In December I put together a tasting on the theme red Beaune premier cru. The reason I chose this theme is that the Beaune wines hasn’t suffered as steep price increases as Burgundies from many other well-established areas of the region, such as all villages in the Côte de Nuits, as well as Pommard and Volnay. To some extent, Beaune gets much less attention. This may seem strange since it is the central town of the Côte d’Or, the heartland of Burgundy, and is the centre of the large négociant companies of Burgundy. In Beaune we find e.g. Louis Jadot, Bouchard Père & Fils, Joseph Drouhin, Louis Latour, and Albert Bichot.
My guess why Beaune is somewhat in the shadow, is that the true Burgundy fanatics, the so-called “Burghounds”, hunt for “domaine wines”, i.e., from growers with their own vineyards, and Beaune doesn’t really have any cult domaines. One reason is that the local vineyard ownership is dominated by the large négociants, so there isn’t really too many Beaune-focussed small growers despite the size of the town and its vineyards. Furthermore, there are no grand cru vineyards in Beaune. Several other notable Burgundy villages without grand cru vineyards, such as Volnay, Pommard, and Nuits-Saint-Georges, have at least 1-2 cult domines each. Another contributing factor may be that there is rather much Beaune premier cru and that a definite pecking order between the various premier crus hasn’t been established in the same way as in other villages, despite the presence of no less than nine “clos” among the premier crus. This means that there are few if any Beaune premier cru wines that are must-haves to Burghounds. By the way, in his book The Wines of Burgundy (2008), Clive Coates point out the following nine Beaune premier crus as particularly good: Avaux, Bressandes, Clos des Mouches, Cras, Cucherias, Fèves, Grèves, Teurons, and Vignes Franches.
Several of the négociants have a Beaune premier cru in their range that stands out from the rest in terms of price and level of ambition, and these wines are often produced from old vines. Louis Jadot has Clos des Ursules (originating from Grèves), Bouchard Père & Fils has Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus (from Vignes Franches), Joseph Drouhin has Clos des Mouches, and Chanson has Clos des Fèves. The producers themselves often consider these wines as equivalent to some of their grand crus.
That Beaune has been slightly in the shadow means that Beaune premier cru wines today (still) can be had for quite reasonable prices compared to other red Burgundies. At the same time, there is much agreement that the large négociants have increased their quality, in many cases in the early 2000s. Those that like the “real stuff” from Burgundy (as opposed to Pinots from other origins) but aren’t willing to pay extreme prices, may be well adviced to revisit Beaune wines. In former times, a beginner’s road to Burgundy wines may often had started with a simple Bourgogne rouge, followed by a Beaune premier cru as the next step, and then leading on to the more “profiled” and “characteristic” villages such as Volnay and Pommard, or perhaps more often Côte de Nuits and various grand crus. This is a path that has become progressively more expensive, so today there may be a need to rethink this. I expect that those who did this journey in cheaper times have come to regard Beaune wines as a stage to be passed in the early stages of discovering Burgundy, and may no have noted the increase in quality of the wines from there. It might be noted that these are wines that can have quite a bit of tannins and be in need of cellaring; many make the mistake of underestimating how tough they (and other Côte de Beaune premier crus) can be.
As mentioned, there are no grand cru vineyards in the Beaune commune, but 42 climats classified premier cru. Of 410 hectares (1013 acres) of vineyards in the Beaune appellationen är 76% premier cru, och the split red:white is 88%:12%.
Other than the white wine for “warming up”, which was newly purchased, all wines at this tasting were from the 2002 and 2005 vintages, both top vintages in Burgundy, but where 2005 is a vintage that generally shows a lot of concentration, tannins and acidity in combination, and has developed rather slowly.
Several of the wines were from Bouchard Père & Fils, a producer I wrote about after having visited them i Beaune in the autumn 2013. I happened to have some different 05s fom them, and furthermore their increas in quality is considered to have been completed about then. Bouchard P&F also has the largest holding of Beaune vineyards with 48 hectares (119 acres), followed by Chanson with 26 hectares (64 acres), so it is rather natural to include them in such a tasting.
Man kan också notera att såväl konungen som Jesusbarnet gjorde gästspel i vingårdarnas namn. Vinerna serverades, som brukligt är i AuZone, blint och därefter följde omröstning där varje deltagare avkrävdes en bäst- och en sämst-röst. Även den som ordnar provningen röstar, men provar ju inte blint.
2013 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château Blanc
A blend of several Beaune premier cru vineyards.
Nose with pears, yellow apples, some spice and oak notes, discrete buttery notes. Palate with yellow apples, decent concentration, some minerality, and good acidity. A fresh style with rather noticeable oak notes. Young, but can be consumed that way, 87-88 p.
Beaune du Château, both in its white and red versions, is produced to be drinkable early, and is produced from a blend of several different premier cru vineyards.
Red main flight
2002 Albert Morot Beaune Premer Cru Bressandes
Slightly faded edge. Nose with rather “pale” colour note, red berries including strawberries, some developed notes, reasonably integrated oak and spice notes. Palate with strawberries, some sour cherries, good acidity, some spice notes, some mineral, some tannins, and an aftertaste with sour cherries and some tart apples. Rather good balance, but the palate goes somewhat in the acid-dominated direction. 87-88 p
2 worst votes.
2002 Albert Morot Beaune Premer Cru Grèves
Nose with red berries, minerality, some undergrowth, notes of maturity and age, spices, rather well integrated oak. The palate is more developed than it should be for its age, and goes in the oxidised direction in its notes. Palate with strawberries, powerful spice notes, decent concentration, and rather noticeable tannins. A bigger and tougher wine than the 2002 Bressandes, but some disharmony due to the too developed notes. 85 p?
This bottles was noticeably oxidised, but not undrinkable. (I think I scored this higher than many othe, since I like mature wines.) The cork was in good condition, so there were no leads there as to why the wine comes across this way. A pity, since it had been fun to compare two vineyards in the same vintage from the same producer without bottle variation taking over, and this should have been the better of them. This unfortunately meant that Albert Morot came out from the tasting looking bad, because this is a producer that generally is the source of good wines that don’t cost too much.
8 worst votes including mine, and therefore voted the worst wine of the flight.
2002 Vougeraie Beaune Premier Cru Clos du Roi
Rather big nose with ripe strawberries, flowers, perfume, light animal notes including fine “dung notes”, spices, and some developed notes. Palate with ripe strawberries, some cherries, good minerality, some tannins, and some spices with a bit of bite in the aftertaste. Elegant and smooth on the palate, good concentration of aromas, but not a heavyweight. Good development, elegant, approachable, 88-89 p.
The cork was slightly spongy, but that didn’t affect the wine as far as I could tell. Not to be confused with the Corton vineyard Clos du Roi. The same vineyard/climat name can be used in several villages in Burgundy, that’s why the full name of a premier cru includes both the name of the village and the climat.
1 best and 1 worst votes.
2002 Louis Jadot Clos des Ursules
Kommer från Beaune Premer Cru-vingården Vignes Franches.
The wine with the palest core, with a faded edge. Definitely an elegant nose with strawberries, some other red berries, fine minerality, and flowers. Palate with strawberries, sour cherries, rather prominent minerality, rather high acidity, rather much tannins that are rather well integrated, and a long aftetaste with red berries and minerality. Elegant, could develop more, 90(+) p.
The most elegant nose of the lineup.
4 best votes including mine. Ended up in second place.
2005 Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches
Nose with ripe strawberries, some cherries, spices, well integrated oak, rather prominent animal notes, hints of vanilla, some flowers; rather elegant. Palate with ripe strawberries, some cranberries, good concentration, some minerality, some tannins, rather prominent spice notes, and a long aftertaste. Could develop more, 89-90(+) p.
1 best and 1 worst vote.
2005 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château
Corked! Bad luck, and this was originally meant as a reserve wine to be used in case of (another) cork defect, but then I forgot to bring one of the other bottles, so this was popped instead.
Removed from the voting.
2005 Hospices de Beaune Beaune Premier Cru Cuvée Guigone de Salins
From the vineyards Les Seurey, Les Bressandes, and Les Champs Pimont. This bottle filled by Bouchard Père & Fils.
Nose with strawberries and some beetroot?, rather prominent spice notes, some oak notes with some vanilla that isn’t fully integrated, and some animal notes. Palate with strawberies, spices, rathe noticeable oak that results in rather tough tannins, and some minerality. Rather tough palate where the oak can be felt, and could possibly develop more, 88(+) p?
1 best and 2 worst votes.
Hospices de Beaune, that is the owner of large amounts of donated vineyards, the proceeds of which is used to fund medical care, used to employ 100% new oak for all wines. This is because they are auctioned off by the barrel in November the year of the harvest, and then each barrel of a cuvée must be the same. Also, there are no barrels left over from the previous year. A hallmark of Hospices wines used to be a bit too prominent new oak character, and this was still probably the case in 2005. The oak component can definitely be felt in this wine. In recent years, some cuvées (from “lighter” grape material) have started to be sold in used oak barrels, so they seem to have solved the problem of how to get access to used barrels of a homogenous character. Also the bottler of the wine, in this case Bouchard Père & Fils, is specified on the label. Different bottlings of the same cuvée can differ since it isn’t sure that the bottling has taken place after the same time in barrel, or if rackings and so on have been handled in the same way.
2005 Bouchard Père & Fils Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus
Originates from Beaune Premier Cru Grèves.
Nose with ripe strawberries, cherries, animal notes, spices, reasonably well integrated oak notes but still some toasted oak. Palate with strawberries, cherries, good concentration, spices, some tannins, and a rather tannic and tough aftertaste with rather dark notes. Still rather young, could develop more, 90+/91(+) p.
The “biggest” wine of the flight with the darkest notes and the most Côte de Nuits-styled. (When voting I chose the Jadot wine as my best since it was elegant and fine development now, but when this wine got more time in the glass I’ve after all scored it slightly higher.)