A short profile of the domaine and a little longer to linger over a few mature bottles in a fine restaurant:
Jean-François Coche (and since 1999 his son Raphaël) produces wines that you are often mandated to drink – but all too often (perhaps) for the wrong reason! In French restuarants – i.e restaurants in France – particularly so. Why? ‘The price stoopid – look it’s only 120 Euros…’. At first glance that might not sound a relative bargain, but noting that the same bottle maybe costs 3-5 times that in a more anglo-saxon (based) restaurant, many a ‘diner’ will forget that they wanted Gevrey with their beef bourguignonne and take such a white instead. This is the result of a critic induced feeding frenzy; “Jean-François Coche” – JFC if I may – “is possibly the greatest maker of white burgundy” (apparently) and has the attendant prices to match.
The prices are largely outside of the control of JFC, his ex-cellar prices are not so high – at least if there was some wine left to sell! – but the middlemen continue to make hay while the sun shines. Whilst Robert Parker in the late 1980’s and early 90’s may have brought Domaine Coche-Dury to the attention of the wine-buying masses, the domaine’s reputation was already (for some time) high in France. Jean-François’ father, Georges, had entered many competitions with the domaine’s wines and his collection of gold medals had already ensured that many top restaurants already listed the wines in an era before marks out of 100 were considered de rigeur.
The holdings amount to ~9 hectares with a portfolio including Corton Charlemagne, Meursault Perrieres, Caillerets, Narvaux, Rougeots, Vireuils and Chevalières plus more recently a Puligny Enseignières. There are also reds in Auxey-Duresses, Monthelie, Pommard and a 1er Cru Volnay which, yield permitting, can sometimes be split into Clos des Chênes and Taillepieds – the majority of cuvées by number are Meursault with 12 different parcels only one of which one is red, but a major portion of production is given over to generic regional wines including an Aligoté.
The yields are low, partly from a high vine age, partly from planting density and particularly from short pruning – “green harvesting is already too late” – though he will still use it in extremis as in 2004. If JFC’s wines are famous for one thing (other than price) it is the oak treatment – some love, some hate. Clearly it is not such a high new oak percentage (around 50%), but given an average 22 months in barrel it is time enough for the oak to flex it’s muscles. Seasoned observers point to a little less oak influence on young wines post-1999.
Onto the wines
It is precisely comments such as may be found on Robert parker’s website – though I appreciate (assume) they are not his words – that cause me to openly rebel and ‘question the universal truth’:
“With virtually universal agreement among connoisseurs of dry white wines, Jean-Francois Coche is the greatest producer of white Burgundy. If you disagree, it probably means that you have never encountered Coche’s wines.” (Link)
My opportunity for questioning this ‘universal’ acclaim came in the form of a dinner in London at the excellent Ledbury restaurant. One of our number provided the Coche-Dury bottles; he was a buyer since before the exponential increase of interest and was keep to open and share. He said that he bought the wines to drink – and they were not so expensive – of-course it’s quite shocking for him to check winesearcher to see the replacement costs!
Summarising my thoughts on the ‘universal’ excellence – or otherwise – of Coche-Dury’s wines, it is difficult to divorce the experience from the cost of replacement. Young wines – Meursault 1er and Aligoté – have done little to make me think ‘eureka – this is wine!’ – no undue oak, but no wow-factor either. The wines that follow give an insight into mature Coche – the only missing piece of the jigsaw would be a Charlemagne or two, but there’s enough here. Despite the presence of the Perrières 1er cru, they merely made me think – good wines, hardly great wines – the wow-factor wine was actually a little ‘humbler’. The 1989 villages was interesting, complex, somehow intellectual and very, very long – I found it stunning, keeping the last sips in my glass for ages, hardly wanting the experience to end! The overall style of the wines has only mildly oak influenced on the aromatics – much lower than (for instance) Domaine Leflaive – but in the mouth uniformly clean, linear and savoury rather than sweet; they fit very well with food. But the prices? I really don’t see the connection.
I list the courses and their attendant wines as each may influence the other. To provide balance you may note some rather darker coloured wines ended our evening:
|Goat’s Cheese Tortelloni with Date Purée, Wood Sorrel and Almonds|
1989 Coche-Dury, Meursault
A penetrating and wide nose. There’s good depth and only faint brioche. The nose bit-by-bit improves and improves, eventually giving a little caramel. The palate is polished smooth and gives a very impressive, slightly creamy length. There is the merest trace of oxidation on the palate, but even for oxidation-averse me, it is additive to the complexity. Expands very nicely on the palate in an understated but highly impressive way. Very, very long with a little lime in the finish. Simply fantastic villages.
1990 Coche-Dury, Meursault
Ooops – oxidised.
|Roast Scallops with Pumpkin Gnocchi, Pumpkin Purée and Ginger|
1989 Coche-Dury, Meursault Rougeots
The nose is reasonably toasty, some width and a little spent match (gunflint) – but relatively primary for all that. Given time the glass fills with aromas and added complexity. The palate has understated entry, is wonderfully intense in the mid-palate – but I’m no fan of a flavour profile that (for me) from time to time hints at taint – I must have been wrong because it faded rather than got worse. On its own I’m still unconvinced, but this wine transformed with food (scallops) it became as polished as the 89 villages, alone it’s merely very good.
1990 Coche-Dury, Meursault Rougeots
The first note on the nose is oak toast, but it’s a little more background than the 1989. There’s faint gunflint and at first – fruit – it’s understated, but it’s here. Much longer, interesting and complex than the 1989. There’s an exciting burst on the mid-palate and (disappointingly) still some oak texture to resolve on the finish. I have to say though, that this is very seductive wine.
1988 Coche-Dury, Meursault 1er Perrières
A wide and deep nose, mainly of ripe fruit, just a little oak and some rounding, higher notes. The palate is quite linear, intense on the tongue and very, very complex as it leaves the mid-palate for the finish. The finish is understated, but very long. Not sexy, but not severe – very, very good, but don’t let’s discuss the price vs quality ratio…
|Fillet of Zander with a Cheese Crust, Root Vegetables and Cauliflower|
1989 Méo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Chaumes
Medium colour. The nose starts wide, high-toned and mineral with a hint of damp cellar – given time there is a red, plummy fruit aspect and eventually it soars from the glass, showing faint stemmy notes – super. The palate has slightly prickly acidity, reasonable width and considerable length – but needs leaving in the glass a little longer for pleasure. The prickly edge softens and the palate becomes quite complex. Pretty good on the palate, super aromatics.
1990 Méo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Chaumes
Medium-plus colour. Just seems a little cleaner and sweeter than the ’89 and no surmaturité, though it’s quite dense. The palate also has quite some density, indeed it seems rather monolithic – long but quite primary. There’s plenty of tannin if you look for it. Over about 45 minutes in the glass I never felt that there was a moment where the wine blossomed, the nose remaining finer than the palate. Given the density and relatively primary aspect I would suggest waiting another 3+ years before revisiting.
|Stuffed Chicken Wings, Creamed Potato and Truffle Velouté|
1994 Méo-Camuzet, Richebourg
Medium colour. The nose is understated but very wide, interesting and clean. The palate is fresh, actually a little racy and mineral with delicate red fruit and a lovely, impressive – yet suble finish. It never comes close to the concentration of the 1990 Chaumes, but it is complex, delicate and lovely with a finish that lingers and lingers. It’s hardly a performance you would expect from Richebourg, but it’s a lovely wine ready for plucking!
|Loin of Venison Roasted in Juniper, Pepper and Orange, with Glazed Pear and Croustillant of Celeriac and Chestnuts|
1996 Denis Bachelet, Charmes-Chambertin
Medium-plus colour. The nose starts more oaky than I remember. The fruit is dense and red – super-clean like gelée. The palate starts wide and then narrows, then narrows some more – very linear, understated and long. This is super but very much younger showing than my last visit.
1990 Denis Bachelet, Charmes-Chambertin
The nose starts a little ripe and plummy, maybe even beetroot. It’s not so elegant to start with but slowly begins to release some wonderful red fruit – but it’s a passing phase and later tightens. The palate has some fat and a lovely texture. It actually seems a little simple vs the 1996 and certainly not as long. Still it’s a lovely wine.
1985 Armand Rousseau, Chambertin
Medium colour. Feral, yet understated nose at the start. Wide and interesting – it’s not about fruit, though eventually a soft red note comes through, licorice aspects too. On the palate there is a significant additional dimension vs all the previous wines. Interestingly the wildly complex palate is quite narrow until you reach the finish – then it expands exponentially. The texture and complexity on the palate reminds me of a number of 2005’s from Chambertin & Bèze – I suppose there are now 20 years to wait! A tour-de-force of a wine.