Entries from 2022

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

By billn on July 07, 2022 #degustation#warning - opinion!

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

wines of weekend 26 2022 – including an ultra-rare Ponsot

By billn on July 05, 2022 #degustation

weekend wines 26 2022

First, something of a rarity – a Ponsot 1994.

Laurent Ponsot recounted to me this week that “In 1994 most of my neighbours picked a bit too early and had grapes full of rot. Me, (he said with a smile) I picked a bit too late and also had grapes full of rot! The wines were not very good and not something I wanted to put my label on, so I sent them all for distillation.” I pointed out that the de Chézeaux Griotte of 1994 proudly proclaimed him as the producer; “Yes, it’s true. I told the Mercier family (owners of his metayage parcels) what I was doing with my wines but they refused to follow – so for their contracted share of the crop, I had to deliver the bottles.

1994 des Chézeaux/Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
The colour is not bad – certainly no browning here. An intriguing nose – a suggestion of the balsamic but there was no real oxidative character – despite a cork that crumbled into pieces and did, itself, smell very sherried! Still there was a certain hardness to the aromas that couldn’t really be described as an invitation to drink. In the mouth, slightly metallic – but not blood/iron – quite mouth-filling and with balanced acidity – but still, like the nose, with a certain hardness. I drank only one glass and returned the bottle to the fridge. On day two the aromas and flavours were more relaxed – this was a very stable wine with no obvious faults and it was certainly better on day two when I could manage two glasses! Because of its scarcity, Griotte is exceptionally expensive these days but this particular bottle was worth no more than €20 – and only for the experience – so if you find one, you have been warned!
Rebuy – No

1995 Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée Les Bossières
The 95s and 96s of Grivot – for a long time – could only be described as monolithic wines. Despite (selling!) merchants describing new approaches and ‘wonderful clarity’ in the early 2000s. then the mid-2000s, then again in the early 2010s, etcetera, etcetera, for me it was the same-old, same-old story. Only in the last 2-3 years have I seen the stirrings of real extra clarity and accessibility in the hands of Mathilde Grivot that make me want to return to taste new vintages. But let’s return to the 95s and 96s: After years of being uninteresting, in the last couple of years I have found many of these Grivot wines to be opening and really delivering some impressive performances – at last. Memorably there was this Richebourg but others have begun to deliver too, such as a 96 Nuits Boudots at a tasting, last week, of 1996s (to come for subscribers) and this 1995 too. Note, another rather spongy cork that was never, ever, going to be released from the neck in one piece!
Medium, medium-plus colour with a very subtle browning at the rim. This nose shows a small suggestion of both caramel and spice – maybe even a little cigar – it is a good invitation to drink, having no obvious faults. In the mouth nicely – but not overly – structural with good balance and whilst still underpinned by a little tannin there is no-longer any harshness to this experience. Decent length and nicely clean finishing – another glass? I don’t mind if I do. Finally, this is very good and another stable wine – like the Ponsot – zero problems with the wine on day 2.
Rebuy – Maybe

2020 Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet
A direct nose with some stone fruit that was accented with florals. Such flavour energy and a growing intensity to this flavour too – really a mouth-watering and energetic wine – tension indeed. It’s lovely – topped off with a vibrantly tasty finish. Excellent villages and very Puligny…
Rebuy – Yes

week 26 2022 – the vintage so far (after the deluge…)

By billn on June 28, 2022 #vintage 2022

Clos Saint Jacques - after heavy rain
Gevrey’s Clos St.Jacques after the heavy rains – somebody’s going to have to take that earth back up the hill…

Well, there has been a lot of rain in the last few days – nearly 160mm recorded in Gevery-Chambertin, 21-27 June – a volume of water that brought soil to the bottom of the hills and ripped new channels through the vineyard roads and paths.

As you move south, the volume of rain slowly receded to between 50-80mm in the southern half of the Côte d’Or. The rain of 21-June focused on the north Côte de Nuits (Brochon, Fixin, Couchey). That of 22-June was more in the northern Côte de Beaune, the Côte de Nuits and the Hautes-Côtes with much variabilty in the Hautes Côtes depending on the particular valley. These first two stormy episodes were accompanied by hail in the north Côte de Beaune, including Chorey-les-Beaune and some of Ladoix plus in Côte de Nuits. Thursday 23-June, fortunately, brought only water and the same for the evening of Saturday 25-June.

In the Mâconnais, Fuissé, in one day, saw 50mm of rain – but in only 45 minutes! They had no hail, though other places, such as Vergisson, fared less well as there was hail mixed with the rain – losses are currently estimated at 30% – so much less than the hail of 2021 and, again, with the caveat that there was already a lot of grapes on the vines.

Mazis-Chambertin 24-June-2022Hail always generates strong emotions, it’s for that reason that I like to wait a few days before reporting on the potential consequences. The syndicate of Gevery-Chambertin (image: Mazis-Chambertin, right) were quickly discussing potential (average!) losses of around 15% but there are a lot of grapes on the vines this year – despite the April frost – so, at this stage, it’s not necessarily going to be a lower volume vintage. As one well-known producer told me today “Several impacts of hail and a lot of earth down the slope…. but no significant reason to cry!

Some of the grape clusters were not looking good – as is always the case with hail – but we have a forecast with 7-10 days of reasonably stable weather and warm temperatures that will likely dry these damaged grapes and give them the chance of dropping to the floor. Biodynamic domaines in Gevrey were already spraying their teas of tisane on Friday afternoon. From Beaune south, there are hardly any hail impacts as of today.

It’s patchy in Beaujolais too; poor Fleurie has some damage – it seems that if there’s hail, they always get it – but in Brouilly there was none and so forth. All told, nearly 500 hectares of Beaujolais has some hail damage – it sounds a lot (it is!) but it’s still only 3.5% of the 14,500 hectares that they have planted. It’s the sectors of Blacé, Saint Julien and the slopes of Arnas that have been most touched.

As noted, the forecast is largely good with temperatures approaching 30°C in the next 10 days – rot remains under control, for now, so steady as she goes…

A new Burgundy Report

By billn on June 23, 2022 #reports

A new Burgundy Report with an additional 20 domaines from in and around Chablis to add to the 64 tasted in January – that’s 84 domaines’ 2020s – and there’s more too!
Nobody gives you more…



The mid-summer vintage update – 2022 steady as she goes – but fast!

By billn on June 21, 2022 #vintage 2021

There’s been no attenuation to the advancement of the vine growth in the last week. There have been a few (helpful!) bursts of rain in the last 2 weeks since I updated you – nicely regular on the 02, 09 and 15 June – but also with high temperatures too – in the last week, 36-38°C have been measured in the vines.

Not since the 2005 vintage have temperatures been so high in June – and in 2022 those temperatures have comfortably exceeded what was seen in 2005. The combination of occasional rain plus high temperatures is the engine of vine growth this year. Despite the episode of frost in early April, we are holding a similar course of precocious maturity to the 2003, 2011 and 2020 vintages when measured at the same time – i.e. 3-4 days ahead of 2007, 2015, 2017 and 2018 – ie, other vintages with August harvesting.

Current estimates are for veraison (the grapes starting to change colour) suggest the 10-15 July. Given that dry days that have followed each delivery of rain, it’s no surprise that mildew is quite rare. On the other hand, as it is the morning dew that helps oïdium, this is where the growers’ concerns are currently most focused – but for now, the treatments have the upper hand. Black rot is a rarer problem – but was found in the Côte d’Or – and more-so in Beaujolais – in 2021 but seems largely absent at this stage of vine growth.

More in a couple of weeks!

To end, some views from Volnay – starting with Clos de la Chapelle but mainly from Caillerets – images from the end of last week:

weekend wines – weekend 24 2022

By billn on June 20, 2022 #degustation

week 24 2022 - weekend wines

For everyone in Europe, it’s unnecessary to mention the heatwave of the moment but, for readers further afield, it’s worth mentioning the temperatures of 35-38°C. We see these temperatures for a day or two in most years (not 2021) but typically they come in the high summer of July-August – but these are record temperatures for June.

After a couple of covid years where the magnums were left untouched, we have guests again – and on a hot weekend, it was time to delve into the pile of magnums for something refreshing.

2018 Alain Geoffroy, Chablis 1er Vau-Ligneau
2018, despite its other-worldly yields, continues to offer positive surprises from Chablis – though I’m finding most Côte de Beaune whites a little bland at this stage. Here is a nose of obvious ‘northern freshness’ and a certain citrus twang – it’s a fine invitation. In the mouth, the surprises continue with fine intensity and a grapefruit and tannin style to the flavours and texture. Both delicious and interesting! Excellent wine.
Rebuy – Yes

2017 Chevrot, Bourgogne Aligoté Tilleul Mag
I loved this before bottling but the oak treatment was more generous than I like – so I ordered 6 mags but planned not to open one before it was 5 years old – here’s the first. Cork sealed. A lovely freshness of aroma – very appealing. On the palate there is direction and delicious mouth-watering flavour – still a hint of its creamy oak beginnings – but the oak is now almost in the background. Absolutely delicious young wine – a treat!
Rebuy – Yes

2017 Domaine Champy, Pernand-Vergelesses Mag
Also sealed with cork and herein came a problem. This was just fabulous at the domaine when a baby – today not. Darker colour than the Tilleul and a much more developed nose that suggested a slight oxidation. Over about 1 hour the oxidative note largely faded but the accent remained in the flavours. I’m hoping for better corks in the remaining 2 magnums – I’ve never previously noted any premature ageing with magnums but I won’t be holding onto these with the same confidence as the Chevrot…
Rebuy – No

2020 Gautheron, Chablis VV
One of my ‘house-wine’ purchases and only to note that with these warmer temperatures, the pyrazine was the most visible as for any of these 12 bottles. A shame, as the base wine is great.
Rebuy – No

offer of the day – domaine ferret pouilly-fuissé 2020

By billn on June 14, 2022 #the market

Whilst these wines were once quite expensive not much cheaper more than 10 years ago, their prices have remained impressively stable – though possibly not next year after the decimation of their 2021 yields. Below are the prices of their 2020s – which are unchanged since their 2017s. Still, only two cuvées are offered but my Swiss merchant expanded the offer to include larger formats in this vintage. I bought some 2020 (neither of these cuvées) direct from the domaine and the prices are comparable.

POUILLY-FUISSE Tête de Cru Les Perrières 2020 75cl 42.00 (*Swiss francs)
POUILLY-FUISSE Hors Classe Les Ménétrières 2020 75cl 52.00

*Delivered price, but Swiss purchase tax is still to be added – 7.7%.

weekend pics…

By billn on June 12, 2022 #travels in burgundy 2022

Romanée St.VivantThe jungle of Romanée St.Vivant, today…

Warmer and drier than last weekend – a lot – in fact, 32.5°C today with 36°C on the horizon for later this week!

The 2022 update

By billn on June 09, 2022 #vintage 2022

This week in the Côtes

The sun gave way to plenty of stormy weather over the last weekend – though fortunately none of the hail-induced devastation seen in vineyards in more southerly parts of France near Armagnac. There have been a few spots of hail mixed in with the storms but not enough to cause particular damage. As such – though stressed – the Burgundian locals are reasonably happy that up to 45mm of rain fell – since last Friday – on their very dry vineyards; May had delivered less than half the normal amount of rain.

Even in the Hautes Côtes, the flowering was largely over when the rain, sometimes heavy, fell – so will not have significantly affected the setting of the fruit. The chardonnay in Meursault and other places is showing a little coulure but yields still look good – though nobody knows how much juice there will really be until the grapes are pressed!

Post-rain, the weather is much cooler for now but from the weekend onwards will return to the high 20s°C. The recent cooler weather and darker skies have put the projected position in the vines about 3-4 days behind where it was in 2020 but still ahead of 2015 and 2018 – which still comfortably indicates an August harvest. The changeable weather increases the domaines’ vigilance to mildew, where incubation time is 5-6 days, so post-rain, the domaines will have a better idea by the end of this week on how it’s developing. Oïdium is also on the move in certain parcels. Fortunately, entry into the vines is not so difficult at the moment so there has been no brake on the required treatments.

The growth remains rigorous for now in the vines – so tasting appointments are at a premium – this may start to calm in the second half of July…

Burgundy Report

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