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               Why Big Red Diary?

Red burgundy from 1998

I can’t help it, I like 1998′s, most anyway…

Don’t run away with the idea that they’re perfect, because they’re not. Of the forty wines drunk, they generally showed balance, deep colour, gorgeous fruit that’s often shaded to black, a little spice, excellent concentration and very good acidity. There is sweetness, but not too much, and finally there’s a nice texture to the wines. Their Achilles heel is their tannin. Not all the wines show it, but close to 50% have a dry tannin that typically doesn’t show itself until the finish. Of those 50%, about one third are really very dry. You don’t really register how dry if you have just one glass, but a second or third glass without food can become wearing. My first instinct is to say that the wines are too young, give them another 3-5 years, but maybe there’s another answer…

Now this tannin thing is a bit of a conundrum; tannin is supposed to be there, and is supposed to reduce/soften with age, so there’s no problem is there? Well, perhaps there is. Pierre Antoine Rovani contends that many 1998′s lack sufficient fruit, are drying out and will be left only with their tannins. He also suggests that these tannins are often unripe, evidenced by a green/cedar note on the nose. On the other hand, Allen Meadows and Clive Coates whilst acknowledging the ‘strength’ of the tannins, point to them as a vintage characteristic that will always be there, but not to worry. To put the tannins in context, they are still an order of magnitude lower than you will find in a 1998 Bordeaux, but then tannin sits less favorably on the shoulders of Pinot Noir.

Everyone’s different, but for me, one of the great joys about Burgundy is the vintage character; the 1990′s are fat and sweet, so are the ’97′s – but different. The ’93′s often have a characteristic and lovely dried currant/raisin fruit on the nose. The ’95′s are dense and concentrated, the 2002′s are jump out of the glass friendly and fleshy etc., etc., and the ’98′s again have their own character. Checking my notes afterwards for traces of green or cedar only came up with some minty notes in a couple of Vosne 1ers – both very good wines. Will I regret that most of the wines that I looked at here are also in my cellar? Certainly not for many, but for some, maybe the jury is out.

The Vintage

Although the overall yields were not particularly low, the vintage itself was low yielding at the the highest levels; the Grand Crus, and followed another low yielding year in 1997. Frost early in the year was a contributing factor that for the reds was felt most in the Côte de Nuits and specifically in the ‘best exposed’ Grand and 1er Crus. The early summer was damp and cool but with the coming of August there was a significant jump in the mercury. The hot weather continued through August and spelled drought and misery for the short-rooted young vines – a lot of fruit was lost. When September arrived there was worry about rot as things became more humid, but fortunately there was no rain prior to harvest, virtually everything was collected before the heavens opened.

From the BIVB, here are the production figures in context…

Cote D’Or in Hectolitres 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 Average
Grand Crus 11,864 14,548 12,076 11,907 15,297 13,146
Village and 1er Crus 163,699 190,154 159,608 168,473 208,830 178,153
Total 175,563 204,702 171,684 180,380 224,127 191,291

The fruit was generally very healthy and needed only a cursory triage. Chaptalisation where used was usually to prolong the alcoholic fermentation rather than to boost alcohol content. Malolactics were often very slow, but this was no problem as the fruit was clean.

The wines

No slurping and spitting here; these wines were drunk at home with food and friends between February and June 2004. I could have further extended this excercise, but Amoureuses, RSV’s, Richebourgs and Musignys stayed firmly in the cellar. If anyone else would like to offer theirs – then I’m available :-) Many showed in a very young way – much younger than the 1997′s at the this stage last year – but those of you that followed your palates more than your advocates will, I’m sure find many rewards. For the long-term and for some wines maybe the jury is out and the advocate is in, we’ll just have to wait and see…

REGIONAL WINES

1998 Faiveley, Bourgogne Rouge
From magnum. Deep red with no fading. The nose has lost some of the oak of its youth leaving mainly red cherry. The tannins are still this wines most obvious attribute, but the fruit gives reasonable balance. Good acidity that helps push the finish a little longer. A nice, quite ‘big’ wine that is borderline rustic – despite the bottle size still doesn’t last very long with 4 friends and a raging barbeque.
1998 Gros Frère & Soeur, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
Generously deep colour. The appealing nose is shaded towards black fruit, developing a few high tones. On the palate, there’s fresh acidity and tannins that are still astringent. For the appelation you’ll find slightly sour but well concentrated fruit and a medium length finish. I’d wait at least another year before drinking any more of these. Well above average for a bourgogne.

VILLAGE WINES

1998 Domaine l’Arlot, Côte de Nuits Villages Clos du Chapeau
Medium ruby red, shading slightly to amber. The nose starts with sweet, creamy, toasty oak of sufficient volume to drown out traces of fruit. Given time (45 minutes) a little plummy fruit comes through. The equally sweet palate shows fat, depth, soft tannin and understated acidity that flows into a slightly creamy finish. You can find a little candied fruit, so tasty, but I like a little more fruit, so would personally wait another year or two to see if any appears.
1998 Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny
Medium cherry red colour. Lovely nose; red cherry with a shade of black fruit. The smooth palate has good depth, good acidity together with mild tannins. Medium length. This is a pure and pretty wine with little to dislike.
1998 Jean-Marc Boillot, Volnay
Medium-plus cherry red. The nose is a little subdued, raspberry and redcurrant and a little alcohol. The palate is sweet with good acidity with slightly grainy tannins that show a little astringency. Medium bodied fruit which also shows in quite a subdued way. A pleasant and tasty well-balanced wine, but currently quite subdued – hint of taint?
1998 Christian Clerget, Chambolle-Musigny
Medium-plus ruby-red with no obvious fading. The nose has dried cranberry/cherry/raisin – very like many 1993′s – and very nice. The palate shows denser fruit than I expected though the acidity carries it off successfully. The tannin is less astringent than many, giving overall a plush, soft texture. About 1 glass was left in the vacuvinned bottle and on day two the nose was diffuse and the palate dense and less obviously balanced. Day 1 showing is a winner – day 2 not.
1998 René Engel, Vosne Romanée
Medium-plus cherry red, no sign of ruby yet. The nose starts with a burst of well toasted oak – lasts only a minute or two – replaced by red pinot fruits against a background of sweet Vosne spice and faint tobacco. Concentrated fruit, red & black, mouthwatering acidity and forward, slightly grainy tannin. Tannins are much less drying than either of the following Vosnes. This will start to drink well earlier than many – but still wait another 3 years.
1998 Henri Gouges, Nuits-St-Georges
Medium cherry-red. The nose starts a little subdued, but given time there’s a high toned sweet note – almost blueberry – eventually a little spice too. Initially the palate starts a little disappointing and thin, though the tannins are smooth and the acidity’s good. Given 90 minutes the palate fattens up some. There’s a nice purity to the fruit though the medium finish never loses a slight bitter aspect. If I hadn’t given this some time to open up I’d have to say this pales next to the following wine, but it’s well balanced so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
1998 Jean Grivot, Nuits-St-Georges Lavières
Drunk after the Potel villages NSG. Darker ruby colour. The nose shows a blacker complexion to the fruit and a fleeting trace of oak. The palate shows an equally black face, good acidity and dry, furry tannin. Opens up nicely with aeration and the tannin seems to show more and more subtlety. I’d say this has a little more potential than the average villages – perhaps like the ’96 that I’ve got in the cellar.
1998 Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée Bossières
The colour is pretty deep, still a little cherry colour at the rim. The nose is starting to show some development – lots of interest here – deep black cherry, just a little cooked and spicy plum fruit, eventually you can find a little raspberry fruit too. The palate has plenty of tannin, but very much in the Grivot style i.e. quite extracted but not too grainy. Good fruit with reasonable espresso-style length and just right acidity. Much more interesting than the 1997 non – Bossières villages.
1998 Antonin Guyon, Chambolle-Musigny
Medium-plus cherry red, little fading. The nose starts in a lovely fashion, deep but still red cherry, faintly fading creme brulee too. Initially the palate is very tasty and succulent, good acidity and slightly dry tannnins. At a tasting this would stand out but actually became a bit wearing as the tannin seemed to get more pronounced. Then as the bottle was fading it really started to sing again with super red fruit and currants on the finish – there’s a little oak too, but not at all jarring. So starts great becomes disappointing then finishes with a flourish 2 out of 3 isn’t bad! I bought a couple more for future reference.
1998 Gros Frère & Soeur, Vosne-Romanée
Good deep colour, still shaded to cherry red. The nose is deep, black and spicy – just a little high tone akin to a redcurrant and raspberry mix, becomes quite blackberry then more raisined. The palate has plenty of drying tannin – slightly astringent at the end and a black aspect to fruit here too. Good length and acidity. This wine is super, but very, very young – I’d go for this ahead of the Grivot Bossières – if I was only allowed one!
1998 Louis Jadot, Beaune
A deep ruby core with just a trace of amber towards the rim. The nose is meaty and at the same time high toned – latent traces of oak too. A sweet palate, though the svelte tannins show in quite a dry fashion they are quite in balance. A medium length, tasty and pleasing wine. Like most of Jadot’s wines this will benefit from further storage, but an hour in a decanter is all you need with this one.
1998 Louis Jadot, Pommard
(From a half bottle) Deep ruby still with a little cherry at the rim. The nose is predominantly sweet red fruit, perhaps just a trace of a meaty note too. The palate is also sweet with good tannins that started a little rustic but softened with air. There’s no astringency to the palate, just balanced concentration and good acidity that lifts the finish slightly. A moreish wine that was done all too quickly. Good villages.
1998 Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin
Frankly I’m amazed! This wine was just so full of toasty oak – of which I’m not enamoured – when released, that it took close to 36 hours to reach the limits of my drinkability. Today you’d never know, the toast is in the background and there’s a faint, sweet, coffee tinged, black skinned fruit note in its place. The colour is a deep cherry red, no fading or browning. The palate has real concentration, good acidity and very well mannered tannins. The wine’s currently showing in a subdued and primary way. One to leave – fortunately, I’ve 10 more to go.
1998 Nicolas Potel, Nuits-St-Georges
A wine that took a little time for me to warm to, but it was worth the wait. Medium cherry red colour. The nose starts very uncouth, high toned and alcoholic. It takes over a hour from opening (no decanting) to start showing a high-toned, fresh and piercing red fruit nose. From the start the palate was fresh, round, nicely concentrated and had very pleasant tannins – a little grain, but not particularly drying. Creamy fruit on the finish too. Next time I’d decant for an hour – otherwise wait two or three years.
1998 Nicolas Potel, Santenay
From a half bottle. Deep, healthy colour. The nose is a faintly oak influenced melange of red and black, slowly develops a nice creme brulee note. The palate is big and sweet with very good acidity and plenty of tannins – they are very slightly bitter, but not overly astringent. Tons of fruit, though its a somewhat stewed black and red mix. Good finish. Brusque and bold – I enjoyed every drop!
1998 Daniel Rion, Côte de Nuits Villages Le Vaucrain
Medium-plus ruby colour, some development and a little amber at the rim. The nose comes mainly from the well toasted wood with coffee and roast nuts in evidence, faint powdery plum in the background. The palate is sweet and medium bodied with a slight rasp to the medium tannins and almost good acidity. Again you’ll notice the wood more than the fruit. Personally I prefer to taste the fruit, but if you like sweet toasted oak in the style of a certain pastry chef – you’ll love this.
1998 Daniel Rion, Nuits-St-Georges Les Lavières
Medium-plus ruby core with a lighter cherry-red rim. The nose has deep plummy tones with just a trace of oak influence. The wine is smooth and sweet with nicely concentrated red fruits and well mannered tannins. The acidity is just right, helping the finish to hang on just that little bit longer. Young, but quite a smoothie for a village Nuits.

1er CRU WINES

1998 Domaine de l’Arlot, Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Forets Saint Georges
I’ve had mixed success with wines from this domaine, hence, often pass them by, but . . . Medium ruby colour, still cherry at the rim. The nose is really very tasty; residual oak, sweet, very candied cherry fruit over a creme brulée base. The palate has forward but very refined tannins, good acidity and a medium length finish. Whilst very pretty, I’d hope for a bit more concentration in top 1er Cru – but it has to be said that this is complex and will be very elegant, particularly for a 1998 – lovely aromatics too – I bought a couple more!
1998 Marquis d’Angerville, Volnay Champans
Medium-plus cherry/ruby core, not much fading. The nose is a little closed but shows restrained sweet red cherry and a little floral note. The palate is super-smooth with good fat. The tannins are only there if you look for them and there’s a distinctive creamy note to the finish, only one problem, there’s also a distinctive cork taint too, hence, the subdued nose I suppose. A better bottle should be rather fine.
1998 Jean-Marc Boillot, Beaune Montrevenots
A premier cru you don’t see so often, it lies above Clos des Mouches and borders Pommard’s (villages) Le Bas de Saussilles. Deep cherry red. Lovely nose of red and black fruit, nice purity too. The palate shows deep black fruit, good acidity and tannins that start quite drying – good texture despite the astringency. After two hours in a decanter there’s balance and tons of interest – the tannins don’t seem so bad now – maybe they’ve dissolved the inside of my mouth! Has pure fruit and excellent density that should easily outlast the tannin, more a Pommard than a Beaune. Shame it’s such an expensive wine…
1998 Bouchard Père et Fils, Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos Saint Marc
What a wine… Deeply coloured, still cherry red but no fading. The nose soars with high toned berry fruit before slowly settling down to a deep, spicy-edged black-skinned fruit. Intense black fruit that really follows into the finish. Good acidity and tannins that really make themselves known if you keep the wine in your mouth, mouthwrapping though they are, they are also velvetty and not so astringent as many. Why did I only buy two…
1998 Bruno Clair, Marsannay Les Grasses Têtes
Deep cherry red. The nose is sweet with some toasty oak and cooking red cherries. The palate is surprisingly fat and sweet. Nice acidity, well mannered tannins and lovely long fruit – red and black. This is really excellent. I expect that the oak (which is very well done) will soon start to add to the complexity – I bought a few more of these after this tasting. A case of half bottles is currently giving much summer joy chez Nanson.
1998 Bruno Clair, Savigny-les-Beaune La Dominode
From vines that were planted in 1902. A deep core of ruby, fading to cherry red. The nose has a super depth of slightly spicy black cherry. Intense black fruit that really holds into the finish. Good acidity and thick, velvetty, drying tannins. Very young and potentially a super wine.
1998 Germain (Château Chorey-les-Beaune), Beaune Le Cras Vieilles Vignes
Very deep colour, still with a cherry red rim. The nose has high toned slightly estery notes over an undertow of black skinned fruit. The fruit is also deeply black on the palate too. The acidity is very good and the drying tannins of the vintage are present, though with sufficiently intense fruit to act as a buffer. A big black wine of a Beaune that you might pick as from the Côte de Nuits. I’d leave it for another three years to tame the tannin some more.
1998 Henri Gouges, Nuits-St-Georges Les Vaucrains
This is a step-up from Gouges’ villages Nuits. Darker in colour with with blacker fruit on the nose. Good intensity and length, again very smooth tannins. Fresh and pretty interesting. This is a nice wine.
1998 Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux Saint Jacques
I enjoyed this lots when released (November 2000), but frankly it’s a little disappointing now. Medium ruby red already showing some development and fading to the rim. A strawberry pie nose with deeper red cherry behind. Some fat with slightly prickly acidity and dusty, slightly drying tannins. Perhaps this is a dumb phase, there’s a little tertiary development, but it’s showing in a lacklustre way and seems prematurely aged vs the ’98 Jadot village Beaune that has shared the same shelf for the last 3+ years.
1998 Dr Georges Mugneret, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Chaignots
Medium ruby red, still cherry red at the rim. The nose has reticent but very pure cherry. Gorgeously smooth palate with a very sneaky, creamy red fruit length. The acidity is fine and the tannins are first class. Not many words to describe a super Nuits – but I made another order!
1998 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Chambolle-Musigny Les Fuées
Medium-plus, cherry red with no fading. The nose bursts with red berries; raspberry and cherry set against a creamy background – lovely purity. The palate is intense and succulent, again showing mainly red fruit. The fine tannins show a dry edge. There is an oaky depth at first which makes the palate a little ‘muddy’, but this rights itself on aeration. Young but still fine.
1998 Nicolas Potel, Nuits Saint-Georges Vaucrains
More a tasting note about the manifestation of cork taint; medium, medium-plus ruby red and no fading. The nose is subdued with just a trace of blue skinned fruit, no taint and a slightly green, minty rather than leafy note. In the mouth there’s definitely a little taint on the finish – which is a shame as this is a very smooth wine. After 10 minutes it’s there on the nose too – still faint. Obviously this wine is close to my detection (or should that be toleration) limit as a small amount left in a glass for 30+ minutes actually tastes quite nice…
1998 Nicolas Potel, Santenay Beauregards
Medium-plus cherry red. The nose is red – a lovely blend of raspberry and a little strawberry. Straight from the bottle the palate’s a little coarse, but softens with some aeration. Succulent fruit with faintly drying tannin and good acidity. This is a big-fun wine, save it or dunk into a decanter and drink now.
1998 Nicolas Potel, Vosne-Romanée Suchots
Signs of seepage under the capsule, but nothing untoward in the way the wine presented itself. Deep cherry red. The nose starts with tons of black cherry depth, but it’s primary and there’s not much else, perhaps a little high toned red fruit and mint – okay perhaps there is more… Not much fat but super concentration. The tannin is well behaved – no astringency – and good acidity. With food there seems a bit of a gap in the mid-palate, otherwise you don’t notice. Medium, medium-plus length. I enjoyed this wine plenty.
1998 Nicolas Potel, Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts
Deep ruby core with a cherry red rim. The nose starts with a blast of blackberry fruit, eventually settles to a mix of minty red fruit pies. Very concentrated fruit, with perfect acidity and long, grippy, but velvetty tannin. The mid-palate starts a little soupy but gradually becomes more and more distinct – tons of complexity. This wine was drunk after the good Engel villages Vosne and has so much extra dimension that it’s hard to believe it’s not a grand cru.
1998 Tollot-Beaut, Savigny-les-Beaune Champs-Chevrey
Medium-plus cherry red. Nose is high toned, a lovely raspberry- cherry mix – biased to raspberry, below is a subtle and fading vanilla. The palate is wonderfully smooth, with super acidity, red fruit and a really stand-out length. The silky tannins in this case don’t share the astringency so common in their Côte de Nuits cousins. Excellent – I’ve bought some more.

GRAND CRU WINES

1998 Guy Castagnier, Clos de la Roche
I’ve bought this wine from 1996 to 1999 (inclusive) but then my overstocked merchant dropped the label – I think I’ll have to pay a visit and keep my mini-vertical running… The wine is medium-plus garnet, little fading. The nose starts a little disjointed and heavy on the oak, given five minutes the oak has harmonised with a coffee topped plum and cherry pie effect – still quite understated – a cooked note spoils the overall effect a little. Direct from the cellar the fresh palate is not obviously fat, but becomes more so as the wine approaches room-temp. The tannins are of velvet and the acidity lingers into a gorgeous and complex finish – which comes as a surprise given the understated way the wine begins. If there’s one criticism, the wine seems more advanced than most ’98′s and not just on the nose – but it’s a lovely drop.
1998 Guy Castagnier, Charmes-Chambertin
The slightly cooked nose of the Clos de la Roche is turned up a notch on this Charmes, together with very dusty/powdery red fruit that makes the nose slightly unattractive for my taste. The colour is medium-plus ruby. On the palate the wine seems not that well integrated, deep red fruit, and forward, velvetty tannins that show a bitter edge. The last quarter of the bottle was vacuvined and left overnight – subsequently showing a little more balance and intense red fruit, but this time the acidity seems too forward. A wine that doesn’t find the right balance and isn’t in the same league as the superb 1999.
1998 Guy Castagnier, Clos de Vougeot
The colour is medium-plus ruby, not quite as developed as the Charmes. The nose shows a trace of oak and also a trace of the cooked note of the previous two Castagniers – but on a much lower register. The fruit is higher toned showing a little redcurrant above the cherry which itself sits above a meaty coffee note. The wine shows in a fresher and more aloof (I wouldn’t go as far as saying austere) manner than the Charmes but with a very impressive length. The acidity is just right and the tannin is thick and velvetty. This is a very good young wine.
1998 Gros Frère & Soeur, Grands-Echézeaux
Almost the wine of the series – were it not for the cork! The cork itself was slightly unusual in that the only inscription it bore was the number 983 – even the GF&S Bourgogne told me more. Said cork also had an unusual rancio-type of note – there it was in the wine too – unless you swirled and then it was gone – clinged to the palate though. So everything was dumped into a decanter to see if I could shift the smell, it wasn’t overpowering, but it was enough to spoil (my) enjoyment. The decanter failed to clear the ‘problem’ so I had to make a quick swirl with the wine before each time putting nose to glass. The colour showed no obvious oxidation – a lovely deep ruby colour with minimal fading to the rim. Post swirling the nose was first-class young, aristocratic Bourgogne; depth, bloody dried cranberries, coffee, dried currants – so complex. The palate showed none of the astringency of many, the tannins marked by a slight grain, but nothing more. The acidity shows up on the mouthwatering finish, which despite no explosion lingers really well. But then the real taint came through – it had to be the GE that was tainted didn’t it(!) I got a new bottle, but didn’t see the point in opening it – I know it’s a superb wine – cork permitting!
1998 Antonin Guyon, Corton Clos du Roy
Instantly too young, tannic/astringent. Improved plenty with food and an hour in a decanter – so I’ll give you the latter version! Medium/medium-plus core of cherry red that slowly fades to the rim. The nose starts with a blast of high-toned red and black fruit, settling down to subtle high-toast oak and a concentrated mix of black fruit and meaty tones. Ripe, deep black fruit and tough in a Corton style. There’s some grain to the tannin and a medium-plus length. Good, but wait at least 3 years.

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