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Bouchard père et fils: 2005 Update (2003s)

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How time flies – In January I paid a visit to Bouchard Père et Fils – it was already two years since my last visit. My main purpose was to expand my knowledge of the domaine’s four monopoles but Isabelle Parisot also kindly arranged a tour of some of their recently bottled 2003’s together with their maker, Philippe Prost. The fact that I’d already purchased a number of Bouchard’s 2002 wines on the recommendation of Burghound (plus a few others) left me with a long list of BP&F notes for this issue, so for the sake of tidiness I decided to put them all together – 32 wines.

The amiable Philippe Prost joined BP&F in 1978 following an education in Chemistry. He went straight into the quality control department and stayed there until 1991. There was a short period of buying grapes from Bouchard’s suppliers before his first vinification in 1992. Philippe talks of the wines like his children, knowing the details of the individual parcels, the harvest dates (across several vintages) and details of each wine’s elevage – without any recourse to notes.

What about 2003?

Here we have the chance to evaluate a whole range of 2003’s from bottle, in this case from an ‘early picker’. Some producers picked directly after the ban des vendanges (the early pickers), others choosing to wait another two or even three weeks – most producers fell into these early or late camps.

The early pickers had ripe fruit and picked straight away with the aim of preserving some acidity. The issue for early-pickers was their need to balance their vinification approach to their raw materials and the potentially unripe tannins in the pips. Philippe’s whole approach to his 2003 reds was to extract the best tannins – he anyway points-out that typically only 3 in every 10 years have ripe pips – so most cuvées received only twice daily pigeage, and then only for 3-4 days. Whilst it’s not instantly obvious due to the ripe presentation of the fruit, analysis shows many reds in 2003 with twice the usual level of tannin – this allowed for good natural sedimentation, hence, no need for fining. The acidities were generally similar to those of the 2000 vintage.

My own summary of the following 2003’s is that the reds, whilst typically 2003 in the presentation of their fruit, have, despite their early picking, very sophisticated and in some cases very lacy tannins, plus importantly a good overall balance. Given that their acidities are along the lines of 2000 I’d guess that they will be quite hedonistic in the first 1-2 years from release but could lose a bit of their gloss thereafter. Philippe believes that they have a very good future, certainly the Corton and Clos de Bèze will, I’m sure, be stunning young or old. As to the 2003 whites, 90% (not just from BP&F) are not my favoured style – I love minerality and a racy acidity and in 2003 it’s hard to find – the 2003’s that follow are better than many a ‘premium New-World cuvée’ but only the ‘Genevrières’ and Corton-Charlemagne would be potential purchases chez Nanson.

Note – all the wines tasted chez BP&F were in a cold room at 13-14°C so aromatics will be a little subdued compared to your own dining-room…

A selection of Bouchard P&F Monopolies

All from the Côte de Beaune, three red and one white wine wine.

2002 Beaune 1er Clos de la Mousse
This walled vineyard was bought in several parcels before finally becoming a Bouchard monopoly in 1872. The soil is rich and brown and interestingly the vines are planted in a North-South orientation (like La Romanée) – this helped to shade the fruit from the sun in 2003. Picked a whole month later than in 2003! Starts slightly musky before giving up very pure red berry notes. Very fine texture to this wine – real executive tannins. Concentrated with a lovely, long and creamy finish. 75% new Alliers oak used in the elevage.
2002 Volnay 1er Fremiets, Clos de la Rougeotte
Named after the vineyard’s red soil, this monopole was acquired after the Clos de la Mousse. A brooding nose, darker in profile than the Clos de la Mousse. The new oak used for elevage is also ~75%, but this time it’s a mix of Troncais and Alliers. Whereas the Clos de la Mousse normally has an elevage of 14 months before bottling, this wine usually needs a full 18 months. To start, the palate seems less obviously intense that the Mousse, but slowly the power builds and builds and is coupled to a real step-up in complexity. Again really good tannins.
2002 Beaune 1er Grèves, Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus
The same label has been used since 1791. Always ripens earlier than most other Beaune vines due to the vineyard being a little like an amphitheatre. A nicely forward nose of smooth red fruit, a little powdery and an extra black depth – there’s more than a hint of spice too. Mouthfilling, complex but a friendly package with a creamy edge. Long and very fine – I’ve bought some.
2001 Beaune 1er Grèves, Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus
Just slightly paler than the 2002. Surprisingly the nose goes a little deeper and there’s a dark trace of oak. The wine’s a little cold, but swirling will eventually coax out some red fruit. Soft as silk, fills the mouth admirably. Fresh, lovely acidity. Needs more time than the 2002 and for me has an extra purity. Lovely, I suppose I’ll have to buy some of this too…
2000 Beaune 1er Grèves, Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus
Unfortunately the first bottle was corked, hence, the replacement was a little colder. The nose starts tight and high-toned over a begrudging deeper base. Characteristically soft and silky palate, good concentration for a 2000 Beaune – 15% was declassified to achieve this – but still not the same mid-palate punch. If this wine has an extra dimension, it is on the finish. Again the tannins are excellent.
1999 Beaune 1er Grèves, Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus
The colour is not fading a jot. The nose has a wide layer of high-toned fruit that covers a few bready notes and a tight core of fruit that bodes well for the future. The fruit is a little riper and plumper than the 2001 but the tannins are a little less fine. This is super wine and has the same personality as the 2001, but it’s dressed in jeans whereas the 2001 is dressed for dinner. The nose just grows and grows so decant if you’re going to drink now.

Their counterparts in 2003:

2003 Beaune 1er Clos de la Mousse
Compared to many 2003’s this is quite reserved on the nose, more diffuse but deeper than the 2002. The tannins are on a higher level than the two 03’s that preceded this (Monthelie and Beaune 1er Clos du Chateau), but we also have an all-round level of sophistication not found in those wines. An excellent 2003.
2003 Beaune 1er Grèves, Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus
Despite the heat of 2003, in the company of the older vintages it manages to neatly display it’s origin; a little redder in the face, a little louder and carrying a few extra pounds, but it’s without doubt Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus. Silky, slightly fat palate with a little oak still to meld. Good tannins and mouthwatering. At this young age the concentration and ripeness of the fruit smothers attempts at complexity, but there’s time for that in the future. It will be very interesting to make the same comparison in 10 years.
2003 Volnay 1er Fremiets, Clos de la Rougeotte
On the nose there’s a little less ‘punch’ than the ’03 Enfant’. It’s higher toned and mixes red and black notes, slowly giving up a concentrating cherry edge. Super softness, creamy and concentrated fruit with a complexity that is not today apparent from the ‘Enfant’. A slight dry edge to the tannins on the finish. Lovely.

And Bouchard’s white monopole from Beaune:

2002 Beaune 1er Clos St.Landry
Just down-slope from Drouhin’s Clos de la Mouche is a vineyard full of white chalky stones, a vineyard that suits whites better than reds. Since 1985 it has been bottled separately from the Beaune 1er Clos du Chateau. A soft nose, complex and interesting, mixing both blossom and melony fruit. Nice easy drinking, complex on the palate too, the acidity shows a deft touch. Rather nice.
2003 Beaune 1er Clos St.Landry
Much denser nose with less initial complexity – a few fresh bread notes perhaps. The palate is equally dense though manages to retain almost good freshness. It’s quite nice though I prefer the 2002.
A range of 2003’s

2003 Monthélie
Only 40% of the normal crop from this vineyard despite being planted in the north-south orientation, hence, affording some protection from the direct 2003 sun. Jumps out of the glass, amazing nose, it’s pure, fresh blueberry. Mouthfilling with, by a significant margin, quite best fruit I’ve ever seen in a Monthélie! Grainy tannins and an unexpected freshness. Bravo, I expect this wine will be a steal!
2003 Beaune 1er Clos du Chateau
The nose starts with an off-putting cheesy/metallic note, swirling gets rid of this to reveal a mix of red and black shaded fruit that becomes more complex and pure by the minute – Bouchard own vines in 21 of the 44 Beaune Crus, most are represented in this wine. Fat but fleet of foot the fruit flavours are shaded towards black and backed up by velvetty tannin and nicely balancing acidity. This is usually a reliable wine but is really quite something in 2003.
2003 Beaune 1er Marconnets
This is a vineyard from the northern side of Beaune, according to Philippe often quite smokey in presentation – like Volnay Caillerets. Very forward fruit and quite high-toned for a 2003. The palate has a very ripe coulis of fruit, good tannins but not quite so sophisticated as the ’03 Clos de la Mousse that preceded it. A good, mouthwatering and very long finish – just a little raisin fruit on the end.
2003 Volnay 1er Caillerets
This is always a warmer vineyard than the ones that surround it, hence, it’s often a rush to pick – 2 days later and it can be a very different wine. Philippe believes that this is potentially one of their best vineyard sites. A quite lovely nose, round with a sweet core of fruit. Mouth-staining, concentrated fruit flavours that follow through very well into the mid-palate. Tannins are dry but well managed – in a word gorgeous.
2003 Le Corton
Philippe is very proud of this wine, he thinks it could be the best he’s ever vinified. The nose is deep and brooding, only grudgingly gives up it’s complexity at this temperature. It’s not so fat as the previous wines, much more classically balanced. Excellent length, quite a flourish too, with mouth-gripping tannins that underline 10 years sleep in the cellar for best results. I will most likely buy some of this.
2003 Nuits St-Georges 1er Le Cailles
When compared to it’s neighbours this is a relatively cool vineyard. A nose of both width and depth, black fruit and a little coffee-bean. Very sweet and smooth palate that shows super concentration. Not too fat, good length and leaves the mouth watering for more. Lovely.
2003 Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Aromatics that are wide and deep, a little blurred vs the previous Nuits, but there’s certainly more going on. Slowly a note of violet comes to the fore, focus improving all the time. Like the Corton, a more classically proportioned palate. Really good balance between the structure and fruit. Very, very good.

A selection of 2003 whites:

2003 Beaune 1er, Beaune du Chateau
High-toned, fresh, some green fruit notes. Good density, not too fat – even a touch of grapefruit. For a 2003 this is very attractive and quite fresh.
2003 Meursault Les Clous
From high on the hill by the cross of St.Christophe, roughly north-east facing and often quite a windy site so typically providing an extra freshness. The soil is the same as the Meursault premiers but from around 40 metres higher. Of Bouchard’s 12 hectares of village wine, 8 comes from here. High-toned, a mix of estery and floral notes. Sweet with some fat and density, but there’s some mouthwatering on the finish to provide balance. This almost good for a 2003.

2003 Meursault 1er Charmes
From ‘Dessous’. Slightly deeper yellow. Creamy fruit greets the first sniff, interesting with nice core of fruit. The texture is lovely, real complexity here. Balanced and quite fine – Very nice.
2003 Meursault 1er Genevrières
Nicely delineated nose, green skinned fruits. The palate is fitter and finer than the Charmes – in fact this is the first wine that doesn’t shout 2003. Classic (almost) structure and a really super wine.
2003 Corton-Charlemagne
Bottled in January, 2-3 months after the other whites. The vines are at the fop of the hill and north-east facing, Philippe believes that this cooler spot helped to preserve acidity this year. Lovely nose, hints of green, cream covered apricots. Instantly classic palate with tons of complexity – really good mouthfeel. The finish is a strong one, fading only slowly. A very good wine that speaks more of Corton-Charlemagne than of 2003 – excellent.
Finally a range of wines drunk at home
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils, Côte du Beaune Villages
Bargain alert!!! Medium-plus cherry red colour. The nose is a forward and interesting fruit mix that is very dark red, but not quite black, something slightly herbal in the background. The palate is big, sweet forward red-shaded fruit. There’s very good freshness and a long, acidity inspired finish. The tannins are well hidden too. This was very ripe, but not over-ripe and finished way too fast. This would be a fabulous quality house wine.
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune
Medium-plus cherry-red. The nose has an initial blast of oak but then it’s gone. What’s left is a lovely pure red cherry expression, perhaps some strawberry too. The sweet palate is at once softer but more intense that the previous wine. The acidity is very balanced and the tannins pass you by hardly with a note, though they coat your gums well enough if you wait. Just a slight high-toned astringency to the finish but probably nothing to be concerned about. This is a lovely wine though today I’d plump for the Côte du Beaune, longer term I still might prefer the Côte…
1999 Bouchard Père et Fils, Pommard
Medium-plus colour, edging towards ruby. The nose is a mix of red and black and shows some raisined fruit. Wow, quite some elegance on the palate; it’s full, just a little fat with fresh, black-shaded fruit and very well-mannered tannins. Blind I’d probably guess this to be a well above average NSG. The medium finish takes away none of the refinement – very fine villages and not even vaguely rustic. I’ll probably bag some halves – very handy.
2001 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune du Château
Always a relative bargain this wine – assuming that it’s a good one of course: Medium cherry-red colour. The nose is faintly powdery and a little closed when cold from the cellar. The palate shows a linear delivery of tight fruit with good intensity but little fat. Very good acidity and a slight creamy impression to the medium finish. The tannin is still a little astringent but becomes softer and friendlier with aeration. I won’t return for at least 3 years, serious wine for the price.
2000 Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune Clos du Roi
Medium cherry-red colour. The nose is high-toned and slightly estery, though there’s still reasonable red fruit in the background. Nice density and useful acidity too but not quite the buffering sweet fruit of 18 months ago. Still, the texture is almost good and there’s a little cream on the surprisingly long finish. This was a fantastic little wine on release but the joie de vivre is now gone so I suggest letting them lay down for another few years.
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils, Volnay Caillerets Ancienne cuvée Carnot
Medium-plus cherry red. The nose starts heavy with lightly toasted oak, the palate equally so. Given time for aeration the oak fades by around 75% with sweet fruit of several layers – all of them red. The palate starts with an understated intensity that builds and builds into quite an exciting flourish on the long finish. The tannin has just a little dryness on the finish but is finely grained. This is very good but needs quite a few (several) years though should be excellent.
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils, Le Corton
Medium-plus cherry-red. The nose has really impressive black-shaded depth with a twist of oak, tightening with time and slowly taking on an unusual spicy, creamy, fresh-ginger note – if you wait an hour or so the nose has a much more classic profile. In the mouth there’s concentrated ripe fruit. This wine has a very round and balanced personality with acidity and tannin that you hardly notice. Really a very sophisticated wine and one I’ll be please to cellar.
1999 Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault Charmes
Golden colour. The nose has faint butterscotch and an aged, nutty, slightly aniseed complexion. With a little swirling more primary citrussy fruit is released. The palate is nicely put together with good acidity and shows a good, dense, mid-palate. The finish has above average length and majors on the hazelnut aspects. I have to say that this is not my favourite profile and whilst the nuttiness is a characteristic of a mature Meursault, this seems a little overdone – especially for a 99 – I suspect this is prematurely aged. Somehow the bottle was still finished with ease…
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault Perrières
Medium lemon yellow. The nose is fresher than the Charmes, perhaps a little sweet lime, but there’s faint butter and a brooding, creamy base below. The palate is concentrated without being over-fat, it’s perfectly balanced with the acidity too. There’s a seamless ride from first impression, to mid-palate, to the achingly long, creamy finish. The wine hasn’t the impressive minerality of the best Perrières I’ve tasted (Roulot’s 2000) but this is a very convincing effort and one-third of the price – I’ve already added a half-dozen to the cellar.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?