I never thought it would be this good

This is one of the most compelling bottles of Burgundy I’ve tried in recent periods of time. I was surprised by how good a wine from such a, let us be honest, lesser village (albeit the best vineyard and the best producer in that village, from a top vintage) could be. It charmed our lovely friends from New Zealand (hope the journey goes well tomorrow, Mike and Vanessa, we were really happy you had the time to see us tonight), who are unused to drinking such rarefied Burgundies. I was terribly pleased it hit their pleasure centres. And terribly pleased it tickled my fancy, too.

[image image_id=”2068″ align=”left”] Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru Ile des Vergelesses 2005, Domaine Chandon de Briailles

Quite pale in colour, but of course we couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the depth of colour in red Burgundy. What a nose! Pure, fresh strawberry fruit that is just ravishing in its beauty-quotient. There is a super-refined minerality there as well which excites my intellectual faculties, but it is the gorgeous exquisiteness of this nose, its sculpted, pure refinement which does it for me. Yeah. And I do mean ‘Yeah’ in a deep and meaningful sense. There is more of the lovely strawberry fruit on the palate and it is bright and fresh; elegant but again beguiling in its loveliness. The tannins are present but they are silky and in total harmony with the precise fruit flavours and wonderful, enlivening acidity. It is a supremely focused palate which has a slightly firm character on the finish; these characters keep it tasting alive and vibrant. The finish is certainly long and quite the charmer even though it is firm. For the lover of elegance, harmony and sophistication this is giving one hell of a lot of pleasure now, but I’d suggest it is only going to keep on improving over the next five years or so. Its is a far more charming and pleasure-filled wine than even the flashest Cortons I’ve had from Chandon de Briailles, although it does make me think positive thoughts about the magnum of Corton-Bressandes 2005 I have from them. Maybe, when I feel it’ll be mature, I’ll finally get to try a red Corton which is actually lovely. I await popping that mag with interest, but until then I’d be a fool not to purchase more of this.

  • David Strange

    I purchased this wine purely because I thought I needed to try this vineyard from this producer in this vintage as I hadn’t had one in years; I expected it to be a bit on the lean, linear and tough side of wine experiences. Sure, it has razor-sharp focus and precision, but it is a real sex-beast.

    I just happened to have a copy of Alan ‘The Burghound’ Meadows’ Cote de Beaune issue that reviewed the 2005 Chandon de Briailles wines so I looked this up. He is one of the few wine journos I trust and, considering the glowing review he gave this wine (90-92 points when tasted from cask), I now trust him even more. I suppose this means I should re-subscribe to his excellent periodical… If you want reliable Burgundy tasting notes from all of the producers who matter you should consider subscribing too.

  • ed tully

    I am never going to take a critic seriously if they think that a points score is a sensible way to describe wine. Only a scale based on the fruitier parts of anatomy will do!

  • David Strange

    I am not totally clear on how one can assign a number to something as ethereal as a bottle of wine, but I’d suggest if someone says 90-92 points they like that wine.

  • ed tully

    yes, they must like it one more than a wine “worth” 89. And two less than one we can objectively describe as 94. I am sure the wine was good, David, because I trust you. I don’t trust the authority of Alan “burghound” because anyone who rates wine in such a silly way is guilty of foolishness. I thought everyone had grown out of that sort of idiocy. In many ways it’s even more fatuous than rating something like music or figurative art (I give the “eroica” 97!2Guernica gets 93-95) because at least a specific recording remains relativley constant whereas wine certianly does not. Wine scores are little more than thinly disguised willy measuring exercises.

  • David Strange

    I’ve been discussing the issue of scores with the partner. We came to the conclusion that if you are going to score wines at all, doing so within a tasting structure similar to that of Alan Meadows would probably be the most informative way to doing so.

    If I may expand*: Mr Meadows will taste at all the producers in a locality of Burgundy within a short period of time and he’ll be tasting the same vintage at each producer. Consequently, he’ll have an immediate frame of reference for each wine he assesses. If the points are indicative of his preferences for the wines he tries, it should be easier to rank them in terms of points because he has this frame of reference of similar wines that he has tasted recently.

    Even this has its problems. Firstly, it is hard to express negative opinions when a winemaker is standing over you; some people don’t take the unvarnished truth terribly well.

    Moreover, even though I know Mr Meadows likes to spend some time with producers, when you only have a tiny sample from a cask to assess and limited time to analyse it, you are pretty much forced into making a snap judgement which may not give you the complete picture of a wine. It would be preferable if he could take small samples away from the producers and re-taste to confirm or correct earlier evaluations.

    Of course, samples taken from different barrels can often be quite dissimilar, how accurately does the 90-92 point range include these divergences?

    Finally, one wonders about the degree of relativism one is going to engage in when judging wines. He may be trying a lot of Burgundy in a short space of time, but which specific wines should be compared with each other? Should there be the possibility of 100 point village wines as well as 100 point Grand Crus? Such a scoring regime were used one would have to make personal decisions about which to compare: should a Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru be compared to a Fixin Premier Cru, should a Marsannay village wine be pitted against a village wine from a great producer and a better village? If he is comparing across all wines of the region then even the very best wines from a lesser vineyard or village will only get a few points, despite it being a wonderful ‘minor’ wine, because it is being contrasted with the best Grand Cru wines in the region.

    Even though Meadow’s tasting system is fraught with all of these problems, I think it is slightly more meaningful than most of the 100-point systems I’ve tried to grapple with.

    At Decanter magazine panel tastings I am obliged to score wines with zero to five stars. I feel uncomfortable doing this. I don’t like scoring wines and I will never sink to those depths on Elitist Review.

    *I’m not expanding at the moment. I’m fighting off the anti-psychotic medication-induced hunger and have lost 7kg since the end of November.
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  • David Strange

    You say:

    Wine scores are little more than thinly disguised willy measuring exercises.

    Despite my desperate attempt to defend possibly the only wine journalist who has the right aesthetic ideal to tell good from bad (or at least describe wines in a way I can understand,) I agree with your assertion. Scoring something as constantly changing as wine and relying on the subjective interpretation of personal sense data to do so is clearly a pile of old toss.

  • ed tully

    Of course we agree as you are my master (of mystic arts). I think of you as perhaps less instantly loveable that Yoda, but with an ultimaltely less irritating syntactical style. Wine vocabulary is much less accurate than the expression on people’s faces when they taste. Perhaps your tasting notes should be supplemented with a photograph of your wondrous face as you sniff for the first time. This is only a slightly silly idea!

  • David Strange

    Not such a bad idea! I’m sure both my fans would love to see more pictures of me looking dashing on the pages of Elitist Review. An even more baroque idea would be to post some video tasting notes. I’ve done audio notes (one website reports I sound slightly tipsy in them. Slightly? No, never slightly), a video of me gurning with distaste upon tasting minor Claret, or grinning with uncontrollable mirth when tasting a fine Burgundy seems the next logical step in providing people with amusing ammunition to assist in their laughing at me. With me, I mean. I might just do it!