Basically brilliant Burgundy

Freddie Esmonin cannot go on like this forever. People must be leaving bags on dried tannin on his door-step. He must get notes pushed through his letterbox urging him to press, press, until the pips cry for mercy! At harvest time, attempts are made to switch his hutts with ones filled with screamingly ripe grapes.

You see, Gevrey-Chambertin is thought of these days as producing the most ‘international’ styled wines in Burgundy. It is not universally true, but one does tend to discover a lot of very ripe, very alcoholic and very tannic wines. Frederic Esmonin produces some of the least international wine on the whole Côte. They are small-scaled, sculpted, seductive little numbers that charm from the day they are released to… well… how long are you planning to live?

I realise some unenlightened people will berate me for drinking this wine before it is ‘ready’. Well, what do you mean by ‘ready’? I have had cask samples and an awful lot of vintages going back to the early seventies and they have all been the liquid manifestation of charm. I agree with my chum Tom that wines like this age forever, but I do not know if he would agree with me that M. Esmonin’s wines have a lovely, beguiling ageing profile.

Well, 2012 is a vintage I adore, it is awfully delicious. So let us see what a maker of awfully delicious wine can do in an awfully delicious vintage. Onwards, toward the corkscrew!

Esmonin 1er Cru Estournelles Saint-Jacques 2012Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Estournelles Saint-Jacques 2012, Frédéric Esmonin

Highly attractive – no, far more attractive than you think I mean – nose of large, fleshy, perfectly ripe cherries. The perfume of ripe fruit dreamily evaporating from this instruct your senses to come hither and whisper to your higher faculties that you are going to have a profoundly engaging time with this charmer.

The nose is squeaky clean; people who still think that great Burgundy should smell like shit can piss off right now.

Whilst it is clean and exquisitely fruity, it is no anonymous New World fruit bomb. There are layers of complexity to the fruit, each sniff reveals different aspects of its loveliness.

Moreover, the fruit is not an explosively powerful, one dimensional aroma driven by a bastard load of alcohol. Nor is it striving for complexity by maturation in heavily charred oak.

This wine is not a simple, booze-driven fruit explosion. It may have attractive, ripe, even sweet fruit, but that sweetness does not come from alcohol, it is only 13%. That fruit comes from a serious vineyard that has been bathed in sunlight and warmth (for part of the growing season, anyway).

The fruit characters have their complexity enhanced by a slightly floral character; violets, possibly? No matter, this nose communicates you are going to have a complex, cerebral time as you drink it whilst giving you an occasional squeeze of your rude bits to keep you giggly.

The palate is both profound in structure and deliciously lithe and svelte. Shall we start on the serious bit?

Structure here is more about acid with tannin taking a more delicate role. This may sound unattractive, but the prominence of the acid keeps it perky and pert as a nipple that has just had an ice cube rubbed against it.

Even though tannin is secondary to acidity in the structure of this wine, it gives the wine a pleasing slightly chewy character. This, together with the sapidity of the acid makes for a very pleasing, as well as serious, structure to the wine and also, I feel this structure will keep it a lithe beauty for a very long time to come.

This is made for more likely thanks to the brilliant third element of the structure: the fruit. The fruit here is very refined and svelte. But give it a good chew in your mouth and you will be rewarded with a mouthful of gorgeousness that will grab you anywhere you fancy and give you a good grapple.

It is super lovely fruit, once again a multidimensional affair of libidinous aspect – drinking this is just an absolute hoot. And if you have purchased enough I bet every bottle you drink will grab at your short and curlies, and also of those who survive you if you drink too slowly.

I shall sum up. Basically, wines like this are the reason we drink Burgundy (or those rare great Pinots from elsewhere). Superficially it is a really attractive, deliciously fruity wine of great sapidity. However, it is damned well more than that. It has great elegance and refinement, never overwhelming, never tiring you. It has the perfect structure of fruit, acid and tannin to be properly serious and age and improve for decades. This is what great Burgundy/Pinot does that nothing else can quite manage: the great properties of lubriciousness and longevity combined into an incredibly intricate, supremely pleasurable whole.

  • Tom Blach

    Slurptabulous! I’ve had many a lovely bottle from here, though none very old because they all used to go to Leroy and other top negociants. Fine and Rare recently listed the 1984 version( a vintage particularly sought by seekers of certain necrosis)of this at £7,837 for six bottles excluding tax, so I think this 2012 is a bargain!

  • Richard Zambuni

    I love the Freddie Esmonin wines although many don’t. Even the lesser village wines give immense pleasure. Nice write-up and very evocative.