a weekend on the piste

klosters madrisa end of the run

Just back from Klosters, trying to remember how to ski – better late than never I suppose as I’m ‘racing’ next weekend – in the Inferno Rennen in Mürren. Nobody mention lycra suits….

thomas-moillard 2005 pommard 1er épenots

Thomas-Moillard Pommard-Épenots

Thomas-Moillard Pommard-Épenots

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Pommard-Épenots try to find this wine...
Medium-plus cherry-red colour. The nose retains a consistently understated mix of the mineral, plus dark, deep red fruit. In the mouth it’s a powerful blend of intense fruit that peaks in the mid-palate, decaying with a creamy edge, and showing just enough tannin to poke it’s faint astringency through the blanket of fruit extract – slightly exacerbated by hint of carbon dioxide. The finish is very understated, but lingering and entirely made up of non-barrel elements – you can’t say that for many. Not the ultimate in smooth sophistication that many 2005’s can display, but at a good price, this would be an easy rebuy recommendation. Built with the long-term in mind, but today (at least) relatively approachable.
Rebuy – Yes

alex gambal 2006 chambolle 1er les amoureuses

Alex Gambal's 2006 Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses

Alex Gambal's 2006 Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses

2006 Alex Gambal, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses try to find this wine...
Started high-toned and diffuse – ouch, what’s happened here? – but 10 minutes in and the glass brings an ever-widening and ever-deepening palate of notes; deep, full, lightly sugar-coated cherries, swirling releases higher tones too – that’s more like it! In the mouth the first sip is also a little disconcerting, but following the path set by the nose, it fills out very nicely indeed – a broad range of flavours that amply fill the mouth. The fruit has none of the slightly distracting savoury element found in the Chambolle Charmes, but seems just a hint less ripe (no issue, just an observation), like-wise the tannin is finer, but clings a little harder to your gums as you exit the mid-palate for the finish – it just about falls short of being called astringent – how about astringent-ish(?) Very long, though just now, much of that length is barrel flavour. A very different kettle of fish to the 2005 which was a fulsome and brazen ‘drink me now’ type of wine – this one should be allowed to slumber – if I had any more ‘bottles’ I’d make another test in about 2016, but I don’t, so the magnums will have to wait until 2020!
Rebuy – Yes

In my original tasting notes, I said you may have to buy both this and the Chambolle Charmes – I’m glad I did!

alex gambal 2006 chambolle 1er les charmes

Alex Gambal's 2006 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes

Alex Gambal's 2006 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes

What with the previously opened St.Aubin and a waiting Amoureuses, it’s looking like ‘gambal corner’ here, but I really do want the opportunity to compare the chambolles. The 2005 Chambolle Charmes was a stunner, so how does this compare(?)
2006 Alex Gambal, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes try to find this wine...
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red. A dense core of darkish cherry fruit is wrapped with some higher floral notes and a faint savoury note. In the mouth it’s concentrated, in fact it’s bursting with flavour, and though it’s quite fruit-driven, like the nose there’s also a savoury flavour here. The acidity is good, coupled to faintly grained tannin. The flavour in the finish seems a little dilute – it must be that late-appearing acidity making my mouth water – but there’s good length. Because of the savoury aspect I don’t find this quite as drop-dead gorgeous as the 2005 version, but I’m still happy to have some more in the cellar.
Rebuy – Yes

cheval clark…

domaine david clark

(Domaine) David Clark has gone the whole hog (or should that be mare?) and started ploughing his recently acquired plot of Vosne-Romanée with horse power (no F1 jokes please). I expect he will be burying cow horns full of …. (whatever) next!

“In many ways it is the logical next step in respecting the health of my soils: in 2008 ploughing was the only vineyard task I did by tractor, everything else (including hedging and spraying) was done by hand. By avoiding compaction the soil develops a structure and life that is truly beautiful to observe.”

You can read all about it in Anglaise here, and to get a better feel, see the pictures in Français here – there are many more pictures in this website, e.g. ploughing between the vines for Domaine Arlaud and even Romanée-Conti…

offer of the day…


GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN Les Croix des Champs 75cl 45.00 Swiss Francs
NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES La Charmotte 75cl 47.50
VOSNE-ROMANEE Aux Réas 75cl 66.00
NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES Les Saint-Georges 75cl 85.00
CLOS DE VOUGEOT 75cl 109.00
RICHEBOURG 75cl 259.00

Observations? Well the villages wines are averagely priced except the Vosne, which, like the 1er cru Les St.Georges, is too expensive – though Thibault (and others) have applied to make this vineyard a grand cru; that said, versus may other producers, the grand crus are ‘better’ priced. It’s the first time in a while I’ve a seen a Richebourg below 300 SFr, and (for example) Mugneret-Gibourg’s Clos de Vougeot is about 25% more expensive – or at least the 2006 is! I have not rushed for my credit card though.

alex gambal 2006 les murgers des dents de chien

alex gambal saint aubin 1er les murgers des dents du chien

Alex Gambal's St.Aubin 1er Les Murgers des Dents du Chien

Following on from yesterday’s Camille Giroud, here’s another updated label design that tweaks the old typeface a little, uses a smaller font size and generally looks very classy – well done Alex.  You will, however, probably require a magnifying glass to read ‘Appellation Saint Aubin 1er Cru Contrôlée’  in the very small and faint typeface that’s employed – but then you already know that this is a premier cru don’t you! A wine that I’ve been buying since Gambal’s inaugural 2001 vintage (I only missed the 2003), so here’s a first look at the 2006.
2006 Alex Gambal, St.Aubin 1er Les Murgers des Dents du Chien try to find this wine...
The colour is a medium, medium-pale lemon-yellow. Dense, though not lush, aromas that are supported with citrus fruit elements. In the mouth it’s round with nice concentration and in the mid-palate shows the typical extra dimension of this cuvée. It’s fair to say that (in the 2006 vernacular) that this is a little plump, but the acidity is enough that it doesn’t become wearisome. Nice length. Another good showing.
Reybuy – Maybe

camille giroud 2006 gevrey en champs

2006 camille giroud gevrey chambertin en champ

The 2005 was just so good that I ‘needed’ to buy some 2006 – even without tasting! Actually the 2006 was the last vintage that Giroud had grapes from these 80 year-old vines – such a shame. This is much easier drinking than the 2005 – right from opening – as it seems to contain much less dissolved carbon dioxide. Anyway these are my first Giroud bottles with the new ‘livery’ – a cleaner and more contemporary design though not quite ‘there’ perhaps.
2006 Camille Giroud Gevrey-Chambertin En Champ try to find this wine...
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is a sweet concoction of very well dovetailed dark oak notes and equally dark cherry fruit. In the mouth you start softly, plenty of sweetness, though the fruit doesn’t seem too ripe. Tannin is only really ‘suggested’ quite late, as flavour that peaks in the mid-palate just keeps rolling along. If anything (versus memory) this wine seems slightly denser than the 2005, but the way it just lingers on the tongue is quite the same. A super, if seemingly slightly sweet wine that will drink beautifully for the next year or two, but then you should be patient as it will probably peak closer to 2020.
Rebuy – Yes

wine index ‘edges down’


Who says wine is a safe haven in a downturn? – I suppose 15% is roughly the same drop as average house prices in the UK over the same period.
Source: Liv-ex

A related (I suppose) story which I failed to pick up before Christmas is the closure of Christie’s South Kensington wine sales department – after 30 years no less – clearly no razzamataz with that announcement, indeed, I expect Christies were rather hoping that no-one would notice.

Also related (I suppose) is the news that ‘Majestic’ have not sold as much champagne as usual…

bertagna 2005 clos saint denis

bertagna 2005 clos saint denis

I’ve always had a ‘special’ love for Clos St.Denis, and a bottle such as this does nothing to assuage my predilection! It’s still surprisingly ‘wide open’ and ‘giving’, it’s really a beauty.
2005 Bertagna, Clos St.Denis try to find this wine...
Medium-plus cherry-red colour. Whilst not the deepest, the nose offers many layers of fruit; red, bluer and blacker and then with a swirl you release violets – it’s a real beauty – give it time and it does deepen, showing a musky edge to the fruit and a faint caramel note. In the mouth it’s not over-ripe, and the first attack comes from the acidity, dragging with it a lovely intensity that peaks on the mid-palate before slowly decaying in a very long finish. The tannin is all-but hidden in the all-enveloping, nicely textured, extract from the fruit – it’s currently more about texture and density than layers or complexity. There is a hint of oak flavour in the finish but it is a minor component next to the lingering creamy fruit. It may only be the 7th of January, but, drunk over two evenings, this is, by a very wide margin, the finest wine I’ve opened this year!
Rebuy – Yes

jacques frédéric mugnier 99 chambolle-musigny

jacques frederic Mugnier chambolle musigny

A domaine that has become rather ‘over-hyped’ in the last couple of years, as a consequence availability is down and at the prices currently asked only the Nuits wines of the domaine continue to show value – perhaps that’s simply a function of the fact that they are the only ones that seem to be in free supply! Five or six years ago when the wines were well priced and not continuously on the lips of ‘opinion formers’, I bagged quite a few 98 and 99’s including a case of this wine in halves – it’s been a while since I opened one, so I’m interested to see how it’s getting along.
1999 J-F Mugnier, Chambolle-Musigny try to find this wine...
From a half bottle. Medium ruby-red colour. The nose shows understated but heavily perfumed notes of dark flowers over tight red fruit notes. In the mouth it’s fresh and shows almost no tannin. Initially linear, it slowly unwinds in the mouth with decent intensity and a slowly growing width of flavours – it seems just a little fatter as it reaches room temperature and there’s quite a nice high toned ‘mouth perfume’. The flavours in the almost good finish are becoming just a little secondary. Clearly it’s a little tight showing not even close to the extra depth of flavour you currently find in a good 2005 villages Chambolle or even what it showed itself 5 or 6 years ago. Clean, pretty, slightly acid forward and easy drinking is the report today – not too much here to set the pulse racing. Return in another two or three years…
Rebuy – Maybe

the widow clicquot, tilar j. mazzeo (2008)

The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It.

the widow clicquot tyler j mazzeoThe story of the redoutable ‘Widow’ who, despite the misfortunes of war and family loss, became the equivalent of a billionaire in her epoch. It’s another Harper-Collins’ title – following on from their very readable ‘Billionaire’s Vinegar’.

I read ‘The Widow Clicquot’ written by Tilar Mazzeo over the Christmas break. The style of the book left me cringing quite a few times, but, overall, it is clearly very well researched and provides quite some insight into the life and times of wine-makers (not only from Champagne) during the almost constant backdrop of war and upheaval in the late 1700’s and into the 1800’s.

The first thing to bug me was the language style – I found it so typical of US-sourced academic writing – as I persevered it jarred less and less, and indeed on re-reading the opening pages I didn’t get the same feel – perhaps I had immunised myself! The second thing that bugged me was the constant reference to Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin (The Widow!) as a woman in a man’s world, unique in a man’s world etc., etc. – even just once per chapter might have been sufficient! The third thing that bugged me was the peppering of the text with technical references to (for instance) TCA with some background or racking with no further info etc.; it was almost as if there was a list of things that would have to be in the book (because it was aimed at a wino audience?) regardless of whether it was part of the unfolding story or not. In my opinion the last, and worst, transgression is that despite us being constantly told by the author that little information personal to ‘the widow’ had survived, the author constructs a web of ‘make-believe’ and speculation for her storytelling, e.g.

Staring at the ceiling of her bedroom in the early morning hours of February 10th, 1806, Barbe-Nicole was perhaps already feeling queasy. The church bells tolled six o’clock, and without turning to look, she knew the horizon was still only a dim wash of early gray.

etc., etc.. I’m sorry but for such an evidently well researched book, I’m not looking for make-believe! Late in the book, there is some justification of the approach in the ‘Afterword’ where she points to the lack of surving personal information and describes writing the book as:

…an exercise in the oblique…

…The dilemma for any curious historian is a simple one: Without this sympathy there is silence.

If the larger explanation had been in the foreword, rather than the afterword, I’m sure I would have been less constantly annoyed whilst reading.

That was all the bad stuff I can think of, on the other hand you only need look through the notes section to get a feel for how extensive the research was and the historical backdrop to the narrative is fascinating. I have already taken up a number of references. Overall this is a book chock full of fact, many new to me, so despite having to weave your way through some fiction too, for the historical perspective alone of a wine-trade in such tumultuous, waring years, I’d rate this book as ‘close to’ indispensable.

There is also a ‘book review’ in the NYTimes; rather I would say it simply outlines the story of this remarkable lady as ‘pieced’ together by the author. As ‘reviews’ go, this is a better one.

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