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Older wines from Camille Giroud

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Tasted in Beaune with David Croix, 06 and 08 February 2015.

Maison Camille Giroud
3 Rue Pierre Joigneaux
21200 Beaune
Tel: +33 3 80 22 12 65
www.camillegiroud.com

Camille Giroud is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year – and in preparation, there’s a bit of painting and general updating going on – though they’ve only been in these premises since the late 1800s! The cellar, however, remains unchanged…

Every year the winemaker, David Croix, selects 5 or 6 old wines from the cellar-library for commercialising. The process is quite simple – he starts with a larger selection of wines, tastes, re-tastes a couple of days later and then decides on the chosen few. This year I was lucky enough to join the process, and if the 1993 Volnay 1er Santenots that was released last year was anything to go by (Lafon fruit…) this was going to be fun!

A little background…

For those that don’t know, the Giroud brothers were buying from exactly the same cellars as Leroy, but they weren’t so much interested in the aromas, they wanted structure – structure that they knew would make old bones. They followed-on with exactly the same approach as their father Camille: Camille lived through phylloxera, so he wanted wines in the cellar that would live for a very long time, just in case! Normally the wines had at least 3-4 years in barrel and like Rioja Reserva, they stayed in bottle for at least another 7-8 years before even contemplating a release. Also like Lalou Bize-Leroy they bought only part-finished wine – at least until 1993 when the brothers Giroud bought grapes for the first time. The brothers also bought their first vines in 1993 – Beaune 1ers Avaux and Les Cras, then in 1996, Bourgogne Au Crétot.

Of-course, this was a ‘no prisoners’ approach, and that would also include the Bourgognes! Although many of the greatest wines have gone from the cellar, there remains a remarkable library of wines – and judging by the quantity of bottles in the cellar – even wines from the 1970s, it’s clear that many have never-yet been commercialized. – looking at their 71 Nuits Vaucrains, they will still be waiting a while…

There is a family aromatic to the wines made in this way, though it fades with aeration, and the wines are also incredibly robust – you can leave them uncorked overnight and they have lost virtually nothing when you rejoin the next day – in this respect alone, they are remarkable. They are all much more interesting after a few minutes in the glass, their evolution is always an impressive thing to follow. David Croix puts it very well – “They are accounts of the past, but when appraising them, it’s always a balance; how long can you wait for the structure to soften, before you lose the aromatic concentration?

“There remain jewels in the cellar, but they are for a certain type of palate – yet they were very, very popular – and I still get requests from customers, asking (for instance) when might the 1996 Bourgogne be ready!”

The opening list…

The wines were opened and then poured – as simple as that…

2001 Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Malconsorts
Relatively young in colour, the nose is quite tight but has very pretty fruit – slowly growing, young but very approachable. Round in the mouth with some tannic texture but reasonably soft – lovely depth and dimension of flavour. This is certainly a little on the young side but it’s approachable. A good finish with a little dryness – slowly becoming a great finish. The nose is now starting to blossom with beautiful fruit – lovely stuff!

1998 Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
A deeper nose, darker fruit but vibrant with a little soil too. Rounder mouth-feel, still with a faint dryness but a velvet texture to the tannin. Good freshness and vibrancy of flavour – quite some perfume in the finish – again with a little dryness of tannin – not unlike the Malconsorts. Lovely wine but still to wait for. The nose slowly gets rounder, redder and more weighty.

1996 Santenay 1er Gravières
Wide, deep, interesting aromatics – some leafy development with an underlay of concentrated dark fruits that slowly rise to the surface. Lithe, fresh, growing fruit flavour – lots of tannin below but really velvet textured. A long line of lithe flavour here, and not an inch of fat. This finish is lingering but fights against the tannin…

1996 Beaune 1er Bressandes
A more up-and-down nose with high and bass tones but less width. The characteristic Giroud acid redcurrant/cherry fruit notes. Rounder, more lush but then the tannin grows and takes the leading role – lots of energy and well-padded acidity, but the tannin is dominant – fortunately it’s again a very velvet tannin. A brighter, fresh, fruit-preserve finish that’s quite nice. Probably better left in the cellar

1996 Pommard 1er Clos des Epeneaux
Yes the Giroud brothers bought fruit from Domaine Comte Armand…
A wider more impressive width of aroma with fine depth and complexity. Much wider on the palate, fresher and with more obvious acidity. Like the Bressandes the tannin creeps up on you until it’s in full control. Certainly some dry tannin coating your mouth in the finish, but also some extra floral flavour dimension too. The last drops in the glass are a beautiful thing, but definitely one to leave…

1993 Beaune 1er Bressandes
Deep, an almost meaty and sweet nose with a faint herb covering. Lithe, fine acidity plenty of underlying tanning but it’s more of a weight of mainly resolved tannin than astringency. There’s the slight impression of sucking the flavour through sand in the finish though. That flavour is a quite good red, acid-cherry. The finish is very discreet but quite long. Not massively complex or rewarding to drink today, yet the nose starts to blossom with the fine, acid-cherry notes and becomes ever-more welcoming. I think this will come round in a decanter though.

1993 Beaune 1er Cras
First vintage when they bought the vineyard.
Still deeply coloured. A large-scaled nose that’s very open with lots of pretty, focused fruit and quite a slug of pyrazine aroma too. The most intense wine yet, concentrated and with lots and lots of flavour – really super complexity and weight of flavour – there’s still a hint of pyrazine but it’s very discreet. A lingering, mouth-watering flavour that’s discreet but also impressive. The last drops in the glass focus on the fruit and it’s rather nice.

1993 Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Beaumonts
A very deep almost woody and slightly stewed aroma to start with. More sweetness, more old wood, a little extra fatness – dark flavoured – the tannin is an undertow but not bothersome. Actually the finish is quite interesting and hints at a lot of complexity though it has difficulty delivering it. The nose is now opening up more, it’s deeper than the others but with the characteristic acid fruit notes that are very appealing. Very drinkable.

1990 Beaune 1er Clos des Avaux
A deep, round, slightly cushioned nose that lifts a few herbs from the glass too, herb notes that slowly become more floral in character. Fresh, concentrated and with a super line of flavour – very direct wine. The fruit flavour seemed a little more oxidised in style – in the style of Italian wines held in botti for years – but it holds a strong weight of flavour into the finish and its very long too. There is a reasonable amount of tannin, but it’s fully resolved. Long-finishing. The nose, like all the wines becoming more and more beautiful…

1990 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Perrières
A large-scaled nose with lots of freshness indeed coolness but a weight of fruit below too. Extra sweetness on the palate, lots of intensity again and a little bitterness to the tannin. An assault on the tongue that leaves plenty of dryness on the palate and a slowly mouth-watering flavour that somehow works its way through into the finish. Massive, indeed dangerous – do not touch! There is also a 1990 Clos de Vougeot in the cellar that nobody dares to approach…

1985 Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
A wide nose of old wood to start with, lots of depth and a little sweetness too – really growing in concentration with a little time in the glass, and growing more and more intense high tones. Some sweetness, a little tannic astringency, but it largely remains below the surface. A round flavour almost with a hint of toffee that follows a good, slightly padded line into the finish. The last impression is a little dry but overall this is a tasty wine that reflects the vintage in its round sweetness.

1978 Beaune 1er Grèves
Perhaps just a hint paler. Starts just a little aromatically tighter and more delicate too – but also interesting – there’s certainly a weight of something below that wants to get out. A little sweetness and a fine acidity. Surprisingly (okay, maybe not!) there’s a real swathe of tannin here but it’s largely resolved. The fruit is again in the botti style, but it offers a very good finish indeed, one that’s discreetly complex. The nose by now is bolder, more lush and very gorgeous.

1978 Pommard 1er Cru
Deep complex and a little woody too. Big, very wide, a hint of saline botti-style aroma, but with an impressive intensity of concentration. The finish is long, though with a little bitter-chocolate impression. Not the instant appeal of the Grèves today – the nose does become more attractive in the glass but more slowly than most of the others.

1976 Beaune 1er Bressandes
A little paler. A wide, open and fresh nose perhaps with an oxidative botti fruit below. Sweetness but freshness of acidity, there’s tannin but it’s more of a textural drag than a grain. Some high-toned aspects to the fruit. The finish shrinks quickly but holds a long mouth-watering line. There’s a lovely, semi-lactic acid fruit note but it’s less demonstrative than the younger wines.

1976 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Pruliers
A nose that starts deep, dark and quite meaty with a little wood. Again sweetness and fresh acidity – like the Bressandes the tannin texture is more of a drag than a grain. A more cooked fruit impression yet one that opens out with more and more complexity. The finish seems to close relatively quickly but the finish is not too dry. A more subtle version of the characteristic nose for the last drops.

1976 Clos de la Roche
A top to bottom wine with high tones and good bass notes but a more limited width of aroma – but I do find an extra sophistication here. Round, some sweetness, quite good acidity. The fruit in the mid-palate is intense but almost petillant. Very good finish in both depth, weight and length of flavour. Really long, actually. Again a more modest aromatic from the last drops, but very pretty.

1971 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Perrières
Plenty of colour. A deep, faintly sweet almost introverted nose to start with. Good size, some sweetness and a nice lithe texture – before the tannin arrives – dark, slightly bitter flavoured yet the fruit has real complexity below and overtakes the tannin in the finish. An austere wine, certainly not a wine to luxuriate over but it’s actually very interesting. Subtly long finishing. The last drops in the glass have moderate intensity but are cleaner and fresher and just as pretty as those before.

1971 Richebourg
Not the most open nose, but it has width and goes rather deep. Wide in the mouth, intense too, and there’s a reasonably fine texture to the tannin and the overall wine. Lots of width to this flavour and it’s easily the most complex and wide in the finish. It doesn’t have the line and intensity of a few wines here, but it clearly distinguishes itself in the mid-palate into the finish. More weight of aroma now, classically Giroud but with extra dimensions, starting to really blossom.

The chosen 5 for Camille Giroud’s 150th anniversary…

The bottles left overnight and returned to:

1996 Santenay 1er Gravières
Deep, warm round and inviting with a faint mulled-spice. Freshness and intensity, round again. The nose is pure and now opening with a little orange peel. A direct line of intense flavour that’s held in good texture. Perfumed in the finish too. Youngish but with energy and very fine cushioned intensity. Hinting at florals with time. This has added a hint of chocolate liqueur aroma. Actually more beautiful than the day before.

1985 Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
Lovely and earthy yet still a clean, big, forward nose to start – slowly taking on a more dark mineral, graphite note. Nose slowly turns warm and leafy, faint herbs too. Clean, direct, widening, slightly metallic but very complex. A hint of drag to the texture but no overt grain, really good depth to the flavour. Finishes round and a little perfumed and very long. Still rather incisive and good.

1978 Beaune 1er Grèves
Herby but with deep fruit bass notes and some coffee bean. Bright fresh, intense with lots of waves of fresh flavour and just a hint more dryness to the tannin. Very long too. A wine that begs patience as opens and becomes ever-more interesting – the real purpose of fine old wines! Versus the day before the nose is tighter, but prettier and with more direct redcurrant fruit.

1978 Pommard 1er Cru
Big, round and deep with dark-red roast fruit – that’s the first impression anyway… In the mouth this seems sweeter and rounder to start with vs the Grèves with dark red fruit before a burst of fresher mid-palate flavour. Now the nose is narrowing a little and the higher tones are becoming more pronounced with flashes of violet flowers. I really like the weight of flavour in the finish and like all these wines – the length of finish is super… Super balance to this wine. Almost a little texture has added to the nose – still a thing of weight and interest.

1976 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Pruliers
Deep, matchstick, sweetness. Round, cushioned, good acidity but you have to wait a little for it to exert some control. Interesting complexity after you swallow before the diminuendo of the finish. A thickness to the flavour. The nose is a little softer with a little ‘beef stock’ but still impressive and retaining its faint matchstick note. Still a cocooning weight and thickness to the liquid on your tongue. Ouf! Really long and more perfumed in the finish than before.

1976 Clos de la Roche
Directly fresher and more mineral – super depth and brilliant complexity, despite a little mushroom and herb but slowly there are flowers too – this gets cleaner and cleaner and really complex. Fuller, more silky, wide and intense with a weight of flavour that peaks in the mid-palate before very slowly fading. Fresh, slightly herby flavour in the finish only hinting at dryness. Faint coffee on the nose now. Really a much more inky, herbal nose Mr Croix saying ‘Worcestershire’ sauce. Despite that, it’s the fullest, silkiest, roundest wine here – stable and still impressive wine. Clearly GC – impressively so…

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