Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A delicious white Burgundy and a delectable Cornas

There's a particularly vociferous Burgundy nut on one of the wine discussion boards that I frequent who contends that fruit is not something he particularly looks for (or even wants) in his aged Burgundies. Whilst I still demand some semblance of fruit in my red Burgundies (in fact, red anything - whether aged or not) I can sort of see where he is coming from, as far as the whites are concerned. Some may think that my over-use of fruit descriptors in tasting notes is an easy option - and I'd be the first to admit that my notes tend to have a uniformity of "style", relying quite heavily on fruit/flavour commentary, although I do very occasionally find myself drifting towards the poetic (or some may say pretentious)! But using fruit (which in wine normally means anything but grapes) to describe the flavours is, to my mind, one of the best ways of conveying the feel and style of a wine to the reader. That said - and for all it's many different guises - Chardonnay may well be the least "fruity" and most difficult to describe of all the grape varieties. Depending on where it comes from, you may get hints of apple, lemon, stone fruits, tropical fruits, whatever. But it is usually all about the flowery, minerally, earthy, fruit-in-a-non-fruit sort of way. Good Chardonay smells and tastes of Chardonnay - and good white Burgundy smells of white Burgundy - whatever that is. Here's a case in point, with my latest bottle of........

Domaine Michel Juillot Clos des Barraults 1999 Mercurey 1er CruI seem to remember that my previous bottle of this was a little kess evolved than this one, but that's bottle variation for you - and this is actually just as enjoyable. The only perceptible fruit remaining is baked apple, cut through with a bit of lemon juice - quite rich, but with a definte citrus tang. At almost 12 years of age, it may just be starting to tire a little, with some gentle oxidative notes, which I actually find attractive in aged white Burgundy. But it still shows plenty of Chardonnay (or should I say Burgundy) character, with fruit, minerality, terroir and some nicely integrated oak working in complete harmony. There's a hint of toffee apple (again, a sign that it is fading a bit) but that lovely lemony acidity keeps it fresh. There's also an interesting note of fresh root ginger - lightly spicy, in a cool climate sort of way. Mercurey isn't a grand appellation (it's in the Chalonnaise, some way to the south of the Cote d'Or) but this one certainly stands comparison to a good village Meursault. Lovely wine - who needs fruit?!

I actually have quite a backlog of notes from some really excellent tastings and dinners enjoyed recently. Not that I plan to write them all up, of course (that would be very boring) but I certainly plan to tell you about some of the better ones, when I have a little more time. Meanwhile, here's a particularly fine Northern Rhone for starters;

Thierry Allemand Chaillot 1998 Cornas
Still quite deep in colour with just a tiny pink-ish rim. The nose is a glorious expression of pure, traditional Northern Rhone Syrah - blackberry, raspberry and wild strawberry fruit aromas, mingled with lily of the valley and forest floor. There's a nice touch of savoury smoked bacon, beef stock and sun-dried tomato, but just enough to complement rather than smother the fruit, and what oak there is (or was) is now beautifully integrated. The palate too is traditional - a model of elegance and restraint - which is just how I like my wines. Again, there's plenty of fruit, some savouriness, and perhaps even a hint of rusticity, but there's a lightness of touch that makes it a real joy to drink, with present (but softening) tannins and the most wonderfully mouth-watering acidity. A Cornas for Burgundy lovers.

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