Friday, 29 April 2011

Some wines enjoyed over an extended Easter holiday

Just thought I'd take time out from writing-up my Burgundy trip notes to tell you about a few interesting wines we've enjoyed at home over the last week or so..........

Bodegas Campillo Reserva Especial 1995 Rioja
As befits a wine with 22 months' oak ageing and a further 14 years in bottle, this has a definite mahogany tinge. There's also a touch of mahogany to the nose as well (of the polished variety) which is rather attractive, in a relatively non-fruit sort of way. That said, there are some nice cherries-in-eau-de-vie aromas and a faint whiff of strawberries and cream. I'm not sure this was made in an entirely "old-school Rioja" way, and it may well have been quite chunky and rich in its youth, but it has certainly evolved into something quite evocative, with some really enticing woody/old oak, exotic spice and autumnal forest floor aromas. The palate is initially quite rich and powerful, but there's an underlying elegance to it - sort of a halfway house between Bordeaux and Burgundy. Again, the fruit flavours are verging on the secondary - red cherry and wild strawberries and again a touch of eau de vie - but the marriage of fruit, wood, tannin and healthy acidity really does work very nicely indeed, with the "wininess" lingering for quite a while on the finish. In fact, if a Martian asked you "what does wine smell and taste like?", then this would be a perfect example. Whilst it isn't quite a profound wine, it is certainly a very good one, which seems to me to be in a perfect place rght now. Drink now or keep for perhaps another 3 to 5 years. 13.0% abv.

Domain Org de Rac Family Reserve Shiraz 2005, Swartland, South Africa
Quite a deep blood red colour, with a narrow carmine rim. The nose offers enticing aromas of bramble and raspberries, with a touch of eau de vie, some interesting bready and savoury/meaty notes and just a hint of tar. If there's any oak, it is very much in the background, because this is all about fruit - and some pretty good fruit, at that. The palate is initially quite rich and chewy, but not overly dense, with lovely bright bramble flavours, firm (but also quite fine) tannins and a lovely backbone of acidity. In fact there's a lightness (in a good way) that you don't often encounter in new world Shiraz, and whilst I would hesitate to compare it to a northern Rhone Syrah, neither does it fit the template of a new world blockbuster. The finish is warm and spicy, with a lovely sweet and sour note lingering on the palate, and the 14.5% abv really doesn't show, in what is really quite a balanced wine. It isn't complex, but neither is it a simple quaffer, and although lovely to drink now, I'd be interested to see what it does over the next few years. A nice wine. 14.5% abv.

Mas de Morties 1995 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup
This is a remarkably youthful colour, given that this is almost 16 years old - deepish blood red at the core with a raspberry rim. The nose is fragrant with scents of garrigue herbs and spices, leather, meat/savoury and plenty of fruity nuances - raspberry and bramble, wild strawbs and a touch of citrus. The palate is initially quite reticent, almost as if the fruit has faded. But lo and behold - after half an hour in the decanter, it really begins to blossom, albeit in a fairly secondary way. All of those fruits begin to emerge, along with myriad savoury and earthy elements, soft spices and again garrigue herbs, complemented by almost-resolved tannins and juicy citrus-tinged acidity. It really is delicious. I've tasted a bottle or two of this wine before - indeed, this bottle was given to me by my friend and local restaurateur, CY Choong, as thanks for a favour - and it has never failed to impress. It is yet another example of a Languedoc wine with plenty of bottle age that more than holds its own against wines from much loftier appellations and regions. And yet it screams Languedoc - it simply could not be from anywhere else. And therein lies the moral of the story....... fine Languedoc wines such as this may be deliciously drinkable when young, but also have the capacity to age very gracefully indeed! A really lovely wine.

Domaine Treloar Tahi 2007 Cotes du Roussillon
I've waited a long time to taste this wine, since its predecessor the 2006 was released a good 3 years ago (and is still a baby, in terms of evolution). And I have to say, it has certainly been worth the wait. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, with a dense but bright purple core leading to a tiny cherry red rim. The nose exudes class, with considerably complex aromas including (but by no means limited to) black cherries, bramble, citrus fruits, garrigue herbs, incense and licorice, and a cloak of gently toasty, beautifully integrated oak. As the colour would suggest, the palate is dense, concentrated and tightly-knit, but not so much as to hide a certain degree of subtlety, with a huge core of juicy black fruits and exotic spiciness, complemented by firm but very fine tannins and tangy acidity. Although I wouldn't dare to suggest it is ready to drink yet, those curious enough to try a bottle at this early stage - preferably with food, of course - would certainly not be disappointed, because all of the components necessary for a very fine wine are there. Indeed, although the 2006 was a hard act to follow, I think this 2007 just about shades it, because of its sheer complexity and potential for elegance. And whilst the 2006 is probably another 8 to 12 years away from its peak, this one may get there a little quicker - but I suspect it will also stay there for longer. This will be available for purchase via my website in a few days, priced at £17.95 (and if you are on my mailing list, you'll be amongst the first to hear about it). A benchmark Roussillon wine - and for me the finest Treloar red yet. 14.0% abv.

Kurt Hain Piesporter Domherr Riesling Auslese 2009 Mosel
This is not one of the wines I feature on my list (i.e. sell) but, although I didn't get to taste it when I visited the Kurt Hain winery last year, I was interested enough to buy a bottle. At 17 Euros from the cellar door, it isn't particularly cheap (and if I were to sell it, the price would be around £22) but then again it isn't overly expensive, in comparison to other top Mosel growers' Auslesen wines. And, although at this early stage it is yet to fully display the sheer vivacity and "zinginess" of the Kabinett and Spatlese wines from the same grower, it certainly has the structure to evolve beautifully towards its peak (which I would say will be at least another 10 years). At just 7.0% abv, it is currently all about the fruit - and lots of it. Aromas of apricot, mandarin orange, lemon zest and lime oil fairly leap from the glass, accompanied by subtle hints of apple pie, basil and wet slate. Come to think of it, there's even a touch of florality as well. The flavours are super-intense, with all of those lovely aromas manifesting themselves on the palate, in a way that fills the senses and lingers for an age. In fact, as it opens up over the course of half a day, this wine really begins to blossom, to the extent that the acidity really comes to the fore - both on the nose and in the mouth - thus revealing some of the promise that lies ahead. Of course, I would happily sit and drink a whole bottle of this myself, such is its sheer deliciousness and up-front fruitiness, but it really does deserve to be kept for a few more years, in order to fulfil its enormous potential. A real cracker, which can only get better. 7.0% abv.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Burgundy Part 4 - Domaines Francois Lamarche and Michel Gros

Friday saw another early start, leaving Saint-Gengoux at 8.30, for a 10 o'clock appointment at Domaine Francois Lamarche in Vosne-Romanée. They had no wines to sell, here (and every wine we tasted was a tank sample) so presumably everything is snapped-up very quickly on release. As a result, I have no idea of prices - though I suspect they are pretty pricey. That said, there was a very clear distinction between the "lower end" wines and the top wines, with quality rising steadily through the tasting - definitely the mark of excellent terroir and a very good winemaker.

The Lamarche residence
Bourgogne 2009
Simple cherry aromas and flavours, with high acidity. Fresh, firm, cherry kernel flavours. Decent, but not loveable. Long, though.

Vosne-Romanée Villages 2009
A lick of oak and a touch of spice. Pepper and licorice, cherries and a touch of oak tannin. Soft fruit flavours, but with a firm underlying structure.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Cras 2009
More woody, with polished/older oak aromas. Leafy, almost stalky, with high acidity, hefty tannins and somewhat sour fruit. Not an easy wine to taste.

Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Chaumes 2009
Elegant nose of Asian spices, subtle oak and a hint of chocolate. Softer, more balanced and very enjoyable. A winner.

Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots 2009
Quite muted on the nose - not a lot going on. The palate is a different matter - lovely and soft and full of spicy fruit flavours. Supple tannins, gentle acidity, quite rich, but elegant too. Not a lot of oak influence, but none the worse for it. Long and lovely.

Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Malconsorts 2009
Again, the nose is muted (too cold?) but showing notes of spices, chocolate and older oak. The palate is generous and expansive, with dark cherry flavours, good acidity and some hefty tannins. There's plenty of sweet fruit lurking underneath, but this really needs a good few years to evolve.

Échezaux Grand Cru 2009
Generously oaked (85% new oak) but well done - plenty of fruit and spice showing through on the nose. The palate has soft, sweet, almost pastilley fruit flavours, well balanced, although the tannins linger on the finish. Needs 10 years, after which I think it will be supremely elegant.

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2009
Bitter cherry kernel nose. This is a big wine in every way - rich and fruity, but again very tannic. Needs 10 years or more.

Grands Échezaux Grand Cru 2009
A wonderfully elegant nose - very "winey", integrated and not oaky at all. Perfumed, with notes of flowers and cloves. The palate is expansive, dense, tannic, perhaps even a bit stalky, but very ripe and opulent. Should turn out to be rather special.

La Grand Rue Grand Cru 2009
Cloves and mixed spices on the nose. Enormously complex, with older wood notes and a touch of cocoa. The tannins are present, but very fine, silky even. This sees 90% new oak, but you wouldn't know it, because it's all about the fruit. Very long and very elegant - in fact, a very fine wine indeed.

High-tech temperature control and stainless steel in the cellar at Domaine Lamarche

The 1.65 hectare monopole vineyard La Grand Rue

Then it was off to the café in Morey-Saint-Denisfor a luch of bières pression and a delicious omelette aux champignons. The service was painfully slow, but it was a scorcher of a day, so were were happy to sit outside and watch the world go by.

This is what happens when you sit too close to the road - but Peter Bamford sees the funny side
(lunch in Morey-Saint-Denis)

Just another Vosne-Romanée winemaker's residence!

After lunch, we headed for our next appointment at Domaine Michel Gros in Vosne. It was nice to be able to actually buy a few bottles of wine for once, instead of just tasting them. Then again, if this had been the case at every domaine we visited, my wallet would have taken a real battering! Conversely, there were no barrel or tank samples here - everything we tasted was from bottle.

The immaculate cellars at Domaine Michel Gros

Bourgogne Haut Cotes de Nuits 2008 - 9.80 Euros
A lovely bright colour, with aromas of pepper, tar and bramble fruits. Fairly light-bodied, but with excellent structure. Nice to drink now, but will evolve for a few years yet. Great value at 9.80 Euros. I bought 4 bottles.

Vosne-Romanée 2007 - 23.20 Euros
Tar and bramble on the nose again. Richer, but less elegant than the HCdN. A bit rustic.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2007 - 22 Euros
Lighter-bodied, and all the better for it. Aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry, with high acidity and soft but present tannins. A lovely, pure-fruited wine, with excellent potential. At 22 Euros, this wasn't cheap for a mere village wine, but I was impressed enough to buy a couple.

Nuits-Saint-George Les Chaliots 2007 - 22 Euros
Tar, bramble and cherry kernel. Bitter cherry kernel on the palate, with some earthiness and minerality, but very short on real fruit. I can't see where this one is going.

Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Clos de Réas 2004 - 41.50 Euros
My goodness this is strong and rich and very masculine. Animal/bretty notes on the nose. The palate is massive, with dark fruits and fierce tannins - real bottom of the teapot stuff! Feral, mouth-filling, meaty, but with a good core of sweet red and black fruits, and a touch of cranberry sourness. Not for drinking now, but I feel this could be very interesting in another 10 years.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 2001 - 41.70 Euros
This seemed a bit oxidised, but that was probably because the bottle had been open for a day or more. Then again, I wonder why they are still selling this wine (plus all the other vintages between 2003 and 2008, except the 2005 - with the '03 being most expensive at 44.30 Euros!).  It displays sweet fruit, tar, liqueur and mulberry. Generous and rich, with some sous-bois and other secondary aromas and flavours. Give it another 5 years.

In the office at Michel Gros - IWC Pinot Noir and Red Winemaker of the Year trophies

Although we didn't get to taste it, Andy Leslie spotted a Bourgogne Haut Cotes de Nuits Blanc 2008 on the list and took a punt on a few bottles. When he opened one for us to enjoy back at the ranch, I was kicking myself for not having done the same, because it was absolutely delicious - and proof that basic whites from top Burgundy growers can provide great enjoyment for not a lot of money. At 10.30 Euros, it was an absolute bargain.

Next up, Domaine Dubreil-Fontaine in Pernand-Vergelesses.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Burgundy Part 3 - Clos de Lambrays

Right - starting today, I have 11 days off work (yippee!) so it is high time I caught up on publishing on all the notes I have accumulated in recent weeks - especially those from our recent trip to Burgundy. I also have notes on some rather interesting tasting events in Nottingham, which I shall attend to in due course, but for now I'll concentrate on Burgundy.

Following a 6.30 a.m start on Wednesday 6 April, we just managed to get to the Eurotunnel in time for our 11.20 crossing. Half an hour later we were on the Autoroute, bound for the medieval village of Saint-Gengoux-le-National, a few kilometres west of Chalon-sur-Saone. This is where our friend and Nottingham Wine Circle stalwart David Bennett has a second home - I move in high circles, you know! We arrived at around 7.45 p.m French time, to a light supper of Crémant de Bourgogne, a selection of breads and cheeses...... and plenty more lovely Burgundy wines.

Our schedule for the next few days was fairly leisurely, especially for the first couple of days, where we had just 2 tastings a day, although the third day became rather (too) hectic, with two further visits tagged onto the two already planned. I've already written about Mugneret-Gibourg and Maison Ilan (scroll down a bit, if you missed them) but I plan to write-up the others in the coming days. Briefly, though, this was our full schedule;

  • a.m - Clos de Lambrays
  • p.m - Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg
  • a.m - Domaine Lamarche
  • p.m - Domaine Michel Gros
  • a.m - Domaine Dubreil-Fontaine
  • Lunchtime - Maison Ilan
  • p.m - Mischief & Mayhem
  • Late p.m - Domaine David Clarke
We had an early start on Thursday - leaving Saint Gengoux at 8.30, in time to make a 10 o'clock appointment at the historic Clos de Lambrays, in the Cotes de Nuits village of Morey-Saint-Denis. Clos de Lambrays has an excellent website, so I won't bore you with the historical details.

We were met by the Managing Director and Oenologist, Thierry Brouin, who gave us a brief tour of the magnificent garden of the chateau - which, he explained, would actually qualify as Grand Cru vineyard, were it not planted to trees, shrubs and flowers(!)

Grand Cru garden and courtyard!

Then it was to the cellars, to taste four vintages of Clos de Lambrays Grand Cru. It is worth pointing out that these were the only wines available for tasting - and even then, only from library stocks. Virtually all of the wines made at this estate are actually sold on allocation or en primeur, so we were very privileged to actually get to taste anything, never mind the flagship wine(s). Then again, Andy, Peter and David did buy a half-dozen bottles between them, though I'm fairly sure they didn't get much change out of 600 Euros! I should also point out that I seem to have lost my own tasting notes from this visit (though I have my notes from all the other visits) so those that follow are courtesy of Andy Leslie;

Yes, it really was that dark in the cellars

Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru 2010 (barrel sample)
Lovely fresh strawberry and bramble fruit, but difficult to assess at this early stage.

From bottles:

Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru 2009
Fabulous wine. Intense and complex nose. Beautiful perfume. Palate also delicious now - structured, complex, beautiful balance.

Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru 2008
Very pale. More animal and complex, with a savoury nose - an absolute delight. Spicy notes that are peppery, where the 2009 was more asian spice. Some Christmas cake hints on the nose too. Palate intense and structured and fantastic! Heaps of fresh redcurrant fruit. Soft velvet tannins.

Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru 2006
Nose of asian spices and big dark brooding fruit; something animal too. The biggest by far - a darkly structured wine. Perfume delicious. Palate tannic and big and structured. Peppery and delicious. Needs lots of time.

We then bade farewell to Monsieur Brouin and his staff and took a walk around the Clos de Lambrays vineyard, followed by a simple picnic lunch in the shade of the trees on the hill above the village.

The eponymous walled vineyard of the Clos de Lambrays

Then it was off to Domaine Mugneret Gibourg. If you missed my report on this grower, again, scroll down a bit and you'll find it.

In the evening, we dined back at David's house in Saint-Gengoux - again, with plenty of Crémant and fine Burgundy wines. Later, we were joined by Bill and Jane Nanson and their dog, Elsa. Bill and Jane live and work in Basle, just over the border in Switzerland, but they are regular visitors to the Cote d'Or, and had driven over to stay with us for the remainder of the trip. They were delightful company, as indeed was Elsa - just about the most brilliant dog I have ever encountered.

Those of you who are well-versed in Burgundy wines will more than likely know of Bill Nanson, whose Burgundy Report website and blog is well worth a read - and you might even find some of Bill's photos and tasting notes from the trip. I shall certainly be following his blog from hereon in.

Elsa - Bill and Jane Nanson's delightful Rhodesian Ridgeback 

Tomorrow, I'll report on our visits to Domaines Michel Gros and Lamarche.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A couple of white wines enjoyed over the weekend. Plus, plenty of hot air in Saint Gengoux.....

Our recent trip to Burgundy almost seems like a distant memory now, although it is actually only 6 days since we returned. Nevertheless, I still have plenty of notes from the trip to write-up, which I hope to get around to over the next few days - watch this space. Meanwhile, here are my notes on a couple of lovely white wines enjoyed over this (rather glorious) early Spring weekend.

Domaine Gayda Cuvée Occitane Blanc 2008 Vin de Pays d'Oc
This is a blend of 48% Grenache Blanc, 28% Marsanne, 16% Roussanne and 8% Viognier, sourced (as often seems to be the case with this grower) from various different parts of Languedoc and Roussillon. This one is predominantly from the Fennouilledes area of Roussillon, with some of the Marsanne coming from the Minervois sub-region of La Liviniere. It's an interesting concept (and one which Australia has pioneered for a long time) and if the wines are this good, who cares if it lacks a "single" regional identity? As I write, the bottle has actually been open for 2 days, and the wine seems all the better for it. When first opened, it had a delightful floral aroma, with notes of spring blossom and honeysuckle, but those aromas carried through to the palate in a way that was a bit too intense for my personal liking (although TLD loved it). However, 2 days later and it is really singing. There's still a hint of flowers, but also some nicely-integrated (and quite subtle, quite smoky) oak, and hints of peach and lemon zest, but with plenty of secondary/non fruity, though beautifully "winey" notes. The palate has also really settled into its stride, with gentle peach and lemon fruit flavours, a hint of earthiness and again, beautifully integrated oak (older oak, I would imagine). It also offers a delightfully tangy streak of stony minerality, making for a wine which actually possesses a good deal of complexity - it just takes a day or two in the fridge (or a year or two more in bottle, perhaps) to really show its class. As with many of Languedoc's (or in this case Roussillon's) classier oak-matured whites, this isn't too far removed from the old-style Riojas I enjoy so much. All-in-all, this is a really promising wine, which is lovely to drink now, but which may well turn into something even more interesting with 3 to 5 years more in bottle. It really is very yummy indeed, which makes me look forward even more to visiting this estate in a couple of months' time. Meanwhile, you can buy it at Cambridge Wines for £12.69.

Esporao Duas Castas 2010 Alentejo
A blend of Gouveio (a new one on me) and Verdelho, vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks for a short time on the lees. This is less serious than the Branco Reserva 2009 from the same grower that I reviewed in January, but a tasty wine nonetheless. Aromas of apples, lemons and almonds (as suggested on the Cambridge Wines website), with a hint - though not too much - of peardrops, a touch of florality and a subtle herbaceousness - a sort of halfway house between a southern Rhone blend and a Loire Sauvignon. The flavours are also dominated by apples, pears and lemons, with mouth-watering acidity to match, but a touch of depth and richness that lifts it above the merely simple. Although not particularly to my taste, it is another beautifully-made wine, which would be a lovely match for light fish dishes or even mackerel pate with a salad and vinaigrette. £9.99 at Cambridge Wines.

More on the Burgundy trip (and some really lovely wines) over the next couple of days, but for now, here are a couple of photos of a hot air balloon which drifted very low of Saint Gengoux Le Nacional last Sunday evening. My new friend the Reverend Michael Thompson (David Bennett's neighbour in Saint Gengoux) has been asking me to post these since last week! The second photo shows just how low - I hope the occupants made it back to terra firma safely - and I hope you like the photos, Father Michael!

Hot air balloon over Saint Gengoux

                 Hot air balloon just about in Saint Gengoux!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Burgundy Part 2 - Maison Ilan

It is now Sunday evening in Burgundy and I have managed just one previous post on this trip - which only goes to show what a busy time it has been. Yesterday was a case in point, where two planned grower visits turned into four, resulting in an eleven hour day and a late dinner. Today has been more relaxing, with a long lunch on the sun-drenched terrace of the delightful restaurant St. Martin in Chapaize, followed by a mini tour of the highways and byways of southern Burgundy (detailed commentary provided by Monsieur Bennett). Tonight, we will enjoy a supper of cold meats, cheeses, salad and a few more bottles of wine, then it's an early start tomorrow morning, for the journey back to Nottingham.

I'll have plenty to write about over the next few days. Meanwhile, here are a few thoughts on a visit to taste the wines of Maison Ilan in Nuits Saint Georges.

I first heard of Ray Walker around 2 years ago, when he posted on the wine-pages forum about his desire to go and make wine in Burgundy. Apart from the fact that he is from California, I knew very little else about Ray. For some reason, I assumed that he was retired from the Rat Race and just fancied trying his hand at making wine in his dotage. In fact, he has just turned 30, with a background in real estate and finance - and didn't even have an interest in wine at all until around 5 years ago! Rather than repeat the story, I'll just refer you the the Maison Ilan website. There's a good blog, too (linked from the main website). For now, here are my notes from a rather special tasting of Ray's wines.

Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Monts Luisants 2010
Bright, super fresh, ripe red fruits, redcurrant and an interesting lemony quality (probably due to the malic acid). Very nice.

Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots 2010
Savoury, herby, meaty aromas, with lots of redcurrant and raspberry. Again, plenty of malic acid, which only serves to give it even more lift. Delicate and expressive.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Corbeaux 2010
Prickly, light, full of cherry fruit. Nice!

Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru Aux Charmes 2010
Sweet raspberry fruit aromas and flavours. Very substantial, hugely enjoyable, with great promise.

Le Chambertin Grand Cru 2010
This is big, concentrated and crammed full of fruit. Incredibly elegant, long and utterly delicious.

Ray Walker and his 90 year-old grape press - a bargain at 400 Euros!

Then we were treated to 3 wines from the 2009 vintage, from bottle.............

Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots 2009
Aromas of mocha, meat and hugely concentrated fruit, with an enticing vanilla/custard note. The palate is silky, with very fine tannins, juicy cranberry and redcurrant fruit and all manner of exotic spices. A fabulous wine.

Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru Aux Charmes 2009
There's a hint of fine Calvados, and again a strong whiff of mocha, but the fruit just sings. Wonderful Pinot Noir character, with immensely concentrated sweet, savoury fruit and breath-taking complexity. Opulent, but so completely elegant, with a finish that just goes on forever. For me, this was a truly profound wine.

Le Chambertin Grand Cru 2009
I didn't really manage to write anything coherent about this wine, although I do remember it was a bigger wine than the Charmes - richer and even more concentrated. But quite frankly almost as good. Frankly, to have the opportunity to taste two such profound wines, one after the other, was a very rare treat indeed. Stunning wine(s).

Always allowing for the fact that Ray Walker has yet to actually bottle his first vintage (he gave up on the first attempt at bottling the 2009's after 20-odd bottles, as the corks hadn't been paraffin-treated, so weren't going in properly) it really isn't too hard to imagine him becoming a very big star in Burgundy, in a very short space of time. Of course, there's many a slip between cup and lip, but this is a man who clearly knows what he wants, and is willing to put in as much work as is needed to get it. He's clearly had some great luck, not just in obtaining financial backing for Maison Ilan, but also in being able - in his first year of making wine - to source grapes from some of the finest vineyards on the Cote d'Or. But they say you make your own luck, and Ray is clearly a very driven man. The fact that he appears genuinely modest about what he has achieved in such a short space of time just makes you want even more for him to succeed.

That's it for now, but here are a couple of nice photos from our trip (and there's plenty more whey they came from)..............

This magnificent animal pulls the plough in the vineyards of the biodynamic 
Domaine Romanée Conti

Friday, 8 April 2011

Burgundy Part 1 - Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg

It felt like a nightmare – but in reality, a rendition of “God Save The Queen”, played hesitatingly (and very loudly) on some sort of pump organ in the style Captain Pugwash at 7.30 in the morning (to an Englishman it was 6.30) was just David Bennett’s way of making sure that we (and the neighbours) were awake. Thursday could only get better.

We had arrived at David’s house in the medieval southern Burgundy village of Saint Gengoux Le Nacional at around 7.45 pm on Wednesday evening – pretty much bang on schedule, and with a busy day to look forward to on Thursday. An early start saw us on the road by 8.30 am, heading north for a 10 am appointment with Domaine des Lambrays in Morey Saint-Denis.  I forgot my notepad for this one, so didn't take any notes as such. I'll try and put together a report based on others' notes soon. Meanwhile………………

After a long walk around the vineyards behind Morey, we found a cool spot in the shade of the forest, half way up the hill, for a picnic lunch. Then it was off to Vosne-Romanée, for our 2.30 pm appointment at Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. I have to say that the wines of this estate were – for me – the highlight of the 2 days so far. We tasted 7 wines, all from the brilliant 2009 vintage. Following various degrees of oak ageing, all of the cuvées are currently lying in stainless steel tanks, ready for bottling in around 2 weeks’ time. These are my notes;

Vosne-Romanée 2009
Red fruit aromas and a hint of black fruit and some older wood notes. Pure, bright flavours of fresh and crystallised fruits, with fine tannins. A nice start.

Chambolle-Musigny 2009 1er Cru Les Feusselottes
This is more serious – more oak, more fruit, more soft spice (I noted fenugreek in particular). The palate shows a touch of austerity, with a combination of healthy acidity, soft tannins and moderate fruit. Another very nice wine.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2009 1er Cru Les Chaignots
Fenugreek again. A lovely mix of crystallised fruits, wild strawberries, cherries and classy oak. Cracking structure – fruit, acidity and tannins in perfect harmony. Very long, and with a nice lingering vanilla note on the finish. Undoubtedly firm, but very fine, like an iron fist in a velvet glove, and very lovely to drink, even at this early stage. That said, this has real potential. A lovely wine – and if Mr Bennett gets on with sending a confirmatory email, we may be lucky enough to buy 3 bottles each of this wine. It will cost us around 30 quid a go, but will be worth every penny.

Échezaux 2009
This one takes a while to come out of its shell. Serious, complex wine, with hints of apples and red capsicum lurking behind the super-ripe strawberry fruit, with soft spices, polished wood and marked stone/mineral. I even got some apple pie notes on the palate, amongst the ripe strawberry. This is very elegant and very long. A fabulous wine.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru 2009
This is a “jeune vignes”, from a vineyard which actually qualifies as Griottes Grand Cru – which, once the vines are more established, it will actually be. But for now, it is labelled as 1er Cru. High toned ,then becoming perfumed and herby, with notes of oregano, cloves, bay and spearmint – a very sexy nose. The palate is quite simple in comparison, whilst being intensely fruity and rich. The finish is a touch tannic and even austere. Needs time.

Ruchottes-Chambertin 2009 Grand Cru
This is wonderful. It smells like an old church pew, with a combination of incense, exotic spices and polished wood, smeared with ripe wild strawberries. The palate is incredibly complex and structured, and amazingly fleet of foot. This is already soft and sexy and very feminine. Spicy, woody, fruity, elegant – just wonderful. My note can’t really do it justice. At somewhat in excess of £100 a bottle, I doubt that I will get to drink too much of this, but it was a real privilege to taste. A profound wine.

Clos Vougeot 2009 Grand Cru
Savoury, meaty, rich. Then the spices and incense notes begin to emerge. And cherries, redcurrants, violets and a hint of bitter chocolate. This is masculine and dense – there’s almost something of the Languedoc about it. Ripe redcurrants, with good acidity, but not tart in fact, very ripe, almost opulent. This is currently a sleeper, but will surely be fabulous, given time.

Madame Mugneret listens intently, as David Bennett explains exactly how to make great Burgundy

That's it for now. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Off to Burgundy for a few days

Just a quick post to let you know I'm still alive and kicking (if a little tired and in need of a rest)! Apart from my recent pieces about Oddbins (now officially in administration) I've been so busy with other things recently - wine business, day job, family, car troubles, etc - that I simply haven't had the time for blogging. Sometimes, something just has to give!

By the time you read this (I'm posting around midnight, when I really should be doing other things) I will more than likely be on my way to Burgundy, to enjoy a few days of wine, food and general conviviality with my good friends David Bennett, Andy Leslie, Bernard Caille and Peter Bamford. Apart from several planned visits to some very fine Cote d'Or wine growers (which I hope to report on over the coming days) I will hopefully also have some time to write up some of the best wines from hundreds of tasting notes I've been accumulating over the last few weeks. So, without the constraints of work, wine business and other commitments to occupy me for a few days, there will be plenty of scope for typing them up for publication over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, watch out for lots of Burgundy-related posts over the next few days (wireless connection permitting).

A bientot!