Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

Sixty Burgundies from 2008

May 2011. History, they say, repeats itself though never in exactly the same way. The same is true of Burgundy vintages, with the repetition often occurring in pairs, at ten-year intervals. The 2008 vintage in Burgundy bears an uncanny resemblance to 1998, while 2007 is strikingly like 1997. Ten years before that, ’87 and ’86 followed a similar pattern.

In each of the three pairings the even years have a firmer structure but tend to lack flesh, while the odds have charm and fruit but show a want of rigour and sinew. The average standard of the odds is higher, but the evens can boast loftier peaks, even if those peaks are not very numerous.

But back to 2008 – the subject of this article. The growing season in Burgundy was more protracted then usual, and both July and August were inclement. Luckily, September was altogether different, with lots of sunshine and a cool north wind. The latter is always a force for good in Burgundy, as harvest time approaches. Why? Because its cool, temperate breezes stop the grapes from arriving at full maturity too quickly – with the risk of overripeness – while ensuring that both sugar and acidity reach optimal levels at a leisurely pace. The end result was that most ’08 whites are excellent, while the reds are generally good if rather heterogeneous. A few actually attained greatness – though only those from top vineyards.

A total of sixty red and white ’08 burgundies were recently shown in London by Domaines Familiaux de Tradition, thus providing an ideal opportunity to assess how several dozen top producers had coped with the year’s problems and opportunities. What soon became clear was that, in so problematic a vintage, even some of the most talented growers found it hard to come up with really good wines from less-favoured vineyards – mostly those at Village level – but that it was possible to fashion excellent, even great wines from the finest Premier and Grand Cru sites.

RED WINES

1. COTE DE BEAUNE

Many of the Village wines are disappointing, showing a lack of ripeness bordering on greenness. This even applies to such superlative growers as Pierre Morey and leading negociants like Jadot and Chanson. The first of the reds to show real balance and solidity was the Beaune Grèves from Tollot-Beaut, though even that was on the lean side. A Volnay Clos des Chênes from Lafarge was in a similar mode. The normally outstanding Volnay Santenots du Milieu from Lafon was a shade more complex but it, too, lacked volume even if the texture was velvety. Pommard Rugiens from de Montille was just that little bit better, with more body and a long, if somewhat loose, aftertaste.

From now on, individual notes.

2008 POMMARD 1ER CRU GRANDS EPENOTS (Domaine Michel Gaunoux) ***

This well-coloured wine has a ripe, soft aroma of cherry, plum and nectarine, while the flavour is vinous and all of a piece, suggesting plum and blackberry. It’s long and harmonious on the palate, with a finish wholly free from bitterness or sharpness. 4 years to open; 4 more for enjoyment.

(Years ago I used to buy 20- and 30-year wines from this estate, which always kept up a good standard; quality is still higher now, and all the ’08s from Gaunoux – there are more below – have clearly been vinified with the utmost rigour, with all possible rondeur and fruit being coaxed forth.)

2008 CORTON (Domaine Bonneau du Martray) **(*)

A vivid purple, this Grand Cru has a round smell suggesting damson, smoke, and resin, the whole overlaid with vanillin from new oak. Having depth, it quickly opens on the palate, showing a range of black fruits, though a faint hint of greenness lurks on the medium-full aftertaste. Has distinct Corton character – firmness bordering on aggressivity – though this would be still more apparent if total ripeness had been attained. Best around 2015-20.

2008 CORTON BRESSANDES (Domaine Chandon de Brialles) ***

The pale colour is belied by a really intense Pinot Noir nose of red fruits and violet that exhales the sweetness of ripe grapes. The flavour is well balanced – nicely judged degree of extraction, with all greenness eliminated – and expands to incorporate strawberry and pomegranate. A 10-year wine. (They could have vinified longer, to make it last 20, but then it would have been harsher.)

2008 CORTON BRESSANDES (Domaine des Comtes Senard)

The nose, if distinctly oaky, has a lovely raspberry fragrance, but the flavour (of this sample anyway) is too green to encourage thoughts of a positive development.

2008 CORTON BRESSANDES (Domaine Tollot-Beaut) ****

The nose is round, if oaky, evoking black cherry, damson, and bilberry (yes, you can discern these aromas separately and together). It’s a close-meshed, vinous aroma, a true Corton – and the most profound nose so far. The flavour is dense and harmonious, with real vinosity (not just fruit and acidity but fine tannins too) and distinction. No greenness at all. Best wine so far. Excellent. Drink 2018-25.

2008 CORTON RENARDES (Domaine Michel Gaunoux) ****

This dark-purple wine has a round, plush aroma of real profundity – the kind of complex fragrance that only the ripest grapes from the oldest vines can give. There’s a flowery aspect too: red rose and peony. The plum-and-damson flavour shows not only mellowness and depth but also minerality: here again old vines play a crucial role, their deep roots extracting beneficial sub-flavours from the subsoil. To drink 2016- 23. Another exceedingly well-vinified wine from Gaunoux.

2008 CORTON CLOS DU ROI (Domaine de Montille) ****

This wine has a lovely “robe” and a velvety scent, full of refinement, that suggests raspberry, wild strawberry, and red rose. There’s even a touch of honey. The flavour shows volume and depth and even if the wine’s youthful exuberance masks many of its more profound qualities, it’s easy to see that there’s plenty of substance and potential for ageing. The oak is scarcely noticeable – a sign of meticulous wine-making. Best around 2016-24.

2. COTE DE NUITS

What’s the difference between the reds of the Côte de Nuits and those of the Côte de Beaune? To generalize outrageously, one can say that the Côte de Beaune tend to softness, towards a “feminine” style, while Côte de Nuits reds are firmer, more masculine. There’s plenty of overlapping though. A Musigny in the Côte de Nuits can show bewitching femininity, an almost unbelievable delicacy and finesse. A Corton or a Pommard can be as firmly tannic as any Chambertin or CIos de la Roche. Yet au fond even such apparent vinous anomalies retain the essential traits of their respective Côte.

2008 MARSANNAY LES LONGEROIES (Domaine Bruno Clair) **(*)

This has a solid purple colour and a glossy, vital aroma of black fruits, smoke, coffee, and graphite. The briary flavour shows density and length though it’s slightly stalky on the finish. A 10-year wine.

2008 VOSNE ROMANEE (Domaine Meo Camuzet) ***

A big expressive aroma – very Côte de Nuits – of black fruits and (especially noticeable) pomegranate. A sudden whiff of peony leads into a longish, harmonious flavour of black cherry, truffle, and plum. The tannins are ripe and there’s no greenness. A solidly built Vosne, to enjoy around 2016-22.

2008 VOSNE ROMANEE AUX MALCONSORTS (Domaine Dujac) ****

This gorgeous wine is a wine apart: opulent, velvety, redolent of sweet black cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate. The aftertaste is of exceptional length and intensity. This almost erotically perfumed wine is so well-balanced and concentrated that one could easily take it for an ’05 – except that it seems (and is) even younger. Best wine so far. One of the three or four most arresting wines in the whole tasting.

2008 VOSNE ROMANEE LES MALCONSORTS (Domaine de Montille) ****

A hint paler, but with a haunting, focused scent of pomegranate and truffle within delicate wreaths of smoke. It’s a rotund, very subtle aroma in the poetic mode that only the Pinot Noir can bring off. The flavour is long, buoyant, and subtle, hinting at plum, truffle, and cherry. Clay and minerals intermingle on the delicate finish. Best around 2017-22.

2008 VOSNE ROMANEE LES BEAUX MONTS (Domaine Jean Grivot) ***(*)

The Pinot Noir aroma is broad and ripe, with distinct centre, evoking cherry, plum, raspberry, and carnation. The strawberry compote flavour is voluminous, the aftertaste clean-cut and sustained. Lots of minerality, as one expects from Vosne (and this grower). Should be at a peak around 2018-24.

2008 GRANDS ECHEZEAUX (Domaine Joseph Drouhin) ***(*)

The aroma of red cherry, plum, and damson exhibits that typical Grands Echézeaux fusion of delicacy, tautness, and expansiveness. The flavour archetypically Côte de Nuits – is assertive, with underlying subtlety, and leads into a long, probing aftertaste stippled with minerality and the finest of tannins. A solidly-built Grand Cru that should live a good 20 years.

2008 NUITS SAINT GEORGES 1ER CRU AUX BOUDOTS (Jean Grivot) ***(*)

This wine, promisingly dark, has a composite smell of damson, chocolate, roast chestnut, violet, and peony. The flavour is so compressed you have to squeeze the wine between tongue and palate to get to its core, a mass of dense, many-Iayered fruit. The tannins give firm support, while the noticeable minerality shows that the vines’ probing tendrils have done their work in the depths of the subsoil. Like a partly-finished sculpture, it shows fine overall proportions even if the details haven’t yet been chiselled in by time. It will develop along classic lines over the coming 10-12 years.

2008 NUITS SAINT GEORGES 1ER CRU LES VAUCRAINS (Domaine Henri Gouges) ***(*)

A Iimpid, medium deep colour, this has a broad (very Nuits) concentrated aroma, with typical Nuits earthiness/gaminess hinting at plum, pomegranate, and strawberry. The flavour is impressive, having volume, depth, and balance, with pronounced vinosity. The long aftertaste is both fat and imbued with Nuits terroir traits – underbrush and blackberry. Firm finish. Six years to open then 8+ more.

According to Christian Gouges, the name Vaucrains derives from “vaut rien” (“worthless”). This echoes an old Burgundy saying: “lf our terroir weren’t the richest it would be the poorest”. In other words, soil that’s perfect for viticulture but useless for any other purpose!

2008 NUITS SAINT GEORGES 1ER CRU CLOS DES PORRETS (Domaine Henri Gouges) ***(*)

Similar colour, with a very round, expressive aroma of carnation (the dominant scent at the moment), raspberry, fig and cherry. There’s a gamy aspect too – a very NSG trait. The flavour too has very pronounced NSG character and is dense and full of energy. The aftertaste suggests damsons and stony soil. A very true wine. Best 2017-25.

2008 NUITS SAINT GEORGES 1ER CRU CLOS DE LA MARECHALE (Domaine J.-F. Mugnier) ***(*)

A solid dark purple, this has a big, vital aroma that’s both briary and ferruginous, with hints of cherry, blackberry, and clove. It’s almost a caricature of a Nuits Saint Georges. The flavour is solid and muscular, with real grip and excellent structure. There’s a reprise of the ferruginous trait on the palate and even though the wine is resolutely closed, it clearly has the makings of a true vin de garde. 2018-25.

Clos de la Maréchale is the most southerly of the Côte de Nuits’ many First Growths, being cushioned (as it were) from the Côte de Beaune by the terroir of Corgoloin, none of whose vineyards rise above Village level.

2008 CLOS DE VOUGEOT (Domaine Jean Grivot) ***(*)

With a glowing deep purple colour only found in top burgundies with optimal (but not maximum) extraction, this Grand Cru has a big, brawny aroma of chocolate, blackberry jam, ginger (from the oak), and fig. It exhibits typical Côte de Nuits solidity, together with an almost claret-like tautness (for me, Clos de Vougeot is the most claret-like of all top burgundies). It’s a wine of real depth and vinosity, with ample matière (substance). It finishes on a note – or counterpoint – of black cherry, damson, and graphite. Patient collectors will be rewarded around 2015-25.

2008 CLOS DE VOUGEOT VIEILLES VIGNES (Château de la Tour) ****(*)

Such a deep and lustrous colour can only come from very old vines whose fruit is picked at optimal ripeness and then vinified with the greatest care. The nose, perhaps the most complex so far, is a glorious meld of black cherry, violet, bilberry, and truffle. It’s nothing less than gorgeous (not a very scientific word but appropriate). These are truly ethereal scents, celestial fragrances that hover above a body of dense fruit, like the ozone layer above the earth. In the mouth, a lovely texture of great complexity, with a whole interweave of sub-flavours. The finish is long and balanced and promises many years of evolution.

2008 MOREY SAINT DENIS (Domaine Dujac) ***

Though only a Village, this has a nose of First Growth solidity suggesting juniper berry, cherry, violet, and pomegranate. It has a longish, balanced flavour with good minerality and finishes on a note of bilberry and smoke. To drink over the coming 5-6 years.

2008 MOREY SAINT DENIS 1ER CRU CLOS DE LA BUSSIERE (Domaine Georges Roumier) ***(*)

The noble aroma evokes red fruits, peony, and orange peel and leads into a classically balanced flavour full of Morey elegance and restraint and with good minerality. Very closed at the moment, it clearly has the substance needed to improve for a decade and more. Very smooth.

2008 BONNES MARES (Domaine Georges Roumier) ****(*)

A deep vivid scarlet, this Grand Cru has a round, expansive aroma that promises silkiness and depth. It’s both floral and fruity: pink rose and violet; and both red and purple cherries. The flavour is intense and harmonious, with a lovely Pinot Noir sumptuousness. The fruit is bolstered by fine acidity and tannins. A great Bonnes Mares, to relish around 2019-30.

2008 CHAMBOLLE MUSIGNY (Domaine Georges Roumier) ***(*)

This has a lovely flowery scent of raspberry, cherry, and kirsch that’s both solid and aerial. lt smells of totally ripe Pinot Noir grapes. The flavour has centre as well as volume and is as complex as a Village can be. Good acidity and fine tannins. Good for a dozen years at least.

2008 CHAMBOLLE MUSIGNY 1ER CRU FUESSELOTTES (Domaine Méo Camuzet) **(*)

This exhales the very spirit of Chambolle – refined, flowery scents suggestive of cherry, Iiquorice, and smoke. The oak is a hint too much in evidence at present. The flavour, if closed, is balanced, and fine minerality can be discerned behind the thin veil of oak. Should be at full stretch around 2015-20.

2008 MUSIGNY (Domaine J.-F. Mugnier) ****(*)

This top Grand Cru has a voluminous, enveloping aroma of great complexity, emitting swirling scents of cherry, truffle, pomegranate, and fig. It’s a globular nose full of ripe-grape sweetness yet with classic rigour. The flavour, while homogeneous, contains masses of details, sub-savours that can be noted individually yet which form integral parts of the whole. A faint dryness – from the oak – will vanish in time. The finish is velvety and very long, displaying Grand Cru volume and Musigny finesse. To drink around 2020-30.

2008 GEVREY CHAMBERTIN 1ER CRU CLOS SAINT JACQUES (Domaine Louis Jadot) **(*)

This has an assertive, focused aroma, very Gevrey in its compactness and vigour, of plum jam, blackberry, and fig. There’s a distinctly ferruginous hint too. This is serious, traditional burgundy. The flavour, true to form, is solid and intense and the aftertaste goes on a long time, with good tannins and ample minerality. The only cause for hesitation is a slight harshness on the very finish. Should improve for 15 years or more.

2008 GEVREY CHAMBERTIN 1ER CRU CAZETIERS (Domaine Faiveley) ***(*)

This lesser-regarded Premier Cru shows surprisingly well after the CSJ – a de facto Grand Cru! The nose is big and glossy, suggestive of cherry and raspberry, and the intense flavour has a lovely Pinot Noir sweetness. A slight woodiness will probably fade as it ages. A seductive wine, more like a Chambolle than a Gevrey, with a delectable finish. Drink 2015-20.

2008 MAZY CHAMBERTIN (Domaine Faiveley) ***(*)

This has a soft, subtle aroma of damson, carnation, and Iiquorice. There’s a faintly gamy aspect – some grapes were super-ripe – and the fullish flavour of cherry, strawberry, and fig is really delicious even at this stage. The aftertaste, with hints of fine clay, is complex and nuanced – true Grand Cru quality. At best around 2019-27.

2008 LATRICIERES CHAMBERTIN (Domaine Trapet) ****

A clear, medium deep colour, this Grand Cru has a lovely briary aroma of unforced voluminousness and power. Damson, raspberry, and peony are the dominant scents, the oak just a shade too much in evidence. This is a typical Latricières – one of the most sinewy Chambertins with a core of intense fruit and plenty of depth. The finish is long and full of nuances, subtly ferruginous, and with good minerality. The wise will wait 8-10 years and space out bottles over the next 8-10.

2008 CHAMBERTIN (Domaine Trapet) ****(*)

Chambertin is Chambertin, and always different from its peers. This has a composite smell of black cherry, graphite, and damson, with a touch of blackcurranty intensity. It’s a truly profound aroma, very structured and with the promise of fine musculature: très Chambertin in its compactness and density. Closed on the palate, but full of stuffing, with a lovely texture and a long liquorice finish. Will improve for at least 20 years.

2008 CHAMBERTIN CLOS DE BEZE (Domaine Bruno Clair) ****(*)

This has the darkest, richest colour in the entire tasting, a glowing black-purple. The nose is simply huge, exhaling black cherry, graphite, allspice and juniper berries. There’s a promise of velvety texture and this promise is redeemed on the palate. The flavour of crème de mûre is smooth and profound and there’s all the balance and structure to guarantee a good 25 years of steady evolution. A wine that fuses power and delicacy, volume and lift. A great Clos de Bèze.

WHITES

I find that I’ve become too immersed in the reds to have left enough time to taste the whites as thoroughly as I’d have liked. Here is the result of a very rapid overview of the 16 on show.

A Chablis Les Clos from Drouhin has a vital, distinctly chalky aroma of elderflower and greengage, with a crisp, very fresh flavour with a honeyed finish. Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Les Vergelesses from Château de la Tour has a fuller, broader scent of apricot and white peach leading into a round, balanced flavour that’s medium-weight and medium long. Beaune 1 er Cru Clos des Mouches (Drouhin) has a really rich, weighty nose of orange blossom, honey, and apricot, with the faintest suggestion of pineapple. The flavour is lushly fruity and gently sweet. Meursault Clos de la Barre from Lafon has a complex, noble aroma, rich and balanced, with oak so integrated as to be well-nigh undetectable. A faint sweatiness is probably a transitory quirk. Meursault 1er Cru Charmes from the same domaine is a step up: Round, expansive, of great volume, it smells of white peach, honey, and mirabelle and is positively perfumed on the palate. There’s a fine orange, and orange-pippin, aftertaste. The oak, though, is a bit more noticeable but will doubtless recede as the wine ages. This very mineral wine will last well.

Domaine Leflaive’s Puligny Montrachet is a copybook example, showing typical Leflaive elegance and restraint, while their Clavoillon 1er Cru is full yet buoyant, with the weightiness typical of that growth (which has heavy, red soil). On a similar quality level is Jadot’s Puligny 1er Cru Folatières, which is rich, full-bodied. and tastes of apricot, walnut, and crab apple. All of these are of three-star quality or above.

2008 CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET 1ER CRU LES CHENEVOTTES (Chanson) ***(*)

A rich, oaky green-gold, this has a perfumed, expansive aroma of apple, white rose, and honey. Stylish and subtle. The excellent flavour is both solid and buoyant, with an appealing fleshiness.

2008 MOREY SAINT DENIS 1ER CRU MONT LUISANTS (Dujac) ***(*)

A brilliant white-gold, this rare Côte de Nuits white has a strikingly fresh, flowery aroma of apple, wild white rose, elderflower, and chalk. The vital flavour, with jts almost Chablis-like chalkiness, is long and elegant, with plenty of lift. To enjoy around 2013-18.

2008 CORTON Blanc (Comtes Senard) ****

This exhales fine, floating scents of white truffle, poire William, chalk, and coriander. The lovely flavour is intense, harmonious, and sustained, with perfect acidity. The aftertaste of grapefruit and cooking apple goes on a long time. Should improve for 12 years at least.

2008 CORTON CHARLEMAGNE (Bonneau du Martray) ***(*)

A glittering green-gold, this has a broad, full, focused aroma of orange blossom, honey, white peach, chalk, and marine fossils. It’s an immensely disciplined aroma, with all manner of subsidiary scents. There’s even a faint hint of lily. The gorgeous flavour, if closed, contains a great deal of pent-up fruit and the stony aftertaste is crammed with minerality. A wine of great sweep, sure to improve for 20 years or more.

© Frank Ward 2011

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