this week’s wines, including ‘Who is the new Domaine René Engel?’

Update 8.7.2022(7.7.2022)billn

this week's wines

Dinner with friends in Pommard and some lovely, eclectic, wines.

The first bottle was a lovely 2011 Comtes Champagne – with some lovely menthol aromatic complexity. Then came the:

2012 Fontaine-Gagnard, Le Montrachet
Deeper colour and the first nose was more monolithic – some sulfur-reduction hardening things – affecting the palate too – but aeration brought more comfort, more dimension and less sulfur! Such a concentrated flavour and shape to this wine – it’s such a baby – still! Very impressed, rather than wowed – yet – it has the material that good bottles will easily outlast me!
Rebuy – Maybe

2014 Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Folatières
So much more open and so much more aromatically direct – complex, citrus energy – just such a great invitation. Like the nose the flavours more open and energetic and accessible than the Montrachet but never with the weight and concentration of the older wine. But in terms of drinking, this was clearly the white to go for today.
Rebuy – Yes

1996 Vincent Girardin, Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
Plenty of browning but still a good depth of colour. The aromas reminded me of the many 1996 recently drunk – complex – not harsh – inviting, and unlike the reputation of the domaine at this time – not much oak influence is visible today. This was a very tasty wine – I’d be happy to spend an evening just with this bottle.
Rebuy – Yes

And now, here is the question…

Who is the new Domaine René Engel? Over the last few years, many people have asked me this question. More often than not they are looking for the next domaine whose wines could jump to the ‘superstar level’ of pricing so that they can jump in and later cash in! With pricing in mind, I rarely attempt to answer this question but there is another perspective.

For this other perspective, it’s important to define what was Domaine René Engel: Up until the loss of Philippe Engel in 2005 the wines of this domaine were never considered to be on the same ‘superstar’ or ‘sought after’ level as newly emerging domaines such as Comte Liger-Belair or older domaines such as Méo-Camuzet. But as a counterpoint to the more oaked and sometimes structural wines of Grivot and various domaines ‘Gros,’ the wines of Engel were always accessible and delicious – they were also very well priced when compared to his neighbours. Most were drunk young – as those of any ‘less expensive’ domaine. But those bottles that have been saved – helped by today’s prices shooting for the stars; €3k is now average for a bottle of 1999 Engel Grands-Echézeaux – have shown that accessible and balanced is no barrier to ageing with grace whilst remaining delicious.

With this latter perspective in mind, I’m always happy and open with my thoughts and was reminded of this during a tasting with friends in Pommard this week. One-time contemporary of Philippe Engel and Mr Consistent in terms of a similar easy deliciousness I openly suggest Frederic Esmionin. His Estournelles St.Jacques is an absolute cracker and his Ruchottes-Chambertin is all that you could wish for from a grand cru – but just look at his tariff – at least in the context of many neighbours in the Côte de Nuits. It’s a shame that his long-term lease of the Ruchottes-Chambertin parcel will come to an end in 2031 when it will return to the current (new) owners – Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy’s Domaine des Lambrays – the price of this wine will probably (at least) triple when grapes have to take the long trip to Morey Saint-Denis!

Confined to his wheelchair it is not Fred Esmonin who does the work in the vines or in the cuvérie – it is still mainly his father, André, who is also getting on in years – I hope that between them they can keep going until 2031!

Anyway, back to the wines:

1999 Frederic Esmonin, Ruchottes-Chambertin
MOre modest colour after the 1996 Girardin. What a great nose – open, a faintly smoky complexity but still a fine and complex red fruit style – zero issues with this fine, clean nose. The palate – yes – broad, mouth-filling, good energy and still just a small lick of the structural tannins. Absolutely delicious wine. Really in great shape and (red) wine of the night..
Rebuy – Yes

2001 Louis Latour, Corton
It’s so rare to see older Latours that I was really looking forward to this one. I find young Lators usually closed and uninteresting but my experience of older bottles is almost always positive – this one wasn’t going to change my mind on that.
Darker, younger colour. The nose a little more mineral and dark fruited. More structural scale – as you might expect from Corton – and a wine that’s clearly going to need a few more years to be as drinkable as the Esmonin – yet – here is good dark fruit, properly Corton in shape but without hard edges – and has a finish of wonderful, if still young, grand cru energy. A wine with so many positives – well done.
Rebuy – Yes

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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