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BURGUNDY REPORT—A FOLLOW-UP ON THE 2008s

December 23, 2010

Drouhin Cellar - November, 2010

 

2008 Revisited, and Other Notes

In last year’s vintage report, I noted the difficulties of tasting the 2008s in November 2009:

“Malos often did not finish until August or September, and in a few cases were not finished even at the time of our visit in mid-November ….Many of the wines we tasted had only recently been racked, or were in need of a racking, and as a result were much more difficult to assess than is typically true at this time of year. In addition, the vintage is characterized by high acidities, and often as well by dry tannins, which frequently made tasting a chore and left one’s palate exhausted at the end of the day. More importantly, it made judgment difficult.  In the best of times, barrel tasting is an inexact art ….This year, it is even more problematic, and one kept wishing for the opportunity to taste these wines in 3 months, when they surely will have become less obdurate.”

While the main focus of our trip in November 2010 was on the ’09s, we did have an opportunity to taste a good sampling of  ’08s, and I am happy to report that there are a number of wines that have turned out well, especially among the whites, but also among the reds. That said, on the red side my view is more one of relief that there are wines that will give pleasure, rather than that this is somehow a great, underrated terroir vintage. While I heard many comparisons of 2008 to 2001 during our trip, I am not convinced that 2008 is at the same level as 2001. Of course, when making comparisons, one has first to define what is being compared, and while 2001 was a very uneven vintage in the Côte-de-Nuits, and problematic (among the reds) in the Côte-de-Beaune, I think that among the producers that I follow in the Côte-de-Nuits, their 2001s are ultimately better balanced, more serious wines than their 2008s. Nonetheless, time will tell, so for those of you who disagree, come back in twenty years and let me know what you think! As for the whites, this is an interesting vintage, with some first-rate wines but also a lot of wines that are still unbalanced and acidic. Above all, careful selection is critical.

REDS:

Michel Gaunoux: I never know quite where in my reports to include Michel Gaunoux, as they make a point of not showing wines in barrel, and their focus is generally on vintages that have been in bottle for quite some time. However, as they did begin this year with their ’08s, I include them here. The Pommard Grands Epenots had bright red fruit on the nose and palate, lively acidity and good balance (90), while the Corton Renardes, if a touch light for a grand cru, was quite charming, with notes of cherry and spice and added depth on a long finish (91).  The ’05 Pommard Grands Epenots and Rugiens were in a different league: the former with a dense brooding, earthy and minerally nose, but lots of fruit on the palate, a sense of raciness, and excellent weight and density (93)—the makings of a delicious Pommard in 30 years!–and the latter showing lovely red fruit, minerals and perfume, with a beautiful transparency, earthy, medium weight yet powerful and tightly wound (94). The 2005 Corton Renardes was also very nice, but lacked a little elegance (92). An ’03 Pommard Grands Epenots was surprisingly forward and drinkable despite the tannins (89-90), while the ’03 Rugiens seemed much more serious, with a perfumed quality, excellent minerality and a great fruit finish, not overripe, tannins relatively in check, and also drinkable now though it will improve (93). An ’01 Pommard Rugiens had all the elements, but seemed still shut down and unready (90?).  A ’98 Corton Renardes was foxy, alright, but not in a good way (84), while an ’88 Pommard Epenots had black fruit, earth and minerals, possibly a bit unbalanced to acid but the tannins at least were fairly resolved for an ’88 (90+). The last wine served was a mystery vintage of Pommard Rugiens, with rich red fruit, minerals, spice and a touch of VA on the nose, and wonderful sweet fruit plus prominent minerality on the palate, and despite a hint of sous-bois on the palate, it was complete, silky and charming (94). Your faithful correspondent earned himself considerable brownie points with the Gaunoux—but alas, not a free bottle—by correctly guessing the vintage, 1947.

Dujac: Jacques Seysses, while not quite admitting that ’07 was a very weak vintage for this domaine, expressed great pride in the ’08s, saying he felt that Dujac was near the top in the vintage. The Morey Village had a lot of rich red fruit, some green olives, and good minerality, tho a somewhat dry finish (87). Gevrey Combottes was excellent if a bit dry at the finish, though with plenty of sweet fruit after (90+), and I liked it a bit better than the Charmes-Chambertin, which despite some nice red cherry fruit on the nose, was very meaty, with a lot of dry tannins at the back (88). The Vosne Malconsorts showed nice medium weight, sweet red cherries, minerality, spice and a touch of the stems, with a lovely spicy red fruit finish, light tannins and slight dryness on the finish (92). Regrettably, we had to leave for our next appointment before we could wrest the Clos-de-la-Roche or Clos-St.-Denis away from les journalistes (Messrs. Meadows and Kolm) in the adjoining cellar.

Grivot: We had the opportunity to taste a range of ’08s here, and they were quite interesting to see. The Vosne Village did not seem well put together (84) and the Vosne Beaumonts, while pleasant, seemed dry at the back (87) but the Nuits Boudots was a very nice wine, with an excellent nose of spice and strawberries, and an earthy, minerally and transparent palate, with the tannins in check even though there was slight dryness at the end (91). The Clos-de-Vougeot had a subdued nose of strawberries and spice, minerality and good balance, and the fierce tannins of a year ago seemed to be rounding out a bit (90+). The Echézeaux seemed pleasant but less interesting (89), while the Richebourg was quite powerful, and dense for an ’08, and though the tannins were prominent, the red fruit on the finish superceded them (92).

Hudelot-Noellat: Another nice range of ’08s, beginning with a spicy Chambolle Village (88), a rather subdued and unforthcoming Chambolle Charmes (87), and a lighter-style Nuits Meurgers with nice strawberry fruit and earth notes, slightly dry at the end (88).  The Vosne Beaumonts had a very pretty red fruit nose, and good minerality, though it too was a tad dry at the finish (90). Clos-de-Vougeot had good density and sweet fruit, good balance and the tannins were not overbearing (91), and Romanee-St.-Vivant had lovely red fruit and spice and was rich, elegant and long (92). To me, this range epitomized a lot of the better ’08s I saw: very nice, with good fruit and transparency, but still a lot of tannin and acidity to work through and clearly not the depth or balance of a top-quality vintage.

Lafarge: Not much at the lower or even middle levels: a Bourgogne that seemed a bit underripe; a Volnay Village that also seemed slightly underripe but had nice minerality; a Beaune Aigrots that had good transparency and was long if slightly tannic; a Beaune Grèves that had a good perfumed nose but a hardness on the palate that would not give up; a Volnay Mitans that was perfumed, but in the style of a painted lady, earthy and coarse; and a Volnay Clos-du-Château- des-Ducs that had more moderate tannins, but also a lack of structure in the middle.  Things got much better with the Volnay Clos-des-Chênes, with spice, black cherries and minerals on the nose, a balanced minerally wine with more covered tannins (90?) and the Volnay Caillerets, which was very transparent, a slight bit chunky on the mid-palate but not obtrusively so, and had a lovely finish of black cherries and minerals, with tannins modulated (90).

Lambrays: I include the Domaine des Lambrays here because it is a good example of the less successful side of ’08. 100% whole clusters were used here in ’08, and the results are dry, tannic wines that certainly aren’t showing much balance at any level: Morey Village (86), Morey 1er Cru Les Loups (87) or Clos-des-Lambrays (?).

Liger-Belair: While the ’08 Vosne Reignots seemed at this stage to be cloaked in an impenetrable armor of oak, the Echézeaux was much more forthcoming, with light cherry flavors, strong minerally acidity, and good spice, and of course plenty of tannin after (90), while La Romanée showed excellent Vosne spicebox character, nice transparency, and a defter touch of oak; it is a lighter style of La Romanée, but the tannins are not overdone and it should round out nicely (91-92).

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg: Given the steadily high quality of the winemaking at this domaine, I see these wines as a bellwether for the vintage: weaker at the lower levels, very nice for the most part among the premier and grand crus, but rarely exciting.  The Bourgogne was not fully balanced (82) and the Vosne Village was barnyardy and seemed under-ripe (?) but things improved considerably from there. The Nuits Les Vignerondes was light but pure (88) and the Chaignots had light sweet fruit and minerals, citrus and spice and a nice minerally earthy finish (88+), while the Chambolle Feusellottes had very nice light Chambolle fruit on the nose, with good minerality, excellent equilibrium, a touch of hardness on the finish but also spicy sweet fruit (89). The Echézeaux had good balance, red fruit, a chocolate note, some citrus and acid at the end but overall was a pleasant wine (91). The Gevrey 1er Cru (young vines Ruchottes) had good presence and transparency and a decent amount of fruit (90), and while there was more complexity to the Ruchottes, with purity and balance, it seemed a little sappy and dry on the back, and so I scored it the same as the jeunes vignes (90). The Clos-de-Vougeot was very minerally, a touch meaty, with light spice and citrus; though it seemed slightly ponderous, it had a lot to it, with surprisingly silky tannins and a nice pure citrus and mineral finish (91+).

Mugnier: Another bellwether. The Chambolle Villages had pleasant fruit, but was a bit dry and short (87); the Nuits Clos des Fourches was also a bit light, rustic but also pleasant (86), and the Nuits Clos-de-la-Maréchale seemed to me to have too much rustic tannin despite its sweet rich fruit (87). The Chambolle Fuées, however, was a lovely wine, if slightly simple (89) and the Bonnes-Mares was earthy and minerally, with spice and black cherries, a nicely blanced wine that reminded me in style of a ’98 (90). The Chambolle Amoureuses was a big step up, with lovely red fruit and spice on the nose, minerals, anise and a long spicy finish—there is a lot of charm in this wine (92). The Musigny had deep red fruit, spice and minerals on the nose, lovely weight and gracefulness to it, a fairly dense wine with a vibrant finish and still a lot of tannin, again analogous to the ’98 in its overall quality level though not necessarily in its flavor profile (92-93).

Roumier: These wines were showing far better than a year earlier. Christophe thinks his ’08s will drink soon. The Chambolle Village had a lot of lovely red fruit, if slight sappiness at the end (87), while the Chambolle Les Cras was much more serious, with light spicy fruit on the nose and palate, a touch of lavender, and acidity that is clearly present but not overwhelming, leading to a spicy finish (90). The Chambolle Amoureuses had a lovely nose of small berry fruit and deep spice; on the palate there were also hints of smoke and wild mushrooms, and good minerality, with the acidity not overwhelming; on the finish the tannins seemed slightly hard but there was luscious fruit there as well (92-93). The Bonnes-Mares started with an odd hint of buttered popcorn but then became dense and minerally with both red and black fruit notes, while on the palate it was intense and spicy (93+?); I thought it had more to it in terms of density than any other ’08 I tasted this trip (which unfortunately did not include a revisit of the DRC or Rousseau ’08s tasted last year).

Other ’08 Reds: A very transparent Clos-des-Epeneaux from Comte Armand, though showing some heavy tannins at the end (90) and a Nuits Aux Thoreys from Benjamin Leroux that showed great purity on the nose, ripe fruit and earth, citrus, and a reasonable level of tannin (90); a spicy Clos-de-Tart, with sweet red fruit, still a bit high in acidity (89); only two wines from Méo, neither showing at all: a funky, stripped Vosne Village with very dry tannins (82) and the unfortunate Nuits Aux Argillas I referred to in my report on the ’09s (70); from Chateau de la Tour, a regular Clos-de-Vougeot that seemed a bit marked by the stems, with good minerality but dry tannins (87) and a Clos-de-Vougeot Vielles Vignes that had nice purity, density and depth, with spice and cherry fruit and finer tannins than the regular version (89-90); and a decidedly mixed bag from Trapet, beginning with a Gevrey L’Ostrea and a Gevrey Clos Prieur, both opened two days earlier, that showed chemical notes, then a Chapelle-Chambertin that had transparency but also quite strong tannins, and a Latricières-Chambertin that seemed quite representative of the vintage in that it had nice transparency but a bit too much acid and not quite enough fruit (88), and finally a Chambertin that displayed an aristocratic nose, a lot of very precise fruit and minerals, but just too much acidity to achieve balance (89-90).

WHITES:

Côte-de-Beaune

Leflaive: While the bottling here normally takes place in the spring, the ’08s were not bottled until just before our visit, because of the prolonged malos. Interestingly, the Meursault 1er Cru Sous le Dos d’Âne (from a vineyard planted to pinot noir until 1995, with a little even remaining until 2002) had a rich, creamy, bacon fat nose, a lot of minerals and spice, and a strong strike of acid in back (90). The Puligny Combettes, while showing a lot of SO2 that for the time being seemed to suppress the nose a bit, was very minerally, with excellent weight, energy and drive. There is a good bit of acidity at the finish, and this wine needs time (91+).  Antoine Lepetit believes that 2008 has more maturity and concentration than 1996; if true, it portends a brilliant future for these wines.

Lambrays: A fairly nice Folatières, with a hint of apricots, soft for an ’08 with lots of white flowers, but more tension than the ’09 (89-90). The Clos du Caillerets, however, had a curious note of torrefaction on both the nose and palate, and a touch of caramel, which I disliked (84).

Latour-Giraud: Though the Meursault Cuvée Charles Maxime and the Narvaux were not showing particularly well, and the Genevrieres had an off-putting note of asparagus on the palate, the Meursault Charmes showed well, with good minerality covered by white flowers, apples and spice (90), as did the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre, with hints of wildflowers, stones and honey on the nose; on the palate it was somewhat brooding but very pure, with a stony element but a nice balancing floral component and a touch of spice—a concentrated wine that needs time to come together (92). By contrast, the nose of the Meursault Perrières leapt out of the glass, with notes of stoniness, white flowers, anise and pear; on the palate it had similar notes, great balance and a spicy long finish—a long distance runner (93-94).

Bernard Moreau: The ’08s here (as at several other stops) very much outclassed the ’09s. The Chassagne Maltroie had some nice peach spice, ginger and a hint of clove, along with some fat but lots of minerally acidity to balance (91), while the Chassagne Chenevottes was more restrained on the nose, but had a creamy texture notwithstanding the acidity, a lot of power, and a licorice note on the finish (91). The Chassagne Vergers ran more to russet apples, with a dense, driven minerality, though a touch of dryness on the finish led me to mark it slightly below the two prior wines (90). Still more impressive were the Chassagne Morgeots, with spicy apples and smoke on the nose, and powerful, sweet fruit to balance the minerality, plus a long fruit-driven finish, very pure, and needing two years or more (93), and the Chassagne Grands-Ruchottes, with a brilliant nose of spice and white flowers, and great balance and delicacy on the palate, a wine that stays up gracefully on its feet (94).

Paul Pillot: I wish we had had a chance to sample more ‘08s here. The three we did see all had more weight than the ‘09s. The Chassagne Clos St.-Jean had a spicy, floral nose with good balance (89-90), while the Chassagne Grande Montagne had a penetrating nose of spice, honey and lemon cream, became even creamier on the palate, and ended with a dry minerally finish (90). Best was the Chassagne Caillerets, with anise, minerals, spice and lemon on the nose, a lot of tension on the palate, a floral touch, and a racy, tense minerally finish, with great drive—“my kind of white Burg,” I noted(92).

DRC: Tasting the prior vintage Montrachet was a pleasure we don’t always get at the Domaine.  The nose had spice, honeysuckle, pain d’épice and minerals; these carried through on the rich and complex palate, with a hint of sweet plums as well as a touch of oak at the back, and the finish was powerful and extremely long, with pain d’épice, minerals and bracing acidity—Aubert noted that this is one of the most minerally Montrachets the Domaine has ever made. For me, though, there is a slight hint of fattiness that makes it not quite in the class of the ’96. (93-94).

Roulot: This was one of the few domaines where I tended to prefer the ’09s to the ’08s. The Meursault Luchets had a rich nose of honeysuckle, smoke and a touch of bacon fat; on the palate, there was an asparagus note I didn’t care for, with minerals after, and a short finish (84).  To pause here, we also tasted the ’07 Luchets, a far better wine, with minerals, anise, spice and fat in the nose, a ripe and round wine with nevertheless a minerally streak, and a long minerally finish (90). Jean-Marc commented that the ’07 was “very Roulot.” We then retasted the ’09 Luchets, and while it was more linear than the ’07 it had more weight and intensity, and may well have more potential than the ’07; the ’08 was a very distant third in this race. We then segued back to the ’08s, with a Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir that had a vegetal note on the nose and artichokes on the finish, though some good minerality and tension (86), and a decent but not exciting Meursault Perrières, with smoke and a hint of cardoons on the nose, a lot of flesh for an ’08, minerals, red currants and allspice on the medium-weight palate, and a finish with spice, slate and a hint of caramel (88).

Chablis

Fevre: We only tasted two ’08s, but they clearly overshadowed anything we tasted among the ’09s. The Bougros (Côte de Bouguerots) was much spicier than the ’09 version, with more acidity in evidence as well, an intense rich racy but balanced wine, leaner than ’09 though there was sweet fruit in evidence, with a long minerally uncompromising finish (92). Didier Séguier thought it was the best Côte de Bouguerots in the twelve years since Bouchard had taken over the estate. Les Clos, while not giving too much away just yet, had even more depth—more “civilized” than the Côte de Bouguerots, with notes of apples, spice, pears and minerals, a large-framed wine, with pain d’épice and brioche on the finish; this wine needs time (93+).

Christian Moreau: While the ’08 bottles we tasted had been open for several days, they were holding relatively well—indeed in a couple of cases still seemed relatively unforthcoming.  The Chablis Vaudésir, from relatively young vines, was slightly toasty on the nose and very minerally and powerful, if a bit dry at the finish (90), while the Chablis Valmur seemed very cool and austere, not especially forthcoming or knit, though perhaps it will come together in time (89?). Les Clos was considerably better, and despite a discreet nose of toast and gingerbread, it had lovely weight, knife-edge minerality, and a rich, long, if slightly hot finish (92). Best of all, though, was the Clos des Hospices, with a nose of spice, licorice, minerals and a touch of honey, lovely weight and balance between the fruit and minerality on the palate, and a long, spicy finish (95).

Other ’08 Whites: Among the other ’08 whites we tasted were a pleasant Corton Blanc from Senard, with some nice spice and minerals, a touch of sweetness and a nice minerally finish with good cut (though the ’07 was better), and a surprisingly good ’08 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre from La Chablisienne (I found it more racy and appealing than either the Vaudésir or the Preuses from the same source).

An Update (If You Can Call It That) on Premox: Finally, and sadly, no report on white Burgundies is complete without a note about premature oxidation. In brief, the problem continues, with the ’02s becoming increasingly affected and some of the ’04s beginning to show signs of it as well.  While, as I reported last year, the focus has partly shifted from the corks, as concerns are increasingly voiced that various elements of the winemaking process have been making the wines more susceptible to oxidation, and that the cork issues then determined which and how many of the resulting bottles would be affected. Much attention is now being focused on the pressing process, with the theory being advanced that the wines are not getting enough exposure to oxygen early on, and that, as with children, exposure at a young age to certain maladies helps build greater immunity to them later in life (this is not to ignore the role of other factors, particularly earlier in this ongoing saga, such as increased use of battonage and lowered SO2 levels, but these are not currently issues for the better producers).  While more producers are admitting that there is a problem, denial itself remains an issue, particularly as sales do not yet seem to be seriously affected.  The mixed mindset of many Burgundians was strikingly evidenced in one cellar we visited, where the producer, among the most thoughtful in the region, had just finished telling us about an experiment he was conducting beginning with his ’09s to see if (to greatly simplify what he is doing) changes in the winemaking process that would expose the wine to more oxygenation early on would, in effect, inoculate the wine from future problems. It sounded like a very interesting experiment but it will take years to see if it’s working (the producer asked not to be named until he has some indication of the results).  After this discussion, he served us one of his ’02s, which we found to be seriously premoxed.  Before serving us another bottle, he asked us to taste an ’04, and then retaste the ’02.  He admitted that he had at first felt that our reaction to the ’02 was overblown, and might have resulted from the transition from ’09 to ’02, but as he went back to the ’02 he (somewhat reluctantly, it seemed) admitted we were right. He then opened a second bottle of the ’02, which also had a clear touch of premox, though it was not as prominent as the first, and a lively debate ensued in which the producer took view that we were overreacting and that the wine was still drinkable. My view, which I expressed to him then and continue to hold, is that while it might well have been “drinkable,” it was not what it is supposed to be, and furthermore not something one would voluntarily pay $100 or more for in a store, or several times that in a restaurant. I thought it a sad portent that a producer who on one level is at the forefront of recognizing and dealing with the problem, should on another level still be reluctant to acknowledge its effect on his own wines.  Plus ça change….

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