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2014 Burgundies–Not to be Overlooked

February 24, 2016

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED BURGUNDY

Côte de Nuits

 The Domaines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Negociants

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

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

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

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

Côte de Beaune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHITE BURGUNDIES

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

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

 The Domaines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Négociants

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

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

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

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

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

© 2016 Douglas E. Barzelay

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