1996 René Engel, Vosne-Romanée
Medium ruby-red. The nose right from opening is a bit of a star. Deep with a twist of oak before transparent red berry and redcurrant notes come through. Plenty of higher, slightly volatile notes too – but always quite compelling. The palate is just a little more challenging – very forward acidity, indeed borderline ‘too much acidity’, very, very linear presentation, still a little astringent tannin remains, but there’s also some bitterness in the finish. No sign of decline because this is exactly how the wine presented itself for the whole 3 hours before it was gone. A bit of a challenge this bottle, balanced by the lovely aromatics.
Rebuy – Maybe
rené engel 96 vosne
There are 9 responses to “rené engel 96 vosne”
This sounds to me like many/all serious 96s, Bill. I suspect they all need a great deal of time-what’s alarming is the combination of some really quite evolved characteristics with others that haven’t even started to settle down, but I think that’s par for the course. I gather the same was true of 72s! the 93 of this wine is a simply sensational village burgundy.
We tasted a few Engel Clos Vougeot’s recently and unsurprisingly the most serious and backward wine was the ’96. Given that the ’93 of this wine (which I tasted alongside Tom – it was my bottle in fact) is still quite young, like tom I’d be fairly confident that this will run given sufficient time. Just depends on whether you can live with the acidity I suppose. I see that you note the lifted character. That’s something I haven’t particularly associated with Engel wines in the past, but at the tasting it was quite noticeable in the ’96 and ’98, but strangely not in the ’99 or ’00.
This wine, and most red 96s, have what Paul Kosacz calls “a donut hole”. The shape of the wines have always been suspect with a weak mid-palate (the donut hole). Can the slightly astringent tannin and end-bitterness be oak tannins finding no real grape tannin to marry with, leaving the always slightly shrill fruit at the altar? There are always good wines in any vintage (just had the most remarkable 1989 of my life – Dr. George Mugneret Gevrey Ruchottes – so atypical its should be classified under “freak shows”). But 1996 is just so disappointing vis a vis the hype.
Hi Dan – great comments.
Re donut’s, I do recognise the description, though in this case (if I think in shapes) this wine is linear rather than round so hard to take something from the middle 😉
This, and indeed many low-mid-level, 96’s remind me of the limited number of 64’s I’ve had; great aromatics and a palate that is mainly a spine of acidity to which some vestige of fruit clings. Not unlikeable, but also not what I want to drink every day. The best wines seem to have the requisite density though.
On salient comment (I think!) is that our perspective on 1996 Burgundy maybe being ‘slanted’ by the sweetness and ‘fat’ of recent vintages – historically they have rarely been like this.
Hi Bill – I too look for linerarity in wines. Would it be fair to say there’s a dip, or even a break, in this wine? That is another way I would describe all but a few 1996 reds.
You are right to point out a possible “slant” to sweetness in recent vintages. Global warming, or vineyard management techniques? I simply avoid 1997 and 2003 altogether, and look for 1988, 1991, 1993 (if I’m feeling immortal), 1995, 1998, 2001 in Cote de Nuit, 2002 in Cote de Beaune, select 2004s, etc. While envious of your Burgundy travels, I try to use them to good effect, so learn something new each time I visit the Report.
2005 is the real test of the “new” vintages. In lieu of joining you in the cellars I had the chance to taste some late barrel samples out of bottle when Becky Wasserman and Russell Hone came through LA. Based on these samples and trying to prognosticate so I have a frame of reference to make buying decisions on highly allocated wines that I am not able to taste before plunking down the dosh, I’ve decided to favor 1999 over 2005 in the top wines of all classes, save the “lowest”. This means if a 1999 or 2005 Grand Cru that I have not tasted, but want to drink, is on offer I would take the plunge on the 1999 first.
Is 2005 really balanced? And will the alcohol eventually turn what are right now terrific drinking wines into a bit more sophisticated version of 1985 where all but a few wines have cracked up? (Hey, vintner techniques really have improved.) And before someone jumps all over the 1985 dig (yeah, yeah, Ponsot Clos de la Roche rocks), in a Clos des Epeneaux 200th Anniversary dinner in Los Angeles (we drank 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1976, 1962) with Benjamin Leroux – the absolutely worst wine was the 85. There were multiple bottles, all pretty much the same — stewed, alcoholic, fuzzy and vague, actually clumsy, with no verve, no lift, no spirit and no mouth watering effects.
The truly lesser 2005 wines (Borgogne, Hauts Cotes, normal Villages) already have advanced and detailed aromatics. And are great value. If you stray very far from “leaner” style producers, you might be advised to drink early to medium term. And maybe look to higher elevation vinyards and AOCs. And so the old dictum, you need to taste the wine, is very much in play while the wines we want to drink (Lafarge Chenes or Caillerets for instance) are only available pre-arrival, palate-unseen.
Going back to the original vintage, 1996, perhaps you can steer me towards a few that have the requisite density — as a reference to my prejudices, here is Paul Wasserman’s notes on the 1996 Clos des Epeneaux: “Very mature aromas on the nose. Ben says it is because in that vintage Pascal used very low doses of SO2. High acid of the vintage. I find many 96s to have no real structural depth, but if this is not particularly deep, it certainly has no holes in the mid. It is pretty and quite precise and actually very elegant for the appellation. Finish is sweet, long and precise. Very good 1996.” I think this is a bit generous.
For further reference: four months ago, 1996 Clos des Lambrays was all shimmering top-notes and slightly “green” tannins which I took to be from the barrels, not the fruit. Not much on the follow through either. The same night, the 1998 Lambrays was a stunning powerhouse, and if its ripe somewhat oversized grape tannins might never completely resolve, that’s okay by me as the wine’s linearity is festooned with all that pinot noir can offer.
Great stuff Dan – will try and keep up with your comments.
1. Re joining me in the cellars – I have to be very particular you know – as evidenced by my wife’s first taste of mid-malo whites (Corton-Charlemagne no-less) back in February: she promptly spit it all over the floor (a first) and acted as if we had poisoned her! Good job it was a friendly winemaker 😉
2. 1999 vs 2005. I don’t think we have too many points of departure here. The best wines should easily last another 25 years – by which time I will be close to 70. I have some preference anyway for 1999 given a very classic presentation of the best wines; where 2005 is less classic is the sweetness that you often find – you are right on both counts I think, it’s about climate AND viticulture/winemaking. Where 2005 scores is the average quality of lower appellation wines and the ability to fill your cellar with fantastic (value) Aloxe and Savigny etc. that will be simply great to drink for the next 5 years – if they start to go downhill – drink them faster!
3. Back to 1996. My last note (December) was not fully entusiastic on the Clos des Epeneaux:
Actually I prefer the ’96 bottling from Camille Giroud who always recieved 2 barrels per year in the time of Marchand. I’ve not been drinking too much 96 recently because they are not showing the ‘love’, but recently tasted bottles that I would commend would include; a good simple villages i.e. Pierre Bourée’s Gevrey Clos de la Justice. For 1er Cru’s how about Lejeune’s Rugiens which was so much more interesting and characterful than the Epeneaux? or Gevrey Clos de Varoilles. GC’s – LT is great, Drouhin’s Musigny likewise. Offering more value, try to look up any of Guy Castagnier’s GC’s (BM, CV, CstD, CdR) or perhaps the Charmes-Chambertin of Dominique Gallois.
Last point returns to the Clos des Epeneaux. This is a wine that impresses me, but I don’t buy. I like linearity in a wine, but the Clos seems to offer a somehow ‘dulled’ version of that i.e. none of the shimmer or gloss that you can find particularly across the board with 99’s. It’s my palate and that wine has yet to show the right ‘fit’, good as it is I just don’t find it engaging.
Thought-provoking stuff from Dan. But is ‘density’ really ‘requisite’?
Re Clos des Epeneaux, I’ve tasted 83,85,88,89,91,and 93 in the recent past, and I’m sorry to say that none have come anywhere near thrilling me. Young examples from the new regime certainly have, though. I hope they evolve as they promise to.
Density is somehow a mark of the a wine’s place in the hierarchy, but it’s how the density is carried that is key. That said and closer to your point (I think) Tom, density is absolutely not a prerequisite to be enthralled by the contents of your glass. In-line with that I made a post on ERP the other day along those lines:
Anyway, as we are discussing 96’s, and it was René’s bottle (above) that started all this, I think I can see a 96 Bûlées being opened tonight or tomorrow…
[EDIT: I lied it’s the 95 Brûlées that awaits]
Bill – thanks for the 96 road map. Now I have somewhere to go to! To Tom – density – the English language is tricky. For me density can be transparent, full of weight but weightless in the mouth (the 1999 Clos des Epeneaux) – maybe intensity is a better word. Of all the Marchand wines, only the 1988 is near to being ready, and it is quite precise, polished, full of breed and not at all “dense”. I probably think too much, but do enjoy engaging wines from the likes of G Barthod, pre 1989 B Serveau, etc. And look forward to tips on wines that engage you. Cheers,