Why Big Red Diary?

what can you expect from a 25 year old villages wine?

I openly admit that I’m an advocate of letting wines age; I may not be searching for near-death experiences but I’m also interested in letting wines express themselves. With a rush (rash?) of decent vintages starting to pile-up what should you expect if you stock up on 2009s and look to play the ‘long game’? 1985 was a ripe vintage, analogous might be 1990, 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2009, though that middle trio will have more acidity and perhaps even more aging potential.

It’s a simple test: take a couple of basic, twenty-five year-old villages wines from 1985 and see what awaits. In this case one is from a no-name negociant which nobody has heard of but apparently was still making wines in at least 2000 (I think they are a Swiss importer with an office in Nuits), the other, again from a negociant, but one with more to lose in the reputation stakes!


1985 Lionel de Pontbriand, Gevrey-Chambertin
Medium-plus ruby-red that fades and transforms to mahogany at the rim. Deep, slightly musky and meaty aromas over a sweeter, almost sugared core of fruit – if anything it puts on ever-more weight with time. This has a lovely silky fatness to the texture and hints at sweetness before snatching it away again – fully ripe at harvest? – yet there is a mineral, almost metallic flavour at the core that seems almost cleansing, the acidity is quite understated. Half an hour in glass and the metallic impression is gone and there’s more than a hint of some extra mid-palate flavour. The finish may be a little understated but its reminiscent of sweet and dark, bitter-chocolate and it’s very long.
Rebuy – Maybe

1985 Joseph Drouhin, Gevrey-Chambertin
Medium-plus colour, tending more to mahogany than red. The nose has limited width, but quite some brown-sugared and warm-fruited depth. There is less silk to the texture but a more open and sweet flavour, like-able as it is, I still have the occasional faint impression of something oxidative (the cork slid out very easily) and a last vestige of tannic astringency. Slowly fading on a similar bitter-chocolate note to the previous wine, though perhaps not with the length of the Pontbriand.
Rebuy – Maybe

So a 25-year report? There actually was quite some similarity in terms of depth of colour, concentration and overall character. The Drouhin is the easier to like – a comfy wine – the Pontbriand has more interest and eventually complexity too, you need to sit up to drink it. Although it’s easy to be ‘intrigued’ by older regional wines (Bourgognes), at this age your starting mateial should really be a good villages because here you will get the first hint of ‘somewhereness’ and the requisite density and character to deliver something more than ‘just’ intriguing! I expect 1985 could be a good model for 1990s and all those 2009s you are ordering!

The $64,000 question, of-course is, is it worth waiting that long? Clearly that will depend on your taste, but at this village level and for these particular wines, with 20:20 hindsight I might have drunk 75% in the first 3 or 4 years and the last 3 bottles from the case for now. For decent premier crus, I’d expect to invert those proportions and more-so for the Grand Crus. Talking of which, I think I might be able to rustle up one or two of those too…

Manzanilla, Fielden & Hidalgo (2010)

fielden-hidalgo-manzanillaPublished by: Grub Street

I have to say that I’ve never really come to an accommodation with oxidised-style wines, hence, Sherry, Maderia, Jura etc., are all off limits to me – so why buy and read a book about Sherry? Perhaps I’m just a sucker for pretty, yellow A5-format hardbacks that look like they will only take a few days to read – oh and perhaps learn something in the process too! Actually I was kind of intrigued that 20 pages – it doesn’t sound much, but it’s about 15% of the book – is given-over to the gastronomy of the area and simple (looking) recipes that incorporate the eponymous drink. In theory the publishers have a tight ‘food-focus’, so those 20 pages must have been the key to unlocking this particular commission.

Even without the recipes for dogfish, cuttlefish and mallard, this seemed an interesting book, not-least due to the ‘blend’ of two authors; Christopher Fielden, a serial wine-book writer and Javier Hidalgo, producer of (wait for it…) Manzanilla.

One of the early things to learn is that Manzanilla is very much like Chambertin Clos de Bèze! ‘In what way?’ you clamour. Well, all Manzanilla can be labelled as sherry, but not all sherries can be labelled Manzanilla 😉

Anyway, given that book was first published (in 2009) in Spanish, it’s perhaps not surprising that the text is workmanlike rather than delivering a lyrical feeling. One thing I found a little disconcerting was the use of a descriptive term, only to have to wait another two or more pages for an explanation that term. I think it only happened a couple of times though. I didn’t perceive an obvious progression of information as offered by many books, but I’m indebted to the knowledge that Manzanilla is not just made for dogfish and tuna, it also works well with “the humble British fish and chips“. It’s fair to say that this book proposes Manzanilla with just about anything edible – a shame for me I suppose!

The ‘hints for the visitor’ section seems very useful and is home to the only ‘diagram’ in the book – a rather rudimentary map of the region sat next to small map of Spain – don’t ask me to place the region on the map though – it would have been better without it!

For a ‘compact’ book the price is relatively high at £15, with (very unusual) almost no discount on Amazon just now, but I really think people should pay a fair price for worthwhile work; I think those two criteria fit together well here. A worthy read, even if you don’t like oxidised wine 🙂

time for new wines for a new year…

76-richebourgAh it’s January and a young wine-buyer’s thoughts turn to en-primeur!

Well that’s the case for anyone with an association with the UK market, which seems to have retained its relative importance despite (just like the US) buying very little of the 2007 and 2008 vintages – or has it? – I wonder if merchant’s allocations are quite at the same level as before. I’m not sure you’d find anyone who would admit it even if it was the case.

Anyway, on Friday I’ll post a link to some EP offers that are already available – the first tastings are already starting next week.

At home I’ve started the year drowning under the weight of things I have to write and things I’ve not yet read (Manzanilla – Fielden & Hidalgo, Burgundy: Vines and Wines – Arlott, Fielden, Grandi Vini – Joseph Bastianich, Our Kind of Traitor – J le Carré, The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson, A history of modern Britain – Andrew Marr, Burgundy (French Regional Guides) – Arthur Eperon, Burgundy – J.E. Flower, Burgundy – Ian Dunlop, White Burgundy – Fielden, Country Wines of Burgundy and Beaujolais – Patrick Delaforce, Wonderful Burgundy – Bazin and five unread issues of Granta!), at least (above) there are some new bottles to help me with the drowning!

One thing I did already find time to read: Why do your barrels smell?

A little 2010 site info: Rather surprisingly, everything associated with this site continues on an upward trajectory; the telephone-book numbers for 2010 were: 448,730 visitors to the wordpress generated pages (90% of this site), the busiest day bringing 7,320 people (Autumn report day). Over 800 comments were written, though (more than) balancing those were just over 30,000 spam comments in just one year! As I type this there are 774 in the filter (15 days worth) – I long since gave up checking the contents of the filter for miss-classified comments as there wasn’t enough time in the day! If you think you wrote something that fell into a black hole let me know, but I can’t resurrect anything more than 15 days old. By popular demand the forum came into being at the end of April – its use almost slowed to a halt in December but there seems a January flourish! The forum anyway has 200 registered users and 960 posts in about 8 months. Enough puffery I say, what about wine?!!!

Well, I’m sitting drinking F et D Clair’s 2005 St.Aubin Dents du Chien and everything seems okay – despite reports of rampant p.ox in 2005s – everything is in order with this bottle, at least.

Wishing you all the best for 2011…

books that jancis likes…

Jancis has some books for next year’s Christmas stocking!

jolly hols…

All will be quiet around here until next year – have fun.

roger belland 2006 bourgogne pinot noir

2006 Roger Belland, Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Medium colour. The nose has wide, slightly alcoholic top-notes that mix with a little spearmint and narrows to a base of dark red fruit. In the mouth the fruit has a nice sweet dimension, but the acidity is just slightly in the ascendant providing a sour, perhaps for some people too sour reflection. The tannin is far from evident. I’d say this is in the last days of pinot-noir youth, an adolescence of acidity like a breaking voice just compromising the performance. I’ve enjoyed a number of these over that couple of years, but this is the last – a job done because I’m not looking to keep this 20 years, but done well!
Rebuy – No (not anymore but it was great fun for 18 months…)

benoit germain

I was shocked.

I heard yesterday via a bulletin-board, but having made a few calls I can confirm that we have lost Benoit and the funeral is this morning.

I tasted with him at the end of July; he was quite young (late 30s, early 40s was my guess) and was full of energy and enthusiasm he was welcoming very friendly too. He took time off for me from moving his fermentation tanks around the yard – precariously with a fork-lift truck – because he was having a new floor laid in the cuverie (the cuverie away from the Château). Because of this we had to run the gauntlet of smelly of molten adhesive and down the cellar steps and close the door as fast as possible, mainly to avoid suffocation!

Everything in my discussion with Benoit was about the future and he beamed when talking about his wines and vines – and even other peoples vines too! Tasting with him was like banishing the thought that bad wines could even exist.

It was one of the best tastings of the year for me, I feel lucky to have seen him so recently.

I’m still shocked.

antonin guyon 1998 corton-charlemagne


Guyon make a powerful Charlemagne that has often brought me great joy, but my last bottles of both 2000 and 2002 brought instead oxidised wines. Frankly this has been hanging around in the refrigerator for almost six months as I couldn’t face opening another oxidised grand cru – but like an early Christmas present…

1998 Antonin Guyon, Corton-Charlemagne
Deep colour. One sniff of the nose and I’m smiling; there are the lanolin aromas of an even older wine, and perhaps the merest suggestion of something oxidative but it’s an interesting complexity on a lower level than many champagnes(!) – no complaints. For the first 20 minutes or-so, this seems a little alcoholic and disjointed, but thereafter it becomes a decently integrated wine. Good acidity and nice intensity too – actually the flavour is also very long. There isn’t the seemless, smooth-ness of a very good vintage but this is a very nice drink that belies the vintage reputation. I don’t recommend the odds of taking a replacement bottle, but I’ll happily accept what this one offers.
Rebuy – No – this bottle is fine, but the odds of p.ox are too high…

Nationale 74, Divine-Comédie (2010)

bourgogne-nationale-74Divine Comédie

If you can get by in French, let me introduce you to a great guidebook to the Côte d’Or.

Published in the summer and described as a ‘roadbook’, it seems quite up-to-date, and is filled with the (obligatory) Pitiot-Poupon-derived vineyard maps and some lovely photos from the same people that do the Panogeo images.

Unlike a traditional book about the region this offers additional schematics (maps) of the villages – as opposed to the vines – showing where the hotels, bars and restaurants of note are – i.e. the ones they’ve each profiled in a couple of sentences. There is a little introduction to each village, a profile of a couple of producers and/or wines of note too. Finally a little place for you to jot some notes of your own!

It’s not a book to read if I may say so – in fact it’s not really a book, it’s a guide – rather it is for dipping into. And a good dip it provides.

In this case the Côte d’Or is defined as Marsannay to Maranges and includes pages on the Hautes Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Beaune. The index begins on page 207 – so lots of info for a paltry Euros 13.90. Great for a few days break, though possibly worth trying to get hold of a copy before you leave – you might even decide to camp! 😉

muzard 2008 santenay 1er beauregard


2008 Lucien Muzard, Santenay 1er Beauregard
Medium colour. Medium width too, and some reduction for the first hour; eventually a nice red dominated-berry fruit and the last drops have a lovely acid-cherry impression. In the mouth there is a freshness that dovetails nicely with the width – again emphasising an acid-cherry note. There was again plenty of CO2 making this almost shiraz-like for thirty minutes or so, but sixty minutes in there was no mistaking the provenance of this wine. More elegant and finer than the Maladières but equal fun. Enjoyed!
Rebuy – Yes

jean chauvenet 2008 nuits 1er les perrières


The tasting I had at the domaine last week was a resounding success – a very fine selection from 2008, but it’s often interesting to compare your notes with a bottle at home. I loved the Perrières best, despite the Vaucrains being the ‘top wine’ (most expensive) in the cellar, so bought half a dozen.

2008 Jean Chauvenet, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Perrières
Bigger glass, more aeration; yet the fruit holds onto a creamy-vanilla coating which I don’t remember being so obvious back in Nuits in the (11°!) cellar. The fruit, however, is a summer pudding of black and to a lesser extent red berries and is quite captivating. Plenty of acidity which turns into real intensity in the mid-palate and towards the finish – plenty more of that summer-pudding fruit flavour as go into the finish. There is just enough concentration of sweet-sour fruit to avoid the acidity taking over. You really have to search out the tannin; I cool it down in the fridge and there’s that glossy dark fruit impression that I noted in Nuits – at least it’s the same wine then! Intense, even a bit cerebral – I love this wine.
Rebuy – Yes

And my note from the cellar(?) Well I suppose it could be the same wine – a bigger glass and moving from 11° to 16-18° really can make a big difference (excuses, excuses!)

2008 Jean Chauvenet, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Perrières
Deep colour. Lovely deep dark aromas to match, almost textured with a faint dark chocolate. Wide with lovely, lithe dark fruit and some velvet tannin in the background. Slowly lingering finish. Bravo.

2007 château de puligny-montrachet 1er folatières


It might be from my all-time favourite vintage, but anyone who can make Folatières taste like liquid rock must be working very hard – bravo!

2007 Château de Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny 1er Les Folatières
Medium-pale yellow. The nose has a ripe but sweet yellow lemon about it, but with a minerality that makes me reminisce about some almost finished Chablis Le Clos 2001! There is an undertow of sweetness but the real current (energy) of this wine is the citrus acidity that runs right through the core and into the finish, and it brings with it an intense mineral-led flavour that is actually very, very long. Good as the tension is in the 2008, this absolutely crackles with energy – hopefully a wine you can drink forever!
Rebuy – Yes

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