In November I spent a few days in Burgundy in connection with the 141ème Fête des Grands Vins de Bourgogne. Unfortunately I’ve missed out on all the 140 previous editions, and that’s really a shame! Other than three booked producer visits and quite some time spend at the big tasting at exhibition center in Beaune, I ended the visit with a quick drop-in visit to one of the large wine houses/négociants in Beaune, Bouchard Père & Fils. During the “Fête” they offered a tasting of six wines at some sort of at-cost price, including one earlier auction wine from Hospice de Beaune (the annual auction is part of the Fête des Grands Vins) and a grand cru with some age. They also had tours and some more extensive tastings for those who booked in advance, but I just showed up without booking since I realised that I had time to squeeze in another activity.
This is also an excellent opportunity to upload some previous tasting notes from my badly sorted collection of random papers. More specifically, Bouchard P&F’s Swedish importer showed most of the wines they import at a walk-around tasting in February 2012.
Bouchard P&F is one of the really large and traditional wine houses – négociants – in Burgundy, just as for example Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, and Louis Latour. This means that they produce wine both from their own vineyards and from purchased grapes. (Technically it’s the buying of grapes or wines that makes them a négociant, but all of the large and old houses also own quite a lot of vineyards.) The company was founded in 1731, and in 1820 they moved into Château de Beaune, where they still are located, but in 1995 the Bouchard family sold the company to the Champagne house Henriot. (A few years later, Henriot also bought William Fèvre in Chablis.) Since then, Henriot have continued to invest in the company, and this includes buying additional vineyards. In 2005 they inaugurated a new winery that made it possible to increase the quality, for example by allowing them to handle more batches of wine at the same time, which means that they could be more flexible with harvest dates for the different vineyards.
Bouchard P&F owns a total of 130 hectares (almost 325 acres) of vineyards, of which 12 hectares grand cru and 74 hectares premier cru. In similarity to many of the other large houses they have particularly large holdings around Beaune. Three of their most well-known wines are Beaune premier crus: Beaune du Château in white and red, and the red Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus. Beaune du Château is a blend from a number of premier cru vineyards, produced in a style meant to be accessible as young and is sold at a reasonable price for a premier cru. It is not really a classical wine for cellaring, but often a good introduction to the level above “basic Burgundy”. Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus is produced from the premier cru vineyard Grèves and is a truly top class premier that can successfully hold its ground against many grand crus. This wine definitely is a classical wine for cellaring. Many other Beaune-based négociants also have a particularly good premier cru from Beaune (there are no grand cru vineyards in this village), but Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus is probably the best of these among the reds. Among the white wines, Bouchard P&F also have a good reputation for their wines from the village of Meursault.
There are several négociants that have improved in quality in recent years, but in the case of Bouchard P&F, the improvement is probably greater than for most, due to the changes in the period 1995-2005. Apparently, the wines were really good until at least the beginning of the 1960s, but was definitely substandard during the 1970s, 1980s and much of the 1980s, which probably contributed to the situation where the Bouchard family had to sell. Consulting the three books that I consider the standard references on Burgundy, published in 2008-2012, Bouchard P&F gets ** (out of a maximum of three stars) from Clive Coates (the same rating as Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin), and positive reviews from both Remington Norman & Charles Taylor and Bill Nanson. The latter two sources consider the white wines better than the reds, and Nanson is somewhat disturbed by the oak treatment on the red side.
If I am to add a critical view of my own, it is that I find their entry wine La Vignée completely substandard. It is widely distributed in Sweden, which is why I bother to complain about it. So if you see a bottle from Bouchard P&F labelled “La Vignée” – just avoid!
Speaking about the name Bouchard, there is also a completely separate Burgundy wine house called Bouchard Aîné & Fils, so plain “Bouchard” isn’t unambiguous, which is why I usually write Bouchard P&F.
Wines tasted on location at Bouchard P&F in November 2013:
209 Beaune du Château Premier Cru Blanc
Sourced from 9.92 ha in four different premier cru vineyards (climats) in Beaune: Aigrots, Tuvilains, Sizies, and Sur les Grèves (the guide mentioned five vineyards rather than four, though). The wine is raised 10-12 months in oak barrels, of which maximum 15% new oak, which is definitely low for a white premier cru. They do however have access to many barrels that have been used just once, so there’s probably a lot of these “second use” barrels.
Nose with yellow apple, some citrus, some mineral. Powerful palate with apple, some of them baked apples, spice, balancing acidity, mineral in the aftertaste. Ready to drink now, a bit of hot climate style (probably due to the vintage), 88 p.
2009 Meursault Genevrières Premier Cru
2.65 hectares, 10-12 months in oak barrels, of which maximum 15% new oak.
Nose with some yellow apple, a hint of citrus, noticeable minerality, discrete flowery notes, a slightly oily impression. Palate with citrus, mineral, high acidity, slightly spicy aftertaste. Rather ready to drink. Not as “marked by the hot vintage” other than in its approachability. 90 p.
2008 Beaune Rouge
2.36 ha, 12-18 months in oak, of which 80-100% new oak, which sounds very strange for a village level wine (to the extent that I’m not really sure if this information from their website really can be correct).
Light red, paler edge. Rather discrete nose with strawberries, some oranges, a hint of flowers. Palate with strawberries, medium- concentration of fruit, pronounced acidity, medium tannins. Still rather hard impression, young, 85(+) p.
Here we paradoxically have a one year older village level wine comes across as younger and harder than a premier cru from the same village and the same producer. I believe that this primarily is the difference between the two vintages speaking, in combination with a bit of a “dumb phase”. 2008 is a classial vintage where many wines (still) tend to be a bit “hard” in character.
2009 Beaune du Château Premier Cru Rouge
Sourced from 26.04 ha in 17 different premier cru vineyards (climats) in Beaune: Aigrots, Avaux, Bas des Teurons, Belissands, Boucherottes, Bressandes, Cent Vignes, Champs Pimonts, Clos du Roi, A l’Ecu, En Genêts, Grèves, Pertuisots, Reversées, Seurey, Sizies, and Toussaints. The wine spends 10-18 months in oak, of which 60-85% new oak, which is a high proportion for a wine at this price level.
Nose with ripe strawberries, hints of oranges, a tiny hint of flowers. Palate with ripe strawberries, good concentration with some sweetness of fruit, well embedded medium tannins. Rather approachable, 88 p.
A vintage with ripe grapes combined with an ambition to produce a wine in an accessible style results in a curious contrast to the previous wine.
An excellent wine to try out for anyone who has previously only tasted the simplest red Burgundies, since this is drinkable now. This wine always performs reasonable in relation to its price, in my opinion.
2006 Volnay Santenots Premier Cru Cuvée Jéhan de Massol
A Hospices de Beaune wine bottled by Bouchard P&F. Sold in 100% new oak, but then moved to used oak barrels after arriving in the Bouchard cellars.
Nose with strawberries, slightly flowery, discrete spice. Palate with strawberries, good concentration, sweetness of fruit in the attack, noticeable spice, some tannin (some of them probably from the oak), aftertaste with sweet strawberries and slightly dry tannins. Approachable, could develop more, 89(+) p.
Better and more balanced than I expected, since Hospice wines (and in particular those from “lighter” appellations) risk being overoaked since they almost always are sold in new oak barrels.
2002 Le Corton Grand Cru
3.55 ha, Le Corton is situated high on the eastern side of the Corton hill. 12-18 months in oak, of which 80-100% new oak.
Nose with ripe strawberries, orange zest, discrete flowery notes, some aromatic oils. (Not directly any classical developed notes yet.) Palate with ripe strawberries, powerful concentration, mineral notes, well embedded medium(+) tannins. Fine balance, elegant for a Corton. Rather approachable, could develop more, 91 p.
Bonus tasting notes from February 2012
Here are some bonus tasting notes “lost and found”, that I wrote down at a walk-around tasting at the Swedish importer of Bouchard P&F, Bibendum, in February 2012. The format and total number of wines (there were other producers shown as well) resulted in rather short notes compared to those above.
2010 Bourgogne Chardonnay La Vignée
Pear, tropical notes on the palate. Substandard for a white 2010. 80 p
I comment this wine more together with the red 2009 La Vignée below.
2009 Beaune du Château Premier Cru Blanc
Yellow apple, some honey, oak. Palate with decent concentration, good acidity. 86 p (but 88 p at the retasting above, could be the additional 21 months that have provided this lift.)
2006 Meursault Village Premier Cru
Slightly developed with honey, palate with god concentration of fruit and yellow fruit, 88 p – drink now.
2009 Puligny-Montrachet Village
Flowery, honey, apple, some oak, good concentration, good acidity. Slightly hot vintage character. 88 p.
2009 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Folatières
Mineral, some smoke and oak, citrus, yellow fruit. Palate with good concentration, slightly oily, good acidity, mineral. Young, has potential. 91-92 p?
2009 Bourgogne Pinot Noir La Vignée
Nose with raspberries, somewhat herbaceous. Light on the palate with raspberries and lingonberries, good acidity, lightweight tannins (that still come across as hard). Lousy given the vintage. 78 p
Well, it is obvious that even in top vintages such as 2009 and 2010, Bouchard P&F has managed to produce completely substandard basic appellation Bourgogne wines on both the white and the red side, wines that I would consider unworthy of a good négociant even in an average vintage.
2007 Beaune du Château Premier Cru Rouge
Cherries, spice, slightly flowery, genuine Burgundy character, medium bodied, good concentration of fruit, mineral. Rather ready to drink, 86 p.
2009 Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru Les Lavières
Some flowery notes, red berries and cherries, good concentration of fruit, some spice, rather tough tannins. Rather young and somewhat tough, 87 p.
2009 Volnay Premier Cru Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot
Serious nose, dark fruit, some flowers, well integrated oak. Palate with good concentration, some sweetness of fruit, tar, powerful tannins of a velvety character. Young, 90-91 p.
2009 Beaune Premier Cru Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus
Ripe dark cherries, some tar, powerful concentration, good acidity, spice, velvety tannins. Impressive but young, 92-93 p.
2009 Gevrey-Chambertin Village
Slightly flowery, sweet fruitm red berries with some cherries, good concentration, decent tannins, good acidity, good balance. Young but approachable, 89 p?
2005 Nuits-Saint-Georges Village
Good aromatic botes, some cherries and strawberries, good concentration, a bit more noticeable tannins than the 2005 Chambolle-Musigny. Still young, 87-88 p.
2005 Chambolle-Musigny Village
Developed, leather, ripe red berries, spice, good concentration, sweetness of fruit, some tannins. More developed than expected, 89 p.
2009 Chambolle-Musigny Village
Some dung heap aromas, cherries, not very developed, rater good concentration, noticeable but velvety tannins, good acidity. Good balance, young, 87-88 p?
As can be seen I found the wines at the level above La Vignée to be generally good, and in some cases really good!
Swedish version here.