2010 Burgundy tasting with Haynes, Hanson and Clark

I must start with an apology: horrific illness has prevented me from attending most of the 2010 Burgundy tastings I was planning to visit and write up. Luckily Haynes, Hanson and Clark provided an excellent view across many styles and producers and had much to say in general about the hilariously fine quality of the vintage. It was a stunning, inspiring tasting.

To be honest, I’ve never really believed those who say you should trust your merchant’s advice; I’ve worked for too many people who’ve ordered me to sell crap Claret and piss-poor Pinotage to anyone unfortunate enough to take it, for that idea to really sound reasonable. However, with the almost uniformly superior quality of producers they represent, particularly in a vintage like 2010, you should be happy to take pretty much anything HH&C have to sell you.

Some sort of summary might be in order, I suppose. The unifying quality across all the wines seems to be one of harmony. The wines have good fruit, ripeness and weight, even from villages famed for their ‘direct minerality’ (aka unripeness), but there is no shortage of acidity or integrated mineral action. Whilst the 2009s are charged with lubricious pleasure, the 2010s have plenty of sculpted elegance without lacking any enjoyment value. If I were to be drawn to vintage parallels I suppose this combines the very best of both 2001 and 2002. Yes, it is that good. And it is that good for both reds and whites across all quality levels. There is a lot to love here.

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It is certainly a winning vintage for Chablis. At the bottom of the pile the generics from Christian Moreau (£96 for 12) and Daniel Dampt (£97.04 for 12) were most drinkable at very reasonable prices. However, you would be misguided if you did not pay a couple more quid per bottle and get some of Dampt’s 1er Cru Cote de Lechet (£118 for 12). This was the most utterly desirable young Chablis I’ve had in a while and, if you like the unoaked, direct, sharply fruity style, you will love this. A joy to taste now and it has what it needs where it needs it in order to age. The Grand Cru to age is Moreau’s Les Clos (£269 for 12), a confident, structured wine of style and class that has a long-fun-filled future ahead of it. Chablis may make demands on your cellar quality, but if you’ve got the equipment these two will reward your choice in house/winefridge-ware.

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White St-Aubin rarely lives up to it’s promise of being almost as good as its quality neighbours whilst costing far less. Consequently, the wines of Francoise and Denis Clair were rather surprising. The most modest of the three 1er Crus on show, Les Frionnes (£166 for 12), was a delight to drink whilst the top 1er Cru, En Remilly (£199 for 12), was a properly serious wine with good mineral complexity and definite style for only a little more money. You could buy any of the three I tasted and feel you had done well with your sponds.

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Pierre Meurgey of Domaine Champy always strikes me as a fellow who is eager for a good time. The two whites he showed gave me an awful lot of fun. A village-level, albeit named vineyard, Pernand-Vergelesses Le Combottes (£158.50 for 12) simply should not be so enjoyable. Rather than the normal painfully green and tart character of white Pernand, and all too often red Pernand as well, this had good fruit and plenty of roundness to match it’s direct focus. It was very enjoyable and at this price will make a lot of drinkers very happy. He also showed a Corton-Charlemagne (£385 for 6), normally the least charismatic of the Cote de Beaune white Grand Crus, and for want of a better word this was tits. Please do not tell Christophe Roumier this, but I’ve never had a Corton-Charlie so themed on unadulterated pleasure. If you want a really flash, really fine, really gratifying white Grand Cru that won’t leave your bank account wheezing this is the red-hot tip.

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Now we get on to the serious villages. You probably don’t need me to say that Jean-Marc Roulot makes cracking Meursault at all quality levels; the Tillets 2010 (£210 for 6) was just delicious, but then so was his Bourgogne Blanc (£148.50 for 12). I have, on one occasion when it’s had a few years age on it, guessed that blind as a reasonably good Meursault Premier Cru. His wines are a steal for what are fulgurating entities of brilliance.

In Puligny I was really taken with Sauzet’s village (£315 for 12) and 1er Cru Les Perrieres (£268 for 6), both had the poise and elegance one hopes for from the village. Considering their not-excessive prices, had plenty of freshness that suggests to me they’ll age well and throbbed with impressive complexity these are well-worth considering. Domaine des Lambrays’ 1er Cru Clos du Cailleret (£335 for 6) struck me as being pretty much as fine as 1er Cru Puligny can get, but Lambrays have no problem selling their wines these days so pricing is rather aggressive and I feel I can suggest some better targets for you to throw serious money at.

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Of the white wines on show by far and away the most impressive range were the Olivier Leflaive Domaine wines. They have recently reclaimed some vineyards from Domaine Leflaive, continued farming them biodynamically and employed the undoubtedly talented Franck Grux to make the wine. M. Grux is a lovely chap who wants his wines to show as being lovely, fresh, complex and age-worthy. He makes them in a slightly reductive style with no hint of oxidative characters in any of the cask samples I tried. These wines will improve in a manner that very few white Burgundies can these days. More to the point, they are burning stars of stellar intensity that will only leave you spell-bound with delight when you try them.

Certainly, if you want some of the very best white Burgundy money can buy you will not go wrong with his Grand Crus. The Batard-Montrachet (£695 for 6) had me muttering incoherently as I tried to express what I was experiencing, ludicrously fine. The Chevalier-Montrachet (£895 for 6) was vastly better and left me dumb-struck by it’s utter beauty and extreme finesse combined with brilliant Grand Cru power and definition. I think I may have had one or two Grand Cru whites better than the C-M, but as I tasted it my entire being was charged with its brilliance and for a significant period the outside world simply ceased to exist for me. If you are a lover of fine things who can manage sensory overload then these two will blow your mind in a style (I imagine) no illicit substance could ever achieve.

You don’t have to spend that much, though. The two Puligny 1er Crus, Pucelles (£325 for 6) and Folatieres (£295 for 6) were supremely refined and sculpted wonders of joyful brilliance. They were better than the Lambrays Cailleret I mentioned above and cost less money. I’ve drank a really stunning amount of wine from these vineyards and these two just keep pushing all over experiences of them out of my mind. There was a Meursault 1er Cru Blagny “Sous Le Dos d’Ane” (£195 for 6) of similarly coruscating wonder that was a perfect example of the vineyard. It was also a bargain.

Finally, there is the cheapie. Sod the price, though, the Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Marc (£165 for 6) made me question all my years of devotion to Ramonet. It was a wonderfully enjoyable construction of incredible elegance and complexity that will make me expect greater things from every Chassagne I taste from now on. You have to love everything about it unreservedly and at £165 for 6 bottles I really question the relative importance of food. It is great it is so affordable, but it is really is great that it is trouser-detonatingly topping. At this price the ‘Amazing’-dial is turned beyond eleven.

I wrote a tweet about this yesterday. Reliving this tasting and going through my notes for the purposes of writing this article is actually remarkably moving for a lover of the very best Burgundy. After writing about those Olivier Leflaive Domaine wines I need to go and sit in a dark room for a few minutes.

On to the reds and once again Francoise and Denis Clair’s wines bowled me over for their relatively humble appellations. The Santenay Clos Genet (£144 for 12) was a highly enjoyable example of Pinot whilst the two Santenay 1er Crus (Clos de la Comme at £189 for 12 and Clos Tavannes at £199 for 12) were properly serious wines, with ageing potential, that I thought would have a remarkably pleasure-providing drinking profile. The fruit/tannin/acid balance on these was just a delight.

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The jolly Thibaut Marion has recently taken over Domaine Seguin-Manuel and what he does with Savigny-Les-Beaune frankly staggers my prejudiced and opinionated mind. His Vieilles Vignes (£139.50 for 12) was Pinot Nor at its most enjoyable and accessible. It may age in the medium term, but when it is so joyously pleasurable at this age I’d just drink my case the afternoon I received it. He also showed a 1er Cru Lavieres (£169 for 12), Saigny’s best 1er Cru. It was indeed a big step up in terms of structure and complexity, but again was bursting with the uninhibited delight of Pinot and the very best pleasure Savigny can deliver. These wines were both utterly drinkable, will not require decades in the cellar and won’t cause irate text messages from your bank; I highly recommend them.

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Another delightfully pretty Savigny followed, 1er Cru Aux Fourneaux from Domaine Chandon de Briailles (£215 for 12). I’ve found Briailles wines to be a tad on the linear and lean side in the past but this was just happy drinking and, yes, I drank. I most certainly drank the Corton Marechaudes Grand Cru (£505 for 12) – Corton just should not be so engorged with pleasure. It was really fruity, really fun and fit for frolics. It did have a really good structure and I felt it would age well, but was just taken with its loveliness. Lovely, isn’t that a good thing? Claude Drouhin who was showing the wines was particularly pleased with her Corton Bressandes (£580 for 12). This was more structured and rigorous, made for long-term ageing, but once again the fruit was utterly delicious and totally in harmony with its tannins and acid. I rather liked it as it was, but it’ll be terribly good when fully mature. Despite owning quite a lot of their wines, I’ve had mixed experiences with this producer in the past, 2010 is the very best vintage I’ve tried from them.

Four excellent reds from Domaine Champy followed starting with a fun Chorey-Les-Beaune (£125 for 12) – I could knock this back all afternoon. You may have gathered my general views on Pernand-Vergelesses but the 1er Cru Les Vergelesses (£185 for 12) was ripe and fruity with a bracing backbone of acidity. Quite balanced and it slipped down a treat (yes, this was right the end of the tasting loomed, my back was in agony from standing up all day too). Their Beaune 1er Cru Aux Cras (£225 for 12) was just as winsome as one wants from a Beaune, but had good structure and I liked its complexity. They had a scrummy cask sample of Corton Les Rougets Grand Cru (£455 for 12) but I must admit I was still thinking a bit about Claude Drouhin… I mean her wines (see picture above).

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Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg rarely fail to deliver and their Vosne-Romanee village (£340 for 12) was clearly singing. Quite exotic and classy, whilst being sculpted and utterly elegant it delivered a complete Vosne village experience. They’re not quite as screamingly cheap as they were a few years ago but if you want pretty much the best Vosne village this is the wine to go for. Also on show was a Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Chaignots (£245 for 6) and it was clearly extremely refined and highly attractive. I enjoyed it no end but my eyes kept drifting to the bottle on the next table…

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Freddie Mugnier’s Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale (£415 for 12) was a screaming, howling beauty. Terroir is somewhat in the winery and Mugnier’s Nuits does show a hint of Chambolle character, but for me this was not only the best Marechale he has ever made but probably the best young Nuits I’ve ever tried. It had it all: finesse, structure, style, class, fruit, harmony, tits out fun, intellectual involvement, everything! I heard a couple of people saying that it wasn’t showing very well as I tasted it and I had to sternly rebuke them. Freddie M.’s wines rarely show badly and this was a throbbing pleasure of the most fulfilling kind. Irresistible.

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Before my back gave out I tried the Lambrays reds. The Morey villages (£345 for 12) was a wonderfully satisfying Morey of super typicality and definite class; if you like Lambrays Morey you should get this as it’s the best I’ve had in years. Personally, pleased as I am M. Brouin now has no problems selling his wines I find his pricing policy a tad aggressive and having as I do chums in Morey good enough to sell me wine each year, my money will go elsewhere. Harder to resist was the mind-warpingly intricate and refined Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru (£455 for 6). This is a Grand Cru to sell favoured relatives to obtain and every bottle you open will have you writhing around the floor groaning and anointing yourself with it in ways you really should try to avoid at dinner. It was bloody brilliant.

I’m really vexed that nearly dying last year resulted in me missing my annual trip to Burgundy and tasting at all my friends’ domaines. However, this sample of the vintage shows me that when I go back this summer and try some of the wines in bottle there will be much hugging of chums. There was much hugging of my contact at Haynes, Hanson and Clark who invited me along to this event; I couldn’t have wished it would be so good. Lovers of Burgundy should be afraid of 2010. Really quite afraid. When you try wines this wonderfully fine you’ll want to spend very large piles of cash.

Contact details:
Haynes, Hanson and Clark
, 7 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT
Telephone: 020 7584 7927
Fax: 020 7584 7967
Email: london@hhandc.co.uk

Oh yes, after a long day on my feet my back was screaming at me. My teeth were also not in the best of condition thanks to plenty of tannin and acidity. So what better than stopping at Herman ze German!

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For bratwurst, Fritz-cola and painkillers.

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A guest review of the Howard Ripley 2010 Burgundy tasting will follow in a couple of days.