Tasting 7th December, with Philippe Prost:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The aromatics are fuller, more forward, ripe and with exotic elements. Intense, softer, smoother, with decent complexity and a length tinged with brioche.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.