Bouchard père et fils: 2009 Update (2007s)

Update 18.2.2010(13.12.2009)billn

Tasting 7th December, with Philippe Prost:

2008s – ‘The vintage takes its time…’ some generics were bottled before harvest. ‘Bouzeron, Rully, Montagny 1er is done as is villages Meursault, the 1er cru Meursaults will follow…’ ‘Top maturity could be found in the Côte de Beaune, a more classic maturity in the Côte de Nuits…’ ‘The steps are quite big ones in the hierarchy in this vintage…’ ‘The wines are rich, but not so long as 2005…’ ‘The whites were picked later than usual, Montrachet was picked on the same day as DRC, probably with the domaine’s highest maturity since 1992…’ ‘The richness and the floral expression of the whites only came after the malolactic fermentation – all were finished in mid-June…’ ‘2008s have only been shown once so-far, and that was during the Hospices weekend, yet they remain on their original lees so still you can see only part of the picture that the wines will become…’ So we concentrate on the 2007s…

2007s – ‘We began picking 27th August, we finished 18th September…’ ‘We had 300 people, 250 harvesting and 50 in the cuverie. In the middle of the harvest we sent them all home for 5 days while we waited for more maturity – this was dangerous, as they might not come back!’ ‘The luxury we had of spreading out the harvest meant that at Bouchard Père, there is not much (quality) difference between wines harvested from the top of the hills and the bottom – eg Volnay Clos des Chênes (higher) was picked one week later than the Volnay Caillerets – maybe 100-150 metres separate the vines.’ ‘Whites are about purity and precision, and no problem at all for picking as the acidity was always on a good level…’ ‘Cabotte was picked on 5/6 September, but only the top level terrace, then we returned after 5 days for Montrachet…’ ‘Overall the problem of the 2007 vintage, is not the wines, rather it’s the economic backdrop, and it’s quite possible that 09s will be cheaper than the 07s…’ ‘The market in France (and it’s more than 50% of Bouchard’s sales) is holding well, rather it is the export markets that are suffering…’

My Summary – The comments of Philippe above, do a good and fair job of positioning the quality of the wines and vintages chez Bouchard Père. What they won’t tell you is that this is the most sympathetic oak treatment of the red cuvées that I’ve found since at least the 2003s. It may be that the concentrated 2003s were able to easily suck-up their oak, and equally, that because I’ve tasted this vintage about 6 months later than 2005/2006s, these 2007s have already had more time to absorb the barrel effects. The wines anyway are not obviously, aromatically oaky – almost all are very open, red and white – the vast majority below would be good purchases, provided the price is right.
But before that, what about oxidised wine?

My last two bottles from a case of of 2002 Meursault Perrières were found wanting this summer – clear traces of oxidation and no ‘brightness’. Philippe was very open about the situation and allowed me to reproduce the following from our discussion:

  • A few years ago, 500 bottles with natural cork from the same batch were cellared – half with a wax ‘capsule’. If today you open 24 bottles with wax, all are okay, but make the same test on those stored without wax and from 12, 2 are dead, 6 or 7 okay and the rest somewhere in-betweem. So, wax can help, but it’s not the root of the problem.
  • Bouchard Père’s first experiments 6 years ago were with Altec, followed with DIAM – no oxidization has been noted in subsequent testing
  • The only difference noted for DIAM, was a slight tendency to reduction – “but maybe that’s a good thing”.
  • Today the Meursault and the Beaune 1ers are bottled with DIAM seals, half-bottles of Chevalier and Corton-Charlemagne also – there are no halves of Montrachet.
  • “We’re not happy with the screw-cap options. It’s a good option for fast moving wines, but not ones with the cellar in mind.”
  • “We know it’s not the best answer, but it is somehow an improvement. We know today that we can still find top cork, but maybe that is still not enough.”
  • “We buy hundreds of thousands of ‘top corks’ per year from Sardinia, they are good (and so expensive…) because they are slow growing – 12-18 years are needed.”
  • “High-maturity vintages seem ‘immune’ from this phenomena; 2003, 1997, 1994 there is no trace of oxidation, not here at least. I believe that 15 years ago there was the start of a trend to picking with a little less maturity – maybe this could be part of the reason.”

This is not the full resume of the problem, but our current approach includes:
Press process with open cages, less new oak percentage with Chardonnay, a good aging with the lies , no “batonnage” if the wines are still cloudy, good bottling conditions, with unstressed wines, less filtrations, work by gravity, take care of O2 contents, as little as possible, <0.5 mg/liter, add nitrogen on the empty bottles before filling , use CO2 between filling machine and corking machine, everything is so important.
We know we can be safe with a good closure, (I should say we have better chances to be safe…), the great question is today the heterogeneity of corks (controling the weight of each, it can be a surprise), and you can understand they may have a great or medium density.

The Wines:
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Bourgogne Pinot Noir – Reserve
A cuvée of 300,000 bottles, largely from grapes, though some must from long-term contractors, but the growers are paid on sugar levels rather than yield. Medium, medium-pale colour. The nose is fresh, with a slight warmth to the perfumed red fruits. Some sweetness and intensity, though the acidity seems on a slightly higher level – still it helps deliver a lingering flavour. Chill it for the summer.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Monthélie
From two locations, one direct sun facing and the other on a colder, east facing site on the Auxey-Duresses hill. The blend is a good one – wine that doesn’t make it into the blend is labelled Côte du Beaune villages. A bright and beautiful medium colour. More intense aromas of crushed berries. Just a little more plush, with intense fresh fruits. Good acidity. A shiny clarity to this wine – lovely.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune 1er du Château
1907 was the fist, so this is the 100th anniversary of this cuvée, in 2007 made from 17 of Beaune’s 42 1er crus. Medium, medium-pale colour. The nose is less bright and precise than the Monthèlie, yet has a little more depth and complexity. More depth on the mid-palate and this is the first wine with some tannin, perhaps partly oak derived, but good length.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune 1er Grèves l’Enfant Jesus
Picked in August. Medium-plus color. Intense violets over red cherry and a faint white pepper. Very, very silky – gorgeous depth of plush red fruit. Very, very long with just a hint of barrel flavour. It’s a beauty.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Volnay 1er Caillerets Ancienne cuvée Carnot
Picked in August. Medium, medium-plus color. Aromas that are wider, initially a little more diffuse, eventually spiced-bread over dark, pure fruit and a floral note. In the mouth there’s sweetness from the ripe fruit, velvet texture after the silk of the ‘Grèves’. Slowly lingering and complex. Very good.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Pommard 1er Rugiens
Medium, medium-plus colour. A width of aromas, hints of spice and coffee – less impact but lots of depth. Higher-toned fruit in the mouth, with a floral aspect. Quite powerful, with a hint of astringency that follows into the long finish. The nose ends very much more expressively. Very good.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Le Corton
Medium colour. Width, quite tight aromas but a good, chocolate-edged depth, slowly opens out and sweetens. Muscular, but very sleek – there’s no fat here. Plenty of fine tannin – very impressive.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin
More than 60,000 bottles but 100% vinified by Bouchard. Medium colour. Some width, high-toned, eventually a little red fruit peaks through with a floral backing. I’m almost surprised by the sweetness of the fruit. Some slight astringency and decent acidity. Not the pure focus of the previous wines, but nor should there be. Good.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Porrets St.Georges
Only the second vintage of this, following an exchange of 1 hectare of Volnay Taillepieds vines between Bouchard Père and Etienne de Montille. Always a high maturity in this parcel. Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose seems to have a furry texture, lovely width and depth. sweet, but not too sweet. There is more silk and fat, lovely width and complexity across the palate – narrows quite quickly but keeps true in the finish. A very elegant Nuits.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Cailles
Another exchange, this time between Henri Boillot and Bouchard Père; Volnay Fremiets exchanged for Nuits Les Cailles – so Henri, who is based in Volnay, didn’t need to keep driving to Nuits! Medium-plus colour. The first wine with detectable oak toast over warmth and spicy sweetness. Good sweetness on the tongue but a little more reserved than the ‘Porets’, its darker fruit is a little more distant. Plenty of fine grained tannin and late-appearing, mouth watering acidity.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Bonnes-Mares
Medium, medium-plus colour. Tight, fine, furry high tones, ginger. This really expands in the mouth; complex, wiry and with velvet tannin – then expands again. Very long and savoury finish.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
So far 10 years (1997) into the contract for this 1 hectare of vines. Always two vats for vinifications, one in wood and one in stainless – Philippe is convinced that the blend makes this wine much more interesting. Medium, medium-plus colour. A hint of smoke (yes stems – about 20%, same as the Nuits wines above), silky width, but very primary. Intensity and width across the palate, balance and flavours that continue to seep from your teeth and cheeks after the wine has gone. Plenty of structure, but no hard edges.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Bourgogne Chardonnay – Reserve
100% vinified by Bouchard, with 6-8 months aging in about 150 barrels – actually this is the cuvée that uses the most number of new barrels, because it ‘breaks in’ the barrels for the 1er and grand crus where they don’t like too much new oak. Wide and fresh, almost floral, soapy aromas. I don’t have the impression of cut or focus, yet there is a core of fine fruit at the center.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Pouilly-Fuissé
A hint of gold to the colour. A core of ripe fruit on the nose. Mouth-filling, with good texture, long and quite ripe, but balanced.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault Les Clous
Cold and windy at the top of the hill, always one of the latest wines to be harvested. The nose shows a more intense mineral/fruit mix – quite high-toned. Lovely width and dimension, the intensity digs into you – a wine with great energy. Lovely.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune 1er du Château
The aromatics are fuller, more forward, ripe and with exotic elements. Intense, softer, smoother, with decent complexity and a length tinged with brioche.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune 1er Clos St.Landry
These vines have been with Bouchard since just after the revolution, always white wine, but only separated as a cuvée since 1985. Always a very simple, unproblematic wine to vinify. The nose shows lots of action, sweet bread over a width of fruit. Full, good energy and plenty of sweetness – there even seems to be some dry extract in the mid-palate. Savoury finishing. Very good.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault 1er Genevrières
The aromatics have less impact than the Beaunes, but they are fine and overlayed by a suggestion of warm toast. Ripe and complex flavours, even some minerality. This is really intense in the mid-palate. A really super bottle that makes a great impression as it is so full of energy!
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault 1er Perrières
From 3 small plots of different levels and soil depths, Philippe says it is always difficult to make the best blend, ‘left-over’ barrels will go into a ‘generic’ Meursault 1er cru. The aromas are tighter after the Genevrières, but seem waxy-smooth. This is totally different in character, it starts tighter yet expands cleansingly across the palate with intensity before providing a very understated, but considerable length. This is very impressive, but today is only showing about 25% of the character on display in the Genevrières.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Chevalier-Montrachet
The nose delicate and floral, very complex but also very understated, slowly hints of cream and wool are added. It’s a narrow entry that gets wider and wider as the intensity and acidity build across your tongue. This wine is mineral but today it is very tightly wound, and delivering none of the energy of the 1ers.
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Montrachet
A little deaper colour. The aromas start a little heavy and more forward, at the core there is fine complexity but this builds additional dimensions and balance as it aerates – a few minutes in the glass, and the heavyness is gone replaced by a ’roundness’. Really beautiful texture, complex, and with mind-changing mid-palate complexity. As it builds in power it develops an almost buttery texture, but at its core rather than over your teeth and cheeks. Only eventually does the acidity leach from the side of your mouth to prolong the finish. Really special and very approachable today!
2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Corton-Charlemagne
These vines were purchased 100 years ago, in 1909 with some Savigny 1er Lavières. They are at the top of the hill, east facing, so it’s very bright but also cold – bringing plenty of frost worries. To balance, they always have great acidity so can wait and wait for perfect maturity. The exposure saved them in 1998 when oïdium ruined many other parcels, Philippe says that the cuvée is long lived – they have many great bottles of more than 50 years old. The aromas are instantly panoramic, a little mineral and of fresh flowers, not as ’round’ as the Montrachet. In the mouth this is totally different; narrower (relatively!), more mineral and perhaps more muscular – just the same character as the red Le Corton – long and wiry. Supple and perfectly balanced, it has that similar buttery expansion in the mid-palate as noted in the Montrachet, but on a lower level, showing fresh flavours all the way into the finish. Really high-level Charlemagne.

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

There are 2 responses to “Bouchard père et fils: 2009 Update (2007s)”

  1. Tom14th December 2009 at 7:56 pmPermalinkReply

    Regarding random oxidation, it is clear the cork is to blame, even by his own admission, why blame ‘maturity’ and other factors. What trials have they done with screw cap to be so sure it is only for fast maturing wines?

    • billn14th December 2009 at 8:41 pmPermalinkReply

      It seems you have the only possible solution Tom, and everyone else is stupid – funny old world…. 🙂

      As for other trials, those will be the ones I can’t report so that Philippe keeps his job…

  2. Phil Eaves17th February 2010 at 9:03 pmPermalinkReply


    In one of the above TN you mention a trade between Volnay Caillerets and Boillot NSG Cailles.

    I have been advised by Bouchard that the trade was for some Volnay Fremiets not the Caillerets do you think this is correct
    as your sources tend to be very reliable?

    I asked Bouchard because they are the only producer to have a Caillerets ” Ancienne Cuvee Carnot” that is from both lieux-dits and if they had traded some this might not now be the case.


    • billn18th February 2010 at 4:11 pmPermalinkReply

      Well spotted Phil – I just checked my notes and I did indeed transcribe it wrongly in my head – Fremiets it is – edited! Bouchard actually had this text before publishing, but didn’t spot that 😉

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