A vegetative cycle of 195 days. A  ‘slight inbalance between sugar levels and phenolic ripeness’ was restored by September rains. rated ‘Excellent’)

Quite deep, with big, rich, raisiny fruit with red fruits and spice in the mouth: focused and concentrated with a good structure – juicy acidity and slightly dusty tannins.

1987 Gran Reserva (Classed ‘Very Good’ – a more normal 200 day vegetative cycle and a slight reduction volume because of frosts in May after a cold winter)

Now quite garnet at the rim. The oak shows through rather – dusty and spicy. Quite a gentle wine with high acidity and rather drying fruit.

1985 Gran Reserva (Rated ‘Excellent’ – a hot, dry vintage following a 198 day vegetative cycle)

A similar colour, perhaps a shade deeper. a gentle, raisiny nose with the flavour of cherries in alcohol – sweet and a bit jammy. Just a shade rustic, but a very nice drink.

1982 Gran Reserva (a ‘practically perfect’ growing cycle – the best vintage of the 80s, giving wines of structure, balance and elegance)

A lovely old garnet. A gentle, balanced aroma of slightly fading red fruits and subtle spice. Still sweet, long and fine with good acidity.  A super wine that seems younger and finer than 1987!

1981 Gran Reserva (a cold, wet winter, early spring and a long, mild season – a growing cycle of 228 days)

Deeper than 82. Perfumed (dried flowers), less fruit and more spice than 82. Still a little chewy with quite high acidity. tannins now beginning to dry and becoming just a little astringent. It would show better with food.

1978 Gran Reserva (Classed ‘Very Good’, but more successful than that in Beronia’s vineyards)

Garnet. Nose a wee bit volatile and fading – old raspberry jam. Still quite sweet, but not without elegance and definitely still worth drinking.

1973 Gran Reserva (Cold, dry winter, a relatively short growing cycle and a hot, dry vintage)

A lovely old garnet. A sweet aroma of chocolate and coffee, less volatile than the 78. A bit tart and drying (a dry finish), but certainly alive and kicking.

Burgundy 2010: ‘a challenging vintage’

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Romain Taupenot’s verdict on 2010 is that it has been ‘a challenging vintage’. I talked to him at his domain, Tapuenot-Merme in Morey Saint Denis on Tuesday. ‘  Even before the season began there were problems. On 22 December 2009 a frost of -22C, without wind, killed many old vines, especially on the plain at Vosne Romanee. The first real problems of the growing season came in June during flowering. It rained in the second week of June, which resulted in both coulure and millerandage.

Yields were reduced more heavily in the generic and village appellations than the Premiers or Grands Crus – 30 to 50% down in the village wines, around 20% down for the Premiers Crus and 10 to 15% for the Grands Crus, which had flowered earlier and escaped the worst of the cold wet snap.

Rain in September, even during harvest for the first time in a decade ( which began on September 23 at Taupenot-Merme), led to some problems with rot, even though the berries in 2010 were quite thick skinned.  Unusually, even some of the tiny berries produced as a result of millerandage were subject to rot and bunches were not consistently ripe. Careful selection was essential.

The Cote de Beaune saw lower sugar levels than the Cote de Nuits. The level of potential alcohol at Saint Romain was 11.4/11.5, that of the Premiers Crus in the Cote de Nuits was a respectable 13% and 13.25 for the Grands Crus. Corton was the glorious exception in the Cote de Beaune with 13.9% – higher even than in 2009.

Fruit flavours, said Romain, were generally very good indeed, but acidity is high, especially, as in 2008, the level of malic acid.

Further north, in Chablis, Thomas Pico told me that 2010 had been a little less challenging although the rain in September also made careful selection necessary to remove rotten grapes. Yields, at around 40 hl/ha are good. The harvest was relatively late in comparison with recent years, finishing around 10 October which lowered acid levels. These, Thomas assured me are ‘correct’. Sugar levels are not especially high, but as Thomas says, ‘we don’t want very alcoholic wines here.’ Herve Tucki of Blason de Bourgogne told me that some of the Chablisienne growers even encountered a little noble rot.

The Cote Chalonnaise suffered greater problems according to Rene Bourgeon at Jambles.  Although the season started promisingly, a lot of water, he said, meant a lot of rot developed. Overall the quality is a little disappointing, but, he thinks, the wines may resemble those of 2007, which is certainly no disater: they are already giving a lot of pleasure.