On Tuesday night The Editor and I hosted our lovely friend Richard for a dinner party. Unusually for us, it included no German Riesling, but we had plenty of fine wine (and some not so fine) to keep us merry. I shall attempt brief tasting notes below.
Champagne Fleuron 2010 Blanc des Blancs, Gimonnet et fils
This is the Elitistreview Towers’ house vintage Champagne and whilst it says it is a premier cru wine on the front label, 68% of the grapes actually come from rather spiffy grand cru villages. Of course, the percentage system ranking villages as grand, premier or lower cru is a load of old toss, but I have tweaked that nose so often I will not bore you with it again.
This wine was aged on lees until disgorgement in July of 2018, which is one hell of a long time. It makes the wine smell very fresh and powerfully lemon fruit-driven. It smells rounder, fruitier and more generally buxom than the Gimonnet wines of old which did not have such extended lees contact. It is less screamingly raw, that is for sure. However it is still precisely delineated and as focussed as space-based lasers should be on the residential wing of the White House.
There is lovely lemon fruit is on the palate, but it is clearly a lemon variety selected for maintaining its acid long into the lemon-ripening period. There is a very grippy, ectomorphic limestone character that reaches to every corner of your mouth and makes you glad you have not just had a filling drop out.
That extended lees-ageing has given it a bit of flesh and quite obvious charm and, if you remember what wines like the Fleuron 2002 tasted like on release, you would never guess they were made by the same producer. That 2002 had extraordinary ageing potential, though, and I am sure this will too.
The mousse is perfectly fine and scintillates across your palate after you have swallowed, this is definitely a wine for swallowing, along what finishes up being a traditionally Gimonnet acid rip with the limestone characters egging them on to leave your mouth distinctly puckered up having taking a good slapping. Yeah, delicious!
Wild Rose 2015, Black Chalk
Another Black Chalk, this time a rosé. Cannot be as good as the proper stuff I reported on recently then. No, it is better, a lot better! It has a powerhouse of a rosé nose – not just red fruits but actual black fruits, acidic blackcurrants and a hint of just ripe cherries. It is surprisingly weighty and uproarious nose as far as wines with l’esprit de Hampshire go and it is absolutely gorgeous for being so.
As soon as you take a mouthful it is the sensation elegance and fineness of the mousse that grabs you by the uvula. The very first impression is of breathtaking finesse and poise.
Then you taste the regal layers of flavour, depth and complexity in this Black Chalk Wild Rose 2015, which leave you effervescent with excitement! That acidic black fruit is there in abundance. There are hints of redcurrant and lime too as well as some more traditional lemony fruit that all swirl around your mouth in a perfectly harmonious, grippy, limestone-y washing machine spin of elegant bubbles and fine, fine acidity.
It is the depth and sophistication of flavours that get me with this wine. Moreover, like me, it is wild! There is an edgy, nervous tension to the harmony between all that complex flavour, the tenacious limestone and acid grip that marry together with what I suspect is a tiny little bit more dosage than one gets in Champagne.
This is a pink sparkling wine so good, so thrilling it will suddenly make you aware that there are liquids in your rude bits. Black Chalk deliver a brilliant wine yet again! Chapeau!
Riesling Grand Cru Sommerberg ‘Granite’ 2017, Julien Schaal
Made by a lovely French winemaker who only makes Grand Cru Riesling in Alsace – to me this seems a very sensible policy. He has some bleeding marvellous vineyards, this is one of his least famous and so therefore his cheapest even though it is a damned-good Grand Cru for Riesling. I look forward to drinking some of his flashier vineyards, based on this, which basically gives away the fact that this is going to be a positive note about an Alsace Riesling.
Positive notes on Alsace Riesling are a rare thing these days. Our guest (tasting it blind) immediately punted that it was Austrian, or a Mosel Grosses Gewächs dry Riesling. That is how little people drink or even think about Alsace Riesling these days even though I thought it honked of the stuff.
One of the reasons people do not think about Alsace wines is because they are pissed off with buying bottles from Alsace and not having the faintest clue how sweet or dry they are going to be. In the middle of the label at the bottom this wine announces that it is sec/dry. It is reasonably dry, not as dry as I would like but it would go with the rich, porky food of Alsace quite well.
It smells of Sommerberg Riesling, stoney and limey with (dare I say it? Dare, dare!) perhaps the mildest hint of insecticide. It is complex and attractive. The palate has a lot of acidity, which is useful in the fight against residual sugar, and powerful ripe lime fruit with a yummy bit of peachy-ness. I have to say I prefer this to any of Jean Boxler’s myriad of Sommerberg Riesling Cuvees as it is pretty direct about itself. It is a dry-ish, fruity, powerfully stoney, quite complex Alsace Riesling, and it is delicious!
Chardonnay ‘Confluence’ 2017, Julian Schaal
It is the same bloke, with a bottle of South African Chardonnay from a vineyard by the confluence of two rivers in Hemel-en-Aarde. That is the life, eh? Spending your time jetting between your fine Riesling vineyards in Alsace and your ultra-fashionable Chardonnay vineyards in South Africa! Can this possibly compare to a vineyard farmed for millennia planted with the greatest white grape variety?
Well, apart from when I initially poured it and mistakenly thought the oak seemed a bit heavy handed, I think this is better than the Alsace Riesling. As my Burgundian friends know, Chardonnay can be heavily marked in character by where it is grown and I think this wine is. There is a real gravelly/stoniness to it that leap out of the glass with the refined oak aromas and lean, precise lemon fruit.
The palate is quite delicious. Restrained, focused with good fruit and very good harmony. I left a big slug of this in my glass throughout the rest of the evening, especially when I tried the next white, and even though it was warmer and was exposed to oxygen, it actually stayed very taut and focused. After about 20 minutes it was almost Chablis-like with its high acidity showing and restrained, minimalistic aromas and flavours on the nose and palate. Its sense of place was obvious. A really lovely, small scale wine of great charm.
I have not had that much South African Chardonnay but, even though I had learned from the previous wine that Julien Schaal is quite gifted winemaker, I find this wine very encouraging. It shows that South African Chardonnay can be minimalistic and beautiful, with real focus, purity and complexity. I will be very happy to try more Saffer Chardy and I will buy more of this again. I really loved it! I cannot resist telling you where to get it from, but if you are buying loads do send a bottle or two to Elitistreview Towers, eh? Handford Wines sell it. I feel very lucky to have tried it. Top Chardonnay!
Meursault Premier Cru Charmes 2011, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey
I feel that I must apologise to Richard, who hoped to give us a good time with a really flash, muy expensivo bottle of PYCM white Burgundy, and I just hated it. Sorry Richard – you were robbed and this was a failure.
It started off reasonably well. There was a degree of restraint, some of that ‘struck match’ reductive wood character, and I will grant that the acidity was pretty good. Unfortunately, as it breathed and warmed up it underwent a transformation that I picture very vividly.
This wine turned into a plain, dumpy schoolgirl with thick glasses, sitting alone and unloved at the side of a swimming pool, whilst all her classmates had a wild time in the pool. This is all because she persuaded her mother to sign her off sports because she would rather stuff greasy crisps into her vacantly gaping maw and be stubbornly antisocial than have a good time with friends. That is very much how I picture this wine.
I feel sorry for people stupid enough to pay a fortune for wines like this, then feel obliged to be impressed by them because they are oh so famous and pricy, when they actually provide very little pleasure. Yes, there is a lot of good white Burgundy, this is not one of them, but almost all of them are priced so highly they would make Croesus weep. White Burgundy is such poor value, buy the Confluence and have a good time.
Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Cherbauds 1999, Domaine Fourrier
There was a time when Fourrier was the shit stuff that you had to buy in order to get some quality Burgundy. Then, one happy year, you rang up your wine merchant, credit card already smoking in anticipation, and said in jocular tone, “About my Fourrier order…”
“It is all sold!”, the merchant snapped and hung up. 1999 was well after that. So was 2002 – I had a magnum of 2002 Fourrier that I paid £70 for and just as I found out it was worth over £2000, I also found out it had been stolen. This still makes me fume as my reasonable collection of bottles like that were my only assets. Bugger.
The nose is a glorious 20 year old Gevrey-Chambertin nose – lovely, rigorous minerality and great softly-maturing fruit. Very complex, very sophisticated, quite lovely! There is a subtle earthy tang but this is a polished, silken Gevrey-Chambertin of style and class.
The palate is very refined with a pronounced but very, very silky character, it has a very fine streak of acidity running through it too which makes it a lively, lovely, perky structure. It is very much alive and quite charged with energy.
Its fruit is delicious. Soft and mature but present in rich abundance. Very pleasing. The fruit and the acidity linger after you swallow, making you think this wine is capable of further development. Not much, I think. Further life, on the other hand, absolutely! If you have a good cellar you can certainly drink it with the huge pleasure we experienced, but there is no rush at all. A very fine Burgundy we are very grateful to Richard for bringing!
Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2001, Jean Grivot
I vehemently oppose the death penalty, but every time I have a Jean Grivot wine I wonder why my beliefs are so strong…
Similarly, every time someone makes me drink a wine from the man I think that they secretly hate me. I know you do not hate me, Richard, but please lay down your other bottle of this and avoid it. The last time I had a bottle of Grivot Clos de Vougeot was a 2008 and it was not as bad as this, so I had better stop thinking horrible thoughts about the poor man.
This smelled like dried out old wine with some ghastly shade of fruit still lurking about the obvious graveyard of a loathsome nose. This may be an uncharitable assessment, but this smelled uncharitable to me.
Again there was a shade of fruit on the palate but it was as hard as the muscles of the people who must have been employed to do 24 hour a day pigeage at Grivot in 2001 – Christ it is extracted! It also had a nasty metallic tang that was even less attractive than I am trying to make it sound. Left a dry burn on one’s palate. No. Unspeakable filth.
I feel I should say you can get the Julien Schaal Alsace Riesling (plus his other vineyards) from http://www.handford.net/ as well. You should get some, best Alsace wine I have had in ages!
Great notes Davy. Agree entirely with you on Julian Schaal. His confluence and indeed other SA Chardonnay are excellent and such good value . And as for Grivot ———-what a waste of money. Never ready and totally ridiculous price
Absolutely, Keith! Grivot charges more each year and I think his wines miss the point of Burgundy – they are neither pleasurable nor beautiful. I paid him a visit with a bunch of friends once – we were there just after M. Rovani so a lot of serious stuff was open. We all tried our hardest to be polite, but I’ve never been in an environment where so much pure hatred was being directed at one person. I almost feel sorry for him…
The Confluence was really lovely, a wine truly worth every penny. Will buy more. I have more to try. What is the SA Chardonnay you really like? Lismore or something like that?
Oh I wanted to say, but forgot, that all three of us agreed there were two wines of the night: Black Chalk and the Fourrier, but you probably could have guessed that. The 2016 Wild Rose is out and I’m eager to get a bottle and review it to pieces! Jancis herself was even more complimentary about that than she was about the 2015 Wild Rose.
Also agreed. I have bought both and prefer the confluence of Julian’s wines. Grivot has never been my cup of tea either. PYCM I do like, but always buy the junior wines. BB and St Aubin – and have yet to be disappointed.
Alex old bean, people have noticed that the BB and StA are PYCM’s ‘better value’wines and when I’ve looked at prices recently they are anything but. It’s true I’ve had better bottles of his stuff in the past, but this was so boring it was antisocial, and that’s not really very nice, is it?
Grivot surely doesn’t have an age left in change of his vineyards and let us hope the next generation actually likes Pinot Noir!
If I may continue ranting, and this may not bother you as you earn a living wage (ah how I suffer for my art😂😂😂😂😂), how many bottles of Confluence could you get for the cost of a quality PYCM? I know they are different things, but that Confluence was bloody good!
This evening was a lot of fun, thank you David and Dani. The Black Chalk was a mega-revelation. Wow! Sometimes ‘impressive’ is used of wine in a disapproving manner, but this was both impressive and delicious. So full of summery fruit, but precise and stony at the same time. And both Schaal wines very classy.
As for the PYCM… what a let down. I love his St Aubin 1ers, and I have enjoyed many bottles of the ‘junior’ Chassagnes and Meursaults, but I very rarely get to taste the really fancy wines. On this showing, that’s no great cause for regret. It was just boring.
Grivot Vougeot. Hmm. I don’t quite agree this was irredeemably poor wine. Extracted for sure, and totally the wrong time to open it. Could better wine have been made from the same grapes? Surely yes. But, I do think it will eventually turn into a properly perfumed Grand Burgundy. Maybe in a decade or two. Except for the fact this was my only bottle of course.
Firstly, thank you for coming and thank you for bringing those wines.!t’s always really lovely to see you and your wines always spark many thoughts – usually glowingly positive!
I agree entirely about the ‘impressive’ characteristics of the Black Chalk, who’d have thought it of an English rosé? It was superb wine and I cannot wait to try the 2016, that has just been released.
Real shame about the PYCM. One doesn’t get to drink wines like that every day and when you do you hope for fireworks. Very big fireworks that you get to light (lighting fireworks is the best bit)! ‘Boring’ is such a let down. To be fair to the man 2011 was a really difficult vintage and the wine lasted 8 years, which is more than some do.
The Grivot, hmmmm….. I must admit that with so much wine between so few of us I might have been a tad newscasted (I cannot remember, so I probably was) so my prejudices might have got the better of me. However, whatever it was, it was not a beautiful, pleasurable wine, and that is what I feel Burgundy should be. The Cherbaudes was bleeding marvellous in the ‘pleasure’ and ‘beauty’ departments. I think we all got a thrill that it was so good! Really fantastic indeed. That sort of thing is I’d be happy to drink with great celebration every day!!
Once again, thank you for coming, Richard, and I hope we see you soon. Unless we are NFI at casa Brooks I might even be brave enough to make it into Town for a lunch meeting, assuming Dani is strong enough to carry all the bottles we’d need to bring in order to stop me running off in your once the act of ‘being in London’ gets too much for me 🤪
See you soon!
It was lovely to see you Richard. Thank you for bringing some excellent wines, particularly the Cherbaudes which had all the beauty and class one can wish for in a Burgundy.
Reading your report I am glad I sold my two cases of the Grivot for a very decent sum, Davy. I do like the wines in principle but one could make the case that they never come round; though the style is now much friendlier the once reasonable prices are now a deliberate act of aggression.
I like PYCM very much but it has always seemed to me that one gets what he has to offer from his very cheapest wines, and a Charmes 09 yesterday was good but entirely unarresting, particularly in the company of an absolutely electric Ente Clos Des Ambres 12 which you would have adored, the very last word in steely definition and in many ways as good as white wine gets, I am still enthralled by its grip.
I love the idea of steely definition, Tom, we started with a Gimonnet (albeit a charming one) after all! Chardonnay can be so remarkably good, when it is very good, that one forgets entirely that it is Chardonnay!