Tasted in London at the F+R offices, 14 October, 2014.
My thanks to Joss Fowler for extending the invitation – I guess he knew it was my birthday! If you email him, I’m sure he will be happy to sell you all of these!
Summarising Clos de Vougeot 2011
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2011 was a relatively low yielding vintage, but not exceptionally so. After this tasting I asked François Labet, the largest owner in Clos de Vougeot, if he might outline his perspective of the 2011 growing season. Many thanks to him, that he did so, and my translation of that follows:
“Of course, as in all the Côte, there was late flowering and the early summer was wet, but fortunately September turned this around and the harvest began in early October.
“The choices made by the winemaker were critical, and for some plots down to the very day that they were picked: a true “haute couture” type of wine in 2011.
“We saw maturity rather late, so regular tasting of the fruits (berries and stalks) was essential. For Château de La Tour, I started picking grapes on the 10th of October but didn’t finish until the 18th, always waiting for a perfect balance between sugar / pH / acidity and ripe, tasty fruit.”
And the wines?
This tasting was a perfect showcase for the 2011 vintage. On average, the quality is good, even very good, but the weight and concentration of these wines, if not their intensity, is modest – they are more like 1er Crus from a ‘to cellar’ vintage. They are often rather delicious in a way that young Clos de Vougeot has no right to be – at least if we are to believe the stereotype of the severe, austere Clos de Vougeot.
Without any intention to use the word in association with its many negative connotations, this is a perfect ‘restaurant vintage‘ i.e. not something light and forgettable, but something fine and nuanced that will bring real enjoyment earlier than anticipated.
I’m sure I’ve written before that, on a mild level, I see some pyrazine taint in a majority of 2011s. Oak is a great masking agent, and I suppose that the expected extra concentration and flavour of a grand cru should also offer some useful opportunities for further diluting the note – as such, I’m not at all surprised that only 4 of these 38 wines displayed some taint – in another 5 years as the oak recedes I might expect that figure to go higher. But a little pyrazine or not, these wines turned out to be much more than ‘just’ drinkable. I didn’t set out to find a particular number of wines to recommend, only to highlight those that I found the most interesting and appealing – it could have been 2 or 20 – as-such, 10 seems to be a good, round number.
I only matched the names to the notes when later typing this; I thought tasting these blind the perfect approach but in some ways you are always open to embarrassing yourself: For a while I thought I had only ‘rated’ the wines of Beaune négociants – though fortunately some balance was restored. I also remember asking Joss if ‘wine 22 was really from Burgundy, not Bordeaux,’ so when it turned out actually to be the wine from Eugenie – oops! That said, and it still may be a tasty wine, but I guess the most embarrassing thing is that it should really be so clichéd!
A lovely, deep-red, faintly oaked nose with some higher-toned herb. Good width of flavour and nice intensity – there’s a very good extra dimension of flavour in the mid-palate too – a great start!
Wine 2 – Sylvain Loichet
Here there’s lots of reduction which makes the fruit appear darker shaded – quite rubbery. There’s also plenty of reductive flavour too, but reasonable depth of flavour and medium intensity. The finish is cleaner, despite some oak, but not particularly long. Not so great!
Wine 3 – Lucien Le Moine
Aromatics that are fresh and red-fruited, with a slowly growing spicy depth. Round in the mouth, again with red fruit and a faint spice. Middle-weight, tasty and pretty – quite long too. A wine that lacks a little oomph!
Wine 4 – Louis Max
Tight nose – but seemingly quite silky with discreet red-fruit notes. Round, good scale and a growing velvet texture, despite understated tannin. A nice and mouth-watering finish. Again, a wine that should offer a little more power for the label, but much more interest to be found here than the last wine.
Wine 5 – Bertrand Ambroise
A little darker colour. Deeper redcurrant notes and some florals too – very nice. There’s nice depth of flavour here and quite good concentration too – a lovely lingering finish on understated acidity. Quite good.
Wine 6 – Arnoux-Lachaux
Super depth of aroma despite less width. The palate is more mineral than those before, still with good depth and nice flashes of extra fruit. Good finishing intensity too, with just a little oak bitterness in the finish. A very nice wine.
Wine 7 – Olivier Bernstein
The nose is round and inviting with a little reduction at its core – it actually seems to become more reductive – not less – in the glass. There’s a little more structure here but the texture is quite silky and there’s good concentration and intensity too. Today, marred only by reductive aroma and flavour, though much less than wine 2.
The nose is a forward melange of whole clusters and rose perfume – behind that is a fine depth of dark red fruit. The palate shows width and weight, plus a growing depth of velvet tannin. The flavour behind this structure is on a more understated level, but it lingers beautifully. Super – but definitely a wine to wait for.
Wine 9 – Château de la Tour
A fresher nose, with faint red fruit – appealing in a non-oaked sort of way. Wide, with surprising concentration for such a discrete nose – it really fills the mouth with flavour too. This is very good!
Wine 10 – Clos Frantin
A dark aromatic, suggestive of faint reduction – also suggestive of some whole-cluster activity – and certainly some oak too. Very fine texture with slowly growing flavour. This has fine balance yet seems a little tight – the parts all seem fine though. Wait a little…
Wine 11 – Jean Jacques Confuron
A big, friendly, faintly mushroomy nose. In the mouth it’s full, but also quite silky with a little strawberry conserve fruit – only very slowly does some structural architecture begin to show. Tasty wine by any measure, but only the impressively largely and unfolding finish actually makes me think ‘Grand Cru!’
A rather round aromatic with some conserve-fruit notes – it’s very welcoming, if a little facile. This wine surprises with its minerality – the first – and there’s a salty tang in the mid-palate too. I find this very complex, there’s also a burst of interesting fresh flavour in the finish. Surely a contender for best wine!
Wine 13 – Lamarche
An inviting nose, despite a little mushroom that augments the dark cherry. Deep, sweet and with a faintly reductive flavour – but lots of depth here – probably because of the reduction. There’s quite good concentration here. This should turn out a very good wine.
Fresh and dark aromas with a little fruit conserve – primary but fine. Hmm, good intensity and attack here, and another wine with a saline aspect in the mid-palate. Good layers of flavour. Fine!
A wide and high-toned nose with some floral aspects over a tighter, darker core – very appealing. Round, with very good concentration and plenty of velvet-cushioned dark cherry flavour that grows from the core of the wine. Classic (good!) Clos de Vougeot for cellaring a little while.
Here is a quite high-toned nose with an undertow of pretty, red conserve fruit. A wine that fills the mouth with understated concentration and an intense, yet fine undertow of fruit flavour. Actually a fine and large-scaled finish. A fine wine that grows and grows on the palate.
Wine 17 – Denis Mortet
Padded aromatics that are faintly reduced yet still quite pretty – there’s a suggestion of something floral too. Big, round and with fine red fruit of growing intensity and a faint salinity. Friendly and ripe but with very good concentration too…
Glossy dark fruit with an appealing, discretely volatile, note. Another wine of decent concentration, faint salinity and dark fruit. There’s a faint rasp to the tannin here, but to balance, the last drops in the glass have an exquisite floral lift…
Wine 19 – Jacques Prieur
Stricter, with slightly sulfitic notes that fade with some swirling – in the process becoming altogether prettier. Round with medium concentration but with a good mid-palate peak of intensity and attack. Yet another wine that’s faintly saline. Not the longest finishing, but it tastes good.
Wine 20 – Joseph Drouhin
The nose is wide, not so deep and with roast red fruit in the middle. The structure is more rustic than most – some oak and a little heat too. It will settle of-course, but very old-style Burgundy versus most that have gone before it.
Wine 21 – Drouhin-Laroze
A fine, dark nose, almost textured and with a little floral action too – super. Big, round, growing intensity – indeed one of the most intense here – but to balance, it has far from the best texture. A ‘look at me’ wine, with a super nose but only quite good palate.
Wine 22 – d’Eugenie
There’s some reduction on this nose with an under-tow of barrel-cream. Wide in the mouth and darkly flavoured. I find very good acid/tannin balance and some fine flavour too, but a wine that today is mostly about carpentry. Tasty for all that but more Bordeaux than Burgundy at this age.
Wine 23 – Faiveley
Fresh and some high tones too, that are faintly underpinned with some vanilla. An obvious salty tang and more of a tannic drag than grain. Very good intensity of finish though. A wine that is more about structure today – classic Clos de Vougeot if you like – but give it time. The parts are good enough.
Wine 24 – Grivot
There are high-tones here, a little mushroom too – but overall the nose is a little tight. There’s good width of flavour and likewise good attack too. Some obvious pyrazine flavour in the mid-palate and finish. A good wine though.
Wine 25 – Anne Gros
The nose is fresh and silky – a little tight yet full of interest. Wide with fine flavour – there’s plenty to chew here and a little faint salinity too. Very nice wine!
Wine 26 – Gros Frère et Soeur
Something a little different: Salty meat on the nose with high-tones – not bad though. Quite big in the mouth, with a sweet leading-edge of flavour – clearly a larger impression of scale than most. The tannin is a little grainy and whilst the shape is similar, the flavour profile is also a little different to most. Tasty if oaky finishing – but toast not vanilla.
Wine 27 – Michel Gros
Good aromatic depth here, with some floral anecdotes but a little pyrazine too – the more I swirl, the less I see that pyrazine so it’s borderline. Nice in the mouth – middle-weight with good balance. You have a little pyrazine in the flavour too, but only just. Okay, rather modest wine…
Wine 28 – Hudelot-Noellat
The aromatic here is not so deep but the padded, pretty cherry fruit has good width. Too much CO2 on the palate so it’s quite bright but the fresh and engaging fruit shows some reductive elements too. The nose is fine but the palate is out of sorts…
Wine 29 – Gérard Raphet
Here is an engaging red-fruit nose. Quite mouth-filling, with very red, slightly roast fruit flavour – but slightly salty and with very good depth. Not a modern style of wine but a quite lovely intensity of flavour in the finish.
Wine 30 – Henri Rebourseau
Dark colour. Pyrazine is the main aromatic, a background of flowers too though. Wide in the mouth with ripe fruit and plenty of complexity – some pyrazine in the mix here too, but on a low, complex and interesting level. It seems a good wine, but one to wait for.
The nose is deep and dark – almost ‘cola’ – but luckily it fades, blossoming into something very pretty indeed, just a faint floral aspect too. Quite big, velvety, intense – indeed very good intensity. There’s lots of flavour here. I’m very sorry to have used the word cola, because this is excellent.
Wine 32 – Roche de Bellene
From top to bottom the aromas here are fresh and interesting. The flavour isn’t as wide as many, but there’s plenty of growing intensity, a good concentration in the mid-palate and plenty of high-toned red fruit. I find this very good.
Wine 33 – Tortochot
A deep nose, but mainly because of some reduction, fortunately there are also flashes of pretty red fruit too. There’s good width and intensity but some reductive flavours too – that said there’s also plenty of complexity. Certainly a wine to wait for, but if the reduction is lost there’s a great base material.
Wine 34 – de la Vougeraie
High-toned red fruit that also has a slightly roast impression, perhaps with some whole-cluster too. Full and round with a dose of salinity and perhaps there are whole-cluster flavours too. Fine and fresh top notes with a little more air-time in the glass. A different style but very tasty…
Wine 35 – Henri de Villamont
A nose that’s wide with pretty red fruit – here are high tones but no bass notes. The second sniff brings out pyrazine. This fills the mouth with quite some tannin and a super growth of flavour intensity too – though clearly aided by barrel selection. Despite all, I’m minded to like this.
Wine 36 – Chauvenet-Chopin
A rather narrow aromatic, but there’s interest from top to bottom, even some hint of texture and herbs. There is sweetness of fruit, intensity and salinity. I find good mid-palate concentration and lots of energy and interest. Yum – but better to wait a while!
Slightly roasted, dark-red fruit. Full in the mouth and there’s plenty of tannin too – but the acidity and flavour intensity slowly catch up. A very good finish too. Clearly a baby, but super!
I find something on the nose like charcoal-y toast over sweet fruit – with a little more attention I think this charcoal could be a mix of oak and whole-cluster aromas. Sweet in the mouth with plenty of tannin – but the tannin texture is more of a drag on the tongue than real grain. Some salinity and a hint of whole cluster in the complex flavour. Here is a serious wine and one to definitely wait for. Very fine.