It’s only when you look closely at the map that you realise how far east Vienna is; it’s only an hour and a bit on the plane from Zürich, but then that’s an hour east from Paris which is etc., etc.. Vienna also seems underrated as a tourist destination – underrated is the wrong word, perhaps what I could better say is that it doesn’t seem high on a list of priority European tourist destinations – that is clearly a shame. Efficient in a Germanic sense, tidier than Switzerland (i.e. without the graffiti) and a history to match any. It also retains much of it’s older splendour and shopping to match any other capitol city.
We were in Vienna, because you can also find the same die-hard wine enthusiasts in that country as you can in any other. In that context we were there for a dinner to celebrate the 2005 vintage, and in particular a selection of the top grand cru wines from Gevrey-Chambertin.
The 2005 vintage can be problematic as the top wines seem to be curling up into their shells at a relatively early stage, but we had a mix of luck and good management; all the wines had been in Vienna for some time, and had been opened at 4pm to check all was okay. Only about 5 minutes before pouring were the wines transferred to a decanter, and for two reasons; first to make a little aeration, second and much more important, to hide their identity – for we would be taking them in blind flights of three.
The venue for us was the restaurant of Julius Meinl (Meinl am Graben) in the main Viennese ‘Graben’shopping district, a restaurant whose chef won the Austrian chef of the year competition in 2007 and whose sommelier did such a great job of choosing the order of ‘blind’ serving. In theory it became a little less blind as the evening progressed, as the identity of each trio was revealed before moving onto the next.
Here it is worth noting something more about the evening’s organisation. Our leader, Peter, had teased bottles from the assembled group of twelve, ensuring that everyone was contributing based on the original purchase price of their bottles – you can appreciate that the €140 purchase price of a Rousseau Chambertin bears little relation to its current market price! Fortunately, more important to our group was the tasting their wines in the company of other people’s purchases – for a group like this it is clearly about the joy of the wines, not their fiscal appreciation. For a little fun, as each triplet was unveiled, one of our number read out the current trading price of each bottle to a mix of bewilderment and bemusement – oh and I suppose satisfaction! I mentioned to Peter mid-way through the evening that it was unlikely that any group of people in the world could ever duplicate our tasting, but I did concede that this group could do it again, though we might have to resort to the occasional magnum (shame!) – we need to check our diaries for 2025!
I might as well mention the wines here:
- 7x Chambertin from: Jean-Claude Boisset, des Chézeaux (Ponsot), Clos Frantin (Bichot), Mortet, Potel, Rousseau and Trapet
- 6x Clos de Bèze from: Bouchard Père et Fils, Bruno Clair, Faiveley, Groffier, Perrot-Minot and Rousseau
- 3x Charmes-Chambertin from: Denis Bachelet, Dugat-Py and Serafin
- 2x Griotte-Chambertin from: des Chézeaux (Ponsot) and Fourrier
- 2x Mazis-Chambertin from: Dugat-Py and Faiveley
A great selection of wines from which our somellier had decided the order of service, but first we had the small matter of a fine champagne and a trio of 2005 Puligny Folatiéres:
2005 Bernard Ente, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Folatières ‘En la Richarde’
Deeper colour than the other two Folatières. The aromatics start quite subdued, over time only padding out with a little brioche. The palate seems lithe and quite well muscled. The overall impression is a savoury wine with quite a good finish. In isolation this is an okay wine, but of this trio, easily the last wine that I would buy.
2005 Pierre-Yves Colin Morey, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Folatières
Light colour. Wide aromatics, but starting just a little soft and sweet – time in the glass brings more concentration and focus – it’s very good. Much more power on entry and then a little carbon dioxide spritz. Very wide palate of flavours – a really significant extra dimension. This is a super wine.
2005 Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Folatières
Wide and fine with high-toned aromatics. A full-bodied but slightly tight, narrow presentation – not close to the width of flavour offered by the last wine. In overall quality it’s not far behind, but is beaten for aromatics and finish by the Morey.
If all the wines of Pierre-Yves are to this level, then they are quite a ‘find’. I understand it is just a barrel or two here and a barrel or two there, so good hunting! Now to the main event; the glasses were ‘wined’ to remove traces of Folatières (Riedel Burgundy Vinum for all save the Champagne and the late palate cleanser – d’Yquem 1975!), before our first trio of reds. My notes are exactly as written before the identity of the wines were revealed:
Medium-plus colour. Lovely soft, yet precise red fruits set against a mineral aspect and faint dark oak. The palate betrays a transient hint of dissolved carbon dioxide but not to the detriment of its concentrated, mineral and rather linear presentation. Linear only until the mid-palate when, like the pop of a champagne cork it bursts into life and lingers in a really impressive finish. Superb, and this is only wine number one – it will be a tough night!
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is showing rather more dark oak and faint caramel over the darker-hued fruit. Softer and silkier in the mouth – clearly more oak. The acidity is a little more forward than the last wine, but it’s stunningly long finishing – though the flavours are dominated by the same dark barrel notes as from the nose. A lot of buttery oak texture but the wine survives and impresses despite that. Another stunner but I prefer wine 1 today.
Medium-plus colour. The nose shows more caramel, less dark oak, and a little more red and orange, though slightly estery, higher-toned fruit. The fruit aroma is nice but clearly less sophisticated versus the first two wines. Soft and silky with very fine acidity and (once more) simply superb length. The fruit on the palate is just a little riper than both of the first wines. A beauty but aromatically challenged versus the first two.
Wine 1 – Domaine Faiveley, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Wine 2 – Maison Bouchard Père et Fils, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Wine 3 – Denis Bachelet, Charmes-Chambertin
Frankly, I was amazed that the first wine was the Faiveley; I’ve been brought up with vintage after vintage of tannic, growling wines that needed 20+ years in a cellar to (allegedly) mature. This is approachable now and of superb quality. I’m no great fan of oak, but the Bouchard admirably treads the tightrope of lots of oak without compromising the focus of the raw materials. Truth be told, I think the Bachelet stood up rather well to these two, but I’d take the Faiveley as group winner.
Deep colour. Wow – the nose – wow. Dense, super-wide, primary dark fruit (must be a Ponsot!). Dark fruit on the palate too – staining your tongue. Plenty of tannin and a wide panorama on the palate that slowly fades into the finish – it’s a long finish but somehow not quite to the level of the aromatics. There are no fireworks here, rather a concentrated and primary display of understated power.
The aromatics remind slightly of the Bachelet (another Charmes?) with their slightly estery hints coupled to caramel and toffee. Not so concentrated as the last wine (no surprise!) but it more than makes up for that by it’s explosion of complexity and interest in the mouth that are pushed very long in the finish by the super acidity. Much more fun, interest and complexity than wine 4. If only I could combine that wine’s aromatics with the flavours of this!
Sweet, slightly sulfury oak is the main aromatic theme there is a slightly more interesting interlude, but only in the context of this bottle, not the other wines. Apparently less concentrated than wines 4 and 5 but with a lovely width of flavours. Long, but less-so than most. Very fine for sure, but it’s struggling to keep its head above water in this company.
Wine 4 – Serafin, Charmes-Chambertin
Wine 5 – Clos Frantin, Chambertin
Wine 6 – Trapet, Chambertin
Once again surprised by the winner – those (assumed) Ponsot aromatics were delivered by Serafin. In hindsight you might point to the lack of complexity versus the Frantin reinforcing the vineyard hierarchy, but frankly that’s pure hindsight. I give the nod to the Serafin for its nose, but overall it wasn’t really better than the Frantin.
Medium, medium-plus colour. A wide, not so deep but mineral nose. Very slowly the nose develops a creamy depth that’s coupled to lovely red fruit – this is now very pretty. Simple entry on the palate, but perfect balance and super if understated length. A very lovely wine despite the tight presentation.
Medium-plus colour. The first sniff is disappointing – high-toned and alcoholic – but it soon slips into an interesting and deep impression of dark cherry fruit. Good acidity and plenty of well covered tannin, good dimension too. The finish is a very long diminuendo
Medium, medium-plus colour. A wide, coffee inflected and soft nose – eventually some lovely red fruit on the nose. The acidity is brighter and makes for a nice burst of interest in the mid-palate and into the finish. There is plenty of tannin but the fruit is a good match.
Wine 7 – Domaine Faiveley, Mazis-Chambertin
Wine 8 – Nicolas Potel, Chambertin
Wine 9 – Bruno Clair, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
All three of these wines developed in their respective glasses over about 25 minutes. I found the most characterful one to be the Bruno Clair, but the Faiveley was yet again a surprise, and if it had been a little more open I would have placed it above the Clair – no bad wines, but no real stunners either.
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is deeply fruited and mixed with toffee notes. Forward acidity defines the palate – not unbalanced, but it’s different to all the other wines, quite primary in presentation. Decently covered tannin and resounding finish of red berries that gives an excellent final impression.
A deep and initially tight nose slowly evolves higher-toned and precise red fruits. Very good acidity and really palate staining flavours – very, very impressive – there’s a body of tannin that is deftly submerged by the fruit. The finish is excellent, even in this company.
Medium-plus colour. The nose is initially faintly volatile, high-toned and yeasty – disappointing. The flavours are also higher-toned but with a velvety concentrated texture. Something is amiss, the nose alternately stunning and disappointing – somehow there is a flaw here.
Wine 10 – Fourrier, Griotte-Chambertin
Wine 11 – Jean-Claude Boisset, Chambertin
Wine 12 – des Chézeaux (Ponsot), Chambertin
What a disappointment, it seems our eagerly awaited Ponsot bottle was somehow sick, but to balance we had an excellent Chambertin performance from the Boisset, much more interesting on the night than the equally excellent but more primary Fourrier.
Medium-plus colour. The nose starts as an interesting mix of high-tones, cherry-red fruit and a creamy red base, but that was only the start – super-focused red fruit follows – a real thing of beauty. The palate is super-intense, beautifully packaging the tannin. The length is fine but slowly narrows rather than expands, so the finish is impressive rather than great – the rest is great.
Medium-plus colour. A deep and creamy nose with higher red berry tones and quite a bit of creamy oak – quite a modern impression. The palate is absolutely jam-packed with excellent acidity and just so much action. The finish is very, very long but the flavours are more barrel than fruit driven – even hints of coconut. The style of oaky presentation makes me think to Rousseau.
Deeply coloured. The nose plums quite some depth, but the fruit is the only one so far that really has some roast effects – just slightly over-ripe. Quite a simple entry but the wine does a great job of expanding over the palate. There’s plenty of well-coated tannin but I would have preferred just a twist more acidity – seems lower than the other wines. Good primary length and not overtly oaky. High-quality wine but no obvious complexity.
Wine 13 – des Chèzeaux (Ponsot), Griotte-Chambertin
Wine 14 – Armand Rousseau, Chambertin
Wine 15 – Dugat-Py, Charmes-Chambertin
Our sommelier was having fun with us, two Ponsots in a row and in this case really emphasising the disappointment over the flawed Ponsot Chambertin as the Griotte was superb. A good guess on the Rousseau, it only bettered the Griotte in the finish but the oak is quite obvious just now, so I will take the Ponsot as group winner.
Medium-plus colour. The nose has width and a lovely creamy depth that’s edged with faint toffee. It’s not the deepest coloured, but this is very concentrated and coupled to lovely acidity. Super, balanced presentation. Understated but very, very impressive, it will need years in the cellar to provide complexity.
Medium-plus colour. A wide, toffee-inflected nose that’s sweet. The palate is just a little less fresh than many, but it’s concentrated and savoury. The finish, versus what’s gone before, is rather modest. In isolation this is a very nice wine, in the context of the other bottles tonight it is on the second level.
Medium, medium-plus colour. High-toned aromatics, some mineral, some greenery and becomes wider and wider – very complex. There’s lots of interest here. The acidity is almost good and together the tannin provides lots of personality. This is a superbly complex wine that I really loved.
Wine 16 – Perrot-Minot, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Wine 17 – Groffier, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Wine 18 – Armand Rousseau, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
So, we had the battle of the Bèze! Perrot-Minot is massively concentrated without apparent disadvantage. I really loved the Rousseau (and no obvious oak signature this time!) but the Groffier was clearly disadvantaged in this company.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Wide, lovely precise red fruit on the nose, hints of tobacco too – not aromatically the deepest, but very, very nice. Lovely width on the palate and no fat. A wine that understatedly impresses. Fine length with an edge of coconut. Very good, but not worth a special search over many others here.
Dark, indeed saturated colour – the first such wine. Super-concentrated aromatics with just a hint of over-ripe, roast fruit (the second wine with this). The acidity is covered by the fruit extract and shows a deft touch to keep such concentration in balance. From colour and concentration I’d assumed that this might be a little overblown – but not so, it’s a very nice wine that will certainly require extended cellaring, only the aromatics provided a hint of disappointment.
Wine 19 – Denis Mortet, Chambertin
Wine 20 – Dugat-Py, Mazis-Chambertin
I suppose the best accolade that these two wines could have is that they didn’t disappoint, despite what had gone before. I had no major preference – you can buy me either for the cellar!
I had purposefully not tried to remember our line-up or keep track what we had already drunk – anyway not easy when you are actually drinking so many bottles – so each unveiling of identities provided interest.
We had the good fortune that that only one wine showed some obvious tightness (Faiveley Mazis), and only one that I was convinced was compromised bottle (Chézeaux/Ponsot Chambertin). From the whole list there were only two bottles that struggled to keep up with the general level of performance; Trapet’s Chambertin and Groffier’s Bèze. The Trapet looks like it got an extra dose of sulfur at bottling which never really blew off – a cause for concern, the Groffier just found it hard to keep up.
It seems silly at this stage to look for winners, but top of my list for refilling the glass at the end of the evening were the Rousseau and Faiveley Bèze, and Chézeaux/Ponsot’s Griotte.