Monday, 16 August 2010

2009 Burgundy – our first taste

The excitement of the 2009 vintage is by no means restricted to Bordeaux.  All over Europe, near-perfect weather gave winemakers fruit of exceptional quality.  Fans of the classic regions have some extraordinary wines to look forward to.

At the end of July, as the dust was settling on Bordeaux en primeur, John Avery and I spent a week in Burgundy, dashing up and down the Cote d’Or to have an early look at the 2009s.  The purpose of our trip was threefold - to concentrate on some of the less well-known villages and appellations, where you can often find great value in a good year; visit a few long-standing supplier and old friends (to ensure we keep getting good allocations!); meet and taste with some producers new to our list who we’d not seen before.

It proved to be an exhausting yet exhilerating week.  On a couple of days we tasted well over 100 wines – harder work than it might sound – yet these were some of the greatest young Burgundies I’ve ever sampled.  Burgundy defies generalisations more than any other wine region I can think of but, if pressed, I’d characterise the 2009 whites as rich and generous and the reds as luxuriously textured with full structures and marvellously ripe fruit.

For me, the highlights of the trip included tastings in Mercurey, Dezizes les Maranges and Rully.  I’d never visited these gorgeous little villages before and was hugely impressed with the quality of the wines.  It’s no secret that Burgundy is often expensive, so as a buyer I’m hugely excited by the prospect of mouth-wateringly delicious and sensibly priced 2009s from lesser known villages and areas.  These are just the wines to show people that Burgundy can produce stunning wines that don’t require a second mortgage and don’t need a generation in the cellar before they’re ready to drink.  In particular, look out for sun-kissed Maconnais whites from Domaine Thibert, elegant Mercurey 1er Cru from Domaine du Meix Foulot and stunning fruit purity in Domaine Racquillet’s Chalonnaise wines (several cases of which will find their way into my cellar).

In the heartland of the Cote d’Or we spent a morning tasting with Bernard Repolt at Remoissenet, in Beaune.  After tasting his 2009s from barrel – including a lip-smackingly lovely St Romain - John and I spent an hour or so looking at some mature wines, one of which we hope to offer as a ‘Library Release’ later this year – after we’ve finished arguing about which vintage we prefer!

Domaine des Beaumont was a new addition to our list earlier this year when we offered their 2008s.  I’ve admired this estate for some time so was very pleased to meet Thierry Beaumont for the first time.  This is an extremely impressive estate, turning out wines of intensity, structure and finesse.  Over lunch we had a bottle of Thierry’s 2008 Morey St Denis.  It seemed a bit decadent pulling the cork on this over a hasty steak frites but I’m glad we did as the wine was very good indeed – a silky, supple texture, sweet fruit and delicate tannins, drinking surprisingly well on its youthful fruit.  Of the 2009s, I think both John and I would agree that the Morey St Denis 1er Cru Les Ruchots stood out.

One of my final visits, having dropped Mr Avery at Dijon station for an early flight home, was to Domaine Fourrier in Gevrey Chambertin.  Regarded as one of the best producers in Gevrey, Averys got an allocation of Fourrier for the first time last year.  Jean-Marie Fourrier has a reputation for being one of the most thoughtful, engaging and talented winemakers in Burgundy and John was more than a little bit annoyed he had to miss this appointment.  Jean-Marie took me through his range, explaining the difference between his Gevrey Chambertin Aux Echezeaux – from the south of the village – and the Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes – from the north.  I was really impressed by the Vougeot 1er Cru Les Petits Vougeot, a vineyard beautifully situated between Clos Vougeot, Le Musigny and Chambolle’s greatest 1er Cru, Les Amoureuses.  The chiselled structure and marked minerality of his Gevrey 1er Cru Les Goulots framed great fruit purity, this will be one to put in the cellar and forget about for a few years.  We finished the tasting with Fourrier’s two most famous wines, the complex and crystalline Clos St Jacques and his intensely scented Griottes Chambertin.  Griottes is one of the smallest Grand Crus in Burgundy, at just over 2.5ha it’s by far the smallest in Gevrey Chambertin, and Fourrier owns just 0.26ha of vines.  It’s rare and valuable stuff and the 2009 is magnificent.

By Matthew Hemming
Fine Wine Manager

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