Yesterday evening I met some charming Burgundy lovers for what ended up being rather a dissolute evening. Good, I like dissolute evenings. Many thanks Guy, Richard and Tom, it was a was a delight to drink in your company.
I brought the Morgon along as a little exercise in blind-tasting. I was very pleased that people guessed it pretty much spot on, and even more pleased with the wine itself – I thought it was quite a corker.
Meursault 1999, Joseph Drouhin
As this was being popped the general opinion was that it would be totally oxidised. Cripes! It doesn’t smelled shagged out! What it does smell of is rather a lot of sulphur, which explains the lack of oxidation. There is some nuttiness but I’d expect more of a ‘tits out for the lads’ character from a 1999 Meursault, this seems rather lean and somewhat on the ‘generic white Burgundy’ side of expression. The palate is distinctly sprightly with quite high acidity, but not much in the way of weight, fat nor, indeed, charm. It is an acceptable drink, and quite surprising to find it still on form, but as far as salacious Meursault experiences go this is sadly a tad quotidian.
Morgon ‘Cote de Puy’ 2009, Chateau Grange Cochard
As I have just started sniffing this it seems rather unyielding on the nose, all I am finding is a hint of an alcohol burn and a suggestion of brooding, dark fruit. As I’ve swirled it vigorously the fruit has become much more apparent and really rather buxom in character, distinctly lavish and luscious ripeness. The palate is certainly quite thickset for Beaujolais, indeed, if it got any more dense it would undergo gravitational collapse and become a black hole. There is an abundance of very ripe fruit, surprisingly serious tannins and a good whack of vibrant acidity. As well as the swashbuckling character of the palate it is also tighter than a duck’s nipsy; despite Daniel suggesting it deteriorated within minutes of opening it clearly needs some cellar time and I feel it will improve for longer than I’ve ever considered ageing a Beaujolais. I’m very impressed, I’ll most definitely be buying some for the cellar.
Charmes-Chambertin les Mazoyeres 2002, Domaine de la Vougeraie
Cripes, if the previous wine was tighter than a duck’s unmentionables then this is as hermetic as a blue whale’s fundament: it is the Platonic ideal of unyielding. For sure there is some some ripe fruit and earthy richness here, but it is not sharing anything that might be euphemistically described as ‘its charms’ without making the seeker of loveliness really put some serious graft in. I get the impression that there is some sophistication to the nose, but this may be my imagination running wild. The palate also runs gleefully into the ‘unsparing’ frame of reference, to my palate the pace of development this is has showed over the past eight years is geological. I don’t mind this terribly much, but I’m slightly concerned that there is a touch of profound poise missing for what is a serious Grand Cru from a well-regarded producer. It is reasonably complex, with a long finish, but I want a bit more concupiscent character of involuted loveliness from my Grand Crus. Not quite up to standard in my book (my book being “The bumper book of louche larks and dissolute diversions”).
Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru les Brulees 1999, Rene Engel
This wine is a personal favourite; M. Engel was a serious winemaker but he and never charged the Earth for his produce. You are greatly missed, M. Engel. This nose is surprisingly whiffy, it is more filth-themed than I remember this being on my last encounter. I’m not repelled, though, there is ample charming fruit as well and it has real dimension. Yes, ordure is one of those dimensions, but the other aromas tweak my aesthetes to a ‘T’. The palate is beguilingly soft and yielding, with plenty of fruit, a silken texture of mellow tannins and enough acid to stop it staying toward flabby blowziness. Plenty of complexity to this although, once again, some of that complexity comes in the form of excreta. I’d suggest drinking this reasonably soon, if you keep it too long it’ll end up getting consumed by putrescence. But at the moment there is a lot to enjoy here and I am certainly revelling in this bottle from a much-missed producer.
Pommard Premier Cru Clos des Epeneaux 2003, Comte Armand
2003s are risky in Europe, it was such a hot vintage that many wines had the character baked out of them and were far removed from elegance and finesse. I’m rather taken with this nose, I have to say, it has lovely fruit which is quite forceful but very luxurious in character. It is not jammy, though, it is still Cote de Beaune red fruit, just magnified to assertive glory and really rather foxy decadence. There is plenty of mineral complexity here as well, definite sophistication on the nose which assuredly intimates you want to be having a lascivious time with it. The palate is very much in that loud but ravishing style as well, charged with delectable fruit supported by very ripe but just rigorous enough tannins. The length is quite impressive. Yet, the main character of this wine is undoubtedly its tumescent character – it is engorged with pneumatic, Rubensesque intemperance which, whilst not being unattractive, makes this an atypical Pommard. Come back in twenty or so years, it’ll make for intriguing old bones.
Pommard Premier Cru Clos des Epeneaux 1995, Comte Armand
Now this is a totally correct and definitely winning set of aromas. It does restrained beauty in a highly desirable style. Soft red fruit and rich minerality are intertwined in a coherent entity of sophisticated grace; whilst the 2003 did complexity with the aid of nuclear weapons this displays its intricacy in a refined and subtle manner, winning you over with soft whispers of love. The palate is spell-binding; supremely complex and totally elegant with soft, polished fruit and svelte, silky tannins. This is Pommard at its most winsome – it may not explode with unadulterated hedonism, but such is its class that it has completely won me over anyway. Clearly the best wine I’ve had from this winemaker, who normally leaves me feeling a tad under-whelmed. Drinking now and for years to come with preposterous pleasure.
Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru les Cras 1993, Ghislaine Barthod
My experience of 1993 Burgundy is that they have generally developed with glacial slowness and this nose certainly does not seem 17 years old. It is charged with a freshness and vivacity that defy the number on neck-label. Not much in the way of tertiary flavours, but definite fresh, slightly floral fruit aromas. It is cool and classy, with pronounced mineral complexity. The palate is backward, almost to the point of being shut tight and unyielding, but there I feel there is the promise of pleasure here. Its combination of sophisticated fruit and sleek tannins show class which I think would be more demonstratively impressive if we’d decanted it hours in advance or left it in the cellar for another decade or so. This is an elaborate, stylish wine that, whilst being totally compelling, just needs more time. Top bunny indeed.
Many thanks for a wonderful evening, chaps, I had a stupendously hilarious time. I hope we can repeat the experience at some stage in the future.
-  The first time I felt brave enough to ask for a tasting chez Engel I received an email in response to my request informing me that M. Engel had just ‘died brutally’; a heart attack on his yacht in Tahiti apparently. I was so unhappy to get that email, I worshipped him (from afar) like a demi-god. ↩