Grandes Maisons: Grands Crus – The 2008s

Update 15.4.2010(14.4.2010)billn


From the Grands Jours in Burgundy at the end of March and organised by the association of négociants (Fédération des Négociants Eleveurs de Grande Bourgogne – FNEB) was a blind tasting of predominantly 2008 grand crus in the Château du Clos de Vougeot. For some reason a handful of 2002s were also included – but no complaints here. Afterwards there was a dinner in the Château where the association of négoce get to tell assorted press, merchants and courtiers exactly what they should think 😉 I previously made some notes on the ‘dinner wines’ in the Big Red Diary.

Actually it was only a ‘semi-blind’ tasting; you knew what was in the bottle (e.g. a 2008 Corton-Charlemagne), you just didn’t know who put it in the bottle unless you decided to cheat and dug deeper into your info booklet. I like this format as it does away with any prejudice – for instance last time I thought the fine 05 Charlemagne in front of me must have been from Bouchard Père, it turned out to be Thomas-Moillard – so well done Pascal Marchand (and team!) for that one!

The tasting theoretically started with whites, but I prefer to work up to the level of sweetness provided by the Montrachet-clan rather than try and taste tannic dry reds afterwards. There was also a bevy of Chablis to taste, but given that I had ‘timing issues’ at the last of these tastings I chose to taste the Côte d’Or whites first, and come back to Chablis if time permitted. This year it seemed that we were given plenty of time, but going to Chablis after several mouthfuls of Bâtard did them zero favours so I took no notes.

The notes that follow are as written blind and in the order they were tasted; it may have been a ‘phase’, but I generally found the Corton-Charlemagnes to be a little soft/flabby on entry though they all improved from that point…

The Reds:
2008 Corton André, Corton Bressandes
Deep, dark and slightly oaky aromas. Ripe, with a sweet width of fruit. Very muscular with a grainy tannin. The flavour extends very well into a good length finish.
2008 Stéphane Brocard, Corton Renardes
The aromas are less dark, more of a herbal mix with red fruits. Sticky ripe tannin is the first challenge, before the sweet fruit swamps it – an extra dimension of flavour here. This will certainly need cellar time, but it’s rather good.
2002 Louis Latour, Corton Grancey
I guess this must be Latour! Medium colour. Some warmth of red fruit, like the last a few herbs too. Some silk and plenty of power. Mineral flavours in the finish.
2002 Prosper Maufoux, Corton
Also some warmth to the red fruit aromas, but a slightly darker shade of red. Lithe, some astringency and a hint of bitterness to the tannin. Good expansion of flavour in the mid-palate before the finish.
2002 Louis Jadot, Corton Pougets
Rather tight aromas. In the mouth it is mineral, poised and lithe. The flavours are more about rocks than fruit until you head into the much more flavourful finish. Very nice.
2008 Bouchard Ainé et Fils, Charmes-Chambertin
Dark, wide, smoky oak mingles with sweet fruit – it’s actually quite exciting. After the Cortons this seems a little strict though the mid-palate is intense and ends with a very nice finish.
2008 Jean-Claude Boisset, Clos de la Roche
Aromas of understated creamy fruit – it’s very nice. It has a wide, sweet, acid-led personality that just about balances, the fruit is beautifully precise. Very sneaky length.
2008 Louis Max, Clos de Vougeot
Quite an interesting nose – dark red/black fruit is the focus. Lithe and linear, the tannins are on a medium level. Super balance, this seems very well put together but is perhaps a bit underpowered for a grand cru. Lovely wine though.
2008 Seguin Manuel, Clos de Vougeot
Deeper colour than the last Clos de Vougeot, a dark aroma fills the glass to match. Muscular and lithe there’s lots of structure here. After the last wine this is really powerful – real grand cru intensity. Lingers quite well. If the last was a lovely wine, this is a grand cru wine.
2008 Albert Bichot, Echézeaux
The aromas are much more obviously fruit-led, with a faint creamy-oak undertow. Good, less sweet fruit, well structured. It’s rather intense, delivering a super burst of interest as it heads into the finish. Very decent Echézeaux!
2008 Bouchard Ainé et Fils, Echézeaux
The nose is actually quite similar to the last with its creamy-oak edged-fruit. More supple, though there’s a little less excitement – let’s say energy. All said, it’s very well packaged and is quite long.
2008 Henri de Villamont, Grands-Echézeaux
A nose of more depth – super fruit. In the mouth there’s width and excellent structure – plenty of ripe tannin that’s only mildly astringent. Lovely finish. This is very good.
2002 Joseph Drouhin, Grands-Echézeaux
Dark, mineral and earthy notes. Good width with plenty of tannin. Quite open and interesting, but very young.
2002 Bourée et Fils, Charmes-Chambertin
A gorgeous nose of sweet, melting red fruits – super perfume – it smells more than 10 years older! The tannin has almost been resolved, though there’s still a bit of blocky ‘grab’. The flavours have a darker, possibly oak influenced edge. It’s a shame to spit this one out!
2002 Prosper Maufoux. Charmes-Chambertin
An understated nose, there’s some depth to the dark fruit though. It’s slightly disadvantaged by the sweetness of the last wine, but as the slightly astringent tannin clings to your gums it also attaches a flavour that lingers very well in the finish.
2002 Jean-Claude Boisset, Mazis-Chambertin
Darker colour. The young, dark fruit shows a mineral depth. Depth to the fruit on the palate too – actually it really penetrates – super dimensions of fruit! The structure is abundant but takes a backseat to the fireworks – excellent.
2002 Michel Picard, Mazis-Chambertin
The fruit aromas are sweeter on this Mazis, still with a little mineral complexity but essentially quite primary. A big structure this, and while there seems plenty of wine to balance I find myself concentrating on the ‘building’, not it’s contents.
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Lovely aromas; red fruit and faint herbs with a minty edge then a depth of darker fruit – bravo. Whilst there are great reserves of flavour, like the last wine today it is the structure that commands attention – lots of mildly grained ripe tannin. Classy all the same.
The Whites:
2008 Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne
Forward, ripe yellow fruit aromas with a twist of oak. Slightly sweet and a little too soft in the middle, but much more cut through the mid-palate into the finish.
2008 Roux Père et Fils, Corton-Charlemagne
Aromatically more interesting as the (still) ripe fruit has a fresher, more stony dimension. Sweet and just a little tighter in the middle. Interesting flavour and plenty of it. Also a good finish. I prefer this.
2008 Seguin Manuel, Corton-Charlemagne
The oak-led aromas are both tighter and denser. Fresh, tasty though seemingly a little underpowered, then it’s lifted (rescued!) by a late arriving intensity. Lovely flavours and length. Very nice.
2008 Corton André, Corton-Charlemagne
Forward, concentrated aromas that major on pineapple. Intense and flavourful, if a little loose-knit to start with. A super finish to the rescue.
2008 Patriarche Père et Fils, Corton-Charlemagne
Fresher aromas – quite some herbs and complexity – seems that it was picked less ripe than the others. Another loose/soft wine to start with that partly improves in the mid-palte.
2008 Albert Bichot, Corton-Charlemagne
Much riper aromas that are framed with a subtle brioche. Tighter and much more mineral – this is more like it! It seems that the intensity is (like the others) a long time coming, but eventually it’s there. Very good, but I’m not yet begging to buy!
2008 Olivier Leflaive, Corton-Charlemagne
This nose shows ripe fruit that has by far the most obvious toasty oak influence – it’s faintly creamy too. Lots of flavour and interest here. Seems pretty focused all the way through and shows intensity right into the finish – at last. The best Charlemagne today if you like the oak aromas.
2008 Bouchard Père et Fils, Chevalier-Montrachet
The aromas are wide, pretty and very interesting, perhaps not with too much depth but the panorama is fine. Wow! It’s a super-supple, silky texture. Real intensity of mineral flavour. Really super. Now I know that the Charlemagnes really were soft, not me!
2008 Olivier Leflaive, Bâtard-Montrachet
Plenty of oak on the nose, but it’s a long way from being too much. I find a little petillance which perhaps drives the good dimensions of flavour – though it’s mainly oak-influenced flavour. After the last wine, I can only say ‘almost good’.
2008 Jean-Marc Boillot, Bâtard-Montrachet
A mix of oak and perfume – no really – I don’t think it was the person standing next to me! Not too fat, good freshness and intensity. Good if unremarkable – except for the perfume!
2008 Michel Picard, Bâtard-Montrachet
Here is a very ‘together’ nose, understated but very elegant. Ripe and sweet, some fat too. The flavour is more about fruit-stones than fruit. Intense and long finishing. Very good wine.
2008 Louis Jadot, Bâtard-Montrachet
The nose shows a higher level of freshness than those that went before and with it shows an understated width. Silky, sweet and very well balanced. Intense slightly floral flavours and a fine burst of intensity in the mid-palate. This is very long. Super wine.
2002 Jean-Marc Boillot, Bâtard-Montrachet
The nose shows a little warmth to the fruit. Fat, and after the 2008s seems a little acid-shy – wait a little while and it seems to come into balance. Lots of stony fruit and an intense finish.

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