Skip to content

2021 Burgundies—Tiny Quantities; Mostly Moderate Quality with Some Successes 

Vintage Overview 

The 2021 vintage in Burgundy is indisputably two things: tiny and heterogeneous. Beyond that, commentators are likely to see the vintage’s heterogeneity through different lenses, depending in part on what they tasted, and when—and on whether they have wine to sell. So, you will no doubt hear a wide range of views on the vintage, as I certainly have, including from the producers themselves. 

For my own part, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s description of his political rival Clement Attlee as “a modest man with much to be modest about.” With slight adaptation, this might well serve as an epigraph for the 2021 vintage. That said, conditions were far from disastrous, and the best producers made wines that are very good and even, in a few cases, transcend the vintage. Yet if one considers the high prices the wines will no doubt fetch, the consumer needs to ask some hard questions about the quality/price ratio for even the best wines of this vintage.  

The defining event of the 2021 growing season occurred right at the beginning: a deep frost stretching over three nights, April 6-8, accompanied by snow. What made this frost particularly devastating was that a warm spell in March, with temperatures reaching the 80s, had encouraged the young buds. While many growers lit candles (in the vineyards, though maybe in church as well) in the hope of creating enough warmth to protect the vines, this only rarely was of sufficient help. The Côte de Beaune, where development was somewhat further along, suffered more than the Côte de Nuits, though the latter was hardly spared. Unlike most frosts, which tend to affect the vines in cooler sites (typically the lesser appellations) it was often the upper parts of the slope—where the favored sites budded earliest—that were worst affected. Thus, while overall losses were 25% below the five prior year average in the Côte de Nuits, and 35% for the Côte de Beaune reds, most of the producers we talked to reported far more severe losses. Also, we were told that the vines in the Côte de Beaune often took up to six weeks to generate secondary buds, producing grapes that never got fully ripe. However, a few lucky producers who had delayed their pruning (usually because of extraneous factors, rather than deliberate decisions), and whose buds in consequence had not developed, escaped serious loss. 

The situation did not improve following the frost, and one producer described the vineyards at the end of May as “looking like early April.” A cool and rainy summer encouraged mildew and oïdium, and frequent spraying became critical. Fortunately for the growers, the late-season weather turned sunny and by September 1st the north wind, the frequent savior of vintages, rose and kept the vines dry and nights cool—though several growers described September as “good, not fantastic”. The harvest generally took place well into the second half of September—average for Burgundy, before climate change made August harvests commonplace. Quite a few producers commented that, had the crop not been so small, it would never have reached even a semblance of maturity. 

Most growers reported that the grapes were healthy when picked—though, somewhat inconsistently, more than a few said that a lot of sorting was necessary, and there were some reports of botrytis-affected grapes. Fermentations passed off without incident, and while malic acidity tended to be high, the malos largely took place normally, though a few producers told us that they had some very late malos, and a tiny number were still underway. One issue for the growers was how to treat the second growth. These grapes are, of course, less ripe than the initial growth, but in an extremely short vintage, it’s a rare and conscientious producer who will not include them. Also, there was a lot of inconsistency in the use of stems in this vintage, with some producers believing they added density (and volume), while others, worried about insufficient ripeness, decreased or eliminated their use. Finally, alcoholic degrees were on the low side (averaging 11.5-12 degrees natural alcohol among the whites), and a few forthright growers admitted to chaptalizing–which of course means that many more did. 

The results were extremely heterogeneous, but a few patterns emerged, some seemingly contradictory: 

  • yields for the producers we visited were often down 50-80%, and especially among the premiers crus there was often not enough wine to make even a barrel from a single climat. A number of producers therefore combined some or all their premiers crus into a single cuvée or included a small quantity of premier cru in their Village wine. By contrast, there were some sites in the Côte de Nuits that suffered no more than minor losses.  
  • time and again, we heard producers refer to the wines as “classic” and a return to the types of vintages of the 1980s. Of course, not a lot of them were producing wines in the ‘80s, or else they have mercifully forgotten all the mediocre vintages of that decade, where only one red wine vintage, 1985, even reached the 4-star level. Fans of the ’21 vintage also cited their freshness, though with relatively high pH levels for the reds, this was often hard to see—but in terms of lower alcohol, they were indeed like the Burgundies before the era of global warming. 
  • in general, the whites tend to be overly acidic while the reds, by contrast, frequently seem softer and less structured. Many of the reds were light-bodied, especially when contrasted with the 2020s, but in the better wines there was enough fruit to make them enjoyable, though hardly profound. For the most part, they should be ready to drink relatively early. 
  • the Côte de Beaune clearly fared worse than the Côte de Nuits, not only in the extent of the frost damage, but from the long delay before the vines put out a second set of buds. With very little if anything left of the first crop, the resulting grapes—often underripe and acidic—in some cases provided much of what little production there was. 
  • approaches sometimes differed significantly: while many growers reported shorter cuvaisons and less punching down and intended to bottle on the early side to capture the freshness of the vintage, a few took the opposite approach, fearing the wines were too light and needed a longer maceration and more extraction. Because of the small quantities, producers were often unable to use their preferred mixes of new and older barrels—if you only have one barrel of a wine, then it’s either all in new wood, or none. 
  • although not universal by any means, I found more than a few of the reds to be characterized by rather dusty tannins—especially among the wines that did not merit individual reviews below.

Still, the only generalization that can really hold is that the results were heterogeneous. While even the best producers were not 100% successful given the capriciousness of Mother Nature, where skill and luck came together the results could be excellent and, even in a few cases, transcend the vintage. 

When asked about comparable prior vintages, few producers were willing to name any. Those that did, sometimes said 2010, which curiously is statistically highly similar to 2021, though the growing seasons were completely different, as are the wines—perhaps if anything showing the uselessness of statistical analysis in assessing vintage quality. A few growers mentioned some stylistic similarities to 2007, though again the growing seasons were very different, and others to 2001. While also characterized by very different conditions, it would be a very good thing indeed if the ‘21s turned out to be comparable to the ’01 Côte de Nuits reds; however, to me the ‘21 reds, though at their best fresh, medium weight and showing good terroir character, don’t have the same precision or intensity as the ‘01s. 

Fortunately for the producers, the harvest of 2022 was copious and reported to be of very good quality (tune in next year for a report), which meant that the producers were very upbeat, even about their 2021s—though with such small quantities, they have little need for a sales pitch.  

Because there were fewer wines to see, and fewer successes than in recent vintages, the reviews below are a bit cursory, focusing on the more successful wines of each domaine, but hopefully they will give the reader a flavor for this rather diverse and difficult vintage. 

Revisiting the 2020s: While as usual, our tastings of 2020s were episodic, the wines have clearly begun to close down in bottle and many are now tasting heavy, with the relatively higher levels of alcohol in this vintage being quite evident. The mid-palate lift and purity one saw last year in barrel seems, for the moment, to be suppressed. Because Burgundies not infrequently shut down to one degree or another in bottle, this is not yet cause for alarm, but given that we are in these days of climate change dealing with vintages that are often of a different character from the past, analogies to prior vintages are not always helpful. We will all need to wait and see if these wines can recapture the freshness they (perhaps improbably) displayed in barrel. 


Finally, if I may be permitted a small rant (and why not, it’s my blog!): I am increasingly concerned about the state of the Burgundy market—not its height, so much as the small bubbles that have begun to proliferate. The ever-escalating prices for exceptional wines, such as La Tâche or Rousseau’s Chambertin, are at least justified by their quality, though they’re not particularly scarce by Burgundian standards. And even if grand cru prices have in general become out of reach for many consumers, the combination of warmer vintages over the past two decades, improvements in winemaking, and greater rewards for quality winemaking, has meant that an increasing number of small producers are making wines from the “lesser” Burgundian appellations of high quality at prices that are still quite affordable.

What troubles me is the increasing number of instances in which prices have become completely detached from quality. Today, absurd amounts are being paid for wines from lesser appellations made by producers who, just a few years ago, were mostly laboring in relative (and in some cases, deserved) obscurity. If one even half believes in the concept of terroir (which is fundamental), is there really a Vosne Village lieu-dit whose hitherto unrecognized quality (having rarely appeared on the auction block before 2020 and then usually selling for under $100/bottle) suddenly justifies a price in excess of DRC’s Romanée St. Vivant? Yet the list of “hot” producers seems to grow, not shrink: I recently received an offering of 2020 Chassagne Village at over $1000 a bottle, from a producer whose wine sold for under $100 just a few years ago (as the Village wines from Paul Pillot and Bernard Moreau, both better producers, still do). It feels like “pump and dump” to me, and I suppose that’s tempting to some, in an unregulated market with poor information flow—maybe better, in that if they have an annual allocation at cellar door prices, they can keep this going for years. But it can’t be good for Burgundy when its wines become objects for market manipulation rather than enjoyment.  



The Domaines: 

Côte de Nuits 


Once again, Christophe Roumier has made some of the finest wines of the vintage. Here, the losses were in the range of 25-30%, with average yields of 24 hl/ha (17-18 hl/ha in Amoureuses and Musigny). Christophe said that the fruit was in good condition at harvest, and that he made only small adjustments to his winemaking regime: he did a bit more punching down, but he did not pull back on the use of whole bunches (which he varies by cuvée). However, he will bottle earlier than usual, and was about to rack the wines into tank when we visited in early November, with a view to bottling in January or February. Christophe noted that the pHs were a bit high (around 3.65) but that the wines, which had had quite a bit of acidity pre-malo, were much milder after. He compared the style of the vintage to ’07—lighter-bodied and not particularly dense, with mild acidity and a gracious texture.  

The Chambolle Village, though showing some slight reduction, had a lovely light red fruit nose, and on the palate was light and charming, with good brightness, while the Morey Clos de la Bussière was deeper, more redolent of champignons, with a medium light body. The Chambolle Cras was excellent, with red raspberries and citrus on the nose, good delicacy, and a pure mineral finish; while lighter-style, this had real charm. The Echézeaux had a greenish note on the nose, reflecting the 100% whole cluster, but a creamy touch, an elegant middle and great balance and delicacy, with a long open finish. The Charmes-Chambertin was quite perfumed, with light raspberry fruit, but it seemed slightly heavy and plodding. The Ruchottes-Chambertin, by contrast, had good complexity and excellent volume, with citrus, grilled meat, and saline notes, and while there was a bit more tannin in evidence than the prior wines, it was still moderate—a relatively delicately styled Ruchottes. The nose of the Bonnes Mares was simply splendid: perfumed, and elegant; this had a silky texture, and some charming strawberry fruit running through it; the tannins were buried; there was good density here, but still, I think this will be accessible relatively early (the ’14 Bonnes Mares, for example, is drinking beautifully right now). The Chambolle Amoureuses was even better: pure, with spicy red fruit, a touch of darker fruit, some soy, notes of perfume and spice—a long, beautiful, and supremely elegant wine that is one of the few that clearly transcends the vintage. The Musigny (from a new, 195-liter barrel) showed the new oak on the nose, and the 100% whole clusters; this will need time to integrate all the elements, but it is already elegant and delicate and the tannins are completely buried—a highly refined wine, and a success for the vintage, if not quite as exciting today as the Amoureuses. 

2020: Christophe noted that he thought the ‘20s might be shutting down a little, which tallied with my observations elsewhere. He also remarked that he had never seen wines with such deep color. Nonetheless, these are clearly excellent wines, beginning with the Chambolle, which was quite dense and ripe, though with good minerally acidity–an intense wine with a strong tannic finish (92). The Chambolle Cras was dense and intense, with notes of black cherry, soy, coffee, and perhaps mustard seed, then a gentle lift of acidity in the middle, with some strong but not fierce tannins (93). The Bonnes Mares had a slightly subdued nose, and while one felt the tannic presence, this was intense and layered, with plenty of supporting acidity and deep minerality, a linear wine of great power and finesse (95). The Chambolle Amoureuses, a kaleidoscopic wine of great elegance, had refined tannins and enormous purity, and was delicate by contrast to the power of Bonnes Mares yet of equal quality (95). 

J-F. Mugnier: 

Freddy noted that all his vineyards except Bonnes Mares had been touched by frost, with different spots affected at different times over the three nights of frost, and commented more generally that the climate had already changed as if Burgundy had moved 300 kilometers to the south. He was also quite voluble, and iconoclastic, on several subjects. He does not subscribe to the theory that the vines are adapting to climate change, noting that there can’t be the kind of generational change in a vineyard that characterizes evolutionary adaptation, though the vines were doing their best to survive in a drier climate. He also challenged the conventional wisdom that ice magnifies the sun and burns the buds, saying it’s purely a case of the cold doing the work. And he said that the discussion about pruning late to keep the buds from forming too soon was wholly impractical—that the work of pruning took two months for an average-sized domaine and couldn’t all be pushed later in the season. Finally, he rejected the notion of installing electrified wires to fight frost, noting the massive generative capacity in the vineyards that would be required. Tarps would be the most efficient solution, he opined, but said that INAO is thus far quite resistant.  

Turning to the wines, there was some inconsistency in the range, though the top wines were quite good. The Chambolle Village had nice clarity and bright red fruit and citrus notes, while the Chambolle Amoureuses had different fruit qualities (black fruit and citrus) than I was used to seeing in this vintage, but it was quite charming, especially on the finish. The Musigny stood out, not surprisingly, with a deep spicy blackberry nose, a citric touch, and a sweet yet balanced middle, leading to a long spicy finish. 

2020: These too seemed a bit inconsistent, though I quite liked the Chambolle Fuées, which had dark, jazzy fruit and dense mocha chocolate notes on the nose but was more open and pure on the palate, without giving up its density—a chewy Chambolle (92). The Chambolle Amoureuses was also relatively accessible, though smoked duck, mocha and soy notes predominated, and this seemed a heavyweight Amoureuses, especially for this domaine (90+).  

Comte de Vogüé: 

Winemaker Jean Lupatelli, who replaced François Millet in mid-2020, noted that yields were about half normal, or about 15 hl/ha. He said the grapes were fairly healthy at harvest (September 22), though they had sorted in the vineyards first, and removed the dried berries. He does not agree with those who said that the small quantity saved the vintage. At the domaine, the grapes were phenolically ripe, pHs were normal (3.25-3.3) and he thinks that ’21 is a beautiful vintage. Lupatelli has been busy making major (and much-needed) changes here, including, as a priority, changing the bottling process: where the domaine used to rack into small tanks (7-barrel maximum capacity) and then almost immediately bottle, he now is putting the wine into large tanks, where it has a chance to meld for 1.5-2 months after racking. This was only our second visit since Lupatelli arrived, but while much remains to be done (for example, Lupatelli said that changing the cooperage is in process but a long-term project), he is both thoughtful and determined, and there is reason to hope that this domaine may in time regain its historic luster.  

The Chambolle Village had a bright nose and a creamy finish, but it seemed not fully knit in the mid-palate, while the Chambolle 1er Cru seemed a bit extracted, and slightly rough-edged. However, the Chambolle Amoureuses, though it felt extracted by ’21 standards, was not by those of recent vintages, and indeed it kept its balance, beginning with an intense and spicy, cherry and coffee-inflected nose, a minerally mid-palate and a spicy finish with buried tannins. The Bonnes Mares was particularly fine, with excellent purity, clear and ripe fruit expression and a soft texture that was quite charming, devolving to a strong, expressive mineral finish with the tannins barely in evidence. The Musigny was even better, with beautiful pure red fruit on the nose, along with citrus, spice, and a mineral note; on the palate, there was surprising density for a ’21, and while there was plenty of material, this was both complex, intense, and finely balanced. The tannins were quite refined, and the pure mineral finish lingered for a long time on the palate. This was a very fine wine that also struck me as very different from, and transcending, most wines of this vintage. One hopes that, unlike in the past, these qualities will all make it into the finished wine. 

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: 

Bertrand de Villaine said that the domaine had made extensive use of candles in ’21 and managed to harvest an average 20 hl/ha (and for the Romanée-Conti vineyard, production was the same as in 2020). However, going forward the candles will be replaced by pellet heaters. The domaine used shorter cuvaisons in ’21 and were planning to put the wine into tank (they use small tanks holding about six barrels) by mid-November, and bottle 5-6 weeks later. Bertrand likes the high level of freshness and phenolic ripeness of this vintage, and he said that ’21 seemed to him like a vintage from the past, and that he feels a connection with the ‘91s as they now are.  

Overall, these are among the more successful wines of the vintage. While I felt the Corton had a touch of harshness to the tannins, and the Echézeaux seemed not quite knit, with relatively lighter weight and dense tannins, the Grands Echézeaux was extremely fine, with a perfumed nose and notes of black raspberry, soy, and pepper; it was dense and powerful on the palate, with intense but refined tannins and a perfumed finish with lifting acidity. The Romanée St. Vivant was Bertrand’s favorite wine in the range (and that of others who tasted at different times): the nose was highly perfumed, with lovely spice, raspberry notes, pepper and a light touch of oak; the oak recurred on the palate, the tannins were dense but refined, and there was excellent minerally acidity here, with great balance and a super-long, spicy, perfumed finish—an old-fashioned RSV in the best sense of the term. Nonetheless, for me (and our group) on this day, it was the Richebourg that took the palm: I loved the lift in the middle, and its dense cherry fruit, pepper, soy, and game notes, enveloped by a bright minerality; this had power, a bright spicy finish, extremely refined tannins, and a lovely sweetness at the end. La Tâche was perhaps the slightest of steps behind on this day, with the usual nose of kaleidoscopic oriental spice, and the minerality more in evidence than in the prior wines, but while elegant, this struck me as a lighter style of LT, and we’ll have to see how it develops. The Romanée-Conti was as usual still more refined and elegant, with a multi-dimensional nose and great purity; while I did feel it was not yet fully knit, with some finishing yet to take place, it should in time be a very fine Romanée-Conti, if not quite up to the very greatest examples of this wine.  

Comte Liger-Belair: 

The harvest here began September 24th. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair said the domaine had suffered 50-80% losses, and he ended up blending the Vosne Chaumes, Suchots, Petits Monts and Brûlées into a single premier cru. Malos finished quite late (mostly in September and October, other than the Clos de Vougeot, which still wasn’t finished in November when we visited). Some whole bunches were included in each cuvée. Many of the wines were already racked and in tank and Louis-Michel expects to bottle slightly earlier than normal. He said he found the wines of this vintage to be elegant and vibrant, and compared the vintage to 2001. 

While perhaps not entirely consistent across the range, and despite a little lingering reduction in some of the wines, I found that the best wines here were among the most successful of this vintage. The Vosne Village, while on the lighter side, had a charming mid-palate, with clear and pure red fruit and minerality. The Vosne La Colombière was even better, with beautiful pure fruit on the nose and a bright, silky touch on the palate—this was an unusually delicate Colombière. The Vosne Clos du Château was a particular standout, with an enticing nose; this wine had great purity and a lovely texture, with some moderate tannins leading to a remarkably pure and lengthy finish; one of the few wines of this vintage that elicited a “wow” from me. The Vosne 1er Cru (the combination of vineyards I mentioned above) was quite complex, soft, and silky, and may be very good in time, but it had not entirely come together yet. The Nuits Aux Cras had a lot of charm and silkiness for a Nuits, and the Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes was even more refined, with lovely line and purity. The Vosne Reignots, again, showed transparency, balance, and elegance with good complexity. The Echézeaux, still in barrel and showing a lot of reduction, needs more time but was dense, crisp, and clear, while La Romanée was spicy, with complex fruit, mocha, duck, and a perfumed touch on the nose; on the palate it was extremely pure and dense with highly refined tannins–an elegant wine that will be among the top wines of this vintage.  


The vines on the slope were the most heavily affected by the frost, according to Marie-Andrée Mugneret. The harvest started on September 24th, and there was some triage necessary, though not a lot. Several of the wines, including most notably the Ruchottes-Chambertin, produced tiny quantities–only two barrels–in ’21, and only the Nuits Chaignots was made with whole clusters. Overall, the Mugneret sisters (now, one needs to say the Mugneret family, as the daughters are fully involved) did a typically excellent job in 2021, though as at pretty much every estate, there was a degree of inconsistency.  

The Bourgogne was ripe and charming up front, though it had a touch of austerity, and heat, in back, while the Vosne Village was plummy, spicy, and soft, and the tannins were slightly dusty—as they were on the Vosne Colombière, despite its lovely spicy nose. The nose was even more pronounced on the Nuits Chaignots, with cherry, mocha, and spice notes; this was slightly light-bodied but with a nice mineral finish. My favorite in the lineup was the Chambolle Feusselottes (even if I still can’t spell it without a cheat sheet!), with an unusually deep color for this vintage, red cherry fruit, complex spice, great line and purity and extremely refined tannins—a wine of great charm that was balanced and very long. (Marie-Andrée said that the Feusselottes, which is on relatively flatter land and tends to bud later, give the highest yields in the range, about 36 hl/ha). The very good Echézeaux had nuances of coffee foam and spice, with fine tannins and an elegant texture, and although the Ruchottes-Chambertin seemed a bit dusty, the Clos de Vougeot had deep ripe fruit, medium depth but good density, and was finely balanced. 

2020: The alcohol levels were mostly clustered around 14% and, as is typical for the vintage, all had extremely deep and saturated colors. I did find a couple of the wines (Nuits Bas de Combe, Nuits Les Vigne Rondes and Ruchottes-Chambertin in particular) had slightly elevated levels of VA, but other wines were quite fine, including the Vosne La Colombière, with a rich, deep and spicy nose, excellent purity, an acidic backbone supporting the abundant fruit, and strong but relatively refined tannins (92), and another terrific Chambolle Feusselottes, with dark cherry and mocha notes, excellent supporting acidity, refined tannins and a lovely pure mineral finish (93+). The Clos de Vougeot was very good, with notes of green peppercorn, spice, and blackberries; it was medium dense, though the tannins seemed slightly dry (91). Best of the grands crus on this day was the Echézeaux, which was full of rich fruit, bright and beautifully balanced, with sophisticated tannins and a long and pure finish (94). 


Overall, losses here were about 40%, but uneven, with Nuits Meurgers and Echézeaux the most seriously affected. In ’21, there was a longer than usual cold soak, as well as a longer cuvaison. Malic acidities were high, as elsewhere, and the domaine reported doing a lot of triage. The wines at this stage seemed to reflect the vintage, with some positive qualities but not the density of the best vintages. The Nuits Village (a negociant wine) had a light red fruit middle and finished well, while the Nuits Meurgers had a creamy texture and was very expressive. The Vosne Chaumes seemed quite pure in the mid-palate, with light red fruit and minerals, if slightly hard tannins. I thought the Clos de Vougeot turned out quite well—medium bodied, with a transparent mineral aspect, blackberry, and spicy oak notes, and then a long pure light red fruit finish. The Vosne Brûlées, often one of my favorites here, had some fine elements, particularly the finish, but didn’t seem to have come together yet, while the Richebourg, though not without power, was also a bit on the lighter side, but had a creamy, peppery aspect and a pure and charming finish.  


Charles van Canneyt described the ‘21s as classic and refreshing, pinot like it was 20 years ago. That said, clearly the frost took a toll: the crop was about half normal size and produced 90 barrels of wine in ’21 vs. 213 in the bountiful ’22 vintage. The harvest began on September 22nd, and Charles was forthright in saying that there was not a lot of triage in ’21, as there was so little crop, and it was painful to toss too many grapes. Even so, there will be no Vosne Malconsorts in 2021, as what little there was went into the Vosne Village, and no Nuits Bas de Combe. The grapes were, however, completely destemmed, as Charles did not feel ’21 was a good vintage for stems. Nonetheless, he believes that the small yields saved the vintage. He used a shorter cuvaison in ’21 and expects to bottle on the early side. pHs were somewhat high at 3.58-3.61. He finds a bit more VA in the wines than normal but feels that small touch enhances the wines (as it can if it stays below threshold). He also believes the wines are well-balanced and will be approachable on the early side.  

The wines here are generally quite successful for the vintage, though there is some variability, and these wines don’t reach the heights of other recent vintages. The Vougeot Petits Vougeots had excellent body and richness, and while I found the tannins slightly harsh, they could smooth out in time. The Nuits Meurgers, though slightly reduced, had very good purity and density, while the Vosne Beaumonts, despite rather substantial reduction, showed excellent potential. The Chambolle Charmes was perhaps my favorite among the premiers crus, showing great purity and minerality plus fine balance and spice underneath some reduction. The Clos de Vougeot, which was now in tank, had discreet fruit and was easy and pleasant if more premier than grand cru weight. The Romanée St. Vivant, also in tank, was still a bit reduced (Charles said the reduction had appeared only within the last few weeks, which is why it was racked), but was discreetly spicy, with great density on the palate, small-berry red fruit, mocha, and spice; this will be excellent in time. The Richebourg, despite showing some hardness and slight VA hints on the nose, may well turn out to be even better, as it is super-spicy, dense, with great freshness and clarity on the palate, good drive, and refined tannins, leading to an extremely long finish. 

2020: The first two wines we tasted, the Vosne Beaumonts and Suchots, both had dark colors and slight hints of VA on the nose, but the Beaumonts, while deep, rich, and ripe, showed very good purity on the palate (92), and edged out the Suchots, which seemed a bit heavier (91). The Clos de Vougeot had dark cherries, spice, and mocha on the nose, with sweet fruit wrapping the mid-palate (as it seems to do in this range), and the tannins present but relatively resolved (92). The Romanée St. Vivant had a super-dense color (as so many ‘20s do), a very dense nose with notes of spice and chocolate, and great purity on the entry leading to a mid-palate bursting with fruit, yet the wine kept its balance and, on the finish, showed refined tannins and lovely mineral qualities, with just a touch of heat at the end (94?). The Richebourg had more mineral lift on the nose than the RSV, with a lovely balance of fruit and pure minerality, totally resolved and refined tannins, and power and drive (95+). 

Château de la Tour:  

François Labet said that his losses had been 80% in the Côte de Beaune–and in consequence he did not show us the wines from the Domaine Pierre et François Labet this year–but only about 30% in the Côte de Nuits. The vintage reminded him of his earliest days, but he said that the grapes were better than in 1984 (as, I would add, is the winemaking generally). He noted that, because of the pause the vines needed after the frost, the ensuing second generation of grapes in the Côte de Beaune were less mature than in the Côte de Nuits. He also said that the domaine had increased its levels of extraction in ’21, with longer cuvaisons, and more pigeage. The wines were to be racked into tank in early December. The Clos de Vougeot Cuvée Classique was quite reductive, and the tannins seemed a bit rough, but the Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes, by contrast, had lovely balance and a soft, silky texture, with refined tannins. François said there would probably be no Hommage made in ’21. 

2020: The Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes had a deep color, black cherry, pepper, and mocha hints on the nose; on the palate it was quite ripe and had an excellent texture, and was well-balanced, though there was a slight touch of heat from the alcohol (93-94). (As a side note, the 2019 Vieilles Vignes was even better, silky and refined, with a finish that lasted for minutes (95+).) 


Pierre and Louis Trapet have now joined their father, and there are many changes afoot in the vineyards, where Jean-Louis commented that new pruning methods have begun to produce an evolution in the fruit, and in the cuverie (where, for example, the cuvée Capita is being replaced by three separate single-vineyard wines from its component vineyards). The ‘21s here are well made and, in general, seemed to have more attractive textural elements than is common in this vintage. They had not yet been racked, so were all showing various degrees of reduction. The Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée 1859 (if you can find the ’19 vintage of this cuvée, buy it!) showed a fair amount of acidity, but there was lovely sweet fruit in the middle and a silky texture to the wine, which is not all that common in this vintage, while the Gevrey Petite Chapelle also had a nice texture, strong acidity, and a chewy and meaty finish that I found quite enjoyable. The Gevrey Combottes (which used to go into the Capita), made with 100% whole cluster, had blue fruit notes and fine density and minerality; it was pure and bright, with good energy on the finish. The Latricières-Chambertin showed complex fruit and was balanced, elegant and spicy, with a nice textural element, some medium tannins, and a soft finish; it reminded me a bit stylistically of the ’17 vintage. The Chambertin had charming blue and red berry fruit on the nose, and a perfumed touch; it was medium weight, with a silky texture developing, and a powerful if somewhat dry tannic finish. 


Here the wines were already in tank, preparatory to bottling at the end of November. With an average yield of 20 hl/ha, quantities were not far off normal overall, though quantities were significantly down in certain vineyards, and hail at the end of June ‘21 in Brochon affected their Village wine. In 2021, according to Pierre, they used no new oak above the Village level, and no SO2 during the alcoholic fermentation, instead adding some CO2 (as seems increasingly common elsewhere as well). Pierre thinks his ‘21s are better than the ‘17s: more precise and complex. Overall, I found the wines here to be pleasurable, while reflecting the vintage. The Gevrey Village was quite nice, and I particularly liked the Gevrey Les Jeunes Rois, which had lovely purity and not much tannin in evidence. There was more material to the Lavaut St. Jacques, though it was quite reduced, and an as-yet-unnamed cuvée composed of Etelois, Estournelles and Cazetiers had pleasant if slightly light red fruit character and a strong mineral influence. The Clos de Bèze, if lacking the usual Bèze power, was nonetheless soft, sweet, and pleasurable, with little apparent tannin.  


This past November, the Seysses family decided not to hold traditional cellar tastings for journalists or customers, but instead, once a week for three weeks, scheduled everyone together in a classroom-style tasting. While the reason given was the small harvest, unfortunately one is likely to see more of these efforts, particularly by domaines that have no trouble selling out their production, to avoid the annoyance of actually having to interact with the people who buy their wines (or, heaven forfend, those pesky journalists), even if it’s only for three weeks out of the year. I feel lucky to have gotten my Burgundian education at a time when one could stand in the frigid cellar with the person who farmed the vineyards and made the wine, ask them lots of questions, and come to understand how they thought about their craft, about Burgundy, and about life. I do understand that, with the world now descending on this small region, and mostly wanting to visit the same “star” domaines, cellar visits can become a chore for the vignerons, but they can also be an important way of connecting with the people who drink and appreciate their wines. For me, and others, lifelong friendships have been formed in those cellars. Nonetheless, as Burgundy becomes increasingly corporate—as one producer put it, more like Bordeaux–it seems unlikely that future generations will have that same privilege.  

Yields in 2021 were off 30-75%, with the whites most affected. Expecting the worst, the domaine had ordered a lot of sugar, but in the end only a little was needed. Jeremy said the vintage had an ‘80s feel, and in particular, though the vintage conditions were very different, the mouthfeel and volume felt to him like 1985. (To me, that’s a stretch, but it would certainly be nice for the few people who will own this vintage if it turns out to be true). Diana added that the domaine had used 80% whole cluster overall (though with some significant differences among the cuvées), and 70% new barrels for the grands crus. The wines were racked right after the malos finished, which previously the domaine had largely stopped doing. pHs were in the 3.5-3.6 range. The reds were still in barrel at the time of our tasting and may receive a light fining prior to bottling.  

Among the negociant (Dujac Fils et Père) wines, the Gevrey Village stood out, notwithstanding a somewhat reductive nose: with a surprisingly deep color for this vintage, it had a lot of attractive fruit, along with good Gevrey character. The domaine wines generally showed well, beginning with the Chambolle Village, which, though reduced, had good complexity, and while lighter-bodied, as is often characteristic of this vintage, it was well made. The Morey 1er Cru had excellent depth and intensity, with refined tannins, though the reduction made it hard to draw more than tentative conclusions. I also liked the Gevrey Combottes, which seemed quite dense for the vintage, with good purity and only a hint of dryness at the end. The Vosne Beaumonts displayed exotic spices, citrus, mocha, and soy on the nose, very good freshness, a medium body and a remarkable amount of fruit for the vintage, though there was a sense of dusty tannin in back that is also characteristic of this vintage. The Echézeaux was perfumed, open and bright, perhaps lacking a little weight but an easy and pleasant grand cru, while the Clos St. Denis was very much of the vintage with its light red fruit, freshness, light tannins, and good balance. The Clos de la Roche, while somewhat reduced, had more stuffing, with excellent transparency, and only a touch of dryness at the end might keep it from achieving real elegance. The Bonnes Mares too revealed the better side of this vintage’s character (insofar as this vintage has a definable character), with excellent clarity, refined tannins, and sweet red fruit opening onto a light mineral finish, a very good wine if on the lighter side, especially for Bonnes Mares. 

2020: We also tasted several 2020s, which, with their deep colors, richly textured ripe fruit, and high alcohol levels, formed a substantial contrast to the ‘21s. These included a Clos St. Denis with the characteristic deep color of the year, notes of spice, perfume, cocoa, and baked bread on the nose, along with sweet ripe fruit; this was elegant, still young and with refined tannins but the alcohol level was evident at the end (93). The Clos de la Roche had an even deeper color, a denser nose, and more intensity and power than the Clos St. Denis, though some dryness at the end. I slightly preferred it (93+) to the Clos St. Denis, but others were more partial to the latter. The Echézeaux, more than the others, showed the alcohol levels and seemed a touch coarse, as can happen in this vintage, but the Bonnes Mares, despite a touch of heat, had an excellent mid-palate and buried power (93). There was a lot of initial skepticism, even from Diana, about why the Vosne Malconsorts had been placed after the Bonnes Mares in the order of tasting, but to me, it seemed the most transparent of all these ’20s, with real delicacy and refinement (94).  

Domaine des Lambrays:  

Jacques Devauges said that July and much of August were cloudy, cold, and rainy, with mildew and oïdium to contend with, but that from September 1st, the north wind began to blow, and the days were sunny, cool, and dry until harvest began under excellent conditions on September 22nd. Crop losses were 50% for reds and 75% for whites, but Jacques believes that if the crop had been normal, it would never have reached maturity. 

Due to the small quantities, we did not taste the whites, nor the newly added vineyards (Vosne Beaumonts, where the harvest was a tiny 8 hl/ha, plus three Nuits premiers crus (Murgers, Cras and Richemone)). There will also be some new vineyards in Morey (purchased in ’22, parts of the original Cosson estate) and in Ruchottes-Chambertin (which was purchased subject to the rights of the current farmer so this will not be issued commercially until 2031; in the interim, the domaine is receiving grapes as rent, which it will vinify but not sell until ‘31). pHs for the reds were between 3.6-3.7. The ’21 Morey Les Loups was quite perfumed, with light red fruit though a bit of dry tannin. The ’21 Clos des Lambrays, made with 80% whole bunch, was not blended yet, but we tasted the likely blend, and it is excellent: a bright spicy nose, with notes of champignons, citrus and mocha; on the palate, there is some density, good balance and lift, medium tannins with only a slight touch of hardness, and a long, floral-inflected finish. 

2020: The ’20 Clos des Lambrays had a characteristically deep color; it was spicy and very ripe, but with good mid-palate lift, and the tannins, while strong, were fairly refined, the wine slightly chewy perhaps but quite good (93). 

Domaine Ponsot:  

The crop in ’21 varied widely here: Alexandre Abel reported that, because of late bud-break, their Gevrey crop was normal, about 40 hl/ha, while it was about half that in Chapelle-Chambertin, and a mere 8.5 hl/ha in Morey 1er Cru and Clos de la Roche. He also noted that the domaine harvested late, as usual (beginning September 29th and finishing October 4th), and had to do a lot of sorting. He also mentioned that a number of older vines have had to be replaced in recent years as the heat and drought have taken a toll.  

The range here was clearly affected by vintage conditions, as could be seen in the quality of the tannins. That said, the Morey Village was open-knit, with easy fruit and a bright mineral finish, if somewhat hard tannins, while the Corton Cuvée du Bourdon had bright red fruit, a citrus note, and softer tannins than the Morey, and the Corton Bressandes was light-bodied with a mineral center, an easy-drinking Corton. The Clos de la Roche had medium body and was more open-knit with fairly ripe tannins and excellent length; this will drink early and easily. 

2020: The Morey 1er Cru had an intensely dark color; it was slightly reduced but had a ripe black fruit nose and was very concentrated (90?), while the Chapelle-Chambertin, also deeply colored, had notes of black cherry, meat, and cocoa, with an open entry but then excellent density (93). The Clos de la Roche was dense and intense, with excellent terroir character, forceful but refined tannins, and a long spicy finish (94).  

Jean-Marc Millot: 

Alix Millot said she preferred her ‘21s to her ‘20s, as she likes the more restrained style. Although there are some good wines here in ’21, I can’t say that I agree. Overall, losses were 30-40% in 2021. Alcohol was 12-13% and the wines, which were picked starting September 25th, were all destemmed, underwent a 5-6 day cold soak, and were bottled in October. Both a soft and easy Savigny Village and a very minerally Côte de Nuits Aux Falques were good beginnings, and the Nuits Village had nice transparency in the middle, if a slightly muddled finish. The Vosne Suchots, despite some reduction, had an intensely spicy nose, good clarity in the center, and some serious tannins. Finally, I quite liked the Echézeaux, with its silky texture, clear fruit expression and pure minerality, and even preferred it to the slightly lighter-framed Grands Echézeaux.  

Côte de Beaune 

Marquis d’Angerville:  

Picking began here on September 20th and yields were between 5 and 12 hl/ha. Régisseur François Duvivier reported no rot in the vineyards, healthy grapes that were phenolically mature, no chaptalization, alcohols between 12 and 13 degrees, and normal malos and pHs, with the only significant change being that no new wood was used, except for 5% in Champans and Clos des Ducs. He likes the fresh and vibrant style of the vintage. While there was some inconsistency here (as there was everywhere), I did think that several of the wines represented the vintage well. In the range, I liked the bright and fresh Volnay Fremiets, while the Volnay Champans was even better, with a complex nose, excellent density and a deep and pure minerally finish. The Volnay Clos des Ducs was quite reductive on the nose, which François noted had begun a few weeks earlier, but there was also lovely purity, especially on the finish, and this has excellent potential. 


The domaine’s yields in Volnay averaged only 8 hl/ha, as they suffered a crop loss of 80%. Frédéric Lafarge, while noting the disease pressures up through mid-August, said the weather had dramatically improved thereafter, and the harvest took place beginning September 22nd under good conditions. He described it as a classic vintage, with good balance—a cross between ’10 and ’13, in his view.  

There was not much to taste this year, as all the Volnay premier crus were combined into a single cuvée. The Bourgogne Pinot Noir had a characteristic pinot nose, and pleasant fruit, while the Beaune Grèves, from hundred-year-old vines, was high-toned, earthy, and structured, with moderate fruit. The Volnay 1er Cru, of which there will be 11 barrels, was one of the better wines of this vintage: a dense, spicy nose, with floral and red berry notes, and on the palate it had depth, complexity, structure, and fine balance, with some still prominent but relatively refined tannins and a long, dense finish.  

Comte Armand:  

Paul Zinetti said that the estate’s losses were in the range of 60-70%, with a lot of grapes having been eliminated on the sorting table. Mildew and oïdium had required constant attention, with the latter, in Zinetti’s words, “touching the limit of organic farming in Burgundy.” Nonetheless there were some successes here, including the Volnay Fremiets, where the effective use of candles during the frost prevented major damage; it was a wine with a light sweet fruit center, cinnamon spice, and fine balance, and the flagship Pommard Clos des Epeneaux, which was nicely transparent and had good energy, chewy fruit, and moderate tannins. 

Chandon de Briailles: 

Here there was only about a quarter of a normal crop, with yields in the range of 5 to 8 hl/ha. Some destemming was done, in response to vintage conditions, but fermentations were normal. François de Nicolay described the vintage as classic, showing crisp fruit and freshness. Because of the tiny quantities, we only saw a few wines, including the Pernand-Vergelesses Ile des Vergelesses, which had the freshness and crispness François described, though the nose was still reductive, and there seemed a touch of hardness at the end. The Corton Bressandes had a similar sense of freshness, and good clarity, but with some firm tannins still to resolve.  

Y. Clerget: 

Thibaud Clerget is a rising star in the Burgundian firmament, and an ambitious one, as this domaine is not only expanding its vineyards (acquiring about 4 ha of new vineyards from Domaine Rossignol-Changarnier in 2022, including plots of Volnay premiers crus Mitans, Clos des Angles, and Brouillards) but also building a new cuverie and tasting room in Pommard. Losses were around 80% in ’21, both from the frost and a careful sorting. Thibaud will bottle directly from cask this year. He likes the elegance of the ‘21s, finding them to have more tannin and structure than the prior vintages. The wines here were clearly among the successes of the vintage, including a Volnay En Carelle Sous La Chapelle (100% destemmed with no SO2 and elevage in one year old barrels); despite some reduction on the nose this had a lovely mid-palate, with soft red fruit, good clarity, and crunch. The Volnay Champans by contrast was made with 100% whole cluster and elevage was in a single new oak barrel; this was also a bit reduced but quite intense, with a creamy texture and fine tannins, and the oak influence, while present, was not obtrusive. The Clos du Verseuil (a monopole), made with no stems and 20% new oak, had good backbone and density; and the Pommard Rugiens, made with 20% whole bunch and elevage in one year old barrels, was a bright, new-style Pommard with little tannin in evidence, light fruit, a pure middle, and fine balance. The Clos de Vougeot (from Grand Maupertuis; 50% whole bunch and 50% new oak), had been pruned late by chance and so largely escaped the frost damage. This was a fine Clos de Vougeot, which reminded me of the elegant Drouhin style, with dark sweet fruit, good weight, concentration and resolved tannins. We also tasted a version of this that had been kept in a glass wine globe, which several producers are now experimenting with. It will be bottled as a separate Cuvée Felix, and was more reductive, but also brighter and fresher, and the tannins were more prominent. It will be extremely interesting to see how these two cuvées evolve.  

Armand Heitz:  

Armand Heitz is one of the leading practitioners in Burgundy of what has been termed permaculture, or regenerative agriculture (to learn more of their philosophy, visit the domaine’s website). As a result of the changes in practices, the domaine (which also has a negociant business) has now started to pick their pinot noir before their chardonnay. They are looking for phenolic maturity, particularly because they use 100% stems, and they prefer low toast oak, with only a moderate use of new barrels (15-25% in what we saw). They also prefer to keep total SO2levels low.  

We are still getting to know this producer, and they us, and between that and the small quantities, the tasting of ‘21s was not as in-depth as we might have preferred. However, the wines we saw do reflect the vintage in the Côte de Beaune, with some fairly strong acids, and they also have a strong stem influence (I’m not sure this was the best vintage in the Côte de Beaune to be dogmatic about using 100% stems, but time will tell). Of the few ‘21s we tasted, the Pommard Clos des Poutures, a monopole, stood out: it had good purity, strawberry fruit, medium acidity, and some slightly dry tannins, with the stem influence quite apparent.  

Michel Gaunoux:  

This domaine is among those that only shows vintages once in bottle, so we tasted the 2020s here: 

2020: These, and in particular the Pommard 1er crus, were highly successful. The Beaune Village, while not especially complex, seemed destined to give much pleasure, while at the other end of the range, the Corton Renardes was powerful and intense, with the slightly animale note I often find in this climat; the tannins will need some years to modulate, but this is quite expressive of the terroir. The Pommard Grands Epenots had plums, black cherries, and minerals on the nose; on the palate, it was balanced, with more rich fruit in the middle than one typically sees in Pommard, but the structure and dry earthy tannins brought one right back to the underlying terroir of this layered and juicy wine. The terrific Pommard Rugiens Bas had a deeper and more discreet nose than the Grands Epenots, and was more complex and subtle, with a ripe, pure, and balanced mid-palate and excellent structure, some dry but reasonably refined tannins, and a very long, complex finish. 

The Negociants: 

[As a note, the line between negociants and domaines is an increasingly blurry one: the top negociants own considerable properties, from which they usually make their best wines (and which are most often what they present to us), while numerous top domaines, sensing economic opportunity, are purchasing grapes (and sometimes must) from other growers. Nonetheless, the scale of the negociant firms’ operations is significantly different from those of the domaines we visit.] 

Joseph Drouhin: 

All the wines here had been racked. About 10-25% whole cluster was used for the premiers and grands crus, by “positive sorting”—identifying the best-looking whole clusters for use. Véronique Drouhin reported that the small quantities of some cuvées inspired the maison to experiment with “vinification integrale”: fermentation of the reds, with the stems, in a barrel (with a special cap on the end which allows CO2 to escape); the barrels are then rolled frequently to promote maceration.  

The reds here include some excellent successes for the vintage; while I can’t say this is anything more than a feeling, it seemed to me that the winemaking was more sure-footed in this old-style vintage than it has sometimes been in the super-ripe, alcoholic vintages of recent years—or perhaps it’s just that such vintages are less congenial to the style of Maison Drouhin, which emphasizes elegance and finesse, than was this “classic” but challenging vintage. 

While, given the small quantities, we saw fewer wines than usual, all were good, starting with the easy and charming Beaune Grèves, which was followed by a silky Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge that was minerally, spicy, perfumed, round, and ripe, with fine tannins and a transparent mineral finish. The Corton was unusually creamy for this terroir (in a good way), while the Chambolle Amoureuses, with a somewhat reductive nose, was reserved but showing great promise, and had serious but very refined tannins. Both the Clos de Bèze and the Griotte-Chambertin were fermented by vinification integrale (the former with 50% and the latter with 100% whole cluster). While I found the fruit on the Bèze slightly too sweet and rich for my taste, I loved the Griotte, which displayed a superb and dense nose with notes of spiced meat and cherries, a mid-palate full of sweet fruit, refined tannins, and a minerally intensity on the finish. Impressive! 


Erwan Faiveley told us that all the wines were still in barrel; while he had originally contemplated early bottling, he felt that the wines had more to gain from additional elevage. He compared the vintage’s flavor profile to ’07, with perfumed noses and little tannin. Most wines were between 12-13% alcohol and pHs tended to be high—in a few cases, up to 3.8. The frost was capricious, destroying the crop in Gevrey Cazetiers while leaving Lavaux St. Jacques nearly untouched.  

While I have had mixed feelings about recent vintages here, there is no question that Faiveley did an excellent job with its domaine wines (which are what we tasted) in this difficult vintage. The Nuits St. Georges Les St. Georges was nicely balanced, spicy, and saline with soft, sweet berry fruit. The Clos de Vougeot, despite not being from the best parts of the Clos, was pure and refined, while the Latricières was a very serious wine though still not fully knit, and the Charmes-Chambertin (a mixture of domaine and purchased grapes) had excellent density and a high-toned mineral finish. Among my favorites was the Mazis-Chambertin, which displayed pure fruit on the nose and an attractive fluidity; it was extremely well-balanced, and the tannins seemed fully resolved. The Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, always served last out of pride, this year indeed was the best wine in the lineup, with ripe red fruits, perfect balance, and a spicy mineral finish with rounded tannins—a wine of both power and charm. 


Frédéric Barnier said that sorting was the key for the reds in 2021. He feels this will be a challenging vintage for aging. Most of the reds are around 13% alcohol, and some will be bottled before the whites. Yields were 15 hl/ha overall, and 17-19 hl/ha in the Côte de Nuits. In general, he felt that Volnay, Beaune and Chambolle did relatively better in ’21 because they tend toward earlier ripening than other villages. The results here were mixed, in my view, with some dusty tannins marking a number of the wines. Among the more successful, the Beaune Cras was sweet and earthy, with good terroir character; the Chambolle Amoureuses, while perhaps not as complex as in other vintages, had good depth of fruit on the nose and an expressive mid-palate, and the Gevrey Clos St. Jacques had deeper color than most in this range, with good weight and a long, pure citrus finish. It was complemented by the Clos de Bèze, with a positive spicy nose, a pure middle, expressive red fruit, and a minerally finish. The Clos St. Denis had a hard edge to start, but ripe red fruit and citrus notes, resolved tannins, and very good richness. 

Laurent Ponsot:  

Laurent reported a near normal crop in ’21; however, we will have to wait until next year to assess it, as Laurent (along with Leflaive and some others) has taken to only showing the wines after bottling. We debated the merits of this approach; the advantages are that one sees the final assemblage of barrels, not merely one barrel on one day, and that actions taken between barrel and bottling can affect the final quality significantly; the downsides are that wines are often shocked by the bottling process, and that even once recovered may shut down for an extended period, whereas their character is more open and on display in barrel, and of course that buying decisions often have to be made before there is ever a chance to taste the wines in bottle.

2020: Laurent is pleased with the harmony of this vintage. While the volume produced here continues to advance, we saw only the grands crus, which meant mainly the reds (there is no Bâtard or Montrachet here in 2020 as the prices have become absurd, according to Laurent). All the wines had the characteristic deep colors of this vintage. The Clos de Vougeot had blue and black fruit on the nose, a spicy intensity, and a sweet finish, but one could feel the 14.5% alcohol (91). The Charmes-Chambertin had very good purity and balance, and the tannins felt ripe if slightly dry (92), while the Latricières was intensely plummy, though minerally and developing a silky texture—this wine felt as though it needed more time to knit (92+). The Clos de Bèze, while quite rich, had excellent balancing acidity, and expanded in the glass; I particularly liked the long minerally finish, and the tannins seemed ripe and refined (94), and I slightly preferred it to the rich though enjoyable Chambertin (92-93). The Bonnes Mares had incredible complexity and intensity, but (as a matter of personal preference) was a bit too rich a style of Bonnes Mares for me, a fine wine but without a particular sense of the terroir (92+). Similarly, I found the Clos St. Denis a bit on the heavy and rich side for what to me is a wine of finesse (92). The best in my view was the Griotte-Chambertin, with a dense, layered and slightly reticent nose; while quite ripe, this had a very positive mineral edge and was complex and intriguing, with lovely balance (94+). 

Bouchard Père & Fils: 

A period of change has begun at this storied negociant firm, as François Pinault’s Artémis Domaines has acquired a majority interest in Henriot, the owner of Bouchard since 1995. There has been a major reorganization, and given Artémis’s intense focus on luxury brands, rumors are rife in Burgundy that a large portion of the firm’s non-grand cru holdings will be sold off–though for the moment these remain only rumors. In any event, the firm decided that in light of the tiny crop in ’21, they would not show the vintage this year. Almost needless to say, this in turn generated its own set of rumors (which could be why I’ve now heard they’re allowing some journalists to taste), but in any event, there is nothing concrete to report from this major negociant, other than that allocations will be miniscule. 


Paul Pillot: 

Losses here were in the range of 60-85%. The harvest took place over 11 days starting September 17th and Thierry Pillot said he had agonized over when to pick each vineyard. He also referred to the devasting event of the year as a “rich” frost—one that hit the top of the slopes more severely than the bottom. Nonetheless, Thierry said he likes the balance and energy of the ‘21s, while admitting that the whites can be too acidic, and the reds sometimes too thin. He said thought that unlike in ’16, one doesn’t feel the stress of the vines (he went on to say that he hadn’t liked the ’16 whites for a long time but feels they are aging well). He also, like Freddy Mugnier, dismissed the notion of later pruning as a preventative to frost problems, saying it carries its own problems.  

Whatever agonizing he did, proved useful. These are among the best whites we tasted– though even here, there were wines that were distinctly more successful than others. The wines, except for Grandes Ruchottes and La Romanée, were in tank, and will likely be bottled next May. The Bourgogne was a good exemplar, ripe and with a bright minerality, while the Chassagne Village, though slightly subdued by SO2 (as were the next two wines) was very pure, spicy, floral, and minerally—it had good energy, and the acidity was not overbearing. The Chassagne Mazures was, in Thierry’s word, “electric”, with lots of sweet fruit and floral notes, though perhaps a bit sweet. The Chassagne Champ Gains was particularly good, with a lovely floral quality (indeed the entire range reflected this quality), balanced and with a vibrant mineral finish. The Chassagne Clos St. Jean had a lot of drive and intensity, if a slightly harsh note in the mid-palate; I preferred the Chassagne Caillerets, with its citrus notes, balance and deep minerality, though there was still a slight hardness at the end. The Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes displayed delicacy and balance, with both saline and buttery notes, while the best, as usual, was the Chassagne La Romanée, with a profound nose of pure minerality, white flowers, and a little lime; this had a clarity and intensity that set it apart from the others, and a super-long and vibrant finish. In Pillot’s hands, this wine seems to me to achieve grand cru stature, and this example may well be one of the best whites of the vintage. 

Bernard Moreau:  

Alex Moreau noted that the most severe frost damage in Chassagne in ’21 was largely in different areas than in ’16, when the white grands crus, and the premiers crus near St. Aubin, suffered the worst losses. In 2021, Chassagne La Romanée and Grand Montagne were among the hardest hit, while there was a decent crop of Village wine in Chassagne in 2021. The harvest began on September 20th, and the domaine had to sort, but for the most part the crop was clean, with lots of malic acid; for Alex, the wines have a strong acid backbone but are not austere. While he managed to produce something from each of the domaine’s holdings in ‘21, the wines for which he usually trades were largely unavailable.  

While the wines are, as always, well and conscientiously made, I did find a lot of acidity here, which is of course typical of the white wines in this vintage. Nonetheless, the Chassagne Chenevottes had a lovely floral-inflected nose, and good balance, with a very long finish, while the Chassagne Maltroie had a lot of sweet pear fruit, saline minerality, and power, with knife-edge acidity almost reminiscent of an Alsatian Riesling. The acidity of the Chassagne Champsgains was firm but more modulated, with notes of baked apples and cream, while the Chassagne Morgeot (still in barrel rather than tank as were the prior wines), even with a bit of reduction, showed greater density and intensity, albeit with a creamy texture developing. Best, as usual, was the Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes, with a powerful, aristocratic nose and plenty of fruit and weight to balance the acidity; this was minerally and pure, perhaps just a touch austere, but fruity, spicy, persistent, and complete.  


Leflaive is among the domaines that has begun showing wines in bottle rather than in barrel, and so we tasted the 2020s here. 

2020s: The alcohol levels of the ‘20s were 13-13.5%, according to Pierre Vincent, about a degree lower than in 2019. These had been bottled in March-June. Leflaive has begun departing from traditional Burgundy barrels, increasingly using larger barrels in warm years (along with lighter toast) to lessen the oak impact, though Pierre said the domaine is also using an increasing number of 265L cigar-shaped barrels, which he now prefers. He remarked that in 2020, yields were normal (about 40 hl/ha) and he found the wines finer, more delicate and better balanced than the more alcoholic and powerful ‘19s, comparing the ‘20s to ’17, ’14 and ’10. For whatever reason (possibly the use of Coravin together with half bottle samples?), the wines were not all showing their full potential on this day. While the Puligny Folatières and Combettes (both 92+) were both nicely balanced—the former with a bit more structure and a fresh citrus finish, the latter with excellent balance and line—the Puligny Pucelles did not show nearly as well at the tasting as it did from a full bottle opened at dinner that same day, when it was exceptionally balanced and creamy (93+). However, the Bâtard had a rich nose, with spice, white flowers, and a citrus touch; on the palate it was a powerful, driven wine, intense but still well-balanced, and showed its class on a very long, spicy, and pure minerally finish (95).  

François Carillon:  

Losses here were worst in the premiers crus (around 80%), with the Village wines suffering about 40% losses and the Bourgogne about 30%. The harvest here began on September 17th, and they are picking more quickly now, as well as using less new oak, both of which have helped avert the tropical notes that occasionally appeared in earlier vintages. In ’21, the domaine believes the wines will benefit from a long elevage, with bottling likely to be deferred to June, or even the fall of 2023. Though we didn’t see the entire lineup, as some quantities were tiny, the domaine did well in ’21, starting with a very good Puligny Village, which was quite fresh, with citrus, floral and spiced apple notes, though a touch of extra acidity. The Puligny Champ Gain was spicy, saline, and refreshing, not overly acidic, and sweet and floral in back, with just a touch of the CO2 that the domaine favors to emphasize minerality. The Puligny Perrières was particularly fine, with great balance, a mineral spine, and an intense, pure, and extremely long finish.


Léa Lafon told us that the domaine had lost more than half of the white crop, though the reds were not as severely affected, and there was no frost damage in their Monthélie vineyards. Because of the small quantities, we only saw a portion of the range of whites, which were definitely “of” the vintage. The Meursault Clos de la Barre was lighter-bodied but nicely balanced, with touches of green apple, lime, and minerals; the Meursault Poruzots had more power and intensity, with green apple notes as well; while the Meursault Charmes was pure and minerally on the nose, quite intense with some dry extract and citrus and floral hints on the long finish but also the green apple notes that so often characterize this vintage.  


Jean-Pierre Latour said that crop losses were about 2/3, with yields in the range of 6-7 hl/ha. There was too much water, he said, and the wines achieved good but not exceptional maturity, though the harvest might have been disastrous, given the rain, if they had had more grapes. Even at that, there were not enough grapes to justify separate cuvées of Perrières, Poruzots or Bouchères, and so all went into the Meursault Cuvée Maxime, which in consequence had more depth than usual, with a spicy, creamy, and stony nose, and was quite pure, but the acidity does dominate the front palate. The Meursault Narvaux had lovely aromatics but was also dominated by green apple notes. Both the Meursault Genevrières and the Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre (only one barrel made) were floral and bright, the latter with a transparent open finish, though both were a bit on the heavy side; better was the Meursault Charmes, with excellent purity–a high-toned wine, which, if slightly lean, nonetheless had clean apple and citrus notes. 

2020: The difference between the ‘20s and ‘21s could not have been clearer. Jean-Pierre said that ’20 was the first vintage in his experience where the whites and reds seemed of equal quality, though he thought the same might be true in ’22. For reasons I don’t fully understand, this domaine continues to fly beneath the radar, but that does make for some very good values. The Meursault Narvaux had lots of spice and great nervous energy, a wine that still needs time to develop (90+); the Meursault Genevrières had a floral nose that was mineral-inflected and with hints of cinnamon; on the palate it was intense and yet restrained in its power, with a long, pure, and precise finish (93). The Meursault Perrières displayed even more refinement; this was deep and elegant, with perfect balance and a pure, prolonged, stony finish (95). It was hard to choose between that and the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre: with a nose that jumped out of the glass, this cuvée was elegant and powerful at the same time, with flowers, citrus, butterfat, and a lot of dry extract (94+)—this was more powerful than the Perrières, and needs time, though the refinement of the Perrières may win at the end of the day. 


This domaine, while located in Dezize-lès-Maranges, also has properties in the heart of the Côte de Beaune, and in recent years has become a go-to address, particularly for their Puligny premiers crus and their Bâtard. Marc Bachelet said that in ’21 the domaine had lost its entire crop in Meursault and St. Aubin, and 70% in Bâtard-Montrachet, but that losses were much less in Puligny and Chassagne, where pruning had been delayed until March. While there was no issue, according to Bachelet, with the second crop, the domaine eschewed its normal use of whole clusters and opted for light extraction. He describes the vintage as an early, easy-drinking one. Among the successful wines in ’21 was a remarkably fine Maranges Blanc La Fussière, with a floral nose, cream, spice, excellent stoniness, and a fine balance and energy; only a slight excess of acidity at the finish betrayed the year. Both the Puligny Referts and Folatières were excellent, the former beautifully balanced, with floral notes, a mineral underpinning and excellent length, the latter slightly reduced but nonetheless an elegant wine of great purity. The Bâtard was even better, with a white flower nose, intense minerality, lime and white pepper, all reflected as well on the powerful palate, and only a slight acidic bite at the end. Among the reds, there was also a fine Santenay Vieilles Vignes (this year, a blend of all three of the domaine’s cuvées), which was soft and charming, but not without depth. 


Romaric Chavy reported that the harvest had begun September 24th, as they had waited for maturity, and that a lot of sorting had been required, with dried and botrytis-affected berries needing to be removed. The whites were particularly successful here, beginning with a vibrant Bourgogne Aligoté and a bright Bourgogne Les Femelottes with excellent body. The Meursault Grand Charrons was nicely spicy, with characteristic butterfat, a floral character, and a long finish, while the Meursault Clos de Corvées de Citeau (a monopole), was quite fresh, with similar notes but more weight and intensity. Best was the Meursault Charmes, with excellent presence and weight, a tense, transparent and very well-balanced wine. 

Armand Heitz: 

The two premiers crus we saw (both from the domaine) were excellent: a Chassagne Morgeot with a charming floral quality, hints of pear and spice, and very good balance, and with a nice mineral touch at the end; and the Meursault Perrières, which had a rich spicy and floral nose, and good but not overbearing acidity–a balanced and complex wine. 

Joseph Drouhin: 

Véronique said that acidity is the marker of the ’21 whites, and much of it was brought by the less ripe second generation fruit. Sorting was heavy at the maison, and they are doing a shorter elevage than in ’19 and ’20. The wines we saw were still in barrel, but the maison had prepared a representative assemblage. The whites were generally good, if marked by the acidity of the vintage: a floral, soft, and sweet Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche; a first-rate Beaune Clos des Mouches (less than 5 hl/ha), which was bright and crisp, with a nice floral touch and a creamy finish; a minerally and transparent Corton-Charlemagne, with quite a bit of acidity but not out of line for the vintage or this terroir; and finally, an elegant and refined Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche, with pear, apple and honey notes and good balance. 

Joseph Faiveley: 

The frost destroyed most of the white wine crop here, but an intensive use of candles saved some of the grands crus. The Corton-Charlemagne in particular turned out relatively well, with soft pear and white flower notes, and a crisp finish, though the acidity there is rather prominent. 


Frédéric Barnier noted that the whites had much more acidity in general than the reds; while acidities had been high for the reds, there was more malic, and so they were much softer after the malolactic fermentation was completed. (He said there was also a relatively high level of malic in the whites, though some were, as is frequently the case at Jadot, partially blocked.) Yields averaged 12 hl/ha for the chardonnay. The wines reflected the high levels of acidity, though some, like the Puligny Combettes, seemed to have enough power and volume to support it, as did the Corton-Charlemagne, which had creamy, floral notes and some quite nice spice. The Chevalier Demoiselles was pure and minerally, with sweet fruit and floral overtones, and was powerful and crispy at the end—not quite as elegant as in the best vintages, but, as always, one of the best wines of the range (we did not see the Montrachet this year because of the tiny yield). 

Domaine Ponsot: 

The Morey Monts Luisants, with notes of elderberry flower, clover, cream, and citrus was quite an interesting wine and had excellent presence and power, though the acidity of the year was clearly present as well. 


This was our first visit to this highly regarded Chablis estate, which in 2020 changed its name from Jean-Claude Bessin. Son Romain Bessin is now in charge. Losses in 2021 were about 50%, and Romain preferred to show his 2020s at this time. We did taste the ’21 Chablis Fourchaume, still on its lees, which had a charming fruit-forward nose and lots of material, but which needed more time to resolve.  

2020: The 2020s, which Romain finds more complex than the ‘17s and also prefers to the ‘14s–which he finds “too serious”–showed extremely well, beginning with a fine Village Chablis V.V., with excellent mineral cut (91) and a Chablis Montmains which, despite being slightly light in the middle, had real definition and purity (90). One of my favorites was the Chablis La Forêt, with notes of pear, citrus, white pepper, and golden raspberries; it was full-bodied, chalky and had a pure mineral finish (93). (The wines are made with whole cluster and 30% oak (none new) for the premiers and grands crus.) While the regular cuvée of Chablis Fourchaume was not showing fully on this day, the Chablis Fourchaume La Piece au Comte, from a 0.7 ha parcel with 70 year old vines, was a very different story: deep and spicy, with a chalky mid-palate, great depth and purity, and balancing sweet fruit, followed by a bright finish (94). The Chablis Valmur, by contrast, felt still reticent and unevolved, as though it had closed up in bottle; time will tell, but given the high level of winemaking here, it is worth revisiting. 

Samuel Billaud: 

Here too, losses were in the range of 50% in 2021. Samuel Billaud, who split from the family’s domaine, Billaud-Simon, several years ago and has been producing first-rate Chablis, sees ’21 as classic and fresh. Nonetheless, he wasted little time showing us the ‘21s, and while the Vaillons had a lot of Chablis character, it also had some excess acidity.  

2020: The ‘20s that we saw were excellent: an intense, powerful, and driven Monts de Milieu (92); a more floral and fruity, large-framed, intense and long Montée de Tonnerre (93); and a particularly fine Vaudésir, which was bright and transparent, balanced, and with excellent line, resolving into an extended, spicy and pure finish (94).  

William Fèvre: 

Nearly 90% of the Village-level crop was lost to frost. In addition, they decided to reverse the usual process, and in 2021 to ferment in stainless steel and age in wood, to give more body to the wines. Alain Marcuello, who conducted our tasting and who has decades of experience in Chablis, compared the ‘21s to the 2010 vintage. The premiers crus struck me generally as a bit severe, though reasonably good, though the Montée de Tonnerre stood out, with more floral tones than the others, fruit notes of pear rather than apple, and a bright mineral note on the nose; here the acidity seemed more fully integrated than in some others. There were several successes among the grands crus, including a Vaudésir that was nicely balanced between minerality and floral tones; a Valmur that was delicate and creamy, with excellent terroir character; and a Preuses that seemed rather Cistercian in its uncompromising austerity, but the cool purity of it was nonetheless attractive. Best of the range was the Clos, with bracing acidity and flint after, a powerful and intense wine, with a very long finish; this needs time but if it fully comes together, could be excellent.  

© Douglas E. Barzelay 2022 


2020–An Unprecedented Vintage

Vintage Overview

After a forced year off from barrel tasting due to Covid, it felt good to be back in the cold dank cellars of Burgundy in November 2021. Tasting the 2020s was a treat, but demanding: as François Labet aptly commented, 2020 is an intellectually challenging vintage. The reds in particular defy easy categorization, as despite a growing season that is relatively straightforward to describe, the impact of that season varied considerably by terroir, and producers had several key decisions to make, especially when to pick, that significantly affected both the style and quality of the resulting wines. And since predicting how a vintage in barrel will develop over decades typically relies on precedents–how did vintages with similar growing seasons, and similar tasting profiles, evolve?–it doesn’t help that 2020 is in many ways unprecedented. The good news, however, is that the best wines are excellent, perhaps even superb. Indeed, several producers we visited said they preferred their ‘20s to their ‘19s, though as one candidly admitted, the ‘20s required more from the winemaker, so being successful was more satisfying. 

To begin with the most notable feature of this vintage: it is among the earliest ever recorded (so far!). Many domaines began picking the week of August 17th (though we heard reports of picking beginning as early as August 12th). And while August harvests have been frequent in the 21st century (there were none in the prior century), this was for many domaines the first time they had not only started, but completed, a harvest before the end of August. 

This early picking was the result of a uniformly hot and dry summer. The winter of 2019-20 was generally mild and wet (which helped many vines survive the exceptional drought that followed). Budbreak occurred early, at the end of March, and the flowering began in May and reached its midpoint at the end of May/beginning of June, presaging another early harvest. The flowering, though, was not without its issues, and there was considerable millerandage (shot berries), reducing quantity but enhancing concentration in the remaining crop. There was little significant disease pressure, but the summer heat and lack of rain (about half the normal seasonal rainfall) led to considerable hydric stress, which particularly affected younger vines and those on soils that lacked water reserves. (There was a little rainfall in late August, but it was light, and by that time picking was already well underway.)

June and July were quite warm, and a heat wave during the week of August 6th caused sugar levels (i.e. potential alcohol) to shoot up. By Friday the 14th, more than a few producers had gotten panicked messages recalling them from vacation, even as the domaines scrambled to assemble teams of pickers.

The difficulty was that, although by mid-month most vineyards had high levels of sugar ripeness, the grapes were not yet phenolically mature. In addition, there were often significant differences in maturity levels between vineyards. Thus, the first and most consequential decision was when to pick: picking on the early side would keep the alcohol levels reasonable and preserve acidity (which, remarkably, had remained at relatively high levels), but risk more severe and even potentially underripe tannins, as in 2003. Waiting, on the other hand, could result in better resolved tannins, but risked high alcohol and overripe, even baked, flavors. Compounding the problem, some producers reported that maturities in their holdings differed by up to three weeks, often making it necessary to change picking teams. And in this Covid year, pickers were not easy to come by—there were several reports of less-than-scrupulous agents poaching pickers as they arrived in Burgundy. 

Ultimately, different camps developed, as some domaines began picking the week of August 17th, or early the following week, and finished before the end of the month. Others opted to wait into September to pick, and of course some chose to split the difference. The results are stylistically different—making this vintage very hard to categorize, at least for reds—but there are successes and failures in both camps. And while late picked wines are generally riper, generalizations are imperfect because the vineyards tended to ripen very differently depending on their reactions to the hydric stress; thus, it would be too facile to say a wine picked on Sept 1st was necessarily riper than one picked a week earlier.

Nor did the divergences end there. There was generally little malic acid, and many domaines reported malolactic fermentations that had finished by November 2020; in some other cases, though, the malos were still in process in November 2021! And while many producers, including Comte Liger-Belair and Georges Mugneret-Gibourg, told us that they would bottle later than usual, because their ‘20s required extended elevage, other top domaines (including DRC and Dujac) had already begun transferring wines to tank by November, in anticipation of early bottling.

The combination of millerandage, heat, drought, and an unusually high amount of sunshine (luminosity) throughout the growing season produced concentrated, thick-skinned berries, and the resulting reds are almost uniformly deeply and intensely colored and highly concentrated. Indeed, the deep colors are one of the signatures of this vintage (as was also true in ‘19), and in former days would have signaled over-extraction. Yet the opposite was the case, and many producers we talked to emphasized the importance of soft vinifications and avoiding over-extraction, including far more use of pump overs (or “infusions,” to use a current term) rather than traditional punch downs. Also, it seems as though more vignerons are using some proportion of stems, which help to give freshness and lift to the wines (this was true as well in 2019). Without getting into the whole cluster debate, I do think that there is increasing sophistication about how and when to use whole clusters, and that their (judicious) use often made a positive contribution in both 2020 and 2019, giving added lift and complexity to the wines.

Of all the anomalies of this vintage, however, perhaps the greatest is the acidity levels, which remained surprisingly high, providing a remarkable degree of freshness in this warm and ripe vintage–even for the later-picked wines—and which has given a wonderful lift to the whites, helping to make this a potentially outstanding white wine vintage. At least to some extent, this was likely a result of the fact that within the small berries, maturation was happening by evaporation and concentration, thus tending to preserve the acidity levels. 

The downside of the millerandage was that quantities were small for many reds–a problem that would be exacerbated by the tiny 2021 crop . While there was considerable variation, probably on average production was down about 20% for the pinot noir in 2020. With quantities also down considerably in 2019, and the demand for Burgundy continuing to grow substantially, expect considerably higher prices for most top 2020s.

We had many discussions during our visits about the effects of climate change on Burgundy. At first there might have been a tendency–in this region for which ripeness used to come only a few times a decade, and August harvests once every century–to look on the run of great vintages since 2000 as a blessing. However, the last decade has also revealed the downsides. These have included more frequent and severe hailstorms, which particularly affected the Côte de Beaune, as well as spring frosts that have become increasingly harmful as mild winters have led to early bud break. And the calculus of when to pick has shifted as well, as more domaines (especially white wine producers) pick early to preserve acidity and freshness, even at the expense of some maturity, while traditional late pickers, who used to risk rain and rot in search of greater ripeness, now need to worry more about over-ripeness, high alcohol/low acid wines, and volatile acidity (which was present in more than a few 2020s, not reviewed below). Very quickly, the growers’ concern has shifted from how to encourage maturity to how to retard it. And while several prominent growers see evidence that the vines are adapting to the changing conditions, there is also increasing concern that the widely used 161-49 rootstock is faring poorly and that large-scale replanting may need to take place. 

These are early days in the discussion, but at least, unlike premature oxidation, this problem is not being ignored or denied.

Turning back to the ‘20s, what should you expect from these wines? The answer for the whites is relatively easy: the best whites, of which there are many, display excellent tension and fine balance, with lots of bright fruit. They were most often compared with the ‘17s, without quite the tautness of the ‘14s, but clearly this is a white wine vintage to buy and savor.

As for the reds, while the summer’s heat, drought and early harvest engendered some superficial comparisons with the immensely hot and dry 2003 growing season, and while the 2020 harvest began even earlier than in 2003, the outcomes of the two vintages are markedly different. Indeed, few vignerons could think of a parallel vintage. The one most often mentioned—2010—has a decidedly cool character, and while there are more superficial resemblances than one might expect (concentration; good acidity and balance; a certain aloofness and reserve), the two growing seasons could scarcely have been more different. The 2020s are also, despite some superficial similarities, a stark stylistic contrast to the silky and elegant 2019s. Although I am particularly wary of generalizations about the 2020s, I do think that the differences between this and the prior two vintages were summed up pithily, and well, by Guillaume d’Angerville, who described the 2020s as “classic,” the 2019s as “refined,” and the 2018s as “exuberant.” And while I think the ‘19s may ultimately be the greater wines (a review of those wines, mostly from bottle, will be forthcoming), this is a distance race, and a lot can happen over decades. In sum, 2020 is an anomalous vintage, with differing styles encompassed within it, but it should produce many excellent, and perhaps even great, wines. That said, the ‘20s are likely to shut down in bottle, and what emerges after a decade or more could easily surprise us in either direction.



The Domaines:

Côte de Nuits

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti:

Aubert de Villaine felt it was more important to pick early in ’20 to preserve freshness than to wait for full phenolic maturity, and (apart from some young vines picked earlier) harvesting for the reds began in Richebourg on August 23rdand ended in La Tache on September 2nd. Alcohol levels were moderate, averaging about 13.5%. I was struck that a number of the wines (including Echézeaux, Richebourg and Romanée-Conti) were already racked and being assembled for early bottling (and consequently we were not able to taste them), but Aubert said that, as the malos had largely finished by November 2020, the wines had had sufficient time in barrel, and given the somewhat high pHs, he did not want to leave them too long. (As precedents, he cited 1966 and 1978, which also had very early malos.) From what we were able to taste, it seems that the ‘20s here are potentially great wines that could need considerable time to evolve. 

We were able to taste the wines that were still in barrel, beginning with the Grands Echézeaux, which had a remarkable, high-toned nose with black cherry, green olive, cocoa, Asian spice, black pepper, and a touch of salinity; this was quite structured, and very minerally, perhaps without the usual power and density of GE, but that is not to say it’s light, and the tannins are very supple. This will be a very interesting wine to watch. The Romanée St-Vivant was, as one would expect, full of spice, with a stem touch and red fruit; on the palate there was an almost achingly pure minerality, a silky texture, and yet more spice, and the wine was incredibly balanced; though I felt the finish was still a little rough, it will resolve in time. La Tâche, despite being racked two weeks earlier, was extraordinary, with a brilliant nose of complex spice, a touch of soy, and roast duck aromas; this was silky-textured, transparent, with a great sense of presence, and the tannins were extremely refined while the finish just kept rolling along. When Aubert said he thought this would become one of the great LTs of the last 20 years, I was not surprised.

Comte Liger-Belair:

Harvest here began on August 24th. Alcohol levels were generally between 12.5 and 14% and quantities were down 40% from normal. Many of the wines were still somewhat reduced when we tasted them.

The wines in this range stood out for their balance and purity. The village Vosne had great fruit and presence on the palate, and excellent acidity and transparency–a very fine village wine. The Vosne La Colombière was quite pure, with lovely black cherry fruit and excellent balance, and without the chunkiness that can sometimes characterize this cuvée, while the Vosne Clos du Château had a touch of green fruit on the nose, strong acidity, and a beautifully long, balanced and minerally finish. The Vosne Petits Monts was among my favorite premiers crus here, with complex and intriguing spice, a silky texture, perfect balance, and supple tannins, plus a very long finish. The Vosne Reignots seemed closed and a bit reticent by comparison but has excellent potential. The Clos de Vougeot had deep black fruit on the nose and a crystalline minerality such as one rarely finds in CV, though this is clearly a wine that will need many years to reach its apogee. I wrote “dense” for the Echézeaux multiple times, and also noted its brightness, deep minerality, pure fruit expression, salinity and refined tannins—another great example here. La Romanée was an utterly brilliant wine: pure, refined, elegant, dense but with lift and drive, a silky texture developing, extremely refined tannins and a finish of great finesse and persistence. This wine was not finished with its elevage and will only gain in complexity.

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg:

The harvest here took place between August 25th and 30th.  Their best yields were in Chambolle (39 hl/ha), while alcohol levels were about 13.5% for the Chambolle Feusselottes and grands crus, and the others ranged up to about 14%. Colors were even deeper in ’20 than ’19. Pigeages were soft. There was perhaps a little more inconsistency here than usual (which means that only some of the wines were extraordinary!), but most wines showed a lovely silky textural quality that was much rarer in this vintage than in ‘19. The lower-level wines (Bourgogne Rouge and village Vosne) showed the somewhat higher levels of alcohol, as did the Vosne La Colombière, though the latter also had a strong mineral underpinning. The Nuits Aux Bas de Combe and Nuits Les Vignes Rondes were both excellent, the former dense and spicy, with a silky touch, ripe fruit and good balance, along with some Nuits earthiness on the finish, while the Vignes Rondes was quite ripe, almost plummy, but had a sharp minerality balancing the fruit, and rounded tannins. I was less certain about the Nuits Chaignots, with a deep intense nose of earth, soy, licorice, and decaf (why decaf and not Kenya AA? who knows what prompts me, as I scribble down impressions), but a bit dry in back. The Chambolle Feusselottes was stunning, with dark cherries and a soft floral element on the nose; again, there was a gorgeous silky texture, along with soft tannins and a seductive charm. The Echézeaux, made with 15% whole cluster (unique in the range), was very dense and possibly a bit overripe and slightly disjointed, but the Ruchottes-Chambertin, with much lower yields (23hl/ha), had pure cherry fruit on the nose, along with a touch of grilled meat, cocoa, cream, and pepper, and was well balanced, with rounded tannins and a juicy and slightly saline finish. The Clos de Vougeot, which never seems to get all the respect as it deserves, had a deep minerally nose with pure dark fruit, and on the palate an extraordinary velvety quality, more like a top ’19, but the balancing acidity was clearly very ’20. The tannins were completely refined, and this had a long, fruit-driven finish.  


Picking here began on August 23rd. While this was the earliest vintage ever for the domaine, Jean-Nicolas noted that the season did not suffer from the same immense heat as in 2003, except for one week at the beginning of August, when potential alcohols began to shoot up. He views this as a great vintage, but far from homogeneous, noting that the wines can vary considerably in their degree of ripeness. As an example, he said that the first vineyards they picked came in around 14% alcohol, while several others picked later were not as high (ultimately, the range was 12.5-14.5% overall). Jean-Nicolas reported that they had experienced a few stuck malos within their copious range; he also told us that the vintage would be bottled later than usual. 

Many of the wines here were in an awkward stage—while, as Jean-Nicolas noted, the benefit of tasting at this time (November) is that the malos are (mostly) long done, the wines were tight, the levels of SO2 relatively high, and the wines probably wouldn’t fully settle until after they were racked and put in tank. 

The village Vosne was ripe and nicely balanced, though the oak was fairly prominent, while the Vosne Chaumes had deep black fruit along with good acidity. I particularly liked the Nuits Meurgers, which was dense, bursting with ripe black fruit and added spicy overtones, and with a mineral spine, though here too the oak was not shy. The Chambolle Charmes, a negociant wine, showed good promise, while the Clos de Vougeot, though slightly reduced, combined blackberry fruit, great intensity, and power with a ripe finish, but there was just a touch of heat, which was even more evident on the Corton Clos Rognet. The Echézeaux was quite promising, with great depth and very pure fruit, along with citrus and saline notes, and tannins that are not shy but stopped well short of being aggressive. The Vosne Cros Parantoux managed to combine dense fruit with purity, and was very structured, with strong acidity and a long finish—this wine will clearly benefit from a racking and although it will require significant cellaring to reveal all its qualities, it should be remarkable in time. The Richebourg also needed racking, but the richness of the fruit and the intensity in this large-framed and powerful wine was remarkable, while the finish had great purity and length.

Sylvain Cathiard:

Sébastien Cathiard was at the far end of the picking spectrum in 2020: he did not begin until September 8th, opting to wait for full phenolic maturity. In consequence, alcohol levels were mostly between 13.9-15%. The malos here were heterogeneous, finishing at very different times, and Sébastien was also among those who felt this vintage needed more time in barrel than usual. While some wines were reduced and difficult to read clearly, there is no denying the superb quality of the best wines here, which serve to illustrate the point that while the picking date may have determined the style of wine, it did not necessarily determine success or failure. Among the successes here were the Chambolle Clos de L’Orme, ripe, pure and dense, though showing some effects of the oak (which is gradually being modulated at this domaine); two really fine wines from Nuits, an Aux Thorey that displayed both dense and ripe black fruit and a surprising mineral focus, with tannins that were quite refined for this commune, and a Meurgers with remarkable purity and freshness complementing the deep fruit and dry extract—remarkably, this wine, despite its 15% level, did not feel particularly alcoholic. The Vosne Reignots perhaps got away (it showed a lot of prunes and heat), and the Vosne En Orveaux had a slight touch of the same–though with much more drive and intensity–but the Vosne Suchots was balanced and intense, with wild cherries and blackberries, enough acidity to balance, and some wood tannins that will resolve in time. The Vosne Malconsorts was even more promising, with excellent tension, deep spice, coffee and licorice notes, and a combination of very soft and refined seed tannins and a touch of wood tannin—this was the last wine to finish malo, and clearly will improve with extended elevage. The Romanée St.-Vivant was massive, with a complex nose and the typical deep spice, a brilliant middle, and silky tannins; this is a wine of elegance and finesse.

Jean Grivot:

Etienne Grivot described ’20 as an “exceptional” vintage with perfect maturity and acidity. More and more, though, he noted that Burgundy is having the problem, common elsewhere, of high sugar, low acidity, and immature tannins. Quantities have also been a problem of late: 40% below normal here in ’20, 30% below normal in ’19 and 50% below normal in ’21. He was among those who waited for more phenolic ripeness in ’20, not beginning the harvest until September 3rd. Nonetheless, Etienne reported that alcohol levels were not high, mostly around 13.5% (though the Nuits Pruliers reached 14.5%). I thought the ‘20s were almost universally very good to excellent, and the tannins supple throughout the range, though I missed a little individuality in some of the wines. Among the Nuits, the Boudots stood out for its transparency in the mid-palate and excellent expression of terroir, while also having good density and juicy fruit. The Vosne Brulées was super-intense, with good drive and energy, and a long, spicy finish, and the Beaumonts was equally intense, though with the tannins a bit more in evidence. The Clos de Vougeot was deep, full, and rich, but I felt a slight touch of heat here. The Echézeaux was, in Etienne’s word, voluptuous, with great density and a creamy note on the finish. Best of all was the Richebourg, with the power evident even on the nose; this was a huge wine that still managed to be graceful, bright, and driven, with a saline, super-long finish.


This was our first visit to this domaine, located in Flagey, which used to sell mostly to negociants. It has some very old vines and has been gaining in reputation in recent years. The domaine picked relatively late in 2020, not starting until September 3rd. Malos were very late (winemaker Thomas Collardot said they were the longest ever). The domaine used about 20% whole cluster in 2020, though they don’t always, and about 25-30% new oak (50% for the grands crus).  Among the village wines, I particularly liked the Vosne (from 60–70-year-old vines), which had plenty of Vosne spice, a pure mineral center, and a very long saline and citrus-tinged finish. The Vosne 1er Cru (mostly from Beaumonts), had presence and power, but a bit too much new oak; the same seemed true of the Clos de Vougeot (70-year-old vines), but the malo had only finished a few weeks earlier, and this had a lot of sweet fruit supported by great minerality, with a creamy texture and a touch of white pepper, and in time could be quite good. The Echézeaux (also from 70-year-old vines) was particularly fine: despite a little reduction, this was deeply fruity with complex spice, soy, and a touch of black pepper; it had excellent purity and lift and supple tannins, and the makings of an elegant wine. The Clos de la Roche was for me a bit heavy, but the Clos St.-Denis, though slightly reduced, had tremendous potential: deeply spicy, with an intriguing floral quality on the nose and palate, and a coating of pure fruit around a mineral spine. The Grands Echézeaux again had deep spice, and pure black cherry notes; it was ripe and with silky tannins, though perhaps a tiny touch of residual sugar as well.

Ch. de la Tour and Pierre et François Labet:

The harvest began here on August 27th, but François Labet noted the extreme diversity of maturities: they began picking with the oldest vines of the Clos but finished with the younger vines two weeks later. Alcohol levels were very moderate, 12.4-13.5%. François is among those who have opted for a longer elevage and will not bottle until next April. Other than the three Clos de Vougeots, the wines are all under the Pierre et François Labet label. Unusually in this heterogeneous vintage, the entire range was successful, and quality followed the normal progression, beginning with a ripe and rich Bourgogne Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes. This was followed by a Beaune Au Dessus de Marconnets that had notes of clove and allspice, chocolate cherries, and good supporting acidity, and a Beaune Coucherias that was perfumed, spicy, bright and earthy. The village Gevrey Vieilles Vignes had good typicity, while being simultaneously rich and punchy; this will be a crowd-pleaser but is nonetheless a serious wine. The Clos de Vougeot (Cuvée Classique) was direct and clear, with bright spice, cocoa, and red fruits; the tannins were still a little rough but should smooth out with added barrel age. The Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes was denser than the Classique, and though it was fruit-driven still kept good freshness, one of the remarkable aspects of this vintage. The Clos de Vougeot Hommage à Jean Morin had a color that was deep even by the remarkable standards of this vintage, a dense nose of black cherry, cocoa powder, and blueberries, and it managed to be at once both incredibly intense and yet soft, silky, bright, and fresh, with lovely transparency; the tannins were suave and refined and the finish extremely long—a great wine in the making.


This domaine is producing great wines and the only negative for consumers is that market values are finally catching up to the quality here. Picking began for the reds on August 29th and was completed within a few days. Alcohol levels were reported as moderate, mostly about 13-13.5%, and vinification was soft, with no punch downs. Everything was destemmed: Charles van Canneyt said that stems raise the pH because of the potassium released, a concern especially in warm vintages. 

The malos here were not finished until August, and the wines had not been racked at the time of our visit in mid-November, so still showed varying levels of reduction. Not atypically, the Bourgogne Rouge and the village wines (Chambolle, Vosne and Nuits) were all excellent, particularly the Vosne, which should be a great example of this. The Vougeot Les Petits Vougeot had good structure and line, and Charles believes that this is a particularly good vintage for Vougeot, which has generally been helped by warmer vintages. The Chambolle Charmes and Nuits Meurgers showed excellent promise but need more time to round out. The Vosne premiers crus were all brilliant and distinctive: the Suchots, which had dark sweet fruit wrapped around a mineral core, showed more fruit than the Beaumonts, though the latter had an extra dimension of grace and elegance, and great concentration, while the Malconsorts was superbly balanced, refined, and elegant and with an exceptionally extended finish. The Clos de Vougeot had a bit too much candied fruit for my taste, but the Romanée St.-Vivant was superb: silky, intense, an aristocratic wine with great purity, deep spice and refined tannins. It even outshone the excellent Richebourg, which had power as well as grace, crunchy fruit and deep minerality, and perhaps even more spice than the RSV, and was dense, vibrant and transparent.

J.-F. Mugnier:

The harvest here commenced August 26th and was finished on the 31st.  Yields were low. According to Freddy Mugnier, there was almost no malic acid in ’20, and so acidity levels didn’t change after the malolactic fermentation. He thought that the wines were likely to shut down after bottling. 

The village Chambolle was terrific: bright, with great balancing acid, and remarkable density for a village wine; surprisingly, I liked it better than the Chambolle Fuées, which had some bitterness in the tail. The Nuits Clos de la Maréchale, though typically earthy and rustic, was juicy and had good clarity in the mid-palate. Bonnes Mares, not often a standout in the Mugnier range, definitely is in ’20: ripe and intense, with a complex nose of deep black fruit, hay, licorice, spice and cocoa; the finish was especially fine, super-long, and at once concentrated and bright. The Chambolle Amoureuses was still primary, a heavyweight wine with plenty of tannin that seemed, at least for now, to lack the typical Amoureuses grace. The Musigny had an extremely dense and still somewhat reserved nose; the mid-palate was superb and transparent, with great minerality, intensity and density, and there was dark fruit, licorice, cocoa and the characteristic bitter orange note, and the tannins were refined though not soft—this will be a great wine in time. 

Trapet Père et Fils: 

The harvest here started on August 27th but went for three weeks, as Jean-Louis told us that the first-picked wines weren’t phenolically ripe, so they slowed down. Alcoholic degrees did rise, from 13% for the first-picked to 13.5-14%, but Jean-Louis is concerned that in modern vintages, a higher alcoholic degree seems to be necessary to achieve phenolic ripeness, and he is looking for ways to manage this, including more canopy cover, and planting trees (initially in Latricières) to create more shadow. In addition, the domaine is moving to prune differently, and has begun using single poles, without wires. Jean-Louis also mentioned that in ’21 they had pruned very late, and so avoided the heavy frost damage—by luck, he noted, but they (and others) are thinking this may be a viable strategy to help cope with the increasingly early budbreak that leaves the vines vulnerable, as in 2021, to April frosts. (Eventually, electrified wires seem likely to become a more widely utilized anti-frost strategy; it’s expensive, but not when considered next to the value of a lost crop of high-quality Burgundy.) 

Overall, these wines were highly successful in 2020, though (perhaps because some malos were late here) a few wines were reduced and hard to evaluate. Among the successes were a Côte de Nuits Village Meix Fringuet that had bright fruit on the nose and was quite expressive, and a village Gevrey that had clear Gevrey character, good density and tension, and a long finish. The Gevrey Clos Prieur was pretty and fresh, yet dense and persistent, and the Gevrey Petit Chapelle had an excellent nose of deep black cherry, allspice, coffee, and minerals, as well as plenty of ripe fruit on the palate; overall, this had more weight and even more density if not the clarity of the Clos Prieur. I especially liked the Gevrey Combottes (which had this year been separated out from the Gevrey Capita and was made with 100% whole bunch); it had a green olive touch from the stems, pure fruit, and great balance, with completely resolved tannins and great length on the pure mineral finish. The Latricières-Chambertin, which was the last to be harvested, displayed a lot of reduction on the nose and clearly needed more elevage, but there was excellent clarity and lift here, and the material to be a very fine wine. The Chambertin, (made with 90% whole bunch, which had been de-stalked and then layered in the vat) had an incredibly deep and transparent nose, power, elegance, balance, and complexity, with great presence and a silky finish—a terrific wine.


The harvest here started on August 20th and was finished by the end of the month, with picking only between 6 am and 1 pm each day. Yields were only about 20 hl/ha overall, the result of the millerandage at flowering according to Pierre Duroché, but the small berries kept good acidity. Alcohol levels were in the range of 12.5-13.5%. Duroché eschewed SO2 in the vinification (relying on CO2) and did not use any new oak barrels for the premiers and grands crus. The wines were already blended and in tank when we visited in November and were scheduled to be bottled at the end of the month. Pierre believes that in ten years, this will be thought of not as a warm vintage but as a classic vintage, possibly comparable to 2010 in character. While I felt the wines were a bit unsettled when we tasted, there was excellent potential here, especially among the grands crus. The Gevrey Village was very good, with characteristic Gevrey meatiness, ripe dark fruits, excellent balance, and a bright mineral/fruit finish, if some slightly fierce tannins–which also seemed to be the case in the otherwise deeply fruity and intense Gevrey Champ, perhaps reflecting the earlier picking. By contrast, the Charmes-Chambertin had silky tannins, and excellent balance overall, and the Clos de Bèze, if a bit reductive and unsettled, had wonderful complex fruit and was a refined, elegant style of Bèze.


According to François Orisé, by August 25th, alcohol levels were between 13.5% for village wines and 14% for the grands crus, but the wines hadn’t achieved phenolic ripeness. The domaine decided to wait, and the harvest did not begin until September 1, with morning picking only. Some stems were used, and they did slow pigeages, with the wines taking about 15 days to ferment. Also, about 20% of the wines were raised in amphorae rather than barrels, and according to François, the resulting wines were fresher and more austere. (They had been blended together in tank about three weeks before our tasting.) While the ‘18s had not shown well on our prior (pre-Covid) visit two years earlier, this range was highly successful—the alcohol levels were not obtrusive, and I noted silky tannins in a number of the wines, plus enough acidity to keep the wines balanced—the “miracle” of 2020. Despite some reduction and evident CO2 (a deliberate decision, as at Duroché and others in this vintage), both the Gevrey Vieilles Vignes and the Gevrey Aux Echézeaux showed rich fruit, good density, and excellent balance, with the latter having some extra intensity. The Gevrey Goulots was still unforthcoming on the nose, but quite intense, with refined tannins and a lovely mineral note, and the Gevrey Combe Aux Moines had notes of chocolate and sesame on the nose and was almost over the top but still kept its feet. The best as usual were the Gevrey Clos St.-Jacques and the Griotte. The CSJ was deeply spicy though slightly reduced on the nose, a driven wine with huge ripe black fruit and grilled meat notes but enough acidity to balance the fruit, and silky tannins, and the Griotte was incredibly dense, with a complex nose, powerful and even pushing the edge but with buried tannins, a saline note, and a remarkable, complex, bright, long pure finish.

Bruno Clair:

The delightful Philippe Brun has retired, and the domaine is now a family affair, with Bruno’s sons, Edouard and Arthur, now fully involved. Arthur, who oversees the cellar, told us that the harvest began early, on August 17th, but stretched until September 4th. He said that the grapes gained 1.5 degrees of potential alcohol in a three-day period, with final alcohol levels at the domaine ranging from 13% to the mid-14’s. The wines had great concentration from the beginning, and the domaine used more whole cluster, and fewer punch-downs, in 2020 than in the past.  The top reds will be bottled in May/June 2022. 

This is still a somewhat underrated domaine, perhaps because the wines tend to shut down in bottle and take a long time to come around, and also because of the breadth of the portfolio, which does lead to some inconsistency. The Chambolle Véroilles was attractive, as was the Chambolle Charmes, a new addition in 2019, with excellent density and plenty of sweet fruit—they are planning to move this vineyard to organic farming and change the pruning regimen, so it will be interesting to see how the wine develops in future vintages. The Savigny Les Dominodes was excellent as always, with blue and black fruit and an attractive spice note, showing prominent yet supple tannins. The vines here are very old (most from the 1920s and some from 1904), and in consequence did not suffer as much from the drought. The Vosne Champs Perdrix was reduced but seemed promising, and the Gevrey Clos du Fonteny was intense but not fully resolved. Arthur commented that these vines suffered from court noué, a root virus. In consequence there was more concentration, but lower yields, than previously, and he felt that the character of the wine had changed. The Gevrey Clos St.-Jacques was outstanding: deep, spicy, meaty, and intense, with great purity–a structured wine with an extremely long finish, and the influence of the whole clusters (50%) is apparent here. After the CSJ, I found the Clos de Bèze, while massive and intense, still primary (yields were only 21 hl/ha). The Bonnes Mares (80% from terres rouges), despite a little reduction, was quite classy, with excellent structure, intensity, and gravitas (!), supple and refined tannins, and an exceptionally long finish.


In 2018, members of the Bouygues family (which also owns Ch. Montrose and Clos Rougeard) purchased a controlling interest in this domaine from the de Surrel family and invested in a considerable upgrade of the facilities, but the day-to-day running of the domaine is largely in the hands of the de Surrel brothers, Louis and Bénigne. The brothers make an interesting contrast, as Louis, who oversees the commercial aspects, is studious and thoughtful, while younger brother Bénigne, who is in charge of the winemaking, projects a youthful self-assurance. In 2020, alcohol levels were moderate, 13.5-13.7%, and the malos largely passed quickly. The domaine uses about 90% new oak, and whole cluster in some cuvées, particularly the Charmes and the Chambertin. 

Having tasted the ‘18s two years ago, and now the ‘19s and ‘20s, I would urge more restraint. The oak treatment, while getting better, is still obtrusive. I tried hard to like these wines—and some I do—but stylistically, they have not yet achieved what I look for in great Burgundy: finesse, terroir transparency, and above all, balance and harmony. Power and richness can be adjuncts to those qualities, but to me are not themselves the goal–others may of course disagree. Right now, I think that the brothers haven’t fully chosen a direction: there was a sharp contrast, for example, between the Clos de Vougeot, where the huge oak presence completely overbore the light fruit, and the Clos de Bèze, which had far more restraint and brightness, with relatively refined tannins and grace notes of spice and violets. Depending on the choices made, this estate has the vineyards, the physical plant, and the dedication to become top-quality; we will have to wait to see what happens. 


Picking here began on August 19th and was finished a week later. The wines had very little malic acid and the malos finished quickly. Alcohol levels were all 14% or under. This was among the domaines opting to bottle early, to capture the vibrancy of the vintage. Jeremy Seysses commented that the ‘19s had more polish but that he was more excited by the ‘20s, which had an edginess he appreciated.  Despite having been recently racked, and still showing touches of reduction, most of the wines in barrel showed extremely well and this will be a fine vintage for the domaine. We also tasted two wines that were already bottled: a Morey St.-Denis 1er Cru, which displayed crunchy fruit and was sweet and ripe but with excellent acidity, and positive lift, and a Gevrey Combottes that was dense and deep, though perhaps with a touch of dusty tannins. Among the wines in barrel, standouts included the Vosne Beaumonts, intense and spicy with excellent clarity and a very long finish, and the Vosne Malconsorts, which had great purity in the mid-palate and was spicy, deep, and balanced, with tannins that seemed more polished than in the past for this cuvée. I particularly liked the Echézeaux (often relatively underrated among the grands crus here), with deep, complex red and black fruit, intense spice, and a green olive note from the stems; this achieved density and yet delicacy, especially on the long, pure, spicy finish.  While the Clos St.-Denis was quite nice, it was outshone, at least on this day, by the powerful and large-framed Clos de la Roche, with modulated tannins and a delicate, long mineral finish. 

Domaine Ponsot:

The reds were picked between the 28th and 31st of August, before the whites. The malos finished in early spring and the wines are around 13.5-14% alcohol, lower than in the two prior years according to Alexandre Abel, who felt the ‘20s would still need 6 more months of elevage. There was no cold maceration here, no SO2 at the time of reception, and the wines were 100% destemmed. The new team seems to be settling in, and although there was some inconsistency, there were a number of fine wines here. Among those showing best were an excellent village Morey, with dense ripe black fruit, coffee and anise notes that were prominent, along with some strong soil notes, good density, and medium tannins. The Morey 1er Cru was not yet fully knit but had a lot of material and should profit from the added months in barrel, while the Corton Cuvée du Bourdon, which was a bit reduced and disjointed at first, seemed with air to gain clarity and rondeur. The Chapelle-Chambertin was evolving very well: deep and meaty, with a spice-rub quality, ripe fruit on the mid-palate, and rounded tannins. The Clos de la Roche was excellent: a lovely calm nose, with some cherry fruit, champignons, an almost gamy touch, and some salinity; on the palate it had bright fruit wrapped a mineral core, with still strong but reasonably refined tannins (this is CDLR, not Musigny), and a persistent finish.

Domaine des Lambrays:

Harvest began August 20th and finished August 26th, both records for the domaine. Here, the north-south orientation of the vines helped prevent sun damage. The ’20 Clos des Lambrays yielded 15 hl/ha, and the wine has an alcohol level of 13.8%. 85% whole cluster was used, and there was no pigeage.

The Morey 1er Cru Les Loups was attractive, with bright fruit, a note of mushroom fricassee, and a citrus touch—this wine, which includes grapes from younger vines of the Clos des Lambrays (now 20 years old), will be appealing early. The Clos des Lambrays, which will be quite fine, had a deeply pitched nose, with champignons, licorice, citrus, and cocoa; it also had a pure minerally middle, which was dense for Lambrays, and was very balanced and elegant, with tannins that were still strongly present but rounded. 

Henri Gouges:

This was our first visit to this storied domaine, which traditionally has produced remarkable wines that may take 50 years to come around. Cousins Gregory and Antoine now run the domaine, and Antoine told us that over time they have been changing small details, to make the wines more approachable younger without changing their fundamental character. Extraction is softer, and they are looking for more finesse in the wines; they have also moved to organic farming and adopted some biodynamic practices. Judging from our visit, and some recent vintages tasted earlier, they are succeeding admirably in producing wines that respect the individual terroirs, and remain deep and complex, while not being nearly so gnarly as they once were. (No doubt they’ve also gotten an assist from climate change, with riper vintages now being the norm.)

In 2020, picking began on August 24th and finished September 1st. Average yields were only 17.5 hl/ha, and alcohols about 14.5%. Malos were prolonged, with some barrels still not finished at the time of our mid-November visit. Antoine is in the camp of those who believe that this vintage will benefit from longer than usual elevage. The village Nuits had been relatively recently racked but was marked by explosive sweet fruit. Among the premiers crus, a few clearly were not yet fully knit (and the Clos des Porrets St.-Georges had not yet finished its malo), but the Nuits Vaucrains, despite some small reduction, had plenty of ripe dark fruit balanced by excellent mineral clarity; the tannins were present but ripe and the finish in particular was concentrated and very long. The Nuits Les St.-Georges was showing beautifully: it had an aristocratic nose, with sweet fruit but also bright acidity; this was balanced, refined, and with a spicy cinnamon note on the extremely long finish.

Jean-Marc Millot:

This was our first visit to this Nuits-based property, which used to sell its production to negociants. It is now run by Alix Millot, who is drawing well-deserved attention for this small domaine (which has added some negociant wines itself in 2021). The harvest here took place from 21-28 August, and the resulting wines were mostly between 13.5-14.5% alcohol (the higher level for the Clos de Vougeot). The domaine farms organically and it uses indigenous yeasts for the fermentation. Mostly they use pump-overs, and after pressing the wines are put in tank for several weeks before being fed by gravity to the barrels in the lower cellar. New oak was 10% for the village wines and 30% for the Vosne Suchots and the grands crus. The wines are not racked until ready to go into tank before bottling. (In consequence, all exhibited some degree of reduction during our tasting).

The village Vosne had bright fruit in the mid-palate, classic Vosne spices, and good balance with moderate tannins and a slight bit of heat at the end (14%). The Vosne Suchots had bright pure black fruit, excellent depth, and good acidity, though the tannins seemed fairly prominent at the moment. The Echézeaux (from plots in Clos St.-Denis, Poulallières and Echézeaux du Dessus totaling about 1 ha) had very ripe fruit if not quite the purity of the Suchots, and had cinnamon and coffee notes, and a dense finish, with the tannins resolved. The Echézeaux du Dessus Cuvee 1949 (a single barrel, from vines planted in 1949) was far more precise, with refined tannins and dense fruit but excellent supporting acidity—a terrific wine, if you can find it. The Clos de Vougeot (located in Grand Maupertuis), was deep, brambly, with blackberry and coffee notes, the tannins relatively resolved but with perhaps a bit of heat here, though a creamy finish. The Grands Echézeaux had spice and cocoa notes, great minerality and transparency, and was refined, yet with power and presence, and the tannins were still prominent, with maybe just a tiny touch of heat.

Côte de Beaune

Marquis d’Angerville:

The harvest here began on August 18th-19th, and Guillaume said he deliberately sacrificed a bit of phenolic maturity to avoid higher alcohol levels and retain tension. Yields were moderate, and the wines were in the range of 13.5-13.8% alcohol. Guillaume had some interesting comments about the evolution of “solar” vintages, saying that previously in this century, the wines of such vintages were hugely concentrated (for example, ’05 and ’15), but that they had become progressively more classic, and he felt the plants were adjusting (a comment also made by Aubert de Villaine and others), especially for vineyards farmed biodynamically. In June, I had been blown away by the quality of his ‘19s, but the ‘20s, while presenting a very different profile, are also superb. I quite liked the Volnay Fremiets, which showed a characteristically saturated, deep color (as did all the wines), some blue as well as darker fruit notes, and a bright minerality. The Volnay Caillerets was still showing strong tannins and didn’t seem fully knit yet, but the finish promised more development and delicacy here. The Volnay Taillepieds showed excellent definition and structure, great purity, bright fruit, and refined tannins, and the Volnay Champans was intense, deep, and powerful, with an extremely pure finish (Guillaume aptly described it as “sapid”). The Volnay Clos des Ducs was intense and complex on the nose, with dense fruit yet great lift and purity on the palate, and showing extra layers on the finish, with highly refined tannins. Overall, this was an extremely successful set of wines.

Comte Armand:

The harvest started here on August 24th and was completed on the 30th. The alcohol levels were all over 14%, but the resulting wines still had very good acidity and did not present as overly alcoholic, while reflecting good phenolic ripeness, particularly in the Clos des Epeneaux. The Volnay Fremiets was deeply pitched, with notes of cinnamon and black fruits, and was developing a silky texture, though with some strong and perhaps slightly chunky tannins that reflected the climat. The Pommard Clos des Epeneaux was terrific: a complex nose led to a silky-textured palate, with rounded edges and the tannins refined, especially in the context of Pommard.

Yvon Clerget:

Thibault Clerget is one of Burgundy’s young rising stars. He is attentive to his cuvées, adapting the use of whole clusters, pigeage, and percentage of new oak to what he feels are the needs of each climat. The result has been a noticeable improvement in quality from year to year.

Yields were down significantly in 2020 (about 50%) and even more in 2021. The Bourgogne Rouge (100% destemmed and raised only in neutral oak) was bright, fresh, and attractive. The Volnay Santenots, made with 20% whole clusters, seemed to have excellent potential but was still showing some of the effects of a recent racking. The Volnay Caillerets, from 90-year-old vines that yielded 15hl/ha in 2020, was 100% destemmed; it was ripe, pure, and balanced, though still with some oak to absorb. The monopole Volnay Clos du Verseuil was especially fine; 100% destemmed and with 30% new oak, it was pure, expressive, and polished. I also liked the Pommard Rugiens (from Rugiens Haut; 30% whole bunch and 20% new oak, and no pigeage), which produced a stylistically creamy young Rugiens without the roughness that can characterize these wines when young. The Corton Rognets, from purchased fruit, had 40% whole cluster and 40% new oak; on the nose, it was spicy and bacony, with the new oak still prominent, but the palate was open and transparent, and it finished powerfully. The Clos de Vougeot, from Grand Maupertuis, had 50% new oak and 50% whole cluster. Even in a deeply colored vintage, the super-saturated color here was remarkable; while the oak influence was prominent on the nose and in the tannins, this is a wine of sufficient density that it should be able absorb these elements in time, and I thought it had a very pure mid-palate, along with fully ripe fruit, and excellent potential. 

Chandon de Briailles:

Alcohol levels here were between 13-14%. François de Nicolay felt the ‘20s would need more elevage, compared to the ‘19s and ‘18s, and described them, as had others, as “classical” wines that would take significant time to mature. These wines generally showed well, though needing more time to round out. This is a domaine whose wines still represent good value for those who are patient. Both Savignys showed well, Aux Fournaux juicy but with strong acidity, and Les Lavières deep, intense, with excellent balance and length, and given added dimension by the whole clusters. The Pernand Ile des Vergelesses had lovely raspberry fruit but was a touch heavy in the mid-palate, and the Corton Bressandes was intense but a little brutish, as the reduction made it a bit hard to evaluate. The Corton Clos du Roi was excellent, though, with dense black cherry fruit, bright acidity, earth and bacon notes, and a pure finish, albeit with some strong tannins that will take time to modulate.

Armand Heitz:

Both the domaine and negociant wines have, as of 2019, been consolidated under the Armand Heitz label. Heitz was not satisfied with biodynamics and is now experimenting with permaculture. Without trying to explain all its complexities, this approach to agriculture is in essence holistic, and as applied to viticulture, seeks to moderate insofar as possible the monocultural aspects of vineyards. Armand Heitz has therefore introduced both other plants (including vegetables) and animals in his vineyards, and many of these products are for sale through his storefront/tasting room in Pommard. He is also making other changes in the vineyard, including making the rows higher and looking to revise their spacing, and in the cellar, including reducing the use of SO2. Others are watching with keen interest, if not yet following.

In 2020, Heitz began harvesting on August 15th with the whites. His reds are 13.5-14% alcohol. The full range includes wines made from both purchased grapes and must, as well as domaine fruit, and we only tasted a sampling of the range. I did not find the wines entirely consistent; nonetheless, there were several highly successful wines, particularly among the reds. The Bourgogne Rouge, already in bottle, was from Pommard and Mercurey, without any new oak, and had a bright, ripe fruit expression. From barrel, I thought both Pommards we tasted were excellent: a Vaumuriens, vinified with 100% whole clusters and raised in 25% new oak, was very primary, with purple fruit, and an earthy, tannic Pommard character, while the Clos des Poutures (a monopole of the domaine), made with 75% whole cluster and also raised in 25% new oak, showed the stem character, and had excellent black fruit, a light soil note, and refined tannins—a wine of excellent complexity, balance and transparency.

The Negociants: 

[As a note, the line between negociants and domaines is an increasingly blurry one: the top negociants own considerable properties, from which they often make their best wines, while numerous top domaines, sensing economic opportunity, are purchasing grapes (and sometimes must) from other growers].

Joseph Drouhin:

Here too there were long malos. Véronique Drouhin said that at the beginning (and while the vintage conditions were clearly different), the wines reminded her of the ‘78s: high acid, tough to taste, but also with serious depth. Some whole clusters were used here, but Véronique stressed that this was individually decided during the sorting, not pre-determined. 

Though we missed seeing some of the wines we usually taste, clearly judicious choices have resulted in some exceptional wines here; the best of them showcase the strengths of the vintage, balancing deep but not over-ripe fruit with good acidity, and achieving excellent terroir expression as a result. The village Vosne had lots of crunchy fruit, good spice, and though not exactly classic, was accessible and enjoyable. The Beaune Clos des Mouches had a nose of earth and blackcurrants, and was soft and charming, with plenty of ripe fruit but the acidity to balance, and fine, buried tannins, and the Chambolle 1er Cru had bright acidity, with cassis and cocoa notes, and an appealing softness. The Chambolle Amoureuses was superb: with a nose of complex fruit that jumped from the glass, this was a wine of harmony and elegance, culminating in a refined and super-long finish. By contrast, the Clos de Bèze, while also terrific, was characteristically powerful, with touches of grilled meat and spice, perfectly ripe fruit balanced by excellent acidity, and refined tannins.

Louis Latour:

This was my first visit to this historic winery. We were guided by the inimitable Louis-Fabrice Latour, one of the grandees of Burgundy (and a major source of encouragement, generosity and help to both Allen Meadows and me in our research for Vintages) on a tour of both their remarkable cuverie in Aloxe-Corton and of the restored Ch. Corton-Grancey, where we also tasted a range of the 2020s. 

There is significant use of new oak here—100% for the grand cru reds and one-third to one-half for the premiers crus, all made at their own cooperage with a light, long toast and 36 months of aging. The oak was a bit obtrusive on some wines, at least to my taste, and there were some wines that I thought overripe, but there were also several successes among the reds (and the whites, reviewed below), including a rich, deep and already approachable Ch. Corton Grancey, with a long, balanced finish; a Chambertin Cuvée Héritiers Latour that had great depth and a plethora of ripe fruit but also a good underpinning of minerally acidity, along with supple tannins; and a very classy Grands Echézeaux, showing rose petal and spice notes on the nose; this was well-balanced, with rich fruit, a mineral spine, and refined and supple tannins.

Joseph Faiveley: 

The harvest here began around the 22nd or 23rd of August, with the last picking on the 31st. Alcohol levels in 2020 were mostly in the 13-14% range, with the highest being 14.5% in Clos de Vougeot. Erwan Faiveley said they had no trouble getting pickers, and that he had, as is his preference, picked the village wines after the grands crus, willing to risk greater maturity with the former. Erwan felt the vintage had remarkable freshness, despite the heat. He was among those who cited the apparent adaptation of the vines to the warmer conditions of recent years, noting that this was a vintage that could have turned out like 2003, but did not. Overall, I thought the wines were mixed, but successful at the top levels (we did not taste any of the village-level reds). My sense is of a house that has an extremely strong commitment to quality but is still struggling a bit to find its groove. While I’m speculating, perhaps an understandable desire to replicate the remarkable Faiveley wines of the ‘60s and earlier has been somewhat frustrated by the realities of climate change. For example, a soft, fruit-driven Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, while projecting a pleasurably warm, ripe expression of Corton, in no way resembles its progenitors. That said, I particularly liked the Echézeaux, which has become a standout in recent vintages (and was one of the few wines in the range where whole clusters were used); it had 13.5% alcohol and combined ripe fruit and Asian spice with lovely balance–a very composed wine, with the tannins refined and buried. The Latricières-Chambertin had silky ripe fruit but an underlay of strong minerality, and a slight tartness on the finish that I liked. The Mazis-Chambertin also had sweet and soft fruit, but a deeper minerality and an intensity, combined with a creamy texture, that made this quite attractive. The Clos de Bèze was deeper pitched, with resolved, soft tannins and a long finish, but I found the Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin to be a distinct step up, with a more complex and subtle nose; this was spicy, charming, elegant, and balanced, with silky tannins and a palate-coating, super-long finish.

Louis Jadot:

The harvest here began on August 19th with the Côte de Beaune reds, with the whites following a week later. Frederic Barnier said that the date of picking had to be decided vineyard to vineyard based on the vines’ relative resistance to hydric stress–the old vines and upper slopes suffered less, and chardonnay in general less than pinot noir. He also was among those noting the increasing frequency of problems with respect to the 161-49 rootstock, which has been suffering because of drought. Average alcohol levels here were around 13.5% in 2020.

As is often the case in a broad portfolio that includes both domaine and negociant wines, the range overall reflects the vintage in its variability. That said, there were a number of successes among the reds, including a bright and balanced Beaune Cras that expressed the terroir well, and a concentrated, deep, and intriguing Beaune Clos des Ursules. The Corton Pougets was a relatively soft and approachable style of Corton, which will provide much pleasure early on. The Gevrey Clos St.-Jacques provided a series of contrasts as one moved from the spicy, meaty, intense nose to the softer, more fruit-driven palate, to the strong mineral finish—it will be interesting to see how this wine develops. The Echézeaux was sweet and easygoing, with a bit of tannin still to resolve but this should be pleasurable in time. The Clos St.-Denis also was showing bright fruit and good acid support, along with refined tannins. The Chambolle Amoureuses seemed more nerveux than usual, but I thought this was a good thing, and this was complex, dense and with a bright transparent mineral finish. The Musigny was very refined, if slightly anonymous, and had a finish that wouldn’t quit.


The harvest here started on August 18th. There was significant use of stems: 30% in the Côte de Beaune and 40-50% in the Côte de Nuits. For complex reasons, we tasted fewer wines than usual here, so it’s harder to give an overall impression on the range, but the wines were generally well-made. The Beaune Marconnets, while ripe, had good balancing acidity, and the Beaune Grèves Enfant Jésus also had rich, ripe dark fruit but didn’t overstep; it was still tannic, with a touch of oak, and a very attractive complex finish with a note of violets. The Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot was dense but still pure, and kept its freshness, with a transparent finish but also a lot of tannin still to resolve. The Clos de Vougeot, from the domaine, showed a little reduction but was full, complex, and ripe, with excellent balance and energy. The Clos de Bèze, from purchased grapes, was also attractive, with ripe black fruit, good spice, and (curiously) less tannin than the Beaunes, plus a very pure finish.


The Domaines:

Paul Pillot:

The harvest here began August 20th and as with many others was finished before the end of the month. Thierry thought the vintage was close in quality to ’14 and ’17, if not quite at the same level (I am inclined to think it may well be better than ’17, but that judgment will have to wait at least until after bottling). Unsurprisingly, the wines here were a great success; the Pillot wines are consistently among the top white Burgundies today yet are still not absurdly priced—even as other domaines continue to command huge prices based largely on outdated reputations. Except as noted, all the wines had been racked and were in tank.

I certainly would not ignore the Bourgogne Blanc here, which was creamy, floral and with bright acidity. The St. Aubins, as usual, are excellent and represent good value: the Pitangerets, despite a little reduction, showed lovely tree fruit notes and good acidity and transparency; the Charmois was a bit fresher and more minerally than the Pitangerets. The village Chassagne was stony and pure, with medium body and a nice floral touch, and the Chassagne Mazures was a step ahead in both body and finesse and had good transparency. The Chassagne Champgains had pure, ripe fruit on the nose, and was quite transparent, if just a touch heavy in back, and the Clos St. Jean had great minerality, line and balance. The Chassagne Caillerets, still in barrel and thus not racked, didn’t seem as elegant as the others, but might only be further behind. The Chassagne Grand Montagne was high-toned, spicy, and driven, with what I would call a “spiral” quality (hard to explain, but I’m trying to express a kind of tension that is not purely linear but rather displays increasing intensity); all the elements are in place, it just needs a bit more time. The Chassagne Grands Ruchottes had a nose that was calm and assured, with floral notes, salinity, and reserves of power behind its façade of calm. The Chassagne La Romanée was still in barrel, and perhaps a bit subdued on the nose but still spicy, complex and with pure fruit aromas. This wine has it all: richness of fruit, pure minerality, and grand cru depth and length. 

Bernard Moreau:

There has been some family turmoil here, as brothers Alex and Benoît have now gone their separate ways (Alex retained the domaine, while Benoît took a share of the vineyards). The harvest started here August 22nd and was finished on the 31st, and Alex noted that the sugar levels kept shooting up throughout the period. The old vines had not suffered as much from the drought during the growing season, and here the crop was normal sized, with quantities between 30-50 hl/ha. He reported that there were some very long fermentations–a few even carrying over to the following summer. Interestingly, he commented that one felt the acidity more in the ’19 whites than in the ‘20s—something I did see at some domaines where we were able to compare the wines directly—as the balance was better in ’20. The domaine was highly successful in ’20, and I think it will likely turn out to be their best vintage since ’14. Most of the wines we tasted were assembled and in tank.

The Bourgogne Chardonnay (bottled at the end of August) was creamy, with good acidity and a soft finish—a nice entry-level wine–while the village Chassagne (fined before harvest), had attractive notes of licorice and spiced apples. The Chassagne Clos St. Jean, which had been racked, was bright and positive, with a floral note and creamy texture; the Chassagne Vergers, from old vines and one of the wines that underwent a very long fermentation, had notes of lemon and lime, white flowers, anise, and, on the palate, crunchy fruit and an almost raspy minerality—I don’t know how that all sounds in print, but the wine was delicious, balanced and had excellent tension. The Chassagne Chenevottes, from a vineyard that touches Vergers and is also planted with very old vines, had similar crunchy fruit, but a more perfumed and spicy quality, and was creamier on the finish. The Chassagne Maltroie had some fine elements but felt disjointed at the moment, while the Chassagne Champgains was denser, and perhaps slightly heavier, than the previous premiers crus, but still a very fine wine. The Chassagne Morgeots had more weight and power still, but remained balanced, and had a sneaky long finish. The Chassagne Caillerets was quite attractive, with minerally, floral and citrus notes on the nose; on the palate, the texture was softer, but there was a strong mineral thread to this, and it had great tension, drive and purity, and an extremely long finish. The Chassagne Grands Ruchottes was as usual the best of the premiers crus, with a superb nose that included floral, tree fruit and lemon parfait notes, while the palate had a mineral core wrapped in sweet peach and pear fruit, and anise and floral notes–a wine of great harmony and remarkable precision, with a superbly long finish. The Bâtard had great clarity and balance, with no hard edges, yet plenty of drive, the one nit being a slight warmth on entry, while the Chevalier was powerful and had good balance, but not quite the cut of the domaine wines. (Last, and in this case least, was a non-domaine Corton-Charlemagne, rich and sweet but lacking the balance and finesse that characterizes the domaine’s wines.) 

François Carillon: 

François described this as an easy vintage and was among those who saw it as similar in style to the ‘10s, though he said the entire harvest was completed before the end of August. Alcohol levels here were 13.5-14%. Despite a slight tendency in some of the wines toward tropicality, overall this was an excellent range of wines, including a pleasant Bourgogne Chardonnay Cuvée Vieux Clos and an excellent Puligny Le Clos du Vieux Château, a village-level wine from 80-year-old vines that had plenty of ripe tree fruit and, despite a hint of tropicality (it is a warm site and so was picked several days before the rest), managed to maintain a zippy acidity to it, and had good complexity for a village wine. I also particularly liked the Puligny Combettes, which was floral and charming; François commented that it was his favorite, because of the elegance. For me, though, the Puligny Perrières was even better, as this had drive and power on the palate, and excellent minerality, plus a long saline finish—a great pairing, I would expect, with lobster. 

Guy Roulot: 

2020 was the domaine’s earliest harvest ever, beginning on August 20th and finishing on the 29th, and as others also commented, Jean-Marc believes picking dates were key in ’20. He described the vintage as a cross between ’18 and ’17.  The wines had been racked from barrel into tank in August and were due to be bottled in February or March. 

While perhaps not entirely consistent across the range, the top wines here were characteristically excellent, as were many of the less exalted cuvées: the Bourgogne Blanc was attractive, and the village Meursault, with lovely sweet tree fruit notes, was also very good. The Meursault Luchets had a saline, minerally nose and was pure and elegant, with spiced pear notes, while the Meursault Tessons was more linear and saline, with an intense finish. The Meursault Poruzots conveyed a lot of intensity and power, with touches of ginger and iron filings (!), while the Meursault Charmes was a leaner style of Charmes than one usually finds, but no less beautiful for it; I admired the Perrières-like stoniness, and this was very pure, focused, and intense. The Meursault Clos des Bouchères, though having more weight and power than the Charmes (and more purity, per Jean-Marc, though I would have said equal), had great balance notwithstanding its weight, and excellent focus. The Meursault Perrières had a typical stony nose but also a lovely floral quality and some nuanced spice, and on the palate, there was a coating of ripe fruit wrapping a pure mineral core; this was weighty without being ponderous and was both intense and transparent—a great wine. We also tasted the negociant wines, a soft and charming Puligny Caillerets, a nicely balanced Chevalier-Montrachet that perhaps lacked a little depth, and a Corton-Charlemagne that was much improved from prior vintages, complete and with a fine minerally finish. 

Comtes Lafon:

This was our first visit in several years. We were greeted by Leah, Dominique Lafon’s daughter, and Pierre, his nephew, who are taking over the operations of the domaine, as Dominique is retiring (he joined us partway through the tasting). The harvest started on August 20th and yields for the reds were in the low 20s (hl/ha).

The ’20 whites are impressive here. These are getting slightly less time in barrel than before, but more time in tank, on the fine lees. The village Meursault will be a crowd-pleaser, while the Meursault Clos de la Barre, also charming, had more depth and a delicate mineral underpinning. The Meursault Bouchères was floral, balanced, elegant and long, while the Meursault Goutte d’Or was slightly more subdued, but had greater depth, intensity, and drive. The Meursault Poruzots was a bit on the heavy side, but still attractive; the Meursault Genevrières was a standout, with a creamy and spicy nose, sweet fruit, and white flowers; it was complete, pure, and balanced. The Meursault Charmes had more intensity and depth than the Genevrières but was less evolved—this needs time but has a lot of material. The Meursault Perrières had intense stoniness on the nose, with a soft, creamy palate entry leading to a balanced, elegant, and pure wine with a saline touch on the finish; this too will evolve. The Montrachet, not surprisingly, had added layers of richness, and a honeyed nose; it was delicate and floral with an ethereal quality and then a bright, almost endless mineral finish.


Jean-Pierre Latour said that the acidity in ’20 had stayed at a good level, and that the wines had good fruit, power and precision, whereas in his view the ‘19s had too much power and alcohol. He compared 2020 to ’12 and ’92 stylistically. The Meursault Cuvée Charles Maxime had good acidity and energy for this cuvée, with a refreshing bite of citrus at the end, while the Meursault Narvaux was softer and creamier, though with some slight bitterness at the finish. The Meursault Charmes was a classic Charmes, with excellent brightness and precision, and a good acid balance that Jean-Pierre said characterized the whites of this vintage. The Meursault Genevrières was spicier, stonier, and more citric and saline than the Charmes, with a precise finish, and the Meursault Perrières was calm and creamy, an elegant version of Perrières. As is typical here, the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre, from 60-year-old vines in the center of the domaine’s 1.5ha of Genevrières, was the top wine in the range, showing a perfumed nose with saline, spice, citrus, and mineral notes; it was palate-coating, with a creamy texture but also a piercing minerality, and was complete, elegant and fresh.

Henri Boillot:

Some excellent whites here. We began with a floral and fresh, if slightly reduced, St. Aubin 1er Cru, followed by a Meursault Genevrières that was fresh, coiled and saline, with spiced pear notes, and a Puligny Pucelles that had an entrancing floral nose, though the palate perhaps could have used (and might still develop) a little more fruit. The Puligny Clos de la Mouchère was excellent as usual, with a complex nose of white flowers, licorice, spice, and citrus, a minerally, taut palate and a long finish. I also quite liked the Bâtard, also very floral on the nose, with a pure, deeply minerally and poised palate, and showing characteristic power.

Armand Heitz:

Heitz began harvesting the whites on August 15th, and they came in between 12.5-13% alcohol. I found them a curious mix, with a Bourgogne Blanc, bottled in early June, that had razor-sharp minerality, but a St Aubin 1er cru Les Castets that had tropical notes. Both a Meursault La Barre that had some puppy fat but also a touch of apple crisp, and a Chassagne Maltroie, which had a spicy, creamy, minerally nose, were not yet fully resolved, though there seemingly was fine potential here—à voir.

Other Whites Tasted (mostly from domaines located in the Côte de Nuits):

Bruno Clair: A Corton-Charlemagne that was very pure and minerally, with a lovely floral note, as well as intensity and power

Pierre and François Labet: The Bourgogne Blanc Vieilles Vignes was among the best examples of Bourgogne Blanc we saw this trip: cream, spiced apples, minerals, and very good tension. The Beaune Marconnets had crunchy fruit and white flowers, and good lift, though the Meursault Tillets, despite good tension, felt like it needed more time to come together. 

Domaine Ponsot: The whites were picked September 5-6th, about a week after the reds. The Corton Charlemagne had only finished fermenting in August 2021, and was still gassy, but should be excellent once it settles out, carrying its weight with ease, while the Morey St.-Denis Monts Luisants was round and floral, but with bright acidity, pear, anise, and lemon notes, and just a touch of sweetness at the end. 

Domaine des Lambrays: I thought the Puligny Folatières a bit too soft for a ’20, but the Puligny Clos du Cailleret was much more interesting, with anise, spice, lime and pear notes on the nose, sweet fruit wrapping the mineral backbone, and plenty of dry extract.

Comte Liger-Belair: An easy and charming Nuits Les Grand Vignes, and a soft, ripe village Nuits (the young vines of Les Grands Vignes).

Chandon de Briailles: A particularly fine Corton Blanc, pure, floral, saline, with tree fruit, a touch of orange peel, and excellent transparency—this clearly has a different texture from Corton-Charlemagne. 

Comte Armand: The ’20 Aligoté, still in tank, and not yet filtered, was a highly enjoyable aligoté, picked three weeks after the end of the harvest, with a deeply minerally nose, still bright acidity and a lovely floral component.

The Negociants:

Joseph Drouhin:

The range of whites we tasted seemed particularly strong this year. I was impressed by the Côte de Beaune, which had lovely spice and white flowers, an excellent mineral aspect and a creamy texture—thus, I was not surprised to learn that this has a fair amount of Clos des Mouches in the blend. The village Meursault displayed good tension, but the Meursault Charmes ratcheted up the intensity, with a strong stony quality, tree fruit, and a perfumed touch. The Chassagne Embazées was particularly fine for this appellation, with great purity and a lovely floral quality. The Corton-Charlemagne was a crowd-pleaser if slightly soft, and the Chablis Les Clos, while pure, also seemed a bit on the soft side; I preferred the Beaune Clos des Mouches, a great year for this appellation, with a gorgeous complex nose, white flowers, crème brûlée, and a strong mineral underpinning. 


The whites were somewhat mixed, with a Meursault Perrières that this year far outshone the Genevrières, and had great stony character accompanied by plenty of fruit, along with a nice citrus touch. The Corton Charlemagne, usually a standby here, lacked refinement (and was far outshone by the Latour version), but there were excellent examples of both the Chevalier-Montrachet (the wines from the different terraces are kept separately in barrel and blended later, so we did not taste the final blend), which was pure and elegant, and the Montrachet, which while full-bodied and powerful, had fine energy and no heaviness, and was deceptively complex.

William Fèvre:

This house typically produces reliable, well-priced Chablis that rarely scale the heights. The ‘20s, however, are stunning. The harvest started on August 25th and ended September 5th, with different climats showing major differences in ripeness. Yields were about 40 hl/ha. The Chablis Montmains (which had an alcoholic degree of 12.5 and was 30% barrel fermented) was ripe but with great acidity, characteristic gunflint, and citrus, and the Chablis Vaillons, a steeper vineyard with more limestone, was incredibly intense for a premier cru, and had a long, saline finish. The Chablis Montée de Tonnerre, 40% barrel fermented, had a deeply minerally nose with floral, anise and spice overtones, and was intensely minerally on the palate–a vibrant wine that needs plenty of time. The Chablis Vaulorent had more body, and a lot of power for a premier cru; it was large-framed, intense and almost achingly minerally. Moving to the grands crus, the Chablis Vaudésir evoked flint wrapped in ripe fruit—a layered, subtle, refined wine—while the Valmur reflected its cooler climate, with more citrus, anise, and ginger notes; one sensed the power, though this also managed to be subtle and refined. The Chablis Preuses had a wonderful creamy texture, with white flowers and a strong oyster shell component; it was structured, complex and pure, with an extremely extended finish. The Chablis Les Clos was perhaps the least forthcoming; though there was a lot here, it will take time to evolve; there was plenty of dry extract and this reminded me of a heavyweight boxer, but whether it’s Ali or Liston remains to be seen. The best of the range, in my view, was the Chablis Bougros Côte de Bouguerots, which was super-intense, with an incredibly pure oyster shell nose that was the essence of Chablis, and a light lemon touch; on the palate it was bright, pure, intense, with a remarkably long saline finish and a sense of real refinement—an impressive wine. 

Louis Latour:

Although a number of the whites, like the reds, suffered from too much new oak, some excellent whites were made here in 2020.  The Chevalier Montrachet Les Demoiselles, despite the evident oak, was creamy and spicy with excellent minerality and depth of fruit. Better still was the Bâtard-Montrachet Clos Poirier, with a very pure mineral nose graced with white flowers and a light lemon touch; this had great texture, power, and length, but above all, charm. Their flagship white, the Corton-Charlemagne, had bright fruit, a creamy texture and a minerally mid-palate, and was highly appealing.

Joseph Faiveley: 

The Bienvenues-Bâtard was floral and perfumed, soft and charming but with good presence, while the Bâtard had more power and minerality, and drive, yet an elegant finish. The Corton-Charlemagne, though charming, was a bit soft, not perhaps unlike the Drouhin version.

Louis Jadot:

Most of the whites were put through full malolactic fermentation in 2020. Frédéric Barnier said they were surprised by how well balanced the whites were (maybe that malo thing is a better idea than Jacques Lardière thought it was?). Certainly, the whites were a success in 2020. Among those I most liked were a Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle Duc de Magenta, which had an appealing stony quality, a creamy middle and a spicy finish (this vineyard has been sold and will no longer be produced by Jadot); a Puligny Referts which was delicate, creamy and delineated, with a lot of dry extract; and a Puligny Clos de la Garenne Duc de Magenta that had great complexity, balance, and a lovely line to it. The Bâtard was dense and deep, if possibly slightly dry; the Chevalier Demoiselles was very minerally and deceptively powerful, with a super-long finish, an elegant wine that will benefit from long cellaring. Also showing well was a complex Montrachet, with peaches, honeysuckle, perfume, and mineral qualities but also good acidity, drive and strength, and a remarkable, pure finish. Only the Corton-Charlemagne was disappointing: it seemed heavy and graceless.

© 2022 Douglas E. Barzelay

THE 2018 VINTAGE—The Worst Lack All Conviction; the Best are Full of Passionate Intensity


Burgundy Vintages - A History from 1845, which Allen Meadows and I have co-authored, is available for purchase through Burghound books; pleas visit for further information and to read excerpts from the book.

Vintage Overview:

2018 was yet another vintage marked by extreme heat. But though average temperatures for the growing season exceeded even those of the bakingly-hot summer of 2003, several factors combined to make the 2018s much more successful than the ‘03s. That success, however, was not uniform; as the title of this article indicates (with apologies to W.B. Yeats), results varied widely, from great wines to great disappointments.

The winter of ’17-’18 was wet and humid, and the retained water in the soil helped the vines to cope with the hot dry summer that was to come. Cold weather in March resulted in a slow start to the growing season, but budbreak occurred around April 10th, and growth exploded in the second half of April, as temperatures reached 33°C. Flowering began early, around May 19th, and was completed rapidly, but the berries were quite small. Conditions were unsettled in late May and early June, and intermittently heavy but localized storms created mildew pressure in some areas (including Vosne-Romanée), while other parts of the Côte d’Or, especially the Côte de Beaune, reported little or no disease pressure. From mid-June, dry and very hot weather set in and lasted through August (apart from a hailstorm that affected the southern part of Nuits in mid-July), with temperatures at some points reaching 40°C. However, beneficial if somewhat localized rain in August swelled the grapes and produced a surprisingly abundant harvest, particularly for the chardonnay.

Veraison had begun in mid-July, and by mid-August, sugar levels were approaching maturity, but phenolic ripeness had not yet been achieved. Ripening accelerated in the days after August 20th, and (despite a little rain on August 23rd) growers were soon to be faced with a critical decision: whether to pick early, when alcohol and acidity levels were still reasonable, or to wait for greater phenolic maturity, and risk high-alcohol, low-acid wines. The earliest picking (of which we heard) began August 25th, with more (particularly white-wine producers) joining in the following week, and most picking in the Côte de Nuits beginning in early September. The window turned out to be relatively short, as Jean-Louis Trapet reported that potential alcohols shot up 1.5% over a five-day period.

Because of the high sugars and high natural extraction, some producers increased the use of whole clusters, while others limited or even eliminated punch-downs and relied on gentler pump-overs. Nonetheless, the fermentations were often extended, and had difficulty finishing, because of the high potential alcohol levels. In the typical way Burgundians discuss problems, several growers referred to neighbors who experienced stuck fermentations. Also, although malic acidity was low, some of the malolactic fermentations were extended (and in one instance it was still going when we visited in November) while others reported malos starting during the alcoholic fermentation, which can promote volatile acidity. Several growers also mentioned that they were extending the normal time for élevage in barrel in order to help refine the wines.

As to the wines themselves, in the words of one producer, the standard deviation is very high. Almost everyone agreed on the importance of picking dates. While we saw few producers whose wines exceeded 14% alcohol, we heard reliable reports of wines with much higher alcohols, some up to nearly 16%! But alcoholic degree is hardly the end of the story. Among the many dangers of this vintage (all of which we saw at one place or another) were under-ripeness (picking early to avoid over-ripeness but producing wines that were tart and not phenolically mature); over-ripeness (not just a matter of extended hang time but also of failure to eliminate sunburned grapes), over-extraction (there was more than enough natural extraction, and those who continued aggressive extractive regimes in the cellar produced monsters), unbalanced wines (mostly lacking in acidity, but also including some acidified wines—though no one was willing to own up to this); and volatile acidity (always a danger in hot vintages where the fermentations lag or stop, and lower acidities allow for more development of bacteria). VA was detectable in some samples even at some of the better producers we visited, and it’s difficult to know if this was affecting only the barrel we tasted, or the wine as a whole. A few producers were even willing to admit having had to eliminate barrels that were tainted.

The resulting reds are thus quite heterogeneous, but the best are potentially great wines. Early on, I was reminded of the 1990 vintage, which was much praised at the time, after a hot and dry summer produced an abundant crop and wines that—as Allen Meadows and I described the initial reaction in Burgundy Vintages—seemed “to be bursting with ripe fruit and to have a depth and intensity that had not been seen for many years.” With time, however, many of the wines began to display baked aromas and flavors, and showed slightly greenish tannins, even though the best (from DRC, Rousseau, Dujac and others) are still superb as they approach age 30. There are differences, to be sure, between ’90 and ‘18—including a hotter summer and a much more precocious harvest, as well as differences in yields. Plus, there are many more technically proficient producers today than there were in 1990, and, as one (Charles van Canneyt) said, they have learned a great deal since 2003 about how to manage hot vintages. So clearly there will be a far higher proportion of successes in 2018 than 1990. Additionally, as Aubert de Villaine among others remarked, the vines themselves seem to be adjusting to the new climate realities.

Stylistically, the best reds have pure fruit flavors (Michel Lafarge compared them in this respect to 1959, though he too sees parallels to 1990), great density and concentration, silky textures and ripe tannins. This is not a classic vintage, in that terroir differences can sometimes be a bit obscured, but the best have excellent balance and should age well. Guillaume d’Angerville said he particularly admired their density and texture, which he found unique, and this may well be the signature of the best wines of this vintage.

The whites are also quite successful at the highest levels—again, depending to a high degree on when they were picked. As with all hot vintages, there are plenty of fat, blowsy and tropical wines, but the best are fresh, pure and retain a good level of acidity—the result of the high yields, it would seem, as abundance held back sugar ripeness to some degree—though this is not a vintage to compare with such high-yield, exceptional quality years for chardonnay as 1982 or 1979. With rare exception, they are not at the level of the ’17 whites either, but the wines that were picked at the right time (and picking too early could be a danger as well as picking too late) will provide excellent medium-term drinking.

A note on barrel tasting: as I have written before, this is at best an art, and a difficult one, not a science. Yet if the overall outlines of the vintage seemed relatively clear in 2018, the results at specific producers did not necessarily yield the same degree of confidence. Some usually reliable producers did not produce particularly successful wines in this vintage, or else the wines were not showing well and should be revisited before a definitive judgment is made (a few are not reviewed here, for this reason). To some degree, this can always be the case. But this year, there were an unusual number of disconcerting reports from other experienced tasters who had quite different impressions, both positive and negative, from the ones our group had. So one has to be aware that these wines are still evolving, probably more so than is usual at this point in the élevage, and that could make it even more important than usual to sample the wines after they’ve been bottled and had a chance to settle down.



The Côte de Nuits

The Domaines:

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Not surprisingly, the domaine made some of the best wines of the vintage. (Aubert de Villaine likened the ‘18s and ‘19s to 1864 and 1865, respectively. Given my interest in ancient vintages I greatly enjoyed the comparison, though 1864 was not as copious—nor, obviously, as hot—as 2018. However, since 1865 was the best year of the 19th century, I can’t wait to try the domaine’s ‘19s!) The harvest began on August 31st and alcohol levels were around 13.5%.  The Corton and Echézeaux were both excellent, if of the vintage: the Corton, with an intense, classic Corton nose, was quite dense on the palate but avoided ponderousness, while the Echézeaux showed a deep black fruit nose with chocolate and licorice notes and was remarkably dense and intense on the palate, and spicy, if with a distinct chocolate note. With the Grands Echézeaux, we entered another realm; as Aubert remarked, the remaining wines all demonstrated a combination of concentration and purity that is only rarely achieved. The Grands Echézeaux had a complex nose that was massive without being ponderous; the palate showed great balance and was pure and fine-grained, leading to a long, citric and minerally finish of great refinement.  Spice was immediately evident on the nose of the Romanée St.-Vivant, as were stems, though on the palate there was great transparency, and the wine seemed to have even more mineral purity than spice. Here, though, the oak was still in evidence, as was the alcohol, and as Perrine Fenal (the new co-gerant and one of our guides for the tasting) remarked, it currently seemed a little aggressive on the palate. The Richebourg had an intriguing nose, revealing multiple layers, while the palate showed pure sweet black fruit, perfect balance and a mineral touch, along with a floral note; it was powerful and concentrated, spicy and extremely long, but the tannins were completely buried in the ripe fruit. The touch of stems was prominent on the nose of La Tâche, with its mix of Asian spice, dark cherries and licorice, and it had a floral component; on the palate, this was simply an amazing wine, with perfect balance, energy, structure and tension but also purity, and it had an elegant, silky texture developing, along with very refined tannins—a very great La Tâche in the making. By comparison, the Romanée-Conti seemed even more reticent than usual, though eventually the nose revealed complex refined black fruit, spice, violets and olive notes, and it just kept adding new dimensions as it warmed a bit in the glass; on the palate, it had a lot of power for young RC, extremely refined tannins, and a pure finish that lasted for many minutes. While at this stage, it hadn’t settled in to the same extent as La Tâche, it’s hard to doubt that it will in time also be a benchmark Romanée-Conti.

Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair. Picking began here on September 2nd, and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair said that the alcohol levels ranged from 12.5 to 13.5%. Things began a little slowly, but picked up considerable steam as we climbed the appellation ladder, with a very nice Vosne Suchots that showed ripe, pure black fruit and a touch of licorice, a Vosne Petits Monts that was dense and almost chocolatey but had excellent intensity and richness, if still some oak to integrate, and a very fine Vosne Brulées, made with 20% whole clusters, that had wonderful purity and was quite balanced, with a long, pure finish and polished tannins. The Nuits Cras, despite a little reduction, had beautiful, clear fruit, a sense of terroir and a spicy, extremely long finish with fine tannins, while the Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes, also a little reduced, was pure and bright, with citrus notes on the nose and ripe fruit on the palate, as well as a lively finish—brighter if not quite as deep as Cras. The Vosne Reignots was quite special—a brilliant nose with deep black fruit, mocha and just a touch of oak; this wine had great purity of fruit and was beautifully integrated, with excellent lift, very fine tannins and a super-long finish. The Clos de Vougeot had a fair amount of reduction and thus was harder to read, but the grand cru weight was there, and it had excellent balance and mellow tannins. Echézeaux, as always, had an elegant, complex nose, a dense palate and, despite some reduction, showed enormous potential. But if one wine suggested the full potential of this vintage, it was La Romanée, with a subtle and complex nose that draws you in, great purity of fruit, a delicate rose note, a pure, elegant palate of great class (what the old-time English wine writers liked to call “breed”) and a finish that went on for more than a few minutes–brilliant wine!

Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. Even though alcohol levels here were slightly elevated (13.7-14.3%), these wines were extremely successful. The Bourgogne was remarkable for the appellation, with deep black fruit, good minerality and some real depth of character, with only a bit of rusticity to remind one of its origins. This year, the Vosne La Colombière is being bottled separately from the Village, and it was a noticeably denser wine, with delicious sweet fruit–a large, bold wine that needs time, albeit with slightly grainy tannins. The Nuits Au Bas de Combe, a Village wine, was heavy and earthy. The 1er cru Nuits Chaignots was pure, citric, with earthy, mocha notes and, while it had a bit more material than the Nuits Vignes Rondes that preceded it, I slightly preferred the brightness and balance of the Vignes Rondes, with its spice notes, touch of earth and buried tannins on the long finish. The Echézeaux showed deep blackberry notes, citrus and mocha on the nose, and was powerful and rich on the palate; while it was balanced, it didn’t quite achieve the elegance of the best Echézeaux in this vintage. The Ruchottes-Chambertin was, however, quite fine, with excellent bright acidity setting off the deep, rich black fruit; this had great equilibrium and presence and to my mind slightly exceeded the Clos Vougeot, though the latter had good purity of fruit, medium weight and a sneakily persistent and elegant finish–which goes on for several minutes, promising more than the palate currently delivers—though I’m guessing the palate will fulfill that promise with time.

Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat. Charles van Canneyt has crafted some of the most compelling wines of the ’18 vintage. Picking commenced on September 5th and reported alcohol levels were between 13.3 and 14.2%. Charles commented that he thought that producers had learned over the years how to better manage hot vintages and that in general the ’18s were more precise than not only the ’09s, but also the ’05s. The Chambolle Village was quite attractive, showing some chocolate cherries on the nose, and was quite spicy, with a hint of game; this was bright, minerally and saline, with mild tannins. The Vosne Village had a complex nose of Asian spice, red and black fruit; it was more austere on the palate than the nose suggested and was probably in need of a racking, but there was a lot of material here and excellent density and tension. The Nuits Village completed this terroir-driven trio, with the earthy character of Nuits but also excellent transparency and even a silky texture developing. The Nuits Murgers had a very dense nose and was minerally and pure on the attack, building in complexity, along with saline notes and a silky texture. The Chambolle Charmes was even better, with complex fruit on the nose and a silky, pure and transparent palate giving way to a long, barely tannic finish. However, the standouts among the 1er crus were the Vosne Beaumonts, with a remarkable mid-palate that was transparent, silky, energetic and complex; and a Vosne Malconsorts that had a subdued, complex nose of spice, cherry fruit, cocoa and soy—this was pure, balanced, complex and gracious, growing on the palate and extending through a long finish with supple tannins. The Romanée St.-Vivant was dense on the nose and showing a little reduction, but this had a lot of power for RSV as well as density and concentration. Best of all was the Richebourg, with some rose petal notes along with typical spice, black fruit and soy on the nose; this was elegant, balanced, full of ripe fruit, concentrated and silky, with a floral quality emerging on the finish and extremely refined tannins. Great wines!

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard. Picking began on September 8th and Sebastian Cathiard said his alcohol levels were between 12.8 and 13.5%. These wines were quite successful in 2018, as it seems that Sebastian continues to modulate the oak treatment, beginning with a surprisingly nice Côteaux Bourguignons “Les Croix Blanches”, a mix of 60% pinot and 40% Gamay–not a combination I usually enjoy. The Vosne Village, while somewhat reduced, showed promise, and the Chambolle-Musigny Clos de l’Orme was better still, with lots of red and black fruit, a silky texture and good balance and clarity. Also very fine were the Nuits Aux Murgers, with deep, complex ripe fruit flavors and an earthy note, plus excellent balancing acidity and a persistent finish; and the Vosne Reignots, with good balance and purity, a lovely texture underneath the reduction and a long finish. Vosne Suchots was also excellent, with a black cherry nose hinting at great depth; this had energy, clarity and refinement, the only nit being that it seemed very slightly on the light side. The Vosne Malconsorts was first-rate, with an incredibly deep nose of cherry fruit, soy, spice, citrus and an almost gamy touch, while the palate was firm, concentrated and intense, finishing with very refined if slightly dry tannins. The Romanée St.-Vivant was deep and spicy, with an elegant nose and a delicate, pure palate; like the Malconsorts, this needs more time to absorb the oak, but the tannins are so refined as to be almost imperceptible.

Domaine Emmanuel Rouget. This was our second visit to the domaine, and as it had last year, the visit began with Emmanuel Rouget looking us over quizzically, as if to say “who are you and why are you bothering me?” and ended with him relaxed and telling stories (in French) in the cellar, seemingly reluctant to let us go even when we had to tell him we were late for our next appointment. The domaine began harvesting on September 9th and average alcohols were around 14%. Rouget made very fine wines in ’18. I quite liked the Savigny Les Lavières, with its deep fruit and light creamy texture, a big ripe wine but with plenty of acidity and some earthy tannins; and the Vosne Village, which despite some reduction (we tasted from a new oak barrel; the final blend will be 30% new oak) showed very pure fruit, a mocha note, lots of energy and great length, plus ripe tannins. Even better was the Nuits Village (from four parcels on the north side of the village), with beautiful fresh fruit and a nice spicy note; this was ripe but pure, balanced and with power, 1er cru weight and density, yet it was quite refined for Nuits St.-Georges. The Vosne Beaumonts was dense and the 100% new oak had not yet fully integrated, but it had a mineral spine and was intense and wonderfully spicy; the tannins were ripe and the finish remarkably persistent. The Echézeaux was slightly reduced on the nose, but on the palate, it displayed remarkable precision and balance; it was dense but not at all heavy and the fruit was pure and fresh, and it had refined tannins and a finish that lasted several minutes. The Vosne Cros Parantoux displayed a stunning nose of great purity, with a perfumed note, dark cherries, mocha and spice; on the palate, it was more delicate and refined than the Echézeaux (though, as Emmanuel remarked, also more reserved and, in my view, not yet as well-knit), with a spicy, energetic finish that went on for several minutes.

Domaine Méo-Camuzet. The harvest began here in Corton on August 29th and after a short hiatus restarted in earnest on September 4th. Alcohols were between 12.9 and 14%. Because this was a crowded week, the domaine had decided to prepare bottled barrel samples and to use a Coravin to pour them for visitors. This sounded innocuous, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t wholly successful, as some of the samples seemed slightly dull, and a comparison with examples taken directly from barrel showed much more vitality and energy in the latter. That said, I liked a number of the wines here, especially the Corton Clos Rognet (the first to be harvested), with a spicy, intense nose, lots of body, excellent ripe fruit and good concentration; Echézeaux, which showed good purity and was multi-layered, growing in the glass, with moderate tannins and good finesse; and a particularly fine Vosne Brulées (always a favorite of mine here), with a velvety texture, spice, mocha, black cherry and soy notes, and fine tannins at the end. And of course, as always, there were terrific examples of Vosne Cros Parantoux, with a bright, complex nose, a silky texture, excellent balance and terroir inflection and a finish of great finesse; and Richebourg, in a soft and elegant style, with good transparency and hidden depths that needed to be teased out of the glass, showing great density and refined tannins on the finish.

Ch. de la Tour. The harvest started on September 6th and extended over two weeks. Alcohol levels here were between 13.5-13.9% and, as usual, 100% whole clusters were used. Among the Domaine Pierre et Francois Labet wines, I particularly liked the Beaune Coucherias, which had a spicy, earthy nose, good clarity, lovely bright fruit and excellent typicity. The Ch. de la Tour Clos de Vougeot (Cuvée Classique) was quite ripe and dense, a good wine if still a bit marked by the oak on the nose, while the Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes had a massive black fruit nose, a pure middle and excellent weight and density that were balanced by good lift and tension, with ripe tannins. (Both of these wines had tiny hints of VA in the samples we tasted but I don’t know if these were necessarily representative.) The Clos de Vougeot Hommage à Jean Morin is a brilliant wine, potentially among the top wines of the vintage, with incredibly complex fruit on the nose, minerals, mocha, citrus and soy; there is great purity in the mid-palate despite the incredible density and a powerful finish that is full of fruit, with extremely refined tannins and tremendous length.

Domaine Georges Roumier. Christophe Roumier said that while ’18 was not a classic vintage, he really likes it: the wines, though slightly heavy in style and with pHs that are a little high, have nicely textured tannins, and he said they remind him a bit of ’03 but are fresher, though he also sees parallels to the ’90 vintage. Alcohol levels in some vineyards were slightly high (14.2% in Les Cras and 13.9% in Bonnes Mares, with the rest ranging down to 13.1%). Picking started September 5th and was completed in 5 days and Christophe said there were no problems with the fermentation, though he mentioned that the skins were strong and often resisted pressure from the cap. He also said that the slow fermentation that often comes with higher levels of potential alcohol increases extraction, and that one therefore had to be even more careful in this vintage to avoid over-extraction. He felt that the use of whole cluster was important to retain freshness and balance, and he also largely avoided punch-downs and did not rack the wines during the élevage, which he felt suited this vintage.

There are, as one might expect, marvelous wines here. The Chambolle Village had a complex nose of black fruit, earth, minerals and soy that jumped out of the glass; on the palate, it was pure, with great balance and soft tannins. The Morey Clos de la Bussière was silky and quite pure in the mid-palate, with a long finish and perhaps just slightly rustic tannins. The Chambolle Combottes had more depth and tension than the Village, though just a touch of heat on the finish. The Chambolle Cras was superb: starting with a pure, complex and intense nose, it was silky and transparent on the palate as well as concentrated and balanced, with refined tannins. Although the Echézeaux was a bit reduced it had excellent texture but was not as generous as it might be (while made from 65+ year old vines, the clones are high-producers). The Charmes-Chambertin, made with 65% whole cluster, was meaty and spicy, a very good wine if a trifle heavy in the middle. The Ruchottes-Chambertin had a deep, refined nose and was silky and suave on the palate, with good intensity and precision and ripe tannins on the powerful finish. The nose of the Chambolle Amoureuses was pure and complex, with great depth, and the purity of fruit was evident too on the palate, which had good energy and a refined, spicy finish where the tannins were almost completely buried. The Bonnes Mares had a powerful and brooding nose but opened to great purity and silk in the middle–a ripe, balanced and refined wine, with remarkable transparency in the center and on the finish, which went on for minutes. As terrific as these last two wines were, the Musigny was even better: a super-dense nose, the essence of Musigny; on the palate, this had excellent weight and balance; it was an extremely elegant wine, yet still powerful, with very refined tannins and an almost endless finish.

Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier. Picking began August 28th in Bonnes Mares, and the rest of the Chambolle vineyards were picked between the 1st and 3rd of September, with alcohol levels around 13.5%. The Clos de la Maréchale was damaged by hail twice in early July but turned out quite well despite it. The Chambolle Fuées had a deep, dark fruit nose, lovely balance and purity on the palate and some silk developing, and it was quite dense for Fuées. The Bonnes Mares had power and intensity, if not quite the refinement one hopes for in the very best examples from this vineyard. The Chambolle Amoureuses was complex, spicy and elegant, with great charm and potential, but there were VA hints throughout that I found concerning—though whether this was the particular barrel, or the cuvée, I couldn’t say. I had no cavils about the Musigny, though, which had a classic nose of dark cherries, spice and a Seville orange top note; it was achingly pure on the palate, with deep ripe fruit in the background—an elegant wine, with extremely refined tannins and an exceptionally long, transparent finish. This is a classic Mugnier wine (a term he would hate, as it suggests a house style, and he is adamant that it is the terroir that speaks; nonetheless, you can pick the Mugnier Musigny out of a lineup, just as you can the Roumier or the Drouhin, all wines in which the terroir speaks—but I digress!), back in top form.

Domaine Dujac. Picking began September 4th. Alec Seysses said the key to success in ’18 was flexibility, and among other things the domaine is moving to more pump-overs rather than punch-downs, as well as slightly reducing the use of whole cluster (though they’re still at around 90%). The wines had been racked about three weeks before we saw them. The Gevrey Combottes was excellent, an earthy, intense but very balanced wine that had power but also transparency. The Charmes-Chambertin was also quite fine, with a nice spiced meat quality, good balance and transparency and some still-firm tannins in back. The Vosne Malconsorts was, for whatever reason, not showing well, but the Clos de la Roche and Clos St. Denis were both extremely good, with much of the group preferring the latter, a classic CSD with a deep nose, ripe fruit and excellent balance, though I leaned toward the Clos de la Roche, which was deeply minerally, still a bit coiled and unforthcoming but with hints of great depth; where it excelled to me was in the ripeness and fineness of the tannins, while those of the CSD seemed a bit harder and drier. Nonetheless, both wines were very successful, and it will be interesting to see how they develop with age.

Clos de Tart. It was interesting to visit Clos de Tart and Clos des Lambrays back-to-back; at the latter, Jacques Devauges is now in charge, having left Clos de Tart, and at both, we were tasting ‘18s made by the former winemakers, with the current incumbents talking as much about the changes they intended as about their predecessors’ wines. In any event, the Clos de Tart, which for the first time was blended a year before bottling, showed a pure nose that was very characteristic of the vineyard, though the mid-palate seemed a bit plush, but then the finish reverted to the purity of the nose, with ripe tannins and great persistence. This is a very nice wine, but whether it fully justifies the increasingly aggressive pricing of the new owners remains to be seen.

Domaine des Lambrays. While Jacques Devauges has taken over from Boris Champy, it was Boris who made the ‘18s. The reds were harvested between August 25th and September 3rd. The alcohol level was 13.7% for the Clos des Lambrays, which showed too much oak for my taste but had decent structure and clarity and good persistence.

Domaine Ponsot. The reds were harvested beginning September 5th. Rose-Marie Ponsot said that while they were making some adjustments (fewer punch-downs, for example), there were no major changes at the domaine from the prior regime. Alcohol levels were around 13.5%, though 14.1% for the Clos de la Roche. The Corton showed quite ripe fruit and balancing acidity; it was less extracted than in some prior years, though not, at least at this stage, especially complex. The Clos de Vougeot had deep, dark fruit on the nose and, while reductive, there was some very ripe fruit on the palate. The Chapelle-Chambertin was quite nice, with lots of ripe red and black fruit notes, but also good balance and equilibrium and a long, spicy finish. Best, as usual, was the Clos de la Roche, which despite a little reduction showed pure fruit on the nose and a touch of champignons; on the palate, it had pure fruit, nice balance, good typicity and a creamy note, with the tannins evident but fine and a very persistent finish.

Domaine Duroché.  Pierre Duroché said the harvest began on September 3rd, and alcohols were between 12.5 and 13.5%; there was minimal new oak. The quality was evident here, as Duroché has now become one of the top addresses in Gevrey. The Gevrey Jeunes Rois had beautiful pure fruit on the nose and was bright and charming on the palate, with good energy, and was precise and well-delineated. The Gevrey Aux Etelois showcased the small berry fruit and a meaty, spice-rub touch; this was a very nice wine if not as sharply cut as the Jeunes Rois. The Charmes-Chambertin was particularly good, with ripe fruit and excellent clarity, minerality and drive, as well as fine length. The Latricières-Chambertin was also showing extremely well and was even more complex than the Charmes, with raspberries, blackberries and a mocha touch; it was coiled, with excellent mineral tones and a pure and complex finish, the tannins still evident but refined. Finally, the Clos de Bèze had a superb nose and great depth on the palate, as well as a powerful, pure and almost endless finish—this could well be the best of these wines, but it didn’t initially seem totally settled in, though it was improving as it sat (all too briefly) in the glass.

Domaine Trapet. The harvest started here on September 5th.  The Bourgogne Rouge was meaty, with a nice mouthfeel, if still showing a bit of wood in back; the Gevrey Village was classic Gevrey and classic ‘18, with a lot of sweet fruit and a grilled meat note, while the Gevrey Ostrea, though slightly reduced, showed deep cherry fruit and just enough acidity to balance it. The Gevrey Petit Chapelle had excellent clarity and balance, with a nice floral note, a citric touch and good spice; it also had a sneaky length to it. The Gevrey 1er Cru Capita also had good clarity and balance, and the 100% whole cluster used here gave it good lift and presence, though the oak still needs time to integrate. The Chapelle-Chambertin, while showing some reduction, had good purity up front and power after; this too needs some time. The Latricières-Chambertin was quite fine, with excellent minerality; this was silky and suave, with notes of cocoa, grilled meat and agrumes, a touch of oak and a delicate, minerally finish. The Chambertin had a real sense of density and complexity on the nose and was silky, with pure, sweet, ripe fruit, the stems keeping it from being too heavy, and a brilliant finish with suave tannins; this was pure, driven and exceptionally persistent.

Domaine Henri Rebourseau. This was our first visit to this domaine, which has been in the same family, and cultivated significant holdings of Gevrey grands crus, since the mid-19th century. The domaine has recently received significant infusions both of money, from a major investment by the Bouyges family, and energy, from the younger generation, Louis and Bénigne de Surrel. The domaine has been farmed organically for a decade, but other major changes are in the works, including in the regimen of new oak. Currently, the grands crus are aged in about 30% new oak, but the brothers (under the watchful eye of Bernard Hervet) are experimenting with different coopers, and we had an interesting and instructive comparison of the ‘18s from different barrels. At the same time, though, because we were only tasting from the new barrels, it made it a bit difficult to get an accurate picture of what the final blend will be. Nonetheless, there was quite a lot of ripe and rich fruit but still good clarity to the Charmes-Chambertin, and some good soil tones, though both the oak and extraction levels were prominent. The same was true for the Mazis-Chambertin, which had a savory quality and excellent purity to the fruit, along with a licorice touch. The Chambertin, from a François Frères barrel, was clear and elegant, the extraction more muted, and it had more finesse, with a lovely spicy finish. There is still much to be done here, particularly in toning down the extraction levels, but the pride and commitment are evident and the raw materials remarkable. It will be interesting to watch the progress of this estate.


The Côte de Beaune

The Domaines:

Domaine Marquis d’Angerville. Guillaume d’Angerville said that the density and texture of the ‘18s was different from most prior vintages, making comparisons difficult. Picking began September 1 and was completed in under 6 days. Alcohol levels were mostly between 13.5-13.8%. Guillaume also said he is not in a rush to bottle, as he believes further élevage will refine the wines. That said, these are already superb from barrel. The Volnay 1er Cru, despite some reduction, was quite transparent in the middle and developing well. The Volnay Clos des Angles, which still showed very primary fruit, had excellent freshness and a bit of tannin at the finish, and was quite attractive, as was the Volnay Fremiets, also primary, but with excellent structure and drive and fine balance, while the Volnay Caillerets was dense, almost chewy, its tannins evident, but with a pure mineral core. All three showed clearly the terroir differences. The Volnay Taillepieds was a further step up; with a silky mouthfeel, this showed real elegance and purity and had a spicy, very long minerally finish with refined tannins. The Volnay Champans had a deep, pure nose of black fruit and minerals; it was large-framed and powerful, but kept its balance; there is a lot here and I expect this will be exceptional, but it could use a bit more time in cask to soften the edges. The Volnay Clos des Ducs, notwithstanding a fair amount of reduction, was very pure, with enormous refinement and power and a super-long finish; I expect with time this will take its place among the great vintages of Clos des Ducs.

Domaine Michel Lafarge. Frédéric Lafarge said his father saw some parallels between 2018 and 1990, with a similar potential for aging, and 1959, for its purity of fruit. The wines are, as one would expect, excellent, although for me they didn’t have quite the same emotional impact as the ‘15s did here. This year, they made a special cuvee for Michel’s 90th birthday, a Bourgogne Passetoutgrain Anthologie, made from 90-year old vines, to be bottled only in magnums. For lovers of Passetoutgrain, I doubt you will find a better one—it is intense, ripe and ebullient—but I confess that the mixture of pinot noir and gamay always leaves me a bit unconvinced. I much preferred the Bourgogne Pinot Noir, with its lovely ripe fruit and remarkable complexity for this appellation, très gourmand but also with good balance. I particularly liked the Volnay Village, with ripe, pure fruit, good intensity and a nice silky touch (in fact I preferred it to the Volnay Vendages Sélectionnées, which was denser but perhaps too much so). The Pommard Pezerolles was typically earthy but nicely balanced and with good clarity, while the Volnay Pitures was ripe but well balanced, with significant power for Volnay and a lovely pure finish; it will be bottled only in magnum. The Volnay Caillerets showed massive ripe fruit on the nose backed by lots of minerally acidity—the fruit was elegant, ripe and pure, with refined tannins. Of course, the Volnay Clos des Chênes was outstanding, a subtle, refined wine with a creamy texture and a great deal of depth, but this year it seemed slightly outshone by the Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs, a delicate, elegant wine with perfect balance, a spicy finish and highly refined tannins.

Comte Armand. Paul Zinetti is crafting excellent wines here, and not merely the Clos des Epeneaux. There is a particularly fine Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru, with nice strawberry fruit, excellent minerality, a silky texture and ripe tannins; in this era of hot vintages, the wines of this village are now getting ripe and can be a good alternative to other more well-known, overpriced Village appellations. The Volnay Fremiets had a charming, almost plummy note yet managed to stay perfectly balanced, with a creamy texture; this was a particularly fine Fremiets. After an interesting tasting of different blocks of the Clos des Epeneaux, we tasted the blend. Despite a little reduction, the nose was deeply minerally, with spice and earth notes, and the palate was quite structured, pure and very reflective of the terroir; this is a very fine Clos des Epeneaux.

Domaine Jean-Marc et Thomas Bouley. Thomas Bouley said while ’18 was warm and sunny, the wines were fresher than ’03 and not overripe, and that despite having generally high alcohols and low acidity, they didn’t feel that way. He also believes that longer barrel aging is important for ripe vintages such as ‘18. The wines here were very much on form. The Bourgogne Rouge was quite attractive despite showing some reduction, with rich sweet fruit. The Volnay Clos de la Cave, made with 50% whole clusters, had a complex nose, with cherries, blackberries and a brambly quality and was easy, fresh and long, with ripe tannins. The Beaune Reversées was quite perfumed, light-bodied and charming, while the Volnay Caillerets showed dark fruit and mineral notes on the nose and plenty of ripe fruit on the palate. The Volnay Clos des Chênes was still slightly reduced but complex, deep and minerally on the nose and extremely well balanced, with refined tannins and just a little heat at the finish. Both Pommards were excellent, with the Rugiens (from Rugiens Haut) being pure, in a lighter style, stony and a bit saline, if perhaps just a bit rustic as well, while the Pommard Fremiets was pure, transparent, showing some of the Pommard earthiness but more refined than the Rugiens and with excellent body and lift. Overall, this was a very fine range of wines from this talented producer.

Domaine Y. Clerget. Thibault Clerget is another of the dynamic young winemakers who are energizing Burgundy today. He began picking on September 2nd and alcohol levels were between 13.2 and 13.7%. These are somewhat old-style Burgundies, with significant levels of tannin for the vintage, made for long keeping, but while a few tended towards somewhat more extraction than I prefer, I really liked the style of the best wines here. Among those were a very fine Volnay Santenots, which had a lot of power for Volnay, but carried its weight with ease, while the tannins were quite refined; and an excellent Pommard Rugiens, with lots of ripe fruit, a creamy texture and less rusticity than one usually sees from Rugiens Haut. Best of all was the Volnay Caillerets, an intense and energetic wine with great balance, purity and lift and very refined tannins. (By contrast, the Clos de Vougeot, the only Côte de Nuits wine here, struck me as a bit extracted, but certainly it needs more time.)

Domaine Michel Gaunoux. As usual, we tasted the ‘17s from bottle rather than the ‘18s, as the domaine only shows the finished wines. The Pommard Grands Epenots was dense, earthy and ripe on the nose, though soft and attractive on the palate; this should be drinkable relatively early though it is not without a good minerally clarity that gives it more interest. This reflects what Fred Mugnier called the “joyful” aspect of ’17, as opposed to the more serious vintages on either side of it. The Corton Renardes was particularly fine, with spices, black fruit, a bacon note and a mocha touch, as well as good minerality and plenty of sweet fruit—this is an accessible Corton that seems delicious right now, though it certainly has a good future ahead of it.

Among the older wines we tasted were an ’06 Pommard Grands Epenots, which avoided the hardness and ungainliness of many wines of this vintage and showed a very long, pure finish (92), and a particularly delightful ’97 Pommard Grands Epenots, a surprise from this usually overripe, stolid vintage, with a nose that almost jumped from the glass. This was très gourmand, with ripe fruit but also remarkable freshness (93+). We finished with the ’62 Pommard Grands Epenots, showing the silkiness of this brilliant vintage (95).

Domaine Chandon de Briailles. There have been some positive adjustments here, as the wines seemed more approachable and less bitingly tannic than in prior years. Some of that may be the vintage, but also perhaps a lighter touch is also being applied; if so, it is certainly a change for the better. Picking began September 1st for the reds. The first wine we tasted was an attractive Savigny Village, which while seeming a bit dense and extracted on the nose was quite pure and minerally on the palate and had a spicy finish (the premier cru Savigny Lavières which followed was denser if seemingly a little clumsy at the moment but it could well improve). The Corton Maréchaudes was creamy, with excellent lift–perhaps a bit sauvage still but powerful, with an excellent pure finish; while the Corton Bressandes was dense and intense on the nose, with notes of earth, bacon and truffles, a dense, classic Corton that became even purer as it lengthened out. The Corton Clos du Roi, remarkably (though perhaps not, for this vintage) was still undergoing its malolactic fermentation, so not in condition to taste. Given the quality of the other grands crus here, it will certainly merit revisiting.

The Negociants:

 Bouchard Père et Fils. The pinot harvest began early, on August 30th. Average alcohols ranged from 13.5 to a bit over 14% according to Luc Bouchard, and average yields were 38-40 hl/ha. The maison used 20-50% whole cluster, higher than normal. In general, these wines express the ripeness of the vintage, to better effect in some wines than others, with the best being wines that will give a lot of pleasure early on but that should last reasonably well; in a few wines in the range, though, I did detect notes of volatile acidity, which, as noted earlier, is a danger in extended fermentations. Among the reds I enjoyed were a fruity, earthy Beaune Clos de la Mousse; a spicy and also earthy Beaune Grèves Enfant Jesus, which was dense and had very plummy fruit, a Volnay Caillerets Ancien Cuvée Carnot that was also quite ripe and plummy, rich and likely to be enjoyable from an early age; and a darkly colored Echézeaux that had good density and balance and a creamy note. I also found the Bonnes Mares, Chapelle-Chambertin and Clos de Bèze all quite ripe and attractive, if not exactly the style of wine I prefer. My favorite in the range was the Clos de Vougeot, which had a nose of pure black fruit, a little wood, a creamy note and excellent balance, while the finish was clear and long.

Joseph Drouhin. The harvest began August 29th in the Côte de Beaune. Veronique Drouhin said that phenolic maturities were excellent as the maison had made the choice to wait for them, even if it meant somewhat higher sugars (though their highest alcohol was 14%, in Montrachet); they also chose as a result to use more whole cluster than normal. Veronique did say that because of the slow fermentations, a few barrels had showed some VA, but that these were all eliminated. By and large, the reds were very successful, beginning with a Beaune Clos des Mouches that was quite ripe but avoided overripeness, as the whole clusters gave it some good lift on the palate, and there was excellent clarity on the finish. The Beaune Grèves was even better, with a more sophisticated nose than the Clos des Mouches—there was more structure here, with the terroir nicely articulated. The Vosne Petits Monts had a deep, pure color and a complex, characteristically spicy nose; on the palate, it seemed soft and ripe up front, but had good balance and refined tannins—an elegant wine that will need time in bottle. The Corton seemed primary at first but expanded in the glass and began showing a silky texture; it was quite attractive. The Griotte-Chambertin, so often reduced at this time of year, was gratifyingly accessible: it had a beautiful nose of complex, pure fruit, minerals and a touch of spiced meat, excellent balance, and the tannins were soft and completely ripe–an unusually charming Griottes, but also with plenty in reserve. The Musigny had a superb, elegant and complex nose with the characteristic bitter orange top note and a nice crispness; on the palate, it was soft and elegant, albeit with great balance and density, while the tannins were highly refined and the finish, which was quite elegant, went on for several minutes.

Joseph Faiveley.  Erwan Faiveley was quite frank about the difficulties of fermenting the ‘18s, with many being slow to finish, and a few barrels had to be eliminated. I mention this because you know that if fastidious producers are experiencing issues with VA or brett, and have to eliminate barrels, there are others who will say nothing and do nothing. (Erwan also mentioned that these problems affected many regions in ’18, perhaps none more than the Rhône.) The wines here were quite plummy and rich, but with more tannin than most, as the house is looking to make wines that will evolve slowly and last a very long time. The Nuits Chaignots had very ripe fruit but also a lot of bracing acidity, which is unusual for this vintage but welcome, while the Nuits Les St.-Georges, made from three different cuvées, was ultra-ripe yet retained good acidity–a powerful, structured wine that didn’t seem quite settled down.  The Gevrey Combe Aux Moines, like many of these wines, was on the extracted side, but it nonetheless managed to avoid heaviness, with some ripe tannins at the finish. The Gevrey Cazetiers had huge fruit, density and power—it was too extracted for me, but still had good energy. The Charmes-Chambertin, still evolving, had a good texture and balance on the finish, while the Clos de Bèze had super-ripe berry fruit, chocolate and plums on the nose, but showed some good balance on the finish. The best, though, of the Gevrey grands crus were the Mazis-Chambertin, which had a brambly note on the nose and good clarity, with some strong tannins, but overall expressed the Mazis terroir well in the setting of a warm vintage; and the Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin, which had great density but excellent lift, and if the fruit leaned toward the plummy side there was nonetheless a sense of refinement here, with an exceptionally long, elegant finish. It did not, however, necessarily overshadow the Echézeaux, Erwan’s favorite wine in the range and with reason: a spicy and complex nose showed the effect of stems (25-30%, used here for the first time), and the wine was extremely well balanced, the most transparent wine of the range. It had excellent weight and somehow it achieved density yet delicacy, all leading to a pure, vibrant  mineral finish with refined tannins.

Louis Jadot. While the reds here are certainly well-made, these are clearly fruit-driven wines; in this vintage the expression of the house style was such that, even if the terroir differences were not invisible, the dominant impressions were of the intense ripe fruit. Also, while not discussed, clearly fermentation issues had affected some of the wines, which showed noticeable VA. All that said, there were a number of wines that stood out from the pack, including a very nice Beaune Theurons, with bright red fruit, an earthy wine that showed its Beaune origins and had a strong mineral finish; an excellent Volnay Santenots, with lovely balance and purity and some evident tannins that should mellow with time; a ripe and accessible Corton Pougets, with lots of volume and a bright, long finish; an easy, crowd-pleasing Vosne Suchots; a Gevrey Clos St. Jacques that had charm but also depth, and was quite appealing even if not the most terroir-driven of CSJs; a Chapelle-Chambertin with pure black fruit, good density and just enough acidity to balance; a Clos St. Denis with a very interesting and seductively complex nose, even if the palate hadn’t quite caught up with it yet; and a particularly good Echézeaux, with excellent density and structure as well as an interesting persimmon note on the nose and with tannins that, if not exactly invisible, were refined. Best was the Musigny, with an elegant, characteristic nose; on the palate, this was ripe without being plush, the fruit dense but relatively weightless, the tannins very refined and the finish pure, subtle and elegant.

Laurent Ponsot. Although Laurent continues to operate as a negociant, he did buy some vineyards in the past year, which will be folded into the negociant operations. Laurent commented that wine tasting has become too “intellectual”—too much about information (alcoholic degree, pHs, punch-downs vs. pump-overs, yields, etc.)—and not enough focused on how the wine tastes; it was a comment echoed, in a somewhat different manner, by Thomas Bouley, who in response to a question about alcohol levels, asked “how do they taste? Do they seem alcoholic?” The Clos de Vougeot stood out for its pure fruit nose and its density and intensity on the palate, allied with a fine fruit/mineral finish, while the Griotte-Chambertin seemed powerful on the nose but more delicate on the palate (though not light) and had excellent transparency; it had a long, spicy finish, if also a slight sense of the alcohol (this was the only one in the range over 14%). The Chambertin had great balance and was spicy on the nose with intense, ripe black fruit notes; it was very balanced and even elegant, with some fine tannins and a long finish. The Clos St. Denis was the standout, as usual, with a complex nose that included notes of black cherry, spice, champignons, flowers and licorice; on the palate, it was complex and balanced, with a very fine texture and refined tannins as well as a quite extended finish.

Maison Henri Boillot. I had not visited this producer in a few years, and despite hearing that there had been significant changes in the reds, the ones we tasted (a Volnay Caillerets from the domaine as well as a Pommard Rugiens and an alcoholic, extracted Clos de Vougeot from the maison) struck me as much the same as I had remembered: deeply colored, plummy fruit, highly concentrated—in short, attractive wines that will drink well early, but which are not particularly evocative of their respective terroirs.



 The Domaines:

Domaine Leflaive. It is heartening to see that the genial but determined Brice de la Morandière is succeeding in his effort to restore this estate to its former position as one of best white wine producers in Burgundy. The ‘18s are winemaker (and director-general) Pierre Vincent’s second full vintage, and they are worthy successors to the excellent ‘17s. The domaine began the harvest on August 26th and completed it on September 1st, and the pHs and alcohol levels are lower than most in this vintage. There have been a number of subtle changes in vinification and élevage, but Pierre cited as a key to success in ’18 a massive green harvest in July, which resulted in yields of about 40 hl/ha in the grands crus, well below what many others saw. The Puligny 1er crus began with one of the nicest Puligny Clavoillons I have had in years—charming and balanced, with a soft texture but an excellent mineral underpinning. The Puligny Combettes was much more powerful, dense and coiled but had good texture and fine equilibrium. Although the Puligny Pucelles was quite reduced on the nose, the palate seemed elegant, and this was a balanced wine with a fine-grained, extremely long finish. The Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet had a harmonious floral-dominated nose with licorice, lime and peach notes; it was minerally and driven on the palate but still quite well balanced, with good energy and also a long finish. The Bâtard had a calm, self-assured nose; it was large-framed and well structured, with a lovely texture and a subtle, saline finish. The Chevalier-Montrachet, which had been racked a few weeks earlier, was still slightly cloudy and not fully recovered, but as it sat in the glass, it showed great delicacy, a minerally middle, lots of sweet fruit and a juicy, saline, minerally finish that persisted for several minutes; this should be very fine in time.

Domaine Paul Pillot. The top premier crus here were among the best ’18 whites we tasted, and Thierry Pillot believes that some of his ‘18s may even be better than their brilliant ’17 counterparts. The harvest began August 26th and was spread over 12 days. Yields were generous (53hl/ha in La Romanée, from 70-year-old vines), but Thierry believes that it was those generous yields that preserved freshness. The Bourgogne Chardonnay was crisp and energetic, if perhaps slightly lean, and the word “crisp” recurs in my note as well on the St. Aubin Charmois, with apple and pear notes, spice and excellent freshness. I did find a slight tart note in the Chassagne Village and the Chassagne Mazures, a note that Thierry says he likes but acknowledges some people don’t. The Chassagne Clos St. Jean did have more sweet fruit to balance it and was spicy, bright and lively on the palate—a puppy dog full of energy and eager to please. The Chassagne Caillerets was characterized by an almost raspy minerality, but there was considerable sweet fruit balancing it and great depth. With the Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes, we reached another level, a remarkably pure wine of great tension, with flowers, pears, minerals and citrus all in harmony and a saline, spicy finish. The Chassagne Grand Montagne had a layered nose with more sweet fruit on the palate, a silky texture that distinguished it from the Ruchottes and a very long, stony finish. Best of all was Chassagne La Romanée, with a nose that had the purity, nuance and elegance of a fine Chevalier, while on the palate it showed remarkable finesse, transparency and a delicate floral quality–a calm, elegant wine with a very long finish.

Domaine Latour-Giraud. It was great to see Jean-Pierre Latour back en forme, after suffering a serious heart attack just before our planned visit last year. Jean-Pierre began the harvest on August 29th, and remarked that the size of the harvest, which was substantial, came as a surprise, since the berries had been quite small after the flowering. He also commented that the ‘18s needed more time to evolve, and that in time he expected them to display greater precision than they were showing just now. That said, the premiers crus were already showing well. The Meursault Charmes had an excellent nose of lime, pear and floral scents, lively acidity, good clarity and a long, saline finish. The Meursault Genevrières was more tightly knit than the Charmes, with a lot more power and volume, if showing a bit heavier and more acidic than the Charmes, while the Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre was a large-framed wine that needs to calm a bit, with a sweet fruit finish that was distinct from the regular Genevrières. The Meursault Perrières was the best we tasted on this day, intensely stony but with a creamy texture, very full but fresher than the Genevrières, with an orange and lemon piquance. (We also tasted the ‘17s, which we had missed last year, but which are generally superb; Jean-Pierre described it as a model vintage, with balance, precision and concentration.)

Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils. Alex Moreau said the harvest at the domaine began on August 30th, the same date as in 2017. As had Jean-Pierre Latour, Alex said the volume came as a surprise, but the wines were balanced, and the alcohol levels quite reasonable at 12.5-13.2%. Overall, the domaine made very successful, fine wines in this vintage, though there was some variability between those that read as a little tropical and those that were more linear and pure. They are not the equal of the ’17s but will provide very nice drinking. We began with a Bourgogne Chardonnay, already bottled, which was quite pleasant, light and clean. The premiers crus were consistently fine, while showing their terroir differences. Among my favorites were the Chassagne Champgains, a wine with a lot of sweet fruit and flowers that nonetheless kept its balance; a Chassagne Caillerets, with a stony nose, again some sweet fruit, good drive and an excellent finish, if slightly lighter in weight than the best of the range; an extremely fine Chassagne Maltroie, combining lively acidity with a creamy texture and excellent drive and energy; and Chassagne Morgeot, which was complex, elegant and superbly balanced, with a lively minerally finish. Best of all was the Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes, beautifully balanced and floral with light spice and mineral touches and subtle tree fruit, still with some development ahead. The Bâtard was the first vintage after the replantation, and was floral and creamy, delicious though without the power of more mature Bâtard. The Chevalier was pure, floral, large-framed, well balanced, medium weight, a touch on the sweet side but not inelegant.

Domaine Roulot. The domaine was one of the earliest to begin picking, on August 25th. The harvest was a robust 60 hl/ha, with alcohol levels ranging between 12.7-13.5%. Jean-Marc said that the vintage reminded him of ’82 (a copious vintage that produced superb whites, many of which are still drinking beautifully). The Bourgogne Blanc was floral, minerally and juicy, and the Meursault Village, while slightly bready on the nose, had pear notes and was nicely round, with a mineral core. The Meursault Vireuils had a mineral core as well, though with plenty of sweet fruit to give this excellent balance, a floral touch and a strong mineral finish—this is a very fine Vireuils. The Meursault Meix Chavaux seemed a bit heavy to me compared to the clarity of the Vireuils, and the Meursault Tessons, despite its core of acidity, was dancing on the edge of flabbiness; however, the Meursault Luchets was exceptional: with a bright, coiled mineral/floral nose, it had drive and energy but plenty of fruit and an exceptionally tense mineral finish. Among the 1er crus, the Meursault Charmes was a little understated but had good tension, while the Meursault Poruzots had more power and density, and was well-balanced, with a linear finish. The Meursault Clos des Bouchères had great depth and purity and was strongly floral, with sweet fruit backed by a stony quality—a complete wine, and I even preferred it slightly to the Meursault Perrières, which had a lot of sweet fruit and, while quite nice, seemed a bit fatter and less linear than a top-vintage Perrières would be.

Domaine Chavy-Chouet. I was tipped by Marco Pelletier (the former head sommelier at the Bristol in Paris, who now owns Vantre) that there had been a sea-change here in the last few years. The wines did not disappoint. Romaric Chavy began picking August 27th, with the harvest extending over 10 days; he reported alcohol levels in the range of 11.7 to 13.4%. We began with a lively and bracing Bourgogne Blanc Les Femelottes, followed by a St. Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien that was quite floral and had good complexity, a mineral core and a pure fruit finish. A Puligny Enseignères showed lime and quince notes on the nose and was fresh, dense and direct, with a lovely floral component and a saline finish—I like this somewhat severe style, but others might prefer a little more flesh on the bones. The flesh was there, if balanced, in the Puligny Champs-Gain, which was quite subtle, but minerally, pure and with an excellent texture and long finish, and in the Meursault Clos de Corvées de Citeau, a monopole and flagship of the domaine, which was floral, with a butterfat component on the nose, sweet ripe fruit but also excellent balance—an extremely attractive Meursault Village. (A Meursault Genevrières, tasted during a scouting visit this past summer, was also quite fine.)

Domaine Henri Boillot. The domaine whites were, as usual, delicious, including a peppery, minerally Meursault Genevrières with good drive and a touch of sweetness at the end; a Puligny Pucelles that was powerful, tightly wound and dense, with a saline, spicy finish and 14% alcohol; and a Puligny Clos de la Mouchère, always a crowd favorite, that was floral,  slightly oaky, but with an excellent crystalline minerality–this was also slightly high in alcohol but not unpleasantly so.

Notable whites from primarily red-wine domaines in both Côtes: from Domaine Chandon de Briailles, the Corton-Charlemagne, while reduced, had a lot of richness and brightness and excellent mineral purity, especially on the finish. It will need some time to come together but could be very fine. The whites from Domaine des Lambrays (Puligny Folatières and Puligny Clos du Cailleret) were harvested August 27th. They are soft and creamy, with just enough acidity to keep them from being unbalanced, and likely to be crowd-pleasers. Domaine Michel Lafarge produced a very good Meursault Vendages Selectionées, with a complex nose, a rich middle palate and good acidity, and a pleasant Beaune Clos des Aigrots, pressed with the old vertical press, which Frédéric felt gave it more drive. Domaine Hudelot-Noëllot produced a very nice Meursault Clos des Ecoles (a Village wine)—despite still carrying a lot of SO2, this was quite pleasant and developing well. Domaine Pierre et Francois Labet produced three very nice whites, including a structured Bourgogne Blanc, a lean and linear Meursault Tillets and a Beaune Clos du Dessus du Marconnets that had a strong mineral core wrapped with flowers and tree fruit and a beguiling, complex finish.

The Negociants:

Bouchard Père et Fils. Like the reds, the whites were enticing if in a somewhat riper style than I tend to prefer. The Meursault Perrières had a lovely floral stony nose, with very sweet fruit on the palate and some acidity, but the finish felt almost as if the wine had not quite vinified dry. The Corton Charlemagne showed more tension and was stonier and drier if still with plenty of sweet fruit in the mid-palate. The Chevalier Montrachet had more acidity in evidence, and was nicely balanced, delicate and very spicy, with a persistent, creamy finish, while the nose on the Chevalier La Cabotte was intensely minerally, promising a bit more tension than the palate, with its ripe fruit, delivered–though the minerality came back on the finish. Best was the Montrachet, with a complex, elegant nose, while on the palate the sweetness was perfectly balanced by the acidity; there were characteristic notes of peach, white flowers and honey, and also spicecake, leading to a very pure mineral finish.

William Fevre. We didn’t see enough Chablis this trip to discern whether the more northerly location mitigated some of the heat of the vintage, but overall, I found this range to be quite nice, clearly reflecting the ripeness of the vintage but without entirely losing the flinty character of Chablis. The Chablis Vaulorent was very floral, with a light mineral touch and good clarity, while the Chablis Bougros had more peachy fruit on the palate but still some penetrating minerality. The Chablis Bougros Côte de Bouguerots was a step up in intensity, and though the fruit was sweet it had a pure, spicy, chalky finish that was quite nice. The Chablis Vaudésir was lighter-bodied, but all the elements seemed to be in place for a pleasant, if not profound, wine. The Clos was softer than usual, but it had a nose that showed the flintiness of the terroir as well as gingerbread and white flower notes, and the finish was coiled and powerful—it will be interesting to see how this develops. For now, though, the Chablis Preuses was the star, with characteristic oyster shell and gunflint; it had plenty of fruit but good vibrancy and a very long, crystalline finish.

Joseph Drouhin. If the whites don’t necessarily transcend the vintage, they nonetheless show the better side of it. The Puligny Folatières looks to develop into a real crowd-pleaser, with plenty of fruit but a nice freshness to it and a spicy finish, while the Puligny Clos de la Garenne is also soft and pretty, but there’s enough acidity to balance it. I liked the Chassagne Embazées as well, which had already been bottled; it had a clean, crisp nose and was lemony, minerally and juicy on the palate, getting even better with some air. The Beaune Clos des Mouches, despite some reduction on the nose, showed really well on the palate, with great balance, soft peachy fruit, a floral touch and good acidity on the finish. I also quite liked the Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche, with a positive minerally nose, remarkably good cut on the palate for an ’18, and excellent balance. The Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche showed real delicacy and finesse, with a nose of white flowers, peaches, spice cake and minerals, and on the palate, it was refined, with a creamy texture and hints of honey—neither big nor light but just perfectly balanced.

Joseph Faiveley. As has been the case at the time of our visit the last few years, most of these wines had recently undergone battonage, and so were hazy and in several cases hard to evaluate. I did think that the Chassagne Morgeots showed good balance and intensity, while the Puligny Champ Gains, from very old vines, had a terrific nose but hadn’t quite come together yet on the palate (by contrast, the Puligny Folatières showed bright crisp acidity on the palate but the nose was subdued). The Bâtard had a lot of power and nice floral notes but hasn’t completely resolved as yet. The Corton-Charlemagne had a lovely pure minerality on the nose, along with a floral touch; on the palate, it seemed large-framed with a lot of minerality but plenty of sweet fruit, maybe still a little clumsy in the middle but much better on the long, pure, spicy finish. Again, this needs time to resolve but my guess is it will turn out well.

Laurent Ponsot. Nearly all the whites are blends of wines acquired (mostly as must) from different growers. Among the whites, I particularly enjoyed the Meursault Charmes, which was quite floral, with a lot of sweet, ripe fruit but still some good acidity and a creamy finish; an appealing Corton-Charlemagne that showed the ripeness of the vintage but had a nice mineral finish; and a Bâtard-Montrachet that showed some positive acidity to balance its rich, ripe fruit.

Louis Jadot. Picking started for the whites on August 29th, and alcohol levels were generally between 13.5-13.8%. Winemaker Frédéric Barnier said that there had been very little malic acidity in the wines, and so the malolactic fermentation was blocked, as is frequently the case here. Among the whites, I thought the Meursault Charmes, with its rich ripe fruit and buttery style but just enough acidity to hold, will be a popular wine for early drinking, while the Chassagne Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle was also showing plenty of ripe fruit and some puppy fat but also some good energy. The Puligny Combettes, the first vineyard to be picked, had nice citrus notes and was juicy, creamy and dense, though at least at the moment it seems a little heavy—the components are in place if this balances out with time. The Bâtard-Montrachet was easy to drink, with ripe, soft fruit, but it still had some presence. The Chevalier Demoiselles showed some slight reduction on the nose but then a lovely floral, minerally quality; if the palate doesn’t quite deliver on the promise, it is still a good wine, balanced and beginning to show refinement. The Corton-Charlemagne, by contrast, seemed a bit disjointed on the nose but very put-together on the palate, with its fruit and mineral components held in excellent tension, and a spicy floral finish. Better still was the Montrachet, with a fine nose of spiced pears, white flowers, honey and a mineral edge; while ripe and rich on the palate, this had an excellent mineral spine as well as power and length.


© Douglas E. Barzelay 2020


2017 Burgundies: Delicious, Early Maturing and Abundant



Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 4.05.52 PM


It is hard for the consumer to think of Burgundy as having been beleaguered recently, as market prices have continued to ascend into the stratosphere. From 2010 through 2016, however, hail, frost and other adversities caused severe crop shortages. According to Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, many producers lost the equivalent of 2 ½ crops during that period — with the worst damage in the Côte de Beaune, which is not where the extreme price rises have been. Thus 2017, with its large, “no problem” crop of excellent wines, came as a welcome relief.

It may prove to be a relief for consumers as well, as these wines may get overlooked in the mad rush for the most highly praised vintages. 2017 is not a great vintage for red wine, but it is a highly useful one that belongs in any serious cellar, as the better wines — of which there are many — are delicious: full of ripe, mostly red fruit, but with enough acidity to give them a sense of freshness. As the Burgundian saying goes, “one sip invites the next.” Or, to quote Fred Mugnier, “I expect to drink a lot of it” — which, considering that he is 63, says a great deal both about the attractiveness of the vintage and its early drinking potential. Most are phenolically ripe and so there is little tannin in evidence, which will aid their early appeal. Also, the wines do not have high alcohol levels, which may turn out to be the bane of the already heavily-hyped ’18 vintage. That said, the reds lack the subtleties and nuances, as well as concentration and density, of the better ’15s or ‘16s. They are more in the line of ’07, ’11 and ’14 — all of which featured warm springs and an early start to the growing season (though ’14 did not result in an early harvest). Generally, though, as Christophe Roumier pointed out, the ’17 reds have more mineral definition and structure than those earlier vintages, even if, without terroir being entirely obliterated, these are still fundamentally fruit-driven wines.

Of course, this being Burgundy, caveats are always necessary: vines that had been frost-damaged in ’16 often compensated by producing extra fruit, and more than a few financially hard-pressed producers went for maximum yields, producing wines that are thin and dilute. Others pushed maturities to the point where there was no longer enough acidity to balance the wines.

On the plus side, the whites may be even better than the reds, particularly where they were picked in time to preserve a good balance of acidity, and while the reds do not come up to the level of ’15 or the better ’16s, the whites exceed their counterparts in those vintages and seem likely to be the second best (after ’14) since 2010. Quantities were also abundant, except in Chablis where early frosts took a significant toll.

January 2017 was unusually cold, but February and March were warmer than normal, setting the stage for an early bud-break (in some places, as early as the end of March), and were succeeded by a sunny, warm and dry April. Leaves had already begun to unfurl when suddenly the weather turned much colder, and there was a threat of frost beginning on the night of April 27th—the same time as 2016’s devastating frost — but it was not as severe as the prior year and in many villages, producers banded together to burn hay and create a haze sufficient to prevent the magnifying effect the frozen droplets can have if exposed to intense sunshine. (The frosts started earlier and had a much more negative effect on quantity in Chablis.) Flowering began at the end of May and was quite rapid. May and June were mostly mild, with greater heat following at the end of June, as well as a hailstorm that affected mostly the north part of Gevrey. July was unsettled, with a little beneficial rain (which also came in August), while August was mostly mild at the beginning but became much hotter before the harvest. For the fifth time in the 21st century, the harvest began in August, though this was more a function of the early flowering than the sort of summer heat that was experienced in 2003, for example. For the whites, the picking date could be particularly important, as Alexandre Moreau noted that the sugars jumped the last week of August due to the heat. There was some rain in early September, swelling the remaining grapes. For most reds, picking began in early September and was often spread out over a period of weeks, as maturities were a bit heterogeneous.

Véronique Drouhin puts ’17 in the category of dry, warm and luminous years, with luminosity at record levels (12% over seasonal averages, according to Bouchard). Luminosity promotes phenolic ripeness, and Pierre Duroché noted that the ’17s have better phenolic ripeness than either the ’15s or ’16s. Because the vintage was precocious rather than hot, enough acidity remained to preserve freshness in the wines, and alcohol levels were not high (generally in the range of 12.5-13.5 degrees). As there had been little disease pressure, the fruit was clean and ripe and little if any triage was needed, according to Frédéric Lafarge. Many producers reported quick malos, but others were more prolonged. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair thinks that it will be important to bottle earlier than usual to preserve the freshness of these wines. (If this turns out to be true, and others do not follow his lead, one’s impressions from barrel tasting could require revision once the wines are bottled.)

In sum, 2017 is a year that will give great pleasure, from an early age. At a recent tasting of Mugnier’s Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, while vintages such as ’99, ’01, ’02 and ’05 all showed great promise for the future (in some cases the near future, in others decades hence), the relatively unheralded 2000 was the most delicious to drink right now. It didn’t have the structure, purity or depth of the great vintages, but for sheer hedonistic pleasure, it stood out. Not all the ’00s are like that, but many are, and while they were enjoyable from an early age, they have kept quite well. I expect the ’17 reds will likely follow a similar path, but the wines have more structure and balance than the ’00s, and the number of fine producers has been increasing substantially. The abundant crop will also assure that the wines are relatively available, and if Burgundy drinkers are lucky, they may even be overlooked in the rush for the ’18s.

The whites are a bit more serious, though they too are likely to be early-maturing, which in this era of premature oxidation is a good thing — one worries that the highly structured, tightly wound ’14s may begin succumbing to premox before they unfold. While the ’17s are full of ripe fruit they also, at least when picked early enough, have good balancing acidity and retain a sense of freshness. They are easy to like, will drink well from an early age and, as with the reds, quantities are copious.


 The Côte de Nuits

 The Domaines:

Liger-Belair. As has become commonplace, some of the best wines of the vintage were produced here, even though the range was not totally consistent. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair noted that ’17 was the most generous vintage since ’09. The keys, he said, to ’17 were yield and aging in barrel — as to the latter, he noted that a lot of producers use the same aging regime every vintage, but that in ’17, he felt that the wines could fade if left too long in barrel and was looking to bottle earlier than usual to capture the fruit of the vintage.

The tasting started a little slowly, with the Vosne village and the Vosne Colombières being a bit too soft and easy, and the Clos du Château showing an odd dill note, but improved rapidly, with the Vosne Chaumes possessing a spicy, dense red fruit nose and good purity and density on the palate and the extended finish. The Vosne Suchots combined red and black fruit and a cinnamon note; on the palate it was medium-bodied, without quite the density that characterized the Hudelot version tasted earlier that day, but a lighter, more balanced version that captured the terroir nicely. A Nuits Aux Cras, despite some reduction, was outstanding, a dense, intense, earthy wine, with black fruit tones and nice mineral spice, superb balance and a long pure finish (it outdistanced the Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes, which was more tannic and intense but showed a little heat in back). It was followed by a similarly first-rate Vosne Petits Monts, with a deep black cherry nose that exuded a fine, pure minerality — in the mid-palate this was dense, with citrus and saline impressions, and finely balanced, leading to a very persistent and elegant finale with sweet fruit and minerals and refined tannins; and an impressive Vosne Reignots, which had soft fruit and was a delicate Reignots but pure and refined. The Clos Vougeot had a dense, almost tarry nose and seemed shut down for the moment, but the Echézeaux — so often a standout here — had super-refined and silky fruit on the nose (under a bit of reduction) as well as on the palate, which was pure, delicate and elegant and led to a spicy, extremely refined and elegant finish with suave tannins that were barely in evidence. La Romanée was remarkable: the nose, while slightly reduced, possessed incredible depth, leading with ripe and dense black cherry fruit; on the palate it was almost achingly pure, as well as balanced and refined, and the spicy finish with its touch of super-fine tannin didn’t stop for minutes — a wine of consummate finesse that made one forget the limitations of the vintage.

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. It was nice to see the younger generation starting to become more involved, as family has always been an animating spirit here (it still is a key value in the Côte d’Or, just not always such a positive one). This domaine stood out in ’17, as it so often does, starting with a remarkable Vosne village that was highly aromatic as well as silky and ripe on the palate, fresh and with great length — this is definitely a wine to buy. The Nuits Au Bas de Combe, recovered last year from a sharecropping arrangement and made from 80-year-old vines, had terrific concentration for a ’17 village wine, and was earthy but very balanced, with a positive fresh acidity; the only nit was a touch of heat at the end. Nonetheless, it competed well with both the beautifully spicy, ripe and somewhat tannic Nuits Vignes Rondes and the more structured and minerally Nuits Chaignots, both of which were excellent. Even better was the Chambolle Feusselottes, a fairly full-bodied Chambolle with excellent presence, exceptional balance, refined tannins and a lovely fruit/mineral finish. The grands crus did not disappoint: the Echézeaux had a spicy nose of deep black cherry, coffee and soy but also good structure and presence and a light but subtle finish; the Ruchottes-Chambertin was ripe, full, round and charming, not especially complex or profound but lovely nonetheless; and the Clos de Vougeot showed a little reduction but its ripe mulberry/black cherry fruit was set off by a mineral spine — as with the better ’17s, this was quite round but managed to keep its balance and freshness.

DRC. Alexandre Bernier has now taken over winemaking duties from Bernard Noblet. Aubert de Villaine described ’17 as in the same line as ’14, ’11, and ’07, all vintages marked by very warm springs. He said the ’17s are “very pleasant” but without the concentration or density of the ’15s or ’16s. It will, he said, not be a crime to drink them young [inveterate baby-killers, take note], though he also thinks they will age beautifully, and that classic rose petal notes will emerge.

The Corton had good complexity but seemed very slightly dilute, but the Echézeaux displayed much greater concentration, with notes of smoke and licorice, a middle-weight but with a silky texture and supple tannins that almost disappeared on the extended finish; this was among the more attractive Echézeaux that I’ve tasted here: instead of seeming like the less talented younger sibling in a family of achievers, this year it stood on its own. The Grands Echézeaux was quite dense on the nose, with more prominent fruit than the Echézeaux, good tension, a sense of silk and slightly hard tannins; I liked this but unusually for a ’17, the fruit felt a little light for the structure. The RSV had a deep spicy nose that jumped from the glass, with complex fruit and spice as well as coffee, licorice, soy, roast duck and mineral notes; though the palate seemed slightly lighter than the nose implied, it had excellent fresh acidity and red fruit and was developing a silky texture; the tannins were very refined and supple, and while it lightened up slightly on the finish, it was extremely persistent. The Richebourg had the most opulent nose so far in the range, with perfumed notes, green olives, raspberries, spice, minerals and a saline note; its nose was even more attractive than that of the RSV, and Aubert noted that this year, the RSV seemed to have more power, with the Riche having more elegance, especially on the very pure finish — though in truth, I found the palate here rather lighter than the nose suggested, and missed that usual Richebourg power. The nose of La Tâche was remarkable: spicy of course, but also extremely subtle and multi-dimensional; on the palate this was medium-bodied and balanced, with a great silkiness and extremely refined tannins, and there was a sense of richness on the palate, though the finish seemed a bit reserved. We tasted two different barrels of the Romanée-Conti, as the first had a reductive note. The second was more accessible, with a nose of perfume, stem notes, cream, Oriental spice, minerals and smoked duck; it was elegant, pure, light and graceful, hinting at greater depths, if slightly light for now on the nonetheless persistent finish.

Hudelot-Noellat. The wines had finished their malos only in September, and had not been racked, so they showed some gassiness; nonetheless, these were among the better wines of the vintage, particularly among the villages and premiers crus. The Bourgogne, already in bottle, had sweet fruit but a lot of density for a Bourgogne, with good freshness; it was a little simple but delicious. The three villages wines all showed their terroirs well: the Chambolle had plenty of complex fruit (raspberries and black cherries), licorice and coffee notes on the nose, with good energy but also a strong mineral presence — a lot to it for a village wine; the Vosne was more reduced but very pure underneath, with great balance; best of the three was the Nuits, which had a characteristic earthy note but plenty of fruit, great presence and a pure, persistent finish. Among the premiers, the Suchots was saline, minerally, dense and large-framed, with sweeter fruit than the Beaumonts, but not as knit. The Beaumonts had a complex nose of black fruit, spice, cream, soy, licorice and coffee, while the palate showed the minerality more clearly, and the finish was spicy and exceptionally extended. There was a brightness to this and I thought it a superb expression of vineyard and vintage. The Malconsorts had a floral note as well as spice on the nose and was pure, silky and saline on the palate, with a citrus (tangerine) note, plus a lot of power and fine, buried tannins; Charles van Canneyt characterized it as having the density of Suchots and the minerality of Beaumonts.  The Clos de Vougeot was pleasant but on the lighter side, and to me didn’t quite come up to either the Beaumonts or the Malconsorts. The RSV had wonderful bright red fruit on the nose with complex spice and a cocoa note; on the palate it had a sweet entry, excellent clarity and turned dense on the finish with refined tannins that were stronger than in the prior wines and excellent length. The Richebourg nose was exceptionally pure and the wine had good mineral clarity and balance — it was an easy, charming Richebourg but still identifiably Richebourg, without the tension of the greatest vintages but with a minerally, spicy finish that just wouldn’t quit.

Méo-Camuzet. In general, despite a few inconsistencies, Méo was quite successful in ’17, particularly with the better domaine wines. Although Jean-Nicolas said the Nuits Meurgers was a little shy at the moment, I liked its silky texture, ripe fruit and supple tannins, and preferred it to the Boudots, which seemed a little light despite its bright red fruit and extremely long finish. The Vosne Chaumes was slightly reduced and the oak was a bit prominent on the nose (Jean-Nicolas said it was a bit rustic and raw at the moment), but I liked its intensity and there was a lot of material here for a ’17, while it seemed to be rounding out on the finish. The Corton-Perrières had an odd note, and the Clos Vougeot was soft and round and likely to mature early, but there was much more dimension to the Vosne Brûlées, with a nose of spice, ripe red fruit, coffee and cocoa — this was a soft and round Brûlées, with enough acidity to balance the ripeness and the tannins mostly buried; overall, it was extremely charming and deliciousThe Vosne Cros Parantoux was more backward but also excellent, with deep raspberry fruit, violets and black cherry; despite a fair amount of reduction, it was bright and fresh, with good material — it has the makings of an elegant wine but has yet to open and show its full qualities. The Richebourg was quite attractive, with a deep nose of black fruit, soy, cinnamon and other spices; on the palate there were similar notes and it was round and ripe, yet not without power or acidity, and it soared on the finish.

Emmanuel Rouget. This was my first visit here. Although Emmanuel’s son Guillaume is now making the wines, and I had a chance to talk with him a few days later, it was Emmanuel who gave us the tasting. He believes that the quality of the ’17s depends on the harvest date, and that some producers started picking too early. He also opined that the ’17s would not shut down and that they could be drunk beginning in 8-10 years.

We began with an excellent Bourgogne Rouge, full of charming red fruit but also quite fresh, followed by a Chorey-les-Beaune that had good presence and nice purity in the mid-palate, if a little heat on the finish. Particularly fine was the Nuits village, which had a spicy nose and deep red and black fruit — this was an intense wine but also fresh, with earthy notes, a touch of oak, some salinity, and the beginnings of a silky texture, plus a very long, balanced finish. The Vosne village was more reserved, and had more weight and tannin, though still a lot of bright fruit, while the Vosne Beaumonts had a reticent nose and was more in bright fruit than density, with a long, pure finish. The Echézeaux still showed a lot of the oak influence but had good finesse and subtlety and once the oak integrates should be much better; Emmanuel described it as having richness allied with finesse. The Vosne Cros Parantoux was still bound up in the oak, showing a lot of torrefaction, though underneath one got a sense of a silky texture and exceptional balance, with a penetrating finish — not an easy wine to evaluate today.

Grivot. Very nice wines here, which are reflective of the vintage. I enjoyed the Nuits Pruliers, with its touch of garrigue on the nose — it was slightly light but soft and easy, a crowd-pleasing Nuits; a charming Vosne Brûlées and a more minerally Vosne Beaumonts (Etienne said the Beaumonts was modest while the Brûlées was a low-cut dress); and a Vosne Suchots that was full of ripe fruit and fairly forward despite showing more tannins than the prior Vosne premiers. My favorite was the Vosne Reignots, which was deeply spicy on the nose, with a touch of oak and darker fruit; it had very good purity, freshness and balance and was the most complete and complex of these premiers. Best of all, though, was the Richebourg, which despite slight reduction on the nose showed complex red fruit, cinnamon and other spices; on the palate, it was not a powerful Riche but was seductively round without being light and had supple tannins on the persistent finish.

Roumier. Christophe noted that ’17 had been a dry year, and an easy vintage, and compared it to ’14 but said it had more mineral definition and tannin structure, though both were soft and light-bodied, with plenty of fruit, and would give lots of pleasure. In this vintage, he used 50-55% stems for most of the wines. The Chambolle village did not disappoint and was dense and rich for a ’17, with lots of ripe fruit, while the Chambolle Combottes was minerally and had a beautifully complex, spicy nose; there was plenty of tannin here and a long finish. The Chambolle Cras showed dark fruit on the nose; it was open in the front palate, very minerally, with a saline touch, and while medium-bodied also was starting to show some silkiness; the tannins, though, remain strong. We also tasted the Echézeaux, a relative newcomer whose viticulture Christophe took over in 2017 (from 0.13 ha En Orveaux). It was softer than the Cras, with good weight and some complexity on the back end, but it seemed a little straightforward for a grand cru; no doubt as Christophe works this vineyard, the wine will gain in quality. The Charmes-Chambertin was slightly reduced; it had excellent weight and density but was not the most refined of wines. The Ruchottes-Chambertin, however, was in another class: it had great lift and transparency, fine balance and a sense of power, while the tannins were distinctly present but fine and the finish extremely long and layered. The Bonnes Mares (which this year was blended right after pressing, rather than having the terres blanches and terres rouges put in barrel separately) had a dense, floral and red fruit nose, with beautiful mineral notes and a saline touch; on the palate it was pure and silky, with ripe fruit and highly refined tannins — there were hints of Bonnes Mares strength on the finish but refinement too, and this wine in my view transcends the vintage, as do the two that followed it. The Chambolle Amoureuses stole the show here, with a dense and complex nose that displayed an almost oriental perfume; on the palate it had perfect balance, transparency and an almost indescribable delicacy and refinement, something like the grace of a great RC; it did not read like a typical ’17. Christophe described it as oriental and silky, while saying the Musigny had more nerve — the nose of the Musigny was a little reticent but all the components were there (pure red fruit, citrus, minerals and spice) and there was an overall sense of elegance, with strong but super-fine tannins and remarkable length; this was still lingering on the tongue after several minutes. Once again, Christophe has crafted some of the finest wines of this vintage.

J.-F. Mugnier. Freddy Mugnier observed that recent harvests were generally about three weeks earlier than the prior norm, but that the growing cycle was the same 100 days — it was just starting earlier. He also noted that, for centuries, vineyard work had focused on getting grapes to ripen as early as possible (essentially meaning in September rather than October), and that now the practices that had been developed to promote earlier ripening all needed to be rethought. This insight was echoed by Jean-Marie Fourrier and is likely the beginning of a necessary reappraisal and debate that will grow in importance in future years.

Although I’ve expressed some doubts in recent years as to whether the wines here quite lived up to the brilliance of earlier vintages (doubts that a tasting of the ’16s in bottle did not dispel), the ’17s represent a return to form for this esteemed domaine. The Chambolle village was a bit of a crowd-pleaser, but the Chambolle Fuées was much more substantial, with strawberry and cherry fruit, anise and floral notes — a crisp, pure and focused wine. The Nuits Clos de la Maréchale was earthy and dense, with a fair amount of tannin and a slight rusticity, but a pure mineral finish. The Bonnes Mares was medium-bodied, not especially dense and with a slightly candied aspect to the fruit, but it had a lively minerality on the finish. The Chambolle Amoureuses was ripe, plummy and round on the nose, while on the palate the perfectly ripe fruit was beautifully balanced by the minerality, with a lemon note, excellent freshness and a delicate finish. The Musigny had great purity, freshness and was firm and direct, a complete wine that well expressed the better aspects of this vintage.

Barthod. We tasted 7 of the 9 premiers crus, and as usual the terroirs were well-defined. The wines had good freshness and balance, though in general, as with most wines of this vintage, they are going to be enjoyable fairly early. The village Chambolle displayed lots of sweet fruit and was juicy and delicious; it seems likely to be a relatively good value. The Chambolle Gruenchers had excellent minerality, which gave lift to the nose and showed raspberries and café au lait, good delicacy and a saline finish, while the Chambolle Charmes was quite reduced but had a nice delicacy and a subtle finish of excellent clarity and freshness.  Better still were the Chambolle Fuées, a pure, silky wine with a lot of body and an exceptionally long finish; and the Chambolle Veroilles, which displayed the richest fruit of the range, along with a peppery quality and a beautiful cherry and mineral-inflected finish. The Chambolle Les Cras was to me the finest wine of the range, with dense, complex fruit, a saline quality, good punch and a brilliant, balanced and very long finish that lasted perhaps 2 minutes.

Felletig. We tasted some excellent Chambolle premiers crus here, which managed to show their terroir differences, although one wishes Gilbert Felletig didn’t like new oak quite so much (most are around 50%; our group generally thought these wines would have been even better if that were cut in half). We began with a Bourgogne rouge that, despite being sulfured the day before, still showed lots of sweet fruit and freshness, followed by a supple and easy Chambolle V.V., then a Gevrey La Justice that was pure and soft but with good stuffing — a nice village wine; and next a fresh and ripe Nuits, which Gilbert rightly characterized as “a Nuits vinified by a Chambolle vigneron,” i.e. more elegant than usual). Better still was a Chambolle 1er Cru, a wine he first made in the ’16 vintage, from four different plots, which had plenty of sweet fruit as well as silkiness; the oak was a bit prominent (due to a concatenation of circumstances, this was 100% new oak rather than the planned 2/3) but this nonetheless had good freshness and mineral balance. I also liked the Chambolle Combottes, with lots of sweet cherry fruit and plenty of material yet good complexity and a persistent finish; the Chambolle Feusselottes (from a sub-climat called Les Grands Murs), which was soft, charming and silky, with a nice mineral quality, though it fell off a little at the end; a fine Chambolle Carrières, which had particularly complex and pretty fruit on the nose as well as mocha, minerals and a light gamy touch and had a lot of presence and body, without heaviness and with good intensity; and a fine Vosne 1er Cru (2/3 Petits Monts and 1/3 Chaumes) that had lovely Vosne spice as well as a touch of anise and was silky, delicate and with good finesse, if just slightly meaty in the middle. Finally, the Echézeaux (from Les Treux) was complex, with a silky palate; it was bright, linear and balanced, with supple tannins if only a medium finish.

Fourrier. Jean-Marie is always bubbling over with ideas, and among the many thoughtful points he made was one that echoed Freddy Mugnier — that with global warming, new thinking may be needed, both in vineyard management and in the cellar. He suggested that more shadow on the fruit may be necessary, which means deferring leaf-pulling to August, though he wryly noted that as this would interfere with traditional vacation time, it wasn’t a practice likely to be widely adopted. He also noted that cellar temperatures were not as cold as they used to be (something we have noticed in recent years), meaning that the malos start earlier, and the elevage proceeds more quickly. He is also experimenting with amphorae, to see if they give better results than the traditional oak barrels.

As usual, the wines here were quite fine. The Gevrey Aux Echézeaux (a lieu-dit), from vines planted in 1930, had a deep, complex nose, while the palate was more on the delicate side, with lots of sweet fruit, meat and coffee notes and a soft finish with no significant tannins — a charming wine that will be drinkable early. The Gevrey Cherbaudes was full of intense sweet cherry fruit and in the rich style of Fourrier, gaining density on the palate, with a certain sleekness to it and a long finish. The Gevrey Combe aux Moines didn’t seem fully knit yet, though it has potential, but the Clos St. Jacques was outstanding: spicy, intense, with a lot of rich ripe black cherry fruit and good body but also silky, balanced and elegant; the fine tannins were suppressed at first but came up at the very end. The Griotte, from 90-year-old vines, had dense black fruit and was very minerally on the nose, and also a peppery note, coffee and a meaty touch; on the palate it was quite minerally, with excellent purity, a little four-square perhaps in the middle but with good density in back and a delicate, subtle finish with very refined tannins. We also tasted a few of Jean-Marie’s négociant wines. While these haven’t yet achieved the consistent quality of the domaine wines, there are some excellent examples among them. We tasted a very fine, delicate and elegant Echézeaux, and a Mazoyères that despite some reduction was sleek and creamy, as well as persistent; however, the Chambertin, while good, seemed to lack a little complexity.

Duroché. Pierre Duroché likened the vintage to a mixture of ’07 and ’10, which was an interesting comment. Like the ’10s, he said, they are pure, with good acidity and energy, and like ’07, they are definitely ripe (and as mentioned earlier, Pierre thought they had better phenolic ripeness than the ’15s and ’16s). Pierre has garnered a well-deserved reputation as among the rising stars of Burgundy, and it is particularly nice to have an additional source of excellent Gevreys as the prices for Rousseau, the village’s superstar, continue to ascend into the stratosphere previously reserved for DRC and (unaccountably) Leroy.

Among the Gevrey lieux-dits, the Gevrey Champ was a particular standout, with a nose that had notes of black cherry, violets and spiced meat; it had good presence and density on the palate (particularly for a village wine) and a lovely pure minerality on the finish — a seamless wine, with the tannins buried in an envelope of sweet fruit. Among the other lieux dits, Gevrey Le Clos and Aux Etelois were both dense and powerful, while the Jeunes Rois had a bright, spicy nose, pure minerality and a nice floral quality; it was full of charm though with some serious tannins present. The Gevrey Lavaut St. Jacques showed a lot of raspberry fruit and was quite saline, with some citrus and a smoked meat touch, devolving to a refined, pure and extremely long finish. Among the grands crus, the Charmes-Chambertin was easy to like though not profound, while the Latricières had a subdued nose that hinted at great depth and purity; it seemed slightly austere but self-assured, and I suspect it will develop well. Best of all was the Clos de Bèze, with some complex spice on the nose and a pure fruit expression on the palate well-balanced by the acidity; refined tannins showed up on the long finish that seemed pleasingly delicate for Bèze — a wine of great finesse.

Trapet. The ’17s had not yet been racked so even though we did not taste the whole range, those we did were rather difficult to evaluate. The Gevrey Petit Chapelle had a nose of soft fruit, with excellent body and complexity and good punch on the palate; it also displayed fine terroir character. The Chapelle-Chambertin, though quite reduced, showed a lovely finish, with plenty of body, supple tannins and good persistence, while the Latricières seemed a little light on the palate but more full-bodied toward the end, and the Chambertin had medium density and displayed some easy fruit; it became progressively better in the glass, but it was just difficult to read this wine on this particular day. While I expect the grands crus will show better with time, it was hard to get an accurate read, on this particular day, on exactly how well they will turn out.

Dujac. Dujac made some particularly fine ’17s. Jeremy Seysses described them as a little less full than ’14 and a little more so than ’07, while noting that they retained some structure. Though we don’t taste the entire range here, what we did taste was impressive. Also, one slight benefit of the early harvests of recent vintages is that the racking consequently takes place here earlier, and so we no longer have to fight our way through heavy reduction to guess at the eventual outcome (the same is true at Grivot). That said, there was still a little reduction here and there, including in the Gevrey Combottes, which was medium-bodied but on its way to becoming silky. The Vosne Malconsorts had a pure nose of spice, black cherry, licorice, minerals and a stem note, with good structure and body, though there was a little dryness on the finish, possibly related to the recent racking. The Echézeaux, a wine that is often underrated in the Dujac range, was quite floral and had a creamy texture, with medium weight, good balance and charm. The Charmes Chambertin had a great deal of ripe red fruit, and was dense and meaty, especially for Charmes; it also had more tannin than most wines in the range, but the intensity really came through on the finish. The Bonnes Mares at first seemed light and delicate, but then displayed a fair amount of tannin; it was refined, with silky fruit and a strong mineral impression on the finish — a very good Bonnes Mares that still needs some time to develop. The Clos St. Denis was particularly fine, with notes of violets, champignons, mustard seed and minerals; it was a bit sterner in the middle than predicted by the nose, with good presence and depth and a silky, red fruit character, plus some refined tannins. The Clos de la Roche was more minerally than the Clos St Denis, light and delicate on the palate by comparison but elegant, with a very long, pure finish — even with a slightly reductive note, the best wine of the range.

Domaine Ponsot. 2017 is the first year in which the wines have been made by Alexandre Abel, who described the vintage as a cross between ’15 and ’14. Alexandre said that the domaine still harvested very late and used no new oak — indeed, that little had changed since Laurent Ponsot made the wine. That said, the results were mixed, with several wines, including the Morey village and the premier cru Morey Cuvée des Alouettes not seeming entirely knit; the Corton Cuvée Bourdon, despite its plethora of sweet fruit, evidencing a bitter chocolate touch; and the Clos de Vougeot a bit raw. Better by far was the Chapelle-Chambertin, which was much more refined, with excellent black fruit, a meaty touch and cocoa powder, the soft fruit giving way to fine minerality — a smooth wine with excellent length — and the Clos de la Roche, which was very minerally, with a citric touch and champignon notes on the palate, spicy, still young and with a chewy finish, showing very good promise.

Clos de Tart. The Grand Vin was a great success in ’17. We began with the young vines cuvée, which will be issued as La Forge de Tart. It showed lovely bright fruit on the nose, and even more on the palate, and was quite juicy. It didn’t, however, prepare one for the density and refinement of the Clos de Tart blend, which was silky, pure and elegant, and nicely spicy, with plenty of dense fruit balanced by the minerality, a juicy wine that will be delicious to drink in only a few years.

Clos des Lambrays. While both the Morey village and the 1er cru Les Loups were on the light side, the grand cru Clos des Lambrays was dense on the palate, with rich red fruit, and tannins evident on the spicy finish, which took on greater mineral purity as it unfolded.

Château de la Tour. François Labet described ’17 as “commercial.’’ The wines here are 100% whole bunch. The Clos de Vougeot “Cuvee Classique” was restrained, but with a lovely balance of fruit and minerality, lots of dry extract and surprisingly easy tannins for this wine. The Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes was another step up in intensity, with a pure and deep nose of dark cherries, mocha and floral hints; this had a silky texture and was full in the mouth and showing more tannin than the prior wine, but it was still supple, with an intense complex finish. The Clos de Vougeot Hommage had a more subdued nose, with real purity, and tended more towards coffee and licorice notes in the nose; it was powerful and intense and though the tannins seemed even more refined than in the Vieilles Vignes cuvée, this seemed to have substituted power and intensity for the silkiness of the V.V. — more a matter of preference than quality.

The Négociants:

The categories are getting ever blurrier, as many négociants have (and continue to expand) substantial domaines, while an increasing number of domaines also produce négociant wines. That said, the distinction remains an important one in Burgundy.

Drouhin. I had been a little concerned in recent years that the wines were becoming a bit too soft and easygoing, but they seemed very much back on form in 2017. The Nuits Procès showed a strong structural underpinning, with excellent minerality balancing the ripe black cherry fruit; it had a little of the Nuits rusticity but not too much. The Vosne Petits Monts was stellar: perfumed, with red fruit and spice on the nose, it had excellent density, complexity and balance and the tannins were refined on the persistent finish. The Griotte-Chambertin was also quite fine, with lovely spice, minerals and red fruit; it was delicate, with good vibrancy, especially considering how much fruit it was carrying, and a great mineral finish; if there was a nit, it’s that the terroir seemed a little buried on the palate, though it did become clearer on the finish. The Clos de Vougeot was richly fruity, with mulberries, plums, a citrus touch and rounded tannins; this should drink well young. The Clos de Bèze was on a different level though: a complex, delicate, elegant wine, with some light, very fine tannins on a protracted finish. This was a charming and refined wine. The Chambolle Amoureuses was brilliant: it had notes of black cherry, almond, plum and minerals on the nose and was elegant, delicate, subtle and pure on the palate, extremely well balanced and with fine tannins and a long finish. The Musigny was equally good, though not necessarily better; it had more minerality and power and was denser than the Amoureuses but in the same mode of elegance and balance; it will need time.

Laurent Ponsot. Laurent Ponsot’s négociant business is growing by leaps and bounds, which has its pluses and minuses. The better producers, be they domaines or négociants, almost always produce their best wines from properties they own or have farmed for a long time, and here too, the best reds are the ones Laurent has been working with for many years — though given Laurent’s enormous talent and drive, I expect progress on the newer cuvées to be rapid. The Chambolle Charmes was extremely attractive, with lovely ripe red fruit balanced by good minerality, a spicy character and a nice citric edge with a lovely stone fruit finish. The Clos de Vougeot had a shy, spicy and perfumed nose with a lot of presence on the palate; it was intense, balanced, with a lot of material and a remarkably persistent finish, while the Echézeaux was ripe, dense and very intense, with good complexity and positive acidity, and the Chambertin was open-knit, with pretty red fruit but some good power coming up on the palate and a medium finish. The Griotte-Chambertin had a penetrating cherry nose and a palate that, remarkably for a ’17, seemed more in minerals than fruit, in a style I particularly liked and that reminded me of the ‘01s at an early stage, and though the finish still rather shut down, the tannins were clearly ripe. As usual, the Clos St. Denis was outstanding, with excellent density on both the nose and palate, and notes of spice, ripe red fruit, champignons and mustard seed. There was a lot to this, especially for a ’17, with a complex minerally edge and a harmonious, elegant finish.

Faiveley. Erwan Faiveley commented that overall the ’17 vintage was variable, with some superb wines but others that were dilute. In general, Faiveley’s wines avoided the extremes, with mostly good and some excellent wines, even if nothing quite transcended the vintage. Because of a miscommunication, we tasted mostly the grands crus (worse things could happen). The Clos de Vougeot was excellent, with good density and a balanced and persistent finish, and Erwan remarked that this was a particularly fine year for Clos de Vougeot, which likes dry summers. (This comment was confirmed by the many good examples we tasted on this trip.) The Charmes-Chambertin, made from old vines that gave only 15 hl/ha in this generous vintage, had a very reduced nose, but showed soft and silky raspberry fruit and great balance; the reduction made it hard to evaluate but this could be fine in time. The Mazis-Chambertin was meaty, as it typically is, and not powerful, but had good transparency and still some tannins left to resolve. The Latricières-Chambertin was particularly fine, with a calm nose of citrus and strawberries hinting at great depth and an oak note that was noticeable but not obtrusive; on the palate it was silky and balanced, with suave tannins coming up on the long finish. The Clos de Bèze had lots of fruit but also good minerality — like most of these, it was a middleweight with good balance, neither dilute nor particularly dense, and readily enjoyable. The Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin was, as usual, a standout: the oak was a bit prominent still on the nose, but there was also subtle fruit and balancing minerality and more complex spice than the regular Bèze; it was silky, elegant and almost weightless, showing cherries and strawberries, mustard seed and cocoa notes, with a distinctive meaty and citric finish. The Musigny (the first vintage in which the plot acquired from Dufouleur in 2015 was blended in) showed the 100% new oak on the nose, with red fruits and spice under; this was especially fine on the palate, with excellent weight and transparency; the tannins were very refined and the finish super-long and spicy.

Benjamin Leroux. Leroux is a highly talented winemaker, but he is responsible for a very large mix of domaine and négociant wines, and I felt that the portion of the 2017 range that we tasted (a dozen or so reds and as many whites) was not entirely consistent in quality. That said, there were certainly some very fine wines made here, among them a Chambolle village that was harmonious and accessible but with good minerality and a nice saline touch; a surprisingly elegant Nuits Boudots; and an exceptionally good Vosne Aux Dessus du Malconsorts (which will only be bottled in magnum) — a lovely, silky, medium-bodied wine. Among the grands crus we tasted, the Mazis-Chambertin stood out, a soft and elegant wine with a characteristic meaty element and very good supporting minerality, as did the Chambertin, with a dense nose hinting at great depth, in a very ripe style, and powerful yet balanced — as with so many ’17s, an excellent wine without being profound.

Bouchard Père & Fils. In general, the reds were crafted to fit the vintage: they’re ripe and fruit-forward, accessible but with enough acidity to preserve freshness; they will be pleasing to drink early on. These are not profound wines, but neither do they (in most cases) suffer from the dilution that can mark this vintage. In addition to some very good premiers crus from the Côte de Beaune, discussed below, we tasted a very nice Nuits Cailles, with a restrained earthy nose but a lot of ripe fruit on the palate — there was not just restraint but also complexity here — and a Vosne Suchots with a spicy Vosne nose, good balancing acidity and good freshness — a deftly crafted wine. Among the grands crus, the Chapelle-Chambertin was a nice, easy wine with delicious ripe fruit and good balancing acidity; it was a bit heavy-handed on the oak but otherwise very pleasant. The Clos de Bèze had lovely rich ripe fruit and was easy and charming; it had neither much tannin nor much terroir, but it did have enough acidity to balance and carry it.

Jadot. The reds here were quite pleasant, and mostly quite ripe, though still retaining decent freshness and some tannic presence. Among those I found easy to like were an attractive Vosne Beaux Monts that had a nose of fire-spice, soy and lots of rich black fruit but a nice mineral underpinning; a fine Chambolle Amoureuses with lots of soft cherry fruit (while I wished for more transparency this certainly was delicious, with lots of ripe fruit, complexity and good density); a ripe and easy Gevrey Clos St.-Jacques; a Chapelle-Chambertin that had a lot of stuffing, and was charming, even with a slight touch of bitterness on the entry, and a Clos de Vougeot, soft at first but with deeper and richer fruit in the middle and a supple finish. There was more complexity to the Chambertin, which had good minerality, spice and a long supple finish; Clos de Bèze, with a nicely complex minerality, fine spice and good density and intensity, plus excellent balance and a sneaky long finish; Echézeaux (from Rouges du Bas) with a positive spicy nose and deep minerality — while this was ripe and soft, there was good complexity here and some purity on the finish; and Bonnes Mares, which started with some reduction but got more interesting as it opened, showing easy red fruit but good depth and supporting acidity and a touch of tannin on the finish. The Musigny was better still, gaining depth and density as it sat in the glass, slightly easy but with an attractive silky texture and a beautiful pure finish, if not showing the length of the greatest vintages.

The Côte de Beaune

 The Domaines:

Lafarge. While the range was a little inconsistent, the best of these wines captured the potential of this vintage. As usual, the Bourgogne was excellent, with lovely red fruit, and it was soft, easy and charming, though with a touch of tannin on the long finish. Both the Volnay and the Volnay Vendages Sélectionées were quite attractive, the former combining nice strawberry fruit with a creamy texture and the latter deeper and more powerful, while the Beaune Grèves had a subtle, deep and complex nose, and was dense but with great lift. The Volnay Caillerets was rich and very ripe on the palate, round and with huge fruit character, while the Volnay Clos des Chênes started out fruity and subtle, then acquired more structure and density. The Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs was particularly outstanding, with a brilliantly complex nose underpinned by black cherry and spice, and was dense on the palate, with very refined tannins.

Jean-Marc et Thomas Bouley. While we were marginally underwhelmed last year by the ’16s, the ’17s were back on form for the highly talented Thomas Bouley. Even the “lesser” wines, starting with the Bourgogne Pinot Noir, were quite good, and the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune, despite a nose that is currently reduced, seems likely to be a great value: on the palate, it was very minerally, with a creamy touch, excellent fruit and great balance, leading to a spicy minerally finish, and possessed excellent freshness. The Volnay Clos de la Cave, a village-level wine, was pure and intense, and the Volnay Vieilles Vignes had very good clarity and was dense and intense, with fine tannins and excellent structure. The Volnay Caillerets, made from relatively young (14-year-old) vines, was, despite the reduction, pure and focused, with an almost achingly pure minerality and very sweet, ripe black cherry fruit — an interesting matchup. Thomas said that he thought Caillerets was the finest terroir in Volnay, even though, because of vine age, he prefers both his Volnay Carelles, which had wonderfully focused minerality on the palate entry, then some dense black fruit that wasn’t fully integrated yet but is likely to become so in time, and his Volnay Clos des Chênes, made with 50% whole cluster, that had a pure and focused nose, good density and a lot of sweet fruit as well as mineral notes on the dense finish. The Pommard Rugiens was also a standout, with spicy red fruit, earth and underneath a bit of reduction some sense of the pure minerality, which really came up on the palate; I particularly liked the clarity of this.

Comte Armand. Paul Zinetti continues to produce excellent wines from this estate, which is dominated by the Clos des Epeneaux. The Volnay had bright fruit and excellent density for a village wine, while the Volnay Fremiets, despite the fruit being partially masked by a fair amount of reduction, had a soft, silky texture.  The Clos des Epeneaux was dense for a ’17, with great balance and transparency and a finish that, while showing more tannins than many ’17s, was extended and becoming silky.

Chandon de Briailles. After a series of very difficult vintages the wines finally had a chance to express themselves in ’17, and are back on form.  Because of the whole cluster fermentation, they will need more time to evolve than many others, but there is good material here. The Pernand Ile des Vergelesses was a particular standout, with a nose of black cherries and spice and a perfumed note, and a particularly notable palate impression — full but silky and pure, with polished tannins and some positive acidity on the very long finish. The Corton Bressandes was also very intense, with perfumed notes; it was ripe and sweet but with excellent balancing acidity as well as a fair amount of tannin for the vintage. The Corton Clos du Roi had a dense nose, with deep black fruit, citrus, bacon and perfume, enough acidity to give it structure and a very long if perhaps slightly austere finish.

Domaine Pierre et François Labet. From the owner of Ch. de la Tour, who produces a small range of reds and whites, predominantly from the Côte de Beaune. While all were enjoyable, I particularly liked the Beaune Coucherias, with a nose of cinnamon, earth, perfume and red fruit; there was power here, and a strong mineral streak on the palate, with good volume and length and little apparent tannin.

Henri Germain. Though mostly known for its whites, this domaine produces some very good reds as well. The Bourgogne Rouge, from Meursault, was full of strawberry fruit and was ripe, easy, balanced and quite pleasant. The village Chassagne, while richer than the Bourgogne, with a more minerally edge, was easy and enjoyable if a little rustic. The Meursault Clos des Mouches had a somewhat dull nose but was better on the palate, with excellent minerality, while the Beaune Bressandes was a bit earthy and rustic but extremely well-made, with lots of rich fruit.

Gaunoux. As is customary, we do not taste vintages here until they’re bottled, and so this year we tasted several ’16s, which had produced only 30% of a normal crop. All were excellent. The Pommard Grands Epenots was dense, with a creamy texture, and intensely minerally on the palate; the tannins were strong but not fierce. The Pommard Rugiens was even better, with excellent transparency, and was well-balanced with some strong but reasonably refined tannins on the long, earthy finish. Best of all was the Corton Renardes, which had sophisticated black cherry fruit, spice and bacon notes on the nose, a silky texture, great purity and power, and tannins that were about as polished as Corton gets — a complex, balanced, refined Corton with no hard edges.

D’Angerville. I tasted these wines in late June but they are well worth including as the range was outstanding in ’17. The Volnay Fremiets had a beautiful nose, with complex spicy fruit, and the wine had excellent density and purity. The Volnay Caillerets was even better, with great intensity yet transparency, a balanced wine with a very long finish. The Volnay Taillepieds had great energy and complexity, and was similarly transparent, though with more soft fruit in evidence; there was some tannin here but not a great deal. We tasted from two different barrels of the Volnay Champans. There was a touch too much wood on the nose of the first but the second, while it had a little wood spice, was much more fruit-driven, with great density and reserve but a lot of dry extract. The Volnay Clos des Ducs is a wine that may transcend the vintage: it was subtle, complex and aristocratic and had great fruit expression, a pure minerality, excellent density and very fine tannin — a lovely, balanced expression of Clos des Ducs.

The Negociants:

 Bouchard Père & Fils. As noted above, there were some excellent premiers crus here. These included the Beaune Teurons, which was ripe, balanced and with at least a touch of structure; the Beaune Grèves Enfant Jesus, which was quite intense, showing bright fruit on the palate though a little plummy, but more complex in back and with a mineral-dominated finish; and the Volnay Caillerets Ancien Cuvée Carnot, carrying some oak that should integrate, with good lift, nice balance, and a spicy finish with soft tannins — this should gain interest with time. Among the grands crus, the Corton was very spicy, with black cherries, bacon, cumin and a saline touch — it is surprisingly, and pleasantly, accessible for Corton.

 Faiveley. The Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley (always served after the Gevrey grands crus, out of pride, though always a step down from the Ouvrées Rodin), had good power and intensity but overall it was more accessible than baby Cortons usually are — which may be a good thing.

Jadot. Among those I found easy to like were the Beaune Clos des Ursules, with lots of ripe red fruit, an earthy note and lots of charm; a ripe, well-knit Pommard Rugiens with very good balancing acidity and a fair amount of tannin; and a Corton-Pougets with grand cru weight, plenty of fruit balanced by good acidity, and refined tannins.

Drouhin. The only two Côte de Beaune reds we tasted — Beaune Clos des Mouches and Grèves — seemed to be relatively soft and easy, though certainly pleasant.

Benjamin Leroux.  Among the better wines we tasted here was a Volnay Caillerets, which despite needing to integrate some oak combined a plethora of ripe, rich fruit with a nice stony edge and showed a sense of elegance and depth on the finish.


The Domaines:

Paul Pillot. Thierry Pillot has fashioned sensational white wines in ’17. He described them as having freshness, purity and balance, as in ’14, but said they were more open, and that ’14 had more acidity — he felt they were closer in style to ’11, though to me the ‘17s are more serious than the often delicious ’11 whites (Thierry may have been comparing his own wines, rather than the vintages generally — he later said he prefers his ’11s to his ’10s, certainly not the case overall). The Bourgogne Chardonnay was spicy, with a bright minerality and a creamy texture — a little dry on the finish, but a very nice Bourgogne that is likely to represent good value — while the two St. Aubin premiers crus were both excellent: the Pitangerets (of which there are 4000 bottles in ’17 as compared to 480 in ’16), which had a beautiful floral quality and good freshness, and the Charmois, which was more creamy and a bit more complete. The Chassagne Mazures was linear, intense and quite minerally, especially compared to the rounder, lighter Chassagne village, but things really got going with the Chassagne Champ Gains, with pear and apple fruit, licorice, honeysuckle and a lovely creaminess, balanced by good minerally acidity — an energetic, direct wine that is still a bit tightly wound. The Chassagne Clos St. Jean was a bit more aerienne than the Champ Gains, with a bright mineral nose, some softness on the palate, and a slight dryness at the end that Thierry said he particularly likes. It was followed by an outstanding Chassagne Caillerets that Thierry prefers even to his ’14 (which I’ve been drinking with much pleasure recently), with a beguiling floral quality on the nose and a creamy texture; this had great underlying energy, more salinity and an extra dimension and is a wine that will need time. The Chassagne Grands Ruchottes was ripe and rich, with almost grand cru weight, though I personally preferred the raciness of the Caillerets, while the Chassagne Grand Montagne (a wine that has been moving up year by year in the Pillot firmament) was remarkably delicate, pure and elegant, with a kind of restrained tension that was extremely attractive. The Chassagne La Romanée, still in barrel, was exceptional, and while the nose was restrained for now, the palate was nothing short of brilliant, with a creamy texture and great balance; it was concentrated but with great energy and drive and a very long finish. After this wine, the Corton-Charlemagne, from purchased fruit, seemed an anti-climax; it certainly had grand cru weight, and was a good wine, but it was more in ripe fruit and honeyed richness than in racy minerality.

Bernard Moreau. Once again, this domaine produced some of the finest Chassagnes we tasted, though they are a stylistic contrast to the Pillots, which are leaner, more intensely minerally and more driven, while the Moreaus have a bit more elegance and are softer without losing focus.

There was nothing here, beginning with the light but pleasant Bourgogne, that was not at least good, and I particularly liked the Chassagne Maltroie, with excellent fruit (pears and some apple notes), mineral and floral qualities, all balanced and charming; the Chassagne Chenevottes, which exuded a pure minerality on the nose, as well as a touch of licorice, and white flowers —  it was soft and even delicate on the palate, with sweet fruit and a charming aspect; and the Chassagne Morgeots, whose minerality and lift carried the softer fruit and floral notes perfectly. Even better were a superb Chassagne Caillerets, with its spicy, stony, high-toned nose, ripe fruit, and more minerality and intensity than any of the prior premiers crus, but also with a charming floral aspect, while on the finish it was complex, with good verve, a stony quality and excellent precision; and a Chassagne Grand Ruchottes, which was more floral than the Caillerets, with a chocolate note and a little smoke — a wine that was seamless, deceptively forward but with a hidden strength underneath that expressed itself in the pure, minerally finish. The Chevalier was complete, elegant and balanced, but perhaps missing just a little dimension on the entry — very fine rather than transcendant.

Roulot. As usual, Jean-Marc has crafted an excellent range of wines in this vintage. We began with the Bourgogne Blanc, typically a good value, which did not disappoint: it was spicy and floral, with remarkable richness for a Bourgogne allied with excellent tension and freshness. Among the lieux-dits, the Meursault Luchets was a standout, with a touch of oyster shell on the nose and a subtle creaminess; it was structured, elegant and had great balance and a strong mineral spine. The Meursault À Mon Plaisir, Clos du Haut Tessons [the new name is a mouthful all by itself] was even better, more minerally than the Luchets and with floral, saline, spice and licorice notes; this had a sense of density, power, precision and completeness. The Meursault Poruzots was, as befits a premier cru, a step up in purity and intensity, with lots of dry extract, good density and balance and with a softer side of white flowers and sweet peaches; this was vibrant and had a lot of finesse for Poruzots. The Meursault Charmes was fatter and slightly heavier than the Poruzots, and more floral; it was quite fine but I preferred the Poruzots. The Clos des Bouchères was complex, layered, pure and had great energy and fine balance — a superb showing. Best of all, the Meursault Perrières had a remarkably pure mineral nose and showed great richness on the palate yet the balance was perfect, an elegant wine with no sharp edges and a seamless finish.

(I did not find the négociant wines here nearly as compelling as the domaine wines, though the Corton-Charlemagne was showing better than the Chevalier.)

François Carillon. François considers ’17 a “grand millésime” and his wines bear out his assessment. We began with his Bourgogne Chardonnay Le Vieux Clos, an old vines cuvée from Puligny that he sells primarily to 3-star restaurants in France, which was quite minerally, with rich fruit and a very nice floral quality. The Puligny village was even better, with a pure minerally nose and a palate that balanced minerals, flowers, fruit (peach and pear) and was saline, with good drive for a village wine.  Despite some SOstill on the nose of the Puligny Champs Gain, it had a lovely mélange of mineral and floral qualities, very good balance and a fine mineral finish with an overlay of pear spice. The Puligny Folatières was better still, with a soft, subtle, floral nose that had a mineral underpinning; there was power and intensity on the palate, sweet fruit, a saline touch and lots of dry extract. The Puligny Combettes was equally fine, with a lovely floral quality, peaches and stones; this had real purity, balance and freshness and the pure mineral intensity only slowly uncoiled on the saline, citric and exceptionally long finish. After this, the Puligny Perrières was a step up in intensity, with kumquat, citrus and a greater richness and intensity than the prior wines, though it was not, so far, as well integrated as those. Nonetheless, as François noted, the Combettes seemed closed only a few weeks prior, and it seems likely, on past form, that the Perrières may in time take its place as the best of the range.

Bonneau du Martray.  This was my first visit since the ownership change. Thibaut Jacquet, the Global Export Director, led the tasting and stressed that the winemaking remained the same, and that the team (other than, obviously, Jean-Charles de la Bault de la Moriniere) remains the same. Of course, it’s not uncommon in Burgundy to say nothing has changed when everything has changed — sometimes for the better, sometimes not. So we shall see. In the meantime, the one thing that has changed substantially is their pricing policy: Jean-Charles kept prices quite reasonable for a grand cru, and the present owners have already increased them substantially. Thus, whatever happens with quality, one of the last bargains in grand cru white will no longer be such a bargain. But what about the wine? We first tasted three cuvées, from different parts of the slope, a fascinating exercise as all were different, and then the final blend. It was excellent, and certainly up to the standards of the past: floral and balanced, with good tension, richness, grand cru weight and an intense minerally finish; it will take at least a few years in the cellar to develop its full potential.

Henri Germain. We just began visiting this Meursault-based domaine last year, after tasting and enjoying some back vintages. I am impressed with the quality of the wines here. Jean-François Germain said the ’17s had excellent balance and freshness, and more phenolic maturity than the ’14s. We began with a fine Bourgogne Blanc, with a floral, beeswax and orange peel nose, good balancing acidity and nice richness, followed by a Meursault that was very bright, with good linearity and a saline note, and a Meursault Chevalières that had a brilliant nose; while the palate was still slightly austere there was great purity and some richness was developing — this will need some time. The premiers crus were particularly fine, beginning with a Meursault Charmes that showed tree fruits, white flowers and butterfat on the nose, with an excellent strike of minerality up front — this was rich but stayed fresh, as an almost raspy minerality was allied with rich fruit; on the finish it was massive, powerful and intense. The Meursault Poruzots was the only wine not yet racked (some barrels had not quite finished their malos), and in consequence exhibited some reduction; nonetheless, it was pure and minerally, with a lovely linear finish and fine balance. The Meursault Perrières had a spicy, floral nose with licorice notes, lime zest, tree fruit and fine mineral lift. On the palate it had lovely balance and even if it lacked a little sophistication it had a terrific, very long mineral finish that showed great purity and intensity.

Other Domaines: From Dujac, a Puligny Folatières that showed spice and cream notes, pears, lime and a floral quality; it had a lot of presence but didn’t seem fully knit yet. From Lafarge, a pleasant Meursault Vendages Sélectionées, with a subdued minerally nose, a touch of butterfat, saline minerality and persistence on the palate, if a slight touch of heat at the end, as well as a quite nice Beaune Clos des Aigrots, with lime, white flowers, minerals, apples, pear spice and a touch of earthiness plus a long, spicy finish. From Clos des Lambrays, a very nice Puligny Folatières, with notes of licorice, spice and cream; this was soft and supple, with a sense of silk up front and then a minerally, citric middle and a spicy finish. Better still was the Puligny Clos du Cailleret, which was soft and floral at first, with some puppy fat, but possessed a strong mineral backbone; it was nicely balanced, with a sense of elegance and a honeyed, spicy, very persistent finish. And from Liger-Belair, a Côte de Nuits white worthy of mention, the Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes, which was a very nice combination of floral and mineral qualities with an attractive texture and notes of spiced pears.

The Négociants:

Bouchard Père & Fils. There were some truly excellent whites here. While the Meursault Genevrières was almost Chablis-like in its mineral emphasis, it seemed a little heavy, particularly when compared with an outstanding Meursault Perrières, which was beautifully balanced, with a floral touch and light lemon — a wine of refinement. The Corton-Charlemagne was spicy, with good penetration and a floral quality, plus a lovely, intensely mineral finish, though there was a touch of bitterness in the mid-palate that needs to resolve. The Chevalier-Montrachet was also quite fine, with good tension and excellent balance, but it was outshone (as was the very good Montrachet, with a long opulent finish) by a stunning Chevalier La Cabotte, with a subtle, elegant nose, a soft, harmonious and elegant palate and a refined and exceptionally long finish.

The William Fèvre Chablis also showed quite well, including a Vaulorent that had very good energy and a long mineral finish; a Bougros that was denser and quite intense on the finish; a powerful Côte de Bougerots (though to me this was a bit heavy; others liked it more than I); a nicely balanced, ripe but minerally Preuses; and a Clos that stood out from the pack, with a nose that indubitably announced itself as Clos and a piercing, powerful palate that nonetheless remained balanced by some slightly light but pleasant fruit and a floral component. This may turn out to be a very fine Chablis vintage, but we simply did not taste broadly enough to draw any firm conclusions.

Drouhin. The whites were for the most part excellent in ’17, at least at the higher levels. The Puligny Clos La Garenne had a nose of spiced pears and apples plus citrus, good tension, a touch of bitters that will ameliorate, and some creaminess at the end. The Beaune Clos des Mouches will be particularly fine in ’17. Despite some reduction on the nose, there was lovely body and richness to this, and it was very minerally, with creamy notes, spice, flowers and excellent acidity on the persistent finish. The Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche was equally fine, with a high-toned, minerally nose and notes of spice and beeswax; on the palate it showed soft fruit balanced by excellent supporting acidity, especially on the appealing and creamy finish. (Veronique Drouhin commented that she thinks Chassagne may have performed the best of the white wine villages in ’17). The Corton-Charlemagne from the domaine (there is also a négociant cuvée) was floral, with a touch of red fruit, and seemed to be a soft CC but with enough mineral edge to give it some structure — a crowd-pleasing, early-drinking CC perhaps, but not to the point of being blowsy. The Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was outstanding, with notes of lemon, Asian pear and minerals on the nose; it had great balance and a super-long finish, and I loved the delicacy, elegance and sophistication of this wine, which in this incarnation seemed almost more like Chevalier than Montrachet.

Faiveley. We only tasted a portion of the range, and of these a few had undergone a very recent battonage and were consequently cloudy and not showing as well as they might have. However, the Bienvenues-Bâtard had a nice floral quality on the nose and seemed to be a step up from prior years: it had good balance and while not intense (and hinting at some tropical fruit), it was flattering and pleasant, and had an impressively long finish. The Corton-Charlemagne had a nice stoniness on the nose and a floral aspect, and avoided being too rich or heavy, with a slightly light body but fine minerality and a long spicy finish.

Jadot. I didn’t find the whites as successful as the reds. Many had had their malos blocked, and while this was a regular practice in the past at Jadot, this year it seemed as though the prospect of blocking the malos might have induced a decision to allow these to mature more fully on the vine — with the result, in my view, that too often the wines showed a jarring combination of sweet and even tropical fruit with a slightly hard, apply acidity that wasn’t quite in balance. That said, among the whites I liked were a soft and appropriately charming Meursault Charmes; a crowd-pleasing Puligny Combettes; a fresher, more minerally Puligny Clos de la Garenne; and a balanced, powerful Bâtard with excellent spice and white flowers along with good acidity. The class of this range, not surprisingly (easily exceeding the overly rich Montrachet) was the Chevalier Demoiselles, with a pure mineral underpinning and great finesse; it was a little softer than the very best but was delicate, with a long, spicy finish.

Benjamin Leroux. As with the reds, the whites we tasted were sometimes quite fine but not entirely consistent. I did particularly like the Meursault 1er Cru La Piece Sous Le Bois, which had an appealing floral and minerally quality, with sweet fruit and pear spice; a Meursault Genevrières Dessus (which will only be bottled in magnum) that had a similarly attractive white flower component, sweet fruit and a strong mineral underpinning (which also distinguished it from a soft and friendly Genevrières Dessous); a Chassagne Tête du Clos, usually a favorite of mine here, that was light, elegant and slightly saline, with a fine balance of fruit, flowers and minerals; and a Bâtard that had excellent weight and intense minerality but also a soft floral side — a wine with much development ahead.

© 2018 Douglas E. Barzelay


The 2016 Burgundies—Tiny Quantities; Concentrated Wines



The defining event of the 2016 growing season was the severe frost that occurred beginning on the night of April 26th, causing massive crop losses in many areas.  Spring frosts of this dimension are unusual in Burgundy, the last comparable one having occurred in 1981; however, this was much worse than most.  Usually the vineyards most affected are the lesser ones in lower-lying areas (as was the case in 1981); in this instance, the frosts devastated many of the more prominent vineyards, from Montrachet to Musigny—though they hit lower-lying areas as well. Adding to the damage, the early spring had been clement and budburst precocious, and particularly in the chardonnay vineyards, the shoots were already well-developed. Furthermore, the frosts were capricious: Chambertin was badly affected, while Clos de Bèze, which sits barely a meter higher, was largely untouched, and similarly, in the Montrachet vineyard, the Chassagne side was almost wiped out, with 90% losses, while the Puligny side escaped with much less damage. And some communes, such as Morey-St-Denis, had normal-size crops. Not surprisingly given its more northern location, Chablis also suffered major damage.

Poor weather in May and June followed the frosts, with heavy mildew pressure in many areas (but again this was capricious).  However, a beautiful and very dry summer then followed, and the weather for the late-September harvest was nearly ideal.

The result was a vintage that is sui generis. Even ancients such as Michel Lafarge and Jean Trapet were at a loss to find a comparable vintage, or even combination of vintages. (Michel Lafarge also commented that ‘16 turned out to be a particularly expressive vintage—because, in his words, the grapes were “happy to be alive!”)  The successful reds, of which there are many, exhibit a remarkable clarity of terroir, and are concentrated and intense, with pure red fruit flavors and silky textures, moderate acidities, ripe tannins, and excellent balance. The less successful reds run the gamut from soft and insubstantial to heavy and tarry, are often overly saline (and most wines in this vintage exhibit a relatively strong degree of salinity), and lack balance. There is also an overall difference in quality between the Côte de Nuits, where numerous superb wines were made, and the Côte de Beaune, which struggled once more—though some very fine wines were produced there as well; one just has to look harder. There does not appear to be a clear delineation between the wines from vineyards whose yields were severely reduced by frost and those with normal yields, and Frédéric Lafarge was quite adamant that concentration came from the growing season, not from the frost losses–though by contrast, Christophe Roumier thought that there was more structure and concentration, and a more luscious touch, in the wines coming from vineyards hurt by the frost.

One difficulty of the vintage was that in a partially affected vineyard, the first buds might ripen well ahead of the second—though in other places, they nearly caught up, or the old vines might not have budded at the time the frost hit and thus not have been as affected (though at least one producer reported that his old vines were far more susceptible to the frost), or the crop might have been nearly all second generation. Thus, a vigneron with vines in both Morey and Chambolle, for example, or in different sectors of Puligny, could be contending with very different conditions in his vineyards.  In addition, vinifying small quantities was an issue for many producers, and some reported using stems where they might otherwise not have, simply to bulk up the must. And where, for example, a producer might normally use 1/3 new oak for a production of 6 barrels, if he made just one barrel in ‘16, his choice was obviously either 100% or zero. Furthermore, many producers (particularly, it seems, the négociants), fearing over-extraction, softened their approach in the cuverie, but while the fear was legitimate, they frequently ended up losing much of the potential depth of the wines as a result. As Frédéric Barnier of Maison Jadot put it, to understand the vintage, you have to understand all of the individual choices that each producer made. (It’s not what those seeking sound-bite vintage summaries want to hear, but he has put his finger on one of the difficulties in evaluating this complex year.)  Thus, while in difficult vintages there are often clear differences between those producers who succeeded and those who did not, in 2016 it is more common to find inconsistencies even at the best addresses.

How do the ‘16s compare with the ‘15s? In general, the ‘15s are more consistent (though even there, not everything was entirely successful), or seemed that way at a similar stage—some are starting to shut down or to seem less precise than they did a year ago. The ‘16s tend to be more transparent to the underlying terroir, though the best ‘15s do not lack for terroir character. Both vintages have lovely textures, though I think that ultimately the best ‘15s are more unctuous, as well as even better balanced, than their ’16 counterparts. In general, the ‘16s are more approachable, with good energy—in fact, several producers commented that they had more energy than the ‘15s–while the ‘15s are a bit more serious. It is perhaps telling that, as many potentially great ‘16s as we tasted, the best wine of our trip was Christophe Roumier’s remarkable ’15 Musigny, a tour de force.

For the whites, results were even more irregular than among the reds. Chassagne was particularly hard-hit by the frost on the north side of the village towards Puligny, and the crops in many premiers crus were almost completely lost. Nonetheless, Chassagne producers such as Moreau and Pillot made some great wines, where they were able to make wines at all. The part of Montrachet that lies in Chassagne was particularly devastated, so much so that a group of producers, including most notably DRC, Leflaive and Lafon, pooled the few grapes they had into a single cuvée of two barrels, for which Leflaive is doing the élevage. In Puligny, the losses were substantial in the southern part of the commune, including among the grands crus, while the more northerly and up-slope vineyards were less affected. In Meursault, it was the lower-lying vineyards that were worst hit, while those further up-slope, including the premiers crus, were less affected. Nonetheless, mildew remained a major problem, and caused its own losses. Overall, the whites can be exceptionally dense but still well-balanced, but there is huge variability, and while the better wines show more freshness than the ‘15s, this is not a vintage one can buy with the same sense of confidence as one could the ‘14s.

Finally, a word of overall caution: barrel tasting is an art, not a science, and predicting the future development of a very young wine depends in significant measure on being able to compare it to other vintages with seemingly similar characteristics that have now reached full or partial maturity—which is why there is no substitute for tasting from barrel year-in, year-out and at the same time of year. Even at that, surprises still occur: ugly ducklings that turn into swans, or wines in which some inchoate shortcoming only comes to the fore years later. However, when faced with a vintage that, like ’16, has no precedent, it seems almost guaranteed that it will develop in ways that are currently difficult to predict. There are some potentially great wines in this vintage, and they are well worth taking a chance on, but it may take some years before one really knows what their full potential will be.


 The Côte d’Or

 The Domaines:

Liger-Belair. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair produced, in my view, the best and most consistent range of wines we tasted. That doesn’t mean others didn’t produce equally great, or even better, examples of a particular vineyard, but these wines evoked a sense of consistent brilliance. The Vosne Village was soft and charming, while the Vosne La Colombière had lots of spice and a lovely purity to it. The Vosne Chaumes had an intense, deeply pitched nose, with great charm and presence, and while the Suchots wasn’t showing quite as well, it too had serious depth, as well as a silky texture. The Vosne Petits Monts was outstanding: an elegant wine, with ripe raspberry fruit, great presence, lift and purity, a velvety texture, and silky, buried tannins. The Vosne Brulées (not commercialized but sometimes released for charity auctions and other events) was denser and more powerful than the Petits Monts, more intense but without the same silkiness. Both Nuits premiers crus (Cras and Clos des Grands Vignes) were dense and intense, the former earthy and the latter with hints of clove and mustard, both excellent examples, though in my view neither quite reached the level of the best Vosne premiers crus. The Reignots was velvety, with sweet strawberry fruit, more accessible than usual but still quite intense, and with the characteristic saline note of the vintage. The Clos de Vougeot was too reduced to assess accurately but was clearly quite muscular and intense.  The Echézeaux had pure strawberry fruit, and while intense, was also pure, silky and well balanced, with a bit of wood influence showing. Finally, La Romanée had an amazingly deep nose, with cinnamon, cocoa, cream, and strawberries, classic power without weight on the palate, and was intense, driving and energetic, with a saline edge, silk and then punch, plus an airy finish with extremely refined tannins.

We also tasted a number of ‘15s for comparison. Many of them still showed a bit of reduction, but it did not seem pronounced enough to be permanent. They also had begun to shut down, making comparison more difficult. The Vosne Clos du Château had lovely ripe sweet fruit, and was delicate and light, with great length and supple tannins (90), while the Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes had deep black cherries, spice and earth on the nose, and an almost spritzy quality, and was dense, with chewy tannins, and a lot of depth (91?). The Vosne Petits Monts, despite its reductive note, still had great purity, ripe strawberry fruit, excellent density and polished tannins (92?). The fruit was a little buried on the Vosne Reignots, but it had good purity and harmony, and was very spicy; the tannins seemed a bit fierce here but there was lots of material, if still only partially developed (93?). The Echézeaux was superb: a spicy nose with dense, dark fruit and a menthol touch, cool and pure in the center, a touch of oak, but balanced, elegant, and calm, with a long finish (95). La Romanée, while reduced on the nose, nonetheless radiated intensity, and was pure and silky on the palate, with remarkable elegance and finesse, and some still strong, but very refined, tannins (96+). These wines are still evolving, and will I expect take considerable time to come into their own, but should be superb.

 DRC. Frost losses for the Domaine varied from near-total (90+% in Montrachet, 85-90% in Echézeaux and Grands Echézeaux) to slight. According to Aubert de Villaine, yields were nonetheless low even where there were no frost losses, as the cold caused a great deal of millerandage (shot berries). The domaine’s vineyards did not, however, experience much in the way of disease pressure. Overall, Aubert noted that it was rare to have the climats as well-defined as they are in this vintage.

The Echézeaux had a concentrated nose with a touch of blue fruit, licorice and an almost tarry quality, and on the palate, it was dense, refined, and rich. The Grands Echézeaux was a considerable step up, purer and more minerally, quite concentrated and intense but with excellent lift and strong but rounded tannins. (Aubert said it is possible that both the Echézeaux and Grands Echézeaux will be bottled only in magnums.) The elegance came through right away on the Romanée St.-Vivant, with characteristic spice and breed, but it was quite tannic and seemed a little tarry even. While RSV and Richebourg have been running neck-and-neck in recent years, in ’16 the Richebourg was clearly the finer wine, at least at this stage, with a powerful, rich, dense, and complex nose, as well as great lift and transparency, but it was also balanced and elegant, with silky tannins and a very long finish. It even outshone La Tâche on this day, with the latter being softer and more elegant, but with the characteristic spice somewhat muted, and it seemed to lack the incredible density of the Richebourg. Nonetheless, it will be very fine. The Romanée-Conti was, almost needless to say, brilliant, and notwithstanding its characteristic reserve, it still projected complexity, elegance, and grace, with highly refined, silky tannins and a long, lingering finish.

According to Aubert (and what we saw elsewhere), many of the ‘15s are closing down. Nonetheless, the ’15 Echézeaux had a nose that seemed more open and pure than the ’16, while concealing the density of the wine, and while there was plenty of sweet black cherry fruit on the palate, there was also a deep minerality, without the same salinity as the ’16. The tannins were strong but not fierce, and the finish very long (93+).

Hudelot-Noellat. Charles van Canneyt has crafted another very successful range of wines here. While Vosne was not seriously damaged by the frost, and mildew pressure was not heavy, he noted that he had had to deal with differences in maturity even within the same parcel. The Bourgogne was quite promising, even though a very late malo (finished only in September) had left it with a fair amount of gas. The Chambolle Village was dense and quite intense for a Village wine, with a bright finish, even better than the Vosne Village, which had more weight than usual but still good purity. The Vougeot 1er Cru Petits Vougeots, which suffered about 40% frost losses, showed ripe black raspberries on the nose and excellent spice; it was intense and silky, and had a lot of weight for this wine, with the characteristic ’16 salinity at the end. (This wine is almost always a very good value.) The Nuits Murgers was quite reduced but the extremely persistent pure finish suggested a fine future. The Vosne premiers crus were all excellent, with the Suchots showing particularly well today, with a pure raspberry fruit expression and a creamy texture, but the Malconsorts was not far behind, with incredible density, seeming almost like a baby Richebourg in terms of its power. The Clos de Vougeot was a classic expression of the vineyard, combining intensity and freshness, while the Romanée St.-Vivant, the last to finish its malo, was medium-bodied and elegant, and though it showed a little reduction, it was pure and developing a silky texture. Best was the superb Richebourg, with remarkable purity and elegance, a calm, airy style of Richebourg, exceptionally balanced, with silky tannins.

We also tasted a number of the ‘15s. Charles van Canneyt said that he preferred the energy of the ‘16s and the quality of their tannins, and found them more approachable, though he observed that the ‘15s were a bit stronger and more serious. The ’15 Vosne Village, though minerally and delicate, seemed a bit on the light side (89), but the Vosne Beaumonts displayed beautiful sweet red fruit and spice on the nose, and was immensely charming, with understated minerality and a creamy texture (92), while the Vosne Suchots was beautifully balanced, spicy and perfumed, an elegant wine (93). The Romanée St.-Vivant showed deep spice, ripe and rich red fruit, and a silkiness, and was quite nice, but perhaps lacked a little precision (92); I preferred the Richebourg, with its spicy, powerful, floral, and intense nose, though it shifted gears on the palate, seeming a bit lighter and more delicate than the nose suggested, but with excellent transparency. However, given the power this showed in barrel, it may just be slightly shut down (93+).

Cathiard.  While there were no significant losses in the top vineyards (RSV and Malconsorts, as well as Vosne Reignots and Nuits Murgers), elsewhere the losses—to both frost and mildew—ran from 25-70%.  We began with a very fine Vosne Village, which despite a very reduced nose showed terrific pure red cherry fruit and spice on the palate; the oak does need to moderate here, however. The Nuits Aux Thorey seemed less earthbound than usual for Nuits, while the Nuits Murgers had a pure, charming nose, with dark cherries and spice, density, earth, and power on the palate, and a creamy finish. The Vosne Malconsorts was superb: a deep, refined, mineral-inflected nose, the palate structured and intense yet silky, with a touch of dusty oak tannin but the purity still shining through on the finish, which was vibrant and persistent. The RSV was even better, pure, elegant, calm, and understated on the nose, yet at the same time spicy and intense, with raspberries, a saline touch, strong but polished tannins, and an extended spicy finish of great refinement; this certainly rivals the DRC RSV in this vintage.

The only ’15 we tasted here was the Bourgogne, which was ripe, intense, and structured, but with a lot of dusty tannin at the end (88).

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. There were some substantial losses here, resulting among other things in only 3 barrels of the excellent Bourgogne Rouge, a terrific value if one can find it. The Vosne Village was also extremely fine as usual, quite dense and intense for a Village wine, and the Nuits Chaignots showed quite well also, with dark fruit and licorice notes on the nose, a lot of earth and spice, plus good mineral lift and density. The Ruchottes-Chambertin, which suffered no frost damage, had beautiful red fruit, lovely balance, and a soft velvety quality. The Clos de Vougeot seemed off form on this particular day, but the Echézeaux was extremely elegant and silky, with excellent density, red fruit, and spice, and rounded tannins.

We tasted the range of ‘15s here. Last year, I found the range somewhat puzzling, with some terrific wines and some question marks; a year later, and without re-reading my notes, I found the same wines excellent, and the same wines puzzling. The Bourgogne Rouge needed some air, then became open and accessible with plenty of red and black fruit (89), while the Vosne Village was quite spicy, with great intensity, structure and minerality—pure but powerful (91).  The Nuits Vignes Rondes had a nose of ocean breezes, and was structured with good lift and intensity, though strong earthy tannins (90), while the Nuits Chaignots displayed lots of strawberry and raspberry fruit, along with good minerality, and was earthy, yet charming (92). Among the question marks, the Chambolle Feusselottes was not quite together, and seemed a bit overdone, with a nose of Morello cherries, spice, and strong minerality, light in the middle and then tarry, with some dusty tannins at the end (Not rated), while the Echézeaux, despite being open and clear, lacked grand cru weight and again exhibited some dusty tannins (90?). The Ruchottes, however, was excellent, with good clarity in the middle, excellent density, and strong but refined tannins (92+), and the Clos de Vougeot was still the star, with a blackcurrant nose, transparent minerality, lovely clarity on the palate, excellent structure, balance, concentration, and power, with strong but refined tannins and great length (95). Certainly the best ‘15s are well up to the standards of this outstanding domaine, and the winemaking is so good here that I wouldn’t give up yet on the others.

Meo-Camuzet. Jean-Nicolas Méo was in excellent spirits the day we saw him, and while it’s typical for many of the wines to be reduced at this period, there were a number of ‘16s that were showing quite well—among them a Fixin Clos du Chapitre, which was full-bodied, ripe, and dense, a wine to make one take notice of this often-overlooked commune. The Vosne Chaumes was ripe, accessible, and soft, but there was concentration hidden beneath the sweet spicy red fruit, while the Nuits Boudots, to which stems had been added back, was the opposite: powerful, intense, and deep, but with great purity in the mid-palate. The Clos de Vougeot was yet another fine example from this vineyard, which did quite well in 2016. There was intensely spicy red fruit on the nose, and great depth, along with excellent purity in the middle. I preferred the Corton Rognets to the Corton Perrières; the former had a pure nose, a sense of silk, and spicy bacon notes, with a minerally finish and fairly buried tannins. The Echézeaux was also highly successful, with an intense, almost plummy nose, and wonderful purity and depth, although the wood still needs to integrate.  The Vosne Cros Parantoux was also showing its oak, and the nose was still a bit locked down, but this also had great balance, power, and intensity, with amazingly pure fruit, refined tannins, and (if the reader will indulge me) an almost poetic linearity and purity. The Richebourg, despite quite a bit of reduction, also showed real density underneath, and a stunning, powerful finish of line, harmony, and immense length. These are clearly wines that will need time to develop, more so than is generally true for this vintage.

The sole ’15 we tasted here was a Vosne Chaumes, which was spicy, deep and ripe, with more density and grip than the ’16 (92).

Grivot. Overall, while I very much like what Etienne has been doing in recent years, I found the range of ‘16s somewhat inconsistent, with many wines that were well-crafted but with tannins that were still a bit hard (for example, the Vosne Brulées was tense, intense and saline, but I found the tannins obstreperous, while the Vosne Reignots, which Etienne felt was his best to date, seemed to me to lack a bit of depth and the tannins were quite chewy). While the Nuits Pruliers also had some hard tannins, the wine was intense and powerful enough to make the tannins not seem out of place; overall it was spicy, dense, brambly, and quite earthy. I also liked the Vosne Beaumonts, with open pure ripe Morello cherry fruit, good volume and density, and tannins that seemed a bit more rounded. The Vosne Suchots was quite harmonious, with pure sweet fruit and a citrus note. The Clos de Vougeot was also quite good, not as clenched and tarry as it can sometimes be, but displaying ripe sweet fruit, some salinity, and lots of spice at the finish. The Richebourg was also very good, with a citrus touch on the nose along with cherries and spice. This had good clarity, harmony and power, but wasn’t in the same category, I have to say, as the Hudelot Riche, never mind the DRC.

Roumier. As with most estates centered in Chambolle, Roumier suffered large losses in 2016. There is no Bourgogne, and what little Chambolle Les Combottes there was, was blended into the Village wine.  Christophe said he had found significant differences between the vineyards severely damaged by frost and those that were not: the former had a stronger structure and concentration, and a more luscious touch, than the latter. He said there was no strictly comparable vintage, but that the wines from the vineyards hurt by frost were somewhat similar to the ‘01s (I see the structural comparison, but to me the ‘16s have much more fruit than the ‘01s, either at a comparable stage or now.)

I thought the range here was a bit mixed, though at the top level, the wines were stunning. The Chambolle Villages was extremely dense, with a saline quality, and quite tannic, while the Morey Clos des la Bussière was tense and intense, but I thought it finished a little harsh. The Chambolle Cras (what there was; the yield was less than 11hl/ha) was quite fine, with an extremely complex nose, great clarity on the palate and a pure, long finish. There is a new wine in the stable in ’16, an Echézeaux from En Orveaux, but the debut rendement was a mere ½ barrel, of which half belongs to an investor, so good luck finding it. It was a bit oaky, with a deep and complex nose that included wild cherries, while on the palate it was somewhat open-knit but had a silky texture. The Charmes-Chambertin was so intense it seemed almost over-extracted, though there was more purity evident on the palate; the Ruchottes was much better, with a meaty, intense, dark cherry nose, showing soy and minerals–a deep and vibrant wine.  The Bonnes Mares (enlarged by ½ hectare in 2016, all of which is in terres blanches, making that now 60% of the blend) had amazing tension and depth, wild cherries on the nose, and was pure, open, minerally, and deep, developing a silky texture, with strong but rounded tannins—a powerful, beautifully balanced wine with a remarkably pure finish. The Chambolle Amoureuses was super-dense, and gained in complexity as it opened; it was more structured than usual, with incredible purity, intensity and perfect balance, and an immensely long, elegant finish. The Musigny, made with 100% whole clusters, was also remarkable, with citrus and perfume notes along with the classic red fruit and minerals; this was a wine of elegance, reminiscent of Romanée-Conti in its sphericality and gracefulness (a word that recurs three times in my note!).

We also tasted the range of ‘15s, and although Christophe confirmed that many ‘15s were beginning to shut down recently, these were both accessible and brilliant. The Chambolle Village had intense ripe and rich black cherry fruit, enough acidity to balance, and was supple and complete (92). While the Morey Clos de la Bussière was more minerally and dense than the Chambolle, it seemed slightly blocky by comparison (90), but the Chambolle Cras had tension and density, and seemed almost robust, but then was given great lift by the minerality and opened to a long, pure, and dense finish (a baby Bonnes Mares, Christophe called it) (93). The Ruchottes was meaty and deep, intense, structured, with plenty of fruit, and powerful and long (93), while the Charmes, never my favorite cuvée here, was open-knit and seemed a bit simple by comparison (90). The Bonnes Mares was tight and unforthcoming, a monster (but a benificent monster!), beautifully structured, powerful, but very balanced, long, and textured—this will be amazing with (a lot of) time (95).  The Chambolle Amoureuses was huge, intense, and muscular, but had great purity of fruit, deep spice, excellent mineral lift, and a developing silkiness, with very refined tannins and a super-long, creamy finish. Christophe called this a serious, structured Amoureuses, and I expect it to take 20+ years (95). The Musigny was, quite simply, the finest young red wine of the trip: a brilliant, intense nose of ripe black fruit, licorice, soy, roast duck, flowers, minerals, and the classic citrus top note. On the palate, it was soft and elegant, complex, and complete, totally different from either the Bonnes Mares or Amoureuses—silky, pure, and graceful with completely refined tannins and an extremely persistent finish (98). One just has to be able to find it—and afford it!

Mugnier.  There were significant losses here in ’16, with production of the Chambolle Village, for example, being only about 25% of normal. Nonetheless, that Village wine was quite charming, with pure spicy red fruit, a soft quality and only a little tannin in evidence. The Nuits Clos de la Maréchale was dense and earthy, with a lot of ripe fruit, along with some tarriness and some slightly rustic tannins, though their edges have been rounded off.  Chambolle Fuées seemed slightly on the tarry side on the nose but had a creamy texture, and was intense and driven. The Chambolle Amoureuses was floral, pure, and delicate, but the back end seemed a bit heavy-handed, with some blocky tannins, though a zesty finish. The Musigny was also heavily affected by frost, and Freddy noted that there was a significant difference between two parcels that had been trained and pruned differently. The better of the two was superb, with a perfumed, elegant nose and a citrus touch that carried through the palate, a silky texture, and an exotic perfume that somehow reminded me of nights in an Oriental garden—even though I’ve never spent nights in an Oriental garden!—this was classy, elegant, and persistent. The other cuvée was a bit sappy, not nearly as elegant, though quite intense, and Freddy hadn’t decided if or to what extent it would be included in the final blend.

As I wrote in last year’s review, some of the magic that was achieved here in the past seems to have faded, and the ‘15s, while good, were not more compelling in bottle than they had been out of barrel. The Chambolle Village had a gorgeous spicy red fruit nose and nice spice on the palate, but seemed to be missing a bit of dimension (88), while the Nuits Clos de la Maréchale was better on the palate than nose, but a bit earthbound, with some dryness at the end (88). The Chambolle Fuées had a dense, ripe, spicy, and intense nose that promised more than the palate delivered, and the balance was good but not perfect—though this seemed to be coming together since last year, and may just need more time (90?). The Bonnes Mares, though usually a bit of a laggard at this domaine, had richness and depth on the nose and good intensity on the mid-palate, and was quite powerful and long, with strong but relatively round tannins (93).  The Chambolle Amoureuses, however, was a question mark: it was somewhat disjointed and lacking a dimension; was this just a bad time to taste it or is there an issue here (?). The Musigny was dense and unforthcoming at first, though more open on the palate, and seemed almost over-ripe; it was intense but heavy, and not knit right now, though it had excellent ripe black cherry fruit to start and an extremely long finish of pure fruit and citrus (93?).

Rousseau. While Clos St. Jacques and Chambertin suffered some significant frost losses, otherwise there was little damage of consequence at this domaine. ’16 was another superb vintage chez Rousseau, following the brilliant ‘15s. The tasting started exceptionally well, with a terrific Gevrey that had gorgeous fruit on the nose, pure minerality in the middle and a lovely pure red fruit and mineral finish. The Gevrey Lavaux St. Jacques was denser still, yet retained its purity, with moderate tannins. The Gevrey Cazetiers was a remarkable example of this premier cru, with sweet fruit and a creamy note on the nose; crunchy red fruit on the palate, excellent balance and density, and superb transparency, along with resolved tannins almost buried in the fruit. The Charmes was quite reduced on the nose but there was a touch of velvet underneath, a sense of restrained power, and silky tannins. The Mazis was fairly unevolved, showing a bit too much wood influence at this stage, and the Clos de la Roche was quite reduced on the nose, but with a pure and open structure. The Ruchottes, while showing a little reduction, was very intense, with crunchy fruit, great pure minerality, a saline note, and a powerful finish, with tannins that still showed some fierceness but were beginning to hint at becoming silky. The Clos St. Jacques was marvelous, with a beautiful, calm nose, deep, pure, full of red fruit, grilled meat, pepper and perfume, with a touch of wood but with great balance, lift, and purity, and very refined tannins.  The Chambertin, despite a little reduction, was really showing its breed, with great intensity and power on the nose, yet a restraint and even delicacy at first on the palate, then it quickly turned up the volume, leading into an exceptionally long finish of silky, rounded tannins. The Clos de Bèze, though pure and silky on the palate, showed a lot of wood that still needs to integrate; this is a large-scaled, powerful Bèze.

Fourrier. Jean-Marie Fourrier goes from strength to strength, and has fashioned some superb ‘16s; although, as at many other domaines, some wines are better than others, the best are remarkable. While frost losses were not severe, there was considerable mildew pressure here: 32 attacks vs. a normal 6-7, but the domaine was rigorous in its treatment regimen.

The Morey Clos Salon had crunchy, almost jazzy raspberry fruit, and was classic Morey, with good brightness. The Gevrey Vieilles Vignes (from 60-year-old vines) was a standout (and should be an excellent value), with an expressive, deep nose, a creamy texture, and spicy, grilled meat flavors; it was full-bodied, complex, and intense. I even preferred it to the Gevrey Aux Echézeaux (from even older vines), which was a bit more open than the Village, pure and floral, but without quite the intensity of the former. The Gevrey 1er Cru Cherbaudes was another standout: coming from high-density old vines, it was enormously spicy, with red fruit, flowers, and a touch of Gevrey meatiness; on the palate, it was silky and graceful, with intensity, tension, and energy. The Gevrey 1er Cru Goulots was not quite as concentrated, though it still was succulent, while the spicy, red fruit nose of the Combe Aux Moines jumped out of the glass—it had power and structure, but also elegance and transparency, and a persistent finish. The excellent Clos St. Jacques had a pure, spicy, deep red fruit nose, and was complex and deep on the palate, with a rich and meaty finish, and highly refined tannins—it will need considerable time to develop fully, though. Finally, the Griotte-Chambertin had an exceptional nose that was pure and deep, with both black and red (raspberry) fruits, spice, and grilled meat; it also had a remarkable velvety texture, elegance, harmony, and depth, and a long pure finish–bravo!

We only tasted one ’15, the Clos St. Jacques, but it was a fascinating comparison with the ‘16: with rich, ripe red fruit, one sensed the texture even on the nose of the ’15, and it was seamless, with completely resolved and refined tannins and an immensely long, elegant finish.  It seemed to have more volume and complexity than the ’16, if not quite the purity, and was less intense, but more self-assured than the ’16, with an extra level of finesse (96).

Trapet. Jean-Louis Trapet opined that ’16 was a year in which the terroir differences are clearly apparent, and said that even his father had never seen a vintage comparable to this one.  Losses were capricious here too. The Gevrey L’Ostrea was still quite reduced, but showed the purity and silk of the vintage, and while somewhat soft was not overly so, still retaining good intensity. Because of losses, there will be only one premier cru, a cuvée to be called Alia, which was very spicy, dense, and perfumed, with a velvet touch and excellent concentration, but the oak still needs to integrate. The Chapelle-Chambertin was a bit reduced, and somewhat locked up in its tannins, but a silky texture was developing, and there was lovely purity on the finish. I very much liked the Latricières-Chambertin, with its detailed slate and grilled meat nose, a soft texture but serious intensity, and a mellow finish. (Jean-Louis remarked that because Latricières is cooler than Chapelle, the buds were less evolved when the frost appeared.) Finally, the Chambertin, which had had a long malo and very slow evolution, according to Jean-Louis (and had suffered significant losses), had a deep, intense, reticent and complex nose, and was pure and very powerful on the palate, silky, with all the depth and class of top Chambertin.

We tasted through the ‘15s as well. The Gevrey Village was quite nice, with excellent balance and texture (90), as was the Gevrey Petite Chapelle, which was intense and needs time (90). The Gevrey Clos Prieur was more open, with excellent purity, a creamy texture, and modulated tannins (91), but my favorite among the premiers was the Gevrey Capita, which was quite perfumed (it included 100% stems) and airy, with great equilibrium, strong but refined tannins and a rich, sweet, and dense finish (93). The Chapelle-Chambertin had a lot of wood spice, good minerality, a creamy texture, and somewhat prominent tannins (92), while the Latricières seemed cooler, with a creamy texture, slate, red fruit, and refined tannins on a very long finish—a wine of finesse that still needs time (93-94). The Chambertin had a rich, ripe nose, and was quite dense, showing perfect balance and a seamlessness to it, with still powerful tannins and a little oak to integrate, but an extremely persistent finish (95).

Bruno Clair. Bruno was in a talkative mood, offering opinions on everything from climate change to Donald Trump (not positive, to put it mildly). As for the ’16 vintage, he amplified what others had said about the capriciousness of the frost: while most 50-60 year-old vines bud later, and so were less affected by the frost, the temperature in different locations was also a factor, and his 100+ year old vines in Savigny were wiped out. However, his Bonnes Mares, being on the Morey side, was largely unaffected. In addition to altitude, location (he lost 90% in Marsannay), vine age, and temperature, he noted that other factors, such as air currents, also played a significant role.

The wines, as elsewhere, were inconsistent, with Marsannay Les Grasses Têtes showing fierce tannins while the Marsannay Longeroies was plummy, sweet, balanced and intense, with the tannins still strong but not overbearing. The Morey en la Rue de Vergy was overly sweet, with an odd tonality, while the Vosne Champs Perdrix (which, Bruno said, always ripens one week after Romanée-Conti) had an intense nose but was supple in the mid-palate, with some coffee notes and spice, and a raspberry cream finish, plus some tar. The Gevreys were more successful, with the Clos des Fontenys being dense, saline but not terribly tannic, with a silky texture and a spiced grilled meat finish. The Gevrey Cazetiers had power and intensity, a very pure minerality, and some medium strong tannins, with great clarity and drive, while the Clos St. Jacques had deep red fruit, a meaty note, fine transparency, excellent spice, refined tannins and incredible length. The Clos de Bèze was large-framed but I thought it closed and not entirely persuasive, although not without some positive qualities, while the Bonnes Mares (all from Morey) had a very complex nose, a lot of power but real grace to it, and although the tannins were a bit on the intense side, the finish really persisted.

We tasted two ‘15s, a Gevrey Clos des Fontenys that had a slightly off note (NR) and a Gevrey Cazetiers that had a lovely creamy texture, pure minerality, excellent intensity, and then a spicy minerally finish with the tannins evident but rounded off (92).

Duroché.  Young winemaker Pierre Duroché has already made a name for himself, as an up-and-coming star in Gevrey.  While a few years ago, I thought that the desire to anoint him (“find the next superstar before anyone else does” seems to be an increasingly popular game among Burgundy aficionados) was premature, he has over the last several vintages been building a strong case for why these wines should be much better known. While some of the lesser cuvées (including Gevrey Village and Gevrey Champ) seemed a little hard and unforthcoming, the Gevrey Les Jeunes Rois (a lieu-dit) was soft and charming, yet had purity, with a long finish and rather buried tannins, and the Gevrey Aux Etelois (their parcel of this lieu-dit is sandwiched between Charmes and Griotte), despite a fair amount of reduction, had a wonderful silky feel on the palate and good balance. The nose of the Gevrey Lavaux St. Jacques jumped out of the glass, with beautiful red fruit, smoked meat, and a touch of spice; this was very pure, with a creamy texture, good delicacy, and length, and with some prominent but refined tannins coming up at the end. The Charmes-Chambertin had an excellent nose and was quite silky on the palate, and while immediately attractive, there was also great balance and refinement here—this is a Charmes of remarkable quality. The Clos de Bèze (from vines dating to 1920) had great presence, power without weight, a silky feeling to it, pure red fruit and a saline minerality, leading to a long, concentrated finish. (Incidentally, while color is not always easy to evaluate in dimly-lit cellars, many of these wines were deep purple, which engendered some concern within our group, but questioning elicited that this was neither the result of adding enzymes nor, as the tasting confirmed, of over-extraction.) This is a domaine to watch.

 Dujac. Losses were not major at this Morey-based domaine (though there will be no Chambolle Gruenchers this year). The Morey Village was charming, light, pure, and fresh, while the Gevrey Combottes was pure and intense, with supple tannins and a super-long finish. The Vosne Malconsorts was especially fine, with spice and a tobacco note on the pure, minerally nose and excellent weight, precision, and energy, as well as refined tannins. The Echézeaux was also outstanding, with a perfumed nose and a wonderful silky texture, great equilibrium, some salinity, and a pure mineral finish. The Clos St. Denis was pure, delicate, and extremely elegant, but perhaps slightly over-sweet at the end, while the Clos de la Roche was more intense, with power and tension, but also showing a fair amount of sweetness at the moment. The Bonnes Mares was intense and pure up front, lighter in the middle, though again with a hint of sucrosity in back.

We tasted several ‘15s, which had been opened earlier in the day: a Morey Village, which had rich, deep black fruit, a creamy texture, and excellent body for a Village wine (90); a Gevrey Combottes that was spicy, deep, and perfumed, with excellent texture and intensity and refined tannins (92-93); a Vosne Malconsorts that was a bit reduced, but even so seemed on the heavy side, with some puckery tannins—I thought the ’16 was better, but Diana, who certainly knows the wine better than I, felt the ’15 was just closed and would in time be the best they’ve so far produced (Not rated); and Clos de la Roche, which showed ripe red cherry fruit and was intense, saline, and dense, reading a bit like a ’16 but with even greater ripeness and intensity (95+).

Domaine Ponsot. As readers know, Laurent Ponsot has left the domaine, which is now run by his sister, Rose-Marie, who has brought Alexandre Abel on board as winemaker. However, the ‘16s we tasted were all made by Laurent, and Alexandre said the élevage had been done in accordance with traditional practice. The Clos de Vougeot seemed more restrained than usual, bright, energetic ,and with a creamy texture, though the tannins seemed quite fierce. The Clos de la Roche was outstanding, with notes of earth, champignons, and cherry liqueur; this was dense yet had great balancing acidity, and silky though powerful tannins, while the complex, extremely long finish really spoke of the terroir.

We also tasted some ‘15s (also made by Laurent), including a Morey 1er Cru Cuvée des Alouettes, that had lots of spicy earth tones, some red fruits confits, and good minerality, with a bit of strong tannin to finish (91); a Chapelle-Chambertin that was large-framed and intense on the palate, with great density, ripe red fruit, and good balancing acidity—an impressive wine (93+); and the Clos de la Roche, which had a beautiful pure nose of red and black fruit, mousserons, licorice, and spice, and was huge and intense on the palate, with a citric mineral edge, strong but polished tannins, and a lengthy, complex finish (94-95).

Clos de Tart. The recent sale of this property to an entity owned by François Pinault, for a sum that, while undisclosed, has been reported to be in the neighborhood of €250 million, had all of Burgundy talking when we were there. Meanwhile, at the domaine itself, the consequences have yet to be felt, but already the role of Frédéric Engerer, who oversees Pinault’s wine properties, including Ch. Latour in Bordeaux and Domaine d’Eugenie in Vosne, is causing no little speculation about what changes may come in the near future. Certainly, the price of Clos de Tart will need to go up dramatically if there is to be any current return on the investment, and while no doubt marketing will play a major role in that effort, it remains to be seen whether there will also be a change in the profile of the wine itself, and if so, in what direction.

As for the ’16, despite aggressive attacks of mildew, the domaine was able to harvest 35 hl/ha, which is above average. We tasted a hypothetical blend of the different cuvées, and it was certainly very fine, with a calm, assured nose of spice (cumin and cinnamon among others), dark cherries, and blueberry fruit, with very pure minerality on the palate, and excellent complexity and balance. This has power and drive but also a sense of assurance, and if the oak obtrudes, it is only slightly. By contrast, the ’15 was a bit reduced, with the nose still closed, but it too was well balanced and quite intense, with more power than the ’16 but the tannins being a bit fiercer. This is intense and long but at this point, seems less graceful than the ’16 (92-93).

Clos des Lambrays. We tasted both the ’16 and ’15 Clos des Lambrays here, and Thierry Brouin felt that the ’16 had more energy than the ’15. The ’16, which escaped frost damage, was made with 80% whole bunch and 50% new oak. It was soft, minerally, medium bodied, the fruit quite sweet, almost plummy, and I thought it crowd-pleasing but hardly classic. The ’15 seemed already to have incipient sous-bois on the nose, and though the palate was velvety, there was a severe note to the tannins. This was quite full-bodied for Lambrays. (90+?)

Ch. de la Tour. Proprietor François Labet reported about 50% crop losses in Clos de Vougeot. He described the resulting wines as rich and concentrated, and said there was no comparable vintage stylistically. The Gevrey Village (Domaine Pierre et François Labet) was concentrated and powerful for a Village wine, if slightly on the rustic side. The regular Clos de Vougeot (which Labet calls his Cuvée Classique) was, as Labet described it, rich and concentrated, with notes of clove, licorice, and coffee along with some pure red fruit, and it kept its balance despite the density. The Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes had a terrific nose of deep, complex red and black fruit, minerals, spice, cocoa, and a perfumed note; this was highly concentrated but with excellent acidity to keep it in balance, and it had a dense, pure finish that just kept on going. The Clos de Vougeot Hommage à Jean Morin was even denser than the Vieilles Vignes, with lush dark cherry and torrefaction notes, along with licorice, soy, and roast duck on both the nose and palate, amazing concentration that stopped just short of being tarry, very fine tannins, and immense persistence. It was like the blood sauce for lievre à la royale, and I wondered if it might be a bit too heavy, compared to the VV, but it will be interesting to see—in 30 years?

The Négociants:

 Overall, I found that many of the négociant reds were stylistically quite different from those of the domaines at which we tasted.  It seemed as though some négociants had made a conscious decision to go for soft, fruity, appealing wines, wines that are likely to be “crowd pleasers” but that lack the structure or complexity of the best wines. Of course, as with all generalities, there are certainly exceptions—but nonetheless, to the extent the generality holds, it adds yet another note of stylistic uncertainty to any attempt to categorize this vintage.

 Drouhin. Véronique Drouhin noted that they used more whole cluster than usual in the ’16 vintage. She said that handling the differences between the first- and second-generation crops had been tricky, as they were not necessarily of the same maturity (and the second-generation crop had much higher levels of malic acidity, among other things), yet all had to be picked together. Sometimes this was not an issue—there was little left of the first-generation crop in Chambolle—but elsewhere, it made the vinification more complex.  Nonetheless, the red wines here were mostly quite fine. The Vosne Petits Monts was excellent, with gorgeous spice on the nose, and a perfumed quality on the palate; while there was some softness in the attack, and soft and rounded tannins, there was good density and purity in the middle, and some saline minerality after. I found the Charmes-Chambertin an easy and pleasing ’16, if lacking structure, but the Griotte was far better, with a superb pure nose of spicy red cherries, a touch of velvet, great purity and balance, and smooth and refined tannins leading to a delicate and pure finish. The Clos de Vougeot was quite dense and intense, with good structure and a long, intense finish—it had not entirely come together but likely will in time. The Grands Echézeaux had a spicy, intense nose with beautiful raspberry fruit, and was dense, pure, and creamy, with deep minerality, great focus and a long, terroir-driven finish. The Chambolle Amoureuses had a fairly closed nose and a very soft entry; though it had lovely fruit and a creamy texture, it seemed a little easy in the context of the vintage. I thought the Musigny was a major step up, and the best wine of the range, though only 2 barrels were produced, while 7-8 is more normal. It had great clarity and intensity on the nose, a silky entry, and structure and focus, with highly refined tannins and a subtle, extremely persistent finish. We ended with the Clos de Bèze, which had an excellent nose, but the entry was again too soft for my taste, although pure red fruit and minerals came out at the end.

Maison Laurent Ponsot. After leaving the domaine, Laurent Ponsot moved quickly to establish his négociant business, the core of which was formed by the wines he had been making under various farming agreements, including the Clos St. Denis and Griotte from Domaine des Chézeaux, augmented by more recent relationships, including a number of white wines, discussed below. Among the reds, I particularly liked the Chambolle Charmes, with a nose that was slightly repressed at first but then showed lots of rich, ripe fruit and was elegant, with great equilibrium and a spicy finish. The nose of the Griotte was initially unforthcoming, but the palate showed gorgeous ripe fruit, along with power and intensity (but was neither tarry nor saline).  I preferred the Chambertin to the Bèze, as it had more volume and power, but remained approachable, with relatively soft tannins. Best of all was the Clos St. Denis, with a complex nose showing notes of licorice, mocha, champignons, and spice, while the palate was dense, with complex red fruits and high-toned minerality, and the finish was intense but the tannins quite suave.

Faiveley.  Erwan Faiveley noted that there had been a huge difference in quality between the two Côtes in 2016, and we wasted little time in moving north. As elsewhere, the range was inconsistent, and tasting was made more difficult by the fact that many wines had finished their malos quite late. We tasted mostly domaine wines, and Erwan noted that they had used 0-30% stems in this vintage. The Nuits Les St. Georges was, despite some reduction, a dense, powerful, earthy wine of excellent terroir character and great power. A négociant Chambolle Charmes was open-knit and less convincing, while the Gevrey Cazetiers had promise but was quite reduced. The Clos de Vougeot had a lovely deep nose with strawberry and cherry fruit, spice, and excellent density; it was quite ripe on the palate, with good minerality, slightly hard tannins and a creamy, spicy finish. I particularly liked the Latricières, which had a calm nose of slate and raspberry fruit, a silky texture, and great power and vibrancy, with refined tannins and a persistent, pure finish. The Mazis also seemed promising but was hard to evaluate because of the heavy reduction. While I thought the regular Clos de Bèze, despite its dramatic intensity, was a bit bulky, the Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin was superb, with beautiful bright spice and minerals emerging on the nose with some air, and an energetic citrus top note; this had beautiful balance, powerful but quite refined tannins, and a silky texture that I just loved.

Bouchard P&F. This was a mixed range, with a number of good if somewhat easy wines. In the Côte de Nuits, I liked the Nuits Les Cailles, which despite a somewhat soft entry had a lot of charm for Nuits; this had good intensity and a very good minerally and spicy finish with good lift. I also liked the Vosne Suchots, which was medium weight, and had energy, direction, and excellent length. The Clos de Vougeot was open-knit but with good purity; it had very good volume, a little softness, but a lovely spicy quality.  The Chapelle-Chambertin showed great ripe strawberry fruit on the nose, and was almost like a ’15 in its ripeness, with medium density—an attractive wine for early drinking. The Clos de Bèze here, while having a lot of weight and intensity, nonetheless seemed heavy-handed.

Jadot. While, as discussed below, the range of whites here was the finest I can remember, I found the reds distinctly mixed, with many being pleasant but lacking the depth and intensity this vintage can achieve. I did quite like the Chambolle Fuées, which had a spicy, pure, creamy nose, and while it seemed a bit soft on entry, it gained complexity as it sat on the tongue, showing excellent lift, purity, and density, with a saline, spicy finish. The Chambolle Amoureuses was made with 50% stems, which gave it an added dimension; it was sweet, medium-weight and charming. The Bonnes Mares was pleasant but lacked tension, but the Musigny (also made with 50% stems) had a bright, perfumed nose, lift, minerals, and a citrus note on top of red fruit; though the entry was soft, there was real drive behind it, and a creamy texture, along with some strong but rounded tannins. The Clos St. Denis showed good purity, a soft entry, nice delicacy and an intense finish, while the Chapelle-Chambertin had good purity on the nose, lots of sweet red fruit, and quite a bit of charm—a crowd-pleasing grand cru, to be sure. More serious, as usual, was the Clos St. Jacques, with deep ripe cherry fruit on the nose, which also showed meat and mineral notes; while the soft entry was there, this was quite dense, with charming red fruit and excellent balance, rounded tannins and a pure mineral finish; this was quite “gourmand.” Best of the range was the Clos de Bèze. While the nose took time to open, it became quite complex, and the soft fruit up front on the palate was quite charming and silky, with good minerality, and some strict tannins but a persistent finish.

Bichot. This was our first visit to this major négociant, led by the amiable, generous and always amusing Alberic Bichot. The wines were, in general, easygoing and pleasurable, but to my taste mostly lacked the tension and precision I like to see. Nonetheless, the Chambolle 1er Cru Chabiots was suited to the house style, with a creamy entry, soft fruit, a bit of minerality, and good balance, while the Vosne Malconsorts (of which they are the largest owner) had good texture and a glycerol mouthfeel, with spicy red cherries and cranberries, but seemed a bit lacking in precision, and the Clos de la Roche was full of soft fruit, easy, medium-bodied and not particularly structured.  The Clos de Vougeot was also easy, with sweet fruit and a stony quality, but it lacked the weight and depth of a top grand cru. The best wine we tasted was the Echézeaux-Champs Traversin, which showed some good deep minerality and spice, and while it had plenty of sweet rich fruit, it also had good complexity and length.

The Côte de Beaune

 While the Côte de Nuits in general was more successful in 2016 than the Côte de Beaune, some wonderful reds were produced in the southern Côte and are well worth seeking out.

The Domaines:

 Lafarge. Unlike Christophe Roumier, who as noted above believes that there is a significant difference in ’16 between the wines from frost-affected vineyards and those not touched, Frédéric Lafarge felt that the concentration was the same, whether the yields were low or normal. He also noted that where a second growth occurred, it largely caught up in maturity, and both were harvested together.

A number of the wines here, including the Beaune Grèves and the Volnay Pitures and Mitans, showed some dry, earthy tannins that to me overbore the fruit. However, the top three wines were highly successful, beginning with the Volnay Caillerets, which had a pure, sweet fruit expression and was very dense and powerful but developing an excellent texture. The Volnay Clos des Chênes was lovely, with a pure black cherry and cinnamon nose, and a soft, velvety texture, with tannins that were quite refined. This year, however, the star was the Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs. Frédéric said there was a special energy in this wine in ’16, and indeed there was. It had a pure, deep nose of red fruit, cinnamon and cocoa, a silky texture with highly refined tannins, and a dense and long spicy finish.

D’Angerville. Guillaume d’Angerville lost 1/3 of his crop overall, but said that while the frost in Volnay had badly affected the lower slope, the top of the hill was largely unaffected. Stylistically, he thought the vintage represented a mix between ’10 and ’09, and felt that the vintage was characterized by purity, freshness, and linearity. The Volnay Fremiets showed sweet plummy fruit, with excellent lift and fine minerality, the tannins perhaps a bit severe, but there was good spice and fruit in the finish.  The Volnay Caillerets had bright cherry and strawberry fruit on top of an open, pure minerality and a base of tannin. Better still was the Volnay Taillepieds, with a deep nose of sweet cherries, cinnamon, and a floral touch, bright mineral lift on the palate, and ripe and rounded tannins that still have quite a bit of strength to them. The Volnay Champans was another step up, more elegant, creamier, brambly and higher-pitched, with intense and powerful tannins and a very long finish. Best of all, as usual, was the Volnay Clos des Ducs, with a complex nose of cinnamon, mulberries, brambles and notes of torrefaction; this was powerful and yet developing a silky texture, with vibrant acidity and a very long, dense, and driving finish.

Comte Armand. Talented young winemaker Paul Zinetti compared ’16 with ’10, because of the fine tannins. There was no Auxey Village in ’16 and the Auxey 1er Cru had just been racked, so we started with the Volnay Fremiets, which despite some reduction had pure, primary fruit, and was very persistent, although the reductive elements made it hard to judge. The Clos des Epeneaux (an approximate blend) was quite fine: pure and primary, with great mineral lift, well balanced, with good density, polished tannins, and great power and length. This is already quite fine and should be even better after being racked.

The ’15 Clos des Epeneaux, which Paul compared to the ’09, had remarkable intensity; the nose was spicy, with ripe red fruit, cloves, and cinnamon, and on the palate, there was a bright minerally acidity and an earthy component, with strong but ripe tannins (93+).

Jean-Marc & Thomas Bouley. Readers of this blog know that I was extremely impressed with the quality of the ‘15s produced by Thomas Bouley, a highly talented producer who remains largely below the radar. Bouley was generally happy with his ‘16s, appreciating their brightness and energy and terroir character. However, the ‘16s here seemed much more irregular than, and not remotely in the same league as, the ‘15s. The Volnay Clos de la Cave and Pommard Village both had some juicy ripe fruit, but it remains to be seen if the tannins will round out, and there were rustic tannins as well on the Volnay Carelles (which had been one of the standouts in 2015). The Volnay Caillerets had ripe and intense fruit on the nose that stopped just short of seeming baked, though it had a silky texture, good minerality and density. Best were the Volnay Clos des Chênes, with a deep, dense, layered nose, gorgeous bright fruit and spice, and an earthy touch, leading to some strong but not dry tannins and a long, brilliant finish; and the Pommard Rugiens (made this year with 30% stems; usually none are used in this wine), which was large-framed and powerful but which had great minerality and lots of spice, as well as rounded tannins on the pure finish.

Michel Gaunoux.   As usual, we did not taste the unfinished wine still in barrel. We did have two of the ‘15s, a Bourgogne Rouge that had very good weight and a lot to it, though it was earthy and distinctly rustic (89) and a Pommard Rugiens, which was extremely fine, with a nose of deep pure fruit, spice, and minerals, an intense wine with some strong, tight tannins but then a beautiful pure finish—this had excellent weight and tension, and a finish that wouldn’t quit (94+). Of the older wines we tasted, the ’06 Pommard Grands Epenots had a meaty texture but a nice mineral edge and a long finish (90), while the ’01 Pommard Grands Epenots had a nose of raspberries, violets, minerals, and a note of grilled meat, along with cinnamon and strawberries on the palate and finish, and good purity, though it was still in need of more time (92). The ’69 Pommard Grands Epenots was a great finishing treat, with a nose that seemed funky at first but then opened to perfume, violets, cinnamon, mocha, and raspberries; it had excellent balance and still bright fruit on the palate, good minerality, a little sous-bois, and a long creamy finish. (94).

Henri Germain. While this Meursault-based domaine, which we visited for the first time, is better known for its whites, it also produced two excellent reds in ’16: a Meursault Clos des Mouches, a monopole of the domaine located just under Volnay Santenots, where vines that were planted in 1949 produced a wine with a spicy, creamy nose and excellent fruit delineation–pure, balanced, and minerally; and a Beaune Bressandes that despite a little funk on the nose was quite attractive, with a lovely deep cinnamon, earth, and mineral character to the nose, very nice red fruit delineation, plenty of mineral support, and fine length.

De Montille. It pains me to say this, as I think Etienne de Montille is a serious producer who has made some very fine wines over the years, and a delightful person, but I found his ‘16s to be underwhelming, and over the past few years I’ve begun to worry that he may have taken his eye off the ball. For example, I found the tannins in the Beaune Grèves fairly brutish, the Volnay Mitans marked by the new oak, and the Pommard Rugiens surprisingly light. The Volnay Taillepieds was certainly better, with an excellent nose, but the palate seemed a bit heavily stemmed (this was 100% whole cluster). The Pommard Pezerolles had bright, crunchy strawberry and cherry fruit, while the Nuits Aux Thorey was one of the better wines in the range, with a pure nose of red fruit and spice, and a stony, earthy middle, with moderate tannins, and a saline, long finish. The Vosne Malconsorts Cuvee Christianne easily outshone the somewhat light and unbalanced regular cuvée, with excellent depth and intensity, a perfumed and layered nose, and much more refined tannins than its regular counterpart.

We also tasted a ’15 Volnay Mitans, which while superior to its ’16 counterpart, with its bright red fruit, perfume, mineral structure, and good clarity, still seemed a bit light at the finish, particularly for this vintage (89).

Domaine Pierre et François Labet. These wines are from the proprietor of Ch. de la Tour. A Beaune Au Dessus des Marconnets began with a saline minerality, followed by sweet fruit, then a hard iron edge—not exactly stylish, but transparent. Transparency was also the hallmark of the Beaune Coucherias, which had round fruit flavors, perfume, soy, and a creamy texture developing around an earthy middle, and a long transparent finish.

Some Wines from Côte de Nuits-based producers: Domaine Ponsot’s Corton-Bressandes was quite charming, with good balance and density and a bit of salinity, and seeming purer and less heavy than in prior years. Bruno Clair’s Savigny Les Dominodes was, as usual, excellent: it had gorgeous deep spicy black and red fruit on the nose, a velvety texture, and was intense, deep, and a bit saline, with a muscular, long, and minerally finish. DRC’s Corton was intense, massive, and muscle-bound, though there was sweet fruit after; it remains to be seen where this is going, but it will certainly take a long time to find out.

The Négociants:

 Whether because of the tiny quantities or in recognition that the Côte as a whole was less successful than the Côte de Nuits, or both, we saw fewer Côte de Beaune reds than usual chez les négociants.

Drouhin. The Beaune Clos des Mouches seemed a bit fuzzy on the attack, but the Beaune Grèves was more focused and structured, with a long, pure fruit and mineral finish.

Bouchard P&F.  Of the roughly half-dozen premiers crus we tasted, the standouts were the Beaune Teurons, with dark cherry fruit, menthol and cinnamon on the nose, good acidic lift, and an earthy, spicy finish; and a soft, spicy Beaune Grèves Enfant Jesus, sure to please but without the usual sense of reserve for the long run. The Corton had aromas of Christmas fruitcake and was super-soft, a Corton for people who don’t particularly care for Corton.

Jadot. Here too, we saw about a half-dozen wines from the Côte.  The Volnay Clos de la Barre had a good balance of fruit and minerals, and an expressive nose, while the Beaune Teurons, though light-bodied, had a nice floral element and a creamy texture. Best was the Pommard Rugiens, with ripe red fruit and earth notes on the nose, density and a good sense of depth, plus a long, pure finish.

Faiveley.  Only two wines were shown, the second of which, the flagship Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, was quite fine. There was no frost damage here, and this was quite ripe and rich, with a lot of salinity, and excellent balance.


The Domaines:

 Bernard Moreau. Alex Moreau has become one of the better white wine producers in Burgundy, and anyone who is still buying Ramonet’s premiers crus in preference to Moreau’s is living in the past, as a side-by-side comparison of their ’14 Morgeots proved this past summer. Sadly, this domaine was badly affected by the frost, and there will be no Chenevottes, Vergers, Champgains, or Bâtard in ’16 (and no Bâtard for some time to come, as this vineyard, from which Moreau purchased grapes, was pulled up after the harvest). Alex said that the shoots were already several inches long when the frost came, making the damage that much worse (and worse overall for the chardonnay, which as usual was ahead of the pinot in its development). He also noted, in contrast to what Frédéric Lafarge had observed, that there were often large differences in maturity between the surviving first crop and the second. Bottom line, he said, there was simply no consistency in style in 2016.

The St. Aubin En Remilly showed plenty of acidity co-existing with sweet ripe fruit, if a touch of bitterness at the end. The Chassagne Maltroie had lovely balance–lots of plush sweet fruit combined with plenty of acidity–and was an intense and powerful wine with a spicy, saline finish (characteristic of the range). The Chassagne Morgeots was a standout, with a lovely pure nose of minerals, light spice, and delicate fruit; it had a soft, almost velvety quality, great balance, and charm. The Chassagne Caillerets, though powerful and intense, did not seem perfectly balanced, but there is only one barrel of it. The Chassagne Grands Ruchottes (of which there is also only one barrel) was, however, fully on form, with lovely purity, a creamy texture, and floral notes along with soft fruit, power and concentration, and a spicy, long saline finish. The Chevalier had great typicity: an elegant nose, with complex spice and white flowers, great balance, and a very positive acidity, plus a nice citric note at the end. Overall, these were highly successful wines made in an exceptionally difficult environment.

Paul Pillot. Thierry Pillot put on a brave face, but it was clear that losses of 70-90% in 2016 had been devastating to the domaine. Nevertheless, what little was produced was mostly of very high quality. The St. Aubin 1er Cru Charmois was very intense, almost painfully so, but it had a beautiful and exceptionally long finish, with pure minerality and lovely spice. The Chassagne Mazures was also intense, linear, and driven, with huge minerality at the end, but enough fruit (quince and pear) to keep the balance. There was a pause, in effect, as while the Chassagne Champgains was quite minerally, it seemed to lack a little fruit, and showed a bit of dryness on the finish, and the Chassagne Clos St. Jean seemed heavy and also had subdued fruit. After these, however, things returned to normal, with a Chassagne Grand Montagne that was floral, spicy, and complex on the nose and had great delineation on the palate; Thierry noted a hint of gunpowder, and thought that while the wine needed more élevage, it would be, with La Romanée, his best of the vintage. The Chassagne Caillerets was also excellent, with a pure and brilliant mid-palate, balanced, precise, and with excellent tension. With all deference to Thierry, I thought the Chassagne Grands Ruchottes was showing even better than the Grand Montagne, with a taut minerality on the nose, and a creamy, high-toned palate with notes of ginger spice, pears, and crème brulée, plus a long, brilliant, transparent finish of great tension. The Chassagne La Romanée, relatively untouched by the frost, was reduced, but had huge volume, grand cru weight, great energy, richness, and intensity, and a long spicy dense finish. Now if only one can find some of these wines!

Roulot. The wines of this domaine were underpriced for a very long time, but such is no longer the case, and although there has been some sticker shock for those used to buying these wines in the past, in truth the quality justifies the higher prices.  As did so many others, Roulot experienced major losses in ’16. There was so little Bourgogne Blanc that he ended up buying grapes and blending them in, so that this is a négociant wine in 2016 (it is intense, to be sure, but with a touch of hardness at the end). The Meursault Village was silky, balanced, and charming, and I actually liked it somewhat better than the Meursault Vireuils, which had a lovely silky texture but a slightly raspy acidity. The Meursault Luchets was excellent, floral, buttery, and citric, light and delicate at first, but then showing some real mineral punch. The Meursault À Mon Plaisir, Clos du Haut Tessons (f/k/a Les Tessons, Clos de Mon Plaisir) had a delicate, subdued floral and mineral nose, and the delicacy continued on the palate, but there was a lot of complexity here and a density underneath the delicacy. The Meursault Poruzots was first-rate: a spicy, floral, deep and pure nose, while on the palate this was intense but weightless, with a long spicy mineral finish. I liked it better than both the Meursault Genevrières (a négoce wine for which this is the first year), which didn’t have the texture of the domaine wines, and the Meursault Charmes, which was soft and charming, but although it had a strong minerally acidity on the finish, there was, nonetheless, a bit too much sweetness and salinity for me. However, the Meursault Clos des Bouchères was exceptional: floral, minerally, and pure on the nose,  and a silky mouthfeel, with pear spice, citrus and floral notes–this wine has it all, and is superbly harmonious, with a dense, intense, and driven finish. It even slightly edged out the Meursault Perrières, terrific as that was, with its excellent presence and multi-dimensionality, also a totally harmonious wine, with a strong pear liqueur finish that was both long and aristocratic. After these two great wines, the négoce Chevalier was a bit of a letdown; although it had a nice creamy texture, it was a little heavy and somewhat weak in back, the finish speaking more of Meursault than Chevalier. We also tasted the négociant Corton-Charlemagne, which despite a silky texture was quite reduced and difficult to evaluate.

As a comparison, we tasted the ’15 Clos des Bouchères, which was more citric, fatter and less minerally than the ’16, and although it had a nice silky texture, it was a wine of fruit (peaches and quince) rather than minerals, and there was a hint of tropicality at the end (91). Advantage ’16.

 Leflaive. Pierre Vincent is the new winemaker and general manager here, and we’re all hoping that, with the able, gracious but determined Brice de la Morandiere now at the helm of the domaine, it will soon return to its former glory. Vincent, who came to Leflaive after the ’16s had been vinified, proudly showed us around the domaine’s newly reconstructed, passive cellar, our first tasting in this facility. Production overall in ’16 was about half of normal, but losses, as elsewhere, were capricious: there was very little Puligny Village produced, not even enough to taste, and at the upper end, yields were around 10 hl/ha for the grands crus located on the south side of the village, while there was little or no frost damage on the Meursault side of the village up the slope. Mildew losses did, nonetheless, contribute as well, reducing the crop by an estimated 20%. Vincent said that, in his view, the white ’16s have the acidity of ’14 with the ripeness of ’15.

The Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane and the Puligny Clavoillon, while both intense, seemed to lack a little fruit in the middle—the Meursault more than the Clavoillon. The Puligny Folatières was a significant step up: spicy, tense, floral, with huge minerality, and spicy pear fruit emerging after, while the Puligny Combettes was also quite good, with some reduction but an intensely creamy finish that was high-toned and complex; this has good potential but needs more time to evolve. Best of the premiers crus was the Puligny Pucelles, with a remarkably pure and precise nose, its deep minerality given dimension by a beautiful floral quality—this too seemed a little clenched right now but it should be quite fine in time. The Bâtard was intense and powerful, floral and fruity, with a ginger note, but it seemed a bit out of balance; the Bienvenues-Bâtard was much better, the most elegant wine in the lineup so far, even though it was more structured and intense than usual, with a relatively powerful, gingery finish.  The Chevalier was equally good, more subdued and delicate, perhaps, and not as floral as usual, but aristocratic, dense, and structured.

 Francois Carillon. The domaine did not suffer major losses in ’16, though the results were still somewhat uneven. The Puligny Village had quite a lot to it for a Village wine, and could be one of the better values of this vintage, with its ripe nose of peaches, white flowers, spice, and licorice, and its concentration and intensity. The Puligny Enseignères seemed a bit harder than the Village, though it had good body and minerality and an intense finish. The Puligny Folatières also seemed a touch hard but there was real intensity, concentration, and drive here–a big wine, forceful rather than elegant. The Puligny Combettes by contrast seemed almost too intense, voluminous and saline, though a precise mineral finish perhaps presaged better things for the future. Best was the Puligny Perrières, with great line and drive, a harmonious and super-long wine.

Henri Germain. This was our first visit to this Meursault-based domaine, sparked by the serendipitous tasting of some older as well as recent vintages this past summer. Proprietor Jean-François Germain explained to us the philosophy of the domaine, which focuses on the work in the vineyards and is as non-interventionist as possible in the cellars. Fermentations are done en barrique, which can take a long time in the domaine’s cold cellars, and malos are often delayed as well.  There is no battonage here, and a relatively small amount of new oak. The resulting wines are very traditional, old-school whites.

The tasting began with a very good Bourgogne Blanc, which was sweet and floral, with a beeswax note, followed by an even better Meursault Village, which was supple and rich without being heavy, and had good length, and a very fine Meursault Chevalières, which was remarkably intense but quite pure, with a lot of spice—this, like most of the range, had excellent linearity and freshness. A somewhat reduced Meursault Limozin followed, bright but with a velvety texture, though the reduction made it somewhat enigmatic, and then a Chassagne Morgeots, with a nose that seemed to be a cross between Chassagne and Meursault, an almost aching purity, but perhaps a slight lack of fruit. The Meursault Charmes was from a new barrel (the old barrels hadn’t yet finished their malos), so the new wood was a bit pronounced, but nonetheless this had a creamy texture, sweet quince, peach, and pear fruit and excellent mineral transparency. The terrific Meursault Poruzots had a spicy, subtle butterfat nose, and despite a good deal of richness it had excellent lift, freshness, and drive, and a long, spicy finish. The Meursault Perrières was also quite fine, with a somewhat reticent nose, but a lovely creamy texture, perfect weight and balance, and a superb, laser-like mineral finish.

We also tasted two 2015s, both of which started out a little reduced, but while the Poruzots seemed creamy and had ripe peach flavors, it remained a bit locked down (91+?); the Charmes, however, cleared up and was concentrated, spicy, quite tense, huge and dense for Charmes but not heavy. It needs time (93+).

Latour-Giraud. The affable, low-key but serious Jean-Pierre Latour said that ’16 was a classic vintage, very concentrated, but difficult to taste at the moment. He noted that losses had exceeded 60% in the lower-lying vineyards of Meursault but that the premiers crus were less affected. The Meursault Cuvée Charles Maxime was supple and easy, though there was a hint of bitterness in back, while the Meursault Narvaux was reduced but nonetheless seemed balanced, creamy, and citric.  The Meursault Charmes had good purity, medium weight, and some strong citrus and stony notes, along with a firmness and concentration that evoked Perrières more than Charmes. The Perrières itself was quite fine; though slightly reduced, it seemed pure underneath, with a lovely creamy texture, good balance, and a creamy citric finish that was quite rich. The Meursault Genevrières had a slightly briney nose, a buttery texture, and was balanced, firm, concentrated and saline. The Meursault Genevrières Cuvee des Pierre was quite dense and intense, but gassy at the moment and a bit hard to evaluate; however, given its power and the quality of the regular cuvée, this is a good bet to be excellent in time.

We also tasted the range of ‘15s. Jean-Pierre noted that he had worked to preserve the freshness of these, which he considered the vintage’s greatest challenge. The Meursault Cuvée Maxime had good acidic lift, almost too much, though it was creamy (89). The Meursault Narvaux had a bit of fat but excellent acidity and was very floral, with a spicy finish, and just a hint of bitterness (88). The Meursault Charmes began with a creamy element, quickly supplanted by an almost raspy minerality, and was quite intense, still tight, with a long chewy pear spice finish (91+). The Meursault Perrières was soft, buttery, and creamy, with a cinnamon note, and was quite powerful; it was lovely but its premox potential worried me, and it didn’t seem as balanced as the Genevrières that followed (93?). The Meursault Genevrières had a nose of cream and juniper berries and was minerally, dense and intense, linear, and long—an impressive ’15 (94).  Even better was the Meursault Genevrières Cuvee des Pierre, with a calm and pure nose, far more glycerol than the others, greater depth, impeccable balance, and a lovely expression of fruit, spice, and minerality on the super-long finish (95).

De Montille.  We began with an easy and accessible Beaune Aigrots, which stopped just short of being tropical. The Meursaults were not impressive, while the Puligny Caillerets, despite being reductive and gassy, seemed to have some good minerality and tension. The Corton-Charlemagne was the best of this range, balanced, with sweet fruit and a fine minerality, a saline, spicy finish, and some pleasant floral notes.

Pierre et François Labet.  Only a few whites (and some very large losses due to frost), of which I particularly liked the Meursault Tillets, with perfume, white flower, and spice on the nose, and a bright minerality, along with power and intensity. A Savigny Vergelesses was more minerally and saline than the Tillets, with quite pleasant sweet fruit but without the intensity of the Tillets.

 The Négociants:

 Jadot. This is easily the best range of whites I have tasted at this address, as winemaker Frédéric Barnier continues, without fanfare, to make changes from the Lardière style. In particular, these wines were allowed to finish their malos (most of which were only finished in June or July), whereas Jacques Lardière almost always found a reason to block them. Barnier called 2016 an inconsistent vintage, and noted that while most of the chardonnay crop was picked early, some was picked as late as October, and that yields had varied between 5 hl/ha and 60 hl/ha.

While, as one would expect in this vintage, not every white was successful (several wines, including the Bâtard, had distracting notes of sucrosity, while the Puligny Folatières had a distinct off-note), there were several excellent premiers crus and even better grands crus. The Chassagne La Romanée (of which there is only one barrel in ’16) was creamy, powerful, and textured, if slightly on the fat side, but with an intensely spicy mineral finish, while the Puligny Combettes (the first plot picked in ’16) had a lovely floral quality, and was creamy and stony at the same time, and quite dense under the sweet fruit.  The Puligny Clos de la Garenne Duc de Magenta had an extremely enticing, complex nose, and while it was a little softer on the palate than the nose implied, it had a strong and long mineral finish. The Corton-Charlemagne, which produced close to a normal crop, was quite fine, intensely minerally but with plenty of fruit and excellent balance, along with good drive and a long, persistent finish. The Chevalier Demoiselles (only 2 barrels vs. as many as 10 in some years) gave a sense on the nose of its depth and balance; while the entry was slightly soft, it was a silky and delicate wine that concealed its power, culminating in an exceptionally long, driving mineral finish—a terrific Demoiselles. The Montrachet also produced less than 20% of a normal crop. This came in at 14o of alcohol.  It was quite rich and intense, though somehow still delicate in the middle, and had a concentrated, honeyed finish that just kept on going.

 Drouhin. We only tasted one Chablis here, the Vaudésir, which was quite nice, with a beautiful floral quality to the nose and a distinct mineral edge; this was medium light-bodied but was developing a silky texture, with a saline edge at the end. As with other ranges we saw, there was a lot of variability here, for example a Puligny Folatières that tasted like a licorice cream, contrasting with a far better Puligny Clos de la Garenne (a new wine in the lineup) that was very floral, with a crème brulée note, great presence and mineral purity. The Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de la Guiche was supple and easy, but the Beaune Clos des Mouches was far more interesting, with a spicy floral nose, hints of honey and peaches; it was perfectly ripe but with a mineral edge and a touch of raspberry cream, structured, balanced, long, and delicate, with good tension despite the richness. The Criots-Bâtard was a bit puzzling, but the Corton-Charlemagne (from the domaine; they also produce a négociant version), despite a somewhat soft entry, was quite gourmand, with ripe pears, spice, minerality, and a floral note—perhaps not the intensity of the very best CCs, but this was nonetheless quite charming. To finish, the Montrachet Marquis de la Guiche: one could immediately sense the aristocracy of the nose; with notes of honey, spice, minerals, lime, and licorice; it was balanced and complete, and on the palate, it had lift, structure, and finesse, not an especially dense wine but one with lovely delicacy, good focus and exceptional length.

Faiveley. Erwan Faiveley commented that he had not seen a major correlation between concentration and yield. We did not taste as large a range of whites as in the past, because of the small quantities; however, as elsewhere, quality was highly variable, with a pleasant but anonymous Puligny Champ Gain, and a Bienvenues-Bâtard that was a bull in a china shop, while the Bâtard was far better, softer and more accessible, with notes of lime, white flowers, and spice along with good minerality. Best, though, was the Corton-Charlemagne, which had not been affected by the frost, with a complex, balanced nose, sweet ripe fruit, citrus, and minerals on the palate along with a floral quality, and good power but not overdone—an extremely fine CC.

 Bichot. We first tasted through the range of Chablis, which also suffered major frost losses in this vintage. In general, I found a touch of sucrosity in the finish of these wines which I don’t care for stylistically, though more than a few well-regarded Chablis producers seem to work in this style. The Chablis Les Clos had a complex nose and spice that persisted, and was tense and intense, but showed the house style in the finish, as did the Chablis Moutonne, which was quite floral but had a nice flinty edge and plenty of acidity. Among the Côte de Beaune whites, the Meursault Charmes was the most interesting, with a strong mineral edge to it, and a nice creamy floral quality, as well as good grip and body.

Bouchard P&F. The William Fèvre Chablis showed quite well this year, starting with the Vaulorent, which was spicy and floral, a nice lighter style Chablis, and then the Bougros, which had sweet peaches wrapped in stones and a very long finish. The Bougros Côte de Bougerots was a step up, with more intensity, energy, and muscularity—what it perhaps lacked in grace it made up for in drive. The Vaudésir was a letdown, but the Preuses was the best of the range: I loved its combination of power, deep minerality, and finesse, and its great energy. The Clos wasn’t completely put together yet, with the finish seeming less knit, but perhaps, as is often the case with Clos, it needs additional time.

The Côte de Beaune whites reflected the inconsistency of the vintage, so that while the Meursault Genevrières had good energy, it was a bit hard and ungainly, whereas the Meursault Perrières was outstanding, being minerally and intense, with pears, spice, white flowers, and a very long finish. The Corton-Charlemagne was a bit puzzling, with the right components but not necessarily in the right order; it finished quite well though, and if this knits, it could be excellent.  The wood on the Chevalier seemed a bit obtrusive to me, though it was full-bodied with a spicy stony finish. I preferred the Chevalier La Cabotte, which had a razor-sharpness to the palate, and was really showing its links to both Chevalier and Montrachet with its richness, power, and honeyed edge and yet lovely floral elements as well. It also far outshone the Montrachet itself, which despite enormous fat, seemed to lack both balance and concentration.

Laurent Ponsot.  In addition to a St. Romain, which although quite attractive will not be produced in future years because of a non-compete agreement with Domaine Ponsot, and a Corton-Charlemagne that he has been making for some years (and which is very good in ’16, with excellent spice and a strong mineral edge coupled with sweet fruit), Laurent has been busily acquiring the production of white wines, predominantly in Meursault. I have immense respect for Laurent’s talent, but as the great Henri Jayer pointed out some years ago, there are few if any winemakers, however talented, who are able to make both great reds and great whites, and these Meursaults struck me as a capable first effort but not yet close to the equal in quality of the reds that have made Laurent’s reputation over many years.

 Odds and Ends.  From Michel Lafarge, a Bourgogne Aligoté Raisins Dorées, harvested October 8th, that would make a pleasant, easy aperitif, and a more serious Meursault Village, which was quite balanced, with sweet peaches, flowers, and good minerality; from Méo-Camuzet, a soft and inviting Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blanc Clos St.-Philibert; and finally, for those who have written off the ’15 whites as too ripe to be great, a simply stunning 2015 Montrachet from DRC, with a nose of complex spice, minerals, beeswax, white flowers, and honey; lovely balance–as this somehow managed to be lush and rich but also balanced and racy–and as it opened, it became more and more complex, with vibrant acidity, great purity and incredible length (98).

A Postscript:

 Last year in my report on the 2015s, I mentioned that Allen Meadows and I have been working on a book on Burgundy vintages since 1845, and offered the hope that it might be in print by this time. As with so many things (the ’99 reds, for example), it has taken longer than expected. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that it will be available by late 2018—and that, like the ‘99s, it will have been worth the wait!

© 2017 Douglas E. Barzelay





2015 Burgundies–Behind the Hype



Following several years of small crops and less than ideal conditions, Burgundy needed a “great” vintage, and when in 2015 a relatively problem-free growing season produced ripe and clean fruit at harvest, the vintage garnered lavish praise and prices ran away at the annual Hospices auction.  Burgundy collectors are now eagerly awaiting the release of the wines. Prices are likely to be stratospheric, and the wines hard to find at any price. Are they worth it?

The answer is: yes, if you choose carefully. The reds overall are successful, much more so than the whites (though some quite fine whites were made). But even among the reds, producers struggled to find the right balance between fruit and acidity. Where they succeeded, the wines are magnificent–the best since at least 2005.  But success was not uniform, even among the very best producers, and too many wines are ripe, rich and charming but lack the balance needed to achieve greatness.  For the most part, the harvest period was clement, despite a little rain.  For the reds, it was therefore a matter of optimization–picking when the fruit was ripe but still had good levels of acidity—based on the state of each particular vineyard. A few days either way didn’t result in disaster, but it didn’t result in perfection either. Once the wines were in the cuverie, the next task was managing the extraction, as it was easy to get that wrong as well, especially given the high ratio of skins to juice.

For the whites, early picking (in August!) was essential to preserve freshness; too many of the wines picked in September are top-heavy and lack balance, though they are fruity and charming and will no doubt find an audience.

The 2015 growing season began well: the spring was very dry, and while oïdium was a danger, it could be treated effectively. The flowering began on the early side and passed well, followed by some clement rains in June. Temperatures turned extremely hot in July (I was there early in the month and recall a succession of days in the high-90s F.), and dry, after which a generally warm August, though with some beneficial rain, allowed the maturities to advance rapidly, leading to an early September harvest. The weather during most of the harvest was ideal (other than a September 1st hailstorm that severely damaged parts of Chablis). The grapes were healthy and ripe (see the photo at the top of this post of grapes from Roumier’s Bonnes Mares), and little if any triage was needed, though the berries tended to be small.  Quantities were generally small to normal, and there was very little malic acidity, though the malos often took a long time to complete (a handful were still going when we visited in November).

The Reds. Producers frequently compared this vintage to a mix of 2009 (also very ripe, though a bit plush for some critics) and 2005 (a ripe but dense and intense vintage whose strong tannins have kept most of the better wines completely shut down, even 11 years after the vintage), with 2015 having more structure and density than 2009 and less intense tannins than 2005. Others, such as Aubert de Villaine, cited 2003 and 2005 as reference points (2003 being even more ripe and intensely fruity–to the point sometimes of overripeness–than 2009).  The most intriguing comparison, though, was made by Michel Lafarge, who reached back to 1929 for a parallel (he was born in 1928 and so had many opportunities to taste the ‘29s in their prime). The ’29s combined a forward and generous nature with elegance, purity and concentrated flavors, and, making the comparison most apt, the texture of the best wines was exceptionally rich. For it is in their silky textures that one finds the special appeal of the best 2015s, and what to me sets them apart from any of the more recent vintages cited as parallels.  However, while the ‘29s aged reasonably well, they were not long-distance wines, and similarly the ‘15s, unlike the ‘05s, are likely to be enjoyable by those reading these notes, rather than their grandchildren. This is not to say the ’15s will not close down after bottling, but it is unlikely to be for such an extended period as the ‘05s have, and the tannins are far less prominent in the ‘15s.

All that said, while there are few poor wines in this vintage, and many that will give pleasure to those who are happy with lush, fruity Burgundies (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), finding the wines that will epitomize the magic of Burgundy at maturity–balancing the ripe fruit with enough acidity to provide terroir transparency, and with silky textures–requires a bit more effort. Yet it’s likely that all the 2015s, from great to just ok, will carry price tags not seen before for young Burgundy. Only the very best wines will be worth the premium.

There were successful reds in all parts of the Côte d’Or, and one of the features of a uniformly ripe vintage such as 2015 is that wines from areas more notable for their strong acidic structures (Auxey-Duresses, to cite one example), got ripe in this vintage but still retained enough acidity to give them excellent balance. Similarly, Steen Ohman (Winehog) has noted that within the prime areas of the Côte, wines from those vineyards prone to remain cooler (especially those located in the combes, or valleys between the slopes where cool breezes predominate) generally achieved better balance than their counterparts from warmer sites. Also, Nuits St. Georges merits special mention, as the wines seemed more refined, and less rustic, than usual.

The Whites. Often in warm vintages, the whites have more trouble maintaining balance than the reds, and 2015 is no exception. For the most part, the wines are rich but fat and heavy, lacking the crisp acidity that characterizes the best white Burgundies. Nonetheless, the fruit and floral aspects of these wines will certainly appeal to many people. And there were growers who foresaw the problem, and picked very early (at the end of August) to capture the acidity in the wines; these are among the most successful whites of the vintage. (Stopping the malolactic fermentation, as at Jadot, also seems to have been a successful formula in 2015.) Nevertheless, 2014 remains a far better white wine vintage, and if the 2015 whites get caught up in the overall vintage hype, they are unlikely to represent good value.

The Usual Caution. Predictions based on barrel tasting are difficult even in the most straightforward of vintages. Wines in barrel can change from day-to-day depending on such factors as the temperature in the cellar and the barometric pressure, and more than once, a producer has noted that his wines tasted very different a week or even a day before. Furthermore, wines are often reduced at this time, particularly as racking during the elevage seems to have gone out of favor among many producers, and this may make the wine attenuated and difficult to read. And of course, many things can happen between barrel and bottle.

A Preview of Coming Attractions. As many of you know, I have been working for the last several years, together with Allen Meadows, on a book on Burgundy vintages from 1845 to the present. We are now nearing the end of the (rather voluminous) manuscript, and if all goes well, the book will appear in print by late 2017.  If it achieves our aims, it should provide insight into what a contemporary Burgundy lover may expect from vintages, both older and younger, that are still available in the marketplace, as well as providing an historical record of older vintages and a perspective on how the production, the quality and the appreciation of Burgundy wines have all evolved over the past centuries and decades.


The Côte de Nuits

 The Domaines:

DRC. Not surprisingly, DRC made brilliant wines in 2015, the best of which may ultimately stand comparison with ’99 and ’90. (Aubert de Villaine, though, favors a comparison of ’15 to a mix of ’03 and ’05–the richness of ’03 but without the surmaturité, and the structure of ’05 without the strong tannins.)  The Echézeaux was a bit of a heavyweight, rather intense, and notwithstanding the fairly refined tannins, it seemed rather muscular for Echézeaux, though it was sufficiently reduced to make any judgment quite tentative. The Grands Ech had great balance and elegance, dense sweet fruit, and a soaring finish–showing finesse and precision, it will be a great Grands Ech. The RSV was extremely dense, with characteristically complex spice, and had a more open structure and more softness that the Grands Ech (or the Riche, for that matter). Aubert said he thought this would be one of the top wines of the vintage, but at least on this day, fine as it was, the Riche, LT and RC all surpassed it. The Riche, which unlike the RSV had been racked, had a superb and classic Richebourg nose, with black cherries, game, soy, violets, minerals and perfume, and remarkable intensity, power and finesse, plus an extremely persistent finish. The La Tâche elicited a “wow,” with a nose of oriental spice that jumped out of the glass and a silky texture, though some tannins that seemed slightly aggressive–due to the recent racking, according to Aubert–plus excellent transparency and great length. The Romanée-Conti, often reticent at this stage compared to the LT, was quite different, but a level beyond the LT. One could sense the spherical structure even on the nose, while on the palate it was elegant, with amazing finesse and a finer silk even than the LT, plus almost infinite complexity and a super-extended finish. Overall, these are very great wines—at the top level, among the finest of the vintage–and will be worth the stratospheric prices they are sure to command.

Liger-Belair. Louis-Michel has crafted extremely fine wines once again, and they are largely consistent across the range. The Vosne Village was very fine, with sweet red and black fruit, good lift and balance and a sense of silk, and the Vosne Clos du Château, while reduced, still displayed great purity, as did the Vosne Chaumes, with a sense of freshness and a spicy mineral finish. The Vosne Suchots was quite dense, but had supple tannins and a pure finish, while the Vosne Petits Monts, with a bit cooler fruit and a coffee note, had suave tannins and was developing some silkiness. The Vosne Brulées, which will not be commercialized (only 1 barrel is made), had great depth to the nose and a lovely note of rose petal from the stems; this was quite complex, with balance, lift and amazing energy. The Vosne Reignots had a nose of deep black cherry and, as I wrote, “bloody duck”, but more prosaically, this had real density and dry extract, and while the tannins seemed a bit stronger here, this will be very fine. The Echézeaux seemed a bit denser, less elegant and less light on its feet than the best Vosne 1ers crus, but the reduction made it hard to read. The La Romanée was still quite primary on the nose, with black cherry, spice and soy notes, and with great density; it opened to an immensely powerful and minerally finish with great transparency; meanwhile, the tannins, while not shy, were quite supple.

We also tasted a Mazis-Chambertin Cuvée Collignon from the Hospices de Beaune that was intense, rich and persistent, and a Clos de la Roche Cuvée Kritter, also from the Hospices (both of these purchased by a group of which I am a member), that had great clarity and density, and was structured and intense, powerful yet refined. Finally, we tasted two versions of the 2014 Vosne Clos du Château, one farmed organically and the other farmed and raised biodynamically, and I do have to say that, despite my skeptical view, which is that biodynamics is mostly organic farming with a lot of mysticism added, there was just a bit–but a noticeable bit–of greater purity on the biodynamic version.

Hudelot-Noëllat.  Charles van Canneyt told us there had been more than 25 days between the domaine’s first and last pickings in the Côte de Nuits, as they strove to optimize the maturity in each parcel. Yields were normal, the alcoholic degrees topped out at 13.5 (for the Nuits Murgers) and he used a small amount of whole cluster. While the range didn’t seem entirely consistent, the best wines were top-notch, including a Bourgogne (which also excelled in 2014) that was quite ripe but had good balancing acidity and will likely be a good value for the vintage, and a lovely Chambolle Village that had bright black cherries on the nose and palate, a creamy texture, spice and a saline touch, with excellent mineral lift.  The Nuits Murgers and Chambolle Charmes were both reduced, but the Nuits was showing a velvety texture and a floral component, and the Charmes had incredible depth of fruit on the nose. The Vosne Beaumonts was particularly outstanding, with bright fruit and spice on the nose, a gamy element, and mineral purity in the center, an intense wine with a lot of dry extract. The Suchots was both more powerful and had sweeter fruit, but I slightly preferred the clarity of the Beaumonts. The Malconsorts had a pure and spicy nose, with deeply pitched dark fruit; on the palate, it seemed deceptively light at first, but then incredibly pure fruit came back, and it showed great equilibrium, purity and lift on the finish, almost like a ’10.  The Romanée St.-Vivant was characteristically spicy and had succulent fruit, with the acidity almost hidden underneath but definitely present, some strong but supple tannins and excellent length. Best of all was the Richebourg, with deeply pitched black fruit, incredible density and power, great balance and supple tannins plus a long, minerally finish.

Meo-Camuzet.  While there was some variation here, for the most part these are outstanding wines, beginning with the Vosne Village; I particularly liked its depth, intensity and spiciness. The Nuits Murgers was also particularly good, ripe and sweet, dense, earthy and powerful, though with an alcohol level of almost 14o. The Clos de Vougeot was less alcoholic, at 13.4o, and was ripe, dense and very concentrated, with the concentration carrying through the long finish; this will need considerable time. We tasted two versions of the Vosne Brulées, one racked into tank and the other back into barrel; the former was showing more wood and the nose was a bit difficult, but both displayed wonderful silky textures, purity in the middle, and a long, pure minerally and spicy finish with supple tannins. The Vosne Cros Parantoux, which comes from a cool climate site, was a particular standout, with a super-dense nose of black cherry, citrus and minerals, and great refinement on the palate; this was pure and had great balance. The Richebourg was also extremely fine, with a nose that showed exceptionally ripe fruit, though very primary still; it was large-framed (with the wood still in evidence), with supple tannins and a developing velvety finish.

Sylvain Cathiard. Young Sébastian Cathiard continues to improve the quality of these wines, including modulating the oak treatment; however, word is out, and the prices have more than kept pace with the increasing quality. Discussing the inevitable comparison with 2005, he noted that the 2015s had silkier tannins. While the lower-level wines could still benefit from less new oak, the 1ers crus were excellent, including a Nuits Aux Thorey where the ripe fruit really came through but was balanced by good acidity and a transparent minerality, and though there was some earthiness, overall this was more like a Vosne without the spice than a Nuits. By contrast, the Nuits Murgers was much denser and more powerful than the Thorey, earthy and with more pronounced tannins, but also with a purity of fruit that ran through it from nose to tail.  The Vosne En Orveaux (from the combe) was especially fine, with pure black cherry fruit and light oriental spice on the nose, plus soy, cream and minerals; this was juicy, light and pure, with a supple, almost silky texture to it. The Vosne Suchots had deeper spice and was quite saline, with some strong tannins and a peppery note, while the Vosne Malconsorts, which had finished its malo only two weeks earlier, was the hardest to understand, but even though it was not yet integrated, it had great density and enormous depth, and a long structured finish suggesting that with time, this will be superb. Finally, there was the glorious Romanée St.-Vivant, with its subtle mix of oriental spices, sweet ripe cherry fruit underpinned with a pure minerally acidity, drive, energy and presence, strong but highly refined tannins, and a long, elegant pure finish.

Jean Grivot. As at Cathiard, the malos here were very late, and a few had not even finished when we tasted in November. The Vosne 1ers crus were quite good, particularly a soft, elegant and complete Beaumonts (albeit with a hint of chocolate) and also a soft, silky and seamless Suchots. Pride of place, however, went to the Nuits 1ers crus, including a Pruliers that was structured, intense and earthy, with a sweet minerally saline finish; a Boudots that was creamy and voluptuous, with a super-rich, velvety, and exceptionally long finish; and particularly Roncieres, with pure and translucent strawberry fruit on the nose, an incredible silky softness, and tannins that dissolved into a light, sweet, slightly earthy and extremely long finish. While as usual I found the Clos de Vougeot here to be too massive for my taste, I liked the Echézeaux, which was rich and velvety, and was particularly impressed by the Richebourg, with its supple fruit, a deep spicy mineral underpinning, characteristic Richebourg power, and a long and elegant finish.

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. I am a great fan of the wines of this domaine, but I admit that the ‘15s left me a bit puzzled. The domaine’s wines are characteristically pure, elegant and subtle, but in ‘15s by contrast more than a few wines seemed a bit on the extracted side–perhaps a little reminiscent of the ‘03s here, but in that vintage, it had been virtually impossible to avoid. That is not to say the wines are bad–several are quite excellent–just that one expected a bit more in this vintage from these supremely talented, if self-effacing, winemakers. Certainly, I will want to retaste these in bottle as I am hoping that my concerns may prove to be unwarranted. Among the more successful wines were a Nuits Chaignots that had gobs of sweet fruit yet kept its freshness, with cinnamon, ginger and mocha notes, some tannin at the end but silk developing–another instance of a Nuits that seemed Vosne-like in character; a Ruchottes-Chambertin with great purity and a creamy texture–an integrated, fresh and energetic wine, probably helped by the mix of old and young vines; and a Clos de Vougeot that, despite its richness and density maintained drive and power in the middle, with a long, suave finish–if the Ruchottes was exuberant, this was stately.

Arnoux-Lachaux. This was our first visit to this domaine, about which we have been hearing some very good reports of late. Pascal Lachaux is passing the baton to his son, Charles, who is 27, but remains fully involved. The results of this visit were mixed, with a good number of exceptional wines but others that were less persuasive. Lachaux used more whole cluster than normal in ’15, feeling it was appropriate for this vintage (in some of the better cuvées, it was 100% rather than a more normal 30-40%). Among the successes were a Vosne Hautes Mazières, with pure black fruit on the nose, good acid balance and a nice spicy element–a very good Village wine; a Nuits Clos des Corvées Pagets, a 1er cru with excellent mineral lift, purity and spice; and a Vosne Chaumes, whose purity and density I found quite appealing. The Echézeaux was particularly fine, more in red fruit than black, pure and with great balance, elegance and mineral lift, as was the Vosne Reignots (shown after the Echézeaux), still reduced but with a great deal of extract, combined with excellent freshness and a silky mouthfeel. The Romanée St.-Vivant was best of all, with a deep but restrained nose, beautiful black fruit and spice under, very precise and structured, perfumed from the stems, and with excellent balance, but above all it is the density here that presages an extremely fine wine as it ages.

Roumier.  Not surprisingly, Christophe made brilliant wines in 2015. Christophe said they have a similar balance to the ‘05s, but that the tannins in ’05 were harder, and that waiting to pick in ’15 seems to have paid off. The Chambolle Village had spicy red fruit, excellent lift and elegance and fine balance, while the Morey Clos de la Bussière was, as expected, denser than the Chambolle, rich and a bit on the heavy side. The Chambolle Cras was superb, with a soaring black cherry nose, anise and a strong floral note; while dense and complex, it remained extremely well balanced, with a long, saline, intense finish. The Bonnes Mares was complex and pure, with intense dry extract, power, cinnamon spice, cherry fruit and citrus and floral notes; the tannins were very refined, and the long finish seemed to be just beginning its arc of development. The Chambolle Amoureuses was even better, with amazing density of sweet fruit, a deep saline minerality and nearly as much body as the Bonnes Mares; this is a remarkably refined wine, with a simply amazing finish that was dense, fruity and pure, and nearly endless.

Ghislaine Barthod. This domaine doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, probably because there are no grands crus. Nonetheless, the winemaking is consistently excellent, and the range of 1ers crus provides a wonderful view of the terroir differences within the same commune (Chambolle).  The wines here were between 12.8 and 13.2o.  In 2015, the entire range was appealing, beginning with a deep, dark-fruited and somewhat brooding Chambolle Châtelots (Ghislaine said that, with the advent of cold weather, the wines had begun to shut down a bit); a Beaux Bruns that had a hint of sandalwood and was developing a creamy texture, with a spicy finish; and an extremely rich Gruenchers, a crowd-pleaser that elicited positive reactions from the group, though its brown sugar aspect made me hesitate. Better still were the Baudes, with a spicy red fruit nose that jumped out of the glass, fine balance, structure and purity, and a Fuées, with incredible depth on the nose, perfume, cinnamon and mineral lift–while it perhaps lost a little focus towards the back, it had a real sense of velvet to it. Yet another step up were the Charmes, with a spicy black cherry nose that had a beautiful mineral underpinning, density and structure on the palate, tension and richness, with a driven finish and a fair amount of tannin that was quite refined; and a Veroilles that showed incredible purity on the nose, followed by a velvety richness, penetrating minerality and power, and again, refined tannins that gave structure to the wine (this parcel of Veroilles, just above Bonnes Mares, was classified as a 1er cru in 1987). Best of all was the Cras, a worthy rival to Roumier’s beautiful expression of this terroir, with the most dense and intense nose of the entire range, complex, with an almost chewy texture–this is close to grand cru weight, and displays silky tannins and a tense, powerful and extremely long finish. This will need time but will be superb.

J.F. Mugnier. In the late ‘90s and through much of the first decade of the 21st Century, this domaine produced some of the most compelling wines of Burgundy, with a purity and lightness of touch that beautifully expressed the terroirs, particularly Musigny and Amoureuses.  In more recent years, however, it seems as if the magic has, for reasons that are mysterious to me, begun to fade. They are still good wines, but out of barrel, at least, they no longer seem as compelling as they once did. The Chambolle Village was very nice, lighter but also more spice-infused than the Roumier version, and with considerable charm, but the Fuées didn’t seem fully integrated, with the components expressing themselves seriatim rather than as a whole.  Similarly, the Bonnes Mares, while dense and showing some creaminess, did not seem put together, and was rather clumsy compared to the Roumier version. The Chambolle Amoureuses had more potential, with some good fruit and silkiness, but will need time to come together. The Musigny was deeply pitched, dense, with rich fruit in the middle, lots of dry extract and hints of silk, with strong tannins and a bright minerally acidity–a very fine Musigny, to be sure, but not one of the top wines of the vintage, as it so often was a decade or more ago. Perhaps it’s simply unfair to expect that level of quality on a consistent basis, though it was what one had come to expect at this address.

Fourrier.  The affable, talented Jean-Marie Fourrier compared ’15 to a cross between ’09 and ’10, but said that overall, what really sets this vintage apart is the texture of the wines. He noted that it was a vintage characterized by small berries, and an exceptional ratio of skins to juice, and that the challenge in ’15 was to keep balance and purity, and not to over-extract. Not surprisingly, he was up to the challenge. The Gevrey V.V., from the north side of the village (which Jean-Marie felt did particularly well in ’15 because of shade from the hillside in the late afternoon) had nice clarity, light fruit and meat aromas; it was pretty though not textural, with a persistent finish. The Chambolle Gruenchers had a gorgeous raspberry nose, with floral overtones, excellent presence and a velvety texture developing, and had transparency and great length. Among the Gevrey 1ers crus, the Goulots had a nose with deep spice, black cherry, anise and lavender, and there was excellent lift and equilibrium, with the tannins already becoming velvety, and a long, pure finish. The Combe Aux Moines had a deeply pitched nose, power and purity, though it was slightly meatier and sturdier than the Champeaux, which in its turn was particularly outstanding, with notes of clove and dark berry fruit–a mineral-driven wine, wrapped in a light layer of sweet fruit, and a fabulous finish of transparent minerality, spice, freshness and excellent length. The Clos St. Jacques was simply superb, with a wonderful sense of coolness to it–great balance, but also purity and harmony, enough black cherry fruit but not overdone, a juicy quality, and notes of meat, cinnamon and anise; at the end, it was very minerally, with supple tannins and a remarkably long, pure finish.  The Griottes unfolded in layers, with a silky texture developing; the fruit was sweeter than that of the CSJ, but it was also minerally and dense, ultimately richer, riper and denser than the CSJ but perhaps not having quite the same transparency–differences in temperament rather than differences in quality. Finally, we saw two of the negociant wines, a charming and balanced Chambolle Amoureuses that didn’t quite have the intensity and precision of the domaine wines, and a Chambertin that surely did, a mineral-driven, powerful wine with great energy, balance and length, as well as superb precision, finishing with supple and refined tannins.

Trapet.  Overall, Jean-Louis Trapet fashioned a very successful range in 2015. The Gevrey Village, while not yet racked and therefore very reduced, showed great fruit on the palate and a lovely texture, and the Gevrey Ostrea, while also reduced, had a beautifully transparent mid-palate, with red fruits, cinnamon and allspice, meat, good minerality and a long and pure finish. The Gevrey Petit Chapelle, at 14o, had great density and intensity, indeed almost grand cru weight–there is a lot of material here, though it needs some further development. The Gevrey Clos Prieur was particularly outstanding, with pure minerality, enormous drive and freshness, and plenty of fruit–a massive 1er cru that nonetheless kept its balance. The Chapelle Chambertin and Latricieres-Chambertin both had plenty of ripe fruit, the former quite minerally with a lot of tannin wrapped in dense fruit, and the latter with a cool minerality typical of the terroir; right now, though, both were carrying a fair amount of wood which will need to integrate. The Chambertin, as usual, was the best wine here, showing great promise with rich fruit, meat, cloves, a saline, juicy note, and great density but also lift, with some wood spice at the end, followed by a beautiful, pure and long finish.

Bruno Clair.  Mostly very good wines here in 2015, albeit with some inconsistency, as a few of the wines showed some rather hard tannins for the vintage. The Chambolle Veroilles (a Village wine; only the Barthod parcel of this lieux dit is classified as 1er cru) was particularly successful, with cool fruit, strawberries and perfume, transparent minerality, and a sense of density but also excellent balance. The Savigny Les Dominodes was also a standout, with a nose of cassis, minerals, cinnamon, mocha and toast and excellent density on the palate; this is quite refined for Savigny, with a bright, minerally finish and supple tannins. The first three Gevrey 1ers crus we tasted (Clos Fontenys, Petit Chapelle and Cazetiers) all had good clarity and density, but seemed a bit on the meaty side; they were all good without being compelling. The last of the 1ers, the Clos St. Jacques, was a different story: delicate black fruit on the nose, with very transparent minerality, hints of cinnamon and cocoa, finishing very well with suave tannins; if it didn’t quite match the clarity and drive of the Fourrier, it was very fine nonetheless. The Clos de Bèze was open, pure, charming and fresh; not a dense or powerful example, but very nice. Best was the Bonnes Mares (all from Terre Blanche), with brooding black cherry fruit, spice, power, density and a remarkably long finish.

Ponsot. When I visited Burgundy around September 9th in 2015, the harvest was in full swing most places, but Laurent Ponsot remained magnificently unruffled; though he had moved up his harvest date somewhat, he would not start until after most others had finished. Notwithstanding the dangers of late picking in this vintage, the results were for the most part superb. Alcohol levels, according to Laurent, were around 13.5o.  The Chambolle Charmes was excellent, still quite primary and with a strong minerality, while the Morey 1er cru Cuvée des Alouettes was even better, with great density, deep fruit, spice and a touch of champignons; this was quite minerally and pure and extremely long. The Corton Bressandes was still not quite finished with its malo (as was also true for a few other wines we encountered on this trip), so could not be evaluated. The Griotte-Chambertin had beautiful sweet cherry fruit on the nose, with perfect mineral balance; the tannins were still on the fierce side but also beginning to soften and develop a silky quality, and there was both rich fruit and great purity on the exceptionally long finish. The Chapelle-Chambertin, with sweet raspberry fruit, seemed to have bright balancing acidity, and is likely to be fine, but is still developing.  Curiously, the Chambertin seemed to lack weight, and the fruit seemed a bit simple. However, this was a momentary hiccup, as the Clos de la Roche was first-rate, with deep sweet fruit, smoke, champignons, and an iron filings edge; the tannins were strong but supple, and the wine had a purity and directness to it, with power and complex spice, floral and plum touches, and good length. Best of all this year was the Clos St. Denis, with a pure, calm nose of brilliant precision and depth; with rich fruit and great purity, supple and refined tannins and a long, elegant silky finish, this was a truly astonishing wine that will likely stand among the best of the vintage, and it reminded me in that respect of the ethereal 1985.

Dujac. Jacques Seysses guided our tasting, and it appeared as though he has become increasingly re-engaged in the affairs of the domaine.  Certainly the Seysses family produced a very fine range of ‘15s. We began with an interesting side-by-side of the domaine and negociant village Moreys, with the domaine showing much greater density, and Jacques was forthright in saying that the yields were higher, and there was less concentration, in the negociant version. Neither, though, was especially compelling, but matters rapidly improved with a terrific Gevrey Combottes, which was intense and very fruity–a pretty wine but with serious density behind it, displaying a creamy texture. The Vosne Beaumonts had been racked only an hour before, but even so had a sweet, velvety entry, great richness, and focus.  The Malconsorts was not yet racked but still showed a soft and elegant texture and great potential, and the Echézeaux, also unracked, had intense black fruit and a lovely silky texture. The Charmes-Chambertin was spicy and meaty, with rich dark plummy fruit and a pure, bright minerally finish. The Clos St. Denis, which had recently been racked, had beautiful pure black cherry fruit on the nose, again a lovely silky texture, with great density but also elegance, good minerality and a bit of spicy oak on the long finish. The Clos de la Roche had an orange note on the nose, along with dense dark fruit, and great intensity on the palate, then quite creamy tannins and great length; this is a wine of power and density, and it will be quite interesting to compare it at maturity with the Ponsot.  Finally, the Bonnes Mares, which had not been racked, showed less density but more purity than the prior wines, with a strong minerality and good balance; there was a sense of dryness on the finish, but the tannins seemed quite refined.

Clos de Tart. We tasted a close approximation of the likely final blend.  Alcohol will be about 13.3o for the final blend and it will be close to 50% whole cluster. The result will be quite fine: the blend showed a deep intense spicy nose with as much minerality as fruit, even though there was quite a bit of the latter; this was deep, balanced but very powerful, with a touch of gingerbread, a bit of wood, and fairly supple tannins; on the finish, there was excellent drive and persistence.

The Negociants:

Often at the negociant tastings one gets a broader view of the relative success of the vintage: given the mix of wines made from properties owned by the domaine and those purchased as grapes or as wine, you can get a view of how easy or difficult it was to succeed in the vintage. My tastings at the negociant houses reinforced the impression that ’15 was not a vintage in which success was assured; rather, it was a vintage in which many wines will provide very good drinking (at a price), but in which the full potential could be realized only if the right decisions were made at critical points.

Drouhin.  We began the Côte de Nuits range with a very fine Nuits Procès, which was more reflective of the vintage than Nuits (not a bad thing)–an accessible wine with terrific plummy and sweet cassis fruit, silkiness and good balance. The Chambolle Amoureuses was, as expected, better still: beginning with huge, sweet fruit up front, this was a dense, complex and massive Amoureuses with a gorgeous finish, though the minerality seemed a bit sidelined by the fruit. One of the best wines of the tasting was the Vosne Petits Monts, with great balance of fruit and minerality, incredible density, finesse, and a pure long finish. Among the grands crus, the Clos de Vougeot was very good, with a raspberry nose and notes of cocoa, anise, plums and cherries, but with some mineral lift and nice purity and texture on the finish. The Griotte-Chambertin was very reduced, as it always is at this time of year, but seemed broad-framed, rich and supple.  The Bèze, uncharacteristically (but like several other Bèzes in this vintage) seemed soft, meaty and sweet, but lacking grip. The Musigny was quite reticent on the nose, and there was a bit of reduction, which seemed to harden the tannins, but it showed its class on the finish, with profound density, depth and balance.

Faiveley. Erwan Faiveley and winemaker Jerome Flous presented the wines, and noted that there was now between 25-30% whole cluster in most cuvées. While the 1ers crus were a bit inconsistent, the Nuits Les St. Georges was superb, with a deep and subtle nose of black fruit, spice, anise and minerals, a wine of great presence and density but with excellent lift, a silky texture, and no little power; on the finish, it was incredibly persistent, with tannins mostly buried in the fruit. The Echézeaux was lush and charming, but there was good lift from the acidity, and mellow tannins in back, while the Clos de Vougeot was more structured, dense and tannic, with a long transparent finish–a wine that will need time. The Mazis had huge, ripe, almost plummy fruit but the acidity to support it, while the Clos de Bèze had a nice mineral edge to the nose, and was quite structured, though it seemed to be missing a little of the characteristic Bèze spice. Best were the Latricières and the Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin, which supported Erwan’s view that Gevrey had been the most successful commune in 2015, because of a bit more of the much-needed rainfall in August.  The Latricières was silky and transparent, with deep sweet fruit that was completely balanced by the acidity, a long and seamless wine. The nose of the Ouvrées Rodin jumped out of the glass, with great intensity, saturated black fruit, small berries, a slate-like minerality—this was a pure and seamless wine, forming a rounded whole, with the tannins both supple and completely integrated.

Bouchard.  As is discussed below, I found the Côte de Beaunes overall quite successful here, while the Côte de Nuits wines were somewhat more inconsistent. My favorites among the latter included a Nuits Les Cailles, which as with many Nuits wines in this vintage, seemed more elegant and less rustic than usual, though there was some real density here as well.  The Chambolle Les Noirots (from purchased grapes) was easy and crowd-pleasing, and I mention it particularly because it seems to epitomize a number of the wines likely to come out of this vintage, with lots of sweet black cherry fruit and good texture and a saline touch at the end but not much evident acidity. The Echézeaux (a domaine wine) was in a not dissimilar vein, with velvet, perfume and rosewater notes, not quite grand cru weight, but elegant and understated. By contrast, the Clos de Bèze (also from purchased grapes) was in a heavy, powerful style, not an elegant wine but rich and ripe. Best of all was the Clos de Vougeot, a domaine wine, which had plummy fruit, cream, spice and soy on the nose, with lovely texture on the front palate, great balance and good density without being heavy, and a long ripe fruit finish—an excellent expression of Clos de Vougeot, which seems to have produced more than its normal share of successes in this vintage.

Jadot. While the wines are consistently improving under Frédéric Barnier, the range and its sources are sufficiently broad and diverse that even as they become more individually expressive, consistency remains elusive. That said, there were a number of successful Côte de Nuits wines in 2015, beginning with a Nuits Cailles that was quite round and elegant for Nuits, with some spice, earthy tannins and a long finish. The Vosne Suchots was round, open, easy and well balanced, while the Vosne Beaumonts was also soft and appealing, with some soft tannins and excellent length.  Better still was the Chambolle Amoureuses, which was soft, creamy and delicate though with some power behind; it seemed to have more density than some of the wines from this vineyard in this year, if not quite the precision of the very best examples. Not surprisingly the Gevrey Clos St. Jacques was the star 1er cru (and a star overall), with a beautiful pure nose of strawberries, cinnamon and minerals; this had purity, delicacy and balancing acidity—everything needed to make it an elegant, restrained and compelling Clos St. Jacques. Among the grands crus, there was a very good Clos de Bèze, with grilled meat and spice on the nose, a lot of sweet fruit but also good supporting acidity–an easy and early drinking wine that nonetheless showed some structure on the finish. There was yet another excellent Clos de Vougeot, and I especially liked its ripeness and balance. The Musigny was also quite good, with a nose of black cherry, cinnamon, pepper, violets and an orange note; this was a soft, juicy and creamy Moose which was quite lovely, even if not as precise as some, though with refined tannins and a persistent and elegant finish. However, the Bonnes Mares was showing even better, with even more density than most examples of this wine, great power and richness, but good structure and a drive and intensity that is quite compelling.

The Côte de Beaune

 The Domaines:

Lafarge.  Frédéric and Chantal Lafarge are quite proud of their venture in the Beaujolais, and we sampled several of the ‘15s from this region. While beyond the scope of this review, I can say that, for lovers of Beaujolais, the results quite justify their pride.  Their focus, however, remains on the Côte de Beaune, and their best ‘15s are truly exceptional. I quite liked the Volnay Vendanges Sélectionées, which had an excellent floral touch to add to the sweet black and red fruits and minerals; the Beaune Grèves, from 94 year old vines, which was quite dense, with lovely fruit and pure minerality, though it still seemed slightly unsettled; the Pommard Pezerolles (missing for the last three vintages because of hail), which was quite earthy and dense, with medium tannins, a nutty element, some cinnamon and a perfumed quality; and the Volnay Pitures, with pure and deep black cherry fruit on the nose, some earthiness in the mid-palate, and then pure fruit returning on the finish (this wine, which is from the Chanlins climat but entitled to be called Pitures, was not made in the last three vintages and prior to that, was labelled as Volnay 1er Cru; it was not entirely clear how it will be labelled in 2015, but welcome to Burgundy). However, the real fireworks were to come: the Volnay Clos du Ch. des Ducs, with a beautifully perfumed nose, was delicately spicy and pure, with significant but suave tannins and more power and complexity than the Caillerets, though the latter was more elegant. Indeed, the Volnay Caillerets was an exceptional wine, with great lift to the rich fruit, minerals, a floral touch, superb balance and purity, and consistency from beginning to end–an elegant wine.  The Volnay Clos des Chênes was stunning: a soaring nose of complex red and black fruits, hints of game, minerals and spice, with exceptional purity; on the palate, it was super-dense, minerally, balanced, with great ripe fruit, suave tannins and a pure, extremely long finish, a wine of supreme elegance to put up against the best wines of the Côte de Nuits.

D’Angerville. Guillaume d’Angerville told us that while 2015 had finally been a year without hail, there had been a small crop nonetheless, down about 30% from what had been average before the hail, except in Clos des Ducs where there was a normal crop. The wines here were in different stages, with the Taillepieds still in malo, and therefore not judgeable, and the other wines having been recently racked, except for Champans and Clos des Ducs.  The difference was quite noticeable, as the recently racked wines were distinctly less expressive than the Champans and Ducs. Nonetheless, I think there is excellent potential in the Volnay Les Angles, with sweet black fruit, perfume and a floral touch, plenty of acidity and tannin and a lot of extract; the Volnay Fremiets, which was concentrated and had huge volume on the palate, and tannins that while on the dry side seemed to be turning silky; and Volnay Caillerets, with a good mineral underpinning to the dense, super-ripe fruit. The Champans, having been racked months earlier, was showing beautifully, with deep black cherries and spice on the nose, perfume, red berries and mineral lift; the tannins seemed a bit fierce at first but then receded. The Clos des Ducs was even better than the Champans on the nose, with a gamy touch; I loved the lift on this wine, even though it was quite dense, with a lot of dry extract, plus of course intensely rich fruit, and a perfumed quality. The tannins were much more restrained and refined than those of the Champans, and there was excellent density on the long finish.

Comte Armand. Last year I wrote that while Paul Zinetti seemed to be a quite talented winemaker, he hadn’t been given much to work with in the hail year of 2014. This year, he had far better raw materials, and has made the most of them. He compared 2015 to 2010 (the other one who mentioned ’10 as a comparative was Jean-Marie Fourrier), citing their balance and elegance.  The two wines from Auxey-Duresses showed what can happen when a terroir typically characterized by its strong acidity actually gets ripe, and the results were marvelous: the Auxey Village was rich, sweet and charming, with the acidity providing a lovely counterweight rather than completely dominating (this wine should be a good value in ’15), while the Auxey 1er Cru had darker fruit, was less intensely rich, but with a great balance of fruit and minerally and more finesse. The Volnay Fremiets was a bit affected by reduction but had huge, juicy fruit supported by the acidity, and a pure finish of ripe fruit and stones (Zinetti rightly observed that this particular wine was perhaps a bit masculine for Volnay). The Pommard Clos des Epeneaux (which will include the young vines, as well as a small amount of press wine) had incredibly rich black fruit, cinnamon, soy and game, plus an earthy but not rustic quality, and some pepper at the finish—this had excellent lift and finesse, and very supple tannins, plus an extremely long finish.

Jean-Marc & Thomas Bouley.  Thomas Bouley, a dynamic and highly talented young winemaker (age 34), is now in charge of this family domaine. He talks passionately about his terroirs, describing the role of the wind at each site in more animated detail than I have heard from any other producer. He uses whole clusters judiciously, not as a matter of rote; as he explains, balance is key, and he believes that whole clusters can bring more complexity, but also can obscure terroir; consequently, he uses it in a few, but by no means all, of his wines. (As Allen Meadows is fond of pointing out, nearly everything in winemaking involves tradeoffs, and while there are and have been many great winemakers who favor a consistent approach to all or most of the wines they produce, an increasing number of winemakers are adopting an approach that strives to adapt many basic decisions to what they perceive as the needs of each particular terroir.) His Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune was yet another example of a wine from an appellation that usually struggles to get ripe, but that in this vintage displayed a lot of sweet fruit, richness and a very nice texture.   The Volnay Village is a blend of 12 different plots, and despite some reduction on the nose, the minerality gave an excellent lift to the rich fruit on the palate—a soft yet still structured wine–while the Volnay Clos de la Cave, made with 40% whole clusters, had good dry extract, freshness and purity.  The Beaune Reversées, a 1er cru made with 75% whole clusters, was quite reductive on the nose, but on the palate it offered up ripe cherry fruit, earth and good minerality, and while the first impression was of a soft and charming crowd-pleaser, there was more to this underneath, and it needs some time.  The Pommard Fremiets, also 75% whole cluster, had a strongly earthy nose, excellent minerality, structure, some dry tannins but good purity, while the Pommard Rugiens, which had been completely de-stemmed, had a nose of black fruit, chocolate, game and earth, while on the palate it showed both power and purity, with a really intense finish. Best, though, were the Volnay 1ers crus: Caillerets, also completely de-stemmed, with ultra-ripe fruit, good mineral expression, ripe tannins and a complex, juicy and quite silky finish; and Les Carelles, coming from only 18-year old vines, which had a great combination of sweet fruit and complex, fresh minerality, plus silky tannins. Best of all was the Volnay Clos des Chênes Vieilles Vignes, from 45-60 year old vines and 55% whole cluster, which had a nose that reminded me of the beautiful Lafarge Chênes (yes, it’s the same terroir, but we tasted several during the trip, and this is the only one that came close to replicating the soaring nose of the Lafarge); this was tout en finesse, silky, and with refined tannins, great purity, and a sneaky punch at the end. It will be fascinating to taste this side-by-side with the Lafarge when both mature.

Michel Gaunoux. As always, we tasted the recently bottled vintage (2014), as the domaine does not believe in barrel tastings. 2014 was another in the series of difficult vintages in Pommard, as hail once more devastated the crop. The domaine did a very nice job as usual, but neither of the Pommards (Grands Epenots and Rugiens)—despite having lovely noses (cream and anise and raspberries and roses, respectively)–entirely escaped the effects of the hail. The Corton Renardes was the most successful, with a nose of sweet red fruit, smoked bacon and woodspice, a lighter style of Corton with a creamy texture developing. Then again, why wait for the recent vintages to come around? The domaine still has imposing stocks of older vintages, and we were privileged to sample the great ’62 Pommard Rugiens, with its nose of spice, strawberries and chocolate, plus wood smoke; it had great grip, a touch of sous bois, and all of the charm and delicacy of the ‘62s (94).

Chandon de Briailles. As is often the case at this time of year, the wines were severely reduced and as a result sometimes hard to read. The Savigny Lavières, which was in tank, was more accessible, and had real density and a smoked meat quality, with excellent transparency and medium tannins.  The Pernand-Vergelesses Ile de Vergelesses, a 1er cru that is often a bargain because of its long and difficult name, had a spicy nose, with excellent clarity, ripe intense fruit and an orange note; it had a lot of deep minerality and was clear, cool and precise.  The Corton Bressandes was quite pure and intense, with chocolate notes, while the Corton Clos du Roi was intense and well-structured, with excellent mineral lift and purity, and some chocolate cherries. (Also, some quite good whites were made here; see below.)

DRC.  The Corton was destemmed 25-30% and raised in 50% new oak (there was little or no destemming and nearly all new oak for the other cuvées) and had great purity and power, and is dense and brooding–a great expression of Corton, but then Corton is not Vosne.

Bouchard.  Bouchard produced some excellent Côte de Beaunes in ’15. The Beaune Clos de la Mousse was soft, easy and charming, but the Beaune Teurons was more serious, with deep black cherry fruit, cinnamon and anise, and a very nice balance of acidity underlying it, plus an excellent texture developing. The Beaune Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus had a rich texture and bright acidity, classic Baby Jesus covered in rich ripe fruit (the “velvet pantaloons” of Burgundian foklore?). The Volnay Clos des Chênes (made with 40% whole cluster) was quite nice, with good lift and balance and a velvet texture allied with bright minerality, if a slight heaviness in the finish. The Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot, made with 20% whole cluster, had a lot of baby fat also, and a really nice floral touch; there was just (barely) enough acidity to balance, and some quite dry tannins in back that might have reflected the reduction, but it wasn’t entirely clear—this may turn out quite well but it was a bit hard to read at the moment.  The Corton was amazingly soft and forward for Corton, but because it’s Corton, it had great volume and balancing acidity, and there was a velvety texture as well. The tannins were complete rounded and this finished really well—an outstanding Corton.

Jadot. We only saw a small number of their large array of Côte de Beaunes. Best were a Beaune Clos des Ursules, which had lovely pure red fruit on the nose, and was quite spicy, with some excellent lift to it, and some power as well; while there were dry tannins at the end, there were also hints of a velvety texture developing. The Pommard Rugiens (from Rugiens Bas) was also quite good, with deep black fruit and violets on the nose, and lots of sweet fruit but also good lift on the palate; his had a peppery finish, but was not a rustic style of Pommard.

Other Domaines and Negociants:  At Faiveley, hail in ’14 resulted in only half a crop in ‘15 for the Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, which was hugely dense, almost too dense, a massive wine and very fine, but perhaps lacking a little balance and generosity. At Paul Pillot, we tasted a very nice Chassagne Rouge Clos St Jean, with a ripe black fruit nose, a touch of stems, and creaminess, and at Ch. de Meursault, a pleasant Volnay Clos des Chênes, soft, sweet and forward on the palate, with power and minerality after, and a Corton (from the Ladoix side) with excellent minerality, power and weight, and a very persistent finish. At Senard, the Corton Clos du Roi had rich, ripe fruit and spice, and was balanced and perfumed; it did however seem a bit light by the standards of the vintage, and this was even more true for the Corton Bressandes, while the Clos des Meix and Paulands both seemed to have quite a bit of drying tannins.


 The Côte de Beaune:

Leflaive.  I had a good conversation earlier this year with Brice de la Morandière, nephew of the late Anne-Claude Leflaive, who has taken over running the domaine. He seems quite serious about restoring the luster of this estate, which has experienced a rocky period since the departure of Pierre Morey, and appears to take the problem of premox quite seriously. As an initial measure, starting with the 2014 vintage, Leflaive has begun using Diam corks for its wines.  As for 2015, régisseur Eric Rémy told us that the domaine began harvesting on August 28th, and they rushed to finish picking the grands crus before a storm on August 31st, which turned out not to be as bad as predicted–except in Chablis, where it hailed. The grands crus had alcoholic degrees between 13.1 and 13.3, with the 1er crus just slightly lower. The first few ‘15s here were good without being compelling, but the quality got significantly better as one mounted the hierarchy, including a very good Puligny Folatières, with a pure floral spicy nose that had notes of cream, pears and lime, excellent balance and some wood smoke at the finish. The Puligny Combettes also showed promise, with a strong mineral presence in the front palate, a very stony and concentrated wine but also with some excellent sweet fruit. The Puligny Pucelles was extremely fine, with a lovely nose displaying minerals, white flowers, lime, pears and a touch of oak; this was taut, with a lot of dry extract and was fully put together, balanced, precise and with a very fine texture and tension to it. The Bienvenues-Bâtard seemed a bit disjointed, but the Bâtard was superb, with the classic Leflaive nose and great power, drive, intensity and purity on the palate, plus a very long mineral finish and lots of dry extract. The Chevalier was even better; with an elegant nose, it was very pure and precise, if with more power than one typically expects from Chevalier, and a lovely intense stoniness, great tension and a finish that was still going after a minute-plus.

François Carillon. I’ve loved many of the recent vintages from this domaine, but I found most of the ‘15s here to be “of the vintage,” which is to say, a bit fat, slightly high in alcohol (around 140) and slightly on the tropical side—wines that many people will love, and with reason, but that lack tension and are not stylistically what I look for. Perhaps typical in this regard was the Puligny Folatières: with a nose showing peaches, pineapple, floral notes, spice, cream and fat, this had a sweetness that stopped just short of being exotic; this is a wine will not last forever but it is rich and will be a crowd-pleaser. There were some, however, that transcended the vintage, including an excellent Puligny Village that had lime and pear fruit, very nice acidity and real purity, and a Puligny Perrières that had a beautiful nose of lime and pears, a floral component and great richness on the palate but just managed to keep its balance, with peaches and cream, a spicy finish, and minerals; this wine was layered and will need time to develop fully.

Bernard Moreau.  Alexandre Moreau stated that the domaine started picking on August 28th, because of fears there would not be enough acidity in the wine, and believing that phenolic maturity had been achieved. Alcohol levels here did not exceed 13.1o. The early picking definitely helped avoid the flabbiness one sees in too many whites of this vintage, and the wines were highly reflective of their respective terroirs. Among those I particularly liked were the Chassagne Champsgains, with a nose redolent of licorice, spice and apples, an excellent balance of acid and fat, good tension and a very long finish with a touch of citrus; a Chassagne Vergers, which was a bit heavier than the Champsgains, with a lot of volume and good acidity; Maltroie, with a nose of spice, crème brulée and lemon, plus a sweetness that replicated as richness on the palate, yet with a lot of minerality and depth—this was quite complete, with a rich, creamy finish. The Chassagne Morgeots had more structure and intensity, and was creamy and more floral, with pears, lime, and just a touch of wood, plus lemon and a honey note at the finish. Best of the 1ers crus was the Grandes Ruchottes, with power, steel, great depth and tension and complex notes of anise, pear, apple, spice, caraway and lemon; it is extremely well balanced, deeply minerally and very long. The Bâtard was also terrific, with a calm, creamy, minerally and floral nose and similar palate notes, a very rich middle and still a tightly wound finish that went on for well over a minute.

Paul Pillot. Thierry Pillot also started his picking on August 28, and his Grandes Ruchottes came in at 13.1º. He compared the vintage in whites to a cross between ’09 and ’12. Along with Moreau, this domaine consistently makes some of the finest Chassagne 1ers crus, and ’15 is no exception.  Among the successes here are a very good Chassagne Village, which has good purity, balance and persistence; a Chassagne Clos St. Jean with transparency and a light spicy minerality, which was a charming though not profound wine; and a Chassagne Caillerets, with excellent purity, especially on the spicy mineral finish. More profound were the Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes, which despite a lot of reduction on the nose, showed great spicy minerality, notes of peach, pear and citrus and a lot of dry extract—a powerful wine with great purity and linearity on the finish; and the Chassagne La Romanée, from nearly 80 year old vines, which was deep and dense, with great tension, plenty of acidity, but also quite a bit of richness—showing perhaps just a touch of the heaviness of the vintage, but with a powerful mineral finish. Punching well above its weight, and my favorite of the tasting, was the Chassagne Grande Montagne, with a subtle, elegant, pure nose, perfect balance on the palate, flowers, citrus, a hint of brown sugar, deep minerality and an incredibly long, linear and fresh finale.

Roulot.  Jean-Marc was traveling, so Eric Bonin conducted the tasting. He echoed the sentiments we had heard elsewhere, that the ’15 whites would be highly variable, and that early picking was a key, though he noted that picking dates were also dependent on factors such as the vineyard location, rootstock and age of the vines. The domaine started harvesting on August 27th and alcohol levels were between 13 -13.5o. He likened the vintage to 2009, when they also picked early and made some of the more successful wines of that vintage. The Bourgogne Blanc, Meursault Village and Meursault Vireuils were all very good, but things really got rolling with the Meursault Luchets, which had an excellent balance of fruit and minerals on the palate, notes of spiced pear, citrus, anise and white flowers, plus a saline quality, and excellent tension, purity and freshness. I liked it even better than the excellent Meursault Tillets, which was balanced, charming, rich and floral, and the equally fine Meursault Tessons, which was more powerful and intense, more minerally in style but with a bit more wood showing. Among the 1ers crus, the Clos des Bouchères had medium body, some excellent dry extract, good energy and a spicy long finish, but the Charmes was even more impressive—complex, balanced, intense yet very elegant, with both drive and finesse–this wine had everything one could ask for. Curiously, at first it seemed almost as if the Perrières and the Charmes had changed places, with this Perrières showing less minerality, more fat and fruit, along with anise and grapefruit touches, though the pure and precise minerality came out on the finish, which was razor-sharp, extremely long and very elegant.

Latour-Giraud.  Jean-Pierre Latour, who thinks his ‘14s will be among the finest whites he has ever made, referred to the ’15 whites as being wines for “la grande publique.” He said that the key in ’15 was to preserve freshness, and that while the vintage compared somewhat to ’09, the ‘15s were more concentrated and had more freshness. He started picking at the very beginning of September.  The Meursault Narvaux fit well with his notion of a rich wine, with just enough acidity to support it–a crowd-pleasing effort. The Meursault Charmes was still a work in process, and while it could run to top-heaviness, Jean-Pierre felt it would have more purity when finished. The Meursault Genevrières was quite floral, with more acidity than Charmes, though lots of flesh as well, again a wine that was still evolving and could go either way. The Meursault Perrières was more fully evolved, with good volume–a very easy style of Perrières, with anise and orange notes and a long creamy finish. The Meursault Genevrières Cuvee des Pierre was easily the best, with a reticent nose hinting at great depth, minerals, citrus and white flowers, plus plums, anise, lemon, and minerals; this had balance and excellent tension though a slight hint of the relatively high alcoholic degree (probably around 13.8) at the end.

Ch. de Meursault. This was our first visit to this estate, which was acquired in late 2012 by Olivier Halley; since the acquisition, Halley, with assistance from Bernard Hervet and Stéphane Follin-Arbelet, both formerly of Bouchard, has reconstituted the domaine and embarked on a program to seriously upgrade the quality of the wines. Together with the sister estate of Ch. de Marsannay, they now dispose of a broad range of wines from both Côtes. We tasted a small selection of the whites, which are well made though generally reflective of the vintage–which is to say, creamy, fat and enjoyable young. The Meursault Charmes Dessus was a step up, with a compelling mineral nose, white flowers, beeswax and anise; this had great purity, density and power. The Corton Vergennes was also quite complex and balanced, with good spice and power and a very fine minerally finish.

Jadot. Under Jacques Lardiere’s aegis, the maison had routinely blocked the malolactic fermentation of the whites—with results that I often found perplexing—but if ever there was a year that justified this strategy, 2015 was certainly it. Preserving the malic acidity has kept these wines much fresher than they would otherwise have been, and if the resulting fruit tends more towards apples than pears at times, it is a small difference. Among the successful whites here were the Chassagne La Romanée, with an excellent acid/fruit balance and floral and peppery qualities; the Puligny Combettes, which had brightness, tension and lift, as well as a creamy note; the Puligny Folatières, with a lovely middle, showing balance, purity, and more soft sweet fruit than the other Puligny 1ers; and a particularly attractive Puligny Caillerets, with spice, white flowers and lemon on the nose and a lovely sweet, floral mid-palate followed by a long, very bright finish. The Bâtard was also very good, combining a floral quality with characteristic power and good tension, while the Chevalier Les Demoiselles was, as usual, a standout: balanced, fresh and elegant, with brioche, cream and flowers on the nose and appleskin, citrus, pear and more flowers at the end. Even better was an aristocratic Montrachet, at first very soft and floral on the palate, but then the minerality started to kick in, followed by notes of anise, pepper, honeyed pears and a very spicy finish.

Bouchard. We began, as usual, with the William Fèvre Chablis. A late season hailstorm severely affected a number of vineyards, including Montée de Tonnerre, Montmains and Les Clos, and overall I found this range too soft and sweet to appeal to someone who likes classic Chablis. However, the Bougros Côte de Bouguerots and the Valmur both rose above the pack, the former well integrated, with a pure minerality and good density, only a touch of sucrosity in the middle, and a long, intense finish and the latter quite complex, with pears, flowers, spice, flint and minerals, all well-integrated, plus a creamy texture and a tense, dry and dense finish. The Valmur, at least, will need time.

As with their Chablis counterparts, the whites here were quite marked by the vintage: a bit too sweet, soft and tropical for my taste, though they will please many drinkers. The one standout was the Montrachet, which had more purity on the nose, along with almonds, anise, and white flowers, and more bite and intensity on the palate–a bit heavy, perhaps, but still quite deep.

Drouhin. The whites were harvested beginning September 2nd. Here, as at Jadot (but not habitually), some malos were blocked in 2015. The whites were inconsistent, with some showing softness, charm and a bit of tropical fruit (not that those are in any way unpleasant characteristics). Among those I liked the best were a very nice Chablis Les Clos, which had a pure stony nose and dry minerality on the palate—here there was power, weight and intensity, plus a long, saline finish. The Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche had excellent tension and power, and while the fruit was certainly ripe and present, this seemed remarkably minerally for a ’15. Best of the 1ers crus was the Puligny Clos de la Garenne, which had warm spicecake on the nose, and while the palate was on the softer side, with sweet peaches and hints of pineapple, it had a fresh, minerally finish and a velvety texture that I particularly liked.  The Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was also very fine, with purity on the nose, a minerally middle, honeysuckle, pepper and spicecake notes along with good fruit, and an exceptional finish that had a creamy texture and was subtle, complex and persistent.

Faiveley. Faiveley’s whites were generally pleasingly plump, but the Corton-Charlemagne as usual stood out. Though it had power and minerals, it was in a softer style than usual, and was quite charming, but probably will be best drunk fairly early.

Other Whites: From Chandon de Briailles, two excellent whites, a Pernand Ile de Vergelesses, with a nice mineral balance and a deft floral touch; and a Corton Blanc (from Bressandes), which was spicy and very creamy, with a nice minerality, white flowers, excellent balance and considerable charm. From de Montille (tasted rather quickly at lunch), a potentially very good Meursault Perrières, with the nose not yet what it should be but displaying beautiful intense minerality on the palate; a superb Puligny Caillerets, with a lovely nose of minerals and white flowers, quite pure and with great freshness; and a spicy, floral and elegant Chevalier-Montrachet. From Laurent Ponsot, a nice Montrachet, very round and floral, with sweet peaches, honeysuckle and brown sugar, but also a mineral core. From Méo-Camuzet, a Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blanc Clos St-Philibert that was quite surprisingly fine (again, from a terroir that rarely achieves full ripeness), with quite good acidity but a creamy note, spiced pairs, minerals and white flowers.

A Note on the ‘14s: It was not easy to taste the red ‘14s after the ‘15s, as the volume, richness and texture of the latter tended to make the ‘14s seem lighter and more insubstantial than they are, an impression compounded by the fact that some of the ’14 reds are starting to shut down. Nonetheless, I saw nothing to suggest that last year’s conclusions—that for reds, in the Côte de Nuits this is a very nice vintage for near to medium term drinking, but in the Côte de Beaune, it is a vintage marked by the effects of three years of hail damage—needed any modification.

As for the whites, ’14 remains an outstanding vintage, far better overall than ’15, and while selection is, as always, critical, there are many beautiful whites that will need some time to unfold. DRC’s ’14 Montrachet (tasted this November) is particularly outstanding, with remarkable purity and, as Aubert de Villaine noted, more minerality and less opulence than usual—which is why I liked it even more than usual.  On a less positive note, premox continues its ravages among earlier vintages, with no evident progress towards a solution.

© 2016 Douglas E. Barzelay








2014 Burgundies–Not to be Overlooked



First, an apology to regular readers of this blog: this report is both later, and slightly shorter, than usual, as I have been focused on trying to finish the draft of a book on Burgundy vintages. (Stay tuned for more news about this as it progresses.) It has been fun writing it—and even more fun to research!—but  this blog has suffered a bit of neglect in consequence.

During my annual visit to Burgundy this past November, much of the talk focused on the 2015s, already heralded as an exceptional vintage, and neither the Asian stock market gyrations of a few months earlier, nor the tragic events in Paris just two days before, prevented a feeding frenzy at the annual auction of the Hospices de Beaune wines, where prices for the top cuvées of 2015 were up 40-50% from the prior year.

Amidst all this clamor, several vignerons lamented that the 2014s are likely to be completely overlooked. If so, then from the consumer standpoint there may be some excellent buying opportunities. In brief, there were some excellent reds made in the Côte de Nuits: wines that, while rarely profound, will provide some fine drinking without a long wait. The whites from Chassagne and Puligny are even better, and some growers think them the best since ’96. Unfortunately, hail once again visited a large swath of the Côte de Beaune, affecting much of Meursault, Volnay, Pommard and Beaune, and the wines rarely escape some finishing dryness as result.

The growing season in 2014 had considerable ups and downs: a warm and clement spring led to a relatively early, rapid and even flowering; however, on June 28, there was a violent and extensive hailstorm, which traveled from south to north (usually the hailstorms come in from the west), causing a great deal of damage in the Côte de Beaune, and some lesser damage in the Côte de Nuits as far north as Chambolle. I had arrived that afternoon to take up temporary residence in Hameau de Blagny, on the border between Puligny and Meursault, and experienced the hail first-hand as it made its way up the Côte, just touching Puligny on its route of destruction. That night, the annual Elégance de Volnay, a Paulée-style celebration of the wines of Volnay, became a wake instead.

Following this storm, the weather took a decided turn for the worse, with cool and rainy weather dominating both July and August. The harvest date, which had looked to be precocious once more, slipped toward mid-September. However, finally at the beginning of September, the north wind arrived, along with sun, drying out the vineyards and allowing the grapes to mature under highly favorable conditions. For the most part, the harvest passed in good weather.

Potential alcoholic degree at harvest was a bit on the low side—barely over 12 degrees for many—and chaptalisation was frequent, though typically modest (about half a degree). Another issue for the growers this year was the presence of suzukis—a type of fruit fly that penetrates grapes and lays its eggs, causing the juice to turn to vinegar. However, most growers reported they were able to deal with this effectively in advance, cutting out affected grapes or bunches before the harvest. Yields outside of the hailed-upon areas were generally close to normal, a welcome relief after four small vintages.

The resulting wines in the Côte de Nuits are fresh and fruit-driven, yet with a good bit of terroir typicity, somewhat similar in profile (though not in growing conditions) to ’02, though the latter vintage has perhaps more fruit while the ‘14s, according to Christophe Roumier, have finer tannins. He further described the wines as having accurate flavors and luscious texture, though relatively light-bodied. The very best do have an added density and a completeness that will make for excellent drinking for many years, but most seem destined to please in the medium term. That said, they are are certainly richer than ’07, and more transparent than ’00, two other vintages that produced wines for medium-term drinking. I have even seen some analogies to ’85, a vintage that seemed deceptively easygoing at first but that is still providing a lot of superb drinking today (just recently, I had an amazing bottle of ’85 Roumier Bonnes Mares); however, at this point its not a claim I’d make for the ‘14s.

The whites in general (where not unduly affected by hail) have vibrant acidity and excellent depth. They are currently tightly coiled and will require some time to mature—though in a vintage such as this, one does have to worry about whether premox will claim them before they have a chance to fully open.  Puligny seems to have been especially successful in this vintage, and Chassagne produced some lovely wines as well. Perhaps surprisingly, given the hail, the wines from Meursault can also be excellent, if less consistently so. While I was not able to taste much from Chablis, it also looks to be an extremely fine year for those wines as well.

The reds of the Côte de Beaune, as noted above, are often marked by the hail, with some dryness in the back—to varying degrees—but still, many have retained excellent fruit and transparency. Here the problem was not so much this year’s hail, as the relentless toll that three successive years of hail have taken on the vines. Yields were, not surprisingly, tiny.


Côte de Nuits

 The Domaines

Roumier: These were among the best wines of the trip. Even the Bourgogne Rouge was full, rich and balanced, while the Chambolle Village had bright black cherry fruit and good balancing acidity. While the Chambolle Cras showed pure and focused fruit on both the nose and palate, it had not yet come together in the middle, though one suspects it will. However, the surprise of the tasting—if there can really be any surprises chez Roumier—was the Charmes-Chambertin (from Mazoyeres), which had a precision and focus that often eludes this terroir, even in Christophe’s hands, and it had a deep minerality along with a perfumed component, and well-modulated tannins. The Ruchottes-Chambertin had a complex nose of dark fruit, meat, cocoa, perfume and minerals, which carried through the palate, displaying power and complexity, but not a lot of tannin—this should be ready early for a Roumier wine. The Bonnes Mares, the Terres Rouges and Terres Blanches elements of which had been blended, showed a complex nose of heather, black cherries, black raspberries, a floral touch and an earthy quality; on the palate it was rich and ripe, with excellent intensity and a fine transparent finish; though the tannins were intense, they were quite refined. The Chambolle Amoureuses was even better, with great balance and precision, notes of coffee, red fruits, minerals, perfume and spice; this is a wine of great finesse that finishes with some strong, if highly refined, tannins. The Musigny, of course, was in its own world, with an amazingly calm nose of red fruit, citrus and cocoa powder and just a touch of new oak; there is great balance, purity and finesse here, and very smooth tannins.

Mugnier.  Freddy described his wines of the vintage as “equilibré,” and that word recurs in my notes as well, beginning with the excellent Chambolle Village, which had sweet red cherries, spice and a floral note on the nose and palate and was quite a fine Village wine. The Chambolle Fuées had a less expressive nose, though more perfumed, and a touch of cumin; it also had a nice saline note, and was rich and with more tension than the Village. The Bonnes Mares was slightly disappointing in the overall context of these wines, lacking grand cru weight and with a slight harshness on the finish; it nonetheless was a good, if not great, example. With the Chambolle Amoureuses, however, there was a full return to form, with sweet, intense black cherry fruit on the nose and palate, great tension, precision and balance and a very transparent finish, with some refined tannins at the end. The nose of the Musigny was simply astounding, extremely pure, refined and delicate, with notes of soy, black cherry, perfume, minerals and a hint of magret de canard. However, on the palate it seemed a bit heavier, without quite the refinement of the nose, at least as yet, though it is well-structured and the tannins are quite fine. Overall, these are very good wines, without being amazing.

Ghislaine Barthod. I am more and more impressed with these wines, which in good vintages offer a study in precision and terroir. Sadly, Mme Barthod possesses no grands crus, but she certainly has among the broadest ranges of Chambolle 1er crus of which I am aware, and she makes the most of it. Ghislaine likes the “energy” in her ‘14s, of which she is justly proud. We began with a Chambolle Les Châtelots, which was quite pretty, with bright cherry fruit backed by a nice minerally acidity, and continued with the Chambolle Aux Beaux Bruns, which was more tightly knit than the Châtelots, with fleshy red fruit, spice and balancing minerality. The Chambolle Les Baudes was a step up in the complexity of the fruit; it was more structured, precise, complex and long, and was for me one of the stars of the range. The Chambolle Les Charmes was showing more richness, with a chocolate cherry note, flowers and perfume, but a bit of austerity on the finish that needs to resolve. Next was the Chambolle Fuées, another standout, with a bright black cherry, cocoa and spice nose, more structure on the palate, a creamy texture, and an almost sneaky amount of complex fruit, and some refined tannin here that will keep it. I also quite liked Les Cras, which had a sense of brightness and energy to it, and some lift at the back. Overall, as Ghislaine observed, these wines will be drinkable early, but the wines on the upper slope, at least, also have the potential to age gracefully.

François Bertheau. The elfin François Bertheau simply goes about his business, preferring to be out on his tractor rather than receiving visitors or attending Paulées. While his wines are not at the level of Roumier, Mugnier or Barthod, they can nonetheless be quite fine, as a bottle of the delicious 1985 Bonnes Mares from this estate (score: 93), drunk the week before our visit, amply demonstrated. Bertheau is pleased with his 2014s, and certainly the Chambolle Village was excellent, with lovely red fruit and spice and an open, charming and minerally mid-palate; at their best, these wines are built around disarmingly approachable strawberry fruit and an open texture, but with an excellent balancing minerally acidity.  The Chambolle Amoureuses was in this style, spicy and open-knit, with a creamy texture developing, a touch of baked bread on the nose, and some medium-light tannins. The Bonnes Mares was the real star, however, with a lovely nose of heather, red fruit, mocha and minerals; on the palate, it was rich and ripe, with beautiful fruit and spice and yet a nice balancing acidity to it, deftly balanced and with some significant tannins that are well-modulated.

DRC. An old, and unresolvable, question is whether a vintage should be evaluated based on the best wines produced, the average, or some other criteria. In most years, the Domaine is the bellwether for what can be achieved in the vintage. With that in mind, what I found in these ‘14s was a great deal to like, but also not the density or profundity of the very greatest vintages.

The Corton had lots of fruit and good weight, but I thought there was a little bit of acidity sticking out. (Note that the Domaine, which had originally been of the view that the blending of the climats comprising the Corton, while necessary for the medium term, was a temporary measure, is now tending towards the view that this should be the permanent approach to this wine.) The Echézeaux was very spicy, developing some silk on the palate, very dense and powerful, but possibly slightly coarse—a kind of burly youngster. The Grands Echézeaux was, as usual, a significant step up: with dense but silky black cherry fruit, a touch of violets, minerals, citrus and stems; it has power but was more restrained than the Echézeaux, though a bit high in acid, and had a long pure finish with strong but covered tannins.  The Romanée St. Vivant had wonderful spice on the nose, violets, and green olives; it was minerally with a floral touch, light fruit under, more modulated and finer tannins than the GE, and amazing length. The Richebourg was marked by a gorgeous floral nose, with spice, black pepper, olives, and minerals, then sweet red cherry fruit; it was transparent, powerful, maybe slightly burly in back, with strongly present but refined tannins, and a delicate finish. La Tâche showed explosive oriental spice on the nose; on the palate it was silky and creamy, and tout en finesse; there was deep and precise minerality and plenty of fruit, both red and black, from plums to berries, with super-refined silky tannins and an exceptionally long finish—a very great La Tâche and possibly a candidate for the wine of the vintage. The Romanée-Conti by contrast was more restrained at this stage (though in some sense, RC is always more restrained than LT), showing creamy raspberry fruit, spice and green olives on the nose; this was delicate, elegant, minerally, harmonious but a bit reticent, still with a bit of stem tannins to resolve and a small touch of oak to absorb as well. While it is a very fine wine, this may not be the most profound vintage for RC; it could be that the vintage is more suited to LT’s flamboyance.

Comte Liger-Belair. These were excellent, well-crafted wines as always, though the reduction made some of these a bit difficult to taste at this stage. The Vosne Village (now being raised in 350ml barrels to moderate the new oak influence) was ripe, round, soft and approachable, while the Clos du Château, bottled two months earlier, was showing extremely well: minerally and dense with pure black cherry fruit and great equilibrium. The Vosne Suchots had a velvety texture, with strong but refined tannins, while the Petits Monts was even better, transparent and dense, with great balance and tension, and refined tannins. The Vosne Reignots was reductive, as usual, but the finish in particular showed great promise; it was pure and refined. The Echézeaux seemed qualitatively different from the others, a bit light and not my favorite on this day, but the La Romanée showed its innate refinement, and was deep, dense and structured, with an extremely long finish.

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg.  As usual, the sisters made extremely fine wines. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the Bourgogne Rouge, a charming wine that delivers remarkable value for its level.  The Nuits VignesRondes was very pretty, though the tannins will need time to soften, while the Nuits Chaignots had more deeply pitched fruit, purity and a silky texture.  The Chambolle Feusselottes was one of my favorite wines of the range, bright, pure and harmonious, with complex fruit, and I even preferred it to the Echézeaux, which was tighter and had more weight than the others and needs time. The Clos Vougeot had volume but also purity, and was excellent, though at the moment I somewhat preferred the Ruchottes-Chambertin, with its lovely perfume, wild cherry element, brightness and pure minerality. Overall, this was an impressive range of wines in 2014, and well beyond the more modest qualities of the ‘13s, tasted just following—lest anyone should be in doubt on this point.

Meo-Camuzet.  While the tasting started a bit slowly, with some modest Village-level wines from the negociant side of the house, things brightened considerably with the Domaine’s Nuits Meurgers, with rich ripe fruit on the nose, excellent minerality, good transparency and a long spicy finish. We next tasted an interesting duo: Nuits Boudots, made with 20% stems, done as whole cluster, which added a nice wild strawberry component, and with a silky quality at the end, but some fiery tannins; and Corton Perrières, where the stems are removed and then added back, which the domaine believes adds a greenness that develops in time into rose petal, and which they find more interesting—this was spicy and dense, and you could feel the stems on the palate. The Clos Vougeot followed, and was particularly good, with a dense nose, rich ripe cherry fruit on the palate, good intensity and purity; there is a lot to this, but it will need time. The Vosne Brulées, always a favorite of mine here, had a spicy and brambly quality as well as black fruit on the nose, excellent minerally acidity and a long spicy finish; it is an elegant wine, very good but, as I noted, “not the ‘10”. The Richebourg was somewhat reduced, but there was brilliant spice under, and great lift, balance and harmony on the palate, with a cool minerally finish; this will be quite fine in time. We also tasted the ’15 Richebourg, and while I do not normally find it all that helpful to taste wines at this stage of their development, this was showing real density, but also a softness and silkiness, plus a fresh minerality. Yummy, to use a technical term, and perhaps a harbinger of the good things to come.

Cathiard.  This was the Domaine’s first fully-organic vintage. The oak treatment continues to get lighter, which is a good thing. Malos were very late in ’14, and the Malconsorts had just finished.  Many wines were showing some reduction during our visit. These are very fine wines, and are continuing to improve, but I do wonder at the huge run-up in the prices–not just of the more recent vintages, but of the older vintages as well. That said, the Vosne Village was excellent, quite harmonious and with good energy, and that sense of energy was also evident in the Nuits Aux Thorey and the Chambolle Clos de l’Orme, which seemed almost to be a 1er Cru in its weight.  The Nuits Meurgers was dense and powerful, and if I slightly preferred the spicy Vosne-like qualities of the Meo, this was nonetheless quite good. The Vosne En Orveaux was muscular and dense, while the Suchots stood out for its purity and complexity—it was open, accessible, pretty and balanced. The Malconsorts was especially fine, very Malconsorts with its spice, rose petal, ripe black cherry fruit, brooding density, fine tannins and very long finish.  The Romanée St. Vivant had a lot of volume for this cru, was intense but carrying its weight with grace, and had a suave, almost silky finish.  Overall, the wines showed very well, and will make for excellent drinking, but don’t quite have the concentration and density of the very best vintages.

Grivot.  Etienne’s wines have improved considerably in the past decade. That said, I found the ‘14s a bit mixed, though not without some considerable highlights. The Vosne Brulées had lovely transparency and rich, almost plummy fruit; while perhaps it lacked a little density, it was a real crowd-pleaser—not something one normally expects from Etienne! I particularly liked the Vosne Beaumonts, with bright fruit on the nose; this was pure, spicy, quite intense, maybe even brooding for Beaumonts and with a lot of tannin that will need time to resolve. The Suchots ratcheted up the intensity level, and though I didn’t feel it had quite the same balance as the Beaumonts, it was still very good—Etienne feels it has a further dimension beyond the Beaumonts, so time will tell. Etienne has recently begun showing the Nuits wines after the Vosnes, to highlight their quality, he says, but I am not yet convinced that it does them any favors. The Nuits Boudots seemed the best of them, but was quite reduced, and though it hinted at real purity under, it was pretty tough to assess with any certainty. The Clos Vougeot was, as usual, very dense and with fierce tannins, and I thought that the style of this, while consistent with the past, may not quite fit with this vintage. The Echézeaux was floral and more open, while the Richebourg brought everything together: balance, power, medium weight and more elegance than some past vintages. It was fine but not electric, but it could grow with time.

Hudelot-Noellat.  Here, malos had finished at the end of September and the wines had not been racked when we visited. Although a few wines were hard to taste, overall this was a very fine range, as Charles van Canneyt continues from strength to strength. This is a domaine that has been producing very high quality for some time now, yet as fine as the wines are, Charles is clearly intent on refining them even further. The Vosne was the best of the three Village wines, with a superb nose of black cherry and a deep and pure minerality. The Petits Vougeots, which always seems to do well here (and gets no respect in the market, making it a consistent value) had a pure dark cherry nose, spice, good weight, and a long finish with round tannins. The Nuits Murgers, despite some reduction, was dense, earthy and focused, with relatively soft tannins at the end. The Vosne Beaumonts was showing extremely well, with a particularly gorgeous nose, and on the palate it was soft, elegant and approachable, with an excellent pure mineral finish. I preferred it to the Suchots, which while deeper-pitched had a more piquant acidity than the Beaumonts. Incidentally, Charles said that the Suchots vines, and those in RSV, are now around 100 years old. The Malconsorts was typically fine, with a calm nose and bright acidity; though this seemed a little soft and accessible for Malconsorts, that is not necessarily a bad thing.  The Clos Vougeot had excellent weight and density, and some strong but relatively refined tannins. The Romanée St. Vivant was quite beautiful: a deep nose of black cherry, spice and mocha, with great lift, breadth, energy, silk and refined tannins plus a pure minerality. The Richebourg seemed a bit lighter than the RSV but had more lift and seemingly more elegance—almost as if these two wines had changed places in 2014.  These will all provide great pleasure in the medium-term and beyond.

Chateau de la Tour. See below for the wines produced under the Labet label. The Clos Vougeot “Cuvée Classique” (the regular bottling, not specifically designated as “Cuvée Classique” on the label) has had a much longer elevage in barrel in recent years—the ’13 was not bottled until July ’15 and the ’14 will not be bottled until next July.  This was perfumed, with chocolate notes, excellent depth and a silky texture. François Labet thinks it less opulent than either ’13 or ’15 and believes it will take 7-9 years to mature. The Clos Vougeot Vieilles Vignes was even better, with a lovely deep perfume on the quite complex nose, and excellent fruit and mineral lift on the palate leading to a very persistent, transparent finish, with strong but refined tannins.  The Hommage á Jean Morin was not made in ’14, as François felt the difference between that cuvée and the Vieilles Vignes was not sufficiently marked.

Ponsot: Laurent typically picks late, and is rewarded more often than not with wines that have more richness and ripeness, without the sacrifice of tension or terroir (though some of the newer climats in his stable, such as the Cortons, don’t seem as yet to have achieved the same balance as his top wines). The successes in ’14 started with the Bourgogne, which had bright ripe cherry fruit and a touch of garrigue; but the biggest over-achiever in ’14 was the village Morey St. Denis, which melded bright, ripe fruit, good lift, balance and transparency and remarkable focus for a Village. The Premier Cru Morey Cuvée des Alouettes was also quite fine, similarly bright and transparent, though with more mocha/chocolate notes and more prominent acidity than the Villages. Among the Gevrey grands crus, the Charmes was quite good, but the Griotte and Chapelle were a step up, with the former pure and balanced, with beautiful red cherry fruit, especially on the nose (as with many wines of this vintage, it was quite lovely though not profound), and the latter being more smoky and citric, with notes of dry-aged beef. The Chambertin Cuvée Vieilles Vignes was transparent, balanced and very long, one of the best Chams I have encountered here (and much better than the simpler if pleasant Bèze). The Morey Grands Crus, as usual, stood out from the pack, with an incredibly intense nose on the Clos St Denis T.V.V.; it was transparent and silky, a very fine wine if, again, not the most profound vintage of this. The Clos de la Roche V.V. was very minerally, intense, with very bright fruit up front, and an extremely long finish. These Ponsots will give great pleasure in the medium term and beyond.

Dujac.  Jeremy Seysses described the ‘14s as having a dark fruit profile, open and friendly, and as wines for the medium term. We did not taste the whole range here, but the wines were well-made and both the Morey Villages and the Charmes-Chambertin could be described as crowd-pleasers. I particularly liked the Vosne Malconsorts, with great purity, density and power; and the Clos de la Roche, which had excellent minerality and lift and was relatively refined.

Clos de Tart.  Jacques Devauges has now taken up the reins here, and guided our tasting, though the 2014 was the last vintage made by Sylvain Pitiot. As usual, we had a fascinating tasting of various components, leading to a tasting of the assemblage, which included the young vines (in some years, these are kept aside to make the Forge). The wine was saline, with lovely weight, excellent structure and complex sweet fruit, and an extremely extended finish. This will certainly be very good, but how good will be a question of the final blend, and of the integration of the acidity, which on this outing seemed a bit prominent.

Fourrier.  While I have been visiting Fourrier for several summers now, this was the first time I’ve done so in November.  It proved to be a great time to taste, but I wonder if there’s a bad time to taste at this brilliant Domaine. Jean-Marie is an extremely thoughtful winemaker, and adjusts his winemaking and elevage to fit the character of the vintage.  We tasted a terrific range of ‘14s, including a Vougeot 1er Cru Petits Vougeots, with lovely weight, great purity and a nice spicy touch, still with some tannins to resolve; Gevrey Cherbaudes, with a creamy texture and a long, spicy, pure finish, if perhaps slightly dry tannins; and Gevrey Combe Aux Moines which had excellent presence, ripe black cherry fruit, and was pure and direct. The Clos St. Jacques was a “wow” wine: pure red and black fruits, very minerally, with great lift and a long, lacy and elegant finish. The Griotte-Chambertin was even better, with a lot of weight, great lift and elegance; it was dense, with a lot of dry extract and refined tannins—a complete and serious wine. After, we tasted the negociant Chambertin, which was very pleasant but a bit evanescent in back, and the tannins weren’t as refined as with the Griotte. While the negociant portfolio is growing, and the wines are consistently very good, overall I think that they haven’t yet quite reached the quality or consistency of the Domaine wines.

Trapet.  Another excellent range of wines from Jean-Louis Trapet. The 1er crus were consistently fine, with a Petit Chapelle that had a creamy texture, good balance and a denser, more serious side than many ‘14s (made with 40% whole cluster); a Clos Prieur that had rich fruit, a high-toned minerality, a lot of weight and excellent density; and a Gevrey Capita (a blend of 1er Crus) that had dense black fruit on the nose, power and grip, a heavyweight that kept its feet. As Jean-Louis remarked, this was a good vintage to add whole clusters, as they give more gravitas to the wines. The Chapelle-Chambertin was a bit too reduced to fully evaluate, but I learned an interesting fact about it: the domaine had purchased this vineyard in 1913 from the inventor of the injector device that was used (with limited success) to battle phylloxera; when purchased, the vines were ungrafted, and they remained that way until finally pulled up in 1938, one of the few vineyards in Burgundy to remain ungrafted so late.  The Latricières, while also showing reduction, was easier to get to and had excellent minerality and density, along with deep fruit and spice. The Chambertin was, as usual, the best wine in the stable, with a spicy calm nose, bright red cherry fruit, a silky palate, power and great clarity on the finish.

Bruno Clair.   This domaine made some of the better ‘13s (which we re-tasted, confirming earlier impressions of their quality, particularly the Clos St. Jacques and Clos de Bèze), and while the ‘14s were not totally consistent, there were again some very fine wines made here.  The Chambolle Veroilles (a Village-level lieu-dit) had lovely clarity, juicy fruit and was open and accessible. The Gevrey Petit Chapelle was dense, with a bright saline minerality and some nice fruit, and the Cazetiers was powerful, but with a creamy texture developing—this wine had a lot to it but will need time to develop. The Clos St. Jacques had a refined nose, and was delicate where the Cazetiers was muscular, with an elegant finish. The Bèze was dense, powerful and intense, with a lot of material, but I wasn’t entirely sure it had fully come together as yet, while the Bonnes Mares had a deeply pitched nose, power but also excellent balance, and a creaminess developing, plus a persistent mineral finish; this will be drinkable relatively early for Bonnes Mares.

Rousseau.  I visited Rousseau in June, not necessarily the best time to taste, but this year, the top wines had finished malo and been racked. Things began well, with the Gevrey Village, which had a lot of material and good mineral lift. We moved somewhat rapidly up the ladder (skipping over the wines still in malo), and were treated to a fascinating tasting of two of the three components of the Clos St. Jacques, which had been separated out as an experiment. We tasted the top and middle parts (the lower part had not yet been racked), with the top showing a soaring nose and a silky texture, while the middle was purer and more minerally, with darker fruit and drier tannins. The blend was better than either alone: an immensely rich, complex nose of flowers, spice, minerals and raspberries, and pure, driven and deep on the palate, with almost grand cru weight and a superb, long finish. I even liked it slightly better than the very fine Bèze, which had deeply pitched fruit, and excellent presence and balance, if a lot of wood still—it seemed a lighter-styled Bèze. The Chambertin, though, was just amazing, with a denser nose than its stablemate, and on the palate it was pure, powerful and driven, with very silky tannins, a pure and precise wine that was one of the more impressive examples of this vintage.

De Montille.  Successful reds in the Côte de Nuits. All these are 100% whole cluster.  The Clos Vougeot had a nicely perfumed nose and was balanced, persistent and with good density and power, while the Vosne Malconsorts was high-toned, medium weight, structured, with dry tannins but a sense of refinement, though only a medium-length finish. The Malconsorts Cuvée Christianne was, as usual, the more complex of the two, with a cooler and deeper nose, richness and expansiveness on the palate, and dry but quite refined tannins.

The Negociants

Drouhin.  A good range of wines here, but seemingly slightly more inconsistent than either the vintage or the capabilities of the Maison would suggest. The Chambolle 1er Cru reflected the vintage: very pretty, lots of red fruit and quite mellow, but showing a bit of acidity. The Vosne Petits Monts was fruit-forward yet dense, with a lovely mineral and fruit-inflected finish. The Clos Vougeot was showing extremely well, with a creamy texture, lovely balance and line, and real elegance; in fact, I preferred it to the Grands Echézeaux, which seemed to have only medium density but some severe tannins (perhaps from the recent bottling). Similarly, on this day I much preferred the Bonnes Mares, with its discreet nose of heather, spice, flowers and red fruit, its silky, refined palate, and its powerful mineral finish but overall sense of elegance, to the Musigny, which was lacy and refined, but didn’t seem to have quite found its equilibrium as yet.

Faiveley.  Bernard Hervet rejected the vintage analogy to 2002 that some producers had offered, and also opined that north wind vintages don’t age well.  He said the weather in ’14 was most similar to ’88, but that in that earlier vintage, the wines were picked too early and weren’t ripe enough. Here, as at Drouhin, I felt that the wines were patchier than I would have expected given the overall quality of the vintage and the considerable winemaking skills of the Maison (also, as at Drouhin, the Domaine wines are an important, and at least qualitatively dominant, part of the overall portfolio). The Nuits Porêts St. Georges was a crowd-pleaser, and surprisingly better than the Les St. Georges, which I found a little light. Except for the Amoureuses, which while reduced had a silky texture developing, and excellent balance and transparency, I did not find the Chambolle 1er Crus persuasive. The Gevrey Cazetiers was already drinking well, soft yet pure, with some tannins to resolve but not aggressive ones.  Among the grands crus, the Echézeaux had sweet fruit, a floral touch and good density, and seemed a friendly sort of grand cru, while the Latricières-Chambertin seemed to be in a fruity style rather than displaying its usual lean minerality.  The Bèze was also soft and quite fruity, with the Ouvrées Rodin seeming lighter and less interesting than it has been in prior years.

Jadot.  For Jadot, this is predominantly a white wine year, and among the reds, they wisely showed few from the Côte de Beaune. As for the Côte de Nuits reds, there was a fair amount of unevenness, as the better wines tended to be soft and pleasant, accentuating approachability over energy or tension.  The Vosne Suchots typified this approach—soft and sweet, crowd-pleasing but without discernable terroir, though the Beaumonts had darker fruit and more minerally punch, more structure, and some modulated tannins. The Clos St. Jacques, usually one of the highlights here, seemed slightly dilute, but the purity was evident, and it was well-balanced; if it puts on some weight, it could be a very fine wine. In one of those puzzles that occur from time to time, the Echézeaux was clearly better than the rather un-grand Grands Echézeaux, which was quite dilute.  The Musigny was easy and approachable, as was the Clos St. Denis, which had some elegance–though, as with many of these wines, I felt it could use a bit more lift and acidity.  Best for me today was the Bèze: with spicy bright fruit on the nose, it was soft but structured, elegant, and with a long fruit-driven finish.

Bouchard. The reds in 2014 were generally decent without being compelling (the whites were much better; see below).  I did however quite enjoy the Vosne Suchots, perhaps not elegant but its rich sweet fruit making it a likely crowd-pleaser, and for early drinking.  The Bonnes Mares was also very good, medium-light bodied with good ripeness, nice mineral balance, and a long finish.

Côte de Beaune

 Once again, a large swath of the Côte de Beaune was plagued by hail, for the third straight year, with Meursault, Volnay, Pommard and Beaune being the hardest hit by the June 28 storm. However, while growing season conditions were hardly perfect, they were better than in ’13, and if the wines still show some of the effects of the hail—particularly dryness at the finish—there seemed to be more good wines than when the ’13s were tasted at a similar stage.

 Lafarge.  Michel Lafarge said that, while quantities were tiny as a result of the hail, he considered ’14 a very fine vintage, with marked differences between terroirs, and Frédéric Lafarge added that he felt they had the charm and elegance of ’66, combined with the depth and complexity of ‘78s. With all deference to these supremely talented vignerons, I found a lot of dryness at the finish of almost the entire range, which I doubt time will substantially ameliorate. That said, there was a sweet, velvety quality in the Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs, as well as a floral element, that together were quite attractive, and the Caillerets was quite minerally and transparent, and did not display the same hardness as some of the others. The Clos des Chênes had impeccable balance and purity, with a velvet texture, and despite some dryness, may in time work out quite well.

Marquis d’Angerville. While the hail ravaged most of the Domaine’s properties, the Clos des Ducs was largely spared.  Overall, while hardly a great vintage at this domaine, the wines still turned out well, including a Volnay 1er cru that had strong acidity framing the sweet fruit, and only a little drying at the end; a Clos des Angles that was strongly perfumed, with appealing fruit, good balance and again, only a bit of dryness; and Caillerets, perfumed, minerally and transparent, which had a slightly hard edge but really came together at the finish. The Champans was very shut down and had a bit too much hard tannin, I thought. However, the Clos des Ducs was marvelous, with a highly perfumed nose, bright minerality, and a creamy texture; it was dense, intense, balanced and with strong but refined tannins.

Comte Armand. Paul Zinetti has now fully taken over from Benjamin Leroux, and ’14 was his first vintage on his own. He appears to be a talented and thoughtful winemaker; someone to watch, though because of the hail, he hasn’t yet been given great material to work with. The Auxey Duresses 1er Cru was very nice, with rich ripe cherry fruit that was balanced but not (as Auxey so often is) overborne by the acidity. The flagship Pommard Clos des Epeneaux suffered almost 90% losses in ’14, but what remained was light but quite charming, transparent, with some dry tannins at the end but a juiciness to it as well, and good dry extract—and the fruit persisted remarkably well.

Chandon de Briailles.  Overall, losses to hail were around 30% in ’14. Claude de Nicolay compared the vintage to 2000, with the fruit up front, and soft tannins to provide easier drinking than the austere ‘13s. The Pernand Ile des Vergelesses had been racked the prior week, so was not in the best shape to taste, but still displayed a nice minerality and some bright black fruit. Best was the Corton Clos du Roi, which had some real depth and intensity, and as with most of the range, opened onto a bright, transparent finish, with mild tannins.

Michel Gaunoux.  As always, the Gaunouxs eschewed [sounds like a bad cold!] barrel-tasting. We were the first to taste the ‘13s from bottle, and while it will not have escaped the attention of any reader of this blog that ’13 was not a happy vintage in the Côte de Beaune, it is a testament to the winemaking here that these wines turned out as well as they did.  The Beaune Villages in particular had excellent fruit and good purity, and no sense of hail damage. And while the tannins seemed too aggressive on the Pommard Grands Epenots, they were more integrated in the Rugiens, which was spicy, dense and transparent. The Corton Renardes was very well made, with a pure minerality but also enough dark fruit to balance, and excellent weight and persistence.

Other Côte de Beaune Reds: As in the prior year, many fine domaines and negociants struggled valiantly to produce decent wines in a difficult year. There are many wines in my notes that can best be described as “not bad,” however, rather than review a large number of wines whose inevitable shortcomings reflect the vagaries of the growing season, I have selected here a handful of other Côte de Beaune reds that I thought turned out especially well in ’14: While it is perhaps not fair to include it, as it escaped hail damage, Faiveley’s Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley is a clear success: a forward and fruity style of Clos des Cortons, but with power in reserve. Bernard Moreau’s Chassagne Rouge 1er Cru La Cardeuse (a monopole) also benefitted from being outside the hail zone, and had deep fruit and a spicy floral nose, good purity, minerality and balance, though the somewhat rustic tannins gave away the wine’s origins. Also, Bouchard’s Savigny Les Lavières was soft and spicy, with nice ripeness and a mineral touch; though perhaps a touch acidic on the finish, it would be excellent with food.


 As discussed at the outset of this article, the 2014 whites, particularly from Puligny and Chassagne, are quite special. They are pure and precise, and have a balance and tension that suggests long life—if premox doesn’t claim them first.

As an aside, while there are few notes below on Chablis, this was also an excellent vintage there, as a tasting at Raveneau in June (described below) confirmed.

 The Domaines

 Leflaive.  Leflaive is back on form in ’14. Whether this is a temporary or longer-term development, obviously only time will tell, but it has been painful to watch in recent years as bottles such as ’05 Montrachet and ’07 Bâtard were claimed by premox, and even more painful to taste any of the disastrous ‘06s made here. In any event, on a much happier note, the ‘14s are delicate and elegant, yet retain a core of pure minerality and excellent tension and equilibrium. The quality parade began early, with a pure, floral, minerally Puligny Villages; while the Clavoillons was a little square, the Folatières was especially fine: delicate and lacy, elegant and pure. The Pucelles was terrific: pure, fine, with great balance, energy and tension, and very dense and coiled still. For the Bienvenues-Bâtard, sweetness and harmony reigned, and delicacy returned, though this still had some tension at the end.  The Bâtard had more power, but was in a more elegant and delicate style for Bâtard; it was very good, though I thought the match of style and terroir was more interesting in the Bienvenues. The Chevalier was in the tradition of great Leflaive Chevaliers of the past: deeply pitched minerality on the nose, a floral note, with incredible refinement on the palate, pure, balanced, but with excellent tension.

 François Carillon. I am a big fan of François’ wines, though with the cautionary note that they may still need to be drunk on the young side because of susceptibility to premox. He made some excellent ‘14s, including a pure, spicy and intensely stony Puligny Villages, a very floral Puligny ChampGains, with excellent balance and structure; a serious and reserved Folatières, with plenty of dry extract and excellent tension and concentration, and a more elegant and reserved Puligny Perrières, with a powerful pure mineral finish packed with extract. François now also has a small quantity of Chevalier, from purchased grapes, which while elegant and with great tonality and balance, doesn’t come up to the level of its Leflaive counterpart.

Roulot.  Hats off to Jean-Marc Roulot, who despite the ravages of the June 28 hailstorm in Meursault (overall, 50-60% of the domaine’s crop was lost), managed to make some remarkably fine ’14s.  The Bourgogne Blanc, which usually delivers excellent value, was spicy, creamy and minerally. What amazed, though, was the Meursault Luchets, a Village-level wine with a gorgeous nose of crème patissière, anise and white flowers, an elegant wine with a creamy texture and all in harmony.  The Meursault Tessons was almost as good, with a deeply pitched nose, excellent volume, plus complexity and balance. Among the 1er crus, the Clos des Bouchères, while not necessarily more dense than the Tessons, had a lovely equilibrium, while the Charmes was quite forceful and precise, with a resolved, very long minerally finish. The Perrières was absolutely brilliant, with a spicy, mineral-driven nose, impressive texture and volume and great energy, precision and complexity.

Roulot also began a negociant business in ’14, and we tasted a very transparent, powerful and intense Corton Charlemagne, and a Puligny Caillerets that had a satiny texture and good equilibrium, if slightly aggressive acidity, but also a Chevalier-Montrachet that was not showing particularly well at this point.

Buisson-Charles.  I first tasted here last summer, and the quality drew us back for a Fall visit. There is an excellent Meursault Vieilles Vignes, from vines in eight different plots that are between 60 and 110 years old, which had a spicy, deep minerality, good weight and intensity, and a nice floral note, if a slightly dry finish. The Meursault Tessons had a pure minerality, sweet fruit and a lot of charm, while the Puligny Cailleret had a discreet nose, balancing fruit and a floral quality on the palate with strong minerality, and a very long finish. The Meursault Charmes (from the upper part, near Perrières) showed a very minerally character and was pure and rich with quite a lot of complexity to it, if a slight hardness at the end. We also tasted some excellent 2013s, including the Meursault VV, an excellent Meursault Goutte d’Or, and a particularly fine Meursault Bouchères, which was very pure, juicy, balanced and long.

Latour-Giraud.  Jean-Pierre Latour described ’14 as, first of all, a very concentrated vintage (yields were down 60% because of the hail), but also very pure, with lots of fruit but also lots of energy. He said the vintage was evolving slowly, and would not be easy for everyone to understand, but he thinks it is a very great vintage, though patience will be required.  I thought the wines showed best at the upper end, with the Genevrières not yet entirely knit, but having the elements to make something special; the Perrières was very harmonious, with richness, balance and completeness; and the Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre, with a nose of spice wrapped in flowers, a creamy texture, and  bright acidity, had almost Montrachet-like weight, yet still retained its elegance and finesse.

De Montille/Ch. de Puligny-Montrachet/Domaine Deux Montille.  Brian Sieve, the chef de cave, thinks this will be the best white wine vintage in decades. Among the standouts here was a St. Aubin En Remilly, an easy wine but with an acidity that keeps it lively; a Puligny Folatières that, despite a touch of funk on the nose, was a very pretty mix of spice, citrus, minerals and flowers, all supported by an excellent frame of acidity; a very fine Meursault Perrières, with great stony character and purity in the middle; and a particularly outstanding Corton-Charlemagne, which was nicely balanced, with rich sweet fruit, precise minerality, great balance and presence, and excellent length.

Bernard Moreau.  Alexandre Moreau called ’14 the best vintage in his 20 years of experience, admiring it for purity, freshness and structure. These are consistently well-made whites, though I found them a bit clenched on this visit, with the acidity strongly in evidence–perhaps reflective of Jean-Pierre Latour’s comments about how slowly the wines of this vintage are evolving. Among the 1er crus, I liked the Chenevottes, with racy acidity and sweet fruit coming up in the middle; Morgeot, which was balanced and structured, with good lift; and the Grand Ruchottes, with the most complex nose of the 1ers, an oriental spice component, powerful and pure, with a lot of bright acidity. The Bâtard was minerally and intense, with a floral finish, and clearly needs time to develop, and I particularly liked the Chevalier, which was very minerally but well balanced, with a creamy floral quality to it and a very long finish.

Paul Pillot.  The Domaine made a number of really fine whites in ’14. The St. Aubin Charmois was penetrating, transparent but with enough flesh to cover. The Chassagne 1er Cru Grand Montagne was pleasing if not exactly elegant, but the Caillerets that followed it had good flesh on the pure mineral bones, with excellent balance and line, and impressive precision. The Grands Ruchottes was richer and creamier, but with an excellent purity to it, though I slightly preferred the style of the Caillerets. The La Romanée was extremely pure and transparent, and had real finesse; it was still developing but had huge potential and was starting to show a creamy texture.

Raveneau.  I tasted here in June. Bernard Raveneau noted that many growers had, in his view, picked too early in 2014, because they still had memories of 2013, where waiting had produced disaster. He called the quality “medium-plus”, the style “classic” and found it similar to the ‘95s.  The lower level wines were marginally disappointing, but things brightened considerably once we reached the Vaillons, a classic, balanced wine with power and length. The Butteaux was even better, with a creamy texture, great balance, and a long flinty finish (Bernard said it was “almost at the limit of austerity”). The Montée de Tonnerre had a creamier texture than the Butteaux, with a pretty floral quality as well as lots of spice. The best of the 1er crus, though, was easily the Chapelots, with a discreet but balanced and complex nose, sweet spicy pears on entry, and great line, cut, purity and length. Bernard noted that the Chapelots typically shows more fruit and less power than the Montée de Tonnerre. The Blanchots clearly had much more volume than the 1er crus, a strong, knife-edged steeliness, power and intensity, but seemed a bit alcoholic and unbalanced, so Bernard sampled another barrel, which was far more floral, cleaner and purer, less aggressive, more refined, still steely but with a balancing floral element and a long spicy finish with some dry tannins at the end. The Valmur was my favorite, superb by any measure, incredibly elegant and pure, with deep minerality, a creaminess to it, and an exceptionally long finish. The Clos was also very fine but very different, with more acidity showing and a more iron-filings minerality, very powerful and intense; this will need many years to unfold and should keep for a very long time.

The Négociants

 Bouchard. There was quite an excellent range of William Fèvre Chablis this year, starting with a very chalky and reserved, but promising, Bougros Côte Bouguerots and, in contrast, a sneakily seductive, floral Vaudésir. The Valmur was quite fine, with much more body and sweet fruit than the prior grands crus, but was very balanced, minerally and long. Best of all was Les Clos, which was restrained and in need of more time, but already complex, balanced and light on its feet despite its weight, with a long, elegant finish. Among the Côte de Beaune whites, the Puligny Champs Gain and Combettes made a nice pair, the former with prim white flowers, peaches and a nice mineral balance, and the latter with more acidity and intensity, good precision and a long floral, citric finish that was very compelling. The Chevalier La Cabotte had a lot of dry extract, but also a lot of acidity that seemed a bit aggressive. The Montrachet, however, was superb, with an elegant, delicate nose that seemed almost more Chevy than Monty, plus incredible balance, elegance and lift–this really epitomized power without weight, and had a finish that was still going after 2 minutes!

Drouhin.  Véronique Drouhin, with her long experience and characteristic honesty, offered a small corrective to the enthusiasm shown by many growers for the whites, noting that while it was an excellent white wine vintage, it was in her view a bit much to place it among the very best. Nonetheless, there were some excellent whites produced by Drouhin in ’14. The Village Chassagne was quite attractive, a crowd-pleaser with its sweet fruit and spice balanced by good minerality.  The Chassagne Morgeots was also very good, concentrated and intense, with good focus, and the Puligny Folatières was even better, with excellent weight, creaminess and great balance, a charming wine with a precise mineral finish. The Corton-Charlemagne was in a lovely creamy style, well balanced, not perhaps for connoisseurs of CC minerality but sure to be a crowd-pleaser. The Montrachet Marquis de la Guiche had strong lift, spice with silk developing, and was coiled, vibrant and intense, with clearly a lot of development ahead—this should be extremely good with time.

Faiveley.  The whites were quite charming here, beginning with a racy Meursault Charmes, and a fruity and spicy Puligny Folatières—not classically structured but very attractive. The Bienvenues-Bâtard had power, racy acidity but plenty of sweet fruit–not profound but highly enjoyable–and the Bâtard was deeper-pitched than the BBM, but without the gorgeous spice and flowers of the latter.  The Corton-Charlemagne was the best of the range: pure, a minerally CC (which I prefer), but with good fruit, precision and energy.

Jadot.  An attractive range of whites here. The Puligny Combettes had a great nose of spice and white flowers and was well balanced; the Puligny Clos de la Garenne had lovely peachy fruit balanced with positive acidity; and the Puligny Caillerets had a deep nose of near-grand cru quality and was large-framed and balanced on the palate. The Bâtard was particularly good, powerful with sweet fruit, white flowers and cream; and although the usually fine Chevalier Demoiselles seemed a little out of sorts, the Corton-Charlemagne was charming and had a penetrating mineral finish. The Montrachet was particularly fine, very dense with great energy and tension.

Other Whites. The following are whites from predominantly red-wine focused Domaines that impressed: a fine Bourgogne Aligoté from Comte Armand, with more sweetness and white flowers than usual and a nice spiciness; an excellent Corton Blanc from Chandon de Briailles, with a Poire Williams nose, low acidity, lacking grand cru weight but also not as ponderous as Corton Blanc can be—a fine summer white; the first Pulignys from Dujac: a Folatières that was pleasant but no better, but then a Combettes that was really quite beautiful, with a floral, creamy and citric nose, showing vibrant minerality but very balanced, and spicy at the end; a floral, balanced Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes Blanc from Comte Liger-Belair;  a pleasant Bourgogne Haut Côte de Nuits Clos St Philibert from Méo-Camuzet, with good fruit and excellent tension; a Meursault Tillets with positive acidity, excellent balance and good purity from Francois Labet of Ch. de la Tour; and to finish, a huge, powerful, intense and extremely long Montrachet, with a potentially great future, from Ponsot.

© 2016 Douglas E. Barzelay




If I had to sum up the 2013 vintage in a phrase, it would be “it’s complicated.” Any generalizations about this difficult vintage are bound to miss the mark to some degree. The growing season oscillated between extremes, and so do the resulting wines: hail damage severely reduced the crop, and affected the quality as well, in Volnay, Pommard, Beaune and Savigny, but the crop had already been substantially reduced across the Côte d’Or by a cold and rainy spring and a late and uneven flowering. While much of July and August were warm and sunny, the vintage was one of the latest in recent times, with most growers not picking until October. October, however, saw some significant rainfall, and botrytis began to affect the vineyards, albeit after most of the picking was done.

The resulting wines seem to fall into several categories:

–the Côte de Beaune reds from vineyards that suffered hail damage, which are only rarely successful, typically exhibiting very dry tannins and in some instances a pruney character;
–Red and White wines in both Côtes that are slightly underripe, and exhibit an excess of acidity (and in many reds, an excess of hard tannins as well);
–Whites from the Côte de Beaune, and reds from the Côte de Nuits, that are sweet, easy and approachable; and
–more serious reds from the Côte de Nuits (and some Côte de Beaune whites) that are precise, structured and well-balanced, with charming fruit.

In the Côte de Nuits, the most successful villages seem to be Gevrey-Chambertin (which according to Bernard Hervet received significantly less rainfall than its neighbors) and Chambolle-Musigny, and within Chambolle, a special nod has to go to a cohort of stunning Amoureuses. As in many vintages where ripeness is an issue, as a generalization the Grands Crus were more successful than the Premiers Crus and the Premiers more successful than the Villages wines. However, exceptions abound.

One of the best and most honest growers in Burgundy (who produced some of the top wines of this vintage) said that while 2013 is a good vintage, and he is very pleased with the quality of his wines, no one should mistake it for a great vintage. I would underscore his remarks, both because I agree with them, and because there is already starting to be commentary—there will be more—that either hypes this vintage beyond what it can bear, or dismisses it entirely. Both extremes can find examples to support their views, but the truth is considerably more complex. Indeed, if this is a winemaker’s vintage—and it is—it is also a Burg geek’s vintage, because those who take the time to poke beneath the surface will in time be rewarded with some very fine drinking experiences.

A Few Comments: Everyone wants a brief headline and definitive answer as to whether the vintage is great, and whether a particular wine, or producer’s range of wines, is great (as a friend recently wrote to me: “are the ‘12s really great and should I buy whatever I can get my hands on, or should I skip it?”). The answer is rarely so simple—especially in Burgundy. This is particularly true when the information you have is gleaned from barrel tastings. As I have written before, one gets a brief moment to taste a particular wine at a particular stage of its development, on a particular day, and from that is expected to make a judgment about how that wine will taste many years later. While several weeks of tasting at the right time (and November after the vintage is usually one of the best times) can give a fairly good picture of the vintage overall (with the caveat that vintages can take unexpected turns in their development), and pinpoint many of the success and failures, inevitably there are vagaries to tasting specific wines, which may depend on ambient temperature, barometric pressure, treatments or lack thereof, whether the sample is representative (is it from an old barrel in a Cuvée that is going to be 80% new oak?), how recently the wine finished malo, or was racked, and other factors (the bio guys, of course, would tell you it’s also a matter of whether its a root day, or fruit day, or whatever, but that’s a different story). When a vintage is difficult, like 2013, it simply exacerbates the problem of knowing whether what you are tasting on a particular day is truly representative. Since I don’t get paid for my views and therefore don’t need to pretend to omniscience, I want to be very clear that this is an extremely complex vintage to taste, with results that are all over the map, and it is likely that some wines will turn out better—and some worse—than predicted.

Finally, while I have commented overall on the ranges of the various domaines, I have only focused in detail on the wines I liked; if this report were to include every wine tasted, it would bore even the writer. However, the reader should keep in mind that we taste most if not all of the range at the individual domaines, and a large sample at the negociants, so that if in a particular case the list of recommended wines is shorter than normal, it is a reflection of the difficulties of this vintage and the need for care in selection.


Côte de Nuits

The Domaines

As the sweet spots for this vintage seem to have been Gevrey and Chambolle, lets start there:

Roumier: Unfortunately, our appointment had to be moved up by several days, and so we arrived shortly after most of the wines had been racked. Nonetheless, this range is a brilliant success (it didn’t hurt that most of Christophe’s holdings are in the two villages that were the most successful in ’13), with several being among the best wines I tasted on this trip. Christophe’s view of the vintage is that it shows good terroir, and that he likes the freshness of the vintage, but that the wines don’t have the same complexity as the ‘12s. He sees them as ‘friendly” wines, but not long-distance runners. The Chambolle Village was delicious—spicy, generous and charming—and the Chambolle Les Cras was also a winner: showing strawberry fruit on the nose, it was medium weight, minerally, pure and complex. The Charmes-Chambertin had a curious bell pepper note in the nose, which might be an artifact of the recent racking, and a delicacy in the back palate that I don’t tend to associate with Charmes (but like), while the Ruchottes had great perfume in the nose and persistence, purity, even elegance for Ruchottes. The Bonnes Mares, despite its recent racking, showed off a deep nose of red fruit and minerals, and was balanced and transparent, with the tannins more prominent than in the other wines in this range. The Amoureuses outshone it though, with intense spice and complex fruit on the nose; it was delicate, elegant and pure, with refined tannins and some silkiness in the finish. Lastly, the Musigny, which was the only wine not yet racked, had lovely red fruit, spice and the characteristic citrus note, the new oak not yet fully integrated, but with a long, silky, refined finish.
We also tasted the range of 2012s here, including a Chambolle Village whose weight and density—not to mention balance and complexity—made it more like a 1er Cru (91); a pure, long Chambolle Les Cras, with suave tannins (92); a very fine Ruchottes, extremely dense and complex with ripe red fruit and a long pure finish (94); and a Bonnes Mares that seemed to be shutting down (92+?). The Chambolle Amoureuses had ultra-refined fruit, density and an amazing tension in the wine—the epitome of purity and refinement (95); while the Musigny, with a rich nose, great balance, plummy fruit, was still a baby but there is great depth and purity on the extremely long finish and this will surely evolve into a great wine (95+).

Mugnier: though the tasting started a little slowly, the quality eventually began to shine through at the upper levels. Nonetheless, these are not a match for Freddy’s beautiful 2012s, which we tasted from bottle. Freddy noted that the vegetative cycle in 2013 was the longest he’s ever seen, but that it allowed the grapes to achieve phenolic ripeness. He said that the tannins had a rich texture to them, which was unexpected in such a late vintage. He also, as did others, noted that toward the very end of the harvest, botrytis had come on quite suddenly and rapidly: there was none before October 5th in Chambolle, but by the 8th it had become explosive. In his view, the ‘13s are tight and precise, and will need some bottle age to show their best. His Chambolle Village seemed a bit on the lean side, without the brightness or fruit of Roumier’s, but the Chambolle Fuées was a considerable step up, with great fruit on the palate and a cool minerality, a silky texture and a transparent minerally finish. The Amoureuses was superb, with a complex nose of cherries and strawberries plus minerals; it was light, elegant, and silky, with a spicy mineral finish, great length and very refined tannins. The Musigny was also extremely fine, with a complex nose of licorice, currants, strawberries and citrus; it is dense, pure and powerful, with a touch of salinity and powerful but refined tannins.
We then tasted the ‘12s, which Freddy described as a bit closed and austere at the moment. Notwithstanding this caveat, the Chambolle Village had beautiful sweet ripe red fruit and a touch of brown sugar on the nose; while a bit light on entry, it had lovely sweet red fruit and spice on the palate (91). The Chambolle Fuées was very balanced with excellent spice notes and a silky texture (92), while the Chambolle Amoureuses, despite being a bit austere, had great purity, a lovely texture and a delicate spicy finish—this wine is just hinting at greater things to come (95). The Musigny had deep fruit and citrus on the nose, and was very intense, deeply minerally, with red fruit in the back; its power is in evidence, backed by some significant, if refined, tannins, but the finish opens to amazing length, purity and refinement (95+).

Ghislaine Barthod: It is a treat to taste here, as one gets an excellent lesson in terroir. The domaine vinifies 9 different 1er Crus in Chambolle, and it is not hard to see the differences as one moves from one to another. The range overall was very well-crafted, and while some wines reflected the more problematic elements of the vintage (too much acidity and tannin for the fruit and a resulting lack of balance), the best are very fine examples, from a village that was one of the standouts in 2013. I particularly liked the Chambolle Gruenchers, with a light, mineral-driven nose and a spicy and charming palate with open berry fruit and good length; the Chambolle Fuées, which had bright deep cherry fruit on the nose, a penetrating minerality on the palate, and a touch of what Ghislaine described as “bitter orange zest”–overall a wine with a lot of material, and a transparent and persistent finish; and the Chambolle Les Cras, where you could sense the greater density even on the nose, but also some lovely sweet fruit, a touch of new oak, excellent concentration and length.

Francois Bertheau: relatively small quantities again in 2013, but at least there is some Bonnes Mares, unlike in 2012 when there was almost none. The elfin Francois Berthaud is a true Burgundian character, who only sees visitors after 5 pm, when he returns on his tractor from the vineyards (“where else would I be”? he says). The range is small, but he makes seriously good wines here—not quite at the Roumier or Mugnier level, but still excellent examples. The Chambolle Village had charming and easy sweet fruit flavors, while the Chambolle 1er Cru had a nice floral touch to the nose, with currants, citrus and cherries; it had a nice medium weight and good balance, if slight dryness at the finish. The Chambolle Charmes had more material than the 1er Cru but less charm (!), at least at the moment. The Chambolle Amoureuses was yet another fine example from this vineyard, with an intense nose of complex fruit (currants, cherries, etc), deep spice, good lift and not too much acidity, and a long finish developing some silk. The Bonnes Mares was even better, with soft but complex fruit, excellent density, a dry and spicy finish, some oak spice (25% new oak), and also a silky texture.

Bruno Clair: I generally like the wines here quite a bit, so was disappointed when the tasting began, as we worked our way through the Village and lower Premier Crus, all of which showed to some degree or another the characteristic high acidity and/or strong tannins of the vintage. However, the Cazetiers was a significant step up, and the Clos St. Jacques and Clos de Bèze were both brilliant examples, outstanding successes in this vintage. Among the 1er Crus, the Savigny Les Dominodes, with rich red fruit balanced by minerality, had some strong tannins but should be very good in time, while the Gevrey Cazetiers, as noted, was excellent, with a rich nose of red fruit and meats; on the palate it was transparent, with tannins that were not harsh and that dissolved into the pure minerally finish. The Clos St. Jacques had a nose bursting with intense ripe fruit, and amazing richness; on the palate it was pure and intense, with a bright minerally finish and silky refined tannins. The Clos de Bèze had a gorgeous perfumed nose, with delicacy and refinement; on the palate, the power was evident, as was the intensity, and there was a rich fruit finish, with spice, minerals, silk, and refined tannins. Superb wine! The Bonnes Mares was a slight letdown after the Bèze: despite a mysterious and beguiling nose, the tannins seemed more evident and dominant here.
To contrast the vintages, we then tasted the 2012 Gevrey Cazetiers and Clos St. Jacques. Though Philippe Brun warned that the ‘12s were closing up a bit, both still showed extremely well. The Cazetiers had sweet, almost candied fruit on the nose; while it lightened up on the palate slightly, it still had excellent balance and transparency, and the tannins seemed suppressed on the long minerally finish (93). The Clos St. Jacques had exceptional bright ripe fruit and a hint of brown sugar on the nose; on the palate it was succulent, spicy, of medium weight, and had excellent finesse; there was a touch of tannin here but also a sense of refinement (94). Here I felt that the ‘13s of these particular wines might stand up to the ‘12s, though the range overall was not at the level of its older sibling, as tasted last year.

Trapet: This tasting ran considerably over its allotted time, as both Jean-Louis and his father Jean were in expansive moods, and we were delighted to listen—and to taste the 1955 Chambertin! And while Jean-Louis certainly has many years ahead of him, the succession seems assured as his son, who is now part of the team, joined the tasting as well. Overall, while some of the lower-level wines were not entirely persuasive, the top-level wines showed extremely well. While I prefer the ‘12s here (as at most addresses where we were able to taste side-by-side), the Latricières and the Chambertin are no slouches in ’13. (Note there was no Gevrey 1er Cru Capita in 2013, as Jean-Louis only makes this wine when he feels that 100% whole cluster is warranted.) The Gevrey L’Ostrea was slightly reduced but one could still see the excellent balance of sweet red fruit and minerality, a slight saline touch, some black pepper, and a very nice medium weight, and neither the tannins nor the oak were overbearing. The Chapelle-Chambertin had great minerality, and the touch of reduction did not obscure the excellent weight and balance here; it had a high-toned and very long finish as well. The Latricières had great depth of spice on the nose, and minerality. On the palate, the wine was well balanced, with purity, power and drive; there is a fair amount of tannin here but also a lot of deep red fruit on the finish. The Chambertin was also somewhat reduced, but had lovely purity, red fruit, spice and black pepper notes, together with an intense minerality on the palate; the tannins here are strong but suave, and some great spice and roast meat flavors come up on the immensely long finish.
We also tasted several 2012s here. The Gevrey Ostrea had very nice blueberry fruit on the nose and palate, excellent weight, good power, and some strong tannins after (91). The Latricières-Chamberin had an exotic fruit nose, great minerality, smoked meats, slate, and black pepper; it was powerful, balanced, and had silky tannins (93-94). The Chambertin had a subtle nose, while the palate exuded a sense of calm and transparency; this is a self-assured wine with silky tannins and excellent length (95).

DRC: Aubert de Villaine said he was very pleased with the quality of his ‘13s, and a couple of reliable sources said that, in the weeks before our visit, the wines were showing superbly well. However, as Bertrand de Villaine noted, there had been heavy rains two days before our visit, which had briefly flooded the cellar, and he found many of the wines unsettled on the day of our visit. So did I. While the Romanée-Conti showed just how superb the vintage here could be, the other wines, particularly the Richebourg and Grands Echézeaux, seemed in varying degrees to lack harmony. I can only report on what I saw on the particular day, but hopefully a subsequent visit may yield a different result.
That said, there was a nice spicy quality and excellent purity to the Corton, and I think the Domaine has acted wisely in moving to a majority of one-year old barrels for the elevage of this wine. The Romanée-St.-Vivant was also showing some amazing spice on the nose; it is a powerful RSV with a long, spicy, well-delineated finish and amazing persistence. La Tâche had exotic spices on the nose; it was intensely concentrated, with strong acidity, but at least today the fruit seemed a bit figgy. This needs to be revisited. The Romanée-Conti, on the other hand, needs to be revisited for other reasons: it was simply superb, with an amazing nose of spice, red fruits, baked bread and what Aubert calls the “little touch of green” that turns eventually to rose petal; it was elegant and concentrated on the palate, but the real fireworks were on the finish: super-smooth, nothing out of place, serene and refined, and almost endless. Simply amazing wine.

Liger-Belair: While these wines do not seem destined to challenge the brilliant 2012s at this estate, they are overall very fine wines, with a large proportion of successes in this difficult vintage. One of the top addresses for 2013s, even without wines in Gevrey.
Normally I prefer the Vosne Clos du Château to the Colombière, but this year it was the reverse: the Colombière had rich fruit supported by excellent acidity, and was soft and balanced. I also particularly liked the Vosne Suchots, with its rich nose, sweet fruit, citrus touch and great transparency; the Vosne Brulées, which had a nose with great fruit and purity and a seductive smoky note, while on the palate there was sweet fruit, a bit of oak but some silky softness and a long pure fruit finish. The Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes (for you geeks out there, this is the only 1er Cru in the Côte de Nuits that is east of the D974, and it is also a monopole, helping give Liger-Belair the distinction of being the only producer with Monopoles in Village, 1er Cru and Grand Cru) had soft red fruit, touches of earth and spice, and excellent balance—a very well-crafted wine. The Vosne Reignots was a bit too gassy to evaluate fully, but seemed to have a lot of density. The Echézeaux was spicy, with excellent soft red fruit, a lighter style wine but had lovely balance and transparency, with some strong tannins at the end but also a lot of fruit and good minerality and persistence. La Romanée was quite dense, with crushed berry fruit on the nose, a lot of acidity, great richness and power, and glycerine at the end, with the tannins possibly a bit aggressive at the moment but still evolving, and it had an extremely long finish showing good refinement.
We tasted two 2012s: the Vosne Reignots, with sweet crushed raspberries, excellent weight and balance, there is huge material here but the wine still needs to eat the oak (93+); and the Echézeaux, showing intense fruit and minerality, and a creamy touch; it is structured, juicy, with great balance and length and certainly far more density than the ’13, charming as that wine is (94+).

Anne Gros: all of these wines seem to have been made in a light, fruity style, including the Richebourg, which had the weight of a Village-level wine and no discernable Richebourg terroir. What has happened at this domaine is a mystery to me. In the ‘90s, Anne Gros was making terrific wines, and her Richebourg was a consistent standout among its peers. As one observer speculated, she seems to have decided to rest on her laurels, and turned her attention elsewhere, with depressing results. What a waste!

Mugneret-Gibourg: Brilliantly successful wines in ’13, the best of which seem effortless. As is true almost everywhere, there is some inconsistency in the range, but the best—including a particularly fine Bourgogne, which has more to it than Anne Gros’ Richebourg—are well worth finding and cellaring, and will likely be approachable in the near term but hold well.
The tasting began auspiciously with the Bourgogne, which had a spicy beeswax note, a lot of soft red fruit, a bit of acidity after but a silkiness-really a remarkable Bourgogne. The Nuits Village was also extremely charming, with great typicity, earthy, spicy and sweet. The Nuits Chaignots had intense black fruit and earth, and was silky and balanced, though with a bit of a dry finish; certainly the acidity and tannins were not hidden, but it was a nice wine nonetheless. The Chambolle Feusselottes (some day, I may learn to spell Feusselottes without looking it up, but I doubt it) was a real standout, with gorgeous bright red fruit on the nose and palate, excellent lift, balance and transparency. (Underscoring the vagaries of tasting, Marie-Andrée commented that a week earlier, this wine had been totally closed down.) The Ruchottes-Chambertin was spicy, meaty, open and rich, with medium weight and a gorgeous spicy strawberry finish, the tannins a bit dry but not overly so. The Echézeaux had plenty to enjoy but seemed also to have some dried herbs and drier tannins in back, and Marie-Andrée commented that this was a bit too concentrated (at 17-18hl/ha) to be a normal expression of Echézeaux. The Clos Vougeot was open-knit and had complex red fruit on the palate, a touch of clove and gingerbread, but also a hint of something a little out of place, appleskin perhaps, with some dry tannins; judgment deferred.
The 2012 Grands Crus seemed a bit shut down (or not quite showing the promise they did a year ago), but the Nuits Chaignots had a nice stony nose and a layer of sweet red fruit to accompany its minerality and earthiness; this was still carrying a fair amount of tannin but it seemed likely to modulate in time (91). The Chambolle Feusselottes had subdued red fruit and spice, plus a creamy element, on the nose, and spice cake, minerals, and red fruit on an excellent transparent palate and finish (92).

Méo-Camuzet: while a number of these wines were reduced and not easy to read definitively, there are some very fine 2013s at this address. However, care in choosing among the 2013s is advisable, as at most domaines with a broad range of appellations.
I liked both the Nuits Meurgers, which had excellent balance, medium body, and a long minerally finish, and the Nuits Boudots, with had much richer fruit than the Meurgers and was more dense and concentrated, though perhaps a bit heavier in comparison. Both the Clos Vougeot and the Corton Clos Rognets seemed to be in the charming, easy style of many wines of this vintage, while the Echézeaux, despite heavy reduction, seemed elegant and possessed of a long finish with great lift. The Vosne Brulées was more brooding, with power and presence, and a tight structure. The best wines here were the Vosne Cros Parantoux, which despite only recently finishing malo displayed a spicy, cool fruit nose, sweet raspberries on the palate, tight structure and power, with an intense mineral finish of great breed; and the Richebourg, which was powerful, spicy, open and rich, a bit forward even, but with a lot to it.
The 2012 Nuits Boudots, opened several days earlier, had a rich fruit nose and a touch of brown sugar, and was distinctly sweet but enjoyable (90), while the 2012 Clos Vougeot, opened on the spot, was very ripe and rich, with black currants, licorice, black pepper, and a touch of brown sugar; it had a lot of power and richness, with medium, refined tannins and excellent length, and was distinctly superior to the 2013 version (92-93).

Grivot: Etienne’s wines have reached a new plateau of quality in recent years, and despite the difficulties of the vintage, there are some significant successes here. The Village-level wines were well-crafted, including a Nuits Charmois that had charming sweet fruit, a touch of salinity, and little tannin in evidence, and a Chambolle Combe d’Orveaux, with black cherry fruit, good energy and transparency. With the 1er Crus, Etienne announced that he had decided to act on someone’s advice and show the Vosne 1ers before the Nuits 1ers, the idea being that it would show that the Nuits 1ers were fully at the level of their Vosne counterparts. The only problem with this theory is that, good as the Nuits 1ers were, they were not fully at the level of the Vosne 1ers—and if you believe in terroir, there’s a ready explanation for that. I did quite like the Nuits Pruliers, an earthy, charming crowd-pleaser with good weight, and the Nuits Boudots, much more structured though with plenty of sweet strawberry fruit, if some strong tannins. Nevertheless they were not a match for the Vosne Brulées, with its bright sweet fruit, spiciness, smoky edge and mineral balance, a very fine wine just getting the edge over the Méo version, or the Vosne Reignots, with amazing depth of fruit on the nose, deep spice, soy, great balance and beautiful transparency on the finish. The Vosne Suchots was also good, though perhaps a bit heavy in comparison, while the Echézeaux seemed pleasant, approachable, but a bit lacking in focus. The Clos Vougeot was better, tending toward the sweet and supple for Clos Vougeot (and especially for Grivot’s typically brooding style of CV), with a touch of brown sugar and wild herbs. Best was the Richebourg, which had an intensely minerally nose that was calm and deep; on the palate, it had classic Richebourg structure, power and weight, and wonderful purity; on the finish, the tannins are a bit strong and the back end seems to need time to develop, but I’d be willing to bet on this wine.
Etienne thinks that 2012 may be his greatest vintage, combining drinkability, energy and balance, but not all of the wines we tasted on this day were showing at their best—possibly they have begun to shut down, as a number of ‘12s have–for example a Vosne Beaumonts that was still reduced in bottle, and an Echézeaux that had excellent energy and refinement, but also a slight caramel hint that intruded on the finish (90). Much better were the Clos Vougeot, which had great weight and intensity but avoided heaviness (91), a Nuits Boudots that had a sweet creamy entry, and was earthy, spicy, generous and balanced (92), and a powerful, minerally and pure Richebourg, with some SO2 that slightly suppressed the fruit for now, but with a lovely silky mineral finish and refined tannins (93+).

Sylvain Cathiard: The young, self-effacing Sébastien Cathiard is slowly improving the quality here (which is not to say his father’s wines were less than very good, though sometimes marred by an excess of high toast new oak). Sébastien described 2013 as having higher acidity than 2012, but being drinkable earlier—fruity, fat, forward, fun was how he described the ‘13s. Nonetheless, some of his wines are more than that, I think. The Bourgogne and the Village wines were all good, though I think the oak treatment still mars these a bit. Things ramped up significantly with the 1er Crus, including a Nuits Aux Thoreys that had deeply pitched red fruit, excellent minerality, drive, and an almost silky touch; Nuits Meurgers, with a beautiful red fruit nose, quite earthy, with more tannin than the Thoreys but also more body and more silk– today the Thoreys is more pleasurable but it will be interesting to see what happens with time; Vosne En Orveaux, with beautiful cherry fruit, spice, a pure minerality and an appealing finish (Sébastien commented that this seemed almost more Chambolle than Vosne) and a stunning Vosne Malconsorts, with deeply pitched fruit on the nose, a silky middle, excellent transparency and silky tannins. The sole Grand Cru here, the Romanée-St.-Vivant, was clearly a very elegant wine, though the nose seemed reticent and the oak a bit strong; nonetheless it had great balance and promises well. The 2012s we tasted included a surprisingly good Bourgogne (surprising in that it had been opened several days earlier, but still had beautiful bright fruit and spice, and was well-knit (90), a Vosne Village marred by too much oak on the nose (86), and a Nuits Meurgers which despite a touch of hardness had a lot of appealing sweet fruit, hints of spice, earth, and good density (92).

Hudelot-Noellat: here as elsewhere, things got progressively more exciting as one mounted the “ladder.” The top 1er Crus and Grand Crus are very fine wines, and Charles van Canneyt is one of the young winemakers of the Côte d’Or to watch.
Among the 1er Crus, the Nuits Meurgers had a beautiful nose of dark cherries and spice and despite a touch of reduction on the palate it was minerally and very long with the tannins in check. The Vosne Beaumonts also displayed a nose of great purity, and it was transparent and minerally on the palate as well, with a light charming finish and some dry tannins but they should modulate in time. The Vosne Suchots had more power and concentration than the Beaumonts but seemed less well-knit, at least for now, while the Vosne Malconsorts, which had undergone a very late malo, was a bit hard to read but seemed to have great transparency, power, lift and structure, some slightly fiery tannins leading to a very long and very pure finish—this too needs time but appears to have a great future. The Clos Vougeot was showing really well, with great balance, structure and finesse and powerful but refined tannins. The RSV had huge spice, a hint of woodsmoke, and black cherries on the nose; it seemed more delicate than the Clos Vougeot, and not quite as integrated, but the tannins were refined. The Richebourg had a pretty, open red fruit nose, a creamy texture, hints of game and soy, and lovely purity, with powerful but integrated tannins—this should be very fine in time.
We then tasted a number of 2012s, including a very nice, light and open Chambolle Village (89), an open, transparent and minerally Vougeot Les Petits Vougeots (90), and a range of fine 1er Crus, including a Chambolle Charmes with rich jammy fruit on the nose but a good mineral spine (90+), an excellent Nuits Meurgers, with good delineation and power (91); Vosne Malconsorts, with a great mélange of red fruits and spice on the nose, it was on the delicate side but elegant and with refined tannins (93). As for the Grands Crus, the Clos Vougeot was classy, with a high-toned minerally nose, perfume, spice and good acidic lift (93); the RSV was very refined , with excellent weight and balance and an extra touch of finesse at the end (93+). In contrast was the gamy, rich and powerful Richebourg, with touches of leather and soy, a creamy red fruit middle, excellent balancing acidity, and an extremely long finish with silky tannins (94).

Château de la Tour: generally good ‘13s, with notable successes at both ends of the tasting: an utterly brilliant village Gevrey (a negoce wine) and a remarkable Hommage. The small negociant range was quite well made, including a very nice Bourgogne V.V. (50 year old vines from Chorey) and a successful Beaune Clos du Dessus des Marconnets, which despite some dry tannins at the end was really quite bright and pure for a Beaune in this vintage. Most remarkable though was the Gevrey V.V., which gets my vote for over-achiever of the vintage: the nose was quite perfumed, with a citric touch, and the palate had excellent lift and purity, with notes of kirsch, black pepper and a saline touch; the finish was spicy and very long. Yes, Gevrey was the sweet spot in 2013, but this is still remarkable for a Village wine. The Clos Vougeot V.V. was certainly a good wine, with excellent briary fruit on the nose, and was dense and rich with saline and game notes and some fierce tannins but seemingly the richness to carry them as they modulate. The Clos Vougeot Hommage a Jean Morin was in another category, however, with incredible density to the nose, showing notes of licorice, kirsch, perfume, black pepper and minerals; on the palate it was rich, silky and elegant, with very refined tannins.

Ponsot: overall, a lovely range that demonstrates the attractive side of this vintage, then mounts to a more serious crescendo with the Clos St Denis and Clos de la Roche. I liked the Morey 1er Cru Cuvée Les Alouettes, with excellent terroir character, good balance, and medium tannins; the Corton Bressandes (the only wine racked to this point), which showed good ripeness, medium tannins and a long finish; and the Griottes-Chambertin, with a nice mix of sweet fruit (cherries, raspberries and currants) and excellent spice, though a fair amount of tannin. Better still were the Chapelle-Chambertin, which was quite transparent, very balanced, with creamy tannins and a long finish developing; the Clos de Bèze (only 1 barrel), which was extremely primary on the nose but had great purity in the middle, and it seemed as though the acidity and the super-ripe fruit are in balance with little tannin in evidence (to me, it far outshone the much less dense though pleasant Chambertin); and the Clos Vougeot V.V., which was dense and intense (not unlike the Ch. de la Tour V.V. version). The two big guns performed as they should, with the Clos St. Denis T.V.V. (in tank) being relatively open-knit yet with a lot of rich material and a minerality that drove it throughout–an elegant wine with soft tannins and great length. The Clos de la Roche V.V. had an intensely spicy nose of beeswax, dried herbs, black pepper and cream, with red fruit coming up on the palate, a penetrating minerality, great energy and superb balance, all culminating in an extremely long finish.

Dujac: usually when we’re here, the wines need racking and are consequently quite reduced. This time, they had completed their (sole) racking about 10 days before we arrived and the wines were showing quite well. While we only taste the wines we’re allocated, which is unfortunate as it limits what one can say about the range, we tasted several first-rate wines here, as the notes reflect.
The Morey Village was quite a nice example, with spice, mustard seed and perfume, and good transparency. The Gevrey Combottes was particularly good, with deep red fruit, perfume, a meaty touch, spice and citrus, again very transparent and with excellent weight. The Charmes-Chambertin had very pure fruit up front and a light pure lingering finish, and was showing quite well, as was the Vosne Malconsorts, a complete contrast with its deep Vosne spice, intensity and weight; though a bit tannic and hard at the moment, there was real refinement here. The Clos de la Roche had deeply pitched fruit, a touch of perfume from the stems, a lot of minerality and excellent lift at the end, a very fine wine but it was slightly outshone by the Clos St. Denis, which showed more violets on the nose, strawberries on the palate, and a bit more oak spice, but overall it was an elegant wine with a refined finish.

De Montille: Sadly, our visit came just a few days after the death of Hubert de Montille—though of all ways to go, a swift passing while drinking his own wine (’99 Pommard Rugiens) in the company of friends, was perhaps among the best ways to exit.
Because the domaine has both whites and reds, and from both Côtes, and because the wine growing and wine making is careful and intelligent, this domaine could well serve as a microcosm of the vintage. As Etienne de Montille said, it is a good, but not a great, vintage. Not surprisingly, the Côte De Nuits reds were clearly more successful than those of the Côte de Beaune (the whites are discussed in that section of this report).
In particular, the Vosne Malconsorts was very fine, intense and powerful, with great transparency, and a hint of silk; the tannins, though heavy, are ripe and will modulate. The Vosne Malconsorts Cuvée Christiane was, as usual, even better, with a wonderful silky mouthfeel, positive acidity, great minerality, intense red fruit on the nose and palate, and tannins that were a bit suaver than the regular Cuvée. It used to be difficult to find Malconsorts worthy of the name; now there are at least a quartet of domaines (Cathiard, Hudelot-Noellat, Dujac and de Montille) that seem to be in an intense if unspoken competition to place Malconsorts at the top of the Vosne 1ers.

The Negociants

Faiveley: a really fine range of Côte de Nuits reds here, with some standout successes.
Not surprisingly, the tasting passed quite quickly out of the Côte de Beaune and settled in Nuits-St-Georges, where the Premiers Crus were very good but clearly outpaced by the Chambolles and Gevreys that followed. The Porrets-St.-Georges was quite earthy but with excellent balance and transparency and the Les-St.-Georges was also very good, with excellent tension, strong but suave tannins, and incredible persistence (we also tasted a non-Domaine version, to be sold separately, which had more fruit than the Domaine example but lacked the complexity). The Chambolles (mostly negociant wines) showed well, including an easy, lighter-style but very enjoyable Chambolle Charmes, a Chambolle Combe d’Orveaux that had much more depth on the palate, with good transparency and persistence, and a Chambolle Amoureuses, which had a wonderful nose of complex red fruit, spice and minerals and polished tannins at the end, but at least today seemed to lack a little mid-palate depth. The standout for me among the Gevrey 1er Crus was the Clos des Issarts, with smoked meat and hints of stone fruit on the nose, a silky quality on the palate, and a spicy long finish. The Gevrey Grands Crus included an impressive Mazis-Chambertin, with intense rich fruit balanced by good acidity, modulated tannins and an amazing complex finish; Clos de Bèze, with a huge nose of red fruit, dried herbs, grilled meats, licorice, lavender and minerals–this was a very powerful wine, the only nit being that it seemed to lack a bit of generosity; and the superb Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin, richer and sweeter than the regular Bèze, deeply minerally with great balance, a wine that gained depth as one studied it, with sophisticated tannins and a multi-minute finish. As with Bouchard and Jadot, Faiveley insists on tasting its flagship wine at or near the end, which in my view is always a mistake, and the Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, while an excellent wine, is just not sophisticated enough to come after the Ouvrées Rodin. The Musigny, however (tasted this year directly from the single small barrel, which has a locked bung), did deserve to be served last, with deep spice, great purity, strong penetrating minerality, the characteristic blood orange note, and extremely polished tannins on an incredibly elegant finish; this was truly superb, though it will be almost impossible to find.

Drouhin: The style of the reds this year tends towards softness, with an emphasis on the sweet fruit. While for the most part they do not suffer from the excess of acidity and tannin that many wines do, the tradeoff seems to have been that, while attractive for short and perhaps medium term drinking, they do not look to be long-distance runners, and in some cases (Grands Echézeaux for example) seem to lack the weight of their classification (so did the Jadot Grands Ech—I wonder what might have happened here). On the other hand, when they succeed (Chambolle Amoureuses, for example), they are nothing short of brilliant.
While the Chambolle 1er Cru, usually among my favorite value wines, seemed too soft this year for my taste, and the Grands Echézeaux, as mentioned, didn’t have the density or weight I typically associate with the appellation, the Clos Vougeot had much more structure and intensity, with medium weight, and the Vosne Petits Monts was soft, fleshy and quite charming. The Griottes-Chambertin, usually reduced at this time of year and hard to taste, was mercifully accessible, and a very fine wine, with gorgeous cherry fruit, meat and minerals on the nose, and on the palate it was soft, pretty, very well balanced, with the acidity in check and the tannins hardly evident. The Clos de Bèze was also charming, but I missed the power of the best examples. The Musigny had an amazing nose, extremely refined with a delicate balance of minerality; on the palate, while good, it did seem a bit on the soft side, and had some dry tannins at the end. For me, it was bested this year by the Chambolle Amoureuses, with just the right balance of sweet strawberry fruit, mineral lift and silky tannins—an exceptionally elegant wine.

Benjamin Leroux: In a relatively short period, Benjamin has developed a large portfolio; there are now about 49 different appellations. Overall, the winemaking here is sophisticated and successful, though as with any large portfolio of domaine and negoce wines, there is bound to be variation, which will be accentuated in a vintage such as 2013. While we did not see many of the Côte de Beaune reds, the Côte de Nuits reds are generally successful, albeit—as everywhere—some more so than others. There are also some real stars here, as discussed in the notes. Nevertheless, one has to wonder if, between 49 different cuvées and (until this year) responsibility for Comte Armand as well, Benjamin has been in danger of spreading himself too thinly.
The range of Côte de Nuits wines included excellent examples of Gevrey Village, with excellent transparency, and Chambolle Village, quite charming and easy, with a touch of stems. We jumped immediately to the Grands Crus, which included an excellent Clos Vougeot, an easy style of Clos Vougeot but with lots of sweet fruit and nice minerality, and a similarly open and charming Echézeaux, both of which seemed to exemplify the friendly side of this vintage. The Clos de la Roche seemed a bit more serious and powerful, yet balanced, while the Bonnes Mares was refined but quite powerful, with ripe tannins fully evident on the finish. Best of all was the Chambolle Amoureuses, with a pure and complex red fruit nose, a silky texture to the fruit on the palate combined with strong mineral lift, and a long fruit finish with refined tannins—a combination of sexy fruit and refinement, which probably could engender all sorts of analogies, if Kapon were writing this.

Bouchard: Here one sees the unevenness of the vintage writ large. Several of the Côte de Beaune reds we normally taste were missing from the lineup, the crop having been nearly destroyed by hail. While those we did taste mostly showed the effects of the hail in the drying tannins, there were a couple of unexpected successes (discussed below). The Côte de Nuits reds were obviously better, but still inconsistent, as the notes reflect. Overall, there were a number of pleasurable reds but nothing that stands out as great.
Among the better wines here from the Côte de Nuits were the Chambolle Les Noirots, from purchased grapes, which had a very nice creamy texture; the Clos Vougeot, which as with a number of others we saw on this trip was an approachable, rich and easy style of Clos Vougeot, and a Chapelle-Chambertin, which if it didn’t quite have the grip of the Ponsot or Trapet versions, still had a nice line, and was an elegant, lighter-style Chapelle.

Jadot: The Jadot team is so nice, that I keep wanting to like these wines more than I do. This is not to say the wines are in any sense bad; they are never less than conscientiously made, but one can’t help wishing they were more exciting and less dutiful.
Of the wines of the Côte de Nuits, many seemed soft and pleasant, if a little under-weight, while others suffered from the hard tannins that are present in so many wines of this vintage. Though the Gevrey Clos St. Jacques had good lift and balance, it really couldn’t compete with the Bruno Clair example; better were the Chambolle Amoureuses, which had more definition than most of the range, with good weight, balance and length and a creamy texture, and Clos de Bèze, displaying purity, balance and power, with all the elements in place, and for me the best of the range.

Camille-Giroud: David Croix is an exceptionally talented winemaker, but as he admitted, the wines seemed somber and shut down on the day we visited. One hopes that they may eventually show much better, but on the day, it was a difficult tasting. Of the Côte de Nuits wines, I did find virtue in the Vosne Village, with intense deep fruit and spice, the Gevrey Lavaux St. Jacques, very aromatic with a cut mineral edge and sweet fruit bubbling up on the finish, and the Chambertin, which was complex and powerful, with good transparency.

Côte de Beaune

Normally I review each Domaine and negociant separately, but in 2013 that would entail a lot of sad commentary, as growers whom I highly respect struggled to produce something that Mother Nature seemed determined to deny them. While many of the resulting wines are capable of providing some pleasure, they are difficult for me to recommend. So I will offer some brief commentary on key domaines, and a short list of the wines I thought succeeded against the odds.

Lafarge: Small quantities, owing both to the poor spring and the July hailstorm. Frédéric Lafarge said 65% of the crop was lost. The domaine did a good job considering the difficulties they faced, but still, some of the wines seemed to suffer from a bit too much acidity and dry tannins. At the top end, there was however a silky quality to the wines, and if the tannins smooth out over time, these could be very good.
The Volnay Mitans was silky and balanced, with a touch of acidity at the back, but the tannins had been well managed. The Volnay Caillerets had a dense mineral and red fruit nose with an earthy touch, and a pure spicy transparent finish, here the tannins were evident but not overly aggressive. The Volnay Clos des Chênes had a dense, almost syrupy nose, on the palate it seemed a bit light at first but very silky; here the tannins were stronger but they had some refinement and should eventually soften.

Marquis d’Angerville: this domaine was severely affected by hail during the growing season and the crop was about 15 hl/ha, roughly 40% of normal, the second straight year of hail damage. D’Angerville’s wines have consistently ranked for me among the top wines of the Côte de Beaune. Unfortunately, whether due to the cumulation of disasters Mother Nature has visited on the estate, or simply because of the conditions that day, the wines were not showing well when we visited. Friends who visited later had better reports, so follow-up will be required to see whether or not it was just an accident of timing.

Michel Gaunoux: As always, no barrel samples were offered, though we were the first to taste the ‘12s out of bottle. ’12 was the first of the three consecutive tiny harvests in this part of the Côte de Nuits, and while others were more enthusiastic than I about the full range, certainly the Pommard Rugiens was first-rate, rich and concentrated with very pure fruit and excellent length (93).

Other noteworthy Côte de Beaune Reds: first, I should mention that while I had to miss the appointment with Nicolas Rossignol, my colleagues said that these were some of the most successful Côte de Beaune reds of the entire trip. From my prior visits, I can say that Nicolas Rossignol is certainly a very talented winemaker and someone to watch.
Bouchard’s Beaune Clos de la Mousse was a success for the vintage, with a lot of sweet fruit, if a bit austere at the finish, and the Beaune Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus was quite rich, plummy almost, with a lot of acidity after, a success in the context of the vintage though not a great Enfant Jésus.
Chandon de Briailles—Corton was mostly outside the hail zone in 2013, and among the successes here were an intense, precise Aloxe-Corton Les Valozieres; a powerful Corton Bressandes (20 hl/ha, due to losses at flowering), large-framed with sweet red fruit and a gamy touch; and Corton Clos du Roi, with excellent lift and transparency, though some pretty fierce tannins which will take many years to modulate.
De Montille’s Pommard Rugiens (Bas) had great red fruit and earth on the nose, a silky touch and tannins that were not at all aggressive. It is in a more approachable style for Pommard and benefitted from Etienne’s decision not to use any stems for this wine this year.
Senard’s Corton Bressandes and Clos du Roi were both also very nice, with the Bressandes as usual more open and rich but the Clos du Roi holding more in reserve.
Also, as noted above, Corton mostly escaped the hail (though not the other problems of the vintage) and for other successes in Corton, see the Faiveley and Ponsot reviews above.


The Domaines

François Carillon: There is some first-rate winemaking here, and the ‘13s, with their focus and precision, were among the best whites we tasted from this vintage. The Puligny Champs Gain had beautiful white flowers, minerals, spice and lime on the nose, and was deeply minerally and racy. The Puligny Folatières and Perrières were especially good: the Folatières was pure, linear, very driven, with excellent fruit and floral qualities and a rich finish, while the Perrières was elegant, spicy and floral, a calm wine with great balance and purity and stony depths.

Bernard Moreau: There were some very pretty wines here, but also others where the acidity tended to overwhelm the fruit, a persistent issue in this vintage. Among the successes were an excellent Chassagne Village, with good grip and minerality; a restrained, balanced Chassagne Maltroie; and a very fine Chassagne Grand Ruchottes, with an excellent floral and minerally nose, sweet fruit, pear spice, and excellent power and drive. The Bâtard had a restrained nose of pears and cinnamon, good balance, ripe apply fruit and spice, and good length. Even better was the Chevalier, which was minerally, pure, a bit richer and riper than Bâtard, with more material. At the end, we tasted the 2012 Chassagne Maltroie for comparison, and it was rich, intense and powerful—massive but still pure, with sweet peaches and spice, citrus and a long mineral finish (91+).

Latour-Giraud: Here we first tasted the ‘12s (from bottle) and then the ‘13s. This was perhaps a bit unfair to the ‘13s, as the ‘12s are a very complete vintage here and also in a fuller stage of development. By comparison, the ‘13s seemed easier and more relaxed, likeable, without the intensity or dense fruit flavors of the ‘12s, but still very nice wines for near-term drinking.
Among the better ‘13s were the Meursault Genevrières, with a deep minerally nose and the fruit just starting to emerge, but also some very nice floral notes; the Meursault Perrières, which had more sweet fruit, and was less stony than normal, but, with a hint of cream, it was a very likeable wine; and best of all the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre, which had a rich floral nose with touches of lemon and licorice, a lovely texture, balanced, elegant and with more ripe fruit in evidence than the others.
Among the ‘12s, the Meursault Charmes was large-boned, with some prominent oak though lots of rich fruit (90?); the Meursault Genevrières had a stony, spicy nose that jumped out of the glass, hints of clove and lime rind, and a real sense of density with good acid balance (92); and the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre had a refined and subtle nose of fruit and flowers and was a balanced, intense but subtle wine (94).

Guy Roulot: Last year at the same time, many wines were still in malo and we were unable to taste them. This year, although the harvest was late and the malos were also generally late, we were able to taste the range, and there are some wonderful wines here in 2013, as well as a high standard of quality overall. While they may not, according to Jean-Marc, have the same precision as 2012, they are nonetheless well-crafted, transparent and delicious.
As usual, the Bourgogne Blanc merits mention, overperforming its appellation even if a touch acidic at the finish. The Meursault Meix Chavaux had sweet berry fruit and white flowers on the nose, with a touch of lemon cream and spice-cake on the finish. The Meursault Tillets was a puppy dog with a wet nose, and while charming, I don’t know how serious it is. The Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir had a steely quality on the nose, great balance, and both charm and restraint. But the best of the lieux-dits, for me, was the Meursault Luchets, with a brilliantly pure nose and spice, mineral, and floral notes; on the palate it was balanced and charming, and then it had an extremely focused finish, with great cut and purity. Among the 1er Crus, I didn’t think the Meursault Clos des Bouchères was entirely persuasive, but it may just need time. The Meursault Charmes and Perrières, however, were terrific wines, with the Charmes showing a lot of minerality for this terroir, and more depth than usual; it was tightly wound and extremely long. The Perrières had a silky quality on the palate, with peaches and cream, lemon curd, and spice, all in balance and with a very long dry finish, showing some tannin, that should keep it for a long while, if premox doesn’t claim it.

Henri Boillot: Another domaine which prefers to show its bottled wines. We tasted the ‘12s, and the whites were absolutely delicious. The Meursault Genevrières was spicy, floral, and with good tension (92), while the Puligny Clos de la Mouchère was softer than the Meursault, with a nice spicy element to it, excellent freshness and a long minerally finish—very harmonious (94). The Bâtard was intensely floral, with great precision and power, and leaning to the mineral side; the only nit was a touch of wood showing through at the end (93). The Corton-Charlemagne lacked a little grip in the middle compared to the Bâtard, and was flinty and slightly dry on the finish, with a touch of white pepper (92).

De Montille: The word “light” recurs most frequently in my notes on the whites. Overall, these seemed to lack density, though a couple were nonetheless very nice, including the Puligny Folatières (Ch. de Puligny). I liked its balance and persistence, though it could perhaps have used a bit more richness—it is Etienne’s favorite, though. The Puligny Cailleret was elegant and floral, with white peach and citrus notes, and for me was the best of this range.

Bonneau du Martray: it was hard to read the ’13 when we tasted it; it had good components, which hadn’t all come together yet, though they may. We also tasted a range of vintages, and I was surprised to find I preferred this wine in vintages I expected to dislike—that is, 2009 and 2006, both tending towards blowsiness elsewhere, but quite balanced and minerally here.

Colin-Morey: There has for a long time been debate in our group about the wines of this domaine, with some finding them too oaky and others admiring their transparency. I tend to come down squarely in the middle of this debate, which is to say that I find some wines exceptional and others overly influenced by the oak treatment. That said, Pierre Yves’s wines in 2013 seemed very linear—strongly minerally and transparent but without enough balancing fruit. The Meursaults were a notable exception, though. The Meursault Narvaux had a lovely stony nose, with hints of bacon fat and spice; it was intense and had great presence for Narvaux. The Meursault Charmes was more floral, with a sweet easy nose, a creamy texture and a long spicy finish, while the Meursault Genevrières also had a creamy texture but a very pure mineral focus to it, and the Meursault Perrières was ripe and rich on the nose but gave way to an almost raspy minerality on the palate, great purity, and a laser-like finish; this will need time. The Corton-Charlemagne was the best of the range, beautifully balanced with a pure nose, great weight, structure and balance, if just a hint of dryness at the end; Pierre-Yves said this is usually a blend of Pernand and Aloxe fruit, but there was nothing from Pernand in ’13 because of the hail, and the resulting wine in his view has more power and body.

Leflaive: The 2013s seemed a bit hard to evaluate, but were not exciting on this particular day. Chef de Cave Louis Brière pointedly told us he came on board in 2008, effectively disclaiming responsibility for the wines of the interregnum (including the disastrous 2006s and the rapidly oxidizing 2007s—my descriptions, not his). Nevertheless, while I wish I could report that Leflaive was still the reference standard in Puligny-Montrachet, the reality (widely discussed in the Village) is that it has slipped from its perch (as has Ramonet in Chassagne). On the other hand, there is no successor ready to be anointed. While the lower level wines were unpersuasive, and several of the Premiers Crus seemed marked by the acidity, I did quite like the Bienvenues-Bâtard, which had more sweet fruit than most in the range, was quite powerful for Bienvenues and the most well-integrated of all the wines we saw.
After the 2013s, we were given a 2000 Puligny Pucelles to taste, and it was badly oxidized, which was rather shocking, as the 2000s have been drinking extremely well in my experience, from good cellars in the US. At my request, a broker friend who had been offering several cases of this wine, recently released from the Domaine, opened a bottle–with the same result. I do not know what went on in the Domaine cellar, or if it was related to the 2003 heat wave, but I do know that over the past several years I have drunk a number of premoxed bottles of recently-released older wines, while the wines purchased on original release from vintages such as ’96, ’99 and ’00 continue to perform brilliantly.

Other (predominantly red-wine producing) Domaines that made good whites in 2013: a very nice Beaune Clos des Aigrots Blanc from Michel Lafarge, light, elegant with some strong acidity at the finish but quite enjoyable; an excellent Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes from Liger-Belair, with sweet fruit on the nose and a very minerally aspect, some glycerine, and notes of allspice, ginger and grapefruit—overall an intriguing wine; Ponsot’s Morey Clos des Monts Luisants T.V.V., which had great balance, sweet peaches, flowers and spice and a light lemon touch on the finish, and Senard’s Aloxe Corton Blanc (from Pinot Gris), which was deeply minerally and floral, with excellent glycerine, a rich and interesting wine.

The Negociants

Bouchard: The whites were a different story here from the reds. The Fèvre Chablis were excellent overall, and several were first-rate; these continue to represent good value in Chablis. The Côte de Beaune whites were also mostly very good to excellent, particularly at the top end. Among the Chablis, there was not a single Grand Cru we tasted that did not perform well. I quite liked the Valmur, a softer style of Valmur perhaps, with quince, lemon and a lovely floral element; and Les Clos, which took time for the nose and palate to unfold. However, for me, the two standouts were the Bougros “Côte Bouguerots”, with sweet peaches, white flowers, stones and excellent balance throughout; and Les Preuses, which was very intense, with a strong steely spine, floral notes and white peaches, and a really nice spiciness.
Among the Côte de Beaune whites, standouts included the Meursault Genevrières, a soft, elegant wine, but complete and balanced; the Meursault Perrières, with pears, spice and a hint of licorice in the nose, deeply stony on the palate, more intense if less elegant than the Genevrières; a very nice Chevalier that was however, overshadowed by the Chevalier La Cabotte, which was an extremely elegant wine with a subtle perfume, deep spice, transparency and a very long finish, and only a touch of heat at the end to keep it off a high pedestal; and the Montrachet, with a nose of quince, spice and honey, soft entry and a honeyed touch balanced by a deep minerality, this was a complete, regal Montrachet.

Drouhin: The whites, as is typical, were mixed; the Chablis we tasted didn’t quite have the penetrating minerality of the best, though they were nice; the Domaine (and Laguiche) whites were generally better than the negociant whites, and were very good. I particularly liked the Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche, with a calm, floral nose and a lovely hint of spice; sweet red fruits on the palate, spice and floral qualities; the Corton Charlemagne, which had a reticent nose, but great balance, power and presence on the palate, and the Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche, with an intense, very pure nose, medium weight, hints of pineapple, yet a sense of restraint and aristocracy.

Faiveley: The whites were less persuasive than the reds, but still there were some successes here, including the Meursault Charmes, a spicy charming wine with very strong acidity in the middle but not overdone; Bienvenues-Bâtard, with medium body, excellent balance, a saline quality and a spicy slightly acidic finish—this cuvée is definitely improving from year to year since Faiveley took it over; and best of all, the Corton-Charlemagne, with a beautiful, fully integrated nose of white flowers, spice and minerals, a balanced and nuanced palate, and elegance and great length at the end.

Benjamin Leroux: Overall, there were some particularly fine whites in the lineup. The Meursault Porusots had good transparency, an excellent spicy element, good tension, a wine that somehow managed to be soft and hard at the same time, and to pull it off. The Chassagne 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot showed ripe apples, citrus, spice and good texture, while the Puligny Champgain had a soft, almost silky texture, but excellent tension, especially on the finish. Best in my view was the Chassagne 1er Cru Tête du Clos, with a great pure nose of minerals, spice and a hint of beeswax; it was elegant and had great lift on the palate but was also quite calm, with a long, coiled, elegant finish.

Jadot: I still hold out hope that they will stop blocking the malos for the whites, now that Jacques Lardiere has retired, but it has not happened yet. Jacques always seemed to find some reason each vintage to do so, though the rationale varied from year to year, until eventually the exception became the rule, and not always in my opinion to the advantage of these wines. Standouts in 2013 included the Chevalier Les Demoiselles, with an elegant restrained nose of pear fruit, flowers and minerals, and an integrated spicy finish—this wine still needs time but should come together; the Corton-Charlemagne, in a soft, crowd-pleasing style, not classic perhaps but enjoyable; and the Montrachet, with a nose of white flowers, pears and lemon curd, tight-knit, with power, balance and intense minerality—this too needs time.

A Final Word: Readers of past vintage reports know that I among others remain frustrated by the fact that, while some white wine producers are seriously attempting to deal with the problem of premature oxidation, many others remain in denial, and no clear solution has as yet emerged. My depression worsens every time I drink a great 30-year old white (such as Ramonet’s ’82 Montrachet) and realize that none of the whites made in the last 2 decades will have a chance to achieve that nuance and refinement. Thus it came as quite a shock recently to receive a copy of an email, written by a seemingly reputable retailer, which contained the following sentence: “At the risk of invoking a sensitive subject amongst Burgundy enthusiasts, I would say, at least in our portfolio, the issue of premature oxidation has been confronted and resolved.” According to the writer, allowing the fresh must to be exposed to air prior to fermentation inoculates the wine against oxidation, the proffered proof being that the growers’ 2013s were pristine! Yes, it’s a theory, and there are serious people looking at it, but its only one of an number of theories one can hear in Burgundy, and even if it proves to help ameliorate the problem (there are still a number of other issues to be dealt with, including corks and use of SO2), the serious producers who are experimenting with this sort of approach understand that they will not begin to know the results until 5-8 years after the harvest, which is generally when premox starts to appear. To call the problem “solved” because wines that are still in barrel don’t taste oxidized is just one more sorry example of a wine trade that refuses to take the issue seriously.

© 2014 Douglas E. Barzelay



It is very difficult to write a headline for the 2012 vintage. The growing season presented vignerons with almost every conceivable difficulty, with results that varied from disastrous to extraordinary, and much in between.

The weather problems began even before the growing season, with a deep freeze in February that, surprisingly, seemed to affect primarily the old vines, and reduced their production of berries; predominantly cool and wet weather from April through July, resulting in a poor flowering; oïdium [powdery mildew, which needs treatment in advance; once it appears, it is very difficult to control] and other diseases, all of which contributed to very small yields in 2012. Even the advent of sunny weather in August contributed to the problem, producing a number of sunburned grapes. However, by far the worst problem, which primarily affected the Côte de Beaune—and Volnay much worse than elsewhere–was hail. There were in fact two major hailstorms that affected portions of the Côte de Beaune, the first on June 30th, and another at the beginning of August. While yields in general were 30-50% lower than “normal, “ the variation from vineyard to vineyard could be considerable, and in parts of Volnay yields were often down 70% and even more. As more than one producer commented, the only problem they didn’t face in 2012 was botrytis (though there were some reports of that as well, especially among the whites). In the face of these difficulties, constant vigilance, and treatment, was necessary, and particular problems were presented for practitioners of biodynamics, whose repertoire of treatments is necessarily limited.

Despite all these travails, and the resulting short crop, dry and sunny weather finally arrived in August, and persisted through the harvest, which began around the 20th of September. The combination of low yields and fine weather (“August makes the must” is an old Burgundian saying) meant that those grapes that remained (and which were generally smaller than usual, with a higher-than-usual ratio of skins to juice) achieved full and relatively even maturity.

To the extent generalizations can be made, let me make a few: first, the best wines are in the Côte de Nuits, and the top wines are superb, most closely resembling the 2010s. The best 2012s have significant density, a balance of fruit and acidity, excellent terroir expression, silky textures, and fine tannins. That harmony, however, was not easily achieved, and there are certainly wines that fall short of the mark, even at the best addresses. Also, problems with oïdium devastated some of the vineyards located higher on the hill: there will be no Ponsot Clos des Monts Luisants, for example, and many producers in Bonnes Mares had significant problems, as detailed in the notes below. (Indeed, while in some vintages certain communes may be more successful than others, in 2012 it seemed almost to go vineyard by vineyard: consistently remarkable Chambolle Amoureuses, for example, as opposed to the problems in Bonnes Mares.)

In the Côte de Beaune, where the problems were worse, the results were far more irregular, though some red wines achieved quality levels close to the best of the Côte de Nuits. Among the white wines, that irregularity seems amplified, with some significant successes but many others that are less interesting. In particular, a number of white wine growers struggled with balance, as acidity levels seem quite pronounced in many wines.

Some well-known wines will not be produced in 2012, as yields were too low to commercialize the wines, and such juice as there was has been blended into premier cru and Village wines. Others will be very hard to find: a typical case allocation of D’Angerville’s Volnay Clos des Ducs, for example, may be replaced by a single magnum. Prices will of course be higher, but it is doubtful that prices can be raised enough to cover the shortfall (and, as several growers noted, many estates have lost the equivalent of two full years of production between 2010 and 2013). Nonetheless, as one courtier said, “we are all going to have to get used to paying more for less.”

A Word About the 2011s, and the Perils of Barrel Tasting

While our primary focus was on the 2012s, along the way we tasted a number of 2011s. While some of these were relatively consistent with what we tasted last year, others left us scratching our heads. These included wines from superb producers. Had they just closed up once in bottle, or was there something problematic in this vintage that had not been evident from our barrel tastings? That is what every experienced barrel taster fears: something negative that does not appear until well after the taster has drawn his conclusions, written up his notes, made his buying decisions. For a classic cautionary tale, go back and read Robert Parker’s original notes on the ’83 Burgundy reds (if you can find them; I think they quietly disappeared some years ago). There is no mention of the tastes of rot and hail that became obvious in these wines once they were bottled, and that mar most of them to this day. But on the other side of the coin are vintages such as 1991 in Burgundy that no one, not even the vignerons who made them, thought much of either at the time or for many years thereafter. Today, there are some classically beautiful wines from that vintage that far outshine their older siblings, the 1990s, which were so highly rated at the time.

Even with experience (and there is no substitute, in barrel tasting, for years of watching the wines grow up and being brutally honest with oneself as to what one did and did not see coming), there are plenty of other pitfalls for the barrel taster. Among these are: how representative is the barrel one is tasting from? If the sample is drawn from a new, or an old, barrel, what percentage of the final blend does that represent? Some producers will blend an old and a new barrel, but if the final percentage is not 50/50, that only partially helps. A few will try to mix the right proportion, but that’s complex, and not many bother. Similarly, some vignerons with significant holdings in a single terroir may vinify parts of the vineyard separately, so as to get a better view of how each section matures, and perhaps to treat it differently during the elevage. Again, are you tasting an accurate blend? Also, barrels may develop in different ways and at different speeds, which may affect the final blend. The weather, and cellar temperature, also play a role: one day, we heard two different vignerons (both straight-shooters) comment that a particular barrel was showing more reduction than it had just the day before. And on the subject of reduction, although November is considered by many vignerons to be the best time to taste the prior year’s wines, it is also a time at which, especially among the more non-interventionist winemakers, the wines will be in need of a racking and showing reduction, CO2, or both. While an experienced taster can still draw significant conclusions about these wines, depending on the degree to which the wine is affected, it will necessarily increase the amount of guesswork involved. Then there are the wines that, for whatever reason, are not showing at their usual level on the day you’re there: for example, La Tâche was not on form the day we tasted, but what do you conclude, if the Riche and the Conti on either side of it are superb, and you know the track record of La Tâche: that it isn’t up to snuff this year, and you’ve just saved yourself a lot of money, or that it just wasn’t in a mood to talk to you that day, and you could wind up missing out on a great wine in a great vintage?

Also, of course, there are many things that can go wrong between the time one tastes and the time the wine gets bottled, including the bottling process itself (a few years ago, I watched in some horror as a mobile bottler arrived in the street outside a small domaine to do the bottling on a 100-degree day). For all these reasons, I prefer not to score wines—even within a range—until after they’ve been bottled.

Would we all be a lot better off waiting until the wines are in bottle? Clearly. But the reality is that buying decisions have to be made well before then. The best advice I can give is to consult a few different sources, pay more attention to the descriptions than to the scores, note their palate biases (we all have them), and check in on your purchases periodically. As I’ve said before, the best I can hope to provide at this time is an educated guess, based on a snapshot.

Please see the Addendum to this Report (which will be available in a few weeks) for a discussion of the 2011s we tasted this visit.


Côte de Nuits

The Domaines

DRC. In a vintage where there are highs and lows, why not start at the heights? Great as these wines have been over many years, it is possible that the standards at the domaine have never been higher or more rigorous. We did not taste the Corton, as it had been racked just before harvest. The Echézeaux had great balance and ripe tannins, and seemed more refined than past examples—probably the result of a more rigorous selection of parcels in recent vintages. The Grands Echézeaux, however, was at another level: rich, dense, with silky tannins, amazing spice on the finish, and great elegance. On this particular day, the reduction seemed to be suppressing the fruit and spice of the Romanée St. Vivant, though there was an underlying sense of balance and volume. The Richebourg, by contrast, was totally expressive, with great power and density, more spice than RSV, and a hint of gaminess; it finishes with dense and refined tannins, and great persistence. It is as if the Richebourg, sensing the challenge that the RSV has given it in recent vintages, decided to pick up its game in ’12. (I know, personifying wine is more than a little over the top, but to quote Evelyn Waugh, “the pathetic fallacy resounds in all our praise of wine.”) La Tâche, despite a sense of kaleidoscopic spice and a great deal of fruit, seemed a bit raw-boned and acidic on this day, with some hard tannins. Is it just a phase, or did something end up slightly out of balance in this difficult and capricious vintage? Only time—and retasting—will tell. The Romanée-Conti, by contrast, was absolutely brilliant: a wine that dances across the palate notwithstanding its density, and that is the epitome of elegance, with creamy tannins and a subtle, immensely long and silky finish.

Liger-Belair. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair thinks these may be the best wines he has ever made, and based on our tasting, I would not disagree. This is one estate (of which there are a handful) where the ‘12s may even surpass the ‘10s. (The Domaine also continues to expand: in 2012, Louis-Michel bought the Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos des Grandes Vignes, which not only gave him his first domaine white (a small portion of the vineyard is planted with chardonnay) but also makes him perhaps the only proprietor in Burgundy to possess monopoles in premier cru (the Grandes Vignes), village (Clos du Château) and grand cru (La Romanée).) Despite some fairly high levels of reduction at present, one could readily see the underlying quality of these wines. While there are no wines in the stable that I would not recommend in ’12, particular standouts included the Vosne Village, with pure red fruit, spice and minerals, and a lot of volume and complexity for a Village wine; the Vosne Chaumes (one comment that I heard not inaccurately suggested that Louis-Michel had succeeded in making a wine from this vineyard that was finally competitive with the other Vosne 1er Crus), which was pure, silky and elegant, but also with the density that characterizes this vintage; the Vosne Suchots (2 barrels in 2012), intense, balanced, and incredibly dense, yet with great tension—despite the density, it never feels heavy; the Vosne Brulées (only one barrel, and not commercialized), which had great energy, spice and complexity; and the Vosne Reignots, as usual the best of the premiers crus, pure, deep, intense and seamless, with great refinement. Among the grands crus, the Echézeaux was also excellent, with power and intensity and a huge amount of dry extract, and La Romanée was brilliant—pure, elegant, refined, with a silky texture—more in the ethereal style of the ‘10s, perhaps, than the denser and richer ’12 style. Overall, this was a superb range, of which Louis-Michel can justly be proud.

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. This is yet another great success for the Mugneret sisters, who continue, with little fanfare, to make some of the best wines in Burgundy. Even the Bourgogne Rouge is noteworthy, punching well above its weight class. As at Liger-Belair, all the wines across the range can be recommended, but this year I found the premiers crus especially compelling, particularly the Nuits Chaignots, which had rich, sweet fruit and spice and excellent balance, without the slightly ponderous touch that often characterizes the wines of Nuits; and a Chambolle Feusselottes, which had enormous concentration and complex fruit, yet maintained great purity. The Echézeaux was also fine, with an elegant, minerally nose, sweet fruit and a citrus touch, excellent balance, and some significant but ripe tannins on the long finish. The Clos de Vougeot, not surprisingly, was also first-rate, with a slightly reticent nose hinting at great depth, blackberry fruit and a floral component, fine balance, and a lot of density and intensity on the transparent, long finish. The most interesting wine, though, was the Ruchottes-Chambertin. This is the first year that grapes from the young (now 12-year old) vines have been added back to the grand cru, and while I had imagined that the effect might be somewhat dilutive, it was astonishing to see how much energy and lift they gave to this wine. This was an extremely harmonious wine, the fruit and minerality in total balance, with a nice added floral component, elegant but with underlying sap and an intensity that showed most clearly on the long transparent finish, and with the tannins dense but quite ripe and fine. Perhaps this was the ideal vintage for the addition of a more youthful cuvee, given that the density of the vintage could (in some places) induce a tendency toward heaviness. In any event, it was an interesting lesson. While it is not difficult to acknowledge that the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts (Roumier’s Terres Blanches and Terres Rouges cuvees of Bonnes Mares, each an outstanding wine in its own right, combine to make a more complex, balanced and interesting wine), it is intriguing that lesser cuvees, some not so interesting in their own right, can enhance rather than dilute the final blend. See the discussion of Clos de Tart for a further example. (Did I just use the word blend? I thought they did that in Bordeaux, not Burgundy☺. But the truth is that not all Burgundian climats are monolithic terroirs, and there can be variations of soil, exposure, drainage, clonal selection, vine age, etc. within a single vineyard, particularly the larger ones. This in no way vitiates the underlying importance of the concept of terroir, or of the differences between climats, as a visit to any good producer who has multiple premiers crus within a single commune will readily demonstrate.)

Grivot. As I have noted in prior reports, the quality of these wines has in recent years risen to near-top levels. During our visit, Etienne Grivot was quite forthcoming about the changes in his thinking that have led to these improvements. He said that in the past his wines were more “somber” when young, more introverted, and were crafted to show their depth of character only after long aging. He contrasted this to the style of other vignerons whose wines have been flamboyant from the start but burned out after a period of time. He said, though, that just as he has seen many of those colleagues introduce a measure of restraint and seriousness, so he has been trying to make his wines a bit more extroverted in their youth, emphasizing their innate energy. He is very pleased with his ‘12s, believing that they may be the best he has made, and noting their superb harmony. His comments in this regard are certainly not misplaced. Beginning with a pleasant and balanced Vosne Village, and including a Nuits Charmois (a Village lieu-dit) that displayed great mineral lift, energy and drive, the successes here included a Nuits Boudots, which despite a good deal of reduction (as with most wines in this cellar at the moment), was minerally, penetrating and pure, developing a silky texture and with a lot of material, as well as tannins that seemed particularly refined for Nuits (even on the Vosne side); a silky, elegant Vosne Brulées; a high-toned, mineral driven Vosne Beaumonts, with tremendous dry extract and powerful but refined tannins, and a heavily reduced Vosne Suchots that nonetheless had beautiful balance, harmony, a silky texture and a bright, pure finish. The Echézeaux was very nice, with ripe cherry fruit supported by excellent acidity, though I thought the strong tannins just missed a little refinement, and the Clos de Vougeot, which seemed less brooding than usual, had a lot of sweet fruit and coffee/chocolate notes—although I liked this wine, I was not as enthusiastic as either my cohorts or Etienne. However, unanimity returned with the Richebourg, a wine that is just beginning to reveal its depths, but that looks to combine power and silk, the ideal combination for a great Riche. It is balanced and the tannins are dense but fine; I suspect that this will have much more to give in time.

Méo-Camuzet. The domaine wines achieved great success in 2012, and while I continue to find the negociant wines less compelling overall, there were some successes there as well. The Vosne Village was particularly good, among the best wines of this appellation that we tasted: dense, spicy and intense but with excellent balance and lift and a more interesting finish than one usually finds at this level. The Nuits Meurgers was also compelling, with pure raspberry and black cherry fruit and earth, spice and coffee touches, elegant for Nuits (this is the third time I’ve noted an unusually refined Nuits in this report, perhaps a gift of this vintage), and with fine transparency on the finish. The Corton Perrières was also a standout, with a gorgeous nose of sweet cherries, spice and minerals and excellent mineral lift in the mid-palate–an accessible and charming wine, though a little hardness to the tannins does suggest its Corton origins. The Echézeaux was very primary on the nose and medium weight on the mid-palate, but with huge dry extract coming through in back and an amazingly long finish. This was followed by a superb Vosne Brulées, which I even preferred to the excellent Cros Parantoux: the Brulées was incredibly dense and spicy, yet never lost its balance, its intensity perfectly matched with the lift given by the acidity, with vey refined tannins, a wine that will take years to show everything it has in reserve; while the Cros Parantoux, which showed its cool climate origins, was more closed than the Brulées, but had intense spice running throughout the wine, with a dense, deep cherry nose and a perfumed touch, a bit of wood showing, and a deep minerally finish with dry but refined tannins. The Richebourg was, as one might expect, superb: brooding, a touch reduced, but hinting at great depth, with a silky texture; it was the epitome of refinement, with a pure, long finish and tannins that were so refined as to be hardly evident, yet they will keep this wine for a long time.

Sylvain Cathiard. Sebastien Cathiard, who took over from his father in 2011, is making some careful but significant changes at this already highly respected Vosne estate, including some reduction in the new oak regime. These were impressive 2012s, and I expect even better things in the future from this reticent but serious young winemaker. A few wines were not showing well when we tasted, including the Chambolle Clos de L’Orme and the Vosne Reignots, but the large majority of the wines were quite fine. The Vosne Village was excellent here, with dense cherry fruit and spice and a developing silky texture, as was the Nuits 1er Cru Aux Thorey, which though a little marked by the oak had depth, earth and spice and a lovely transparent finish. Even better was the Nuits Meurgers, rich and dense, very earthy and with a fair amount of oak, but with a ripe fruit and pure mineral finish also showing spice and pepper notes, and the Vosne Suchots, which had deep cherry fruit on the nose, was ripe and intense on the palate, with mineral lift and again a very spicy, peppery finish, with ripe tannins and an elegant line. The Vosne Malconsorts had a touch of oak on the nose, but also huge dense fruit and spice, and hinted at even greater depth and intensity to come; on the palate, it had huge dry extract and penetrating minerality but retained its balance, and it ended with a silky, transparent fruit-driven finish, and refined tannins—a very impressive wine. Even more impressive was the Romanée St. Vivant, with an aristocratic, spicy and elegant nose; a silky texture, suave and silky tannins, and a long spicy finish, a wine that is tout en finesse.

Hudelot-Noellat. Overall, this estate, now run by the youthful but serious Charles van Canneyt, produced an excellent range of wines in 2012. Not everything showed equally well, but among the successes was an excellent Vosne Village, pure and charming with a black cherry finish and not a great deal of tannin (though a hint of tartness on the finish). The premiers crus were particularly successful (apart from a Vosne Beaumonts that had just been racked and was inaccessible), including the Nuits Meurgers, which was a soft, earthy, fruity and charming Nuits; a spicy dense Vosne Suchots, with a touch of violets on the finish and a sense of silkiness developing; and, most notably, a seductive Chambolle Charmes, with a great pure nose of complex fruit, spice and minerals; and an intense, perfumed, complex and structured Vosne Malconsorts, with a long spicy, complex and transparent finish. Among the grands crus, the Clos de Vougeot was very nice, with soft raspberry fruit and a spicy open finish, but possibly lacking the density one would expect in this vintage; the Richebourg was better, also with a relatively open structure, but muscular and with more ripe black fruits; and best of all was the Romanée St. Vivant, which was intense, spicy and creamy, with excellent density, good tension and balance and a long finish showing significant but refined tannins.

De Montille. While the bulk of this domaine’s holdings are in the Côte de Beaune, it has some noteworthy holdings in the Côte de Nuits, including in the Clos de Vougeot (which was not showing well on this particular day, as Etienne de Montille acknowledged), but most notably in Vosne Malconsorts, where it makes both a regular cuvee (a very fine wine with lots of rich sweet fruit and excellent acidity, some strong but focused tannins, and a sense of precision and balance on the spicy finish) and the brilliant Cuvee Christiane—an extraordinary wine in 2012, with an intense nose that included black cherries and spice but hinted at much greater depth, a palate that was perfectly balanced between fruit and acidity, and a spicy, complex and incredibly precise finish that went on for several minutes. There is a lot of great Malconsorts in this vintage, but this cuvee, from a plot located just under La Tâche, could well be the best.

Roumier. Though it hardly comes as a surprise, Christophe Roumier made utterly brilliant wines in 2012. While the combination of small quantities in 2012 and the already robust diversion of Roumier wines into the gray market (including, it would seem, by some designated importers) are likely to make the top wines difficult to find and wildly expensive, the Village Chambolle still remains relatively plentiful, and it is a huge success in 2012: intensely rich Chambolle fruit but with a strong mineral lift, and a long transparent finish. The Morey Clos de la Bussière seemed a bit flat and rustic by comparison, but the Chambolle Combottes was a return to form, more minerally than the Chambolle Village, very structured and balanced and with a lovely pure cherry finish, though some significant tannins. The Chambolle Les Cras was first rate, with incredible red fruit and spice, a silky texture, great density, and a pure intense mineral finish that went on and on. The Charmes Chambertin was the best iteration of this wine from Christophe that I can remember, with lovely raspberry fruit, a lighter, elegant style, ripe tannins and a long transparent finish. (This wine now comes solely from vines planted in 1991 and 1999, but Christophe says he finds it denser than when the older vines, now pulled up, were included.) The Ruchottes Chambertin was very structured, meaty and powerful, with a lot of dry extract, but there seemed to be, in addition to the expected reduction–which made it a bit difficult to access–a slight lactic note on the nose. The Bonnes Mares will be a great wine; it had an intense brooding nose, great purity on the palate, dark cherries, violets, minerals, and incredible depth, with a very pure mineral finish, sweet fruit and spice (and a chocolate note at the end) and refined tannins. Incidentally, although Christophe usually vinifies the Terres Rouges and Terres Blanches cuvees separately and then assembles them for the final blend, this year he did not. Nonetheless, given the problems in Bonnes Mares in 2012, this is one of the few genuinely successful wines from this vineyard in this vintage. The Chambolle Amoureuses (which Christophe this year showed after the Bonnes Mares, commenting that this is the style of wine he likes best) was totally harmonious, with a subdued nose hinting at incredible complexity and depth, red fruit and cinnamon; it was incredibly dense on the palate, but with a wonderful silky texture and remarkable finesse on the finish, which was immensely long and transparent—a grand cru Amoureuses for certain. The Musigny brought an appropriate close to this moment of reverie: spice, deep cherry fruit, beeswax and citrus on the nose, a high-toned, minerally core, an elegant, silky texture, and a delicate, refined finish that was even longer than that of the Amoureuses. A great range!

J. F. Mugnier. There are few greater pleasures than back-to-back appointments with Christophe Roumier and his next-door neighbor, Freddy Mugnier, two of the greatest winemakers in Burgundy, both making brilliant wines from many of the same appellations, yet in quite different styles–bringing to life Etienne Grivot’s remark that terroir does not speak directly but through its interpreters, who like orchestra conductors may bring different approaches to the same underlying score, and either create life and excitement, or leave one flat–or in some cases end up saying much more about the conductor than about the composer’s intent.
Speaking in gross generalities, Freddy tends to create more delicate and ethereal wines than Christophe, while Christophe’s wines tend to be more intense, if ultimately no less refined. Freddy’s Chambolle Village was restrained, with excellent complexity on the nose, a spicy, medium-bodied but pure and elegant wine, while his Chambolle Fuées was a tour de force: a lovely pure red fruit nose, silky texture, showing remarkable density in the mid-palate, with supple, fine tannins and a pure and persistent finish. The Nuits Clos de la Maréchale was characterized by huge sweet fruit, a big strike of earth in the mid-palate, and a lot of dry extract but some rusticity to the tannins, even though they are evolving towards more refinement. The Bonnes Mares was a bit hard to read, with some hard tannins up front, a large amount of dry extract, and a mostly mineral-driven middle, though not without some fruit. The Chambolle Amoureuses, however, was in another league: a sensational nose of pure red fruit, complex spice including a touch of cinnamon, and minerals, and a silky palate wrapping around a dense mineral core, with fine tannins and grand cru weight on the extremely long finish. The Musigny did not wilt under the competition, though, showing an intense nose of red fruit, violets, spice and a chocolate touch, with the classic orange top note of Musigny; on the palate, it had remarkable density, was highly structured and perfectly balanced, and finished with a kaleidoscope of flavors, fine tannins, and possibly a hint of heaviness (dry extract) in the mid-finish, but as it kept expanding, it opened again to greater clarity and seemed not to want to quit—nor did I.

Ghislaine Barthod. This was our first visit to this domaine, and it was an impressive one indeed. While there are no grands crus here, there are 9 different premier cru Chambolles, and any terroir skeptics (not that I know any, but I’m told they do exist) would do well to visit here and see for themselves the clear differences as one moves from one climat to another. Ghislaine Barthod is charming and passionate, and clearly loves her métier. While the Chambolle Village was pleasant, it was not on a level with the Roumier or Mugnier versions; however, things improved with the first of the premiers crus, a Chambolle Châtelots, with a high-toned raspberry, black cherry and mineral nose, medium body and a long transparent finish, and then jumped a level with the Chambolle Beaux Bruns (from the premier cru part of this climat), which had a deeper pitched nose of blackberry and blueberry fruit, excellent balance, good minerality and depth of fruit, and very ripe tannins–a wine of finesse. It was followed by Chambolle Les Baudes, more mineral-driven, with a nice touch of raspberry fruit and excellent balance; Chambolle Gruenchers, also mineral-driven, if more earthy and spicy, with slightly harder tannins, but very balanced; Chambolle Charmes, a particularly fine wine with a strawberry/mineral nose and complex fruit wrapping the mineral core, ripe and refined with a wonderful silky texture developing; Chambolle Fuées, a bit strict and unforthcoming, very structured, dense and persistent (70 year old vines); and Chambolle Véroilles (from a portion of this vineyard reclassified as premier cru in 1987 and a monopole of the domaine), which had dense sweet black fruit, spice, lavender and violets on the nose, as well as minerals—there was real power and intensity to this, yet it was still balanced and elegant, with a lovely spicy fruit finish and resolved tannins. To finish, the Chambolle Les Cras, with a profound nose that would even give the Roumier version a run for its money, was nuanced, complex and deep, the palate showing sweet red fruit and powerful minerality; this was a dense but harmonious wine, long and pure on the finish—superb quality.

François Bertheau. This was also our first visit to this domaine. François Bertheau refused to see us before 5:30 p.m., as he is out in the vineyards every day, and clearly he is more comfortable on his tractor than receiving visitors. This is a small, very old style domaine, with holdings in the heart of Chambolle. The fruit is 100% de-stemmed and there is minimal new oak, only about 18%. Triage is done in the vineyards. The wines had been racked in February, and were to be racked again in another month. There is no fining or filtration of these wines. The Chambolle Village had soft ripe fruit and was easy but not more. The Chambolle 1er Cru (a blend of 4 climats) had rich Chambolle fruit in the middle, resolved tannins and a soft and charming fruit finish, and the Chambolle Charmes was also soft, but with bright fruit and a transparent finish, if some hardness to it—both good but not great wines. However, the Chambolle Amoureuses was more impressive, full of fruit, with excellent acidity to give it balance, a silky texture, fine tannins and a very long finish. Sadly, there was no Bonnes Mares in 2012—the flowering was very poor, and the minimal amount harvested was not enough to vinify separately. While these are not wines to challenge Roumier or Mugnier, they are well made and do represent good value.

Ponsot. Laurent Ponsot was in a good mood the day we visited, and with reason. His 2012s are highly successful, even though quantities were significantly reduced. I particularly liked the Chambolle Charmes, with rich fruit, a sharp mineral edge to balance it, and an intense rich finish; the Morey Premier Cru Cuvée des Alouettes, with a dense, spicy and intense nose, great sweet fruit, spice, pepper, brambles and licorice on the palate, it is an enormous wine, especially for premier cru, yet at no point did it seem heavy; and Griottes-Chambertin, a perfect combination of fruit and minerality, with an absolutely brilliant long finish. I was less persuaded by the Chapelle-Chambertin and the Clos de Vougeot, whose intensely dark colors betokened what to me seemed too much extraction, and both of which were showing some heat at the finish. The Chambertin V.V. however, was terrific: while it had dense fruit, pepper and meat, it also had excellent lift, and the tannins were silky and refined. The two best wines, as usual, were the Clos St. Denis T.V.V. and the Clos de la Roche V.V. The Clos St. Denis had an extremely intense nose of spice, flowers, brambles and mushrooms, charming sweet fruit on the palate, good acidity lift, and complex spice on the finish, and silky tannins that nonetheless lingered along with the rich fruit and minerality. As great as it was, though, I did not think it quite came up to the level of the ’10 or the ’05. The Clos de la Roche had a spicy nose, though with a curious green fruit note at first that eventually opened to blue and black fruit; on the palate it was very intense, with excellent lift, exceptional depth, pepper and a nice citrus touch; on the finish, the tannins were very refined, and it became remarkably elegant and very prolonged. Overall, even if not quite across the board, this is another highly successful vintage for the domaine.

Dujac. Although we did not see the entire range, what we did see gave evidence of very successful wines here in 2012. The Morey Village started things on a good note, with a lot of dry extract for a Village wine, sweet fruit–an accessible and charming wine. The Gevrey Combottes had lovely richness and good balance, and while the sample, from a new barrel, showed the oak influence, the finished product will be a mix of old and new. The Charmes Chambertin was very reduced, and a little hard to get at, but the finish was quite pure, the fruit intense and the tannins totally ripe. Opinions differed on whether the Clos St. Denis or Clos de la Roche was the better wine, but even though the Clos de la Roche was very rich and dense, with good minerality and a lot of intensity, I found the Clos St. Denis more elegant, with a silky feeling to it, great balance, and a pure fruit-driven finish. Only the Bonnes Mares seemed unpersuasive on this visit (fitting the pattern previously noted): it had a candied citrus note, medium weight, and seemed not totally knit, the tannins a bit strong.

Clos de Tart. As usual, Sylvain Pitiot presented us with a range of different cuvees, including mid-slope de-stemmed, lower slope whole cluster, press wine, 26-year old vines, very young vines, and the top of the vineyard (which had a very small yield due to oïdium). The latter was clearly the best and most complete of the cuvees, but the blend (excluding the press wine) was far more interesting even than this cuvee, and much more than the sum of the parts. It had deep fruit and spice on the nose, with gingerbread and a hint of tar coming up on the palate, overall with great weight and presence, excellent balancing acidity, and a spicy ripe fruit finish with elevated tannins. It was a very fine wine, though the increasingly aggressive pricing structure that Mommessin is adopting for this domaine does raise questions about the value proposition.

Clos des Lambrays. It was sad to see the empty cellar here, as quantities were down 50% in the red wines (and 80% in the whites). The Morey 1er Cru Les Loups, of which there are only two barrels, was very nice but may never be commercialized. The fruit on the nose of the Clos des Lambrays was very high-pitched, while on the palate this was fairly dense for Lambrays and intense, with strong acidity, and on the finish the tannins seemed a little hard, but as Thierry Bruin pointed out, the wine needs a racking, and he believes that between this, and four more months in barrel, the tannins will emerge far more polished. I do expect that this will eventually be a very good wine.

Château de la Tour. François Labet has for some time now been producing superb Clos de Vougeot, and his own domaine wines, mostly Côte de Beaune reds and whites that are discussed below, have also gotten better and better. He describes 2012 as a bit of a cross between ’09 and ’10, and feels it was perfect for his emphasis on whole cluster fermentation. While I was not sure how well knit the otherwise rich and ripe Clos de Vougeot (which he refers to as cuvee classique) was, the Vieilles Vignes cuvee was superb: there was huge density on the nose, with black cherry, hints of game, cocoa and cinnamon; on the palate it was very dense with huge dry extract and strong minerality, and the significant tannins on the finish were nonetheless highly refined. Even better was the Hommage à Jean Morin. (This wine, first made in 2010, from the first grape cluster above the graft on each vine, is only produced in the best vintages, and only about 600 bottles are made.) On the nose, there was a deep minerality, both red and black fruit, cocoa, and smoke; on the palate, it was even denser than the VV, quite closed but hinting at great depth and richness, with densely textured, refined but significant tannins, and an intense, brambly finish. It will take much longer even than the VV to evolve, and it certainly is different in character from that wine. Is it better, though? I hope to be around in 30 years to find out.

Trapet. Since he began restraining the oak treatment several years back, Jean-Louis Trapet’s wines have gone from strength to strength. While yields were severely reduced in 2012, and some cuvees combined, the resulting wines are extremely good. The Gevrey L’Ostrea, which underneath the gassiness was pure, dense, meaty and spicy, with a dense but pure cherry finish, was particularly good, but it may end up being combined with the Gevrey Village, itself a very nice wine. Also, in 2012, the premiers crus have been combined into a single cuvee (to be called “Alea”), which is quite lovely and well balanced, with spice, cherry fruit, meaty undertones and a very intense minerally finish. The Chapelle Chambertin, despite some reduction, showed a bright pure nose, dense palate impressions, and some mellow tannins under the reduction, leading to a very long finish. The Latricières had a beautiful pure nose and was minerally if a bit Spartan on the palate; though sweet fruit was lurking underneath, this wine seemed a bit monastic next to the Chapelle. The Chambertin was particularly fine, with ripe, intense fruit but also mineral lift, the tannins not insubstantial but quite ripe, and a very persistent finish that combined power and purity.

Bruno Clair. While I have been a fan of this domaine in recent years, I thought that overall they performed a bit below my expectations in 2012—though with some significant exceptions. None of the Marsannays was particularly compelling, and I thought the Savigny Dominodes, usually an excellent wine here, to be a bit lacking in fruit—though to be fair, others liked it a good bit more than I did. Among the various lieux-dits, the standout was the Chambolle Véroilles (the Village version of the 1er cru we had at Barthod). It had a beautiful cherry nose, with good intensity, and on the palate it showed a silky texture, good balance and medium body, plus of course lots of sweet Chambolle fruit—indeed, it seemed almost ready to drink. The Gevrey 1er Crus were better, with a good quality Fontenys and Petite Chapelle, but the quality ramped up significantly with the Gevrey Cazetiers, which had a very strong mid-palate presence, showing both red and black fruit, smoked meats and minerals, a lot of dry extract and ripe tannins, with a long pure spicy finish. The Clos St. Jacques was equally fine though quite distinct, an elegant wine with a really lovely silky quality, supple, pure and delicate but delineated. The Clos de Bèze was, as usual, outstanding, silky and elegant, with pure fruit (but more mineral than fruit driven), extremely refined tannins, and an overall sense of purity. The Bonnes Mares, served last, was not so successful—as I’ve noted earlier, many were not in this vintage—with an off note in the nose that I was not able to identify, and a subtle but disturbing element of sous-bois on the palate, which vitiated the otherwise attractive fruit component of this wine.

Tortochot. This was also a first visit. Chantal Tortochot is engaging, chatty and a font of information on subjects great and small; in fact, despite the moderate number of wines to be tasted, we found ourselves rushed at the end of our usual 1.5 hour visit. Surprisingly, most of the wines, including the premiers crus and two of the grands crus, had recently been bottled. Overall, I found that the wines, like their proprietress, had a good deal of charm but were not always as focused as one might prefer. Among the ones I liked best were the Gevrey Corvées, a soft, balanced and supple wine that was nonetheless hiding a good deal of extract; Gevrey Lavaux St. Jacques, which had delicacy and balance; Gevrey Champeaux, with soft blackberry and blueberry fruit, spice, stones, a touch of meatiness and excellent density; Mazis-Chambertin, with red berries and iron on the nose, was a structured wine, showing its (90%) new oak, but also transparent on the finish–overall it had good intensity; and, from barrel, a very elegant Chambertin, with plenty of material, balanced, long and nuanced. Overall, the proportion of new oak is a bit higher than I’d like, and the wines as I noted a bit more soft-focused, but the prices are extremely reasonable and represent good value.

The Negociants

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering, so what’s not to like about this vintage, at least in the Côte de Nuits. However, as I caution each year, the domaines we visit are at mostly the top of the Burgundy heap, and we tend to drop those that aren’t. It is usually at the negociants that one gets a more accurate picture of the overall quality of the vintage, as—quality-minded as they may be–the sourcing is more variable. As will be seen from the descriptions below, 2012 was not a uniform success, even in the Côte de Nuits.

Drouhin. As those of you who follow this blog know, Drouhin is one of my favorite estates, making wines from its domaine properties that often rival the very best that Burgundy has to offer. But while we saw some superb offerings again this year, Drouhin was surprisingly stingy with its grands crus, so that this year for the first time we did not taste the Grands Echézeaux, Bonnes Mares, or Musigny, as there will be little if any of these wines available. All of the reds we saw (including two very nice Beaunes, the Clos des Mouches rouge and Grèves) were showing well, except for the Griottes-Chambertin, which as usual was very reduced (but nonetheless is likely to be quite fine). The Chambolle 1er Cru, always an excellent value, had a great deal of dense red fruit but good acidity to balance, with lots of spice and a charming strawberry finish. The Clos de Vougeot was quite good, even if overshadowed by two premiers crus: the Vosne Petits Monts, with intense fruit, a complex wine with great mineral lift and energy, and the Chambolle Amoureuses, with a deep cherry nose and a perfumed finish; it was a deep, balanced and elegant wine, and holds its own with the best Amoureuses in this vintage. The Clos de Bèze was powerful and masculine, with great depth and silky tannins; despite its power, it was still an elegant Clos de Bèze.

Faiveley. Apart from a very nice Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, most of the wines we saw were from the Côte de Nuits. Overall, while there were a number of outstanding wines, I found some variability here. Among the wines that I particularly liked were the Nuits Damodes, characterized by soft, pure fruit and also soft tannins, seemingly likely to drink early; and the Nuits Les St.-Georges, with an elegant, high-toned nose, a soft center, but good lift and balance, a lot of dry extract, and refined tannins. Of the Chambolles, the Amoureuses stood out: with sweet red fruit and spice, it was plush and charming, with a plummy touch but also a minerally, spicy finish (the Chambolle Beaux Bruns and Charmes, both from purchased fruit, seemed to lack concentration). Gevrey Cazetiers was also very good, with an immense and intense finish, and powerful tannins, but even better, in my view, was the tiny Gevrey Clos des Issarts, with an excellent minerally center, floral and citric notes, good tension and modulated tannins. Among the grands crus, I especially liked the Latricières-Chambertin, hinting at great depth, with excellent lift and tension in the mid-palate, and a soft, elegant finish. (Bernard Hervet found pomegranates in this wine, an interesting observation though I couldn’t quite get there myself.) The Mazis was also excellent, with lots of dry extract, violets, spice, and meat, a penetrating and complex wine; while I slightly preferred the Latricières, several other tasters gave the nod to the Mazis. There was no dispute, however, about the superiority of the Clos de Bèze Ouvrées Rodin, a brilliant success once again, with a nose that sucks you in, hinting at depths that will only reveal themselves fully over time, a creamy texture, a wine that was at once massive and perfectly balanced, with great tension and harmony, silky tannins and an almost endless finish. While the Ouvrées Rodin was first bottled separately in 2010, this may finally prove to be a Bèze to rival Rousseau at the pinnacle of Gevrey.

Bouchard. (Note: the Côte de Beaune reds and whites are reviewed separately below.)
In the Côte de Nuits, Bouchard’s holdings are far less significant, and half of the ten wines we saw were negociant wines. I generally did not find these wines compelling, with the exception of a very fine Echézeaux, with nice citrus, rich fruit, density, good balance, and a very long and spicy finish. The Clos de Vougeot and Nuits Porrets St. Georges also showed promise, though they were a little hard at this point. Typical perhaps of some of the issues of the vintage were the Chambolle Noirots and Vosne Suchots, which both seemed a bit fat and lacking balance, and a Bèze that seemed relatively light and uninteresting.

Jadot. By contrast to Bouchard, but more in keeping with the overall theme of the vintage, here the greater successes seemed to be in the Côte de Nuits. Among the reds of the Côte de Beaune (the whites are discussed separately below), only the Beaune Clos des Ursules stood out for me. However, further north, the Chambolle Baudes was quite transparent, with a rich fruit finish, if tannins that seemed not quite as refined as one might wish. The Gevrey Clos St. Jacques, possibly the best wine of the entire range, had a lovely spicy nose with a touch of grilled meat, and on the palate was very minerally and transparent, with good tension and excellent weight; the tannins were supple and the finish very long. Others liked the Vosne Malconsorts, but I found it pleasant but lacking tension, and the Echézeaux was disappointing, as was the Clos de Vougeot. The Chambolle Amoureuses had a lot of charming fruit, which mostly hid its shortcomings (too much oak on the nose and a bit of heat at the end.) The Bonnes Mares, from a new barrel, had an acetone nose, and a second sample, drawn from a year-old barrel, was less unpleasant but still not what it should be. However, the Grands Echézeaux was supple and enticing, and the Musigny was silky, elegant and balanced on the palate. The Clos St. Denis was also quite fine, with good line and minerality, an elegant nose and a spicy finish. The range of Gevrey grands crus was overall the most successful, particularly the Griottes, with a lot of dry extract and a bright minerally finish, and the Chapelle, with a stony nose that I quite liked and sweet, supple fruit on the palate, with a mineral underpinning. Best was the Chambertin (the Bèze seemed pleasant but soft), with no sharp edges, a supple and charming Cham with ripe and refined tannins.

Camille Giroud. David Croix is an exceptionally talented young winemaker, though as with any winemaker who is mostly dependent on purchased fruit, he is always to some degree going to be at the mercy of the conscientiousness (and competence) of his suppliers. The Côte de Beaune wines are considered below, but while the range of wines in 2012 was quite a bit smaller than usual here, there were some significant successes in the Côte de Nuits. I particularly liked his Vosne Villages, which had bright fruit showing under a fair amount of CO2, good spice and depth, and a silky quality; the Gevrey Lavaux St Jacques, a bit hard to get at because of reduction, but showing great density and an excellent texture, and a particularly fine Chambertin, with a sense of real purity and lift—an elegant Cham, with a spicy, peppery, very long finish.

Côte de Beaune

The Domaines

Marquis d’Angerville. Guillaume d’Angerville was almost mournful as he showed us his nearly empty cellar. Volnay not only suffered badly from hail in 2012, but again in 2013. Guillaume said his average yield in 2012 was about 10 hl/ha, and about 14-15 hl/ha in 2013. Despite press reports, he said, the hail in 2013 was not as destructive as in 2012 (though the 2013 hailstorm cut a wider swath). Because of the small quantities of ‘12s, our tasting was abbreviated this year, but what we saw was of high quality. The Volnay Frémiets had spicy, sweet red fruit and a nice minerally finish, while the Volnay Champans had deeper-pitched fruit, a perfumed note, and good density; it was not quite finished with malo (!) and thus seemed a bit hard at the end but there was a lot of promise. The Clos des Ducs, also not finished with malo, nonetheless was developing a lovely texture, with some rich fruit and a sense of complexity. Guillaume also told us, in a comment echoed by others, that in the past, one would have tasted the effects of the hail (a certain hardness, and also sometimes a ‘mousy’ taste), but that, while the vines do go into shock for a week or so after the storm, the vignerons now do a natural healing treatment, and as long as the hail happens early in the season, the vines are able to produce clean fruit (though triage is still very important). I do have to say that in general, I tasted far less of the ‘gout de grêle’ in this vintage than I expected, though I would also offer two caveats: first, that many wines are showing reduction in November, and so there can be a hardness in the finish of the wine that is not always easy to distinguish between an effect of reduction (which will likely go away) or of hail (which likely won’t). Also, the full effects of this taste are not always apparent in barrel, so that, for example, initial reports on the ‘83s did not always reflect the flavors of hail and rot that were so apparent in the bottled wines.

Lafarge. Perhaps because Michel Lafarge has seen more Burgundy vintages than most still-active vignerons, the Lafarges seemed philosophical about the misfortunes of recent years, though Frédéric Lafarge noted that in 2012, they had about 20% of a normal crop, and that it was the lowest yield his father could remember. He also noted the apparent change in weather patterns: that the hailstorms used to come down the combes and just destroy a narrow sector of the vineyards, but that in 2012, and even more disastrously in 2013, they moved south to north along a wide swath of the Côte. Several wines will not be separately issued in 2012, including the Volnay Vendages Selectionées; all will be in the Volnay Village, which had dark fruit, cinnamon and spice; and the Beaune Aigrots and Grèves, which were blended to make a very intriguing Beaune 1er Cru, with clove, cinnamon and a touch of earth, plus red fruit and a minerally finish. Among the Volnays, there was a ripe and balanced Volnay Mitans, which showed a bit of dry tannin at the end that suggested the effects of the hail; a somewhat light and delicate Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs; a light, tender, but elegant and charming Volnay Caillerets, with a lovely nose of violets and black cherries; and an intensely aromatic Volnay Clos des Chênes, as usual the best of the range, with some strong but ripe tannins and a very long finish.

Comte Armand. Benjamin Leroux told us that, overall, the bad flowering and sunburn caused more loss in 2012 than hail. Yields at this estate in 2012 were 12 hl/ha, but only 8 hl/ha in 2013. As usual, the winemaking here was of an extremely high standard, with a very good Volnay Village, made using 25% whole cluster, which showed excellent fruit and great purity, if a touch of heat at the finish, and an excellent Volnay Frémiets (though only 2 barrels were made), made with 50% whole cluster, showing very ripe plummy fruit on the nose, a lot of complexity and density, and a great mineral finish. We then tasted two different cuvees of Pommard Clos des Epéneaux, and the final blend, which was first-rate: a nose that kept on expanding, with black cherry, minerals, earth and a floral touch, intense fruit on the palate supported by excellent acidity; on the finish, the tannins seemed a bit assertive, though according to Benjamin this reflects the recent addition of SO2 rather than the innate character of the wine.

Chandon de Briailles. Here, Claude de Nicolay cited the mildew and bad flowering as the principal culprits in reducing the crop by half. The Savigny Les Fournaux and Lavières were both good, with the former showing a lot of ripe fruit and transparency, and the latter more stony, with a touch of violet, but the fruit seeming a little suppressed and the acidity more in evidence. The Pernand Ile des Vergelesses was very dense and peppery, with excellent purity and spicy black cherry. The Corton Bressandes, though, was not showing well today and despite some bright fruit, it seemed quite astringent on the finish.

De Montille. Etienne de Montille is a strong believer in the use of whole clusters, and often it serves him well, though I do think there are times (and wines) when he might be better served to throttle back. For example, though the Beaune Grèves had a lot going for it, one also could sense the unripe stems on the nose, and the Volnay Mitans, whether for this or other reasons, seemed on the heavy side for Volnay. However, the Volnay Taillepieds showed great potential: it was intense and dense, with bright acidity and excellent lift, while the Pommard Rugiens was spicy, earthy, with lovely lift to the mid-palate, ripe fruit, and developing along elegant lines; and the Corton Clos du Roi, while still in its shell, was quite dense, with a long ripe fruit finish and moderate tannins. (See above for a review of his Côte de Nuits wines, including the spectacular Vosne Malconsorts Cuvee Christiane, and below for a review of the white wines.)

Senard. The ever-charming Philippe Senard conducted our tasting, though he passed the winemaking duties to daughter Lorraine several years ago. He noted that quantities were about 60% of normal in 2012. The wines here in ’12 are generally of good, though not outstanding, quality. The Aloxe-Corton Les Valozieres had a lot of rich fruit, and some strong but not harsh tannins—a wine that has body and power but needs time. Indeed, the tannins on most of these wines seemed a bit stronger and more persistent than elsewhere, but perhaps that reflects as much the character of the hill of Corton as anything else. The Corton Clos des Meix was dense, with dried herb, cinnamon and bacon notes as well as sweet fruit, and a chocolate touch at the end; the Corton Paulands seemed less successful, but the Bressandes was on form, with pure black cherry fruit and good balance, and the Clos du Roi, which had the deepest color by far, had dense spicy fruit, medium body, notes of cinnamon and smoked meat, and a bit of hard tannin on the finish which nonetheless seemed fairly refined.

Pierre et François Labet. François Labet of Ch. de la Tour also makes wines from his own domaine, which have gotten better and better. Reds include a quite nice Bourgogne Pinot Noir V.V., which had a lot of bright fruit and nice acidic support; a Beaune Marconnets (Village) which had very sweet fruit but a lot of acidity to keep it fresh; and a Beaune Coucherias 1er Cru, which was much more minerally than the Marconnets, with good lift and structure if slightly earthy tannins.

Other Domaines:

Michel Gaunoux. As always, a terrific visit with the Gaunoux family, but since they do not show unfinished wines, the ‘11s and older wines we tasted are discussed in the addendum to this report.
Bernard Moreau. While the excellent white wines of this domaine are reviewed below, Benoît Moreau did show us a number of their reds, including a Chassagne Village (Vieilles Vignes), Volnay Santenots and Caillerets, and Chassagne La Cardeuse (a monopole). Of these, I found only the last to be interesting; it was intense, rich, minerally and pure, with great fruit expression.
Paul Pillot. From another excellent white wine maker, a straightforward but pleasant Bourgogne and a slightly simple but charming and well-made Chassagne Clos St. Jean.

The Negociants:

Bouchard. While overall the reds reflected the mixed results of this vintage in the Côte de Beaune, there were some good wines (Beaune Clos de la Mousse, a delicious fruit-forward wine; Pommard Rugiens, a relatively open-style Pommard) and some standouts: Beaune Teurons, a refined combination of fruit and minerals; Volnay Caillerets Cuvée Carnot, which had a creamy note, good black cherry fruit, spice, minerals and great persistence, if a slight dryness in the back which reflected the hail; and, best of all, the Beaune Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus, with a refined nose of spice, minerals, red fruit and wheatmeal, refined tannins, and an earthy and rich finish, with good acidity and even better persistence.

Camille Giroud. In general, and not surprisingly, the Côte de Beaune reds were less successful than those of the Côte de Nuits, with an inexpressive Volnay Village, a somewhat clunky Beaune Les Avaux, a much better Beaune Les Cras, with pure bright fruit and a creamy texture, if slightly light on the finish; a Volnay Santenots with some excellent clarity but also the note of toughness I often find in Santenots; and, finally, an excellent Corton Clos du Roi, with good density, some hard Corton tannins but a sense of refinement, a wine which will take time to reveal itself but holds a lot of promise.


A Note on Premature Oxidation (Premox): no end is in sight, nor can it be said that any significant progress has been made. Burgundians seem now to be hunkered down into three camps: those who see the full dimension of the problem and are pushing for more resources to be devoted to it; those who have changed to non-cork closures, and made other adjustments, and who are hoping that they’ve largely solved the problem for their wines (they haven’t, but at least they may have ameliorated it to some degree); and those who still don’t get it. Of course, this is a bit of an oversimplification, but not much. Perhaps the most interesting conversation we had on this subject was with Frédéric Barnier of Jadot. For many years, we had listened to Jacques Lardière be dismissive of the problem (though Pierre-Henry Gagey would dutifully upbraid him each time he was within earshot). Now, Barnier readily acknowledges the problem (its about time, as I have in recent months seen premoxed Jadots in both ’07 and ’08 vintages) and said that they are taking several actions. The first is to move to Diam corks, which he described as sending a message to consumers that they are serious about fixing this problem. But he also described a number of smaller steps that Jadot has taken. His view is that the issues are not so much with the pressing (contrary to a theory with a lot of currency at the moment), or indeed in any of the early stages of winemaking, because wines that are in contact with the lees can absorb a lot more oxygen without ill effect. Rather, he thinks that the wines become much more sensitive to oxidation in the latter stages of the elevage, and consequently Jadot is moving to be more precise in all of the handling of the wines during this phase. I am not sure I fully buy into this—first, the amount of battonage (lees stirring) seems to be a significant predictor of the percentage incidence of premox, and second, most small producers do not have the same issues of distance between tanks and barrels as does a large operation such as Jadot–but the more experimentation, the better. Still, the precise causes of premox remain unknown, the problem is not going away, and whenever one drinks a great aged white, from before the premox era, the sense of loss remains palpable.

The Domaines:

Leflaive. Since Pierre Morey’s retirement, this domaine—still thought of as the leading white wine domaine in Burgundy—has turned quite erratic. Once one of the few estates that could boast of a low incidence of premox, it no longer seems immune (in September, two of three bottles of ’07 Bâtard opened at a dinner were showing distinct signs of premox). And in recent years, such as ’11, the quality has been quite variable across the range. Given the significant doubts that have begun creeping in among Leflaive aficionados, it is a pleasure to report that the ‘12s are not only highly successful, but that the quality is evident across the entire range. Quantity, however, is another story; Antoine LePetit told us that quantity was down by about 50% in 2012. While the first hailstorm did not significantly affect Puligny, the early August hail did substantial damage in both Puligny and Meursault. As did others, he described the de-stressing treatments (arnica and valerian), which help the vines recover. Nonetheless, the ratio of juice to skin in the berries was low at harvest. The wines had finished malos by July, been racked in mid-September, and were, as usual, in tank when we tasted them. The quality parade started with the Puligny Villages, which had nice lemon, citrus, spice and floral notes and a lot of dry extract at the end–a wine that will need a few years of cellaring. While the Meursault Sous de Dos D’Ane did not seem fully knit, the Puligny Clavoillon was a particularly fine example of this climat: pure, floral, with good minerality, well balanced, and more elegant than usual for this often slightly blunt wine. The Folatières was, to me, the standout among the premiers crus, with a deep nose, a complex balanced palate with notes of minerals, flowers, cherry, spice and citrus—a wine with a lot of weight yet no heaviness, and a powerful finish. The Combettes and Pucelles were also very fine, with the former showing a deeper pitched minerality on the nose, intensity, purity, power and tension–a wine that is holding a lot in reserve; the latter was much more discreet, with spice, lime, and a soft floral entry concealing a lot of dry extract behind. Both the Bienvenues and the Bâtard were first-rate, the former with excellent volume, purity and lift—a relatively powerful Bienvenues, with a lot of dry extract, and clearly needing time to develop; the latter rich and exceptionally dense, with flowers, lime, minerals and butterfat, great balance, a citrus kiss, good mineral lift and tension, and a pure finish. The Chevalier was even better, with a discreet white flower nose, still unevolved but suggesting subtlety and balance, a complex fruit center and then penetrating minerality on an extended finish, a wine also needing a good deal of time to develop fully.

Guy Roulot. At Roulot, some wines were still in malo and so not shown; the wines we saw had been racked in mid-September. Overall, quantity was down about 60%, though less for the premiers crus. The Meursault Vireuils had not yet settled down and Jean-Marc admitted it was too early to taste this. However, the Meix Chavaux was quite nice, with a nutty, minerally quality balanced by white flowers and a touch of butterfat. The Luchets was a total contrast to the Meix Chavaux, denser and more intensely minerally, if perhaps lacking a little fruit, while the Tessons was large-framed, with good grip—still a bit closed, but with lots of material. The Clos des Boucheres was hiding under a blanket of SO2, but seemed to have a lot going for it, with excellent length and balance. The Perrières was very stony and intense, with a lot of dry extract and with sweet fruit, citrus and spice coming up on the long finish—this should be a very fine wine in time.

De Montille. Here too, quantities were down significantly, by around 60% in the whites (as well as in Volnay and Pommard). Etienne described his ’12 whites as very dense, with a thick texture and a lot of acidity; alcohol levels were generally under 13%. Malos were also quite late, and some were just finishing. Overall, I did not find the Château de Puligny wines compelling, though there was a fine St. Aubin En Remilly, with excellent presence, sweet fruit, good mineral lift and a long finish. The two Domaine whites, however, were showing very well, including a very nice Corton-Charlemagne with good balance and an especially lovely finish combining pears and minerals, and an extremely fine Puligny Caillerets, which had only recently finished malo: while the nose was relatively unevolved as yet, the palate showed rich fruit, great density, strong but not overpowering acidity and a long complex finish that hinted at greater things to come.

Latour-Giraud. The crop was down a bit over 50% here in 2012. Jean-Pierre’s malos were late, and the Meursault Perrières had still not finished (he said that some estates had finished malos in March, but we did see a lot of late malos this vintage). Jean-Pierre sees the same concentration as in the ‘10s, but believes there will be more fruit in the ‘12s. The Meursault Cuvée Charles Maxime was still turbid and not showing, while the Narvaux showed more purity but was still in a phase where it was difficult to taste. The Meursault Charmes, which had finished its malo two months earlier, was very fine, with sweet fruit on the nose, a lot of material underneath–a light, elegant wine, though the minerality came up on the long finish. The Meursault, which had only finished its malo two weeks earlier, nonetheless was exhibiting elegance, excellent lift, and purity under the lees and acidity, and showed excellent promise. The Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierres, which had finished malo the end of August, was large-framed, with a pure nose of black cherry, flowers, minerals and a touch of beeswax, a bold, massively structured wine with lots of acidity, but also a very rich finish of peaches, pears, citrus and minerals. It will be interesting to watch these wines develop.

Bernard Moreau. In Chassagne, the problem was not so much hail but, according to Benoît Moreau, sunburned, or grilled, grapes, which happened in late August. Quantities were 50-70% of normal. The first two wines, in bottle, were a forgettable Bourgogne Chardonnay but a good St. Aubin 1er Cru Sous Roche Dumay, which had a nice floral quality and good purity. However, things quickly got better, with a stunningly fine and complex St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly, with impeccable balance and transparency; it had a good balance of fruit and flowers but I particularly admired its raciness and long minerally finish. If the quality translates into bottle, this should be a great value. The Chassagne Village seemed a little unbalanced to acid, but the Chassagne Maltroie, while also showing a lot of acidity, had a good creamy texture to it, and the Chassagne Vergers also showed a bit of acidity sticking out on the finish, despite good spice, creamy apple and citrus notes. The Chassagne Chenevottes and Champgains were both a step up, with the former showing a beautiful floral quality and better balance, plus a creamy, spiced pear finish, and the latter pitched very differently, with richer fruit than the Chenevottes and a complex finish. The best of the premiers crus were the Chassagne Morgeots (a blend of Fairendes and La Cardeuse, from opposite ends of the appellation), which had a complex nose showing spice, blackberries and brambles as well as stones, while on the palate it showed more flowers as well, and was complete and balanced; and the Grands Ruchottes, from 75 year old vines, a creamy, elegant wine, with deep minerality and black cherry fruit on the nose, perfumed in the middle, and sweet peaches and spice on the extremely long and elegant finish. The Bâtard Montrachet, still in barrel, had a huge sweet stone fruit nose, and combined balance and powerful minerality on the palate with an intense, complex, creamy and spicy finish. The Chevalier Montrachet was very minerally, pure and fine, with excellent line, a classy wine. Overall, despite a few off notes, this domaine was highly successful in 2012.

Paul Pillot. Here too, the crop was heavily reduced, by 50-75% depending on the vineyard. Overall, the range was good, though only a handful were outstanding. The two St. Aubin 1er Crus, Pitangerets and Charmois, were both nice examples, the former in a lighter style that would make a charming aperitif, the latter somewhat denser, soft, floral and spicy, with a bit of acidity at the back. The Chassagne Mazures was also soft, round and accessible, a crowd-pleaser and for early drinking, while the Champgains had more acidity and a minerally nose, but was nonetheless floral and pretty, if a little short, and the Clos St. Jean was also soft and charming, a middle-weight wine with a touch of spice and a lot of white flowers. The Chassagne Caillerets was more serious, with a stony, citric nose, floral and elegant, light but with charm, and a bit of clove on the finish. The next wines were being given additional barrel aging, something Thierry Pillot says he would like to do more of: the Grand Ruchottes was much richer and with more body than the prior wines, with notes of lemon, blackberry, white flowers, peach, pepper and stones, and a creamy note on the finish; and the Grand Montagne, with a lot of spice, had a saline quality and was large-framed, with citrus notes, good acidity, and a developing creamy finish—not quite together yet but with good promise. At the top of the premiers crus was the Chassagne La Romanée, which had a very pure nose of cherry, cream, spice, minerals and beeswax; on the palate it was rich, with lemon, white flowers and a creamy touch, a wine that is very balanced, long, and bidding for elegance—it has power but is hiding it. The Bâtard (one barrel) showed some of the new oak, and had a lot of power and acidity but kept its feet, with a bold, spicy finish—a wine that needs time.

Senard. The Aloxe-Corton blanc is a curiosity, being made from Pinot Gris. The nose was saline, with a not unpleasant seaweed note, while on the palate there was sweet fruit and strong, but not overpowering, acidity, and a long finish. Overall, I enjoyed this wine. Philippe Senard noted that Pinot Gris was originally planted in predominantly red wine vineyards (typically making up 5-8% of the vineyard and interplanted with the Pinot Noir), because it matured earlier and provided more sugar and glycerol. The Corton Blanc had an excellent nose of spice, minerals and beeswax, as well as white flowers, though the acidity seemed a bit high in the middle. The Corton-Charlemagne had a minerally, white flower nose, well balanced on the palate and, though slightly lean towards the back end, had good tension.

Bonneau du Martray. The ’12 crop will be about ¼ of normal, and will be bottled in 3-packs rather than 12 bottle cases. The wine had been racked once, and was still on its lees. Bright spice jumped out of the glass, and on the palate this was very minerally, perfumed, with a melon touch that hinted at a potential issue of over-ripeness. Good, but I doubt this will be anywhere close to the ’10 in quality.

Other Domaines:

Francois Carillon. Carillon said his 2012s were down 50% in quantity and he preferred to show us his 2011s, which are discussed in the addendum to this report.
Lafarge. A decent Bourgogne Aligoté Raisins Dorées and Meursault, and a very fine Beaune Aigrots, subtle, sweet and well balanced, with very pure minerals and white flowers.
Domaine des Lambrays. Only 20% of a normal crop in 2012, so the Puligny Folatières and Clos du Caillerets will be combined into a single Puligny Premier Cru. Despite a spicy and floral nose, this seemed a bit sappy on entry and also a bit searing in acidity both in the middle and on the finish.
Mugnier. Despite hail issues, a very nice Nuits Clos de la Maréchale Blanc in 2012, very minerally and spicy, dense and quite interesting, floral, and a touch earthy; though it has a slight hard edge, there is a lot of complexity here.
Ponsot. Fans of Laurent’s Mont Luisants will be distressed to learn that this wine was not produced in 2012, as oïdium from the woods destroyed most of the crop. However, his Corton-Charlemagne, while substantially reduced in volume, was excellent: the nose was densely minerally but with a nice floral touch; on the palate, sweet fruit was balanced by a lot of minerality, and the finish was quite spicy and refined.
Pierre et François Labet. Best were a well-crafted Bourgogne Blanc Vieilles Vignes (from Beaune and Chorey) and a very fine Beaune Marconnets, charming, floral, minerally, balanced, pure, spicy and very persistent.

The Negociants:

Bouchard. I found this range more spotty than usual, though not without some successes. The Meursault Charmes and Genevrières had a lot going for them, but also a slightly bready note on the noses that I could not quite identify but that made me wonder about their future. Among the premiers crus, my strong favorite was the Puligny Combettes (a negociant wine; new this year), with gingerbread and other spice on the nose, sweet fruit, a creamy texture, excellent balance and good length. Others were more enthusiastic about the Corton-Charlemagne than I: while it was pleasant, it seemed to me to be a bit on the light side for this appellation and not quite as knit as it might be. The regular Chevalier was a disappointment, and the Montrachet seemed heavy and unforthcoming, hinting at greater depth but certainly not showing it today. Nonetheless, La Cabotte (once in Montrachet, so the story goes, now in Chevalier; both but neither) was, by contrast, showing extremely well—precise, with pure minerality, white flowers, balanced, restrained and elegant on the nose while richer and more honeyed on the palate, balanced with razor-sharp acidity in the back, and with an exceptionally long finish.
In sharp contrast to the Côte de Beaune whites, the Chablis from William Fèvre were, at the top levels, positively exciting. While neither the Vaulorent, regular Bougros nor Vaudésir were in balance, the Bougros Côte Bouguerots was serious and precise, and the Valmur, Preuses and Clos were all outstanding. The Valmur had great depth, with characteristic iron and flint notes, but was balanced, with sweet fruit and a nice soft touch in the middle before the long flinty finish. The Preuses had more gingerbread and gunflint in the nose, plus pears and hints of plum; it had excellent weight and balance and good complexity; the only nit was a slight excess of acidity on the finish. The Clos was the most complete, and despite some reduction on the nose, which eventually opened to chalk and gingerbread, it was very precise, with a light lemon touch added on the palate and a very long finish that echoed all the notes of the nose and mid-palate.

Drouhin. Also an abbreviated, if decidedly mixed, range of whites here. We started with Chablis, and if the Vaudésir here, like the Fèvre, was not well balanced, the Clos was showing very well—slate and spice on the nose, melon and peaches on the palate, and a complex finish with excellent mineral cut. I found the Puligny Folatières soft and fleshy, with a banana hint, and greatly preferred the Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de LaGuiche, which had a lovely minerally, white flower nose, excellent lift and balance and a spicy finish. The Montrachet Marquis de LaGuiche was quite nice, with a deep penetrating minerality on the nose but also a subdued floral component, the minerality almost reminiscent of a great Chablis; on the palate, it was far softer, with a lot of sweet fruit, fully integrated, and with a finely delineated finish.

Faiveley. Yet another decidedly mixed range of whites. Both Chablis, the Preuses and the Clos, lacked grip. The two Meursault 1er Crus, Blagny and Charmes, were very pleasant, the latter more floral and buttery. I quite liked the Puligny Garenne (a domaine wine), which was very precise, with touches of lemon and white flowers and very nice minerality. The Bienvenues had a charming floral nose and was on the soft side, while the Bâtard started well but then seemed to go a bit flat in the middle. The Corton-Charlemagne was intensely minerally, huge, spicy and very long, if slightly on the acidic side.

Camille Giroud. We saw a small range of whites, but it included a charming Meursault Poruzots, with white flowers, spice and butterfat, and an excellent Chassagne Tête du Clos, with bright, knife-edge acidity balanced by floral and peach notes, slightly dry but very high-toned.

Jadot. Jacques Lardière, who officially retired last year, has now been dispatched to head the newly purchased Jadot operations in Oregon, and Frédéric Barnier is firmly in charge. Nonetheless, Barnier claims he has changed nothing. (One hopes this is just the party line; while the Jadot wines are, overall, of decent quality, there is plenty of room for improvement. The Maison does not lack the resources; one hopes it will find the will.) With respect to 2012, he cited oïdium as the key problem. He also said that, with respect to the whites, little juice and extreme richness threatened to produce heavy wines, and that the challenge was to keep some liveliness in the wines, citing this as a reason for stopping the malos in ’12. The problem with this line of argument is two-fold. First, Jadot’s practice under Lardière had been to stop the malos in every vintage (to quote from my report on the Jadot 2010 whites: “Jacques Lardière felt that the usual practice here of blocking completion of the malolactic fermentation of the whites was particularly justified this year, as it preserved the acidity and freshness of these wines and kept them from becoming top-heavy.” Anybody out there finding ’10 whites to be top-heavy? I didn’t think so). That either makes Barnier’s observation disingenuous, or points towards perhaps a more judicious use of the technique in the future (again, one can only hope). Second, the results do not seem to justify the technique either: acidity was not generally lacking in ’12, and too many of the Jadot whites I tasted suffered from an excess of malic acidity—tart green apple notes that were not adequately buffered by the fruit—and I say this as someone who likes his whites to have freshness and racy acidity. This was immediately obvious in the first two wines we tasted, the Meursault Genevrières and Perrières, and perhaps was even more frustrating in the Chassagne Morgeots Clos de la Chapelle and Chassagne La Romanée, both of which had a lot to offer in the way of floral qualities and mineral notes, but that left a rough, unfinished impression. The Pulignys were better, including the Folatières (Héritiers Louis Jadot, from higher on the slope; there is also a regular version), which had a lovely floral/mineral nose, and despite slight tartness, the acidity was very racy and the finish spicy and long; and Combettes, where the apple notes were more integrated and the wine, overall, soft and generous, a crowd-pleaser with soft sweet fruit. I also liked the Bâtard (others preferred the Bienvenues), which had enough fruit to carry the tartness, a long sweet fruit finish, and was complex and interesting, but in either case, quantities are miniscule. The Chevalier Demoiselles (about 40% of normal production) had an excellent discreet floral nose, a lot of density and body, and good balance. Le Montrachet was also good, with a rich, honeyed apple crisp nose, a little tropical fruit (pineapple) on the palate, lots of material, a dry acidic knife edge, and a creamy finish with spice at the very end and a touch of tannin. The Corton-Charlemagne should not have been shown last; it was blowsy in the middle and then had an overly acidic edge that burned onto the finish.

For comments on the 2011s, and other impressions, please see the addendum to this report, which should be available within the next few weeks.

© 2013 Douglas E. Barzelay




The 2011 vintage in Burgundy produced a substantial number of wines that are charming, friendly, and easy to drink, yet do not lack substance. Several producers used the word “gourmand” to describe the ‘11s in comparison to the ’10s, an expression that is not easily translatable but roughly speaking means that the ‘11s more readily give pleasure, are easier to approach and more facile than the ‘10s. However, the results were not uniform. There are wines–even at the better addresses–that can range from vapid to unbalanced, while at the same time, there are also a few domaines that succeeded in making wines that are quite serious and can stand with those of the great vintages that preceded 2011. Overall, the wines of 2011 will be welcome while one waits for the 2009s and 2010s (and the 2005s) to reach maturity, and while the 2011 crop was itself not large, it will of necessity fill a gap in the market resulting from the tiny harvest of 2012.

The growing season of 2011 was quite similar to that of 2007, although preceded by a colder winter. There was summer heat in April, which advanced the flowering, and heat into June (when for a few long days it became so hot there were some grapes that got roasted). However, July was cool and wet, and August mostly cool, with some rain just before the (very early) harvest commenced at the end of August. Fair weather continued through the harvest and the grapes were generally brought in in very good condition, though a lot of spraying had been necessary in the summer to avoid rot. Ladybugs, which had turned out to be a problem in 2004 when they got crushed in large numbers along with the under-ripe grapes, returned in swarms in 2011. This time, however, most domaines were prepared, with a sorting table that shakes, so that the ladybugs (and other insects) drop off. The degree of alcohol was acceptable if slightly low—a lot of growers mentioned levels in the 12-12.5% range, and many chaptalized to get the levels up a half degree or so. It is worth noting that 2011 was the third harvest in the past 10 years that began in August (the others being ’03 and ’07), whereas not a single vintage of the 20th Century began before September. However, despite the similar growing seasons, the 2011 reds are generally more substantial than the charming if somewhat superficial 2007s.

Yields were well below normal (whatever “normal” is), and overall, as one vigneron noted, many domaines have lost, during the period ’10, ’11 and ’12, the equivalent of one full harvest or more.

Generalizations about 2011 seem less easy than in many vintages, and for every attempt at one, there are numerous exceptions. Nonetheless, let me hazard a few: first, I think this is a white wine vintage made for the age of premox, in that there are many lovely whites, with excellent floral and fruit qualities and enough acid to balance, yet they seem as though they will mature and give pleasure early–a few of the good premiers crus even seemed ready to go to table now. That’s a mixed blessing for those of us who are still drinking the ‘82s and ‘85s (and even the occasional ’61 or ’55) with pleasure, but it is what this vintage has provided. And, as will be seen from the notes, there are some whites that have an extra dimension, and that will likely stand the test of time.

While the majority of the reds seem to be friendly and relatively approachable in 2011, there were a surprising number of wines whose tannins were sufficiently astringent to raise questions about whether the light fruit would still be there once the tannins became resolved. Nonetheless, overall I would expect these wines to act something like the 2000s, in that they will give pleasure early on, but will hold and even potentially improve for a decade or more (and, again as a generality, they seem better balanced than the 2000s). And among the reds, as among the whites, there are wines with extra dimensions—mainly in the Côte de Nuits, including most notably the DRCs and Ponsots but others as well, discussed more fully in the notes below. Nonetheless, as great as these wines are, where we were able to taste the ‘10s from the same producer, the latter simply have a certain éclat that even the best ‘11s will not be able to match.

A Look Back at 2010:

Wherever time allowed, we asked to taste some 2010s to see how they were developing. Although it would seem as though some are starting to shut down, overall, this remains a remarkable vintage, notable for a harmony, purity, balance–and restraint–that is rarely achieved in Burgundy. It is a vintage whose charms are not as readily apparent as, for example, those of 2009, but if this is, as I said last year, a connoisseur’s vintage, it is also without doubt a great one. As one young winegrower said, “this is the vintage I had always hoped to make during my lifetime–I just did not expect it would come so early.”

Specific notes on the 2010s we tasted are included in the reviews below.

A Note About the Tastings:

Each November, I and other members of the National Wine Committee of the Commanderie d’Amérique de la Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (whew, that’s a mouthful!) spend about 2 ½ weeks tasting the prior year’s vintage out of barrel. We visit around 40 producers during our stay. As many as that is, it is a selective list of producers, and no substitute for the far more comprehensive reviews of professional critics, such as Allen Meadows or John Gilman. And while I try to be as objective as I can, a lot of the people we visit have become personal friends, and it is human nature to treat your friends a bit more gently when they stray off course than you would a stranger. Finally, I would mention two other caveats: first, time and again, a winemaker will say to us, that a certain wine tasted better (or worse) the week or month before, and it is in the nature of young wines that they change and shift, sometimes slowly and at other times rapidly, so that a snapshot taken on, say November 15th, could be very different from one taken at a different time. This is further complicated by the differences that may occur between barrels of a particular wine (especially between new and older oak), though the more conscientious producers will often mix a sample of two or more barrels to taste. Second, I am often asked if its really possible to divine a wine’s future from a barrel sample. Clearly, years of experience–watching wines grow up, and seeing where you got something right, or where you might have missed the importance of something else–is an advantage. Nonetheless, predicting the future course of maturation of a young wine is a bit like predicting the future course of maturation of a toddler–sometimes their major character traits are obvious from a very young age, and sometimes they grow up in ways you never anticipate. And while professional critics get paid to make definitive judgments, one of the nice things about being an amateur is that you can admit that what you’re doing is making an educated guess based on a snapshot. I make no claim beyond that for these notes.


The Domaines

Côte de Nuits:

Bruno Clair. Philippe Brun, who conducted the tasting, noted that the reds had at the beginning seemed to lack a bit of material, but that they had put on weight in the barrel as they sat on the lees. The wines were mostly in need of a racking, and possibly as a result some of them seemed a bit hard, which is not a virtue in this generally easy-going vintage. For example, the Gevrey Clos des Fontenys seemed raw-boned and overly tannic, but the Gevrey Petite-Chapelle, which was shown next, was much more balanced and transparent. The Clos St. Jacques also had a fair amount of tannin, but there was real elegance here and enough material to last, which is fortunate as this wine will take 10 years or so to develop. The Clos de Bèze was also excellent, a lighter-weight Bèze but with a good balance of fruit and minerality, and the Bonnes Mares had a quintessential Bonnes Mares nose, medium weight, and an elegant finish. While not as profound as these wines were in ’10 and ’09, they should be excellent in the medium term. (Among other wines tasted here, a Savigny Dominodes also stood out for its dense and pure black fruit, though it will take time to resolve the tannins.)

A ’10 Gevrey Cazetiers, the only ’10 that we retasted, was very pure on the nose and finish, with great depth of fruit and mineral lift; a substantial amount of tannin suggests this wine will take 10 years at least to come around (93).

Clos de Tart. As usual, we had an interesting tasting of the components of this wine, 7 in all, with vines of varying age and percentages of whole bunches, as well as different parts of the vineyard. The whole was, however, much more than just a sum of the parts. It had a spicy gingerbread nose; on the palate it was quite pure and intense, rich but with excellent acidic lift, and the tannins on the finish were ripe and polished; this will be an excellent Clos de Tart even if it does not quite have the intensity of the very best vintages.

The 2010 showed dense black fruit and minerals on the nose, with the characteristic gingerbread note; it was medium-bodied but had great balance and depth of fruit, and a long, pure spicy finish with moderate tannins (92+).

Dujac. These wines were highly successful in 2011. Perhaps the weak showing here back in ’07 served as a wake-up call; in any event, since then the Domaine seems to have been producing consistently better wines. Despite the usual reduction one encounters here at this time of year, the wines were mostly accessible and the results first-rate for the vintage. The Vosne Beaumonts was showing reasonably well, with spicy dark fruit on the nose; it was a bit spread out on the palate with some slightly aggressive tannins, but was best on the sweet, spicy finish. However, the Malconsorts was a big step up, with lovely dense black fruit and spice on the nose, excellent acidic lift supporting the fruit on the palate, the tannins strong but modulated; it did show some markings of the new oak barrel but the ultimate blend will be about 2/3 new and 1/3 one year old barrels. The Echézeaux was also very fine, though the Charmes-Chambertin was quite unforthcoming, at least for now (Diana quite aptly described it as “grouchy”). The Clos St. Denis, however, was brilliant, its nose calm and silky, its palate pure and elegant, with ripe, charming, serious fruit and silky tannins. It slightly outshone the Clos de la Roche, which seemed to have a bit harder tannins and more evident oak on the finish; nonetheless, the CDLR was a very fine wine with a good deal of finesse and transparency. The Bonnes Mares was also excellent, dense, pure, but with some heavyweight tannins that will need time to resolve. The Chambertin was at another level, a medium-weight Cham but really elegant and silky, with a very long minerally finish. It takes nothing away from any of these wines, however, to say that the Romanée-St.-Vivant was the best wine in the house, with a wonderful nose of red and black fruit and intense spice; on the palate, notwithstanding a fairly high level of tannin, it had a wonderful equilibrium and purity, and a bright finish which needs more time to develop but for now it displayed a subdued, almost sneaky length.

Grivot. Etienne Grivot gets my vote as the most improved winemaker in the Côte de Nuits. As he himself will admit, his style has been evolving towards more elegant wines, while still retaining a good sense of energy (“energy” is a frequently-used buzzword in Burgundy; I think of it as precision and vibrancy). Among the Village-level wines in ’11, I liked the Vosne, the Nuits Les Lavières and the Vosne Bossières, all in the lighter style of the vintage but showing good balance and, in the case of the Bossières, a degree of elegance. Among the premiers crus, standouts included the Nuits Boudots for its purity, volume and transparent fruity/minerally finish; the Vosne Brulées had real silkiness, spice and a touch of smoke, as well as a high-toned minerally finish and modulated tannins; the Vosne Beaumonts had an extra dimension to the fruit on the nose and the palate was less restrained and more lavish than the wines that preceded it, though it seemed to lighten up slightly on the finish; and the Vosne Reignots had great balance and excellent tension; a good deal more tannin than the other 1er crus, but deeper and more intense as well. However, my personal favorite was the seldom-seen Vosne Romanée Les Rouges (located in Flagey- Echézeaux), which had a beautiful deep spicy red fruit nose, lovely transparency, a silky quality and a lingering finish. The Clos de Vougeot was, as usual, an intense heavyweight, with chewy tannins, which will take a long time to come around. I was not certain about the future of the Echézeaux, which was characterized by some severe tannins that may prove to be a bit much for this vintage, but the tannins on the Richebourg, though prominent, were much silkier, and the wine itself had power and transparency; only a slight lightening at the finish betrayed the influence of the vintage.

We also tasted several of the 2010s: Vosne Beaumonts, with a complex Asian spice nose, silky fruit and a long spicy soy finish (92); Nuits Boudots, with a profound nose, great balance, earth and animal notes in addition to sweet red fruit—this was intense without being ponderous (93); Clos de Vougeot, with a dense nose of blackstrap molasses—to me this wine had too much molasses and chocolate despite its good mineral lift, but time will tell (90?); Echézeaux, which was sweet, elegant and harmonious, almost dancing across the palate and with silky tannins (93+); and finally, a spectacular Richebourg, with a fabulous complex nose, great lift and intensity and supple tannins, it is an elegant and graceful Richebourg, with an almost endless finish (96).

Hudelot-Noellat. Overall, a very nice range of wines that epitomize, even if they do not transcend, the vintage. Both the Bourgogne and the Vosne Village were very good for their respective appellations, while the Vougeot 1er Cru, which has been a good value here in recent years, had a lot of sweet fruit, and seemed, to quote one taster, “more Chambolle than Chambolle.” The Nuits Meurgers had a red fruit nose that jumped out of the glass and, while it seemed slightly fruit-forward on the palate, had a lot of charm; tannin levels seemed low, and the finish a tad light, but overall this will drink early and well, and I preferred it to the Chambolle Charmes, which was soft and ready to drink but perhaps lighter than it should be. The three Vosne premier crus were very fine as always; this year, I preferred the Suchots, which seemed deeper pitched than the Beaumonts or even Malconsorts, and more structured, with refined tannins. You could feel the positive effect of stems in this wine (about 20% whole cluster, also in the Clos de Vougeot and RSV; expect to see more use of whole cluster in the future here.) This is not to slight the Beaumonts, which while forward and approachable was tout en finesse, while the Malconsorts was denser than either of its stablemates and had a more refined nose though to me it seemed a touch on the heavy side for this appellation. The Clos de Vougeot had a very pure nose, bright red fruit, and good transparency though it seemed a bit light and had a fair amount of sucrosity at the finish. I quite liked the Romanée-St-Vivant, which while not deep or profound had great charm, with sweet red cherry fruit and spice, good minerality, and enough tannin to keep but not overwhelm it. The Richebourg, which showed a lot of allspice and clove on the nose and a tropical fruit touch on the finish, was relatively light-bodied yet still managed to develop some power and intensity—while it was a bit odd at the moment, I had the feeling this wine was going through a phase, and would repay retasting at a later time.

The ‘10s tasted here had quite high levels of SO2, which made them a bit difficult to evaluate (especially the Clos de Vougeot), but I felt that both the RSV and Richebourg had great transparency and elegance; these will need time to develop but could become 95-96 point wines. Nonetheless, no other ’10 reds that I tasted had anywhere near these levels of SO2.

Domaine des Lambrays. Thierry Brouin told us that there had been a high level of ladybugs at the time of harvest (in 2004, a number of producers believe their wines ended up having an unpleasant taste resulting from the large number of ladybugs that got crushed along with the grapes). However, he and other producers were ready this year, with a sorting table that vibrates and in effect shakes the bugs off; Thierry had boxes full of ladybugs and other insects after the process. Certainly they did not affect the quality of the ‘11s here, which is high. The Village Morey was quite nice, pure Morey fruit and good weight. The Morey 1er Cru, the last of this young vines cuvée of Clos des Lambrays, had deep cherry and spice on the nose, more depth on the palate than expected, and a long, spicy pure finish; depending on price, this could be an excellent value for early drinking. The Clos des Lambrays, with rich sweet fruit but a lot of tannin, was not quite as pure or elegant as the 1er Cru might have led one to expect, but the wine itself was rich, complex and full. The ’10 was very spicy on the nose, with minerals and a hint of mustard seed; on the palate it was intense, layered and powerful for Lambrays, with a strong minerally spine and a fair amount of refined tannins (94).

Liger-Belair. This was another successful range from Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, including some truly impressive wines. While the Vosne Village and Colombières each seemed slightly insubstantial, the Vosne Clos du Château was excellent–balanced, with good weight, medium tannins, and a lovely fruit and mineral finish. Louis-Michel is continuing his experimentation with whole clusters, adding 20% to both the Vosne Suchots and Brulées, to excellent effect. The Suchots was quite minerally, with fine lift and balance–pure, fresh and very long–while the Brulées (only one barrel, and sadly, not commercially available) took a bit of time to open, then became very pure, with excellent black fruit and a very spicy, peppery, rich and intense finish. I also particularly liked the Vosne Petits Monts, which was an elegant, balanced and serious wine, with medium tannins. Better still was the Vosne Reignots: with very dense black fruit, spice, minerals and tar on the nose, and excellent density also on the palate, it had great mineral lift, and was almost reminiscent of a 2010, if a tad heavier; the finish was pure and crystalline, with refined tannins. The Echézeaux was also very good, if not necessarily better than the top premiers crus, but the La Romanée was, not surprisingly, in its own league: intense, complex, dense without being heavy, with a pure and extremely long finish hinting at coffee cream and very polished and refined tannins that almost seemed to disappear into the depths of this wine.

Meo-Camuzet. There seems to be a significant quality difference here between the negociant and Domaine wines, with the latter being quite promising in this vintage. Interestingly, Jean-Nicolas told us (as did Freddy Mugnier) that he would no longer do the élevage on barrels of Hospices wines. Both felt that the quality of the wines from the Hospices was not at the standard of their own wines, and that there was little they could contribute during the élevage to the ultimate quality of the wines, while being held responsible should the wines fall short of expectations.

Among the wines from the Domaine that I liked this year were a pure and interesting Nuits Village; excellent examples of both Nuits Boudots and Meurgers, the Boudots brooding and intense and the Meurgers even denser and longer, but both with lovely transparent finishes; a Clos de Vougeot that had excellent mineral lift, a bit of hard tannin (though not nearly so much as Grivot’s), but also structure and tension; a good Corton Clos Rognet, well structured but again some hard, though not unrefined, tannins; and a really fine Vosne Cros Parantoux, its minerally nose suffused with complex fruit, a touch coiled today, but with drive, intensity and an aristocratic finish with very refined tannins. The Richebourg was done in a more elegant style, but the power and density eventually came through on the palate and it was precise and intense on the finish. While there was some initial reluctance to show the Vosne Brulées because it was quite reduced, it nonetheless possessed an excellent texture, fine balance, and great promise.

We also tasted together the ’10 and ’09 Corton Perrières, the ’10 slightly reduced but minerally, pure, with a smoky note followed by red fruit and a lovely pure minerally finish (93), while the ’09, which had been opened earlier, showed more smoky, bacon notes, mocha and spice, with a fair amount of tannin—-more intense and richer than the ’10, but it retained good structure and kept its feet. Very different in style but I scored it the same as the ’10 (93).

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. The Mugneret sisters made highly successful wines in 2011, which will come as no surprise to anyone who follows this brilliant, yet still underappreciated, domaine. The Bourgogne was deep colored, with rich black fruit and a hint of truffle–a particularly excellent Bourgogne. The Vosne Village, often a great bargain, seemed nice but not special this time around, but the Nuits Village (from Au Bas de Combe, next to Clos des Réas) was excellent, with penetrating black fruit, cool minerality, and an excellent finish. The Nuits Vignes Rondes and the Nuits Chaignots both seemed built for early drinking, with soft fruit and good balance on the Vignes Rondes and richer fruit and more mineral lift on the Chaignots. The Chambolle Feusselottes was lighter than the Chaignots but finer, while the Gevrey 1er Cru (young vines Ruchottes; this is the last year for this cuvée) had good purity even if it was slightly lighter-bodied as befits the vintage. The Ruchottes-Chambertin had a lovely floral nose; on the palate, it was large and powerful, with notes of meat and soy in addition to the sweet fruit and mineralit–it perhaps lacked a little precision but was an excellent, broad-shouldered wine. The Echézeaux was a bit less forthcoming than the other wines, the fruit perhaps a bit attenuated right now (in looking at my notes, I see that this seems characteristic of most of the Echézeaux I tasted, other than the DRC–whether it is because this vineyard did less well in ’11, or was just not showing as well, I am unsure). The Clos de Vougeot was typically excellent, with a rich red fruit nose, real Grand Cru weight and intensity, more structure and delineation than most, with a very spicy and transparent finish and some serious but refined tannins. Overall (with some competition from the Château de la Tour Vielles Vignes), this was the best Clos de Vougeot we tasted.

The 2010s are predictably first-rate here. The Bourgogne tasted more like an excellent Village wine (89), the Vosne Village was rich and needed time to develop (89+), the Chaignots was a bit light but elegant for Nuits, the fruit slightly suppressed by some serious tannins (90), while the Vignes Rondes, though not as rich as Chaignots, was higher-toned and more minerally (90) and the Chambolle Feusselottes was quite pure, with excellent balance and a brilliant finish (91-92). The Ruchottes-Chambertin was showing excellent black cherry, great acidic lift, and was very transparent and quite elegant for Ruchottes, with a long finish (94). It was followed by a somewhat awkward and slightly reduced Echézeaux (NR), and then another outstanding Clos de Vougeot, with an intense nose, elegant, primary fruit, suave tannins, and a very long, elegant, pure finish (95).

Mugnier. Very fine wines here, as usual. In general, they were (not surprisingly) not as intense and deeply pitched as the ‘10s, though more accessible and without a lot of tannin in evidence. Freddy was in a more talkative mood than usual this visit. He commented that, with better vineyard work, producers should be able to get ripe grapes every year. The most important factor for quality, he said, is the length of the period between floraison and harvest. While quality used to be measured by the degree of alcohol, that is really irrelevant. The essential factors for great wine are balance and harmony, and better wines come when grapes ripen in cool weather. (Several of his comments were echoed by Michel Lafarge, who also noted that in years where there is an earlier flowering, the days at that time of year provide more potential hours of sunlight than do days at the end of the season, making it more likely that the grapes will ripen earlier even than the traditional 100 days after flowering.) He also noted that, notwithstanding the similarities between the 2007 and 2011 growing seasons, the ‘11s have more depth, acidity and structure than the ‘07s.

The Village Chambolle was nice if a bit straightforward, but the Chambolle Fuées was a significant step up in concentration and depth of fruit, and had an almost gamy note; it was pure and transparent, thought the fruit was a bit restrained on the palate. The Nuits Clos de la Maréchale had a lot of big sweet fruit for Maréchale; it was very minerally and perhaps a little severe but not overly so. The Bonnes Mares was dense, pure and powerful on the nose, a bit lighter on the palate, but with elegant fruit. The Chambolle Amoureuses was first-rate, with a profound nose; if the fruit seemed a tad reticent at this moment (as it does for most of the range), nonetheless the structure is there and this is an elegant, serious wine, with a touch of silk–tout en finesse. The Musigny, despite a bit of reduction, had a nose of deep black fruit, minerals, citrus, and lavender, and was pure and elegant on entry, with great line and structure and a multi-dimensional finish that really pops.

The 2010s were particularly impressive. The Chambolle Village was far more intense than the ‘11, showing a lot of black fruit with a core of minerals and spice and a long spicy finish (92). The Nuits Clos de la Maréchale showed plenty of pure black fruit and earth on the nose, with real transparency–the Maréchale vineyard, with all its pluses and minuses, is very much on view here (91). The Musigny had intensely deep black fruit and spice on the nose, with violets and an orange top note; on the palate, there was a lovely core of fruit and it was complex, balanced, pure and with great mineral lift; the strong tannins are still there and it will take time to resolve (94-97).

Ponsot. There were some remarkable wines here, several of which merit inclusion among the very best wines of the vintage. Picking late clearly paid off for Laurent Ponsot in 2011. While some wines (Chambolle Charmes, Griottes-Chambertin, Clos de Bèze and Clos de Vougeot) seemed to have gone off the deep edge–mimicking heavy extraction, although Laurent says he stays away from using any extractive techniques–the best wines here transcend the vintage. Among them are a nicely delineated Morey 1er Cru Cuvée des Alouettes; an excellent Corton Bressandes, well-balanced with suave tannins and a lovely black cherry and mineral finish; and a very fine Chapelle-Chambertin, calm on the palate with sumptuous fruit and great mineral lift and drive–a large-scaled wine that keeps its balance. The real fireworks, as usual, came at the end. The Clos St. Denis Très Vielles Vignes was a supremely elegant wine, with no lack of depth, a delicate balance of fruit and minerality, and best of all, a very, very long silky finish, accompanied by highly refined tannins. Equally good was the Clos de la Roche Vielles Vignes, a wine of power and intensity on the palate, suave tannins, and a long, pure and extremely elegant finish. The two form a wonderful contrast of terroir. Bravo!

DRC. It is satisfying to report that Burgundy’s flagship estate has done it again–producing absolutely brilliant wines that define what the vintage can achieve. The Vosne 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault-Blochet, made mostly from the second pass in the vineyards, 5-10 days after harvest, was lighter-bodied but charming, focused and long, perhaps slightly anonymous as one would expect of a multi-terroir wine, but nonetheless quite pleasant. The Corton was very pure, medium weight, with strong acidity, Corton fruit, plentiful tannin but fairly modulated–an aristocratic wine. Bertrand de Villaine noted that this wine is being aged in 60% one year old barrels, which seems wise, both for wine and vintage. The Echézeaux was punching well above its weight, with a serious, remarkably deep nose of black fruit and spice; it was very stylish, transparent, and coiled, with rich fruit in the mid-palate and a spicy long finish with excellent mineral lift. The Grands Echézeaux, regrettably, seemed a bit too reduced to get a full view, though it is clearly balanced and the tannins ripe. The Romanée-St-Vivant was remarkable–deeply pitched spicy black fruit on the nose, with a creamy note; a totally complete wine on the palate, medium weight but all in place, and a spicy minerally finish, with refined tannins, a creamy/silky texture and great length—truly great RSV. The Richebourg, fine as it was, seemed to take a back seat to the RSV, seemingly a more gentle style of Richebourg, yet a brilliant pure and dense finish suggests that with time, it may give the RSV more of a battle. La Tâche had a beautifully pure nose of black fruit, game, Asian spice and olive; it was medium weight, but very spicy and exotic, broad-shouldered (though perhaps just a touch heavy in the middle?), with a long open minerally finish. The Romanée-Conti was more accessible than it sometimes is at this stage–it showed an immensely deep and pure nose of black fruit, lavender, spice and olives, with tannins that are quite creamy (if that’s possible) and barely in evidence; this is a wine of harmony and grace, delicate and lacy, with a spiciness that runs completely through it. It has everything but is extremely subtle, and the finish was still going 2+ minutes later.

We tasted one 2010, the Echézeaux, and the nose jumped out of the glass; it had spicy fruit, excellent mineral lift, a creamy touch, and was quite transparent, with a deep, spicy, almost tarry finish, very refined tannins, and ultimately a bit more density and concentration than the ’11 (93).

Roumier. Another range of wines that transcend the vintage. In discussing why, despite the similarities in weather, the ‘11s seem generally more interesting and complete than the ‘07s, Christophe cited several factors: the dry winter before ’11, less botrytis in ’11, and more millerandage (briefly, the formation at flowering of small or “shot” berries that produce less, but more concentrated, juice). While the first few wines (Chambolle Village, Morey Clos de la Bussière and Chambolle Les Combottes) seemed a touch on the easy side, if charming and approachable, the Chambolle Les Cras was a considerable step up: austere at first, then sweet red fruit came up, and the wine had excellent balance and was long and complete; while the fruit might seem juicy, there was excellent mineral lift and the balance to carry it. The Ruchottes-Chambertin was a minerally, transparent wine, deep and meaty, with a bit of tannin which was not overbearing, and lovely purity. The Chambolle Amoureuses, though quite reduced, eventually showed incredibly deep red and black fruit flavors, and a soy note; there was a lot of density and tension here, real purity, and a long finish. The Bonnes Mares, though, was in a league of its own (until joined there by the Musigny). On the nose, there was deeply pitched fruit, yet the minerality shone through; on the palate it had great balance and tension, at one moment seeming to be a bit lacy and delicate, and in the next showing its power; on the finish, the stem tannins were prominent, and will give it a long future. The Musigny, which was very reduced at first, seemed by comparison relatively less evolved, yet giving hints of its intensity and complexity; it was pure, with medium tannins and an endlessly long finish which promised great things for the future.

We also tasted a great range of ‘10s here, beginning with the Chambolle Village, which showed a depth and intensity that the ’11 doesn’t possess (91), a rich and powerful Morey Clos de la Bussière that seemed almost overdone (89), a brilliant Chambolle Les Cras, intense, deep and charged with fruit, it had excellent mineral lift and was pure, focused and long (93+); and a dense, balanced and harmonious Ruchottes-Chambertin, with great spine and breed and silk developing on the finish (94). The Chambolle Amoureuses had an almost viscous fruity nose, immense depth and an unusual level of fruit extraction for Roumier, but the acidity kept it from being top-heavy; it was a dense wine yet kept its feet, with an incredibly rich, pure and intense finish, and very refined tannins (95-96). The Bonnes Mares seemed quite mineral-driven, in contrast to the Amoureuses, with tremendous power, purity and intensity, very refined tannins, and at the end, a pure mineral edge wrapped in sweet spicy fruit (97). The Musigny had an aristocratic nose of steel and refined fruit flavors, with a citrus note; on the palate, it is hard to imagine a more balanced wine, delicate even despite the dense sweet fruit, and silky tannins that were immensely refined, on an almost endless finish (97+).

Château de la Tour. Francois Labet has been producing first-rate Clos de Vougeot in recent vintages, particularly his Vielles Vignes. He is committed to 100% whole cluster, and uses about 30% new oak. In addition to his regular cuvée and Vielles Vignes, he will, starting with the 2010, be releasing (in great years only) a third cuvée, Hommage à Jean Morin. Production will be tiny, however. In 2011, I felt that the tannins might be too strong for the delicacy of the regular cuvée, though it certainly had a lovely nose, and obviously Francois does not share my view. The ’11 Clos de Vougeot Vielles Vignes, however, seemed more likely to have the structure and material to carry the tannins, and it had a lovely small berry nose, excellent purity, and the tannins were clearly more refined than those in the regular cuvée. The 2010 Clos de Vougeot Vielles Vignes had a very discreet nose that just hinted at its depths, with a good deal of Asian spice, and excellent tension and structure. This wine had a lot going for it, but seemed to be shutting down. Rated in a range (93-96).

Trapet. Jean-Louis Trapet’s wines have gone from strength to strength in recent years, and his 2011s exploit the potential of the vintage. The Gevrey Village was quite nice, balanced and with a sweet fruit finish. The Gevrey Cuvée Ostrea, also a Village wine, had both more rich fruit and deeper minerality, needing time while the prior wine seemed just about ready to go, but truly an excellent Village wine. Among the 1er Crus, my favorite was the Clos Prieur, with its lovely spicy minerally nose and slight citric note, and a long, pure finish; the Petite Chapelle was also very good, but had more tannin and still seemed coiled. The Chapelle-Chambertin seemed a bit of a heavyweight, ok but not showing much style, at least at the moment. The Latricières, however, was very fine: very pure on both the mid-palate and finish, with good tension and balance; there was a bit of new oak showing but it seemed as though it should integrate well with time. Despite some reduction, the Chambertin eventually opened and showed a nose of deep black fruit, grilled meat, and pure minerality, with excellent volume and balance; this is a powerful and complete wine, and the tannins are subdued and quite refined.

Among the 2010s tasted, the three Grands Crus were all outstanding. The Chapelle-Chambertin had everything on the nose, gorgeous pure fruit, meat, minerals, all in a highly refined package, with moderate, silky tannins and a very long finish. Jean-Louis thought it would need 20 years (94+). The Latricières was a bit reduced but very intense, dense and minerally, with a detailed, aristocratic finish, though the reduction made it hard to give a definitive score (95?). The Chambertin had a “wow” nose, with black fruit, minerals, grilled meat and spice all in evidence but really it was the purity and depth of the nose that came through; on the palate the wine was dense, serious, almost brooding, with a touch of oak but also great depth and balance, and mostly silky tannins and although the oak tannins were not yet fully integrated, I expect they will become so over the 20 years or more this wine will need to fully evolve (96).

Côte de Beaune:

Overall, I see in reviewing my notes that while there were many good wines from the Côte de Beaune that reflected the vintage, there were few if any that transcended it, and I do not think that the overall quality was quite as fine as in the Côte de Nuits.

Chandon de Briailles. This is a serious and perhaps underappreciated domaine. That said, the wines in 2011 struck me as good, without necessarily being exciting. The Savigny Fournaux was very nice, open and approachable, and a cuvée of the Savigny Lavières that was bottled without sulfur as an experiment was delicate and lovely, with the pure minerality more in evidence than in the sulfured cuvée, and a long finish. The Pernand Ile des Vergelesses was mineral-driven, with some fruit in evidence, but in the leaner style this wine not infrequently shows. I quite liked the Corton Clos du Roi, with excellent transparency, also in a somewhat leaner style but it was well-knit and elegant and had a lovely pure finish.

The 2010s showed quite well, including the Savigny Lavières, a pleasing wine with a nice fruit finish (90) and the Pernand Ile des Vergelesses, which had transparent pure sweet cherry fruit, spice and its usual cool minerality; a vibrant wine (92). The 2010 Corton Bressandes was quite reduced, and though it seemed to have excellent weight and elegance, it was resisting full evaluation on this day.

Clos des Epeneaux. The Pommard 1er Cru (a young vines cuvée, a portion of which will be used in the blend for the Clos des Epeneaux) had nice bright red fruit and seemed approachable early. The Clos des Epeneaux blend had a pure deep nose of red and black fruit, minerals and earth; on the mid-palate this came across as an elegant Epeneaux with light fruit and very fine mineral lift; but the wine did display some strong, if relatively refined (in the context of Pommard) tannins. The 2010 had great purity on the nose and palate, and was intense, with a lot of complexity to the minerality, and earth and gingerbread notes, very intense and precise, with suave tannins on the long finish (95+).

Marquis d’Angerville. While older d’Angerville wines can be among the most gorgeous expressions of Volnay, Guillaume d’Angerville has brought these wines to an even higher level of refinement in recent years. As did others, Guillaume also compared the ‘11s to the ‘07s, in terms of having similar growing seasons, but he finds more tension in the ‘11s than the ‘07s. His ‘11s are very good, without quite reaching the heights of recent vintages here. I did like the Volnay Les Angles, with a lot of cherry fruit, a delicate wine but not lacking in substance; the Frémiets, with a pure and penetrating nose of black cherries and spice, good minerality, some strong tannins, and a very long and pure finish; and the Taillepieds, a more powerful and tannic wine, with a saline note and allspice at the end and strong tannins. However, the Caillerets, notwithstanding its lovely integrated stoniness, epitomized for me the slight hesitancy I felt about these wines. This is a cuvée I generally love here, but this year it seemed a touch light, with soft sweet fruit on the palate, a strong saline note at the end, and a better nose than palate impression. The best wines of the range were clearly the Champans, with a pure nose of fruit wrapped in minerals, definitely holding a lot in reserve, some earthy tannins and a pure long finish; and the Clos des Ducs, with an austere nose, the most mineral lift of any of these wines, power and integrated tannins.

We also tasted a 2010 Volnay Frémiets, a completely integrated and pure wine, with ripe fruit and excellent acidic lift, refined tannins and generally a higher level of ripeness and more power than in 2011 (92); and a 2010 Volnay Caillerets, restrained and slightly unforthcoming but with excellent density and black cherry, stony, saline and citric notes as well as allspice; the tannins are already becoming silky and though this seemed to be shutting down, it should be excellent with time (92+).

De Montille. Etienne de Montille was understandably excited to tell us of the changes at this Domaine, stemming from the purchase of the Château de Puligny-Montrachet, which it had been running for a number of years. Certain of the wines from Château de Puligny will now come under the Domaine label, including Chevalier and Perrières, and the Domaine will focus on Premiers and Grands Crus, while the Maison Deux Montille and remaining Château de Puligny wines will be consolidated and the focus there will be on less exalted appellations. Overall, I thought Etienne did a very good job with his reds in 2011. Of the trio of Volnay 1er Crus we tasted, I liked the Champans and Mitans but thought the Taillepieds the best, with its perfumed nose and a silky sweetness on the palate; overall this was a wine of great charm and balance even if the tannins still seemed a bit severe (it is 100% whole cluster). The Pommard Rugiens was quite nice, with integrated sweet fruit, medium body, and silkiness developing–this seemed very approachable for a Pommard, and the tannins were in check. Etienne called it a good expression of what 2011 can be. I also quite liked the Clos de Vougeot, with bright red fruit on the nose, a touch of game, and a perfumed note; this had very nice medium weight, and silk on the finish–again, a very nice wine though not profound. The two Vosne Malconsorts were showing particularly well, the regular cuvée transparent and elegant, while the Cuvée Christianne was once again brilliant, with a much more restrained, floral nose than the regular cuvée; on the palate, it was delicate and elegant, if slightly on the lighter side, and was very spicy, with notes of game; the tannins were polished and the finish long and complete.

Michel Gaunoux. As noted in previous reports, this Domaine does not provide tastings of wines in barrel. However, they do now show the finished wine from the prior vintage, and we were pleased to be able to taste a range of ‘10s here. The Pommard Grands Epenots was earthy but with great mineral lift, balanced, medium-weight, with a nutty element to it, and also a medium finish but very pure, with a touch of Pommard earth (91-92). The Pommard Rugiens was more earthy and with a deeper pitched spicy note than the Epenots, and on the palate it was more substantial as well, quite tightly wound and will need more time; the tannins were well in evidence but ripe and more polished than is usual for Pommard; and with a minerality that frames the wine (94+). The Corton Renardes seemed a bit light at first but then opened up, with a fair amount of tannin, good density, power and mineral lift; it was hardly the most elegant of Grands Crus but it was intense (93). For those not familiar with this Domaine, they have substantial stocks of older wine, and we tasted an excellent 1993 Pommard Rugiens, still 10 years away from peak (93), a very old-fashioned, rich and gamy ’83 Corton Renardes, not suffering from any of the typical ’83 problems of hail and rot (92), and a fascinating ’57 Corton Renardes, the first of three ‘57s I tasted on this trip–a vintage that has not been highly regarded, due in part to a hard edge on these wines that has never fully gone away, but this was ripe, large-framed, heavy and full, not what one would call stylish but intriguing nonetheless (92+).

Lafarge. While Michel Lafarge has turned most responsibilities over to his son Frédéric and daughter-in-law Chantal, he remains active and it is always a pleasure to listen to this remarkable man, whose experience encompasses something on the order of 60 vintages. He is a great believer in non-intervention, letting the vintage and the terroir speak. He thinks the ‘11s are more classic than the ‘10s, more approachable now while the ‘10s will take time to open. I found the wines this year to be a bit on the easy side, very nice certainly, but Lafarge is capable of so much in great vintages that one can feel slightly let down when the wines are merely very good. That said, there is a lot to like here, including his soft, fruity and charming Bourgogne (usually one of the best in Burgundy), a lighter style but enjoyable Beaune Aigrots, a denser and more serious Beaune Grèves, with a bit of a hard tannic edge, a well balanced Volnay Mitans with good depth, a charming, pure soft and easy Caillerets, without the tension of a great year but approachable early, and a complex, balanced Clos des Chênes, also approachable despite some harder tannins than the Caillerets.

Nicolas Rossignol. Thanks to a tip from Allen Meadows, we visited Nicolas Rossignol this year, and were quite pleased with the visit. Nicolas is a young winemaker who, as he himself admits, has changed and refined his style over the past years, moving away from a style that at one time was perhaps too heavy and over-extracted. He sees ’11 as a cross between ’10 and ’08 and says he prefers the vintage to both ’10 and ’09 (something we did not hear from any other red wine producer). His Bourgogne Héritière, from 90 year old vines, was remarkable for the appellation, a rich wine with sweet, spicy fruit and good minerality. There was a beautiful range of Volnays here, beginning with a dense if slightly heavy Volnay Village and including the Caillerets, which showed excellent balance and transparency despite some reduction; an equally fine Frémiets, with excellent drive and a gorgeous finish of black cherry, minerals, gingerbread and citrus; and my favorite, the Taillepieds, from 80 year old vines, which showed blackberries and brambles on the nose and was spicy, elegant and transparent. I found the Pommards, of which we only saw three, less interesting. Unlike some producers who seem to use the same formula regardless of the vintage, Nicolas modulates his use of whole cluster, from 0 to 100%, and his oak treatment, depending on his view of the wine and particularly the soil from which it comes.

We also tasted two ‘10s, a Beaune Clos du Roi, made with 60% whole cluster, which was quite pure, open and accessible, with round tannins–a lighter style, but lovely, wine (91), and a Volnay Chevrets (there are only 3 producers of Chevrets: Henri Boillot, Bouchard Père & Fils, and Rossignol), made from 100% whole cluster, with deep black fruit and spice, an elegant wine with some dry tannin on the finish (91+).

Comte Senard. Philippe Senard is one of the nicest people in Burgundy, and his daughter Lorraine, who has taken over the winemaking, is working hard. The wines are certainly good, but I do tend to leave here wishing I liked them as much as I do the family. Among the ‘11s, the Corton Clos du Roi showed best, with a lot of spicy red fruit and prominent tannins but nonetheless excellent balance and a subtle finish—a wine that has a lot of promise. Among the ‘10s there are some very nice wines, including the Corton-Bressandes, with deeply pitched black fruit, excellent minerality, and a spicy long finish (91+); the Corton Clos des Meix, with a fairly firm nose showing complex dried fruits, much more accessible on the palate than the Bressandes, with a good fruit/mineral balance and a medium finish (92); Corton Paulandes, more delicate and with a nice subtle minerality (92); and Corton Clos du Roi, with a restrained and refined nose, subtle dried fruits, a lot of minerality, and good tension, taking its time to open up (93).

The Negociants

The line between domaines and negociants in Burgundy gets blurrier every year. In part this is because many top domaines are seeking to expand their range, realizing that they have unused capacity and the ability to capitalize on the difference in price between an anonymous grower’s grapes and the wines of a highly reputed domaine. At the same time, negociant firms, realizing that their best sources are inexorably turning to more remunerative domaine bottling, have sought to expand the range of their owned, domaine properties. Most of what we see at houses such as Drouhin, Bouchard or Faiveley are wines owned by the domaine—not to say they don’t still make a lot of money on purchased grapes or wines, but more and more these tend to be the lower-end wines where a negociant’s brand still carries considerably more weight than almost any grower could.

Olivier Bernstein. Both Bernstein and winemaker Richard Seguin are passionate about making quality wines, but unfortunately their idea of Burgundy and mine are completely at odds. These wines are deep-colored, heavily extracted, subject to a 100% new oak regime with a heavy hand on the toast, and about 50% whole cluster. The latter is not necessarily a bad thing, but in combination with everything else, and especially when superimposed on a vintage like 2011, the results are heavy and overdone, with all sense of underlying terroir being totally obliterated. Fans of this style (paging Robert Parker…) may love these wines, but I do not. The Clos de Vougeot got my vote as worst wine of the trip, with a nose of tar, plums and tropical fruit; tasted blind, I would have guessed bad Syrah. What this has to do with Burgundy, I don’t know.

Bouchard Père & Fils. The winemaking here has since 2009 moved in the direction of less reliance on new oak generally and lightened up on the toast, which is all to the good. The Domaine wines in general did well in 2011, within the context of the vintage. Among the Beaunes, I especially favored the Beaune Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus, which had a nose of huge sweet fruit, earth, minerals and a touch of wheatmeal biscuit; on the palate there was a touch of dried fruits and herbs but it was balanced, had a nice medium weight and a transparent finish with finely delineated tannins–lighter style but very nice. Another signature wine of the Domaine, the Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot was also quite fine, with a charming red fruit and mineral nose, purity on the palate, power and stoniness, perhaps a hard edge to the tannins but they should moderate in time. The Domaine’s Pommard Rugiens was also nice, if a little on the light side (as one taster noted, there seems to be an effort, common among many producers, to make their Pommards in a more accessible style). The Domaine’s Corton was quite ripe and primary, a bit fat for my taste but the fruit is quite rich and this should be ready early and a real crowd-pleaser. Bouchard also has some new Chambolle 1er Crus in the lineup, Noirots and Charmes; of the two, I preferred the latter, which was slightly light but approachable and should mature early. The Gevrey Cazetiers, also a Domaine wine, was very nice, approachable, with meaty and red cherry notes that carried through the finish. The Echézeaux, a Domaine wine from the En Orveaux climat, had a high-toned minerally nose, a sense of spiciness and black cherries; overall it was a deeper and more serious wine than those that preceded it, and one that needs time. The Domaine’s Bonnes Mares was also good, reflective of the vintage with its sweet ripe cherry flavors, good acidity, and light tannic presence, though also showing the new oak influence (70% for this wine).

Drouhin. The Drouhin reds continue to sit on a high plateau, as these (mostly Domaine) wines will stand comparison to–and often outclass–the wines of many of the better domaines at which we taste. The Beaune Grèves was showing some reduction but the underlying quality seemed to be there; the Nuits Les Procès was delicious and ready; while the Chambolle Village showed great charm. The Chambolle 1er Cru, always an excellent value, did not disappoint, a soft and charming wine but it also has some spine, and a long finish with rich fruit. The Vosne Petits Monts was on a different level, with real lift and presence, and great acidity; while it has medium weight, it has a great transparent finish. The Griotte-Chambertin frequently seems reduced and out of sorts at this time of year, and this year was no exception. Nonetheless, its track record as it approaches maturity has been consistently excellent, and one can see the structure here that bodes well for the future. The Grands Echézeaux had spicy, cassis and citrus notes on the palate, and seemed quite intense for a Drouhin wine, with a lot of tannins at the end but coated in silk; this too will be very good. The Clos de Vougeot showed more restraint and structure than the Grands Echézeaux, and was one of the better Clos de Vougeots tasted this trip. (As an aside, Veronique Drouhin noted that while Drouhin owns two parcels in the Clos, one near the bottom, that bottom parcel is usually vinified separately and sold off.) The Chambolle Amoureuses had a deep, complex nose that draws you in; while it initially seemed more open-knit on the palate, eventually you sensed the depth; though it had a lot of tannin for Amoureuses, the tannins were quite refined–a very serious wine. The Bonnes Mares was very reduced but underneath there was a powerful, transparent and tannic wine with a long, transparent finish. The Musigny was in an elegant if somewhat lighter style than usual and with soft tannins; it seemed quite reticent now but as it opened, showed more and more of its elegant side. This year, though, it was not the best in show; rather, that honor went to the Clos de Bèze, with a deep nose of grilled meat, wet stones, and black cherry; it had lots of primary fruit, and was soft and welcoming, but the tannins, if silky, were still present; on the finish, it was spicy, transparent, silky and very long. This would be a great wine in any vintage.

Faiveley. The renaissance at Faiveley continues, under the able supervision of Erwan Faiveley and the knowledgeable guidance of Bernard Hervet. Dating from 2005, soon this leap in quality will be too commonplace to mention. Again, though, the Domaine wines tend to be the stars, and the expansion of the Domaine through purchases continues apace.

Faced with a long list of wines at the end of an even longer day, we accepted our hosts’ invitation to pare the list slightly, but Bernard Hervet drew the line when we proposed skipping the Pommard Rugiens—“that would be a mistake,” he opined, and he was correct. It was a very spicy, minerally Rugiens, with good fruit and moderate tannins, a Rugiens with substance but one that will not take 40 years to come around. There was, as befits this Nuits-based estate, the usual excellent range of Nuits 1er Crus, and I particularly liked the Chaignots–with its sweet red fruit, spice, a touch of chestnut and a pure finish, this will make for early drinking; the Porrets St. Georges had an excellent nose, a spiciness that carried through the wine, and good mineral lift, though a fair amount of earthy tannins; and the Les St. Georges, the star of all the 1er Crus here in 2010, was also excellent this year, with greater focus than the other 1er Crus, a touch of young oak but also chocolate, spice and sweet red fruit. This year, Faiveley has begun a contractual arrangement for three Chambolle 1er Crus—Aux Beaux Bruns, Charmes and Amoureuses; with their Combe d’Orveaux 1er Cru and Fuées, it makes for a very full lineup of Chambolle 1er Crus. Of these, I preferred the Fuées, with its restrained nose of Chambolle fruit, its focus and transparency—a wine that will give pleasure early—and the Amoureuses (100% whole cluster used here), with its soft red fruit, spine of minerality, and its great charm, precision, balance and complexity; it had some tannin though not a great deal. Among the Grands Crus, I found the Echézeaux (from En Orveaux) well made but a bit anonymous; better were the Clos de Vougeot, with volume, clarity and power; the Latricières, with a beautiful stony nose, balanced and focused, and with a long pure minerally finish; Mazis, more penetrating than the Latricières, very meaty and driven, with relatively resolved tannins; a dense, heavyweight Clos de Bèze, intense, structured, with refined tannins, and the Musigny, as always reduced and a little disjointed at this juncture, but underneath one sees the purity and refinement developing. Best, in my view, were the Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, a first-rate Corton that has sweet, voluptuous fruit yet keeps its balance and some medium-light tannins, and the Clos de Bèze-Ouvrees Rodin, the special cuvée of Bèze from a particularly favored site within the vineyard, with a cool fruit nose that sucks you into its depths, a big tannic structure, bold, with plenty of minerality and a pure, driving finish that expands for several minutes.

Jadot. Jacques Lardiere, the noted winemaker for Jadot who is one of Burgundy’s most engaging characters (even many Burgundians don’t always understand what he’s saying, but it is never dull), is retiring this year after 42 years at Jadot. He presided over this, our last tasting with him, and was voluble as always. He noted that no stems were used in the reds in 2011. He also said that yields are the key to quality in Burgundy, that the floodgates were opened in the ‘70s and ‘80s to yields of 40+ hl/ha, but that yields in the 20s (hl/ha) were necessary for real quality. He said that his successor, Frédéric Barnier, would bring down the yields on the Beaune 1er Crus and that we would all see much more exciting wines coming from Beaune. Having had a remarkable bottle of ’24 Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge from Drouhin a few days before, his comments resonated with me, and I hope Barnier will have the opportunity to follow through. As for the reds themselves, they were a mixed bunch, heterogeneous like the vintage, some charming and accessible, while others had severe tannins that seemed likely to overwhelm the delicate fruit. Among the 1er Cru wines I liked were a fruit-forward and lovely Pommard Rugiens, a Nuits Boudots that was an excellent expression of its terroir; a sweet and approachable Chambolle Baudes that will be a crowd pleaser; and as usual an excellent Gevrey Clos St. Jacques, an elegant, balanced wine with a nice spicy quality and a touch of polished tannins. Among the Grands Crus, those that stood out were the Clos St. Denis, with lovely bright fruit, charm and elegance; an easygoing Mazis that nonetheless had a lot to it; a very nice Chambertin, without the depth and tension of the best years but nevertheless full of fruit, grilled meat and minerality; and a Clos de Bèze that was less rich but more minerally than the Chambertin, spicy, with notes of violets on the nose, long and with refined tannins. Best of all was the Musigny, a wine of great equilibrium with citric lift, medium tannins, minerally notes and deeply pitched red fruit that rides through the wine into the finish.


There were many successful whites in 2011, and it will most likely prove to be a useful vintage, given that the quality is very good and the wines will be accessible almost from the beginning–an advantage in this age of premox. (Also, because of the greatly reduced quantities in 2012, it will be a necessary vintage.) Overall, the white wine-oriented Domaines we visited this year did well in 2011. The picture at the negociants, probably more reflective of overall reality, was more mixed, and one thing we noticed was that those Domaines that produce some whites, but are predominantly red-wine oriented, generally did not have as much success with their whites in 2011.

Bonneau du Martray. Here we tasted the 2010 (indeed a range of older vintages) before the 2011 Corton Charlemagne. The ’10, while softer and more elegant than the three preceding vintages, had strong mineral underpinnings, a silky, almost lacy texture, and fantastic balance; a slight hardness at the end suggested that this will develop further and keep well, as long as premox doesn’t get to it (95). The 2011 Corton Charlemagne was showing pears and spice, some yeastiness on the nose, and a bit of fat in the mid-palate compared to the ‘10, along with the customary minerality. To me, this wine seemed as though it would be ready earlier than most CC’s from this Domaine, but Jean-Charles said it was not tasting very different from the 2010 at the same stage, though he noted the extra density in the 2010 and commented that the ’11 is a bit fluid right now but will grow in volume.

Francois Carillon. This was our first visit to this Domaine. (Beginning with the 2010 vintage, the Louis Carillon domaine was split between sons Francois and Jacques.) The wines here were extremely impressive, indeed some of the best whites we tasted this trip. Things started well, with a very nice Bourgogne Blanc, but really took off when we reached the Puligny Premiers Crus: a pure and fresh Champs Canet with lots of white flowers and subtle lime; a powerful and transparent Referts, with more body than the prior wine and a very long finish; a Combettes that, despite some reduction, showed great potential, with an incredible finish showing power, lift, richness and elegance; and finally, a Perrières (from old vines) that was deeply minerally, more stony than the Combettes but with excellent fruit and spice and great length. This is definitely a domaine to follow.

Château de Puligny-Montrachet. As noted above, this estate has been purchased by de Montille and there will be some restructuring of the portfolio going forward; among other things, small holdings in Bâtard and Montrachet have been sold to Francois Pinault (owner of Domaine d’Eugenie and something called Château Latour in some other part of France), though it seems likely given the tiny quantities that these wines will not be commercialized but rather kept, Prince de Conti style, for the pleasure of the owner and his guests. While the Village wines did not impress, I found some things to like among the Premiers and Grands Crus, including a Meursault Perrières with a lovely glacial quality to it, and white flowers; an elegant, perfumed Puligny Folatières; and a Chevalier with a dense, minerally nose hinting at great depth and a very fine finish, if not quite as fine (right now) in the mid-palate. Among the Domaine de Montille whites, I quite liked the Beaune Aigrots, which with sweet peachy fruit and a very stony quality seemed almost reminiscent of a Saar Riesling, though without the petrol, and especially the Puligny Caillerets, which was floral, stony and dense; though it had a lot of material it was quite coiled right now.

Latour-Giraud. Here we also tasted the 2010s first, and they were superb. The Meursault Charmes was quite stony for Charmes, with excellent lift (91); the Genevrières, more spread out initially than the Charmes, was massive in back and clearly needs time, but all is in balance here (91); the Perrières had a very harmonious nose of white flowers and subtle minerality, and a creamy texture, with serious volume and density (93-94); and the Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre was a wine of extraordinary finesse, minerals wrapped in flowers, calm but with great lift (95-96). Following the ‘10s, the ‘11s were gassy and in a difficult phase, so that it is premature to judge their ultimate quality, but based on the ‘10s I would expect good things from these wines, especially at the top levels.

Leflaive. I was a bit surprised here, and not positively. While the wines at the top (Pucelles and the Grands Crus) showed quite well, the other wines did not seem up to the historic standards of the Domaine. To be clear, it is not that they were in any way bad wines, rather that, while Leflaives have in the past (along with Ramonet in the pre-premox era) been the standard by which white Burgundy was judged, these wines simply left one wishing for more. Neither the Bourgogne Blanc nor the Puligny Village seemed entirely balanced, while the Puligny Clavoillon had some nice elements but seemed too soft overall, if relatively elegant for Clavoillon. The Puligny Folatières was, not atypically, more deeply spicy and minerally than the Clavoillon; today its core seemed a bit severe but with flesh developing around it; and the Combettes had more energy than the Folatières but less flesh, though it did have a relatively elegant finish. The Pucelles was a major step up, with a bright nose of flowers, cream, citrus and minerals, excellent balance and harmony on the palate, and a very precise, chiseled finish. The Bienvenues-Bâtard was quite rich for BBM, but kept its balance and had an elegant finish; good as it was, it was outshone by the Bâtard, with white flowers, cream and honey covering a minerally core; this has power, intensity and tension and a very long finish. The Chevalier was quite harmonious, with a lot of tension for Chevalier, a saline quality and good spice; it seemed to be just beginning to come out of its shell and resolved itself into a long, very spicy and complete finish. The one ’10 we saw, the Puligny Combettes, was far above the ’11 version, with deep minerality, very fine palate expression, and a rich and almost endless finish; excellent as it was, it clearly needs time (93).

Bernard Moreau. An excellent range of ‘11s at this Domaine. Alexandre Moreau said he found these wines a bit rounder and more approachable than the ‘10s, and with more acidity than the ‘09s. We tasted a fine St. Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly which had just been bottled, and a string of successes among the Chassagne 1er Crus: a very good Chenevottes, which despite a touch of reduction had good texture to it; a more powerful and more open Champs Gains (Alexandre Moreau described this terroir as having less minerality and broader shoulders); a Morgeots which was much more in pear fruit and spice; and finally the Grands Ruchottes, a brilliant wine, stony and penetrating, almost Chablis-like in its austerity, but not lacking fruit and with a floral quality. The Bâtard was a further step up (though there is only one barrel of this), with great balance and tension, and a floral/minerally essence that runs from the nose through to the long finish. After the Bâtard, the Chevalier seemed tighter and less forthcoming, though with real elegance–clearly it needs to develop further.

We also tasted two ‘10s, an excellent Chassagne Village (89-90) and a slightly austere Morgeots which however had excellent density and was clearly still evolving (90+).

Paul Pillot. This is very much a domaine to watch, as young winemaker Thierry Pillot seems quite determined to produce consistent quality from the domaine’s ample range of Chassagne vineyards. The Chassagne Les Mazures (a Village lieu-dit) had a pure floral and minerally quality and even slightly outshone the very good Champs Gains and Clos St. Jean. However, the trio of Grand Montagne, Grand Ruchottes and Caillerets were all at another level: the Grand Montagne (from limestone soil) had great transparency and a very long finish; the Grand Ruchottes had more power and volume yet was still transparent and with a creamy texture; and the Caillerets, more lacy and minerally than the Grand Ruchottes, was very balanced and long. As usual, though, the best premier cru was the La Romanée, with a calm nose of honey, spiced pears and minerals, very complete on the palate, and with excellent tension. While Thierry in general prefers his ‘10s to his ‘11s, he felt that the ’11 La Romanée was of such quality that it outshone its older sibling. Sadly, we were late for our next appointment and did not have the opportunity to find out for ourselves!

Guy Roulot. Jean-Marc said they began harvesting on August 24, which is the earliest date that I heard, though I know that Jean-Marc likes to preserve the acidity in his wines and not let them get over-ripe; for example in ’09 he was able by picking early to avoid the top-heaviness that characterizes many whites of this vintage and produced some of the most attractive wines of that year. He generally prefers his ‘11s to his ‘10s, as he feels they are more homogeneous, noting that there were some problems with the malolactic fermentations in ’10. His Bourgogne, nearly always a good value, did not disappoint, but the real surprise was the Auxey-Duresses, which too often lacks adequate ripe fruit to balance the natural steeliness of the wine; here, it was quite pure, with a peaches and cream quality not often seen in this appellation. The range of Meursault lieux-dits was, as one might expect, particularly fine, including an excellent Meix Chavaux, a more mineral-driven Luchets, with a touch of orange blossom; a pure and balanced Tillets (though there was a hint of tartness on the finish), and a very complete Tessons whose nose enfolds one in its depths. The Meursault Clos des Bouchères (a 1er cru that is new this year, as he exchanged his parcel of Bouchères with Dominque Lafon for this parcel as part of the complex farming arrangements for the former Rene Manuel property now owned by a consortium of New Yorkers) had amazing balance and grace, a lot of minerality and excellent density, though it seems to need additional time. The Meursault Charmes was perfectly nice, but the Perrières was a triumph, with a softness and floral quality that is balanced by the minerality, and with red fruit and citrus as well, and an open very long finish.

We also tasted a range of ‘10s, including the Bourgogne Blanc (which had a slight mushroomy hint) (87); Auxey Duresses (88); a still evolving Tillets (90+) (and also the ’09 Tillets, an elegant, precise wine (92)); and finally the Perrières. Jean-Marc noted that the malo had not finished until January 2012 and that there was a slight touch of botrytis in this wine; nonetheless it was minerally, spicy and rich, with a good floral component; however, a bit of acidity seemed to be sticking out at the end (92?). Also, though outside the normal bounds of these notes, I have to mention a wine, tasted blind, that was rich, full-bodied, harmonious and lively–and which, remarkably, turned out to be the 2002 Bourgogne Blanc (92)!

Bouchard Père & Fils. Overall, I found the whites here very nice, though mostly not compelling, and most will be best drunk young. Among those that stood out for me were the Meursault Charmes, which was spicy, floral, fat and ready to go; the Genevrières, which despite having some fat also, had a good deal more tension than the Charmes, a very long finish, and could use some time; the Chevalier Montrachet, soft and approachable but certainly elegant; an even better Chevalier La Cabotte, more mineral-driven and with better tension, but with a subdued elegant floral quality and a touch of Meyer lemon–it will nonetheless develop on the early side; and a very fine Montrachet, elegant rather than powerful, with a subtle mineral/floral combination on the nose and hints of lemon and spice–a complex wine with an almost endless finish, and again a wine that will be ready relatively early.

Among the Fèvre Chablis, the Grands Crus were all very good, though not outstanding, including an elegant, lighter style Les Preuses and a Les Clos with a great deal of material that needs time to come together, but for me the best was the Valmur, in a lighter style but tightly coiled, with all its components in harmony, and a long very expressive minerally finish.

Drouhin. Veronique Drouhin rightly noted that the ’11 whites are not for long aging. I found the Chablis Vaudesir and Les Clos both pleasant but pretty much ready to go. The Chassagne Village was accessible and soft but a quite nice expression of Chassagne, while the Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche was quite pretty, with an excellent nose, but without much acidity to keep it. The Beaune Clos des Mouches had more volume and lift, with great charm and balance, and a bit more acidity but essentially it too will be ready early. The Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche had volume and presence, notes of white peaches, spice, honey and oyster shell–a medium-weight, elegant wine that has a moderate level of acidity and also will be ready early, but is quite delicious.

Faiveley. Bernard Hervet pronounced himself a big fan of ’11 white–he compared them to the wines of the ‘70s and 80s, with relatively lower levels of alcohol, but well balanced. Nonetheless, I found the ‘11s here inconsistent, and I think they are not yet up to the general standard of the reds, which these days is very high indeed. Among the Chablis, there was a quite nice Clos, big, vibrant, broad-framed and flinty; better still was the Meursault Charmes, with excellent butterfat balanced by a lovely stony quality, a nice Puligny Garenne and a better Folatières, with deeper-pitched minerality, intense and serious but with lots of sweet fruit as well. The Bâtard had lovely sweet fruit, spice and minerality, all in balance and with a persistent finish, and the Corton-Charlemagne was rich, broad and approachable, with plenty of fruit, minerals and spice, which made it quite an appealing wine.

Jadot. Jacques Lardiere and Frédéric Barnier did a terrific job with the ’11 whites, getting more serious and deeper wines than some of their competitors, and on the whole, the range of whites outshone the reds. A very nice if slightly hard Meursault Genevrières was followed by a truly excellent Meursault Perrières, very pure with sweet fruit, flowers, and hazelnuts but also plenty of minerality. The Chassagne Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle Duc de Magenta had a good balance of creamed fruit, lime, spice and minerals, and lots of dry extract. The Puligny Folatières (Heritiers Louis Jadot) was even better, very powerful with a penetrating minerality and a long stony finish. The Bâtard and the Bienvenues-Bâtard both showed extremely well, with the former being transparent, powerful, with sweet fruit, beeswax and minerals, and a long finish with lots in reserve, and the Bienvenues having a stunning nose, excellent fruit, but not the structure of the Bâtard-—an interesting terroir contrast. The Chevalier Demoiselles had cooler fruit and was quite reserved, with penetrating minerality and a super-long finish; it clearly needs time but has great potential. The Montrachet was elegant and even somewhat delicate on the palate, but the finish revealed a lot of dry extract, suggesting that this wine needs time to evolve but should be excellent. We finished with the Corton-Charlemagne; as Jacques explained (with his usual panoply of hand gestures and facial expressions), they still can never quite figure out where to put this in the order of tasting–too big to precede the Bienvenues or Bâtard, but otherwise it interrupts the flow of the other Grands Crus, so last it is). This year, perhaps the placement did not help it; coming after the Demoiselles and Montrachet, it seemed to be in a lighter but more accessible style, especially for Corton-Charlemagne.

Other Whites (from predominantly red-wine domaines): With rare exception, the predominantly red-wine domaines did not produce impressive 2011 whites, though many are certainly pleasant. From Chandon de Briailles, a pleasant and approachable Pernand Ile des Vergelesses and a more high-toned Corton Blanc, with notes of melon and pineapple and a minerally finish; from Bruno Clair, easy-going whites, including the Corton-Charlemagne; weak whites this year from Lafarge, who usually does better; a decent if soft and approachable Corton-Charlemagne from Méo; a Nuits Clos de la Maréchale Blanc from Mugnier that had tropical fruits, minerals and spice but lacked the volume and intensity of the better Côte de Beaune whites (the ’10 had more density, minerality and depth (90)); and from Senard, a Corton Blanc that seemed to have a bubblegum note, not at all in a league with the ’10 Corton Blanc, which had spice, deep-pitched minerality and length (91).

However, there was good success at Domaine des Lambrays, with a very pretty Puligny Folatières that was soft and ready to go, and a somewhat tauter Puligny Clos du Caillerets, with lovely minerality and spice. Thierry Brouin likes this better than his ’10, but I am not sure I agree; the ’10 Clos du Caillerets, though more restrained than ’11, had deep minerality, citrus, pears and spice, and a touch of sweetness; it will mature on the early side (93). Thierry also noted that there was so little white produced in ’12 (80% of the crop was lost) that he may have to blend the Folatières and the Clos du Caillerets. (He also gave us his ’11 Rosé du Clos, made for the Japanese market, which was pretty awful: sweet and dry at the same time. Fortunately it will not be available in the US market.) The whites were also excellent at Ponsot, beginning with a harmonious, pleasant St. Romain Cuvée de la Mésange (new this year), and including a balanced, spicy, minerally and appley Morey Clos des Monts Luisants Blanc (from 100 year old vines) and a Corton-Charlemagne with a lot of sweet fruit–a crowd-pleaser but also serious at the same time. Best of all was the Montrachet, with a huge perfumed nose and spice, beeswax and honey, white flowers and good mineral lift; massive and intense, it nonetheless manages to keep its balance and will be excellent—a good wine with which to end these notes.

© 2012 Douglas E. Barzelay