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2017 Burgundies: Delicious, Early Maturing and Abundant

December 24, 2018

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Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED BURGUNDIES

 The Côte de Nuits

 The Domaines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Négociants:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Côte de Beaune

 The Domaines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Negociants:

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

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

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

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

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

WHITE BURGUNDIES:

The Domaines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Négociants:

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Douglas E. Barzelay

 

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5 Comments
  1. Great post 😁

  2. Thank you for your work; considered, measured and authoritative commentary.

  3. Stefan permalink

    Thank you for this very helpful report. I was wondering if you got to taste Cathiard wines this year, and if so, could you comment on it?

    • Because of a scheduling conflict, I didn’t get to Cathiard this year. However, several colleagues did go and reported that the wines in ’17 were highly successful.

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