For those tired of hearing about 2009 Burgundies you will be pleased to know this is my last report from the offer-season’s tastings. However, even though this was a small tasting I found the wines on show to be engorged with the very highest levels of thrilling intellectual interest and perfervid visceral pleasure. Consequently, if your desire is directed toward the finest wines available to humanity then this is the post to read.
Before getting to the wines I would like to thank Isabelle Clark and Lance Foyster for inviting me as the token member of the press (I suppose this organ makes me count as ‘press’) to this throbbingly rapturous tasting. I first met Lance almost twenty years ago in Oxford. The staggeringly difficult blind tasting he gave the University tasting team still makes me perturbed when I think of trying to identify an inordinately anodyne unoaked white Rioja which was the least enigmatic wine in the line up. I’m pleased he has forgiven me for being a smug youth and enabled me to taste wines that have extended my perception of delight.
There were four producers on show, I’ll start with the most familiar. Jean-Marie Fourrier has radically improved the quality of wines from his family’s domaine. Fourrier are no longer the producer wine merchants force you to buy in order to secure some flash kit; these days they are positively desirable in their own right.
Fourrier’s Gevrey Chambertin Vieille Vigne was a sophisticated village Gevrey that had a compelling depth of character. I liked its silky tannic structure and bright acid which, together with its cracking fresh fruit, made this an attractive, harmonious drink that was charged with lively energy.
The Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Goulots was a distinct step up in terms of complexity. Its sophisticated structure of svelte tannins supported the layers of ravishing fruit and intricate earthiness with masterly composure. This is not the most swish of the Premier Crus made by Fourrier but any lover of Gevrey should be cock-a-hoop if they score some of this.
I had never tried a wine from the next two producers – I had clearly been missing out. Domaine Heresztyn may be hampered by a differently pronounceable moniker, but their wines delivered suave poise at very fair prices.
Heresztyn make Gevrey Chambertin ‘Les Trois Vieilles Vignes’, a village-level wine made from old vines in a number of vineyards, specifically for Clark Foyster. It certainly shows the depth imparted by old vines and clearly spoke of its origins unimpeded by any oenological jiggery-pokery. It is a total bargain
The Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Perrières may have been equanimous and cool in personality but its understated grace was a real turn on. This is a serious wine for the lover of finesse and detailed beauty. Burgundy charged with such élan is rarely priced so keenly.
Morey-Saint-Denis is a village that often seems forgotten when people talk of the serious Cote d’Or villages – Heresztyn’s Premier Cru Millandes amply demonstrated that Morey is worthy of attention. I am used to trying this Premier Cru from Cyprien Arlaud and I found this example to be similarly attractive with a very engaging texture. Morey, ah, its so lovely – this example deftly opened my pleasure-valves.
Chambolle-Musigny has been in vogue with Burgundy drinkers in recent years. My first experience with the wines of Domaine Francois Bertheau showed the delights of that village with libidinous style. It is not often that one gets to taste wines so dissolute in their accessibility yet suffused with involute seriousness. I feel severely vexed that I have only just encountered this domaine, I don’t mind telling you.
The Chambolle villages was ripe, polished and ravishingly giving. It wantonly laid bare all its pleasures to be seized by any enlightened sybarite. This was a Chambolle that belongs on the top shelf in an opaque wrapper to prevent the young and those of delicate of sensibility from being scandalised by its licentiously raunchy decadence. Yeah, I bloody loved it.
The Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru was similarly debauched in joyously libertine style. It is a blend from a few Premier Crus that had all the beddable delights of the village wine but a more intricate structure and sophisticated fruit. For such a luxuriously sensual wine I thought the price was quite keen.
Now we get really dirty. Clearly for those with voluptuary proclivities was the Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Charmes. I’ve rarely encountered a wine so givingly sensual – this wasn’t just ‘tits out’, it was naked and ostentatiously flaunting itself in a window illuminated by red lights alongside a sizeable list of the services it offered, some of questionable morality if not legality. Yes, it was complex, structured, harmonious and winsome, but what it really wanted to do was pin you to the floor and defile you with exuberant indignity. I rather enjoyed it.
It seems almost a shame to move away from such unchaste depravity, but there are other pleasures in life – the Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses detonated my pleasure centres in an entirely different style. It was certainly very giving and there was no difficulty in experiencing all of its bewitching delights, but it was adorably graceful, sophisticated and refined. The finesse and exquisite beauty it displayed blew my mind more effectively than any illicit substance. Tasting this was an aesthetic experience of stellar intensity. Irresistible.
Finally, we come to the main reason that this tasting was organised: tasting the phenomenally coveted wines of the rapturously venerated Sylvain Cathiard. These wines cause some debate. Few would argue that they are not exceeding fine, but many complain about the prices. The wines are certainly expensive, especially on the secondary market. Price is not the only barrier to obtaining them, finding any on sale anywhere is a challenge. Cathiard only farms 5.5 hectares which largely have low-yielding old vines growing on them – his production is a diminutive 2500 cases of wine per year.
As a firm believer in market forces I feel that if some people are willing to pay a high price for something then I have no problem with it being priced accordingly. Limited availability and high demand will quite obviously drive up prices and you’d have to have a pretty odd view of the world to think otherwise. So I quite understand that these Cathiard wines are beyond my hilariously limited means. Moreover, my aesthetic sensibilities are in tune with the idea that if you want something incontestably brilliant then you shouldn’t expect it to be priced like an oft-reheated, salmonella-rich hotdog from a rancid, filth-encrusted kebab van. Quality costs and Sylvain Cathiard’s wines are palpably amongst the most radically magnificence-engorged things I’ve put in my mouth in all my years diligently pursuing extreme olfactory euphoria.
This gives me a bit of a problem. On show were samples from across his range from 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 2002 (which was an extremely rare magnum). Every wine I tried thrilled and charged me with paroxysms of outrageously intense ecstasy and, given lack of sleep and general insanity-related problems, I was unprepared for the task of assessing and articulating quality at the floridly delightful end of greatness.
Furthermore, I find tasting notes about really great wines to be of limited use in articulating such superlative aesthetic experiences. Given these factors, I am not entirely surprised that when I look at my notes they vary between being brief (“Bugger me!” one reads) or being questionably informational (“Pow! Zap! BOOM!!! Aaaaargh! Yikes! Weeeeeeee!” another relates). In view of this, I hope you will forgive me if I limit myself to general comments about the vineyards and vintages with the understanding that everything was beyond the dog’s bollocks, the cat’s arse, the hamster’s minge and other dirty bits of domesticated animals in terms in terms of coruscating quality.
The bad news about the 2009s is that Cathiard has put his prices up. The good news is that the wines express all the well-stacked joy of the vintage whilst lacking nothing in terms of harmony, finesse or refinement. If you have the chortle chits at your disposal then instantly start throwing them at Clark Foyster Wines until they relent and sell you some.
The 2007s on show were also well-titted out and very accessible now. They’ll keep for the medium term, but I think with the fresh fruit they still display with profligate pride you’ll have an absolute hoot if you pop them sooner rather than later.
Far less opulent but bewitchingly sculpted are the 2008s and 2006s. These are great wines from vintages I rather like and don’t understand why some people seem so sniffy about them. If you like your pleasure of a cerebral bent these are wines to snap up – you’ll still be titillated and probably rather aroused, though. I feel they’ll age a treat.
The solitary 2004 on show was devoid of any of the greenness or crushed insect characters that some wines from this vintage suffer from. It was very giving but engagingly structured.
Finally, the magnum of Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Malconsorts 2002 was a gorgeous entity of unbounded delight. It had everything.
When it comes to vineyards everyone lusts after the Vosne-Romanee Premier Crus. They are undoubtedly fine, the Malconsorts in particular being better, in my rather limited experience, than his Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru. They are priced to match their lust-inducing status but clearly deliver the goods. If you are too fiscally challenged to secure the Malconsorts I’d go for the Suchots as a second choice, but none of his Vosne vineyards are really second best.
However, if I were to buy any of the wines at the tasting I’d go for a Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru. Cathiard has Murgers and Aux Thorey and makes slightly more of these than his Vosnes and as demand is less and quantity higher the prices are not excessive. These are exciting, beguiling interpretations of the Nuits terroir that certainly speak of their origins but do so in dulcet tones of seductive restraint. I’d be as chuffed as punch to have a couple of bottles of these in my little collection.
The village level wines punched so far above their status they could floor a giant. Great stuff but, seriously now, go for those Nuits Premier Crus.
With that advice I can sign off knowing I have pointed you, my dear reader, in the direction of quality kit. Clark Foyster Wines are a passionate, professional outfit with an embarrassment of other riches on their list (it was mirth-tastic trying many of them at their portfolio tasting, that I report on [link2post id=”4128″]here[/link2post]). Many thanks once again, Lance and Isabelle, you pleasured me immensely.
Contact details: Clark Foyster Wines, 15 South Ealing Road, London W5 4QT. Telephone: 020 8567 3731