Why Big Red Diary?

1976 tortochot gevrey-chambertin clos des corvées


I’m a little slow mentioning this – it’s about 2 weeks ago that I opened it in Beaune with friends. The 1990 and 1985 had so thoroughly impressed this year that I though I wouldn’t be too unhappy if this was a failure….

1976 Tortochot, Gevrey-Chambertin Clos des Corvées
It was twilight and we were outside, but the colour seemed medium – maybe a little more. On the nose, just like the 1990 and 1985 this was very nice indeed; just a little more baked fruit but fresh, clean and very moreish. In the mouth I initially thought the acidity was too spiky, but 15 minutes later it and I were more in harmony – still the acidity was slightly in advance but nothing to complain about, particularly given that it is a village wine approaching it’s 35th birthday. There was sweetness and no undue tannin. Almost certainly passed its best (unlike the 1985) but it certainly isn’t falling off a cliff either.
Rebuy – Maybe

I also opened a second bottle of the 1986 Confuron-Cotetidot Clos de Vougeot – but sadly it was corked…

ardea sealed: 2008 chézeaux/ponsot chambolle-musigny les charmes


Only one issue with this wine; the ‘cork’ really did need the strength of Samson to remove, at least with the chosen tool – the generally reliable L’Atelier du Vin lever corkscrew (pictured). 80 year-olds probably need not apply…

2008 des Chézeaux (Ponsot), Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes
Ardea sealed. Shiny, bright medium-plus colour. The nose starts a little disjointed, then 5 minutes later – wow! Faintly vanilla-cream tinged very dark red fruit, maybe a little blue-skinned and certainly a little fresh peach with cream – the nose has an almost satin shimmer. In the mouth this has a smooth, slightly narrow entry before spreading wide and panoramic across the tongue. Beautiful balance with a depth of fruit that creeps up on you. Incredibly long and with completely buried tannin. Even as a big fan of Charmes I would have to call this ‘benchmark’ as the flavour stains your tongue. Charmes delivered with the focus and clarity that (maybe, only) 2008 can bring – wonderful.
Rebuy – Yes

New Zealand’s Rippon Pinot Noir Has Burgundy Pedigree

mills-ripponNick Mills, who had picked up French in travels to France as a child with his winegrower father, Rolfe Mills, returned to Burgundy after a short-lived, injury-ending career as a world-class snow skier. He started as a cellar rat at Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, and stayed in Burgundy from 1998 to 2002, studying enology and viticulture in Beaune and working at some of Burgundy’s most celebrated domaines including Nicolas Potel, de la Vougeraie, and de la Romanee-Conti. Upon urgings from his mother in 2002, he returned to Rippon on the shores of Lake Wanaka in Central Otago, where some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines (some dating to 1985) in New Zealand are located.

80% of the Rippon vineyard is planted on its own roots and is not irrigated. The clones are Pommard, Lincoln, 10/2 and 10/5. The vines at Rippon have always been farmed organically, but upon Nick’s return, the entire property was converted to biodynamie, a philosophy that Nick passionately adheres to.

For the first time in the winery’s history, four separate Pinot Noirs were crafted from the 2008 vintage to better reflect the voice of the property. The Rippon Jeunesse Young Vine Pinot Noir is from grapes that are not considered mature enough to communicate fully all the complexities of the site. It is a pure expression of Pinot Noir, a spirited voice of Pinot Noir grown at Rippon, rather than the voice of the land from which it came. The second bottling is the Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir made from fully developed vines. Rippon Emma’s Block Mature Vine Pinot Noir is from a unique parcel located on the lake front. The fourth wine, Rippon Tinkers Field Pinot Noir, is from another unique block with ancient coarse schist gravelly soil and is home to the oldest vines on the property.

All the 2008 Rippon Pinot Noirs are stunning wines. How has Rippon achieved winemaking success? Take the latitude, the metamorphic schist-based soils rich in foliated mica and quartzite, the proximity of the Main Divide of mountains, Lake Wanake’s thermal mass, 50 years of empirical observation and understanding, established vines that accurately reflect their site, biodynamic farming, and a highly skilled Burgundy-trained winemaker in Nick Mills.

2008 Rippon Tinker’s Field Mature Vine Lake Wanaka Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.60, $92 (US). 40% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 35% new to 4-year-old French oak barrels. Racked after MLF and allowed a second winter in neutral barrels (a total of 17 months in barrel). Unfined and unfiltered. The wine smells of the outdoors with scents of wooded forest and wet leaves, as well as darkly colored berry jam, with a hint of oak. Very tasty attack of dark cherry and berry fruit and cherry skin flavors with a subtle earthiness. Moderately rich, with fine grain polished tannins, a welcoming tug of acidity, and impressive persistence on the bold finish. The wine glides across the palate with a dreamy silkiness. Hard to put this wine into words: suffice it to say you know it when you experience it. Great later in the day after opening predicting age ability. A New Zealand old vine Pinot Noir epiphany.
Read more: http://www.princeofpinot.com/article/918/

laurent ponsot’s new ‘plastic corks’…

chezeaux-ponsot-2008-griotteSo here we have (potentially) progress in Côte de Nuits Grand Cru seals – Olivier Leflaive has already used them for a year or two in the Côte de Beaune. I retain that hint of caveat as regards ‘progress’ because there are no 20, 30, 40+ year-old bottles to deliver proof-positive. That said, what we definitely have is no corked or oxidised bottles or otherwise ‘off’ aromas that are derived from the seal, we should also have absolute consistency between bottles – at least ones from the same cellar!

Life is not plain sailing, however, use a standard style (right) corkscrew and the worm finds its way in more easily than with cork – though an extra push (or maybe that should be ‘pull’) of pressure is required to get the seal moving. With the lever corkscrew you probably won’t pierce through the base of the seal either, so you can effectively re-seal the bottle with a minimum of effort – though I found that you need the corkscrew a second time. That was the good part. The bad part is if you mainly use a ‘Screwpull’ – it pierces through the base so won’t get a ‘real’ seal if you re-seal – and that of-course presupposes that you got the seal from the worm of your screwpull – not that easy! The cork ‘spins’ a little when you try to extract too.

I didn’t try an ah-so…!

Anyway, well done Laurent Ponsot for doing everything in his power to deliver his wines in their best condition. Here’s what he thinks of his ‘Ardea’.

fourrier clos st.jacques – a triumph of hope over experience (part deux)


So, really a triumph in one way – I don’t find a bit the 2004 character – but it’s far from a great Fourrier CSJ. That said, at this age you have every reason to expect a wine to be rather tight, and this isn’t. Just the acidity and tannin in the finish are slight niggles, and there is a slightly monolithic mid-palate impression that makes me think to 1994 – though I hope not. Still, nothing green, it smells great and it’s a wine you can drink today!

2004 Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Clos St.Jacques
The wine is quite darkly (medium-plus) coloured – though far from young in shade, most 02s still look younger. The nose starts in that awkward slightly toasty oak way that Fourriers (to my bemusement) often do – they don’t see that much new wood, particularly the toasted type – I think it is reduction that needs to blow off. Less than 5 minutes in the glass and the oaky character is gone, now we have a deep, quite dark impression and a hint of cream gone lactic – it’s a hint so it’s still nice – a slight suggestion of dry forest leaves before a fruit note builds from the core, the fruit becomes ever-more prettier. In the mouth this has a silken texture and a concentration that builds as you head into the mid-palate. Initially I find the acidity not quite seamless – I’ll wait a little, hoping for either my palate or the wine to come together. The almost absent tannin only starts to reveal itself as a late bitter component in the mineral finish. The balance improves with food but I find the mid-palate flavours a little lumpen – smells great though.
Rebuy – Maybe

the triumph of hope over experience (part 1)

They say that divorced couples remarrying is the triumph of hope over experience – I think I’ll have a little of that tonight as I pull out a 2004, but it will be a Fourrier 2004 and I know that he’s not so severely affected by the vintage character – so let’s see, I think it should be a Clos St.Jacques.

In a similar vein I opened another 86 Mazis half yesterday – my 4th from the case – it was the first dud. Perhaps the opposite of what I’m expecting from the Fourrier tonight! In this case the Mazis showed a lower level than most of the others. It turned out to be slightly oxidised – which in itself I could have coped with – but also corked. Two failures from only one cork!

C’est la vie…

alex gambal 2007 vin de table…


A novelty that (vintage 2006) I first tasted at the domaine a couple of years ago – here for the first time at home:

2007 Alex Gambal, Blanc de Noirs
Alex’s ‘vin de table’ in a clear Bordeaux shape bottle. The high-toned slightly savoury nose would make me think of aligoté, but there is also something of a Meursault’s ripe fruit! What sets this apart is its rather silkily-plush texture and it’s quite enough to offset what otherwise might be slightly mouth-puckering acidity – but like I said, this is actually well balanced. There’s a little acid-driven burst of intensity in the mid-palate before the flavour slowly decays in the finish. Lovely for enjoying on a warm evening outside after work – I’m sure it could have other uses too!
Rebuy – Yes

vintage 2010 – early august update…

Time to take stock as the producers contemplate their August holidays – and without need to rush home early this year!

The long range weather forecast was for a mild winter, so we promptly enjoyed the coldest and longest for a very long time. One night around the 21st December, and depending on your place in the Côtes, the temperature at midnight plumbed -17 to -19°C. Typically this is no big problem for vines, unfortunately it was quite early into the winter season, and more importantly the temperature at 6pm the same day was a mere 0°C. Small pockets of low-lying vines, mainly in the Vosne and Morey area were engulfed in a fatal frost, occasional individual vines, perhaps weakened by disease, also succumbed. These were the first losses to frost since about 1985, the largest area I saw in April was in the low-lying lieu-dit of Beaune Les Mariages yet the vines to the side were untouched – maybe the soil had not been piled against the feet of the vines or perhaps it was as simple as keeping grass between the rows but one vigneron lost everything, the neighbour nothing. You can see below a picture taken last week of the already grubbed up plot of Les Mariages.


Re the frosts, BIVB chose to released a statement:

Vine stocks still without leaves in June… this has been the unpleasant surprise this spring: significant vine loss has been observed following the winter frosts. Exceptionally low temperatures were recorded on 20 December, approaching -20C°. These extreme temperatures affected vine stocks all the more because of their sudden arrival, after a long period of relatively mild weather up to mid-December.
The vines thus affected did not continue their cycle. In Côte de Nuits, more badly affected than Côte de Beaune, the bottoms of the slopes were particularly hit, with quite significant losses in some cases, as in Vosne-Romanée and Morey-St-Denis. Vines were also affected in Clos de Vougeot. Most of the vineyards in Côte de Nuits were damaged, to a greater or lesser degree. “When the frost came, I think the sap had not yet fully descended, which made the vines particularly vulnerable to this sudden change in temperature”, explains one Vosne-Romanée winegrower. We have to go back to 1985 to find a similar situation. Quite severe frost damage was also observed in Mâconnais and, to a lesser extent, in Côte Chalonnaise. The areas which seem to be worst affected are situated between Igé and Chardonnay, and some damage has also been reported in Givry. Plots in the Yonne were less affected, although some fairly random damage has been noted at the low valley plots in Le Chablisien. It is difficult to draw up final statistics in terms of surface area, since growth has recommenced on a few plants which appeared to be dead. The flow of sap needs to be allowed to resume naturally. Late budding of branches is still possible.

The cold winter put everything behind the average schedule, but a warm early April brought this closer to average with budbreak before the end of that month. May was miserable and cold so some of the time that had been ‘gained’ was again ‘lost’. Flowering started in the middle of June for a week to 10 days depending on the place and altitude in the Côtes – the Hautes Côtes up to 2 weeks later. There was rain during flowering, not enough to wash things away but enough to make it (the flowering) not completely homogenous. Actually the ‘fruit-set’ looks almost good – another vintage with plenty of millerandes or small grapes.


As of the 31st July the vineyards have had their summer trim and look very smart in the sunshine. Forecasters are proposing a hot August though it’s started cool and wet – hmm those will be the same forecasters that proposed a mild winter I suppose – anyway, with (forecast) warm weather, harvesting could start as early as mid September, I’m betting it will be a week or two later – but let’s see. What we have today looks excellent, but we have another 6-9 weeks to get through – and it is rarely benign!

For those that are interested, there has been an earlier, and still ongoing commantary here.

a new seal…


Something new has been delivered – and that’s a Grand Cru – more info to follow…

mon bulk vin du maison – alex gambal’s 2006-2008s scrutinised


Back home and ready for a drink!

Given that I had almost finished my case of Alex Gambal’s 2006 Bourgogne Chardonnay, I decided to stock-up before I left Beaune and bought 6 each of the 2007 and 2008 version. A couple of friends were coming around, so what better time to open all three and see what everyone else thought. Actually at pick-up time Alex was making a tasting ot 09 barrels with some people I knew, so I joined for a while – that made it a lucky 13 tastings this week!

Anyway, to the wines: the 2006 was it’s usual balanced self; easily fresh enough with a very good inner density, quite Chassagne-like. The 2007 was higher-toned, a fresher agrumes and grapefruit nose. The palate is clearly more acidic and refreshing – not acidic enough to be ‘bracing’ but veering towards being more of an aperitif drink – clean and pretty. The 2008 had a similar level of acidity to the 2007, but it was wrapped with an extra richness and sweet edge to the fruit – very nice indeed.

The friends each chose 2006 and 2008 as their favourites and while they drank those I stayed with the 2007 – see it doesn’t have to be an aperitif! I think the 2008 also gets the ‘coup de coeur’ from me – not that I’ll forget my summer-long affair with the 2006 😉
Rebuy – Yes – All of them…

PS I forgot to tell Alex that I drank a bottle of his 2007 Fixin in the Bistro Bourguingone in Beaune – perhaps a bit more savoury flavoured than my own taste but we didn’t leave the restaurant until we’d finished the bottle 🙂

beaune day 3 et 4…

Bad connection yesterday, so a double dose today!

After the day 2 lunch at B Loiseau’s, there was balance on day 3 – a tuna baguette – though dinner in Beaune brought 3 nice wines; a Raveneau but I don’t remember which, a M.Lapierre 09 Morgon and finally a Roumier 05 1er Les Cras – unfortunately the overdone Bresse chicken was more forgettable.

3 new domaines on Thursday; Voillot, Chapuis and Meuneveaux – one old and one new today; Buisson-Charles and Anne Parent. Informal meal with friends tonight with some older stuff 😉

On Saturday we’ll rejoin with Blair Pethel on our way home. It’s been a tough week, but it’ll be tougher still when it comes to transcribing all the notes!

beaune day 2…

It warmed up lots today – maybe 28 degrees in the afternoon.

Two new domaines after lunch today, both in Beaune – well almost – Chateau de Chorey and Morot. Bichot and restaurant Bernard Loiseau started the day…

Tomorrow looks not bad too!

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