Top Burgundy: the sequel

In an earlier post, I shared some thoughts on a spectacular Burgundy GC tasting in August. I was not anticipating to replicate the experience any time soon, but the occasion came unexpectedly. Burgundy aficionado Willy Daelemans from Epivino in Grimbergen regularly organises extensive tastings of top end Burgundy, one of which I attended last week.

While we were mainly tasting young wines here too, we ended with a series of mature red grand crus, which confirmed what I had written in the other blog post: it is hard to evaluate the true quality of great Burgundy when it’s young. Only after long bottle ageing, especially for the better vintages, does it fully reveal itself.

The evening started off with 6 whites. The first, a generic Bourgogne AOC, had a Chablis-like minerality combined with ripe, almost exotic fruit and quite some heat on the palate. It turned out that part of the grapes for this wine are sourced from Chablis, and part from the Maconnais, the southernmost region in Burgundy. It failed to impress, though, especially at a price of 19€: lack of freshness and not so well integrated alcohol.

It was mostly uphill from there, fortunately. The second wine admittedly had a bit too much oak, but the third (a Meursault villages – 38€) was dense and poised, with a long finish.

IMG_2099We then got to compare the three most reputed “premiers crus” of Meursault: Charmes, Genevrières and Perrières. The quality difference was much less outspoken here than in the first flight. The Charmes won perhaps, but it was a close finish with the Perrières.

Next up: ten reds from Pascal Marchand. This visionary winemaker and “micro-négociant”, originally from Québec, arrived in Burgundy in 1983, and after some wanderings in the southern hemisphere, returned to it in 2006, setting up a négoce and attracting investment by Ontario banker Tawse (see this article for some background info).

Marchand has a distinct and very consistent style, striving for elegance more than power, yet with quite some extraction. The 2011 GC Corton was a pure delight – to drink soon, as it has evolved quite rapidly: small red fruit, hints of leather, mushroom and sous-bois, with extremely refined, velvety tannins and a long silky finish. The 2010 Corton will be more long-lived and had still young and vibrant fruit.

Only one disappointment here: the Pommard épenots 2010 made a rather tired impression, lacked complexity and had excessive levels of volatile acidity (nail polish aromas).

The disappointment faded soon enough with the grand finale that awaited us, starting with a delicious Griotte-Chambertin 2004 (Marchand frères): a feast of leather, tobacco, red fruit, and a distinct animal note, making it perfect for the game season. Though 5 years older, the 1999 Charmes-Chambertin (Nicolas Potel) had a lot of potential still, with an amazing freshness after 15 years of bottle life. An interesting pair was the Échezeaux 1994 and 1995 (Mugneret-Gibourg). Although 1994 is reputedly the lesser vintage of the two, it clearly outperformed the 95 (drying tannins, faded fruit) on this occasion.

The oldest bottle was saved until the end: a superbly matured Charmes-Chambertin 1989 (Geantet-Pansiot), showing the true potential of pinot noir and Burgundy. If I want pinot that is approachable and charming early on, I would most likely look elsewhere, notably Germany or New-Zealand. But there is definitely nothing that equals a mature Burgundy of a good vintage, made by a competent pair of hands.



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