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2011 BURGUNDIES–A GOOD BUT HETEROGENEOUS VINTAGE

December 13, 2012

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Overview:

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.

RED BURGUNDY:

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.

WHITE BURGUNDY:

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

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