Burgundy 2018 Cote de Nuits en primeur tasting of Clark Foyster Wines

This is a report on the Côte de Nuits 2018 Burgundies I tasted at the Clark Foyster wines en primeur event on the 17 January 2020. I would like to start off by thanking Isabelle Clark and Lance Foyster of  Clark Foyster Wines for inviting The Editor and I to taste their impressive selection of wines.

Next comes the usual disclaimer about en primeur tastings. They are tastings of unfinished wines that are still evolving in barrel. They may be samples from one barrel, which could be old or new, mixtures of the only wines deemed to be in a state suitable for travel or blends of Christ alone knows what!

The point is I am tasting wines that are not in their finished state or reflective of the final composition of the completed wine and so only vague conclusions about what the finished wines will be like can be drawn.

I have done a lot of these en primeur tasting, but I still warn, buy based on this article at your peril! I do not think you will go too wrong, if I may bask in the glow of my own ego for a second…

The prices given are for a case of six in bond. That’s what you pay up front. Before you can get your hands on the wine you have to pay duty (currently £2.23 a bottle) and VAT (an additional 20% on top of the price plus duty). Clear? Good!

Finally, in this rather prosaic introduction to the introduction, please forgive any howlers of spelling mistakes or grammatical constructions. I am still waiting for the final donation that will allow me to get my hand in working order.

Therefore, I am dictating this into my iPhone. It is not perfect. Neither is my editing and refinement process with one-handed typing (not meaning anything rude is happening). The Editor is only human – albeit a generally wonderful human. We may miss some mistakes. Onwards, excelsior! Onwards!

Introduction to the vintage and wines

Billed as an année solaire this really is a mixed bag of a vintage. Some wines are really tannic, some plump and round, others elegant and refined and several really fresh and lively.

I do not think there are any real trends in each village, it is all down to the choices made growing the fruit, the harvest date and actions taken in the winery. If you are buying without tasting, even tasting unfinished wines liked these, it will be a bit of a minefield.

The good news is almost all those mines are really lovely! There is the odd palate blaster, but general quality is high and the wines delicious.

The key to the best wines is balance. Wines that have fruit, tannin, acidity, alcohol and any winemaking jiggery-pokery like new oak interwoven together to form a harmonious, seamless whole will provide most pleasure and mature gracefully.

On this last note I must say the notion that one wants to age butch, tannic wines, because eventually the tannin will resolve and a beautiful wine will blossom, is risible. Overly tannic wines just dry out, losing what fruit they ever had, leaving only acrid, bitter horribleness. No, the key to ageing is balance and harmony.

One thing the heat of the vintage did allow is the stems of the grape bunches to lignify. This allowed some producers to vinify between 20-100% of their grapes as whole bunches, stems and grapes together.

My friend Jeremy Seysses has been telling me for over 25 years that vinifying with ripe, lignified stems does not impart green/stemmy/plant-y flavours.

Rather they lighten the colour of the final wine (who cares), absorb tannins (great in a potentially too tannic vintage like 2018) and impart freshness and acidity (also great in a vintage like 2018 where some vineyards could produce plump wines).

Fermenting with whole bunches, or at least a proportion of them, seems to be on the rise in recent years; maybe a consequence of the increase in temperatures in the region or just one of those fashions that comes in and goes out from time to time. Certainly, in 2018 I preferred the wines of producers who used whole bunches to some degree.

The wines that did not charm were either porcine, as tannic as a leather-production factory or simply quaquaversal from being in an awkward stage of evolution. The last will resolve and I will attempt to predict their future, the first two are to be avoided like the plague, they are bloody awful.

I feel I must make a comment on the prices of these wines, so:

Jesus Christ, they are bleeding expensive!

Will that do? No. Ok, well it is true that these wines are pretty expensive. This is especially true if you want a proper vineyard that holds a picture gallery of spades in terms of charm, complexity, harmony, longevity and sheer class.

However, these wines are at or near the zenith that Burgundy produces and there is no region in the world that produces Pinot Noir with anywhere near the quality of Burgundy.

My organ is Elitistreview. I am interested in reviewing the best whether or not most of my readers (nor I for that matter) can buy into that level of quality.

Consequently, I’m happy to recommend these rather pricy wines and highlight those that after three best – never mind the price. The 1% should be grateful for the recommendations I give!

That being said, I do not want to give recommendation to such a small proportion of my readers. Therefore, for the following 9% I will give some recommendations of relative bargains that represent extreme quality Burgundy for just a bit less folding.

Hopefully more people will find these useful. I will give all my picks of the vintage (priceless and slightly price-conscious) after the producer reports below.

What about something to pour for we poor, poor souls for whom all of these jewels of the Côte d’Or are simply unreachable?

You will be pleased to know I can brush some scraps from the table that we should all be happy to own – they are damned good scraps! I discuss these in a little section after I have done with all the stuff we would prefer to possess. Your wallets (and your palates) will thank me. Grateful gifts gladly gathered!;)

Côte de Nuits 2018 – the producers and their wines

Domaine Fourrier

I have been tasting these wines en primeur since Jean-Marie Fourrier took the reins of this Domaine. They almost never show well at these tastings. They are usually quaquaversal, closed and strongly marked by gum-busting tannins.

With regard to this last point, I wish they would add a proportion of whole bunches to their ferments… Ah! I have just read that they did this with some wines from the 2019 vintage. Good!

However, since I have been following these wines for such an extended time I have been able to follow them through the ageing process. My early prognostications that, given enough time, they would develop into poised entities of loveliness turned out to be correct! Hooray for me!

The wines are extracted, but not over-extracted (as Grivot wines are) and, hidden in that powerful structure, they have a lot of lovely fruit (unlike Grivot’s wines) – you just need to be patient.

These days, Fourrier wines are some of the most lusted after in the world and priced to match. If you have an allocation you should keep it. Even if you cannot wait long enough for the wines to come around, you are pretty much guaranteed to make a juicy profit if you sell them years down the line – especially from a vintage like 2018 which is undoubtedly very good.

Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vigne (£243) – This was in an awkward phase of its evolution but it clearly had a great depth of flavour and enough tannin to support it for a long life. That long life includes a relatively long wait before you can drink it, but that is part of the Fourrier experience.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Goulots (£540) – I do not think this sample was chosen from a great barrel. It seemed quite woody and tough, with very powerful tannins and oddly (for Fourrier, I have never experienced this in any of his finished wines) it seemed slightly dilute.

History shows this is a very good wine when complete, but if I tried this and was looking to buy a Fourrier 1er cru I would choose one of the two that I normally prefer anyway: Cherbaudes (£513) or Combe aux Moines (£540) – this last one is invariably fantastic.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques (£1,260) – Pricy, eh? It is damned good though. Layers and layers of powerful fruit interleaved between a rigorous structure of ripe tannins and good acidity. Great length, really stylish and incredibly classy.

Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini

It was great to see Simon Mazzini at the tasting and be able to tell him for the umpty-third time in a row that his wines seem to get better with every vintage. His answer to almost every question was, “I just spend all my time in the vineyard making sure we can produce the best fruit possible. If the fruit is good, the wine is good.”

There have been changes in the winery. The wines use increasing proportions of whole bunches in the ferment rising from 20% in the first wines to 100% for the last two wines. This undoubtedly venustates the wines to a high degree. In what was a clearly very tannic vintage, the tannins have been ameliorated by using stems and it gives the wines a lot of freshness and energy.

More so than ever, this is a first-rate Domaine and, if you want to own some of the jewels of Burgundy, you can do a lot worse than fill your boots here. Seriously, there is little more expressive, elegant and age-worthy Burgundy being made in Gevrey currently. First rank wines.

Thankfully, this Domaine does not rely on the dreaded cork to seal its wines, rather Ardea seals. This is bloody brilliant. If I owned and aged some of these fabulous wines, I would weep countless tears if I opened a precious bottle and a bloody bit of rancid tree bark had ruined it.

Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes (£225) – Good god this is a lovely village wine! A depth of flavour from the old vines, profound but ripe tannins, an impressive, complex length. First order Gevrey villages.

Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Village (£252) – Hell’s donkeys, this is even better! Elegant, cool, refined with lovely energy and freshness. It is so pure and focussed – Chambolle de chez Gevrey!

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru La Perriere (£360) – Showing very well, with plenty of fruit and a lively acidity to keep it balanced. This will age into a deeply complex wine of real refinement. Really good.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Goulots (£360) – Refined tannins but still very obviously classy Gevrey turangawaewae. There is rigour to it, but it does not detract from the polished, seamless nature of the palate that has all its elements in perfect harmony. Wonderful.

Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Les Millandes (£381) – What a nose! Black fruit with a hint of a floral character, really involute and incredibly attractive. Pretty tannic palate but there is a lot of fruit, fine acidity and a really pleasing freshness. Top shelf Morey to age.

Clos St Denis Grand Cru (£960)This is why we love Burgundy and seek out fine examples whenever we can. Profound nose of flowers, dark fruit and stone – full of life and really vigorous. Totally beguiling. The palate is rather tannic, but it is in perfect harmony with all its other components. This is a wine totally at ease with its own greatness and has what it needs where it needs it to provide pleasure over decades of ageing. Pretty much at the zenith of Burgundy quality.

Domaine Henri Jouan

Now run by son Philippe, that is perhaps the only thing that has changed. Philippe’s grandfather’s 100-year-old wooden press is still used, and the winemaking is, as ever, designed for ‘people who like fruit’.

This fruit is particularly evident in the 2018 vintage, but the delicious laiscarpotic character of the wines is never allowed to become too outrageously lascivious.

In the wines where M. Jouan thought there balance a bit off and the wines lacking freshness, he added tiny amounts off verjus – the juice from green, unripe grapes. This restored balance, raised acidity and give the wines the delicious crunchy freshness that the very best wines of Jouan always possess.

As I said, Jouan wines are about fruity first. So only 20-40% new oak is used, and the wines are never marked by its character.

The best wines will age, but I feel Jouan wines are approachable young and provide a lot of pleasure when bursting with delicious fruit and charged with life and energy. This maybe a very ‘Morey’ Domaine, but all wines are true to their terroirs.

Keen pricing here!

Morey-St-Denis (£192) – In an awkward stage of its evolution. One gets the feeling that there is a quality Morey villages lurking in there, but it is going to take time to blossom.

Chambolle-Musigny (£240) – Wow, a delicious nose of refined fruit and supple charm. The palate is deliciously fruity, but finely balanced by good acidity. Very fresh. Very Chambolle.

Gevrey-Chambertin aux Echezeaux (£234) – Really supple and charming. There is Gevrey rigour and good complexity here, but this is a Gevrey that has been to Morey’s charm school. Quite delicious and a real bargain. You could age it, but I would have no idea why you would want to. I wish I could have walked out of the tasting with a couple of bottles of this to jolly The Editor and I along on our miserable trip home. Delicious and one of the picks of the tasting.

Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Clos Sorbe (£414) – Another bottle not showing absolutely brilliantly here, but the charm and complexity were obvious. Real depth of flavour, deeply lovely, great length. A top shelf Morey 1er cru.

Clos-St-Denis Grand Cru (£810) – Incredible presence on the nose and palate, huge depth of flavour. It is a stunner alright. Maybe not as ultimately fine as the Heresztyn-Mazzini CSD, but simply oozing with winning charm and pure love (in a completely non-rude manner). Revel in its gorgeousness!

Domaine Bertheau

I do not want to be accused of being a smellfungus, but the wines of Bertheau make me cruppish – they are depressingly inconsistent. One year fabulous, the next terrible. I wish they would maintain the incredible quality of the first two vintages I tried, starting with the 2005 vintage.

Francois Bertheau described this as a masculine vintage; I suppose it is useful to have an excuse for the massive stylistic variations he produces in his wines…

Extremely charitably-speaking, the massive problems displayed in the samples I tasted could be down to weird bottlings of wines taken at odd times in their evolution. I do not believe that at all. I think these wines are bloody awful.

Unless you are buying these wines for investment purposes, give up your allocation and ask Lance and Isabelle for some Fourrier, Heresztyn-Mazzini, Jouan or Confuron-Gindre (see below) instead. You are not going to have much fun drinking these.

Chambolle-Musigny (£288) – If this is masculine it is a rather flabby man wearing the frilliest, frumpiest dress the imagination can handle. It is blowsy, with overblown fruit with no tannin to speak of. Where is the beauty of Chambolle-Musigny? Where is any trace of harmony? Simply dreadful.

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru (£372) – This has a blowsy nose but the palate is marked by harsh, acrid tannins. Saying this was insipid would be praising it highly, it is far more unpleasant than that.

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru les Charmes (£492) – Blowsy, confected fruit on the nose. The palate has harsh tannins, is horribly acrid and that confected fruit does not fit with this vile structure at all. The least charming Charmes I have ever had the misfortune not to have avoided tasting.

Domaine Confuron-Gindre

Confuron-Gindre produced brilliant 2014s but have drifted a bit since then. They are right back on track with the 2018 vintage!

The son of the current owners, Edouard, is taking over more and more of the winemaking duties. Indeed, some wines will appear under his own label in the future. He is acquiring some lovely Vosne Suchots for the 2019 vintage and some Clos Vougeot (where in the Clos, one wonders?) for subsequent vintages.

Edouard uses more whole bunches, up to 40%, in his ferments, his parents would use a maximum of 25%. This may account for why his village wines have a taut firmness to them as well as opulent fruit.

This structure could also be imparted by the week-long cold soak he gives his grapes before the start of fermentation. Normally I would not approve of such things (curse the name of Accad!), but I cannot argue with the results here!

Remarkable quality for highly reasonable prices in the pay-to-enter diamond mine of the Côte d’Or!

Bourgogne Rouge (£60) – Fruity, fleshy, fun! Drink it the moment it is delivered with enormous grins on your faces. Do not try to age it. This is already ripe for plucking.

Nuits St Georges (£186) – A solid Nuits with good village character but a hint more flesh than one would normally expect from a Nuits villages. A bit buxom, but still a good, fresh wine.

Vosne-Romanée (£204) – This is quite exotic and, again, rather fleshy, but it have a good backbone of acidity and tannin that keeps it fresh and in balance. Not, I think, for long ageing, but it is extremely good for a village wine.

Vosne-Romanée La Colombiere (£228) – a village lieux-dits that has been separated from the basic Vosne villages. It is exotic and perfumes, with some flesh, but with a taut backbone that keeps everything balanced and harmonious. This is seriously good for the price.

Vosne-Romanée Les Hautes-Maizieres (£228) – Another village named site, this is more buxom and just a bit fat. Really fleshy and fun, but not quite at the quality level of La Colombiere. You will be able to drink this quite long with a lot of smiles and giggles.

Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru les Chaumes (£288) – Wow, this is quite serious. Old vines depth and complexity, with a degree of elegance and refinement to it. It is really long, complex and scintillating on the palate. Totally delicious. Will age over the medium term at the very least.

Echezeaux Grand Cru (£480) – Grand Cru power allied with deeply lovely fruit and complex earthy spiciness. A rich, involute mouthful that provides a kaleidoscope of flavours and sensations as you chew it around. Fabulous wine, you should consider yourselves damned lucky that you can get a Grand Cru as good as this at such a price!

Three picks for the buyer given to abligurition:

Clos-St-Denis, Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini – The best Clos-St-Denis I have had in years. A profoundly fine wine.

Echezeaux Grand Cru, Domaine Confuron-Gindre – Absolutely lovely, bargain price too.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques, Domaine Fourrier – Well… erm… Yeah!

Three picks for the slightly more modest buyer

Vosne-Romanée La Colombiere, Domaine Confuron-Gindre – An upmarket village wine that you can drink or keep and it will provide a lot of pleasure throughout its life.

Gevrey-Chambertin aux Echezeaux, Domaine Jouan – What a wine at this price! Lovely as…

Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Village, Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini – This is just gorgeous, so elegant and refined. Truly fine Burgundy.

All that remains for me to do is thank Lance and Isabelle of Clark Foyster Wines for inviting The Editor and I to this wonderful tasting. We had a real whale of a time! I suggest you click on that link with great haste, get in touch with them, and offer large sums of money to get the best of this excellent vintage. There are some fine wines out there and a lot of the best are at Clark Foyster Wines.

Not quite all…

I promised something for those of us who find all these brilliant gems of the Côte de Nuits a little pricy. I afraid in order to do this we must leave the entire Côte d’Or behind us…

As I started writing this I got the en primeur offer from The Big Red Wine Company. They were only offering wines from the unfashionable Cote Chalonnaise. Fortunately, the producer they were offering is Domaine Joblot.

I like Domaine Joblot wines a lot. I reviewed one here. They are structured, have good fruit, are balanced and age (at least in good vintages). They are proper Burgundy, from a slightly less exalted region and so priced less like diamonds.

Juliette Joblot’s range starts with a Givry ‘Preface’ (£192) that provides fun, easy drinking.

There are then four 1er Crus that sit adject to each other in a little limestone amphitheatre that acts as a sun trap. The Two price points mark a (slight) difference in interest-level between them. The 1er Crus are:

Givry 1er Cru ‘Clos Marole’ – £222
Givry 1er Cru ‘Bois chevaux’ – £222
Givry 1er Cru ‘Clos du Cellier aux Moines’ – £228
Givry 1er Cru ‘Servoisine’ – £228

Servoisine has historically been my favourite, but these days I am rather taken with the Joblot prestige cuvee: Givry 1er Cru “L’Empreinte” (£240). This is the wine I reviewed the 2016 vintage of, and it is a really serious Burgundy that will provide pleasure when young or age for what some will find a surprising period of time considering how unfashionable these wines are. I have scored myself a six-pack of this.

Now, you maybe thinking these in bond prices are not too different to the price of some of the proper stuff, at least at the lower end. The prices I gave for the Cote de Nuits wines were for six-packs, these prices are for cases of twelve. That makes them quite a lot different, does it not?

I highly recommend Joblot’s wines and I think most of my readers will also enjoy them. When you have made your credit card melt buying Cote de Nuits red Burgundy, just keep the card number readable long enough so you can score a case of these tasty little numbers. You will thank me for introducing them to you forever!

Speak to James at The Big Red Wine Company and he will sort you out!

Thank you, and goodnight!

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