Regular readers may recall that in my [link2post id=”4128″]write-up of the Clark Foyster portfolio tasting[/link2post] I roundly abused their Meursault producer Domaine Latour Giraud. Lance Foyster clearly took this criticism seriously as earlier today I was invited to their offices to re-taste the wines in the context of others from the village. We tasted the wines blind and when it came to discuss them we found ourselves drawing worrying conclusions about white Burgundy in general.[image image_id=”4489″ size=”medium” align=”left”]
White Burgundy has been going through a bit of a crisis in recent years – many bottles have become oxidised with alarming rapidity. I shall save the probable reason behind this for an upcoming post, but the alacrity with which wines commanding top-dollar have collapsed into oxidative crapulence has resulted in widespread disaffection.
A poll on the excellent Wine Berserkers site, which I admit is not a scientific study, at least suggests this problem is changing buying habits. Oxidation was an issue I noted on the Latour Giraud wines at the tasting, I hoped when re-tasting I would find my initial impressions mistaken and see signs that winemakers are addressing this issue.
We tasted eight wines in two flights, four 2007s followed by 2006s. We then tasted a couple of different Chardonnays for general enlightenment purposes. After my notes on these ten wines I’ll attempt to capsulize our discussion and general view of the whole tasting experience. All the wines were tasted blind with only the knowledge that Latour Giraud would feature in each flight.
When it comes to assessing wines, blind tasting is perhaps the equivalent of the swimwear section in a beauty pageant; your appraisal is stripped right down to the un-attired experience of tasting removed of any preconceptions. It is just what you think of the stuff in your glass.
The potential of such raw analysis can disquiet – you may find flaws in wines from favourite producers or differ significantly in your assessments from those of your tasting companions. The key is to remember that, such is the evanescent nature of taste and individual variance in preferences and sensory faculties, there are no real right or wrong answers. Be confident in what your palate reports and try to articulate that plainly. Never worry about looking like an arse; no one is immune so there are no chastisements and it only increases the mirthfulness of what should always be a jolly event.
Finally, here are the notes:[image image_id=”4493″ size=”medium” align=”right”]
Meursault Premier Cru Genevrieres 2007, Domaine Ballot Millot
The nose seems quite fresh and correct, apart from a suspicion of dirtiness I feel lurking. It is only a suggestion, but I’m sure it is there. Beyond that there is little of note about this nose, it is an unremarkable white Burgundy. The same goes for the palate: some weight, acceptable acidity, an approximation of minerality, but this is really pretty uninspiring stuff. I’d like a bit more dimension and certainly more energy from a 2007. Colour me unimpressed.[image image_id=”4496″ size=”medium” align=”left”]
Meursault ‘Cuvee Charles Maxime’ 2007, Domaine Latour Giraud
There is a notable degree of refined class to this nose. It may not be the most complex expression of Meursault I’ve ever stuck my nose into, this is a village wine, albeit a very well made one, rather than a premier cru, but there is character here worthy of proper enjoyment. I like the minerality it displays very much and the lively energy suffusing it is quite engaging. That vivacity continues on the palate, there is a racy interplay between acidity and fresh, ripe lemon fruit. This has the texture of a compelling bottle of Meursault compared to the anodyne dreariness of wine number one. The finish is pretty impressive for a village wine too, those satisfying flavours certainly persist. This is a good wine, all right.[image image_id=”4500″ size=”medium” align=”right”]
Meursault ‘Les Vireuils’ 2007, Devevey
This is clearly oxidised and beyond resuscitation. It is also not entirely clean. Faulty, I am irked.
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Meursault Premier Cru Boucheres 2007, Domaine Latour Giraud
Cripes, the class of this wine is immediately apparent. There is a beguiling creamy minerality, some buttery weight and plenty of highly attractive fruit present on this nose. Proper complexity from a markedly post-pubescent vineyard, I rather fancy. This is what we hope to find when diving into a white Burgundy experience. I think the density on the palate is highly commendable balanced with a foil of cutting acidity and a rather sophisticated mineral tang. There is the buttery, nutty, vanilla character that decent Meursault should display, and those flavours just last and last. Yeah, stylish, quality kit that is neither oxidised nor dirty. Bravo!
Meursault Premier Cru Charmes ‘Les Charmes Dessus’ 2006, Michel Bouzereau
Corked! Curses![image image_id=”4511″ size=”medium” align=”right”]
Meursault 2006, Jean-Philippe Fichet
The nose has some scale to it, this is a biggie with a good depth of fat, lemony character to it. There is not much in the way of complexity, alas, it is a corpulent wine of obvious but undemanding charms. Not necessarily anything wrong with that, of course, we cannot drink exigent wines all the time. I rather like the fat and weight that show on the palate, pretty fruity too with enough acidity. It isn’t asking too much of me but it is attractive in its slightly dumpy manner. It’ll do. Isn’t that label dreadful?
Meursault Premier Cru Genevrieres 2006, Domaine Latour Giraud
Hellishly oaky with a powerful match-stick sulphurous character. This is just too much like sucking a plank that has been seasoned adjacent to an active volcano and I find it decidedly unattractive.
Meursault 2006, Domaine Latour Giraud
Very oxidised. Totally knackered and generally shagged out. Horrible.
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Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2008, Mac Forbes
Bright, fresh, primary fruit on the nose – when life hands you a lemon that smells as delightful as this you gratefully accept it. There is real life and energy here even if it doesn’t exactly throb with dimension. There is a bit of nuttiness, though, which I rather like. The palate is linear and direct, themed on more of that comely lemon fruit and a star-bright backbone of acidity. The flavours are solidly persistent, but are somewhat on the simple side. It is a fun, refreshing little Chardonnay.
Meursault Premier Cru Genevrieres 2003, Domaine Latour Giraud
This nose is beyond plump, morbidly obese would be a charitable descriptor, and it is far too advanced in terms of oxidation to give any pleasure. That corpulence makes for a degree of interest on the palate, but this is basically too oxidised for me. No, really, seriously no, please take it away.
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So what were our considered opinions? Certainly 2007 seemed a more winning vintage at least for Latour Giraud. I admit the question lurks in my fevered mind about how they’ll taste in a year’s time. I really hope for Lance and his team that Latour Giraud have improved their wine-making techniques and got the oxidation issue under control. It is about time they did.
Lance made a throwaway comment whilst we were in the midst of tasting that pretty much encapsulated the whole experience for me. He said, “This isn’t much fun, is it?” That strikes me as a pretty damning inculpation of what should have been a mirth-suffused exercise.
Admittedly, none of these producers are personal favourites of mine, but even village level Meursault is far from a modestly-priced wine. For the prices commanded by these wines, Rieslings of coruscating brilliance would be easy to acquire. Yet these Meursaults were all too often dull or faulty, rarely displaying the class, sophistication or sense of place that should be a basic requirement for wines with these price-tickets stuck to them.
When we were finishing the tasting Lance said he had learned that he didn’t like white Burgundy. I think he is wrong, there are some truly fine examples out there. However, it is evident this exercise painted a pretty damning picture of the general character of these wines. Clearly some rely simply on their prestigious name to sell wine without bothering to make wines worthy of those appellations. Such utterly reprehensible behaviour should be punished in the marketplace until it becomes obvious to even the most egregious producer that standards must be improved.
As we know there really are some very great producers of white burgundy, and Meursault in particular. It’s difficult to imagine a chardonnay style wine that can rival Roulot’s. Well, maybe Coche-Dury or Lafon, but that’s a question of taste. And although Dancer is getting more expensive it is still reasonable. If you want to compare with Riesling (and why would you? I like both in the way I adore both cricket and rugby) it’s best to remember that there are also poor wines made from great vineyards in the Mosel also. The solution is to invoke Strange’s Fundamental Law: Three bad vintages in a row from a great vineyard and your land is given to someone good. Imagine Coulee de Serrant made by Baumard! Imagine La Romanee made by Dujac!
I’m not much of a fan of Dancer as I find his wines fall apart so quickly. Any attempt to age them will just result in them tasting shagged out and slightly ghastly.
Roulot’s wines are stunningly beauteous and deliver such extreme pleasure, but then so did the Lafon wines I tried when I visited last summer. Tasting Lafon’s 2008 Montrachet was a palpably moving experience.
I think the white Burgundy experience is different to the many other regions, including the Mosel, in that the wines are more expensive and the premature oxidation flaws they show far too frequently are common to many producers’ wines in many vintages.
I am hoping that the prem-ox issues are fading as winemakers have a better idea of its cause. It is not a fault inherent in the style as older vintages never seemed to have the same problems. We will have to wait and see. With the best will in the world the tasting you describe above did not cover the best producers. It would be like passing judgement on Margaux as an appellation without mentioning either the eponymous hero or Palmer (who is obviously a youthful hero to us all).
Dancer is certainly not for aging and he has never pretended otherwise. The wines are made for early drinking and I find that they deliver a pleasure rarely matched on that front. The 07s and 08s are special. Do you realize that your interest in aging wine has dramatically increased in the past 2 years? It’s nice to see you looking further into the future than when you were so very unhappy.