Dateline: LONDON, 1st May 2012, 10:00am at the St.James address of Berry Bros. & Rudd.
We meet in the basement – sorry, cellar – and quite an interesting place it is too; despite the exposed brick-work and oak tables, ‘audio-visual’ is the phrase that springs to mind, indeed a classroom. Still, we’re all here to learn, me and an assortment of wine-writing royalty. There to greet us is the beaming face of Nicolas Potel, aided and abetted by two of BB&R’s finest, @justjasper and @jossNOTjosh – Nicolas has been planning this tasting for almost two years!
Nicolas is here to preside over a tasting of his ‘Collection Bellenum’. For at least ten years he’s been building-up a stock of older wines in anything from ten case lots, now after working with no less than 26 domaines, he’s amassed about 7,000 cases of ~160 different wines. To get to this stage he actually tasted over 2,500 wines – now he is beginning their promotion, both here and in the US. It’s an interesting and, at this scale, unique offer. The wines wear his (Roche de Bellene) négociant label and, hence, have his seal of approval/quality control; they all retain their original corks (which Jasper hid!), so if you stump up the sum requested you may also know whose wine you are drinking. In some cases he has a contract with the original domaines which gives him x years to sell y thousand bottles of their wine, the wines laying in the original producers’ cellar, in other cases he has bought the wines outright. As you will see – what a collection!
Initially, Berry Bros & Rudd have some exclusivity in the UK, other outlets will also, eventually, pop up.
All the wines for this tasting had been driven to London one month before and left to stand upright for a week. Magnums were double decanted, bottles single decanted.
Deep, slightly musky fruit aromas. The nose is a little tight but there is only the merest hint of mature, leafy notes. Here is plenty of flavour intensity and a world of flavour dimension – elegant Chambolle it isn’t, but bravura in spades it has!
The nose is deep and cushioned, faintly salted too. This is silky, lithe and brilliantly intense due to its forward but not bright acidity. This wine has a dark chocolate personality – perhaps hinting to faint reduction – and is simply super.
High toned aromas mix with faint green herbs. There’s still plenty of tannin – slightly drying and quite young. This is far from über-ripe, rather it is simply a very young wine, still. A lovely development and growth of flavour in the mid-palate – this is a baby, but a lovely one.
Depth of aroma and faintly powdery dark fruit with a higher-toned layer of herby elements. This wine has a wonderful presence and intensity of flavour. The flavours are long, long, borne on fine acidity – young, but gorgeously impressive even today.
The nose is wide and quite interesting, yet the fruit seems a little tight, pretty red fruits are struggling to the escape the glass. There’s a cushioned, slightly lush texture to this wine – underpinned by a layer of fine velvet tannin. There’s an element of understatement about this wine, yet it’s impressive for all-that!
Not surprisingly, this is rather darker in colour. The aromas are wide and inviting – ripe for sure and maybe with a touch of menthol. The tannin is faintly blocky but the acidity is rather good for an 03 – enabling a finishing note of acid-black-cherry. Non-standard, but absolutely enjoyable.
From Rugiiens du Bas and made with whole clusters.
Again darker in colour. The nose has width and subtle understatement yet seems ‘alive’. Surprisingly supple in the mouth despite impressive concentration – the stems present themselves as high-toned flavour components rather than a gothic smoky impression.
Aromas of powdery red fruits – not really the most interesting wine here. Bingo! Here are flavours with a wonderful vivacity, intensity and depth – some floral elements too. Despite the nose, this wine is a beauty.
Floral aromas – violets mainly. In the mouth the flavour profile seems rather wide with plenty of intensity and dimension to those flavours. The tannins are rather young – but that comes with this territory. Overall, nice wine, and one that seems quite open for now.
Flight 2. All Magnums, and all from the same producer.
Of all the grand crus of Burgundy, Latricières-Chambertin is one of the hardest to find really good examples – and I include Corton and Clos de Vougeot in that statement. Leroy sits comfortably at the top, though in that respect I can only comment on young wines. Here you will find, I think, a very good example indeed, one which (proportionately if not always absolutely) I thought even better than the Clos de la Roche(es).
There’s some age to the colour, it’s also less perfectly bright than some. The nose is warm, a little diffuse and gives a slightly sweet impression – but it also provides flashes of beguiling red fruit. The structure has largely melted leaving a lovely medley of acidity and fruit flavour – mellow, comforting wine.
Forward, impressive, mineral and at the same time quite herbal aromas – really interesting. Full, round with ripe, relatively young fruit flavours. Long and it has to be said, more impressive yet less engaging than the 89 Latricières.
Darker colour but shiny-bright. Sweet dark fruits and cured meat on the nose – quite some depth too. Gorgeous, fresh balance and an intensity that slowly creeps up on you. A baseline of understated and finely textured tannin. Really the balance is exquisite here – a wine for the next 30 years in magnum…
The nose is dark and a little sullen – some dark leaf. This wine is lithe and proportioned like a greyhound, still some faint tannic astringency too. Like the 1993 this is a wine you should wait for – in this case for structural reasons.
The nose is deep with quite forward fruit. Plush, concentrated, wide and very long. Young. All you need to know!
For the vintage this has a very good freshness to the nose; almost no leafy aspects and clean, clear fruit. Round and less well defined versus the 1995 yet there remains an impressive mid-palate intensity and length.
Tight but there are some understatedly impressive dark-red fruits. More structure than those that went before, the tannin still grabbing a little at your gums. Good length. Very good but equally very young wine.
Aromatically this is very different to the previous wines – subtle stems and a little chocolate. Voluptuous, fine tannin. Very well made, understated acidity – this is impressively drinkable for such a ‘baby’.
Rather tight, occasionally a little creamy impression lifts from the glass. Round, concentrated, slowly growing yet never invasive tannin. The flavour grows too but it’s rather dense at the moment – will I live long enough to see this unfold it’s limbs?
The nose offers up wide, slightly herbal notes – but little else today. Here is a mouth-filler with lots of structure that has a salty finishing tang. This is dense and concentrated, mineral even. A wine for 2040 yet it is somehow drinkable today.
Flight 3. That rare beast – Le Chambertin in magnums
What a shame the 1990 was corked!
Less bright than many. A wide nose of Provençal herbs. Concentrated but not plush with an ever-growing intensity. The flavours don’t really offer clarity, or über-complexity, but somehow you have the impression that you’re drinking ‘real wine’. Yum! The flavour really stays with you…
The nose is rather biscuity/toasty but not in a detracting way – but, that said, there seems little else of interest. In the mouth (fortunately) this is full and round, complex and tasty – quite unexpected after the nose.
The nose is intense and fruity. In the mouth, this is a wine where the flavour builds and builds. Despite this concentration the wine is rather reserved yet has an almost game-saving sense of balance and grace.
Here is impressive aromatic complexity, yet with a clear pyrazine note (2/10 on the GM scale). The flavours are equally complex and again with some pyrazine elements but at this level they don’t dominate. Good dry extract on the finish. Impressively complex and very fine for the vintage.
The aromas are both forward and concentrated – a clear note of almond too. Full with gloriously impressive flavours but those flavours are still caged, in the thrall of the tannic structure. A potential monument.
Here the nose offers full and round aromas. IN the mouth this is complex and giving – less overtly concentrated than the 99, indeed many of these wines but I find this lively and wonderfully drinkable right now – though clearly there’s no rush to consume!
Wide, interesting and complex dark fruit notes – not particularly deep. This is rather concentrated and shows a little saline tinge to the structure. Currently brash and impressive – but superficially so? I’m not sure the flavour is as long lasting as some…
The nose is deep and truffly – not as wide as many. This is incredibly impressive wine, given the way it seems to expand in all directions in your mouth – it also has a lovely balance to the acidity. The flavours in the finish are clearly and cleanly defined – frankly this wine is wow! But maybe for somebody else’s grandchildren…
Aromatically this starts in a rather sullen vein – but the depth seems to impress, overlaid with faint herbal notes. Wow, wow! I think I have to describe this as ‘latent wine’ such is the balanced concentration. This will be brilliant – I’m just not sure it will be brilliant in less than another 30 years – but wow (again).
Now we’ve been softened up, time for the crusty old stuff…
Aromatically, this is simply wonderful – it is quite the symphony – high toned notes mingle with something memorable yet hard to pin down – fruit-ish and gorgeous. Warm, round the flavours have a wide perspective and growing intensity. Simply a brilliant wine – Wow!
Not bright. The nose is rather understated – some high tones but little else – time delivers some pretty crystallised fruit notes. Wide flavoured, still relatively structured and lingeringly pretty. There is plenty to like here – lots of character.
The nose is wide and fresh – rather clean. In the mouth it is also round and clean, but this time rather narrow in perspective, yet in the mid-palate this is full, impressive and multidimensional – bravo!!
The nose is dark and perhaps subtly reduced. The flavour profile is wide and quite interesting. Actually, for the label, there’s lots of flavour dimension here – superb value!
Deep, caramelsed golden colour. Wow, wow (enough wows?) – what a nose! There’s depth of aroma that pulls you in with a little gunflint, iodine and lanolin – perhaps truffly white chocolate too. In the mouth there is width, complexity and not a little plushness to the texture. The flavours are long, long, long. It’s hard to describe how long and gorgeously tasty the flavours are – so I’ll just say wow, again!
Essentially this is very much like a junior version of the ’59 – it seems slightly pinched in all directions after that wine – what a shame to have such a feeling about a wonderful wine! Essentially this is a little more rigorous, less cushioned and slightly less concentrated wine – but context is all! Brilliant in isolation!
Gunflint on the nose and a note that I can’t quite put my finger on yet (I will!). In the mouth this is certainly impressive for its age (in the modern context of 5 year-old oxidised wine) but really can’t follow the last two wines – we should have tasted them in the reverse order. The note from the nose is more obvious as a flavour – I’d say baked beans!
The nose is complex, mineral too, but not particularly wide in its vista. Here we have a lovely, silky texture and a slowly growing intensity – this is very fine stuff – lovely, lovely, and as has already been demonstrated, actually rather young, still, in its flavour profile.
The effusive aroma offers good width, backed by a little gunflint and fainter iodine. This is very lovely wine – as a drinking style (today!) I have a slight preference for the Perrières – but it’s a very close run thing so better to pour both and contrast/compare for an hour or four!
Here is a wide veneer of aroma but not much depth. The most obviously mineral wine so far with an intensity of flavour that sneakily grows and grows. Interesting stuff, in this context it starts ‘so-so’ but becomes a real honey! Nice wine.
Toasted bread on the nose but otherwise this is rather tight and unyielding. Full, concentrated, some softness to the texture and a really impressive expansion of flavour in the mid-palate – all of which is perfectly supported by fine acidity.
Aromatically wide with fresh herbs too. Across the palate this has very little fat – rather it has sinew and muscle – delivering intensity and superb length – yet, with virtually none of the bulk that many 05s show. Excellent.