A couple of weeks ago, there was a tasting in our wine tasting club AuZone on the theme of Chassagne- and Puligny-Montrachet. So we’re talking about white Burgundy from the epicentre, but this time the idea was to present wines at a reasonable price level and no grand crus. As usual it was a blind tasting, but it turned out that no less than three “foreign” wines had been sneaked in, from different parts of the New World. It turned out that the wines were rather homogenous in price; the most expensive wine had costed about 1.7 times the price of the cheapest. The tasting was led by our Madam Vice President L.T.
1. 2009 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay
Margaret River, Western Australia.
The only wine of the flight that was a little green in its colour. Nose with yellow plums, citrus, butter, smoke, oak, a hint of herbs; classical and straightforward in style. Palate with yellow apples, yellow plums, a hint of honey, citrus and lemon candy drops, slightly herbal notes, high acidity, quite long aftertaste with citrus and mineral. Pleasant now and good balance, and while not that elegant in the aromas, the aftertaste does give it a lift. 89 p.
Neither best nor worst votes.
This did have the most noticeable oak note, but I don’t think anyone commented that this must be a non-Burgundian wine.
2. 2010 Puligny-Montrachet Les Vielles Vignes, Vincent Girardin
Palate with citrus, some zest and aromatic oil, mineral; flowery and elegant. Palate with loads of citrus, a hint of grapefruit bitterness, mineral, definitely high acidity, aftertaste with citrus and a hint of herb. Young and somewhat leaner than the previous wine, 88 p.
1 best vote.
3. 2010 Château Montelena Chardonnay
Napa Valley, California.
Nose with citrus, mineral, discrete green notes and some spice, lemon toffee. Elegant nose, the oak is well hidden. Palate with citrus, mineral, definitely high acidity, rather lean but elegant, aftertaste with citrus and some grapefruit. Rather young, 89 p.
1 best vote.
No, I didn’t automatically react and say that this must come from another part of the world, I have to admit. The 1973 vintage of this wine is known as the winner in the so-called Judgement of Paris 1976, an event much cherished by Americans. It has been used as the basis of a film called Bottle Shock (2008), which focuses specifically on Montelena. In broad detail, the film seems to follow real events, but they took sufficient liberties for Steven Spurrier, who arranged the 1976 event, to be less than satisfied with the result. One of the things that he pointed out was that he (b. 1941), who was 35 at the time, was played by a 62 year old Alan Rickman (b. 1946). I suppose that flag-waving Americans (in particular those who seldom or never drink wine) love this move, and other people interested in wine should also see it, although many will groan loudly from time to time. This, the 2010 vintage of Montelena, doesn’t nearly measure up to the great white 2010s from Burgundy, or with the great Chardonnays of Australia for that part. (See for example our tasting of Leeuwin Estate Art Series earlier this year.) It does however compete quite well with other Chardonnays in the same price range, which is quite modest for a wine with its history. And that is based on its price in Swedish distribution; I would expect it to be a bit cheaper in the US, and the French wines to be the same price or even a little more expensive.
4. 2007 Puligny-Montrachet Les Reuchaux, Yves Boyer Martenot
Most yellow colour of the flight. Nose with ripe citrus, rather fruity impression, citrus zest, some toffee, a hint of perfume, some mature notes; rather elegant. Palate with citrus, zest, high acidity, slightly spicy, long aftertaste with citrus. 89 p.
2 best votes.
This is a vineyard-designated wine at the village level (i.e., not a premier cru). I contributed this wine (I had bought it in Belgium a couple of years ago from the pleasant Burgundy-oriented wine merchant Les Vents d’Anges), but since it was served blind by L. I didn’t know where in the flight it was to be found. It shows good substance for its level and some spice notes that I typically find in Yves Boyer Martenot’s wines. I see that I scored the 2008 (supposedly a slightly better but more cellaring-oriented vintage) of the same wine 88-90 p at the vintage presentation in the autumn of 2010, but I never wrote any blog post about it.
5. 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champgains, Fernand & Laurent Pillot
Palest colour. The nose is smoky, with citrus, some green and yellow apples, mineral, some green notes. Palate with citrus, green apple, high acidity, slightly angular impression with dust, slightly short on the palate. 85 p? Probably, this wine had a tiny bit of cork taint that showed more on the palate than in the nose. Not at all recognisable as a wine from a vintage with high grape maturity.
0 best and 10 worst votes, including mine, and therefore very clearly the loser of the night.
6. 2011 Puligny-Montrachet, Etienne Sauzet
Nose with citrus, some elderflower, some herbs, slightly smoky with oak notes. Palate with citrus, in particular grapefruit, some elderflower, high acidity, mineral, lean and not too complex at present. Young, 87 p.
Neither best nor worst votes.
7. 2010 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Morgeot, Fontaine-Gagnard
Nose with ripe citrus and zest, a hint of tropical fruit, spice, some honey, perfume. Elegant nose, comes across as slightly developed. Medium bodied+, palate with citrus, zest, lemon candy drops, noticeable mineral, quite high acidity, aftertaste with mineral and citrus. 91 p.
5 best votes, including mine, and thus the winner of the evening.
This was the most full-bodied of the wines. Those few time that I have Fontaine-Gagnard wines, they have always been good and “delivered” well in relation to their price. However, it surprised me somewhat that a 2010 – an acid-driven vintage that should require cellaring – is so good and approchable this early, and even showed some developed notes. Are the F-G wines possibly produced in a style that peaks early and shouldn’t be stored too long?
8. 2009 Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay
Central Otago, New Zealand.
Nose with asparagus, rather noticeable green notes, citrus, some apple. Palate of citrus, elderflower, some asparagus, slightly viscous, mineral notes, definitely high acidity, long aftertaste with mineral notes. Young, slightly green notes, good potential, 90+ p.
4 best votes, runner up both collectively and for me.
It was rather obvious that this wine deviated from the style of the seven previous wines. Its nose was slightly in the Sauvignon Blanc direction to me, while some other tasters found more tropical notes and correctly placed it in New Zealand. To me it reminded me somewhat of an oaked Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, or at least of a hypothetical cuvée of such a wine and a white Burgundy.
9. 2010 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles, Philippe Chavy
Second-most yellow in colour. Nose with asparagus, noticeable green notes, apple, some citrus, slightly perfumed. Palate with citrus, apple, elderflower, asparagus, high acidity. Young, has probably potential, 88(+) p.
0 best and 3 worst votes.
Definitely the wine that deviated the most from the average style of the flight. To me and many others this wine showed a very obvious Sauvignon Blanc expression. My thoughts went mostly in the direction of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in an elegant and discretely oaked style. Not at all what I expect from a bottle that is supposed to contain white Burgundy, but not really a bad wine.
This was another of those educational experiences, since the most odd wine actually was from Burgundy, and that only one of three ringers was easily recognisable as a different wine! Blind tasting of Chardonnay is apparently not what it used to be, in those days (actually before my time), when the wines from “over there” were supposed to show tropical fruit, buttered popcorn and vanilla fudge. At this level – a bit above the basic wines but not at the very summit – it seems that it isn’t really easy to tell in which part of the world a well-made Chardonnay was made! At least not for us. Another interesting observation was that the wines from Burgundy actually stood up well against competing wines in the same price range, which is perhaps something that wasn’t expected. It is difficult to say if the tasting really demonstrated any differences between Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, since the selection consisted of premier cru wines from Chassagne and village-level wines from Puligny. And of course, when we weren’t able to tell the difference between Burgundy and Napa it may be pointless to look for such differences… 🙂
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.