Enjoyed last week another Burgundy dinner using L’Abattoir (last referenced here on December 7, 2020). A repeat pick-up treat procedure of food followed by Zoom sessions in what may be among the last ones for our patient vibrant wine groups in Vancouver anxious to return to restaurants now finally opening up. This Menu (with excellent detailed instructions again) suited mainly white Burgundy. Leftover cellar bottles of Maconnais white (mainly from Les Heritiers du Comte LAFON) were distributed and resulted in different reactions. Those with the younger vintages (or stellar aging 2010) were happy while those of older ones (including 2013, 2012, and 2009) less so. Your scribe had 2009 Macon-Chardonnay Clos de la Crochette Macon-Villages AC (clay-limestone at 200 metres facing south aged in larger barrels & demi-muids) that was tasty being rich, full and rather soft but definitely was better fresher a few years ago. Got me thinking about the best age for drinking these white Macon wines. They don’t age like Chablis Les Clos or Meursault Perrieres. Even though the grapes are picked early the terroir (and climate change) support earlier drinking in their first 5-8 years IMHO.
This event also got me focused on the opportunity to check out and purchase some current “values”. Certainly the Maranges, Cotes Chalonnaise, and Maconnais regions are generally doing better than most realize. Maranges was formed in 1989 from the 3 villages there of Cheilly, Dezize, and Sampigny producing nearly all red wine in a cherry juicy style when consumed young and currently being helped by climate change. Whites and reds from Chalonnaise led by Rully whites, Givry & Mercurey reds with the wonderful raspberries of Clos du Myglands well known from Faiveley. Maconnais too should be considered particularly the 2020 whites. Another underrated region much improved is Auxey-Duresses (better whites now!) as well as red Monthelie for better ripened fruit. 2020 is looking more consistent than 2019 & 2021 with some rather still good values. Monitor the releases – including 2020 Macon-Chardonnay!
Answer: Geosmin is a unique musty earthy smell you sometimes can notice in the aroma and taste of wine. It has a connection to a previous question asked here about “Petrichor” – the smell of rain on dry soil. For wine it can be caused by heavy rain resulting in soil bacteria landing on the grapes or contaminated through ground water. There is a good explanation about this issue relating to 2006 red Burgundy in the recent book “Burgundy Vintages – A History from 1845” by Allen D. Meadows and Douglas E. Barzelay on page 506. Geosmin also can sometimes be noticed in the taste of earthy beets and some “muddy” fish like catfish. Be aware of this word.
All Classified Burgundy has seen steadily rising prices starting off this third millennium. The top properties from the top producers have become really out of sight pricewise. The consumer now is looking at newer spots for better affordable values from the three villages in Maranges or even further south into Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais. Nevertheless the Auction market for Grand Cru (and even choice Premier Cru) remains bullish for those in that stratosphere led by DRC, Leroy, and the like. However, the strongest demand may well be family Domaine Rousseau that always seems to sell way above those ever increasing catalogue estimated high bids. Any Rousseau bottle is certainly a current “hot” popular auction item!
Your scribe has been a long time aficionado including a buyer of Rousseau up to and including the 2002 vintage. Since then the demand is so great that bottles are almost impossible to find locally and if so at very high prices indeed. Fortunate over the decades to have tasted many sensational bottles produced by Rousseau. Several postings made on this Blog including their Gevrey-Chambertin profile here on June 22, 2015 and more recently a spotlight on their prized Clos St Jacques holdings (vintages 2002, 1999, 1995, 1991, and 1989) here on October 19, 2020. Still there are a few old time collectors like generous Ian Mottershead who have some of these Rousseau treasures left and rather than sell them at auction are sharing them among friends. Lucky us! This all leads into an amazing wine dinner held for our Group of Eight at Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver on February 15, 2022 featuring 10 Rousseau beauties in two flights. Overall the wines were delightful as expected combining that sublime combo of enough power with perfect balance plus stunning elegance and complexity. Maybe high prices are warranted for those that can afford to cherish such amazing unique “works of art”. Some brief impressions as follows:
2005 CLOS DE LA ROCHE GRAND CRU: Only plot in Morey-St. Denis on calcareous soil with big stones but this one from the great 2005 vintage so typical power but impenetrable as still rather closed in. Needs more time to develop a better more open refined character.
2002 LAVAUX ST. JACQUES 1ER CRU: SE exposure of young vines just replanted 1992 in well drained soils cooler windy climate is paler forwardly softer lovely drinking right now.
2018 LAVAUX ST. JACQUES 1ER CRU: Same wine but 26 year old vines instead of 10 from improved terroir by climate change in warmer vintage all helps. Young dark concentrated big intense fruit already enjoyable but no rush.
1990 GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN AC: Blind: Very light aged rim open fragrant higher acidity of guess 1988? bit lean and simpler but better with the pork dish. Surprised it was 1990 but in tough company here.
1993 RUCHOTTES-CHAMBERTIN CLOS DES RUCHOTTES GRAND CRU: Underrated Monopole on compact rocks in cooler windy plot. Wonderful aromatic elegance with tertiary complexity from aging in bottle. Smooth texture with finesse and surprise of the night!
1999 GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN CLOS ST JACQUES 1er CRU: More clay at the bottom and white marl at the top. Star of our previous CSJ in 2020 tasting. Again shows impressively with integrated tannins drinking beautifully on a wonderful plateau presently. Admire the power with such delicacy! Wow.
1999 CHAMBERTIN CLOS DE BEZE GRAND CRU: Two northern plots here in deep rich soils is less charming than the same vintage of CSJ. Depth with a touch of classy aromatic Oriental spices but needs way more time to develop fully. Classic sensational treasure from an outstanding vintage.
1996 CHAMBERTIN GRAND CRU: Four parcels with east exposure. Fresh full and well structured. Variable vintage of harder wines from not the ripest year but good grape selection. Quite dense texture and tannins are still firm on the long finish with a touch of spicy licorice. Hope the fruit holds against that abundant acidity and tannins. Hopeful potential here but not as classy as 99 vintage.
1995 CHAMBERTIN GRAND CRU: Same vineyard a year older but a lot paler edge. Dropping some colour and is a lighter more forwardly vintage than 1996. Coming around for enjoyment now but no rush as still can take time in top storage. Don’t underestimate the improved potential and staying power of both Clos de Beze & Chambertin. Property themselves suggest 20-35 years minimum for those two.
1989 GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN CLOS ST JACQUES: Oldest one served from your scribe’s cellar is stylish and now ready. Beautiful bouquet capturing the harmonious delicacy of this site. Doesn’t have the power weight & intensity of that superb 1999 that is 10 years younger with a brilliant future even in 2032. Clive Coates rated this 19/20 in 1993 stating: “Very elegant. Fullish, beautifully balanced. Very ripe indeed, essence of fruit. Subtle. Long. Lovely.” Nonetheless even now 1989 sure shows the quality of this esteemed Domaine probably deserving of those elevated prices. Steal to buy at BCLDB outlet in May 1994 on sale reduced in price from $83.35 to $59.20. As Bob Dylan would say “For the times they are a-changin’. What a special treat to try 10 of their spectacular wines in one evening. Bliss.
Question: Are larger group gatherings festival-style for wine and/or food on the way back again?
Answer: Most topical question after two years with those tough Covid restrictions. Certainly things are starting to open up in Canada, USA, and in other countries. 2022 bodes optimistically for this type of event. The latest hot news is the successful return this week (February 14-16) of Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris reported today here by HARPERS.CO.UK.
Looks encouraging presently for many wine events in the future books scheduled to go ahead including Vinitaly in Verona April 10-13, Prowein in Dusseldorf May 15-17 & London Wine Fair June 7-9. Food events and restaurant capacities should be increasing in size too with Gala Dinners like La Paulee in New York March 12 & Los Angeles March 19 and others. Watch out for less virtual meetings and more in-person wine & food functions on the way in 2022!
So fortunate recently to be enjoying some older bottles of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande (PL). This property is a long time favourite of your scribe and it has been written up several times previously on this Blog including here on June 18, 2013. Actively followed and collected this property since proprietor May de Lencquesaing’s very first vintage of 1978. Arranged for her an important vertical dinner by our Commanderie de Bordeaux at the Four Seasons Hotel on November 13, 1986 that put Vancouver on her map with 12 vintages led off by both excellent 1983 & 1982 and going back to 1953 in Marie-Jeanne & 1934 in Magnum. Madame’s husband the General, who was present, preferred the “softer rounder voluptuous” 1982 but May admired the “tighter, firmer, balanced, more tannic, classic” 1983. Over the next 35 years many occasions arose to monitor those twin vintages including during hospitality stays with May as her guest at PL or later at her nearby Haut-Medoc sister property of Chateau Bernadotte. Many tasting-dinners of PL attended highlighted by one held at Jean-Georges in New York on October 6, 2002 where her best 7 vintages of the eighties (81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 88, and 89) were each provided en Imperiale (size of 8 standard bottles or 6 litres). Twenty years ago in that format your scribe was enthralled by the 1986 with those firm solid tannins (a record according to Emile Peynaud) yet balanced by an amazing core of intense special terroir fruit expression. Long ager for sure. More drinkable were the herbal 81, smooth charming 82, clean classic 83, elegant 85, younger austere 88 + great future rich 89. All truly remarkable!
Since the sale of the property in 2007 to Louis Roederer the PL wine continues at a very high level indeed among the other top Super Seconds under respected Directeur General Nicolas Glumineau since 2012. Nicolas said the wines of the eighties are “on a lovely plateau of drinking now” but is a big fan of their 1959 vintage. Recently he stated “2010 is in the shadow of 2009 today but 2010 has complexity & power for a long life ahead.” Different blends with 2010 66% cab sauv, 24 merlot, 7 cab franc, and 3 petit verdot compared with 2009 more cab sauv 75%/20M/0CF/5PV. He compares them to Opera with 2010 Verdi’s strength of Rigoletto while 2009 is the powerful duel of the Russian Tchaikovsky between Onegin & Lensky. The climate these days has warmed for better ripeness of the tannins and the cabernet franc variety (which suits the soil) now is being used much more in the blend instead of petit verdot. Admire how they currently are looking for freshness with that excellent 2019 in the same category as 2010.
Last week was filled with anticipation to try over 2 consecutive home dinners of roasted pheasant and chicken-mushroom lasagna, two well stored bottles of the 1983 (abv 12) & 1986 (abv 12.5) PL. Delight and surprise. It is now nearly 9 years later from my 2013 comment of “more classic and still needing more time to show at the highest level” for 1983. Pleased to report it is now showing fantastic at the highest plateau level which should continue for quite a while yet. May was right, it is classic and so outstanding with cassis and cigar box complexity approaching 40 years of age. PL stands way above the general vintage rating for 1983 (as noted here in November 11, 2013) with such a clean meticulously made delightful wine shining brightly. The surprise was how backward that 1986 PL still remains. The colour is a deep red, almost barrel sample like, with impressive intense fruit but lots of tannins and acidity remain, not showing any expected tertiary aromas. With airing in the decanter and warming it developed and opened somewhat but needs more time to show at the highest level ultimately expected. Patience.
Check out some other recent posts involving May’s 93rd birthday celebration at Chateau d’Yquem here on May 21, 2018 and our Zoom session plus recent screen photo here June 15, 2020. Meanwhile dynamo May is carrying on towards her 97th Birthday on May 17, 2022. Spending time in South Africa, Switzerland, and Bordeaux she is busy these days finalizing her historic manuscript of an amazing interesting life well lived. Expected to be published this year in French with a translation into English soon after. Anxiously awaiting. All the best wishes. Many thanks for all your valuable contributions to all of us over so many years in the world of wine.