The best of Corton 2009 – Blind!

Update 18.12.2013(17.12.2013)billn


I tasted a range of 2009 Corton during the Grand Jours de Bourgogne in early 2012 and I thought it a terrific vintage for the hill; consistent, powerful and yet balanced. Of-course the fruit was a little riper in 2009, but I felt that suited this appellation right down to the ground, adding, for those that need it, a crutch of attractiveness without taking anything from its inner-core of Corton-ness. I was convinced that they were worth revisiting, especially since there was an interesting ‘new entrant’ from Vosne that year.

I made a wish list of all the Cortons I would love to taste and invited a small number of growers who might bring bottles with new/better/different perspectives. I missed out on only one of my ‘aspirational bottles’ – but Lalou sent a lovely note apologising that they had nothing more at the domaine to sell! Of-course there were others that I might have liked to include, but people didn’t answer their emails or I couldn’t find a merchant. About half of the bottles were contributed by the domaines, the rest I purchased.

Initially I decided on roughly a dozen wines (in the end we had 21!) and a maximum of 10 tasters so that we could have a generous enough pour (sometimes 2!) to make a considered appraisal – most important, our appraisals were done blind. In the end we had 9 tasters which included seven winemakers – all but one had a bottle in the race – should be interesting – no(?) The tasters remain anonymous, either to save face or to avoid gloating!

“Nearly every time you encounter any kind of blind tasting: behind it all is the influence of Parker”
Felix Salmon,

I’m not sure that was the case; I just hoped to avoid any pre-judgement and enjoy the fun of unveiling! So on the 12th of January 2013, twenty-one identical bottles (except for sticker bearing a number from 1-21) were washed first with water and then ‘wined’ with a little Ladoix before being filled with the following wines and left open in a cool (~14°C) room – this was done between 2 and 3pm – we would start to taste at about 7:45pm. We sat at a single table and discussed as we tasted, taking the wines in three random flights of seven. We had 5 minutes for a gougère and water (if wished) in-between flights as the bottles were changed.

Honestly, I knew the identity of only one bottle before I tasted it – the Faiveley – because I spilled some wine on its otherwise incognito label – it was the only dirty label! You know that I’m no fan of scoring, but I thought an interesting numerical shorthand could be revealing – our tasters were asked (in the manner of Burgundy Report) to score: not interested (0), would drink (1), would buy (2), and each was allowed to score only one wine with a 3 – their coup de coeur – if you like. If any taster (by hook or by crook) scored their own wine with a 3, then they had to choose a different one! With that in mind I checked their scores before compiling and announcing the following table once all 21 were tasted. Well done Carel!:

The results…

cortonsMy notes:

1. Deep, very inviting aromas indeed. Silky texture, and like the nose there is impressive depth of flavour. A little oak shows as you head to the finish – but it will fade. A super wine. (Ardhuy Renardes)

2. Pretty aromas with fine, crystal-clear depth. Another very silky wine – this time the concentration is more understated though seemingly there’s not a thing missing. Super wine. (Bonneau du Martray)

3. There’s a reductive note, but clearly it was waiting for me to swirl, as a few seconds are all that’s needed for it to fade into the background – it never completely goes though. Round, concentrated, gourmand but still fresh. This is a super wine but it shouldn’t show any reduction 6 hours after decanting! (Bouchard Père Le Corton)

4. Deep and dark, though the aromas also have a faint hint of floral to – not the best here though. Full and sweet – perhaps a bit ‘obvious’ (or not obviously Corton!), but good wine all the same. (Chandon de Briailles Bressandes)

5. The aromas are very delicate and clean – shy versus some of the brasher wines but very pretty indeed. There is some tannin grain here, the flavour only asserting itself and reaching a crescendo after you have swallowed. In this context, very good wine but not exceptional. (Dubreuil-Fontaine Perrières)

6. Impressive depth, though the main character is oak spice. Full-flavoured, the bitter-chocolate oak tannin is an obvious note, the rest of the oak seems better integrated. Sweet and long with a salty tang – a wine that impresses, but today more for its carpentry. (Faiveley Clos des Cortons)

7. The nose is high-toned and, to start, just a little diffuse. There is concentration, but it seems not to be delivered with the clean precision of most others in this group. From the mid-palate into the finish there is still some interest and no lack of complexity. In this company it is an average wine. (Louis Jadot Grèves)

8. Delicately spiced aromas. Full in the mouth with an impressively growing flavour. Deep, concentrated and excellent! (Méo-Camuzet Clos Rognet)

9. The nose is obviously reduced. The same on the palate too. If you waited 6 hours in a restaurant for a wine to taste of wine – and it still didn’t, then that’s the definition of faulty to me – 0 points! (Parent Renardes)

10. The nose carries some reduction here too but there is also some pretty fruit amongst those aromas. The palate in linear and shows good concentration though shows less obvious oak than most. Less 2009 than others here? (Pavelot)

11. Direct, baked fruit pie aroma – actually, both pretty and inviting. Another linear wine that’s less obviously 2009. This is very, very nice and shows super length. (Pavillon Clos des Marechaudes)

12. Strawberry preserve says somebody – I’ll go with that! – the aromas have a palpable transparency. Very ripe and impressive – somebody else says ‘2003’ but I won’t go that far, the structure is massive but perfectly covered. I’m still impressed but maybe not enraptured! (Ponsot Bourdon)

13. Like the previous wine, this stands out for the ‘different’ quality of its fruit; beautiful, clean, ripe but crunchy – there’s an understated note of whole cluster too. There’s a nice extra dimension in the mid-palate but this wine suddenly closes down to an ordinary, slightly astringent finish. Three-quarters excellent! (DRC)

14. There’s some oak-toast aroma, but deep down (and it goes very deep) the nose offers some nice fruit, and eventually there’s a little floral addition to the aromatic. Lovely fruit, understated minerality – very engaging, and yum! (Jacob Carrières)

15. Here, the fresh nose is not all that wide, but instead offers depth. There is also depth to the flavours plus decent dimension. The tannin will need a little time, but I like this concentrated wine. (Ardhuy Hautes Murottes)

16. Lots of whole cluster aromatics but remains firmly pretty rather than gothic. An impression of rose petals in the flavour (BH’s ‘inner mouth perfume’), eventually a hint of dried meat too. (Camille-Giroud Le Rognet)

17. Crystallised dark fruit – not that subtle. Full, lots of concentration to the sweet fruit flavour. The tannin has a little skid to it but seemingly no grain. Impressive, even a hint of licorice in the finish. A wine of bravado… (des Croix La Vigne aux Saint)

18. The nose is relatively subtle here, but faint whole-cluster notes are to be detected. In the mouth the is plenty of fine-grained tannin and a lovely, lovely growth of flavour – Yum! (Camille-Giroud Clos du Roi)

19. Another wine of quite pretty aromas that include some whole cluster elements. Ripe fruit, really interesting. There’s some tannic grip at the end, but this is very, very good if you have some time to wait. (Ardhuy Clos du Roi)

20. Subtle, very, very pretty aromatics. There is a little tannic grain but the flavours grow and grow until it is overwhelmed. There is a hint of the rustic about those starting tannins and maybe a hint of oak texture too – but this is a honey (I don’t say that often about Corton!) (des Croix Grèves)

21. The nose is a little meaty and savoury – the only wine with that character – perhaps it’s down to a faint reductive note. The palate seems to have a little missing but then grows and grows, showing plenty of interest. (Clavelier Le Rognet)

Just a nice anecdote from our discussions: Before we tasted, I gave the tasters a basic outline how I wanted them to score:
0 = not interested / don’t want to drink again. Essentially that meant that the wine is most likely faulty in this good vintage.
1 = would happily drink again…
2 = would buy this wine…
3 = wine of the night…
Interestingly, when checking the scores before compiling the table, I noted that a number of wine-makers rarely scored anything more than ‘1’. Then it dawned on me – Silly Me – they don’t need to buy wine do they! 😉
And just for the record, only half of the tasters used their number 3, and half-points that some awarded were rounded down – ie 2.5 = 2.
2010 Charlemagne in 2014 anyone? 😉

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

There are 5 responses to “The best of Corton 2009 – Blind!”

  1. mister888818th December 2013 at 1:17 amPermalinkReply

    Rather embarrassing admission at the end, that the full scale was not used by most of the tasters. As a scientist you must surely question the final rankings here? Why not use a scale winemakers are familiar with like the 20 point judging scale?

    • billn18th December 2013 at 8:14 amPermalinkReply

      I’m not a bit embarassed Christopher, why should I be? It was for fun and it remains indicative. I’m not testing the latest heart-drug…

  2. Tom Blach18th December 2013 at 11:49 pmPermalinkReply

    I quite agree, Bill, there can be nothing more absurd than the pseudo-science of scoring wine. Unless it’s for fun, which is what wine is for.

  3. henryd113th January 2014 at 9:25 pmPermalinkReply

    I had the 2009 Ardhuy Renardes at the domain. Fabulous stuff – wish I’d bought some!

  4. JP13th March 2014 at 4:12 amPermalinkReply

    Thanks… any chance of seeing the individual scores and notes? Would like to see the diversity and insight…

    • billn13th March 2014 at 8:05 amPermalinkReply

      Sorry JP, I promise total anonymity to the tatsers – besides most of their notes I wouldn’t be able to decipher their scrawl – and in French too! 😉

  5. Dan Perrelli11th September 2014 at 7:16 pmPermalinkReply

    Bill, I often read your articles and have dog-eared my copy of your very informative Fine Wine book on Burgundy. I also like the fact you admit to not fancying Lafarge, whom I consider one the greatest. But aren’t you being a bit disingenuous when you say ‘”just for fun?” You are an authority and no false modesty can erase that burden. While your notes deviate from the collective wisdom, you know what will be iterated across the web…… the SCORES. Not really helpful even if in fun.

    • billn16th September 2014 at 4:48 pmPermalinkReply

      Dear Dan – you damn me with too much praise.
      Yes I said just for fun, but I’m partly serious too; this is nothing but the numerical expression of what I do every day on my site: Rebuy yes, maybe or no (2, 1, 0 points)
      I think that extra tasters add some additional information for the reader (not necessarliy validity), particularly when they are the makers of the wines themselves – hence tasting blind. I consider them the real authorities, assuming you take away obvious opportunities for bias. The notes are of-course only my own. What interests me is that they are ‘harder’ with okay wines than I would be, but my favourite wines were all near the top of the table…

      For tasting large numbers of bottles like this, I’m more than happy to continue this approach – indeed I just did it again with Corton-Charlemagne 2012 which I’ll publish in my August ‘Extra!’ but the notes will only be my own – again!

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