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               Why Big Red Diary?

1997 White Burgundy

First of all an apology – a mere 20 whites tasted – I did have another 12 lined up, including some big name premier and grand crus from Domaine Leflaive, however, the mixed dozen were from the same merchant where a couple of the 1997 reds I tested in the last issue turned out corked. It transpired that this merchant doesn’t provide a credit for corked wines, hence, I cancelled the order – I am first and foremost (after all) a consumer, so if you also don’t want your fingers burnt, the merchant is called Gerstl!

Despite the fact that there is more white wine than red wine made on the Côte it is usually more of a challenge to get ‘older’ whites than reds, so for next year I’m booking ahead for the 1998’s as they are already becoming a little thin on the ground.

As far as the 1997 whites are concerned, this was new territory for me. When these were released I was drinking mainly riesling to satisfy my ‘light-side’ – so no in-built opinions, I just let the wines speak. Also of interest was the spread of ‘critic opinion’ about the wines, some critics rating quite highly and some not! The most informative online article I found was written by Per-Henrik Mansson for the Wine Spectator – well worth a read. One of the statements from this article that caught my eye was from a “Côte de Beaune winemaker” who said that the Côte de Beaune whites were ‘banal’, by that he meant lacked freshness. This immediately rang a bell; I remember another winemaker telling me that the key to the 1997’s (for him) was to try and retain as much gas (carbon dioxide) as possible while bottling in order to ‘retain freshness’.

Given the relatively small number of wines tasted, I won’t try and read too much into the results, but what did this group of wines say?

  • Some of the discussion in Per-Henrik’s report centered around the susceptibility of the wines to oxidise, and five of the wines confirmed this, from a mild to an ‘ugh’ degree. That’s 25%, and whilst I assume not entirely representative, it’s still a lot.
  • The wines which weren’t oxidised(!) were open, tasty and generally well balanced, though with lower acidity than the 1996’s and 1998’s that I recollect. Basically they are enjoyable, easy to drink wines.
  • Looking through my notes, I see ‘quite nice’ and even ‘very good’ a few times, but only one ‘excellent’ and one ‘could be excellent’. So despite enjoying the (non-oxidised) majority, only 10% really hit the spot.
The wines

I don’t really need to add to the discussion of the weather that was reported in my ‘reds‘ article, save to mention that a number of hailstorms in Puligny and Meursault reduced yields by as much as 50%. Just as with the reds, the weather patterns produced generally lower acidity whites.

1997 whites: REGIONAL WINES

1997 Remoissenet, Bourgogne Chardonnay
A bright lemon yellow. The nose betrays a hint of old oak plus a little higher toned citrus. Reasonably fat with a blend of citrus and pear fruit. Good acidity and a medium finish make this a very pleasant wine. At first I thought this wine could happily be left a couple more years – but gradually you start to get a little hazelnut and perhaps an oxidised note on the finish – so why wait drink this now – it’s almost good.
1997 Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Chardonnay
A medium yellow. The nose starts with a blast of fruit but quickly becomes more subdued – waxy with pineapple – with time a hint of wet wool. Nice weight in the mouth, reasonably sweet, perhaps a little simple with medium length. Nothing to really dislike about this wine unless it warms up in the glass; if this happens the overall effect is a bit flabby and lacking balance. Kept chilled this is a very nice wine and still seems quite young.
1997 Domaine Leflaive, Bourgogne Blanc
Pale-medium yellow. The nose has a lovely lemony custard note and shows good depth. Fat with very good acidity and for the appelation tremendous depth and length, just a trace of butteryness. This is seriously good bourgogne and would put most villages wines to shame. I was going to order a case, but it’s from ‘that’ merchant!

VILLAGE WINES

1997 Louis Latour, Savigny-les-Beaune
Pale lemon yellow. The nose starts with a whiff of sulfur, replaced by lime and waxy grapefruit – there’s also a quite appealing smokey undertow of wood. The palate has some fat and very primary fruit. There’s also slightly harsh wood, but the acidity and fruit concentration are not bad at all. Not as satisfying to drink today as most of the Bourgogne blancs from the tasting in the ‘summer issue’, but comes across as being too young. Hopefully with another three years or so there might be a little more interest.
1997 Bruno Clair, Marsannay
Deeply coloured – worryingly deep – oops, oxidised to death, ugh!
1997 Billaud-Simon, Chablis
Pale golden. Nose is a little waxy with melon and pear, just a trace of oxidation too. Nice fat palate but with a touch of oxidation here too. The acidity is pretty good and overall this is not a bad drink. If the oxidation note is typical I’d say drink these up this summer.
1997 Jospeph Faiveley, Montagny Les Joncs
Pale golden colour. The nose shows a little spent fireworks and candied fruit, more time in the glass increases the fireworks note. In the mouth there is quite nice volume and a lemony acidity which lengthens the finish. Nothing really exciting but clean and tasty – a nice wine.
1997 Louis Jadot, Auxey-Duresses
Golden colour. Toasty, oaky nose with a sweet background creaminess and a hint of spent fireworks. A lovely intense palate with pear and peach and a little nutty, still marked by oak. There’s good acidity and a long creamy aftertaste. Voluptuous rather than elegant, I’d be quite content to leave this in the cellar for another year or two to let the oak fade a little more. Rather good.
1997 Colin-Deléger, Meursault
Had one of these earlier in the year that was a little oxidised, this seemed better. Golden colour. The nose has a little residual oak and a slughtly nutty note that underpins sweet melon. The palate is fat and rich – a little exotic perhaps – certainly covers the ample acidity. An interesting and long finish too. A wine I enjoyed – obviously some bottle variation around though.
1997 Marius Clerget, Meursault Les Tillets
Lemony in both colour and length – the nose is smooth and waxy with white flowers and melon. In the mouth there’s lemon plus a hazelnut note. Improved with time in the glass, nice acidity and medium length. Perhaps just a little simple after the Auxey, but seems younger, so certainly no rush to drink. Almost good.
1997 Joseph de Bucy, Meursault Les Tillets
Deep lemony yellow. The nose starts with blast of toasty oak which gradually moves to the background allowing some pear and apricot notes to come through, gradually becomes more perfumed. The palate has citrussy acidity which is ‘just right’ and a lovely long follow-through which gradually develops a coconut note. More interesting than Marius Clerget’s ‘Tillets’. A nice wine with no rush to drink.
1997 Jean-Marc Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet
More straw coloured. Mainly oak on the nose. The palate is a little less fat than the previous Meursault, but has a nicer texture, perhaps a little buttery. This has good acidity and comes across as very young and très Puligny. The longer that this wine was open the more we enjoyed it, in fact over the space of an hour I changed my (pedantic) rating from almost good to very good.

1er CRU WINES

1997 J-M Brocard, Chablis Montée de la Tonnerre
Lighter yellow colour compared to Faiveley’s Montagny. Nose starts with a waft of toasty oak, replaced by toasty bread and some higher floral tones. Much fatter though not quite as dense on the mid-palate. Good acidity with much more dimension on the palate and the finish. This is very good and still very primary
1997 J-M Boillot, Rully Mont Palais
Still a pale lemon yellow. The nose starts with toasty oak, then a little boiled sweets and sweet melon too. Interesting palate, the acidity jumps out at you on the front of your tongue, almost in a sherbety way. Seems reasonably well balanced, though there’s a little spritz. Completely unlike any of the other wines tasted. Not bad, just a little odd.
1997 Hubert de Montille, Puligny-Montrachet Le Caillerets
A medium gold colour. The nose gathers depth with time, with well integrated oak, faint petrolly notes and agrumes. Good acidity and a mildly oaky palate that is concentrated but very tight and initially a little flat in the mid-palate – certainly would benefit from another 2 or 3 years wait, the mid-palate really fills out with aeration. Super length that sneaks up on you. For drinking today there’s more fun to be found from J-M Boillots village Puligny, but for the long term, this is the wine I’d really like to have in my cellar.

GRAND CRU WINES

1997 Maison Blanche, Chablis Vaudesir
Yellow colour. Minerally, lemon nose. Much fatter than J-M Boillot’s Puligny, but less mineral than the nose suggested. The acidity is excellent and there’s a trace of nuttyness. Long but no complexity. I’d say that this is still very young. Very good today, could become excellent in time.
1997 J-M Brocard, Chablis Les Clos
Paler yellow. Some oak notes and higher flowery tones. Compared to the previous wine, the palate here, is a little ‘thinner’ and ‘dirtier’ – hopefully the oak artifact will fade. Medium citrussy length. Could improve as the oak fades, but seems much less classy than the previous wine.
1997 Domaine Parent, Corton
One of the rare white Corton’s i.e. one made on soil normally producing red wines. Still it’s the land that is classed as Grand Cru so this also carries that tag despite not being from the ‘Charlemagne’ area. The first bottle was quite interesting in a thin, mineral sort of way but betrayed a little taint and was absolutely not of Grand Cru quality. So bottle number two is golden in colour. The nose is deep and totally different to bottle number one, perhaps just the merest trace of oxidation – perhaps not it’s very faint – maybe it’s just the mix of nuts and faint cheese (better than it sounds) that seems to be there. The palate is very fat, perhaps needs just a lift more of acidity, but there’s interesting high toned fruit and is long too – though just a little bitterness and yes now I think there is some oxidation. Given the slight nutty oxidative note I’d say this wine is not for keeping. A very interesting wine, and in terms of density it’s worthy of Grand Cru status – but it’s a world away from the following wine.
1997 Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne
Paler gold. Nose starts very closed, gradually a lemony note comes through just hinting at something deeper, the lemon becomes more lime with time. No fireworks on the nose but there’s a blast on the palate; perfect acidity and a true multidimensional palate. Very long too. I’d say this is both excellent and very young. I just might look to top the cellar up with a few more of these!
1997 Bruno Clair, Corton-Charlemagne
Compared to Bruno’s Marsannay the colour seems okay, a pale gold colour. The nose has lots of depth, a little more oak than is necessary, but the fruit has a creamy edge. With time the oak fades and the pineapple fruit comes more to the fore, a little caramel too. The fruit is concentrated, even intense. Good length, even a coconut element which makes for added interest. A very good wine then, though not quite to the level of Bonneau du Martray’s. Will obviously continue to improve.

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