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A Clos de Tart Dinner

1-IMG_0075-001Always nice to get a fresh view of a domaine – especially one that has become as important as Clos de Tart.

Become so important? Well, when I first started buying Burgundy in the mid-1990s, Clos de Tart was not a particularly expensive grand cru, though it typically offered well-above-average quality – but the wine seemed to lack a little cachet so was unlikely to be found in any ‘top 10’ lists – maybe it was too cheap(?) Well, not for long of-course! The price sky-rocketed from about vintage 2003 onwards, as much as anything due to the ending of the Mommessin distribution agreement (Mommessin distribution and Mommessin’s Beaujolais had been bought by JC Boisset) – but the family Mommessin decided to keep the Clos de Tart and set up a new distribution network. Price increase, after price increase eventually positioned the wine as one of the ‘top 10’…

Of-course Sylvain Pitiot had, for some time already, been working hard in the background, refining everything he could see. This is a domaine that leaves no stone unturned, no detail is too small for reconsidering – last time I walked the perimeter of the vineyard, the edge of the vines (of the whole vineyard!) had been turned into something of a Japanese garden! It seems to me the most perfectionist domaine in Burgundy – bar none. Since at least 2001 (a personal favourite) Clos de Tart has delivered wines in the very top-tier of quality, though with 2010 priced at least 3x more than 2001, I suspect the customer demographic has changed quite a lot.

In theory the domaine could produce Clos de Tart with yields of 42 hl/ha, but Sylvain doesn’t go higher than 30 hl/ha. The second wine of the domaine is their ‘La Forge du Tart’ (Forge was once the name of the vineyard) and although it carries a 1er Cru label, it is 100% Clos de Tart and made in exactly the same way as its grand cru sibling, including 100% new oak. The difference? – it is only a barrel selection – mainly the produce of vines younger than 25 years, augmented with other barrels that Sylvain is less than thrilled with. In 2011, there was no ‘Forge’ as Sylvain wasn’t happy with the quality – it was sold on. About 1.5 hectares of the domaine’s vines are currently below 25 years old, but even including those, the average age would be around 60 years; Sylvain even has a few un-grafted vines in the vineyard, ‘just to compare’.

Of-course I have to return to the oak; it is the one aspect of the domaine’s wines which I think is not as good as it could be – simply the young wines have too much oak on the nose and texturally in the mid-palate too. I’m not convinced that the Forge de Tart ever fully recovers its grace, yet for the grand vin, after 6 or 7 years my complaint is gone; the oak has been eaten and you are in the presence of great burgundy, sometimes very great indeed. Simply put, don’t waste young Clos de Tart!

Our soirée was in the Geneva ‘shop’ of wine-importer Lavinia, 31st January 2013; Sylvain Pitiot on-hand to discuss nine wines over a (very!) nice dinner.

2008 La Forge de Tart
The nose has good depth and a few floral hints too – the red fruit is towards the raspberry end of the spectrum – there is a little sulfite note that needs air to remove (40 minutes were needed) plus a little of the herbal aspects of both Morey and the 2008 vintage. There is still plenty of oak texture but the flavour grows very well in the mid-palate. Despite the vintage, the acidity is rather understated, the wine seems to add sweetness with time in the glass. Certainly a wine to wait for.

2001 La Forge de Tart
The nose is rather deep, yet tight in its width. There’s that sulfite note again, but slowly it gives way to herbs, leaves and mushrooms. The aromas remain relatively low-key. Like the 2008, there is plenty of tannin, and it reminds me more of oak than grape tannin. There is also something of bitter finishing flavour that is redolent of oak – perhaps too much. After 30 minutes in the glass, here is a wine that has softened and become more communicative – it now seems to offer more dimension and dynamism than the 2008 – very Morey Saint-Denis, if in a ‘no prisoners’ style.

2009 Clos de Tart
Aromatically, this is deep and cushioned – there’s a Morey aspect to the nose, but it takes a good 20 minutes in the glass before a little cherry liqueur also appears. Concentrated, with velvety tannins and a salty, mineral impression. There are plenty of wood tannins in the mid-palate but this is a wine of quite some presence. Potentially a great wine, but today it is merely long and direct with little to show at the edges.

2008 Clos de Tart
Ooh – now that’s a pretty nose! There is an almost musky halo to the deep, dark red fruit and eventually a hint of stems. In the mouth there is width and dimension – lots of interest and complexity here. Some oak on the finish, but it’s a long, long finish. This is excellent.

2007 Clos de Tart
There are some whole clusters used during fermentation in most years – but none in 2007.
The nose is almost as gorgeous as the 2008, the character here is just a little more floral – eventually a bell-clear red fruit note – chapeau. The frist impression is that the acidity is less smooth here than in the 2008, yet, this wine has concentration, depth and an impressive reserve. There are some Morey herbs on the finish – a wine that really over-delivers versus the vintage expectation. Again, excellent.

2005 Clos de Tart (Magnum)
The nose is open yet dense – it seems to me that it is the essence of Morey St.Denis. Wide, explosively open, intense, dynamic and impressive. I’ve written so little, and virtually nothing to describe the wine – but it is easily the best wine I’ve tasted this year. Worth the trip to Geneva just for a glass of this!!!

1999 Clos de Tart
The nose remains absolutely characteristic, just with a hint more development. In the mouth a panorama of flavour – I would say similar in character to the 2005 but less impact. Everything here is an understated version of the 2005 – in other words, excellent.

2002 Clos de Tart
The nose has a textured depth that offers a little more herbs than some, but more sweetness of fruit aroma too. There is a little grain to the texture of the tannin but with a rich balancing sweetness of ripe fruit. Long, more mineral counterpoint to the sweet fruit. Very, very good.

2003 Clos de Tart
We took this wine with the fine desert (pictured) – it wasn’t disadvantaged. Sylvain thinks this ‘a great vintage – bizzare but great. But we don’t want it too often!’
The nose is wide, and apparently massive, just a hint alcoholic too before some late arriving fruit diverts your attention. I don’t think it unfair to say there is a similarity to shiraz here. Deeper colour than the other wines. In the mouth the surprised with its delicacy – soft and sweet – very nice wine whose flavours are maybe not as long-lasting as most of the others. The tannin is largely obscured by the rest of the wine. A surprisingly nice wine.

Profile: Domaine Clos de Tart

7 responses to “A Clos de Tart Dinner”

  1. Robert Tang

    Glad to here the 1999 is showing so well, and not so much oak. Do you recommend holding it a while longer as I only have 2 bottles. Thanks

  2. David Ho

    I organized a Clos de Tart dinner 1 year ago as well. We had 9 wines and all be tasted blind. So there were some overlaps. 80, 82, 90, 96, 98, 98, 99, 01, 01.
    As always the same vintage ones from different people never taste the same (one is always more mature). 90 and 96 were our favorites. However, the 01 will be amazing in another 5-10 years!
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  3. Things happen for a reason

    I was so fortunate to buy 6 bottles of 2005 Clos de Tart, on the recommendation of a good friend (former President of HK Sommeliers), just before the price shot up, and have been resisting any temptation to open them. What will be a good time to start opening?

  4. Jim

    Did you try any of 2004 vintage? And how was it? Recently I find it pretty good deal in some retail shops in Hong Kong but struggling whether or not worth trying.

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