Chablis 2020 pyrazines – mea-culpa

By billn on August 01, 2022 #degustation#ladypyrazines

Mea culpa because I feel remorse that I should have emphasised this even more in my reports:

I did, however, warn you (my subscribers) with my chapter “The small sting in the tail of 2020 white burgundy” and subsequent discussion in my January report – but, truth be told, like this summer, the situation has moved on from an occasional mosquito bite to something of a wasp-problem…

It’s not quite the hornet’s nest of a problem that we saw with the reds of the 2004 vintage – these 2020 Chablis remain, essentially, drinkable – but if you are sensitive to this chemical then you will be, like me, in a state of constant distraction.

2-Methoxy-3-isobutyl-pyrazineIn my January trip to Chablis, I visited 64 domaines and found a little more than 10% of the wines to be tainted with ‘the green.‘ In March I returned and visited another 20 domaines and this time I would say that more than half of the domaines had some green wines. Last week in Chablis I tasted a couple of grand crus that were free of the taint in January but that’s no longer the case. In my January report, a number of winemakers suggested the possible reason for these pyrazines.

Right now, I would say that almost all 2020s that I am opening at home are starting to show these notes – an evolution that recalls what happened with the 2004 reds. The problem is widespread across the Auxerois – red and white – but not (yet!) 100%.

In the Côte d’Or I have noted in my reports some reds with plenty of pyrazine – isolated in general so with a significantly lower occurance than (I initially found) in the whites of Chablis. Of course, those reds were tasted back in my October-December tastings but recent bottles remain fine. I haven’t noted any greens – that I can recall – in the whites of the Côte d’Or or further south in Chalonnaise/Mâconnais.

That’s about it for now – but I would most definitely taste before I buy today – your possibilities for that will vary…

Clive Coates RIP

By billn on July 31, 2022 #sad losses...

Clive CoatesClive Coates, wine-buyer turned wine educator, author and critic, died in Hospital 1 week ago.

The first news trickled out only on Friday – I waited for further corroboration before offering a small note on Twitter.

Clive was open and generous, starting his wine journey in the lesser appellations of France before majoring on Bordeaux – Burgundy came later – but Clive became a reference on the subject.

Clive was particularly a reference for wine-buyers; I still have all the copies of his (roughly!) monthly periodical ‘The Vine‘ starting from his reviews of the 1995 Burgundy vintage until he closed his publication and retired to a house near the hills of Beaujolais.

Multiple were the tastings in his living room in Chiswick where I often asked stupid questions – only to receive enlightening answers. Afterwards, we met in many tastings in Burgundy, Clive always remained approachable despite becoming harder of hearing. I sadly lost touch in the covid years – how quickly 3 years pass.

He was only 81 and he will be missed. The education and joy that he brought to a generation of enthusiasts is incalculable…
*Image, initially, with the permission of Clive when he first reviewed my book – I subsequently find that the originator is Michel Joly – apologies to him for using his image, it’s not clear (to me) who had the copyright…

Chablis 2020 – trouble at’ mill – weekend 29 2022…

By billn on July 26, 2022 #degustation

weekend 29 2022 wines

At the risk of boring you, the hot weekend weather demands a cool bottle – or three – of Chablis. Unfortunately, this was a very unsatisfactory bunch. I feel a note to subscribers coming on – of the mea-culpa type – these 2020 pyrazines are becoming more and more invasive…

2020 Chablisienne, Chablis 1er Montmains
This was a bravo wine – pre-bottling – why else would I have ordered a dozen of them(?)
A nose of impact and good freshness but also of green-citrus skin and pyrazines. The palate is nicely structural in shape – those green-citrus bitters and energy are abundant but so are the more pyrazine style of flavours too. Ouch! So far, all bar one of my 2020 purchases – all of which I (obviously!) thought pyrazine free – are far from pyrazine free…
Rebuy No Only 11 more to go…

2019 Eleni & Eduard Vocoret, Chablis Les Pargues
Wine of the weekend but from a hobbled field! The problem with this wine today is the strongly visible oak – creamy, almost vanilla. Blind, I’m sure I’d be drinking something from the Côte de Beaune. If I’d wanted something from the Côte de Beaune that’s what I would have chosen, not a Chablis! On the other hand, this is delicious, perfumed, wine it’s just that the oak is wearing today. Wait for 3 years and I think it will be transformed…
Rebuy No

2020 Oudin, Chablis
A favourite producer – but! The cork was a little smelly but the tight nose seemed free of TCA. A muted aromatic, more of yellow citrus than the wine of the Chablisienne and only a faint suggestion of pyrazine. Tight, structural wine giving almost nothing away – but as it warmed in the glass the reason was apparent – faint TCA. After 3 such wines I cut my losses and instead of searching for a 4th bottle, I made some tea!
Rebuy – No

weekend 28 2022 – plus some wine…

By billn on July 18, 2022 #degustation

Niesen view...

I don’t need to tell you that it’s hot – and tomorrow might reach 40°C in Burgundy – but at the weekend I was able to enjoy brunch atop the Niesen with its 2,362 metres of altitude – to be honest, I needed a pullover! For a place that I love so much I’m astounded that it’s nearly 4 years since my last visit – where did the time go during the covid-period?

Unsurprisingly, I’m a big fan of the mountains and particularly enjoy running the trials – that was until 3.5 weeks ago when I rolled over my left ankle at quite high speed – head in the clouds, eyes certainly not on the trail. That was me limping – and definitely not jogging – for a time. I just completed my second comeback jog today and think I’m now okay for alternate days of running. If there was anything ‘fortunate’ about my injury, it was the timing – I did this deed on the last possible day that I could cancel (for free) my hotel for the mountain race that I’d trained for in Sedrun on the 9th. I was the 7th-fastest old person (ie over 50) in the race last year and running the same time this year would have given me 5th place – I was in better shape this year – apart from, it seems, my eyes 🙂 Anyway, I can’t wait to get back into those hills…

But there was also wine:

2020 Gauthier, Chablis Vieilles-Vignes
Crunchy, structural, slightly green – but tasty as always – this house cuvée…
Rebuy – No

2019 N&G Fevre, Chablis Vieilles-Vignes
Not more concentrated than the last, perhaps slightly less structural too – but more directly tasty without the small hint of green. I like this a lot – as could be seen how quickly the bottle was emptied!
Rebuy – Yes

2010 Nicolas Rossignol, Pommard Les Vignots
Medium coloured – and the colour’s starting to show a little age too. That’s a very appealing nose – almost touched with elegance despite a small graphite mineral accent. Even more elegance, and here is some silk to the texture too. The small note of graphite is also showing in the finish. I like the shape of this – it’s elegant yet has some proper structure. A delicious middleweight wine – yum!
Rebuy – Yes

From the frontline… 2022 vintage update on Bastille Day…

By billn on July 14, 2022 #vintage 2022

Over the past week, the temperatures have been roughly ‘average’ and the wind has been steady. Weather that has not been particularly favourable to the onset of veraison yet it has started, without pause, anyway! In many plots – not just the early ones – you can already find the first veraisoned berries and twitter/instagram is full of the images – even for the whites!

Of course, last week’s ‘average’ temperatures have made way for more sustained heat this week and a forecast that’s not dipping below 30°C – indeed nearer to 35°C – for the next 10 days. Heat spikes are expected, with peaks that could reach 38-40°C, even in the shade. Given the volume of rain in the last 3 weeks, it’s unlikely that the vines will shut down – some vigneron(ne)s claiming that it wouldn’t matter if there was no more rain between now and the harvest – others remain more circumspect.

To date, it appears that 2022 is at the same stage of growth (earliness!) as 2011, 2007 and also 2018 – which is to say 2.5 weeks ahead of last year and just a few days behind 2020. The current dryness is keeping all of the usual maladies in check and despite hail and frost (etcetera) this year, the average yield is looking rather high…

And for your fun you can look at the before and after photos of the soil at the bottom of Gevrey’s Clos Saint Jacques – first after June’s heavy rain and then after ‘preparing’ the mound of soil to return up the hillside:

more weekend wines – week 27 2020

By billn on July 13, 2022 #degustation

more weekend wines....

Even stretching into the start of week 28 😉

2019 Raphael Chopin, Beaujolais Funambule
The no sulfur cuvée of declassified BJV
A year ago this was so impressively delicious and juicy – a bravo wine. A year down the line it’s still delicious but just a little less juicy so showing more finishing sweetness. No faults, just a bit less ‘bravo’ – still a very tasty wine!
Rebuy – Yes

And because of the hot weather, plenty of Chablis:

2020 Wengier, Chablis
A wine with the merest hint of the characteristic 2020 pyrazines – but there is more to find in the flavours. Structural and this is a punchy wine of some class. Very drinkable despite the green notes – if I was less sensitive to the greens it would be a definite rebuy for its proper Chablis minerality and punch – but I am, so…
Rebuy – No

2019 Alice & Olivier de Moor, Chablis Clardy & Rosette
Oof – now this has a more obviously bracing acidity than the 2020 (despite the reverse ‘averages’ of the vintages) but my palate quickly makes the adjustment to get with the flow of this super wine. So mouth-watering with great Chablis intensity. That’s a really excellent 2019 – and completely delicious.
Rebuy – Yes

2018 Céline & Frédéric Gueguen, Chablis Cuvée 1995
Not the oldest vines of the domaine but made as a separate cuvée as it’s the birthyear of both Céline & Frédéric!
After the previous two wines, here was a sense of calm – both aromatically and in the flavours too. We could be cynical and presume that to be the high yields of the vintage on full display – yet – here is a wine with good concentration and just a little extra citrus bitters as you head into the finish. Easy-drinking Chablis but still a worthwhile drink. For what it’s worth, I also find the 2019 Côte de Beaune whites are currently more interesting drinks than their 2018 counterparts.
Rebuy – Maybe

2012 Comte Georges de Vogüé, Chambolle-Musigny
The first bottle from this 6-pack. 2012s (in general, not just at de Vogüé) were brilliant, pre-bottling, with their fine structure and mega-appealing clarity of flavour. Then the vast majority tightened and were obviously for the long-haul. It’s nice to see that some wines might be re-opening:
Lots of colour. The nose has a bit of oaky funk about it but it’s also very forward and welcoming – air reducing the oak a little and accentuating the smaller complexities – that’s a great start. In the mouth I’m reminded of the structural shape of the vintage – I like! – but also the impressive middle and finishing energy on display from this ‘mere’ villages (yes, it does contain some 1er grapes.) Some was left for day 2 and the obvious clarity of the flavour has not been dulled, nor are there any unwelcome developments like brett. I am very happy with this first bottle!
Rebuy – Yes

offer of the day – bruno clair – 2020s

By billn on July 10, 2022 #the market

From my usual Swiss merchant. In brackets, where offered, are the previous prices of the 2019s, 2018s, 2017s and the 2016s, — indicates not offered:

Domaine Bruno Clair
Marsannay Blanc 2020 75cl 35.00 (—, 28.00, —, —) * (Swiss Francs)
Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2020 75cl — (—, 145.00, —, —)

Marsannay 2020 75cl — (34.00, —, 32.00, —)
Marsannay Les Grasses Têtes 2020 75cl 49.00 (42.00, 39.00, —,—)
Marsannay Les Longeroies 2020 75cl 49.00 (42.00, 40.00, —, —)

Savigny-les-Beaune Les Jarrons 1er Cru 2020 75cl 53.00 (49.50, 48.00, 48.00, —)
Savigny-les-Beaune La Dominode 1er Cru 2020 75cl 69.00 (—, 59.00, —, —)

Vosne-Romanée Perdrix 75cl 2020 99.00
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes 2020 75cl 149.00

Gevrey-Chambertin Clos du Fonteny 1er Cru 2020 75cl 130.00 (119.00, 119.00, 105.00, 115.00)
Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers 1er Cru 2020 75cl 160.00 (145.00, 145.00, 139.00, —)
Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1er Cru 2020 75cl 249.00 (228.00, 215.00, 189.00, —)
Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1er Cru 2020 150cl 518.00 (476.00, —, —, —)

Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2020 75cl 395.00 (335.00, 335.00, 298.00, 325.00)
Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2020 150cl 810.00 (690.00, —, —, —)

Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 2020 75cl 395.00 (335.00, 335.00, 298.00, 325.00)
Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 2020 150cl 810.00 (690.00, —, —, —)

The prices are always high for this combination of producer and merchant – but this remains a favourite producer of mine…
*As always with this merchant – there’s an additional Swiss purchase tax of 7.7% to add, but then the prices are delivered…

this week’s wines, including ‘Who is the new Domaine René Engel?’

By billn on July 07, 2022 #degustation#warning - opinion!

this week's wines

Dinner with friends in Pommard and some lovely, eclectic, wines.

The first bottle was a lovely 2011 Comtes Champagne – with some lovely menthol aromatic complexity. Then came the:

2012 Fontaine-Gagnard, Le Montrachet
Deeper colour and the first nose was more monolithic – some sulfur-reduction hardening things – affecting the palate too – but aeration brought more comfort, more dimension and less sulfur! Such a concentrated flavour and shape to this wine – it’s such a baby – still! Very impressed, rather than wowed – yet – it has the material that good bottles will easily outlast me!
Rebuy – Maybe

2014 Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Folatières
So much more open and so much more aromatically direct – complex, citrus energy – just such a great invitation. Like the nose the flavours more open and energetic and accessible than the Montrachet but never with the weight and concentration of the older wine. But in terms of drinking, this was clearly the white to go for today.
Rebuy – Yes

1996 Vincent Girardin, Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
Plenty of browning but still a good depth of colour. The aromas reminded me of the many 1996 recently drunk – complex – not harsh – inviting, and unlike the reputation of the domaine at this time – not much oak influence is visible today. This was a very tasty wine – I’d be happy to spend an evening just with this bottle.
Rebuy – Yes

And now, here is the question…

Who is the new Domaine René Engel? Over the last few years, many people have asked me this question. More often than not they are looking for the next domaine whose wines could jump to the ‘superstar level’ of pricing so that they can jump in and later cash in! With pricing in mind, I rarely attempt to answer this question but there is another perspective.

For this other perspective, it’s important to define what was Domaine René Engel: Up until the loss of Philippe Engel in 2005 the wines of this domaine were never considered to be on the same ‘superstar’ or ‘sought after’ level as newly emerging domaines such as Comte Liger-Belair or older domaines such as Méo-Camuzet. But as a counterpoint to the more oaked and sometimes structural wines of Grivot and various domaines ‘Gros,’ the wines of Engel were always accessible and delicious – they were also very well priced when compared to his neighbours. Most were drunk young – as those of any ‘less expensive’ domaine. But those bottles that have been saved – helped by today’s prices shooting for the stars; €3k is now average for a bottle of 1999 Engel Grands-Echézeaux – have shown that accessible and balanced is no barrier to ageing with grace whilst remaining delicious.

With this latter perspective in mind, I’m always happy and open with my thoughts and was reminded of this during a tasting with friends in Pommard this week. One-time contemporary of Philippe Engel and Mr Consistent in terms of a similar easy deliciousness I openly suggest Frederic Esmionin. His Estournelles St.Jacques is an absolute cracker and his Ruchottes-Chambertin is all that you could wish for from a grand cru – but just look at his tariff – at least in the context of many neighbours in the Côte de Nuits. It’s a shame that his long-term lease of the Ruchottes-Chambertin parcel will come to an end in 2031 when it will return to the current (new) owners – Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy’s Domaine des Lambrays – the price of this wine will probably (at least) triple when grapes have to take the long trip to Morey Saint-Denis!

Confined to his wheelchair it is not Fred Esmonin who does the work in the vines or in the cuvérie – it is still mainly his father, André, who is also getting on in years – I hope that between them they can keep going until 2031!

Anyway, back to the wines:

1999 Frederic Esmonin, Ruchottes-Chambertin
MOre modest colour after the 1996 Girardin. What a great nose – open, a faintly smoky complexity but still a fine and complex red fruit style – zero issues with this fine, clean nose. The palate – yes – broad, mouth-filling, good energy and still just a small lick of the structural tannins. Absolutely delicious wine. Really in great shape and (red) wine of the night..
Rebuy – Yes

2001 Louis Latour, Corton
It’s so rare to see older Latours that I was really looking forward to this one. I find young Lators usually closed and uninteresting but my experience of older bottles is almost always positive – this one wasn’t going to change my mind on that.
Darker, younger colour. The nose a little more mineral and dark fruited. More structural scale – as you might expect from Corton – and a wine that’s clearly going to need a few more years to be as drinkable as the Esmonin – yet – here is good dark fruit, properly Corton in shape but without hard edges – and has a finish of wonderful, if still young, grand cru energy. A wine with so many positives – well done.
Rebuy – Yes

wines of weekend 26 2022 – including an ultra-rare Ponsot

By billn on July 05, 2022 #degustation

weekend wines 26 2022

First, something of a rarity – a Ponsot 1994.

Laurent Ponsot recounted to me this week that “In 1994 most of my neighbours picked a bit too early and had grapes full of rot. Me, (he said with a smile) I picked a bit too late and also had grapes full of rot! The wines were not very good and not something I wanted to put my label on, so I sent them all for distillation.” I pointed out that the de Chézeaux Griotte of 1994 proudly proclaimed him as the producer; “Yes, it’s true. I told the Mercier family (owners of his metayage parcels) what I was doing with my wines but they refused to follow – so for their contracted share of the crop, I had to deliver the bottles.

1994 des Chézeaux/Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
The colour is not bad – certainly no browning here. An intriguing nose – a suggestion of the balsamic but there was no real oxidative character – despite a cork that crumbled into pieces and did, itself, smell very sherried! Still there was a certain hardness to the aromas that couldn’t really be described as an invitation to drink. In the mouth, slightly metallic – but not blood/iron – quite mouth-filling and with balanced acidity – but still, like the nose, with a certain hardness. I drank only one glass and returned the bottle to the fridge. On day two the aromas and flavours were more relaxed – this was a very stable wine with no obvious faults and it was certainly better on day two when I could manage two glasses! Because of its scarcity, Griotte is exceptionally expensive these days but this particular bottle was worth no more than €20 – and only for the experience – so if you find one, you have been warned!
Rebuy – No

1995 Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée Les Bossières
The 95s and 96s of Grivot – for a long time – could only be described as monolithic wines. Despite (selling!) merchants describing new approaches and ‘wonderful clarity’ in the early 2000s. then the mid-2000s, then again in the early 2010s, etcetera, etcetera, for me it was the same-old, same-old story. Only in the last 2-3 years have I seen the stirrings of real extra clarity and accessibility in the hands of Mathilde Grivot that make me want to return to taste new vintages. But let’s return to the 95s and 96s: After years of being uninteresting, in the last couple of years I have found many of these Grivot wines to be opening and really delivering some impressive performances – at last. Memorably there was this Richebourg but others have begun to deliver too, such as a 96 Nuits Boudots at a tasting, last week, of 1996s (to come for subscribers) and this 1995 too. Note, another rather spongy cork that was never, ever, going to be released from the neck in one piece!
Medium, medium-plus colour with a very subtle browning at the rim. This nose shows a small suggestion of both caramel and spice – maybe even a little cigar – it is a good invitation to drink, having no obvious faults. In the mouth nicely – but not overly – structural with good balance and whilst still underpinned by a little tannin there is no-longer any harshness to this experience. Decent length and nicely clean finishing – another glass? I don’t mind if I do. Finally, this is very good and another stable wine – like the Ponsot – zero problems with the wine on day 2.
Rebuy – Maybe

2020 Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet
A direct nose with some stone fruit that was accented with florals. Such flavour energy and a growing intensity to this flavour too – really a mouth-watering and energetic wine – tension indeed. It’s lovely – topped off with a vibrantly tasty finish. Excellent villages and very Puligny…
Rebuy – Yes

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