Five bottles of Burgundy and a horror

Last night I organised a little blind tasting for some friends. I thought nothing could charm them more than some red Burgundy. I served them in a flight of two then a flight of three, with the order of the wines in each flight randomised. Some of the wines were notably better than others. The sweet wine I was presented with as a blind tasting challenge at the end of the evening made my stomach churn with revulsion.

[image image_id=”2394″] Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru La Richemone 2005, Domaine Alain Michelot

This has a lot of ripe fruit but also a slightly green, leafy smell. There is an earthy set of aromas which make this reasonably complex and give it some real interest. I think this nose is really rather Nuits in character and should provide good blind tasting fodder. This has a really rather tannic palate, it is a bit butch. That being said, I think there is enough fruit to match this and it strikes me that the interplay between the two provides plenty of pleasure. This is a very good example of Nuits which I think will age quite well.

Nuits-Saint-Georges Vieilles Vignes 2005, Domaine Alain Michelot

Despite the claim of old vines this is a bit weak on the nose. There is some dark fruit, hints of greenness and the suggestion of earth, but it is quite subdued and not all that complex. I want more from this nose and it is just not delivering. The palate has a bit more substance, with a good tannic structure and some pleasing ripe fruit, but this is quite a simple village wine. Not much point in keeping this, drink it now with some less demanding Pinotphiles.

[image image_id=”2393″] Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2003, Domaine Chandon de Briailles

Cripes, this is so ripe it is almost Porty. There is one arse-load of super-ripe sweet fruit on this nose, so much so that it is not terribly Burgundian. I can see how one might be attracted to this fleshy voluptuous character, but I prefer a little more restraint and beauty. Any earthy, complex aromas one might have hoped for have been baked right out of the wine; as far as the nose goes it is simply a fruit bomb. The palate is round and buxom, charged with huge amounts of that Porty fruit. It is so ripe and corpulent. I never thought I would taste a Corton so chubby and plump that lacks any form of rigour or austerity. I suppose there are some tannins to it but practically the only character this palate has is its outsized fruit. If this is the kind of thing you like then you will like this, but it just leaves me feeling let down, exhausted and generally shagged out.

Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru Ile des Vergelesses 2005, Domaine Chandon de Briailles

This is really rather pale in colour, but so what? Experience tells us colour is no indicator of the quality of Pinot. Now that is a drop-dead beautiful nose. It is small-scale, but there is incredible harmony, well-judged restraint and serious complexity present. I’m totally compelled by this nose, it is beguiling in its exquisiteness and charming in its extreme attractiveness. The palate is also small-scale, but is a work of sculpted refinement. The silky tannins, sophisticated minerality and stylish fruit are all in complete harmony and as they dance across my palate they charge me with a sense of aesthetic fulfilment and positively lewd contentment. I am a big fan of beautiful little Burgundies like this; when they are good they lack for nothing in terms of intricacy and flair but their lightness means you can drink them all day and night. What a brilliant wine, and it was a real bargain too.

Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2005, Domaine Chandon de Briailles

This nose has plenty of ripe, surprisingly powerful strawberry and raspberry fruit and a very intense mineral tang; it is like a scaled-up version of the previous wine. I loved the previous wine, though, in multiplying this nose the precise beauty has been lost and replaced with slightly unfocussed muscle. The palate also has enhanced clout and strength, with a tougher, almost austere tannic structure and a lot more fruit. It is certainly mineral and appropriately complex, but again I find myself thinking it is just a little vague and ill-defined. Its finish is impressively long, with its vigorous minerality and potent fruit flavours lasting for a considerable period of time. This is a genuinely serious bottle of Burgundy which will age really well and there is indubitably plenty of pleasure to it. However, as far as chortles per pound go the polished form and classy style of the Ile des Vergelesses have thoroughly delighted me. I feel happy to recommend the less pricey wine on this occasion.

[image image_id=”2395″] Oak Aged Vidal Icewine 2006, Inniskillen

This is deep orange; I usually feel a tinge of concern when I see a wine of this colour. The nose has lots of rot, but unfortunately it is not the noble kind. Indeed it makes me think of someone leaving a fur rug to go mouldy after giving it a good rub down with some overpoweringly decaying apricots that had been left to mature in a compost heap. I’m revolted. The palate has some acidity, is quite sweet, but its hideously confected fruit coupled with more of that unbearably filthy fungal character just make me want to stop drinking this instantly. So I will.

  • will


    With regard to the simple disappointing wines, do you think perhaps these are just entering closed phases and maybe will show better in a few years.


  • Jeremy

    Interesting about the 2003 Chandon as they were the first ones to begin picking in all of the Cote d’Or. They began with their Corton Charlemagne on 15th August. They must have picked their reds a little later…

    As to the Vidal, isn’t that varietal a hybrid? I can’t say I’m surprised that it was worthy of loathing.

  • ed tully

    The obvious clue was “oak aged”. When have you ever been transported to joy by a bottle sporting that proud boast? What is the very worst thing you can see on a label? Surely anything involving the word “oak”?

  • David Strange

    Hello Will,

    It would be nice if the Nuits villages does come around; I have one more bottle of it which I think I will keep to do the experiment. I think everything else was on flying good form, even if I didn’t like the style of the 2003 Corton. I don’t generally enjoy Corton, if I am honest. The 2005 was clearly good wine, but I found myself non-plussed by it.

    Jeremy and Edward,

    Vidal is indeed a hybrid and so I wasn’t surprised that I hated its limited set of nauseating flavours. The oak didn’t really add or subtract anything from the ‘vile varietal’ experience.