A mix of cold and warm, sun and rain – a great start to my campaign. My thanks to the proprietors/winemakers for my first 20+ visits to taste 2018s – for the February Report.
Now a short weekend of recovery back home!
Hot off the press: Boris Champy, after leaving Clos du Lambrays, has just announced that he’s taking over the domaine of Didier Montchovet in the Hautes Côtes.
Apparently Didier, one of the first in biodynamics in Burgundy, had no succession at his domaine and together with Boris, they decided that this was the best way to continue the domaine. Hopefully more info later in the year – first-hand.
Domaine Montchovet, Key facts
– Created in 1984 by Didier Montchovet
– 12 ha mostly in Nantoux, Beaune and Pommard
– Certified Organic and Biodynamic viticulture (Ecocert/Demeter)
– 4 employees
– Website: www.montchovet.fr
I’m reminded of more than one conversion I had with the former winemaker in Morey St.Denis, David Clark. His 2004s and 2011s were not immune to the pyrazines of those vintages, and in the absence of other theories that convinced, he seemed pretty comfortable with the idea that the ladybirds/bugs might be the responsible party.
David was (probably still is) an incurable the inventor/engineer, proposing that maybe the solution was to wash the grapes before they hit the fermentation tanks – he was pretty sure that the environment of the cuverie would harbour enough yeast strains to get the fermentations done, assuming that those populations on the grapes themselves might be washed away. Some other winemakers seemed less convinced of that latter point – but given not many ladybugs since 2011 – it’s a thought that has faded.
I note that in some vintages, Bouchard Père et Fils has ‘sort-of‘ their own grape washing approach; letting the first part of the first press wash away as it contains all the dirt accumulated on the grapes. But an automatic wash for the grapes it isn’t.
Enter the most recent vintages chez Château Thivin; an Italian friend of Claude Geoffray has been using such a washing system for grapes that go into their local bubbles. Claude decided to give it a try. The grapes are hit by high-pressure water before travelling over a vibrating table to remove the larger drops, then a high-pressure air-flow to dry the grapes. “It doesn’t just get rid of the insects,” says Claude, “In the most recent vintages there has been no rain, so the accumulated treatments of the summer are undoubtedly still present on the grapes – copper, sulfur, etcetera.”
Claude confirms that his recent fermentations have been fine – ‘normal‘ – whereas most producers in the last vintages describe fragility in their fermentations, and a couple have even suggested to me that it could be the accumulation of copper still on the grapes that bears some responsibility. Claude is still waiting the analyses of the chemical levels in his ‘wash-water,’ but it’s fair to say he’s been very happy with the results; “It was clear that many of the grapes had an accumulation of something from the vintages that didn’t taste nice before washing – after they were fine.”
For the moment, Claude and the team at Châateau Thivin may be the only winemakers using this tool in France – but with results like this, it seems a modest investment in quality – even without ladybugs!
It was 13°C when I left Switzerland for Beaujolais at 5 am this morning – it was 13°C again when I got back to my hotel at 19h45 this evening – but in the middle, it had peaked at 18°C. Now I do remember 23°C last February, but that was the second half of February – when people were pruning vines in t-shirts – but this is so much closer to January!
So, I’d expected rain, but the day got steadily brighter and sunnier – they suggest gales in the night and maybe even snow in the next couple of days – welcome to our weather!
There were also some weekend wines, of course! Now it might look a bit odd, taking 2 bottles of Castagier’s 1997 Clos de la Roche, but as you may have surmised, there was a problem with the first bottle’s cork! On the positive side – yes there was one! – I tend to eat well when there’s a corked bottle, usually, the unspeakable wine ends up as the base for our house variation on Beef Bourguignone – and the Clos de la Roche did make a really great sauce! The second bottle was very good on its own, in a glass! It would be a rebuy at the old price of 60 Swiss francs! The 2010 Pommard Epenots from Rebourgeon-Mure was also lovely but a stricter 2010 that didn’t appreciate following the sweetness of the Clos de la Roche – so mainly was drunk on day two – very complex, lots of depth to the earthy flavour and lovely balance and energy. Give it another 2-3 years for being fully ready – excellent wine that I’d also buy again at the old price. Then were the two Chablis 1ers from 2018; both good – the Seguinot-Bordet the more flighty and higher-toned, the Vorcoret the more concentrated and more overtly Chablis at this early stage in their life. Both delicious and rebuys at today’s prices (shock!)
Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair 2017 EP/Pre-Arrivals
Prices arrived today from my Swiss merchant. The 2016 & 2015 prices (from the same time, previous years) are in brackets for comparison. This year the Richebourg returns, still no Beaujolais though! :
2017 NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES La Charmotte 75cl 52.00* (55.00, 49.50) (Swiss Francs)
2017 CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY 75 cl 69.00 (69.00, – )
2017 VOSNE-ROMANEE Aux Réas 75cl 69.50 (76.00, 69.50)
2017 NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES Les Saint-Georges 75cl 119.00 (118.00, 109.00)
2017 NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES Les Saint-Georges 150cl 248.00 (256.00, – )
2017 CORTON CLOS DU ROI 75cl 159.00 (159.00, – )
2017 CLOS DE VOUGEOT 75cl 159.00 (169.50 (158.00)
2017 Charmes-Chambertin 75cl 169.00 ( – , – )
2017 RICHEBOURG 75cl 425.00 ( – , 395.00)
2017 CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 75cl 189.00 (198.00, – )
So, almost a softening – versus 2016 at any rate! I remember when I moved to Switzerland in 2000, I was buying grand crus for 69 chf – the price of Thibault’s villages today. I know my salary would not have doubled (equivalent job) in 20 years, but I ask myself if the prices are really all that bad for 20 years down the line. Comparing Richebourgs, Grivot’s version was 170 chf 20 years ago – jumping to a massive 230 chf for the 1999 – I’ve still never had a great Richebourg from Grivot, but hope my 1999s will (one day!) show something special, the 1998 is ‘okay’ the 1997 is poor.
*As always, these wines are without the 8% Swiss purchase tax, but include the cost of delivery…
The interwebs in the last days have been full of images (below) against a major proposed change by the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité) and I had many conversations with winegrowers in Chablis about it last week too. This is only a tiny example, but I tasted a number of Bourgogne Côte d’Auxerre, Tonnerre and Epineuil last week – the warmer vintages really having given these wines an impressive lease of life – yet here we are with a proposal that will revert them to – well, what exactly?
Their current designations are of regional wines (i.e. Bourgognes) with geographical precisions – there are 14 of these geographical Bourgognes1 including the new Bourgogne Côte d’Or label – so how many may be junked?
So much for loyal and constant use… This will run and run!
But what the INAO taketh with one hand they giveth with the other – the proposals would allow swathes of Beaujolais to be classed as ‘Bourgogne’ – clearly taking the pith here as gamay is not Bourgogne, only Côteaux Bourgogne… 😉
1The 14 ‘Geographical Bourgognes’ are: Bourgogne Chitry, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois, Bourgogne Côte d’Or, Bourgogne Côte Saint Jacques, Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Bourgogne Épineuil, Bourgogne Hautes Côte de Beaune, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Bourgogne La Chapelle Notre Dame, Bourgogne Le Chapitre, Bourgogne Montre-cul (or Montrecul or En Montre-Cul) and Bourgogne Tonnerre.
A homage to my last 3 weeks of tasting, and the weekend’s event – the 77th Saint Vincent – in Gevrey-Chambertin:
2016 Agnes et Didier Dauvissat, Chablis ‘Les Petits Vignerons‘
A fine Chablis nose that draws you – steely, with a modest seashore and minerality. In some respects, the concentration here reminds a little of 2018s with an extra richness – but the shape of the wine, the line and intensity, the wonderful Chablis complexion of this wine are a little different. So delicious, so engrossing. That’s a great villages…
Rebuy – Yes
2008 Joseph Roty, Gevrey-Chambertin ‘La Brunelle‘
Their Côteaux Bourguignone aside, Roty needs at least 10 years to get going, and here we are…
This nose starts herby, earthy and a little creamy – the last of the oak – but aeration brings more roundness of red berry fruit to the fore. Supple, wide, fresh but also growing in intensity and a really super, creamy, finishing energy and complexity – that’s a great finish for a great villages – bravo…
Rebuy – Yes
1999 Jean Raphet, Clos de Bèze
This was great, way back in 2003, I would have bought more, but the merchant refused to refund a corked bottle, so that was the last contact that I had with them…
The nose here has much in common with that of the Roty, just a little extra sweetness and richness. Much more richness of texture and depth to the flavour too – it comes to you in concentrated waves of flavour – and with impressive intensity in the middle too. This is the wine that impresses more, though the ‘smaller’ Roty is actually the tastier wine today… still, very good, and possibly still too young…
Rebuy – Maybe