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BURGUNDY TRIP NOVEMBER 2010 — PART 1: 2009 An Outstanding Red Wine Vintage

December 1, 2010

Clos Vougeot November 2010

During November 2010, I visited nearly 40 producers and negociants to assess the 2009 vintage in barrel. Part 1 of this report summarizes my overall conclusions about 2009 and also my views on each of the domaines/maisons visited. Part 2, which will be posted separately, summarizes those 2008s that I was able to taste in bottle.

2009 — An Outstanding Red Wine Vintage

The old Burgundian expression is “Août fait le moût” (August makes the must) and in 2009, following unsettled weather earlier in the season (including hail in Morey and Gevrey in May), sunny and hot weather settled in around the 10th of August.  With brief exceptions, fine weather lasted well into the harvest, which began in early September.  Important choices had to be made about picking dates, not so much because of weather changes but in determining the balance between ripeness and freshness (as one noted critic commented, everything in Burgundy involves trade-offs).   The white wines in particular were susceptible to becoming overly rich and losing their balancing acidity and terroir character, and perhaps nowhere on this trip were the differences in result more starkly in evidence than between the early-picked Chablis of Fèvre and the late-picked Chablis of Moreau.

For the reds, the question is not whether 2009 is an outstanding vintage—it assuredly is—but how great.  There was much discussion, but no consensus, among the producers, as to what the vintage might be compared to. 2005 was not viewed as a comparable vintage, though there was debate as to which vintage was preferred. My own view is that 2005 is a denser vintage than 2009 and over the long run will be more complex, longer lived, and more consistent across the board. But there are producers (albeit a minority of those I spoke with) who disagree, and while admitting that 2009 is not nearly as consistent as 2005, believe that the 2009s at their best show their terroirs better than 2005 and that the seductive ripe fruit will bring more pleasure. Bernard Hervet of Maison Faiveley compared 2009 to 1959, a great Burgundy vintage of rich, ripe fruit that maintained its balance and charm for close to 50 years, though many are now tiring. For Hervet, as well as for Robert Drouhin, 2005 is more reminiscent of 1961, a vintage that took nearly 40 years to begin to show well, and that now, for the best wines, is characterized by outstanding balance and finesse, with a striking linearity and presence, though many wines dried up without ever having fully opened. I am not entirely convinced, however, by the ’05/’61 analogy, as too many ’61s never really had the right balance (though to be fair, the general quality of winemaking in 1961 was not nearly what it is today). Other producers see ’09 as a cross between ’99 and ’90, and the interesting part of this analogy to me is that while ’99 is a vintage that combines excellent ripe fruit with great balance (and high yields), ’90 is a more problematic vintage: one that was expected to be great but that has often proven, other than at the very top levels, to be unbalanced and overripe.  See my summary of the 1990s in A Tale of Two Vintages.  While I think ’09 will prove to be a much better vintage overall than ’90, there are likely to be a significant number of  ’09s that will suffer the same fate as the lesser ’90s, in that they will show overripe (or deliberately over-extracted) flavors and will ultimately lack balance and grace. While we do not visit many of the over-extractors, there are still more than a few of them around, some with very high reputations, and in this vintage there was much to over-extract. But even among the stylistically more proficient, there are enough chocolate overtones in the wines to give one pause about overripeness. (Here too, Bernard Hervet has his own take on matters: he sees ’09 as more “mocha/coffee,” which he feels is a positive sign of ripe seeds, rather than “mocha/chocolate.”)  In short, discrimination is still necessary, even in a vintage such as 2009.

Despite these caveats, I do think that the best ’09 reds show ripe fruit, excellent terroir, great balance and silky tannins.  Even among the best, though, there are significant stylistic differences, with some excellent producers striving for, and succeeding, in producing wines of balance and delicacy, and others that have produced deeper and more powerful wines, while still avoiding over-extraction. I also believe there is a good chance that many of the wines of this vintage will not close up, or will do so only for a short time, and will produce great pleasure throughout their lives.

The white wines are a somewhat different, though related, story.  As noted above, the vintage tended to produce fruity, slightly blowsy wines that lack balance. However, the quality of winemaking at the top in Burgundy is such that a number of producers were able to exceed the general standards of the vintage by producing wines of balance and finesse. Here, for the most part, it was a question of picking early to avoid overripeness, and though many producers seem to have been seduced by the prospect of achieving great richness, a few of the best had the confidence to pick earlier and achieved stunning results.

Finally, a word about the 2008s, particularly the reds. In last year’s report, I noted that the barrel tastings had been among the most difficult of my experience, as the late malos had resulted in wines that, last November, were marked by hard tannins and raspy acidity. As a result, I felt that ultimate judgment should be deferred, though the auguries did not seem auspicious. I am happy to report that the wines have improved considerably in the intervening year, and while this will never rank among my favorite vintages, there are a number of wines that have lovely red fruit and are quite pure, and where the tannins have become less obtrusive. That said, there are also still many unbalanced and unlovely wines, and even the best reds (among those we tasted) seem to lack a degree of grace and finesse.  I have included those notes in a separate Part 2 of this report.


The Domaines:


Bruno Clair: First rate wines from this domaine, which has had a string of successes yet does not get the acclaim it deserves.  One of the hallmarks of the 2009 vintage is that the “lesser” appellations got ripe and that there are some potential bargains among these wines; at Bruno Clair, for example, they produced an excellent Marsannay Grasses Têtes and an even better Savigny Les Dominodes, from 108-year old vines, both showing rich fruit but also great purity. However, it is among the higher appellations that the domaine particularly shines, having produced a fine Gevrey Clos du Fonteny and very good Cazetiers, as well as an outstanding Gevrey Clos-St.-Jacques, with a lot of minerals and sweet fruit, a penetrating wine with almost grand cru weight that finished with firm but ripe tannins. Even better was the Clos-de-Bèze, from vines planted in 1912, showing spice and smoked meat on the nose, and a nice citrus note, powerful but with great balance and very fine tannins, and a long, complex, subtle and transparent finish. The Bonnes-Mares was equally excellent, showing black cherries, hay and spice and a hint of chocolate on the nose, and great drive and energy on the palate, with a spicy finish and a touch of dry tannin at the end.

Trapet: Jean-Louis Trapet has made significant strides in the last several years in bringing these wines back towards the level of greatness they had achieved through the early ’70s. However, the 2009s still seemed somewhat inconsistent to me, with some showing too much oak influence, though the Clos Prieur, Latricières and Chambertin were very good–particularly the latter, which had power, minerality and lift; the oak was still a little prominent but likely to be absorbed, and the finish was subtle and long.

Rousseau: Not surprisingly, brilliant wines in ’09. The wines were picked relatively early, beginning September 7th. The Gevrey Village was excellent, as were the Lavaux-St.-Jacques, the Charmes and the Clos-de-la-Roche;  only the Cazetiers did not seem quite on form, at least the day we were there. The Mazis was a further step up, with a complex nose, a rich yet transparent middle palate, excellent weight, and a long transparent finish. The Ruchottes was even better, with incredible spice and deep fruit on the nose; it was a powerful, dense wine, but with silky tannins and great persistence. In this vintage, I slightly preferred it to the Clos-St.-Jacques which followed it, though the latter was certainly very fine, a harmonious wine with great density of fruit. The Clos-de-Bèze was slightly reduced on the nose but still showed huge fruit and power on the palate, an intense wine that nevertheless kept its balance. The star, however, and one of the best wines of the vintage, was the Chambertin: a complex, aristocratic nose, with great power, balance and presence on the palate, already developing a silky texture; a profound wine that managed to keep its delicacy despite its stuffing. Brilliant!

Clos-de-Tart: As is typical, we tasted 6 different cuvees that will be used in the final blend, including a blind tasting of three different cuvees: 100%, 50% and zero whole cluster (an interesting exercise for those who were there).  The blended ’09 had gorgeous black fruit, minerals and pain d’épice on the nose, and on the palate the rich fruit was balanced by a lovely minerality; this was a harmonious, elegant wine with some new oak presence but not an obtrusive one, and a spicy long finish.

Dujac: A fabulous success for Dujac in ’09. While I have been critical of some recent vintages here, particularly ’07, Dujac did very well in the difficult ’08 vintage (see Part 2 of this report) as well as in ’09. Dujac is one of the participants in the Climats du Coeur, a charity bottling of four premier cru wines from this vintage, each from a range of climats within the four appellations, which contributed by participating producers.  Dujac is doing the elevage for the Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, and it had a spicy, meaty nose, with a touch of wood still evident, excellent weight and presence on the palate, sweet fruit and good minerality, and a deceptively long finish.  Among the successful wines from the domaine itself were a very minerally, spicy and restrained Vosne Malconsorts, which perhaps lacked just a little concentration; an elegant (and also restrained) Clos-St.-Denis, with excellent balance and sophisticated tannins; and Romanée-St.-Vivant that was quite spicy, with rich cherry, mineral and game notes and a very long, transparent and spicy finish—an elegant and even delicate RSV.  The Clos-de-la-Roche was particularly lovely, very minerally, with excellent fruit and great balance, a fascinating and elegant counterpoint to Ponsot’s dense and rich CDLR tasted just before; really, it’s a question of what style one prefers, not of quality.  Jacques was careful to credit Jeremy and Diana, who surely deserve kudos for a great range of wines in ’09.

Lambrays: A crowd-pleasing Morey Village, a slightly soft Morey 1er Cru, and a nice but not profound Clos-des-Lambrays, in the fleshier style of ’09, which will be very easy to drink and enjoyable from a young age. While this was certainly a nice wine, I confess to a degree of disappointment with these wines in the last several vintages, compared to what I believe winemaker Thierry Bruin is capable of.

Ponsot: You would expect great wines from Laurent Ponsot in a vintage such as ’09, and he has not disappointed. Even the basic Bourgogne was a very nice wine, as were the Chambolle Cuvée des Cigales and, at more exalted levels, the Chambolle Charmes and then the new Corton Cuvée du Bourdon (a blend of grand cru vineyards which on this day outshone the Corton Bressandes), the Clos-de-Vougeot, and the Clos-de-Bèze. Laurent particularly loves his Chapelle-Chambertin this year, and while certainly I found much to admire in its intensity and richness, I personally preferred the Griottes, which despite its dense rich fruit retained a great sense of balance, helped by an intense minerality that runs through the palate and into the finish. The Chambertin, not always a top wine here, was particularly good this year, with deep spice and sour cherries on the nose and an elegance on the palate, a spicy middleweight with excellent power. The Clos-St.-Denis, from 100+ year old vines, was very gracefully balanced, with deep fruit, meat, spice, leather and minerals, suave tannins and a long and lovely minerally finish. The Clos-de-la-Roche, however, took the palm, with a penetrating complex nose, rich sweet fruit on the palate, complexity, balance and harmony, and fully resolved tannins on an amazingly long finish of minerals and citrus.

Mugnier: Freddy Mugnier summed up the ’09 vintage thus:  “2009 will be a great vintage when it’s old. The only problem is that when it’s old, I will be dead.” Freddy also was in the minority of producers who said they found ’09 more concentrated than ’05, but given the style of his ‘09s, I can to some degree understand this comment. To me, Mugnier’s wines epitomize elegance, and they are usually wines that strive for finesse, not concentration. Yet his ‘09s surprised me by their weight and power. However, if they are somewhat atypical Mugnier wines, they are nonetheless superb.  The Chambolle Village is a great success, with a lovely transparency and expressive fruit. The Chambolle Fuées is extremely concentrated yet has the acidity to balance it, with lovely spice, currant and blackberry notes, fine tannins and a dense finish. The Bonnes-Mares was smoky and huge, intense and minerally—this wine still is the slight laggard in the Mugnier stable, but it’s a good wine in ’09. The Clos-de-la-Maréchale had a nose of red currants and earth, with slightly rustic tannins, again good but not inspirational. However, the Amoureuses was a different story, with a wonderful calm nose of red currants, minerals and a touch of mocha, and some fairly strong though refined tannins; unusually for Amoureuses, it seemed more a wine of weight and power than of elegance, though with a long and lovely finish. The Musigny, though in need of a racking, had a beautiful equilibrium despite its density and power, being blessed with great lift from the acidity, and a finish of immense length.

Roumier: Commenting on the analogies made to the ’90 and ’99 vintages, Christophe said that in his view ’09 was lighter and fresher than ’90, but that he found his ’99s more concentrated and tannic. While all his wines had been recently racked, one still could discern the high level of quality, which began with the Chambolle Village and continued through the Chambolle 1er crus, Combettes and Cras, and the Charmes-Chambertin. But the fireworks really got going with the Ruchottes, which had recovered nicely from its racking nine days earlier and displayed dense spice, meat and black fruit on the nose, great lift, balance and complexity and excellent fruit expression. The Amoureuses, despite some effects from the racking, showed great vibrancy and elegance, with some strong tannins, which as noted above also seemed present in the Mugnier Amoureuses. The Bonnes-Mares had a brilliant nose, with spicy dense black fruit and hay, great presence on the palate—a dense yet balanced and elegant wine—and some strong yet paradoxically silky tannins and impressive length. The Musigny had even greater density and energy, and the classic Musigny sense of power without weight, with a spicy long, brilliant finish underpinned by very silky tannins. Overall, these wines are among the most successful of the vintage.

Château de la Tour: An excellent Clos-de-Vougeot, with rich raspberry and other red fruits on the nose, yet fundamentally a mineral-driven wine, very structured, with stems that give it a lot of dry tannin, but also the beginnings of a velvety texture on the long rich finish. The Clos-de-Vougeot Vielles Vignes was not just a more intense version but a very different wine, more marked by new oak, and one of the few wines of this vintage that showed fierce tannins. There is a lot of sweet fruit, though, and dry extract; this is a wine clearly built for the long haul.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: In 2009, DRC=OMG.  Aubert de Villaine is justifiably proud of his ’09s, which he likened to the ’59 vintage. The tasting began with the Vosne 1er Cru Climats du Coeur, which as noted above is a special cuvee produced for charity from eight premier cru vineyards belonging to different Vosne producers. The nose had a strong black cherry component and the wine was medium-bodied with a complex finish showing mocha and spice notes. There was ample wood in evidence, but Aubert feels it will integrate well over time. We next tasted the Corton, the first vintage of this blend of three grand cru vineyards from the Prince de Merode estate, Clos du Roi, Bressandes and Renardes (the Maréchaudes is not included as it remains subject to a separate metayage agreement). I asked Aubert why he had chosen to blend the vineyards and he said that they had first separated the wines into old and young vine cuvees, and that because not all the old vine cuvees were large enough to vinify separately, they had chosen to blend them instead. The wine had notes of black cherry, spice, coffee and bacon fat, and on the palate it was very transparent if in a distinctly lighter style than the wines that followed. The Echézeaux had a huge nose, excellent balance on the palate, and suave tannins. While both it and the Corton were certainly very fine, the Grands-Echézeaux was a noticeable step up, and the RomanéeSt.-Vivant a further large step from there. The Grands Ech was highly concentrated, dense, and very spicy, with a very long finish that had an almost blackstrap quality to it. The RSV, while large-framed for this vineyard, had characteristic notes of spice and violets and maintained an elegance and density at the same time, and its silky tannins and immensely beautiful spicy finish made the Grands Ech look a little earthbound by comparison.  The Richebourg, unfortunately, seemed a little tired from its recent racking, although its powerful minerality and incredible length promised much to come in the future. The La Tâche was in still another world, its nose just beginning to hint at extraordinary depths, with great minerality and transparency on the palate, and notes of spice, green olives, violets and game–an incredibly elegant wine, with an almost endless spicy finish and extremely sophisticated tannins. I don’t know how long the finish might have gone on, had it not been time to taste the Romanée-Conti. If the La Tâche was from another (and better) world, the RC was truly from another dimension. The nose had overtones of violets, spice, minerals, fruit and game and that touch of “green” as Aubert calls it (from the stems), that he says gives freshness and guarantees the future. This was a deep, layered and profound RC of incredible complexity yet grace, with silky tannins and a finish that left one fumbling for words—truly an emotionally thrilling experience. I probably can’t afford it, and it probably won’t be ready in my lifetime, but I’m buying it anyway. The wine of the vintage, without a doubt.

Grivot: This was, not surprisingly, a highly successful vintage for Etienne Grivot, who seems in recent years to have matured into one of the better winemakers in Vosne. The Vosne Village was quite enjoyable and the Nuits Roncieres and Pruliers were good, but things really got rolling with a very fine Nuits Boudots, a rich wine with very nice transparency. Here, Etienne commented that the wines of power in this vintage seemed to be showing better at the moment than the wines of finesse, but that the opposite had been true a few weeks earlier.  The Vosne Beaumonts was excellent, with dense chocolate and black cherry flavors on the palate, and an attractive soft silky quality on the finish; Grivot noted its “purity and energy.” The Vosne Suchots seemed softer and more approachable than the Beaumonts, and while many in the group preferred it, my vote remained with the Beaumonts. The Reignots had a more introspective nose, hinting at a lot of depth but not giving it away, and was well balanced on the palate, and although Etienne served it after the Beaumonts and Suchots, there were strong differences of opinion among the group as to where it stood among the three. The Clos-de-Vougeot was more Grivot Clos-de-Vougeot than ’ 09, by which I mean that the fierce tannins that always seem to be present in this cuvee were not modulated by the vintage, and the wine seemed almost tarry. It will be interesting to see how it turns out, but it clearly was in a different category from anything else in the Grivot cellar. The Echézeaux, while still carrying a fair amount of tannin, had more generous sweet fruit and good acidity; the wood here was a little more evident on the nose. The Richebourg was the star, however, with a calm, spicy and rich nose that had gamy notes, plus sweet red fruit, game and chocolate on the palate, suave tannins and a silky, long, transparent yet powerful finish. Etienne feels this is his best Richebourg so far, and I wouldn’t disagree.

Hudelot-Noéllat: The torch has been passed at this estate:  grandson Charles van Canneyt has increasingly taken over responsibility for running the domaine (except at the caisse, where Odile Hudelot still indomitably presides), while young winemaker Vincent Mugnier, after about 5 vintages here, is showing an increasing sense of confidence through his wines. These were reliably good wines across the board, with standouts including the Vosne Village, and the first really fine Vougeot Les Petits-Vougeots I have ever had (here or elsewhere), which had ripe cherry fruit and good minerality, especially fine balance and a silky quality to it. The three Vosne premier crus were all excellent, though here (in contrast to Grivot) I preferred the Suchots to the Beaumonts and my colleagues the reverse. (What is wrong with these people?) The Malconsorts, exceptionally, was shown after the Clos-de-Vougeot, though this was no insult to the CV, which despite the oak being a little too prominent had both silkiness and volume. However, the Malconsorts was, as Charles commented, more intense than the Clos-de-Vougeot, with great balance notwithstanding its density, again the silkiness that characterized so many of these wines, good transparency and a slightly dry (from the oak) but very persistent finish. The Romanée-St.-Vivant was even better, with a discreet nose, some oak on the palate but mostly ripe fruit and minerals, a silky texture, and tannins that were strong but covered—a wine that will mature into great elegance. By contrast, the Richebourg was more powerful, with great presence and density, a powerful driving black cherry and mineral finish, polished if firm tannins, and excellent length.

Liger-Belair: Not surprisingly, a first-rate range of wines here. The Vosne Clos du Château, a village lieu-dit, had a fine perfumed nose, with strong spice and mineral notes, all of which carried through the wine to a long, pure finish. The Vosne Chaumes (from the estate) was particularly pure and delicate for this cuvee, with great balance, in contrast to the Vosne Petits-Monts, which was cooler and took more time to emerge, showing stronger tannins but certainly a very fine wine, and the Vosne Suchots, which despite a little reduction on the nose showed excellent weight and balance. The Vosne Brulées, which is not commercialized as there is only one barrel (it does show up at charity auctions, however), was made with 19% whole clusters; it showed lovely red fruit, cool minerality and spice, and was a very transparent and extremely long wine.  The Reignots, as usual, was the star of the premier crus, and despite a touch of reduction on the nose, the elegance and purity of this wine really shone through, and a wonderful kaleidoscope of spice came up on the lengthy finish. We also tasted the Mazis-Chambertin Cuvee Collignon from the Hospices de Beaune (of which I was one of the purchasers), and although it is still marked by the Hospices oak, which will take time to integrate, it is showing rich ripe fruit on the palate, with notes of cinnamon and grilled meat, excellent weight, a very long and lovely minerally finish with great transparency, and strong but quite refined tannins. The Echézeaux was very seductive, with deep spice on the nose along with a touch of green fruit and clove, and was developing a quite silky texture, along with a long, pure finish despite a still significant level of tannins. La Romanée, as always, was in a class by itself, and even a slight touch of reduction did not prevent one from appreciating the amazing depth and complexity of the nose, the purity of the entry, the grace and power of the mid-palate, or the spicy long finish, with bright fruit and extremely refined tannins. A great wine!

Anne Gros: What to say? Anne Gros is a delightful person and a highly accomplished winemaker with a decade and a half of successes behind her; yet her passion for winemaking seems to have gone south (literally, to her winery in the Minervois), and if the results in the ’09 vintage are not nearly as disappointing as they were in ’07 and ’08, still, they don’t quite reach the heights one knows she is capable of. The wood treatment here seems to have gotten more, rather than less, aggressive, and though the grands crus at least should be able to absorb it, even they (Echézeaux, Clos-de-Vougeot and Richebourg) seem characterized by an over-abundance of sweet fruit, at the expense of balance and transparency.  That said, they are certainly very nice wines and will give lots of pleasure. But greatness? Sadly, no.

Méo-Camuzet: This is another estate that, while capable of making great wines, seems increasingly erratic. To be sure, the best wines are still superb, but whether the expansion into negociant wines has resulted in some loss of focus, or for other reasons, I did not find the level of consistency here that I expected in a vintage of this caliber. One can forgive inconsistency in difficult vintages such as ’07 and ’08, but less easily in ’09. The negociant wines we tasted, Fixin, Morey Village, and Chambolle Feusselottes, were all over-oaked and indifferent, as was the domaine’s Vosne Village. The Vosne Chaumes,  Nuits Meurgers, Clos-de-Vougeot and Corton Perrières were certainly much better, yet even these are a bit too marked by the oak for my taste. Matters got very much better, however, with the Echézeaux, with a spicy deep note of game, mocha and minerals as well as fruit, and a very long finish of high quality with ripe tannins. The Vosne Brulées, always one of my favorite wines here, did not disappoint, with cloves, minerals, mocha and a touch of soy, a silky mouth feel, and a dense finish which, while it did not lack for oak, was very long and showed quite polished tannins. The Cros Parantoux was also exceptional, with the cool fruit and stony quality of this vineyard, an intense and almost brooding wine–unusually for this vintage–with great lift from the acidity, and an elegant yet penetrating finish with lots of spice. The Richebourg as well reflected the greatness this domaine is capable of, with a deep intense nose of mineral, spice, coffee, and morello cherries; on the entry, it was more delicate and graceful than one might expect from Richebourg, but the power showed in the back, with fine but firm tannins and a beautiful minerally finish with red fruit and exceptional length and grace. However, just as I was beginning to doubt my doubts about this estate, we were given two ‘08s to taste, an unpleasant Vosne Village and a Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Aux Argillas, for which I quote my note in its entirety: “What the heck is on the nose? Lighter fluid, I think. Can one die from drinking this?” Fortunately the answer was no, but it still puzzles me how the man who made the ’09 Richebourg (or the utterly brilliant ’99 Richebourg we drank a week earlier) could also have made this—or, having made it, not promptly have sold it for distillation.

Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg: It is perhaps appropriate that the Vosne section of this report is bookended by DRC and by Mugneret-Gibourg: the most renowned estate in Vosne to begin, and the most under-appreciated one to finish.  Here, even the Bourgogne rouge is delicious, with rich, ripe fruit and a mineral streak. The Vosne Village possesses surprising depth and a long spicy finish. Among the premier crus, the Nuits Chaignots had a nose that fairly leapt out of the glass, with spice, earth and perfume; on the palate it had deep red fruit, was earthy and had some strong tannins, overall a lovely wine; and the Chambolle Feusselottes had spicy deep red fruit and a touch of chocolate on the nose, with excellent weight, a rich fruity finish, and amazing length for a premier cru. The Gevrey 1er Cru (the Ruchottes jeunes vignes) was the only disappointment here; to me it seemed a little light, though the concentration on the finish might suggest a better future than I give it credit for. Among the grands crus, the Ruchottes had a complex meaty and spicy nose, with lavender and chocolate hints; on the palate it was spicy, with a delicacy given by the minerality, and high-toned. The Clos-de-Vougeot had a deep nose of red cherries, spice and hints of chocolate and truffles, great density but also excellent balance, ripe red fruit, lovely minerality and some significant but quite ripe tannins. Unusually, however, the Echézeaux, which normally ranks a bit behind the other grands crus here, today provided the most excitement, with a gorgeous mix of spices, earthiness, fruits and chocolate, and a long minerally, spicy finish, but most memorably a combination of drive and energy with perfect harmony and balance—a very elegant wine. This is a vintage that perfectly suits the Mugneret sisters’ style, and the results are a delight.


Comte Armand: A pleasant enough Volnay Fremiets to begin, after which we tasted three cuvees that will form the Clos-des-Epeneaux (plus the young vine fruit that will go into the Pommard 1er Cru). The resulting blend had multiple additional layers of complexity compared to any of the cuvees, with a great balance of fruit and minerality, and the Pommard dirt; it showed great purity yet power, and a rich spicy and minerally finish, with well-defined tannins and it will with (a lot of) time be a brilliant wine.

Marquis d’Angerville: Stunning wines from Guillaume d’Angerville, possibly the best I have tasted here, though it will make an interesting comparison with 2005. Guillaume himself thinks ’09 is a more subtle, less exuberant vintage than 2005. The Volnay Village begins and in a way defines the range, with a creamy texture, rich fruit and good minerality.  The Volnay ler Cru had a lot of lovely minerality, but was perhaps a bit too marked by the wood at this stage, and the Volnay Clos des Angles was a bit ponderous. The Volnay Fremiets was considerably better, with great structure and plenty of fruit and dense minerality, and the Volnay Caillerets better still, with black cherry, minerals, anise and mocha notes on the nose, very pure and intense, with great fruit expression. The Volnay Taillepieds was a knock-out, higher-toned than the Caillerets, smokier and more minerally; on the palate it was pure, precise and beautifully balanced, with a very long spicy finish and refined tannins. Guillaume commented that he has rarely seen a Taillepieds so expressive at this stage.  My favorite wine here, the Volnay Champans, came next, and it was softer and richer than anything that had come before; with a wonderful velvety texture and great balance and harmony, it seemed to sum up the wines that had preceded it.  The Volnay Clos-des-Ducs was served last, and my colleagues liked it a great deal, but to me, while it was denser and had more tannic structure than the other wines, it seemed more brooding and to me, a touch more ponderous than the others, without the impeccable balance those wines showed currently. Nevertheless, the Ducster is a long distance runner and I would not bet against it.

De Montille: Some very fine reds from de Montille this year, both in the Côtede-Beaune and the Côtede-Nuits. Among the wines I liked were a Beaune Grèves that had a lovely nose of red and black fruit, earth and roast pheasant, though some heaviness on the palate; Volnay Champans, which had an exotic perfumed element but also fine minerality; a Volnay Mitans that was more aggressive and meatier than the Champans but very nice in its own right; and particularly the Volnay Taillepieds, which stood out for its pure minerality and cherry notes on the nose, and floral and licorice notes added on the palate, and especially for its striking length. The Corton Clos-du-Roi was also quite fine, with red fruit and perfume on the nose, a touch of smoky bacon on the palate, good transparency, and a long, elegant finish. Vosne Malconsorts, while a bit reduced, was rich and minerally, intense without being heavy, and quite precise. The best wine, though, was the Vosne Malconsorts Cuvée Christiane. One could almost drink the nose, which showed mineral, spice, perfume and rose petal, as well as sandalwood and game on the palate, with medium body and great transparency, and some power near the back; on the finish, it had fine tannins and was very long, elegant and spicy.

Lafarge: Michel Lafarge has a perspective that extends further back than most of his compatriots, and he offered a comparison of ’09 to a cross between ’64 and ’66, which is high praise indeed. He described the wines of ’09 as full, yet open, forward and generous. His Volnay Vendages Sélectionnés had quite a bit of density for a village wine and a good bit of tannin, yet it remained supple. The Beaune Grèves was a step beyond the Beaune Aigrots (itself a good wine), complex on the palate, tannic and very long, and the Volnay Mitans was quite rich and transparent, though like the de Montille example, it seemed earthy for Volnay. The Volnay Clos-du-Châteaudes-Ducs had minerals, spice and violets, with a long transparent finish and silky if persistent tannins. The Volnay Clos-des-Chênes was very fine, with violets, sweet fruit, minerals and allspice notes, complex yet elegant, and with a transparent finish, and again significant but refined tannins. The Volnay Caillerets was even better, with amazing density and richness, and penetrating minerality, yet remained very balanced, with a long clear minerally finish and the tannins more refined than even the Clos-des-Chênes.

Labet: Francois Labet of Château de la Tour also operates a small domaine, producing mostly wines from the Côtede-Beaune. Among the reds, the Beaune Marconnets stood out, with a mineral-driven nose, red fruit and perfume, and though the fruit seemed a little subdued on the palate, it came through on the finish.

The Négociants:

Before delving into the negociants and their 2009s, an aside on the negociant business as it exists today may be in order.  As the quality and breadth of domaine bottling has increased, several things have happened: first, the external sources of high quality wines for the negociants have been steadily shrinking, as producers have learned they can reap greater financial benefits—if they’re good at what they do—by domaine bottling.  Second, the domaine/negociants (those domaine producers who have established small negociant operations) have been chipping away at the edges of what’s left, whether through purchases or farming agreements, since wine that carries Meo’s label, or Ponsot’s, is likely to be worth more than wine that carries a large negociant’s label. Third, the large and medium sized negociants have responded by expanding their domaine holdings, and so increasingly what one tastes at the premier and grand cru levels, whether at Drouhin or Bouchard or Faiveley or Jadot, is primarily wine from the domaine, even though these houses may still depend for volume and profitability on their lower-level purchased wines. But smaller negociants, who may need to rely on premier and grand cru wines to establish their reputations in the international market place, often lack the reach or financial resources to purchase vineyards, as well as the  infrastructure necessary to enter into farming agreements, and so must rely on the narrowing universe of growers who are conscientious but still not interested in domaine bottling, and on the occasional barrel that a major player decides to sell off to raise cash or to maintain consistency. So while Faiveley, for example, has been aggressively expanding its reach through purchasing vineyards, smaller negociants such as Camille-Giroud or Benjamin Leroux have an uphill struggle to source grapes of the caliber they need (Benjamin Leroux acknowledges as much, and vineyard purchases are very much a part of his thinking for the future).  All this said, a number of significant negociant firms, including several that we do not regularly visit, recognize that to prosper they need to upgrade the quality of their offerings, and are making major efforts in that direction.

Drouhin: While concerns had been expressed in some quarters about the consistency of the Drouhin wines following the retirement of winemaker Laurent Jobard after the 2005 vintage, 2009 is massively successful here for the reds. Even the Savigny Clos des Godeaux is delicious. I also particularly liked the Beaune Grèves, while the Chambolle 1er Cru, which typically provides delicious drinking at a moderate price, was particularly dense for this cuvee and showing lots of rich fruit. Up the ladder, only the Chambolle Amoureuses was not on form this day, having recently been bottled; it seemed a bit animale, but it may just not have recovered its equilibrium.  The Vosne Petits-Monts was predictably excellent, with deep Vosne spice, anise and mocha, cool fruit, lovely balance and silky tannins, and the Grands-Echézeaux, often underrated here, was also particularly fine (and already in bottle), a dense, powerful, but refined wine that will take time to come around. The Clos-de-Vougeot was highly perfumed, with red cherries and spice; it seemed fairly extracted, dense and chocolaty, with fierce but ripe tannins. The Bonnes-Mares was superb, with great volume, excellent balance, and a particularly magnificent finish, with anise and spicebox, driving minerality, power, and exceptional length. The Griottes however gave it a run for its money, with an expressive nose of ripe cherries, smoked meat, mocha, minerals and spice; it had great density, a lot of drive on the finish, and silky and refined tannins.  And then there was the Musigny, which I can still taste as I write this a week later: an incredible classic Musigny nose, with red fruit, spicebox, and an orange top note; great balance and breadth, spice, soy, a touch of roast duck, it almost danced on the palate, before devolving to a minerally, spicy, citrus finish and incredibly refined tannins—and almost endless length. It is a totally brilliant wine that will take its place among the very best of this vintage. And if you are lucky enough to find some, please remember who tipped you off!

Faiveley: Under the direction of Bernard Hervet, the wines here have achieved new dimensions: not only because the serious mistakes of the past 30 or so years have been corrected, but because the wines have taken a different and more refined direction from that of the monuments of Faiveley’s past, which typically were wines of richness and power, but sometimes also rusticity, that could take  30-50 years to come around. The Nuits 1er Crus were all quite nice, the best being the Les St.-Georges, with lovely raspberry and cherry fruit, excellent minerality, good balance, and quite sophisticated tannins for Nuits. The Gevrey Cazetiers was also excellent, showing more grace than this wine typically does. Among the grands crus, while the Echézeaux seemed a bit light and uninteresting, the Clos-de-Vougeot was excellent, with the density, strong tannins and muscularity this climat seems to possess in abundance in this vintage, but also a great finish. Latricières-Chambertin was an elegant wine, and the Mazis even better, a meaty rich wine with power and length. The Corton Clos des Cortons seemed remarkably elegant for this wine, with sweet morello cherries, spice and a touch of bacon, as well as minerality; Bernard thinks it is Faiveley’s best Clos des Cortons since the ’59. But it was the Clos-de-Bèze that showed the best today (the Musigny, though we were privileged to taste it given the minuscule production, seemed a little in shock and not forthcoming). The Bèze had a nose with characteristic notes of spice, as well as grilled meat, minerals, and mocha; on the palate it was deeply minerally and transparent, with accents of black cherry, coffee, raspberries and meat, and suave tannins on the long finish.

Camille-Giroud: I am a great fan of winemaker David Croix, who is a serious craftsman.  As discussed above, the position of the small negociant dedicated to quality is not an easy one. Yet if the task is difficult, it is far from hopeless, as the quality of the Camille-Giroud wines attests. Even among the lesser-known appellations, there are some excellent wines here, including a very nice Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau and an even better Savigny Les Peuillets. At the upper levels, the Corton Rognets showed very well, a balanced wine with nice minerality, great length and silky tannins, as did the pure and expressive Latricieres-Chambertin,  and especially the Chambertin, a wine of power and balance, with great energy and a long pure finish.

Benjamin Leroux: Some very fine reds here, though a little bit of unevenness. Among the 1er Crus, there was a very nice Volnay Clos-de-la-Cave-des-Ducs and a particularly good Nuits Aux Thoreys, with rich sweet fruit and more refinement than I usually find in Nuits (I seem to be writing that a lot in this vintage). The Corton Cuvée Dr. Peste, an Hospices wine owned by the NY Sous-Commanderie of the Chevaliers du Tastevin for which Benjamin is doing the elevage, had deep rich fruit, spice and minerals on the nose, as well as a touch of the Hospices oak; on the palate it was rich and powerful, with spicy oak and a touch of smoked bacon; the finish displayed a deep minerality and was very long, with the tannins taking on a silky quality.  The Mazoyères-Chambertin had almost plummy fruit, yet retained good acidity—a seductive wine.  The Clos-St.-Denis had very dense small berry fruit on the nose, with still more rich fruit on the palate, and it was balanced, elegant and, again, seductive.

Jadot: For me, the Jadot wines have always seemed to be well-made, commercial wines that rarely sing. If I was never as negative on these wines as some, including one otherwise respected critic, neither have I undergone the blinding conversion on the road to Damascus (or was it the route de Savigny?) of that same critic. That said, there are certainly some great successes among the ’09 reds, especially in the Gevrey premier and grands crus. Fortunately the tasting was less of a marathon than in prior years, and we “limited” ourselves to about two dozen reds and a slightly smaller number of whites.  Among the reds there were a number that I thought were very good though not outstanding, including the Corton-Grèves, the Chambolle Amoureuses (a very nice wine though it frankly lacks the refinement of Mugnier’s or Roumier’s), the Bonnes-Mares, a heavyweight wine with a great deal of material even if it seemed to lack a little precision (but possessed more than the Musigny), the Vosne Beaumonts, and the Grands-Echézeaux, a rich, heavy wine that had a lot to offer but more in the way of power than grace. More satisfying were two of the Gevrey 1er Crus: a Lavaux-St.-Jacques with spicy grilled meat overtones, cool fruit and a long transparent minerally finish; and a Clos-St.-Jacques that was very transparent, with lovely weight and balance, and a lot of finesse; while the entry to the finish seemed a bit meaty, the tannins were ripe and fine and the finish very persistent. Among the grands crus, both Chapelle and Mazis were excellent, and the Latricières even better, with discreet but penetrating minerality on the nose, good transparency, notes of grilled meat, spice and mocha, and a great spicy finish with refined tannins. The Clos-de-Bèze topped this range, with elegant spice and red fruit on the nose, along with hints of grilled meat; on the palate it had lovely penetration and was well balanced, with only the barest hint of heaviness in the middle, and on the finish it had drive, length, and very firm but fine tannins.

Bouchard: A mixed bag, with some wines suffering from overbearing oak treatment and others from over-extraction. That said, there was still a great deal to like here, including a charming Savigny Les Lavières; a Beaune Grèves Enfant Jesus that will be quite nice providing the wood integrates; an excellent Volnay Caillerets Cuvée Carnot, which was complex and elegant, though here too there was more new oak (80%) than I would like to see; a full-bodied, rich Nuits Les Porrets Saint-Georges, less rustic than it can be;  a rich and open Gevrey Cazetiers; and a very intense Vosne Beaumonts, with dry tannins that will take a while to resolve.  The Clos-de-Vougeot had a lot to it, with good minerality and ripe fruit, and a lovely transparent finish, and the Bonnes-Mares, despite a lot of reduction, seemed to have some real elegance. The Chapelle-Chambertin, from purchased grapes, was really fine, and outshone the powerful Bèze from the same source, with elegant fruit, a creamy texture, good spice, and a nice sense of restraint.


Côte de Beaune:

Leflaive: Not surprisingly, some of the best ’09 whites we tasted. The Puligny 1er Cru Climats du Coeur was beginning to round out nicely, with white flowers, minerals and spice on the nose, a citrus note and a lovely finish.  Among the domaine wines, the Puligny Combettes was particularly attractive, with a very minerally expression on the nose, plus fruits confits and a touch of lemon cream; on the palate it was stony and very pure, with good tension and density. The Puligny Pucelles was even better, with real delicacy on a palate characterized by minerals, spice, lemon and a touch of anise, and was very long, precise and elegant. The Bienvenues-Bâtard and the Bâtard seemed to have changed places this year (or at least at the moment), with the Bienvenues being the more powerful, dense and four-square of the two, and the Bâtard being more expressive and accessible, with more flesh but also power and precision, and a lovely white flower finish with a kiss of minerality.  The Chevalier was everything one could ask of this wine, elegant, pure, balanced, still holding back a bit, but long and with great tension on the finish.

Latour-Giraud: Jean-Pierre Latour prefers ’08 to ’09, though he thinks the press and many consumers will flock to the ’09s. His ’08s are discussed in Part 2. In ’09, the wines are quite good, including a Meursault Narvaux that has kept its freshness even if it could use a tad more fruit, though Jean-Pierre said he expected to see more generosity in the wine by the time it is bottled. The Genevrières and Perrières were both very fine, the former with notes of anise, pears, spice and orange, and a floral component emerging, and the latter, surprisingly, even more floral, and rounder, but with a long minerally finish. By far the most outstanding wine, though, was the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre, from 55 year old vines, which had a gorgeous nose of juniper, anise, minerals and white flowers; on the palate it had great minerality, spice, and floral notes, and was balanced, deep and intense, with a long minerally finish.

Roulot: Jean-Marc Roulot said he had deliberately picked quite early in ’09, and it seems to have paid off. He is justifiably pleased with his ‘09s. Among the Village lieux-dits, the Meursault Luchets stood out for its balance and tension, and the Meursault Tillets was also very attractive, a kind of high-wire act with dense minerals and honeysuckle on the nose, a lot of fruit but also excellent tension. Even better was the Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir, which was more fleshy and rich than the Tillets,  but still had fine balance, with a finish of excellent weight and great persistence. Jean-Marc said he found Tillets more minerally, marked by its length, while the Tessons was a rounder, more classic Meursault.  We then tasted the fourth Climats du Coeur wine, the Meursault 1er Cru. The nose showed spice, honeysuckle and anise, and on the palate it was quite round and ripe, with tree fruit notes, anise, citrus and some smoke. It is a wine that will give a good deal of pleasure. Among the Domaine’s own premier crus, the Meursault Charmes stood out, with a calm, discreet nose that draws you in, pear spice and minerals; on the palate, notwithstanding a strong fruit component, it remains well balanced, with a spicy slightly dry finish. The Meursault Perrières was even better: despite a nose that said “go away and don’t come back for several years,” it proved to be a mineral-driven wine with power, excellent tension and balance, and a long and elegant finish—a wine of great precision.

Bernard Moreau: Some nice wines in ’09, though I preferred his ’08s. There is clear terroir delineation in these wines, but also a good bit of variation in the ultimate quality. The Chassagne Maltroie had a fair amount of puppy fat and a complex finish, and will be a crowd-pleaser, but the Chassagne Vergers was more serious, with a lot of minerality underpinned by honey and white flowers, plenty of power for a 1er cru, and a long, consistent, gingery finish. The Chassagne Chenevottes also showed well, with an understated minerality, a flinty note, citrus and a bit of creamed corn, plus a ginger note on the finish; overall, it showed very good tensile strength.  The Grands-Ruchottes, normally the top wine here, was a bit of a puzzle: it had the best “line” of any of Moreau’s ’09s, with real balance and delicacy on the nose, plus racy acidity and good tension, but there was a bubblegum note on the palate that I found troublesome. The Bâtard was first-rate, with a calm spicy minerally nose followed by a driving, intense palate–a tightly-wound, very young wine with lots of dry extract and great balance. Good luck, though, in finding any—there is one barrel of it.

Paul Pillot: Young winemaker Thierry Pillot is serious and ambitious. He was among those who started picking on the early side in the ’09 vintage, in an effort to preserve the freshness in the wines.  The results, however, are mixed, as I found the lower level wines here, particularly the St. Aubins, to be a bit thin. The top Chassagnes, however, showed much better, with a Grands-Ruchottes that was lighter weight but quite fresh, and had an intense finish of anise, lemon, spice and minerals. Better still was the Caillerets, with a lot more density and a creamy citric texture as well as pear fruit, hints of anise and mint, and a nice spicy finish. As usual, though, La Romanée topped its stable mates, with excellent balance, lots of minerals and spice, some floral notes, hints of strawberry and lemon, good tension and a very long finish.

Bouchard: Bouchard did an excellent job with their ’09 whites. The Meursaults were an interesting study in contrasts, with the Genevrières, often my favorite here, being my least favorite today, showing too much sweetness for my taste despite its strong minerality; the Gouttes d’Or showing much better balance but still a touch of sweetness, and a bit of hardness at the end; the Charmes, less rich and more minerally than the Gouttes d’Or with an excellent white flower and spice finish and a fair amount of power, was a wine that needed some time; while the Perrières was the best by far, with floral, mineral, clove and honey notes on the nose, real richness in the mid-palate and a long minerally transparent finish that moved to white flowers at the end. The Corton-Charlemagne and the regular Chevalier-Montrachet were not showing especially well on this day, but the Chevalier La Cabotte was first-rate, with white flowers, minerals and smoke, great balance and tensile strength, apricots and other sweet fruit, and a long finish where the minerality clearly dominated the fruit. The Montrachet was an aristocratic wine, with a discreet nose, sweet fruit and honey notes, white flowers, and minerals; it had impressive length and transparency, and remained powerful yet restrained—a very fine Montrachet.

Benjamin Leroux: Some good whites here, including a St Aubin 1er Cru Les Meurgers-des-Dents-de-Chien, with medium weight and nice high-toned minerality; a charming Meursault Vireuils; a Meursault Narvaux with more depth than the Vireuils, plenty of sweet fruit and a strong balancing minerality; a Meursault Poruzots Dessus which had a lot of fat but just kept from being blowsy;  and a Puligny-Montrachet Les Trézins, which showed a lot of depth for a village wine. Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Tête du Clos is a wine that is usually sold under the better-known Morgeot appellation but that is increasingly being seen separately; Benjamin thinks that, with Chassagne La Romanée, it is the finest appellation of this village. His example was quite nice, if a bit of a crowd-pleaser with its rich fruit and long spicy finish, though there was a hint of slight bitterness in the tail. I liked his Chassagne Embrazées better, with a lovely nose and great balance, and development still to come. This was followed by an elegant Bâtard, with beautiful white flowers and minerals on the nose, and everything in balance on the medium-bodied palate, good spice and charm, though here too there was a hint of bitterness in the tail that may get resolved—time will tell.

Château de Puligny-Montrachet/Domaine de Montille: Overall, a disappointing range of wines at Ch. de Puligny, and it felt a little bit as though, in an effort to avoid the blowsiness of the vintage, these wines had ended up being too lean.   Only the Chevalier-Montrachet showed real promise.  The Domaine de Montille whites were much better, with a good Corton-Charlemagne and a really fine Puligny Caillerets: stony, with an orange note, minerals and a touch of honey, a nicely balanced wine.

Drouhin: The whites here do not transcend the vintage. The Puligny and Chassagne Village wines had some fat rich fruit and will be appealing young, as will the Puligny Folatières, a charming but not complex wine.  The Chassagne Morgeots Marquis de Laguiche had more depth, though it seemed slightly dry at the finish, while the Beaune Clos des Mouches was a soft style of this wine but lovely, elegant and harmonious, with enough tannins to keep it from falling apart early. The Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was a different story, having a nose of anise, minerals and a hint of honey, all of which came through on the palate and slowly expanded in the mouth—a wine with excellent presence and balance if still a little closed. Even if it may not rank among the very best vintages of this wine, it will nonetheless be delicious to drink.

Faiveley: Here too the whites were not close in quality to the reds. Several of the wines did not really seem fully integrated, including the Bâtard and Bienvenues. Among the better examples were a Puligny Referts that had lovely fruit, spice and minerals, though it seemed a little earthbound, and the Corton-Charlemagne, with a touch of oyster shell on the nose, and ripe peaches, leading to strong minerally acidity on the palate, excellent spice, medium weight and a long, generous finish.

Camille-Giroud: Another nice example of Chassagne Tête du Clos, with good density, and very minerally, though it seemed a touch lean at the moment. The Puligny Champs-Gain was excellent, however, with lemon cream and spice notes, and excellent purity and focus. The Corton-Charlemagne had just been racked and was not fully recovered, but showed some good promise.

Jadot: The theme (better reds than whites) continues here, despite some successes. The Meursaults were uniformly disappointing, though there were some good wines among the Chassagnes and Pulignys, including a Chassagne Morgeots Domaine Jadot, a bit plush but with nice minerality, for early drinking, and a Chassagne Morgeots Duc de Magenta, more focused than the prior wine, with more depth and complexity, and some tannins that will keep it going; a plausible Puligny Villages; a Puligny Referts that seemed a bit tense at first but then opened a bit, with a complex back palate and finish; and a lovely Puligny Combettes, with spice, minerals, citrus, cloves and flowers on the nose, and a palate that seemed soft and fat at first but that had some tension behind it, and with a touch of golden raspberries. The Puligny Clos de la Garenne, often among the best 1er cru whites here, seemed to lack balance and grip in ’09. The Bienvenues-Bâtard, with a sweet lemon cream nose, and pears, minerals and spice on the palate, was well balanced and complete, and outshone the Batard, which was suffering from some reduction on this day. The Chevalier Demoiselles was a very fine example of this wine, with a subdued nose with hints of white flowers and spice, and on the palate, honeysuckle, golden raspberries and minerals, plus a touch of the new oak—overall, it was a very graceful, balanced wine, still a little tight but with excellent promise.  Le Montrachet also showed well, and was more open than the Demoiselles, with pears, light red fruit, spice, minerals, honey, beeswax and anise; it seemed a lighter-style (but not light) Monty, with an incredibly sneaky finish that had delicacy and immense length.

Lafarge: The Meursaults were not particularly interesting, but Lafarge did make a very nice Beaune Les Aigrots, with excellent minerality, white flowers, allspice and honey, a very pleasant and seldom-seen wine.

Lambrays: Two wines from great vineyards in Puligny, the Folatières and Clos du Caillerets, that fully reflected the vintage, with lots of sweet fruit, pleasing wines that lacked the balance they would need to carry them forward. Both had already been in bottle for a month when we saw them.

Miscellaneous Côte de Beaune Whites and a few from the Côte de Nuits: Among the other whites tasted, the best was Christophe Roumier’s ’09 Corton-Charlemagne. While this wine is not always as transcendent as vineyard and producer would lead one to expect, the ’09 showed quite well and had a terrific creamy finish, with great penetration and length. Bruno Clair’s Corton-Charlemagne was a bit fat, though I liked his Morey-St.-Denis En la rue de Vergy, which had some nice fruit and freshness–an interesting curiosity. Mugnier’s Clos de la Maréchale Blanc is also a curiosity, if, in 2009, a decidedly more overripe and less interesting one.


As in the Cote de Beaune, 2009 is a decidedly less interesting vintage in Chablis than 2008. As several producers remarked, these are Chablis for Chardonnay lovers, not for Chablis lovers. That said, there are certainly some very nice wines among the ’09s.

Vincent Dauvissat: Vincent Dauvissat was in a curious mood the day we tasted, seeming distracted and disengaged. The ’09s he showed us were in bottles that had been open for 5 to 6 days, which made the tasting a bit difficult. Also, we were paired on this morning visit with a trio of chefs from a nearby restaurant whose preparation for their lunch service appeared to consist of guzzling everything they were given to taste. Nevertheless, some of the wines showed well, including a very good everyday village Chablis; a 1er cru Vaillons, with a touch of licorice on the nose as well as minerality, excellent balance and purity and a spicy citrus and ginger finish; Les Preuses, which had penetrating spice and minerality and good tensile strength, as well as green apples and chalk on the finish; and Les Clos, with a subdued spicy nose, white flowers and minerals on the palate, and a lot of pain d’épice on the finish. The wine seemed as though it could use more fruit, but that may well have been a question of how long it had been open. ’09 reminds Dauvissat of ’89, and he opened a bottle of ’89 Les Preuses, with a complex nose of apricot, pain d’épice, almonds and spiced pears; on the palate it had very good minerality, and finished with gunpowder, Asian pears, cinnamon and clove (91).

Christian Moreau: Moreau began picking his ’09s on October 1st, and all the wines we saw had been bottled by September 2010. This was not an exciting range of wines, though I did like the Chablis Vaillons Cuvée Guy Moreau, a separate cuvee of this wine from vines planed in 1933, which was much more complex and better balanced than the regular cuvee, with good mineral expression and a long finish, and also liked Les Clos–though the nose was closed and the wine quite firm on the palate, there was good minerality, excellent balance and an expressive floral component. Better ’08s.

Fèvre: Régisseur Didier Séguier noted that Fevre had picked earlier than most others to maintain the acidity levels in the wine, and that decision clearly was a good one, as the range of wines here was better than most we saw. The Chablis Village was soft, easy and pleasant; among the premier crus, Vaillons and Les Lys (from a vineyard within Vaillons) were both good, as was the Montmains, a crowd pleaser if carrying a touch too much sweet fruit for me, and possibly the Montée de Tonnerre, which had richness, power and length but did not seem totally knit at the moment. Better still were the Fourchaume, very floral with a minerally underpinning, and needing a bit of time, and the Vaulorent, much steelier than the Fourchaume, powerful yet still light on its feet. Among the Grands Crus, the Bougros was rich and sweet (Séguier called it Chablis Grand Cru for those who don’t like minerality and acidity) and a Vaudésir which was full and round but also a bit non-traditional for Chablis. The Bougros (Cote de Bouguerots), from the part of the vineyard that is on the slope, facing south, was much more powerful than any of its counterparts, and while I did not find it particularly elegant, it was hard to ignore its power and intensity. The Valmur, by contrast, with its restrained nose of chalk, white flowers and gingerbread, was racy and had excellent minerality and cut, and a long rich spicy finish. Les Clos, while served last, was not my favorite, with a brioche nose, and a rounder, fuller texture—it could be a very fine wine, but has not entirely pulled itself together yet. I much preferred Les Preuses, with its floral and gunflint notes, great purity and balance in the mid-palate, a touch of sucrosity in back, and a nicely balanced floral and minerally finish. Certainly these are among the better ’09s, but as the reviews in Part 2 of this report reflect, the ’08s are better still.

Drouhin: Not particularly compelling Chablis in ’09, though pleasant enough.

Faiveley: In my view, Faiveley achieved more consistent quality in its ’09 Chablis than in its Cote de Beaune whites, though the Chablis are still very much children of the vintage. Les Preuses had a bit of puppy fat but still some nice minerality—a lovely Chablis for Chardonnay lovers. The Vaudesir was more seriously minerally than Les Preuses, with more depth but still some fat to round it out, while Les Clos had a minerally nose of excellent purity, with pain d’épice and licorice, and overall it had some fat but a lot of power and richness, and while not as easy as Vaudésir had a lot to it.

© Douglas E. Barzelay 2010


From → Vintage Reports

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