Why Big Red Diary?

clive coates, 1996 grand cru burgundy tasting

An expensive evening at £90 for the ticket, but considering there was a ¼ glass of each wine, and the cost per bottle is in many cases higher than the cost of a ticket, value is of course relative. Long term, I’m sure it will cost me much more!

Clive shared with us his knowledge of the various 1990’s vintages, the climats, the producers, and even their differing production techniques. I hope he does another of these tastings again next year!
I gave a numerical score to the colour of the wines – 1 is the lightest, 3 is the densest, though this is all relative since, a 1 is still deeply coloured. All the wines were ‘closed’, had very high acidity and tannin. My notes are as tasted, I was ‘shellshocked’ by the wines, hence, too many “very’s” in the notes(!). Any additions are in (brackets). Tasted in the following order :

1996 Anne Gros, Clos de Vougeot
Colour 1. Very closed nose, very high acid, high tannin. A very intense wine (1920’s vines), but also very smooth. Finishes long. Wow!
1996 JJ Confuron, Romanée Saint-Vivant
Colour 2. Closed nose, though a slight hint of caramel (Clive later said coffee). Very high acid, medium tannin. Very pure red cherry fruit, silky smooth on the palate. Very, very long – fabulous!
1996 Robert Arnoux, Romanée Saint-Vivant
Colour 2. Closed again. Once more very high acid and medium tannins. Not as smooth as Confuron’s, but again very pure fruit – cherries. Nice length.
1996 Alain Hudelot-Nöellat, Romanée Saint-Vivant
Colour 3. Closed. Maybe even higher acid than the previous wines – but we’re still not talking paint-stripper!! Really mouth coating tannins. Not the obvious pure fruit of the previous two – perhaps it’s actually a little more mature and complex. Good length again.
1996 Jean Grivot, Richebourg
Colour 3. Nose not quite so closed, a few ‘higher notes’ – almost school ink smell. High acid, incredible thick tannin – you can chew it! Medium (for this company) length. Apparently, Etienne Grivot cold soaks, de-stems and has a long, low temp. fermentation, compared to . . . .
1996 Anne Gros, Richebourg
. . . . who has a shorter cold soak, and ferments at a higher temp. Colour 3. Less closed again, cherry and plum fruits. High acid, reduced tannin compared to Grivot’s. More obviously fruity palate with a slightly creamy oak finish. Full bodied, again very, very long and again – fabulous!
1996 Comte Georges de Vogüé, Musigny VV
Colour 2. Again the nose giving little away, though certainly, higher toned than the previous wines. High tannin, though much lower than the Richebourgs. It somehow seems to combine the body of the last wine, with being smoother and softer. This wine has, by a margin, the longest finish – incredible!
1996 Claude Dugat, Charmes-Chambertin
Colour 3. Slightly farmyard nose (100%, high toast oak), more going on here. Very high acid and very high tannin. The palate is more obviously ‘fat’ and smooth (soft-centred – C.C.), and sweet. Good length – très bon!
1996 Chambertin, Clos de la Bèze, Armand Rousseau
Colour 2. Nose is closed, though higher toned than the Charmes. High acid, medium tannin, indeed, leaner and less ‘thick’ than the last wine. Not a ‘big’ wine, but very, very long finish. Much ‘fresher’ when compared to the Chambertin – next.

1996 Armand Rousseau, Chambertin
Colour 2. Again a higher-toned nose, but somehow different to last. High acid with slightly higher tannin than the previous wine. This wine is fuller and sweeter, with an even longer finish than the Clos de la Bèze. A hint of creamy oak still on the finish.

1996 is a very good vintage. It’s hard to believe given the high acidity and monstrous tannin structure of these wines, that you could enjoy them now, however, they all possess a “balance” which makes this possible. It would of course, though, be a waste to drink them before their 10th birthdays. Clive suggests they will outlive us all. At (probably) 20 years his junior, I’m not intending to leave any of mine behind ! For the record My top three were as follows :

1st – Richebourg, Anne Gros
Joint 2nd – Musigny VV, de Vogüé
Joint 2nd – Romanée Saint-Vivant, JJ Confuron

Clive marked all 10 wines in the region 18.0 – 20.0 (fine plus, to Excellent – Grand Vin!), with two perfect 20’s. I had a warm feeling when I found that I had chosen both 20’s and an 18.5 – but that feeling could have been due to draining my tenth glass !!

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