I pulled together a tasting of grand cru-classified red Burgundies in our wine tasting club AuZone. The selection consisted of wines that I had bought at a somewhat reasonable price for this type of wine, up to a maximum of about 100 euro, so the most expensive producers (such as DRC or Leroy) or most expensive grand cru vineyards with several producers (such as Musigny or Richebourg) were not included in the lineup. However, using the producer ratings by Clive Coates, I did manage to get in one producer classified at the highest level (***) in the form of Anne Gros and two producers rated ** in the form of Domaine des Lambrays and Joseph Drouhin. As is almost always the case in a Burgundy tasting, there was a couple of surprises – some positive and some negative.
The lineup consisted of four Cortons – the cheapest grand cru – and five wines from Côte de Nuits, some wines each from the excellent vintages 2002-2009-2010, plus a lone 1995. So we’re talking of a relatively young selection. I avoided those vintages that carry a higher risk of being in a “dumb” or “closed down” phase for the moment, which means 2005 and 2008, and perhaps 2006 as well. I also avoided the weird 2003 vintage (way too hot) and the very uncharming 2004 (hard, mean and not very fun).
The wines were served blind, and the participants voted for best and worst wine before their identities were revealed.
1. 2002 Louis Latour Corton (Domaine Latour)
At least today, Louis Latour’s “basic Corton” is a blend from the vineyard sites Clos du Roi, Les Bressandes, Les Grèves and Les Perrières, all in Aloxe-Corton.
Light red colour with brick. Mostly fruity nose with ripe strawberries, spice with some Glühwein spices, flowers, some development. Medium concentration on the palate with strawberries, spice, some mineral, a hint of leather, medium tannins, good acidity. Some development and rather pleasant, but not as concentrated as a grand cru should be. 87 p.
3 worst votes including mine.
The Swedish importer released a significant quantity of this wine at a very reasonable price in December 2012. When I tasted it directly after the release I was somewhat more positive (88 p). When I compare stories from others who have drunk it, there seems to have been considerable bottle variation.
2. 2002 Hospices de Beaune Corton Cuvée Charlotte Dumay
From the vineyard sites Renardes (1,70 ha) and Bressandes (0,97 ha) in Aloxe-Corton, donated 1534 to the Hospices de Beaune. The Hospices wines are sold in barrel, so they are always filled in new barrels.
Light to medium red, some brick; darker than 1 and 3. Nose with cherries and ripe strawberries, rather noticeable spice, some oak, just a hint of flowers and a hint of vanilla, some animal notes. Palate with cherries, some strawberries, a bit more than medium concentration, spice, rather noticeable medium+ tannins, rather good acidity, slightly tough aftertaste with cranberries and tannins. Rather powerful, but comes across as slightly overoaked. Could probably gain from more cellaring. 89 p.
3 best and 1 worst votes.
The Hospice wines often risk being overoaked since they are auctioned off in November of the vintage year, just after they have been filled into new oak. Grand cru wines from a good vintage can often take 100% new oak, although in my humble opinion only truly great Burgundies (such as those from DRC) really benefit from 100% rather than, say, 30-50%. The idea of including this wine was to show a wine with a generous use of oak compared to other 2002 Cortons.
3. 2002 Domaine de la Pousse d’Or Corton Clos du Roi
The vineyard is located in Aloxe-Corton.
Light red colour with brick. Nose with ripe strawberries, some candied cherries, spice, oak spiciness, some animal notes, some flowers, some mint, some development, all in all a serious nose. Palate with quite ripe cherries together with some cranberries, rather good concentration, good acidity, a hint of bitterness, rather noticeable medium(+) tannins. Rather well composed, possibly a bit too much oak notes that could probably integrate with more cellaring. Still a bit on the young side, 89+ p.
Neither best nor worst votes.
I had actually expected this wine to outperform the previous Hospice wine, but it didn’t, although it probably has more potential for development. Perhaps Clive Coate’s limited enthusiasm for the then rather new reigme at La Pousse d’Or (the received no stars in his 2008 book) was justified, but they are definitely better nowadays. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used more oak in 2002 than they do today.
4. 2010 Domaine de la Pousse d’Or Corton Clos du Roi
18 months in oak, of which 30% new oak.
Light to medium red colour with some purple. Youthful nose with cherries, strawberries, discrete liquorice notes, spice with some oak; a young a rather elegant nose. Palate with cherries, rather good berry concentration, good acidity, spice, some mineral, medium(+) tannins, aftertaste with berries, tannin and minerality. Still young, but fine and pure notes, although the oak comes through a bit. 91(+) p.
2 best and 1 worst votes.
Judging from these two wines, it seems that Pousse d’Or have improved and become a bit more classical in style between 2002 and 2010. The oak is a bit more obvious than in the next 2010, though.
5. 2010 Domaine Anne Gros Clos-Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui
The vineyard site is located on the western side of Clos de Vougeot, close to Grands Echezeaux.
Slightly lighter than medium red. Nose with strawberries, oranges including orange zest, spice, some animal notes with fur, beautifully handled oak, slightly flowery; young and quite elegant. Palate with ripe strawberries, some liquorice and spice notes, good concentration, medium++ tannins, long and spicy aftertaste. A young wine that needs time, but a good wine in powerful style with quite well-handled oak, 92+ p.
Neither best nor worst votes.
Despite the absence of votes, I got the impression that this wine was highly appreciated among the participants. It is a surprisingly tough wine for being a wine from Anne Gros, whose wines often are quite elegant and polished. An example of that is her 2010 Echezeaux, that I tasted late last year.
6. 2010 Clos des Lambrays (Domaine des Lambrays)
The vineyard is located in Morey-Saint-Denis. 18 months in oak, of which 50% new oak.
Light red colour. Nose of rather ripe strawberries with some sweet or candied fruit, noticeable but not disturbing green note, spice, flowery and perfumed, beautifully handled oak; elegant. Palate with strawberries, very fine minerality with mint, medium tannins, good acidity. Not a heavyweight from a stylistical point of view but good intensity of the aromas. Young, but fine and elegant now, 93+ p.
1 best vote (mine) and 1 worst vote.
Here I was almost alone in being very positive. Many apparently couldn’t get past the green notes in the nose to appreciate the precision, balance and wonderful minerality of this wine. Or maybe it’s just me who have a strange taste. In any case, this is not a Burgduny for those who prefer their wines jammy. Lambrays always tend to harvest early and they keep some stems during maceration, so the green notes are typical for them. This note tends to integrate with cellaring, and although they produce good and polished wines, one could probably not accuse them of optimising their wines to show maximum youthful charm.
7. 2009 Roche de Bellene Echezeaux
The vineyard is located in Flagey-Echezeaux.
Light red colour. Nose with ripe strawberries, just a hint of herbs, a hint of spice, flowers, rather elegant, but a “light” nose. Palate with strawberries, cherries, some bitterness, spice, rather noticeable tannins with oak, OK concentration. Slightly tough and uncooperative, has it entered a dumb phase? 89 p.
1 best and 2 worst votes.
Maison Roche de Bellene is Nicolas Potel’s new negociant business, while his own domaine is called Domaine de Bellene. This wine clearly underperformed in relation to Nicolas Potel’s reputation and in relation to the other wines, and wasn’t at all what I expected from a 2009. The 2007 Echezeaux 2007 from his old negociant business – the one simply called Nicolas Potel, where he’s no longer working – was definitely better when I tasted it in January 2012, and a 2007 shouldn’t really outdo a 2009 in this way.
8. Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2009
The vineyard is located in Morey-Saint-Denis. 100% destemming, 16-18 months in oak, of which a maximum of 20% new oak.
Nose with ripe cherries and rather dark berries, noticeable spice, some oak but it is rather well integrated, discrete flowery notes. Palate with cherries, mineral, spice, medium+ tannins, good concentration, aftertaste with berries and tannin. Young, good power, rather well balanced, 92+ p.
7 best votes.
The positive surprise of the evening, since Boisset is a giant firm. I believed this would be a good wine, but perhaps not that it would be such a success. This is probably a wine that general “fine wine” drinkers and not just “burghounds” will find it easy to like, since it is quite a lot of wine. This does not mean that I’m trying to say that it is a “sellout” type of wine, because it is definitely a geuine Burgundy. A reason that I didn’t put my own best vote here, is that I consider the oak treatment in wines 5 and 6 to be yet a one notch better.
9. 1995 Joseph Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin
The vineyard is located in Gevrey-Chambertin. Vinification today: 14-18 months in oak, of which 20% new oak.
Brownish colour, unclear and with a brick edge. Nose with a bit of volatile acidity, red berries, developed and oxidised notes – comes across as too old. Palate with red berries and cherries, spice, rather noticeable medium(+) tannins, good acidity, rather long aftertaste with berries, tannin, acidity and mineral. Funky and “over the hill” in the nose, but the palate is quite OK and even classy. The nose would perhaps suit a 75 point wine better, while the palate would rather justify 91-92 p in combination with a good nose. I managed to focus more on the palate and ended up at 88 p.
6 worst votes.
Completely bisarre. I bought this bottle in early 2011 from a reliable German wine dealer (where it wasn’t an odd bottle but part of a larger stock, and therefore likely sourced from Drouhin), and both the fill level and the condition of the cork were perfect when I opened it. Blind, I would have guessed this was a wine from 1970s. I initially leaned towards voting this the worst wine, but I found it possible to focus more on the palate, and then I actually considered it a better wine than number 1.
One of the participants was highly troubled by the condition of wine number 9, so he opened one of his own bottles of the very same wine two weeks later and his verdict was like this: “Brilliant and clear red colour, aromatic nose with berries (such as I gave felt before in 1995s), and a very long acid-driven aftertaste. The wine is elegant and still quite youthful, but has started to unfold, 17-18 p out of 20. Just as it should be, and no similarity to the brown mess at the tasting!” So you can breathe normally again if you have a bottle of this in your cellar.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.