Domaine La Combe Blanche Minervois 1989
Yes, you read the vintage correctly! This bottle is part of a case that I bought from winemaker Guy Vanlancker for the princely sum of 120 Euros (which works out at around £9 a bottle) and has provided pleasurable drinking over the last year or two. Granted, at over 22 years of age, it is hardly in it's first flush of youth, but for what is essentially Guy's "basic" Minervois, it has lasted remarkably well. As far as I can recall, it is an un-oaked blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. It offers some really quite complex aromas of forest fruits, damp earth and a subtle savouriness, with notes of garrigue herbs, soft spices and old leather. And it certainly isn't difficult to spot the Syrah in the blend, as there are definite hints of violets and lilies. The palate is initially quite reticent and earthy, with delicate flavours of cherry and redcurrant, subtle herby and spicy nuances and a hint of licorice. It even seems to fade quite quickly in the glass for a while, but once the bottle has been open for an hour or two, the aromas and flavours really begin to blossom - which, to be honest, is the opposite of what I expected. There's still a touch of sweet bramble lurking in there, allied to sour red fruits, with wonderful acidity and even a touch of tannic grip. As I type, it is almost 8 hours since I opened the bottle and the final glass is definitely the best. It really is quite delicious, with a sweet and sour finish that lingers for a good while. I sill have 2 or 3 bottles left, and on this showing, they should provide some lovely drinking over the next year or two. Who says Languedoc wines don't age? 12.5% abv.
Domaine Michel Gros Bourgogne Haut Cotes de Nuits 2005
This, on the other hand, is a relatively youthful wine, which has taken a full 24 hours to really show it's class. When I opened it last night, it was a touch closed and primary, but it has now opened-up into a fine example of it's kind. Wines from the Haut Cotes (being just one step up from basic Bourgogne Pinot Noir)are often considered to be relatively light and inconsequential, when compared to the Village and 1er cru wines, but when they are made by a good grower in a good (or in this case potentially great) vintage, they can provide wonderful drinking. And this one has all the attributes one could possibly expect from "lower end" Burgundy. The nose is essence of Pinot Noir - bright cherry and raspberry fruit aromas, forest floor, soft spice, leather, orange peel. There's a touch of oak influence too, but it seems totally in keeping with the fruit and adds complexity. The so-called experts will tell you that it is impossible to gauge acidity (or sweetness) from the nose, but when you stick your nose in the glass, you just know it is going to be there. And so it goes - a gloriously balanced wine, with ripe red fruit flavours, married to just the right amount of wood and grape tannin and truly mouth-watering acidity. Being from the higher slopes (somewhat relative, as there are no really big hills in Burgundy) it is essentially fairly light-bodied, yet with sufficient concentration and complexity to satisfy any Burgundy lover. Incidentally, I once read a comment on a wine forum, by a rather stuffy person fitting that description, along the lines that Burgundy has less to do with the grape than the terroir. The suggestion being that Burgundy would make great red wines, whatever grape variety was planted. Which, frankly, is just about as anally-retentive and pretentious a comment as I've ever heard about wine. Nevertheless, this is perhaps the sort of wine that could persuade lovers of new-world Pinot (or indeed Pinot from anywhere else) that Burgundy really is the best place in the world to grow Pinot Noir. It's just a shame about the prices - although this one was a relative bargain at £16 a bottle (and you can still buy it, in the Lay & Wheeler Sale). 13.0% abv.
Coincidentaly, my next post will feature my notes from a rather excellent recent tasting of white and red Burgundy wines from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 vintages.