A convocation of captains

James Hardy, Peter Palmer and I are rightly proud to have been captains of the Oxford University blind tasting team. As I am sure you can imagine, this means we are very keen on drinking top bunny wine. Just the other day (well, it was 10 days ago, but my computer being functionally-challenged and my wish to stagger the publication of articles I wrote-up whilst offline means this report only gets out the door today). Our little gathering was enhanced by the presence of Katie (James’ wife) and Editor Daniel – they made the evening so much more jolly and sociable.

Burgundy is always a favourite wine to drink as that region clearly makes the best wines, certainly the best red wines, in the world. The village Gevrey James brought along was stunning and we were very pleased that the two whites showed not the slightest hint of oxidation. I was rather chuffed to follow these up with an instructive selection of Domaine Tempier Bandols. It is a bit of a shame that Domaine Tempier no longer make wines of such individual character and cellar-worthiness. I was presented the first three wines blind so my notes contain the steps I made toward guessing the wines’ identities.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Folatieres 2001, Domaine Paul Pernot

This is the kind of nose one hopes for when tasting quality white Burgundy that has some age on it. It may have mature, toasty, buttery aromas, but that lemon fruit is fresh as a daisy and it has plenty of life to it. The refined minerality seems very Puligny in character and, given the minimalist use of new oak that seems in real harmony with the composition of the nose, I think it is a good Pernot wine. Cripes, now that is a glorious palate of charm and ravishment that I just want to wallow in. The fruit and body may not be ultra-focussed, a hint of broadness can be most appealing, though, and it is in this wine. The acidity is good, but perhaps not as high as in some vintages: is this a 2000, 2002 or 2005? It also has mature flavours present, that broadness could well be due to its age, and I think it is drinking as well now as it ever will. The finish goes on and on. I feel I have some experience with this wine and I am delighted to have tried it again, my guess: Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Folatieres 2000, Domaine Paul Pernot (Oh well, not such a bad guess, I’d have thought there would be more acidity in a 2001 but I am still happy to have enjoyed this). Many thanks for bringing this, Peter, I loved it.

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Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts 2001, Domaine J. M. Boillot

Wow, this is bursting with fresh, ripe fruit and as far as I can tell shows only hints of maturity. It is a sophisticated white Burgundy, though, with its great minerality and classy, restrained oak treatment. A 2005 Premier Cru, I’d suggest, although the village is difficult to pin down. I’ll have a taste. Great minerality here as well, with finely balanced acidity and absolutely delicious fruit. This is really giving and forward, with great length and real sophistication to its flavours. As far as typical village descriptions go it is clearly one of the big three and a post-pubescent example at that: I think it is a bit too buxom for Puligny, not enough like flat Champagne for Chassagne and so I am left with Meursault. I can see this as an allure-charged, young Meursault from a ripe vintage, but I am afraid the producer alludes me. My guess: 2005 Meursault Premier Cru from a producer I am less familiar with (wrong village and vintage, feeble effort Strangey old chap. It did seem very young when we were first sampling this). Many thanks, James, this was a top bottle of Puligny. I don’t drink much JM Boillot these days and I clearly should.

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Gevrey-Chambertin 2002, Domaine Georges Mugneret

Irresistable, hedonisitic fruit on the nose charged with intricate minerality and oozing with undeniable class. It can only be damned good red Burgundy. It is not showing much in the way of tertiary characteristics and the fruit is really opulent – this is a young wine from a great and distinctly ripe vintage – a 2005? The village is not entirely clear to me, but based on the wanton extravagance of the nose I’d lean toward a Chambolle Premier Cru. I can see that assessment fitting with the palate which is really silky and svelte with polished tannins and gorgeous fruit. Despite its ripeness the acidity is totally in the zone and its sophisticated earthiness does it for me in passionate style. Really long finish. Young and giving, with a long smile-provoking life ahead of it – it is a stunning wine of manifest class. My guess: Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2005 from a Premier Cru and producer I’d rather not commit myself to (Hopeless!) Great wine James, one of the best village-level numbers I’ve had in quite a while, thanks for popping it.

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Bandol Cuvee Speciale La Miguoa 1999, Domaine Tempier

Given my reasonably comprehensive exposure to Tempier wines I think this shows precisely what one seeks in mature Miguoa – it has soft, scented fruit, that has a hint of dirtiness to it (thanks to the Brett) and a powerfully rich earthiness. There are shades of leathery, meatiness to it, but in Miguoa these are always more subdued than in the other single vineyard wines thanks to its lower proportion of Mourvedre. For all its ‘unwashed animal’s rude bits’ aromas, this is a real charmer of a nose, giving, open and really complex. I love the palate, too, which has soft, ripe tannins showing not a hint of toughness, brilliantly mature fruit and that powerful earthiness that these wines showed so well before the 2001 style shift. This is absolutely a point, top-hole kit that reminds me of many happy experiences in the past.

Bandol Cuvee Speciale La Tourtine 1999, Domaine Tempier

Now this is more in the leathery, meaty zone as far as expressions of Bandol go. Not short on ripe but mature dark fruit, though, and it pulses with vigorous earthy complexity. It does seem accessible on the nose, but not as suggestively open and welcoming as the Miguoa. Even though this is 12 years old there is still more than a shade of rigour to the tannic structure. That being said I think the harmony is just fine, as there is an abundance of dark fruit and rich minerality keeping things balanced and enjoyable. If you like classic expressions of high Mourvedre-content Bandol you would be pleased as chips to try this, and chuffed as punch if you kept it for a few more years. Great stuff, I can totally understand the view I held when first I encountered Bandol that La Tourtine was the best one could get.

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Bandol Cuvee Speciale Cabassaou 1999, Domaine Tempier

A stunning and intense expression of Mourvedre fruit on the nose, it throbs with dark berries, grilled meat and arse-walloping strips of leather. The nose shows a bit of the high alcohol level, but such is the lunatic scale of all the other components on display this does not seem like such an issue. Indeed, this is a wine for those who like them of heroic constitution and almost intimidating personality. Not a sculpted, ravishing little number, oh no. Cripes, if I thought the Tourtine needed more time then I suppose I will have to forget my remaining bottles of this I have stashed in the cellar until I am distinctly old, tired and shagged out – it is seriously tannic, butch and a country mile away from full maturity. Those tannins could do ten rounds with a seriously worrying prize-fighter and leave him looking like he’d been chewed up and spat out. I think it does have the stuffing to become a mature and accessible wine at some point in the future, but it could easily take as long as I have already cellared it for to reach that state. Top stuff, but needs a long, long time.