Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

Burgundy Excursion

The Pinot Noir of Burgundy is one of the world’s greatest grapes. It is also one of the quirkiest. It ripens with difficulty, and once ripe easily becomes overripe, thus losing its unique purity and finesse. It is susceptible to rot, and if unripe can give unpleasantly raw, astringent flavours.

This is why Burgundy has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of climate change. More sun has meant a greater degree of ripeness; advances in oenology and viticulture have enabled the best growers to obtain the very finest fruit and to pick at the optimum moment. As a result, Burgundy has had only two or three weak vintages over the last twenty years, and excellent to great wines have been made in almost every year. Some growers, though, fear that the climatic pendulum will swing too far the other way, that too much sun will result in red burgundies that are too high in alcohol, too lacking in freshness and finesse.

 

One leading grower of the older generation expressed concern about the growing impact of climate change on his beloved region. « The climate in Burgundy is getting hotter and hotter all the time. Despite the growers’ best efforts it’s starting to affect the wines. In a number of years – it’ll be after I’m gone – they’ll have to plant Merlot on the Côte d’Or, in place of the Pinot Noir! And Burgundy without the Pinot Noir won’t be Burgundy. » Time will tell.

 

One thing is sure: 2005 may well be the greatest Burgundy vintage in living memory – and that applies to the whites as well. It was a year that gave perfect grapes at optimal ripeness and without too much alcohol. Ideal acidity gives a cutting edge, a precision, to aromas and flavours, and also endows the wines with great length.

 

 

That 2006 gave good wines, too (at least, at top estates), was demonstrated at the DOMAINE MARQUIS D‘ANGERVILLE, which has been producing superb estate-bottled wines since the 1920s. I was received by Gulllaume de Villette, who has been making the wines for twenty years. Though I have been visiting the estate for a quarter of a century, this was the first time I had set eyes on him – the late Marquis, Jacques d’Angervllle, always received me in person.

 

Guillaume de Villette

Guillaume de Villette, wine maker at Domaine Marquis d’Angerville. "There have been no typical vintages for 20 years."

We then reflect on whether or not Pommard’s longer vatting is due to Pommard wines being naturally fuller and weightier or whether it is received and possibly erroneous, wisdom that this is so. After all, the Domaine’s own monopole, Clos des Ducs, is an inherently rich, powerful wine with tannic backbone, easy to mistake for a Pommard…

 

2006 POMMARD (this Volnay estate owns a little)

A vivid blue-purple, this has a smooth, close-meshed aroma of violet, damson, and autumn berries. Grittily tannic on the palate, it has an aftertaste of blackcurrant and liquorice. Drink around 2012-15.

 

2006 VOLNAY 1ER CRU TAILLEPIEDS (40-year vines) **

The colour and the nose – raspberry, cherry, peony – are more concentrated. Both aroma and flavour are very pure and exhibit classic Volnay elegance. Long but closed up. Drink around 2017-25.

 

2006 VOLNAY 1ER CRU CHAMPANS ***

The aroma of raspberry, damson, and red rose has even more pronounced Volnay character, being flowery, poised, and very fresh. The long, tender aftertaste, full of finesse, highlights Volnay’s affinity with Chambolle. Best 2015-23.

 

2006 VOLNAY 1ER CRU CLOS DES DUCS ****

Though an ace paler, this has a nobler, denser aroma (damson and red fruits) with a flowery element, too – red rose and peony. The plummy flavour is long, complex, and harmonious. A 20-year wine.

 

At this estate they go for wines that are as pure and natural as possible, resisting the temptation in light years to bump up the alcohol or leave residual sugar in the wine.

 

 

At DOMAINE LEFLAIVE they focus on the magnificent 2005 vintage. A group of Germans are also present, and questions are asked about the innate character of the various growths. As a visitor to the Domaine over some 30 years I was asked to comment. I was able to recall how, during the 1988 harvest, I’d gone out into the vineyards with the late Vincent Leflaive and had the temerity to reduce the production of the Grands Crus by about one-tenth of a teaspoonfull each, by picking and eating one grape from each of them. A clear impression of the Chevalier Montrachet grape remains with me across those 19 years. It had an exquisite, extremely precise flavour of grapefruit, pineapple, and lemon balm, and tasted, in fact, very like the wine itself, without the alcohol of course.

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET ***

A fine yellow-gold, with a typical Puligny tinge of green, this has a noble, flowery nose of apricot, honey, and pineapple. The succulent flavour is full of fruit and the flowing aftertaste is smooth and luscious. A chalkiness from the soil can be discerned behind the creamy texture. Drink around 2010-16. (This is a blend from six different plots).

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU CLAVOILLON ****

A brilliant green-gold, Clavoillon has an intense, refined nose of tangerine, acacia honey, orange blossom, and pineapple. The viscous flavour is strikingly fresh and vital, with a suggestion of fine clay on the middle flavour of tangerine, honey, and apricot. The homogeneous aftertaste is smooth, fat, and full of energy, with a masterful finish. Enjoy around 2013-20.

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU PUCELLES ****(*)

The colour is more nuanced and greener, with a still more complex, nobler aroma of greengage, russet pear, and chlorophyll. This very precise, pure nose leads into a gorgeous, intense flavour of apple and honey, with splendid minerality. The finish is protracted and has great sweep. Returning to the ethereal scent, one finds a sudden nuance of elderflower. Exceptional Pucelles. At best around 2012-25.

 

2005 BATARD MONTRACHET ****

This burns with a hard, gemlike flame and has an aristocratic, refined aroma of greengage, pineapple, physalis, and white clay. The scent quickly expands to include white and yellow rose. The flavour is very closed, almost recondite, but you can sense the presence of much fruit and considerable depth. The finish hints at walnut and white peach. At best (like all good Bâtards) at 10-22 years plus.

 

 

PIERRE MOREY is the wine maker at Domaine Leflaive. He also has a wine business in his own right; or two, to be precise: Domaine Pierre Morey and Morey Blanc, a tiny negociant firm. The latter is unusual in being far, far smaller than the Domaine, producing a mere 20,000 bottles yearly as compared with 50,000 from the Domaine. Morey Blanc was founded in 1992 – a year in which a great deal of good, unsold wine was available on the market (a situation that has since changed radically).

 

Pierre Morey, owner of Domaine Morey and Morey Blanc - the latter his tiny negociant business.

Of eight Morey Blanc wines tasted, the best were an ’04 Meursault Charmes (***) and an ’04 Meursault Genevrières (****). But the greatest wine was from Domaine Pierre Morey:

 

2004 MEURSAULT PERRIERES ****

The colour is a rich green-gold, while the smoky, very mineral aroma emits gusts of greengage, pistachio, chlorophyll, and orange blossom. The gloriously rich, complex flavour has Meursault weight and density, suggesting apricot, orange, and tobacco. Good for 15 years at the very least, it is a timely reminder that ’04 gave many superb whites.

 

 

DOMAINE CARILLON

 

Jacques Carillon, in his forties, is thin and balding, with a studious look –an impression intensified by his dark rimmed glasses. He’s also a poet and dreamer, but one with his feet on the ground. It was hard to get an appointment, but once inside I feel I’d have been able to stay all day. His wines show great Puligny style.

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU CHAMP CANET ***

The very precise aromas suggest gooseberry, green plum, honey, and chalk. The flavour is long and defined, honey and pineapple, and has a lovely mouth-coating fatness. The pulpy aftertaste is flecked with minerality. Best around 2012-20.

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU COMBETTES ***

This has a floating scent of yellow plum, gooseberry jam, and honey. The fat, succulent flavour has good acidity and a twisting-and-turning finish of yellow plum with stone. A 15-year wine.

(Though very good this is not as good as one might expect: Combettes is a Premier Cru of almost Grand Cru quality. But the vines are only 15 years’ old and not even a top winemaker can endow young wines with the depth and complexity of old plants).

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU PERRIERES ****

A nuanced green-gold, Perrières has a rich, nuanced aroma of greengage, apricot jam, and pineapple. The flavour is long, rich, and voluminous, with typical Puligny balance and intensity. Drink 2014-22.

 

2004 BIENVENUES BATARD MONTRACHET ****(*)

This has a pure, soaring, elegant scent of melon, physalis, and acacia honey. The fresh, medium-full flavour of honeydew melon, honey, and lemon grows fleshier, fuller, on the palate, and seems almost to quiver like melting jelly. Very long, if still in chrysallis. Sniffing again at this incisive wine you’re sprinkled with scents as if by the aromatic oils that spray from an orange being peeled. Drink around 2014-22.

 

Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet is perhaps the most reticent – and subtlest – of the six Grand Cru whites of Burgundy. Bâtard-Montrachet (the ideal choice with lobster) is the most assertive, Criots the most luscious, Chevalier the most refined, and Montrachet the most authoritative and complete. Corton Charlemagne, which is miles away from the others, is in a category of its own.

 

 

DOMAINE BLAIN GAGNARD

 

Quite some years ago a young winemaker from Sancerre met a young Burgundian lady called Gagnard and the result was – several children and Domaine Blain-Gagnard. Today, this tiny estate has several plots of red wines (Volnay and Pommard), a whole series of Premiers Crus in Chassagne (Calllerets, Morgeot, La Boudriotte, and Clos Saint Jean), as well as three Grand Cru whites: Bâtard, Criots-Bâtard Montrachet, and Le Montrachet. Production of the latter amounts to a mere one-and-a-half barrels.

 

Monsieur Blain is wholly dedicated to his wines and works untiringly to fashion reds and whites that meticulously reflect their terroir, exposure, and quintessential character. His Criots is always dramatically different from his Bâtard, with the Montrachet resembling neither (which is as it should be!).

 

Monsieur Blain, who came to Burgundy from Sancerre, and makes exceptional white burgundies.

M. Blain had been working unremittingly In the vineyards cutting back shoots and generally bending the vines to his will. Were he not to do so, they could well succumb to rot, or overproduce and give wines lacking in concentration and length. While agreeing that the ’05 whites are superb he did observe, with characteristic honesty, that the ’85s had had better acidity, because they were less ripe. (This was in response to my remark, to the effect that ’85 had quite a resemblance to ’05).

 

Of a series of white ’06s, the finest of the Premiers Crus was the Caillerets, which always has the most finesse:

 

2006 CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET 1ER CRU CAILLERETS ***

Fine, focused nose of yellow plum, greengage, and honey. The flavour is quite rich, very mineral, and with an agreeable grapefruity bitterness on the finish. A wine to hold back some three years and drink over the following four or so.

 

The ’06 CRIOTS Bâtard Montrachet also shows well, and will clearly improve for a decade or two. But on the day the Bâtard is more open:

 

2006 BATARD MONTRACHET ****

The full, vital aroma is full of sweet grapefruit and white peach fruit and is round enough to be globular. The full flavour is lushly fruity, with a reprise of grapefruit and peach on the persistent mineral finish. Will develop well for some 15 years.

 

2006 LE MONTRACHET ****(*)

This has a big, complex nose full on Montrachet authority, that conjures up apricot, grapefruit, and honey. The long, luscious flavour is distinctly honeyed and full of nuances, with a touch of walnut on the finish. For long keeping.

Most Grand Cru white Burgundy is lodged in a mixture of new and older oak. But M. Blain’s output of Ie Montrachet is too small to allow this. He therefore “tames” a new cask by using it to mature some of his Bâtard Montrachet (of which he makes 9 ½ barrels) and reserves that cask for the following vintage’s Montrachet. This ensures that the wine is not too oaky.

 

A tasting of a couple of ’05s followed. This demonstrated two things. That ’05 is a near-perfect vintage; and that ’06 is good enough not to be put into the shade by the ’05s.

 

 

ETIENNE SAUZET

 

One of the most informative of all Burgundy producers is Gérard Boudot, who runs this famous estate (he’s now vinified over 30 vintages). He is extremely close to his vines and vineyards, and invariably supplies you with all manner of fascinating insights into the characteristics not only of each plot but also of every segment of each slope in each of the lieux-dits. In ’06, he says, the level of alcohol has reached 14-14.4, and the malolactic fermentation has been “problematical”. He also announces that he has stopped using silicone to render corks supple, changing over to an inert kind oft paraffin product (silicone sometimes made corks overly rigid, resulting in premature maderization of the wine). “One problem with paraffin” – he pulls a cork with considerable effort – “it’s harder to open bottles!”

 

As we taste the wines he contributes valuable insights: Puligny Montrachet – “it’s made from nine separate plots… the acidity is perfect.”…La Garenne: “very poor, pebbly soil…” Folatières: “the steepest of the Puligny Premiers Crus… the vines have an average age of 42 years…”.

Every single one of the wines is brilliant, from the “plain” Puligny Montrachet, through the various Premiers Crus, and culminating in the majestic Grands Crus. M. Boudot hints that the ’05s may well be the greatest vintage he has ever made.

 

2005 PULIGNY MONTRACHET FOLATIERES ****

A broad, complex aroma of dried orange peel, honey, and greengage, with all the aromatic signs of great structure and balance. The flavour is awesomely rich and harmonious, with great length. The long, masterful aftertaste is lush and suffused with orangey fruit. A great Folatières, which should improve for 15-20 years.

 

2005 BATARD MONTRACHET *****

Even in this lustrous company the Bâtard has an especially radiant look. The aroma, if closed, is crammed with concentrated Chardonnay fruit that is exceptionally balanced. On the palate one is struck by the wine’s fabulous build: it tastes of cholorophyll, peach, honey, and greengage. The aftertaste shows both power and finesse, and is packed with minerality. It will peak in 10-12 years and should drink beautifully for another dozen or so. One last snippet of information as I leave: “I’ve reduced the proportion of new oak. Now even the Grands Crus see only 30%.”

 

 

DOMAINE GRIVAULT

 

You could walk through Meursault a hundred times without ever finding this extraordinary Domaine. In the end I had to go into a crowded hairdresser’s, full of pincurled women, and ask a grinning barber where it was. He pointed at an unnumbered door behind high railings. “That’s it!”

 

Claire Bardet is a charming elderly lady with an elegant bearing. “Our Clos des Perrières is very similar to Montrachet,” she states matter-of-factly. “The terroir’s almost identical. We drink it mostly with fish, accompanied by Sauce Mornay or cream sauce. Or else scallops or white meat.”

 

She leads us across the yard, from which I can see the vineyards, and hands us over to her brother, Michel Bardet, a whitehaired extravert with twinkling eyes who was, he says, an engineer before he took over the estate. The wines used to be sold in bulk but he changed this in 1975, after which everything was domaine-bottled. They have five hectares of Chardonnay, of which 1.7 comprises Clos des Perrières (a monopole), which has been described by one French authority as “the choicest part of the very best of Meursault vineyards.” They also possess one hectare of Pommard 1er Cru Clos Blanc. M. Bardet characterizes the ’06s as “very deviant”, as if they are wayward children.

 

We taste recent vintages of Meursault Village, Premier Cru, and Premier Cru Clos des Perrières. All are excellent but the Clos always exhibits the greatest body, depth, and complexity. The ’05 is the best of them all:

 

2005 MEURSAULT 1ER CRU CLOS DES PERRIERES ****(*)

This nearly luminous wine has a gloriously rich, expressive aroma of sweet yellow apples and asparagus tips, with a flowery, blossomy element too. The marrowy quality found in top Meursaults is well in evidence. The flavour is nobly luscious, soft yet structured, with a reprise of apple and asparagus. A really great Meursault to enjoy over the next 20 or more years, ideally with lobster, crayfish gratin, or chicken with a sauce enriched with foie gras (à la Georges Blanc).

 

 

DOMAINE ANNE GROS

 

The first appointment in the Côte de Nuits is at this exemplary domaine, which boasts no more than 6 ½ hectares. Some 0.8 hectares of this, though, is Richebourg – one of the very noblest of Burgundy reds – and 0.9 hectares is Echezeaux. It should be added that their humbly rated whites are better than many Côte de Beaune Premiers Crus, while the following “plain” Vosne Romanée is simply stunning:

 

2006 VOSNE ROMANEE LES BARREAUX ***

The “robe” is a beautiful deep purple, while the excellent aroma, quintessentially Vosne in character, is redolent of cherry, raspberry, and peony. The flavour is round, silky and intense, with a long, silky aftertaste of tingling freshness. A remarkable ’06.

 

The ‘06 Clos Vougeot, still full of gas and malic acid, is hard to judge but the sheer concentration of fruit presages greatness over the next 20-25 years. The ’06 Richebourg is still more impressive, if less dark. The entrancing nose is of raspberry, pomegranate, and cherry and the flavour has all the concentration and balance one could wish for. Though thoroughly closed it is unmistakeably a great wine.

 

 

François Labet runs CHATEAU DE LA TOUR in Vougeot which, with 6 hectares, has the largest single slice of Clos Vougeot. The bulky château, which looks like a mediaeval fort, is surrounded by a sea of vines. “’06 was much better than ’04 but it wasn’t an easy vintage,” says the urbane M. Labet. “July and August were rainy and we feared that ’06 would turn out like ‘75 or ’77. But then the whole of September was sunny. And we picked later than anybody else. It was crucially important to sort the grapes. 80% of the quality is decided in the vineyards. The thing I look for above all else is balance.”

 

 

François Labet, owner of Château de la Tour, which has the largest single holding in Clos Vougeot.

Labet makes two cuvées of Clos Vougeot, the “classic” and the Vieilles Vignes (some of the vines used for the latter are 80-90 years’ old). Both are excellent in ‘06, with good colour, ample fruit, and considerable length. A tasting of the classic from the three preceding vintages showed that all three are very good in their different ways but that the ‘05 has that effortless concentration and harmony found only in the very greatest years:


2005 CLOS VOUGEOT Grand Cru (Classic) ****

The Pinot Noir cannot get darker than this, while the nose of black fruits, cinnamon, carnation, and peony positively leaps out of the glass. This is so impressive one forgets that it is not the old-vine bottling. The flavour is overwhelmingly rich yet, paradoxically, shows classic restraint. The aftertaste is persistent, forceful, and complete. At best around 2017-30.

 

 

DOMAINE COMTE GEORGES DE VOGUE

 

I’ve been visiting this great domaine for the last 25 years and witnessed its slow but sure emergence from a vinous eclipse that had lasted a good 15 years. The change began in 1986, when François Millet was appointed-winemaker, though it took several years for improvements to show. Since 1989 the estate has gone from strength to strength. Their greatest wine, Musigny (the Domaine owns nearly three-quarters of this Grand Cru), is universally accepted as the red Burgundy with the greatest finesse, as well as being one of the most long-lived. Millet’s vinification gave emphasis from the outset to the wine’s innate structure and lasting power, but in more recent years he’s gone all out for fruit and “sensuousness” too. The wines can be closed up for years and need many hours in a decanter before service.

 

François Millet, wine maker at Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé. He has fashioned over 20 vintages of these great wines.

They always blend a little young-vine Musigny into the Chambolle-Musigny Village. The ’06 shows perfect Chambolle delicacy and elegance, no doubt partly because of this discreet promotion. The ‘06 Chambolle 1er Cru Les Amoureuses – a de facto Grand Cru – demonstrates this growth’s unique combination of steely structure and silky texture – solid bone beneath voluptuous flesh. Of two barrels of Bonnes Mares, the first has an unresolved quality whereas the second is darker, fuller, and longer. A brooding giant, in short. Greatest of all is :

 

2006 MUSIGNY VIEILLES VIGNES *****

Impressively dark, this has an arrestingly vital, full aroma, more resolute and all-encompassing than the Bonnes Mares’. Raspberry, cinnamon, black cherry, and wild strawberry can be picked out. The flavour shows great energy combined with a lovely texture, buoyancy, and minerality. And, of course, huge finesse. The tannins are very ripe and one is struck, on retasting, by an exceptional purity. Musigny is noted for its “peacock’s tail” aftertaste. This will be much in evidence around 2020-35.

 

“’06 shows a different kind of classicism,” says Francois Millet. “It’s very seductive but also has a kind of quiet resoluteness. The amazing thing about ‘06 is that everything was turbulent. Great heat in July, violent winds in September. Yet there’s no violence in the wines themselves.”

 

 

DOMAINE ARMAND ROUSSEAU

 

Eric Rousseau took over the winemaking here around 2000 and the wines, always among the finest in Burgundy, are if anything greater still. The only change Eric has made, he says, is to reduce yields somewhat. Each vintage seems more stunning than the previous one, even if it’s hard to believe that anything could eclipse 2005. All the same, the French Wine Review roundly declares that the domaine’s ’06s are “the stars” of the vintage, standing out among the six hundred wines tasted.

 

Every one of the ’06s, from the basic Gevrey Chambertin to the greatest of the Grands Crus, shows brilliantly, with the Charmes Chambertin and Ruchottes Chambertin excelling. But the last three wines – Clos Saint Jacques, Chambertin, and Clos de Bèze – were greater still. The last showed best of all:

 

2006 CHAMBERTIN CLOS DE BEZE *****

The concentrated aroma of strawberry compote, raspberry, and wild strawberry has an inner core of gorgeously ripe, very pure Pinot Noir fruit crammed with Clos de Bèze refinement. The highly expressive flavour is amazingly long, with lovely fruity acidity (as in a perfect black cherry) and flawless tannins. A great Clos de Bèze that will evolve majestically for 30 years or more.

 

Charles Rousseau, now in his 80s: « Clos de Bèze is always full of finesse, while Chambertin is all about power. » He and the author have met yearly for some 35 years.

The veteran Charles Rousseau, who vinified some 40 vintages up to his son’s accession, comments: “Clos de Bèze is always full of finesse, while Chambertin is all about power.”

 

 

DOMAINE DUJAC

 

Alec Seysses, son of the domaine’s founder, Jacques, provides further evidence of climate change, pointing out that the classic 100-day cycle between flowering and harvest had declined to only 90 days. This seemed to alarm him less than it did Monsieur Rousseau. And this is not surprising, given the stunning quality of their ’05s. The ’05 Morey Saint Denis Blanc (one of the Côte de Nuit’s rare whites) is a succulent, vibrantly fresh wine to enjoy up to 2012, while the Morey Saint Denis Rouge could easily pass for a 1er cru despite its Village status. The Gevrey 1er Cru Combottes is full of promise (it’s nearly of Grand Cru quality) but the Clos de la Roche – exceptional in ’03 – seems heavy and out of sorts. The two last wines are simply stunning:

 

2005 CLOS SAINT DENIS ****(*)

The magnificent deep purple colour is worthy of a stained glass window at Chartres, while the glorious aroma of raspberry, cherry, and carnation takes your breath away. The silky and intense flavour is full of refinement and complexity and is very long indeed, with much purity. A wine to delight in over the coming 25-30 years (the ’78, one of the greatest Burgundies I’ve ever tasted, was at its prime at around 25 years).

 

2005 BONNES MARES *****

Faintly paler but still more profound on the nose, this big, chewy wine smells of black and purple fruits mingled with peony. The awesome flavour – it seems too good to be true – is principally of ripe cherry, with hints of raspberry and oriental spices too. The tannins, of perfect ripeness, give weft and woof to the silky texture, and there is a delectable Pinot Noir sweetness on the persistent aftertaste. A great Bonnes Mares that contrives to be sinewy and velvety at one and the same time. For long keeping.

 

 

DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE CONTI

 

Most of the wine world, other top Burgundy producers included, agree that this domaine’s Romanée-Conti is the world’s most prestigious red wine, while its other wines – all of them Grand Cru – often approach or attain perfection. I hadn’t been back for some 20 years and was touched to find the unpretentious offices were exactly as when seen last. We were received by Monsieur Noblet, the wine maker, who has the same powerful build as his father and predecessor, but is an altogether more reserved person than the famously loquacious Alfred Noblet (who was so generous with samples that I used to call him “Noblet oblige”).

 

M. Noblet, who succeeded his father Alfred as wine maker at the fabled Domaine de la Romanée Conti.

The Domaine, says the son, is slowly moving towards biodynamic methods and now only uses compost produced on the estate. The average age of the vines is 45 years and yields are a modest 25-30 hectolitres per hectare. This gives a yearly output of 80,000-100,000 bottles. The wines are mostly matured in 100% new oak after an 18-22-day vatting, with bottling taking place 18-20 months after the harvest, depending on the character of the vintage.

 

The ’06 DRC wines are particularly difficult to taste as they develop more slowly than the norm. Most of the wines are still in the middle of the malolactic fermentation, which means they’re full of gas and malic acid. The aromas are vaporous and relatively undefined, but there’s a sense of something tremendously solid at their core. The first three wines, Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, and Romanée Saint Vivant, are impressive but somehow unresolved and enigmatic. But the last three show their greatness unmistakeably, even if the “malo” curtails their length and precision:

 

2006 RICHEBOURG ****(*)

The full, homogenous aroma is redolent of plum, raspberry, and pomegranate, with the same trait showing on the palate. The aftertaste, the most clearly defined aspect, is delectable, with noble spices and minerals mingling with the fruits. There’s a subtle hint of orange peel on the finish. Drink around 2022-38.

 

2006 LA TACHE *****

Darker, more aromatic, La Tache smells of crushed raspberry, wild strawberry, and pomegranate. The lovely soaring perfumes expand to include peony, even if the Co2 temporarily veils their intensity and precision. The rich flavour is superb, and wholly in harmony with the nose, and the intense fruity acidity on the finish is eerily like that of blood oranges. A 30-year + wine.

 

2006 ROMANEE CONTI *****

The nose is compact, weighty, and authoritative, with lots of terroir character (crushed rock, friable stone) and an amplitude of noble fruit – wild strawberry, pomegranate, raspberry. The flavour shows colossal vitality, with luscious, concentrated fruit intermeshing with a refined stoniness. Amazingly, the 100% new oak is scarcely noticeable, though the firm tannins and terroir character dry the palate. A haunting wine, still not precisely defined but manifestly great, to keep as long as possible (30-35 years+).

 

Two vintages of Echezeaux are now served blind. What proves to be the ’04 is clearly young, because of its bright pink rim, but very evolved because of the lightness of the vintage. Forward for a DRC wine, it will drink best around 2012-22. The ’90 Echezeaux, from a great vintage, looks younger than its 17 years and is altogether more perfumed and concentrated. It tastes of plum jam, fig, and pomegranate, with hints of truffle and cinnamon. The ferruginous aftertaste is very long, still with a scrap of unresolved tannin on the finish. It still needs a decade to open fully and should remain on a plateau for another 12-15 years.

 

Finally, an astonishing – and semi-confidential – wine:

 

2003 BATARD MONTRACHET ****(*) (from a 0.2 hectare plot of 75-year-old vines)

This brilliant green-gold Bâtard has a noble, restrained aroma of great finesse, redolent of white peach, honeysuckle, and white truffle. This expands to include acacia honey and pineapple. This remarkably fresh, aerial aroma is more typical of, say, 2000 than the oven-hot ’03 vintage. The buoyant flavour veers towards apricot and peach (with stone), and has a long, phenomenally succulent finish. I am amazed that so fresh and ethereal wine could have been made in so torrid a vintage as ’03 – a tribute to wine making skills of the highest level.

 

I left the region behind but took the lingering aftertaste with me.

 

 

Photographic illustrations by Philip Tuohy.

© Frank Ward

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