I’m back in Burgundy for a second look at the 2006 reds and whites. My first visit last June was an initial impression of the vintage as a whole. Now that the wines are at the end of their elevage, if not already bottled, I will be looking more closely at individual wines.
Remember that it is still early in the evolution of these young wines. They may have just been racked, or in the process of fining, or still in cask and need to be unified. Others may be suffering from just being bottled. Where I have rated a wine, I feel comfortable that it was not suffering from one of the above operations. Nonetheless, a score range indicates the potential quality of the wine.
After arriving in Beaune Sunday, I had lunch at Le Gourmandin, on Place Carnot. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the flavors in the food and wines seem to be more acute when I’m in France. Or, perhaps my senses are heightened, anticipating a week of tasting.
The jambon persillé had a fresh, clean earth and grass note, and the sautéed mushrooms with roasted scallops had a freshly-picked intensity. With the former, I enjoyed a glass of Joseph Roty Marsannay Les Ouzelay 2001, whose sharpened acidity defined its pure cherry flavor. A round and fruity Mâcon-Uchizy Les Maranches 2005 from Heritiers des Comtes Lafon, with its honey and light stone character, washed down the scallops.
Later that afternoon found me at Lucien Le Moine, the boutique negociant on Beaune run by the charming Mounir Saouma and his wife Rotem Brakin.
Le Moine has now reached its capacity. In 2007, there will be 100 barrels from 50 different appellations in the cellar.
Saouma feels that the 2006 will suffer in general, because 1.) It follows 2005 and 2.) There was botrytis in 2006, which tends to tarnish the vintage with a negative impression.
"The noble rot in 2006 had nothing to do with the rot in 2004, 2001 or 2000," he pointed out. "This clean, fruity botrytis is a major point in ’06. For me it’s a benefit, for some a defect."
In contrast to some of the growers I visited last June, Saouma told me it was necessary to pick late in 2006, in order to get proper maturity and not be afraid of the botrytis. "The difference between making something good and something great is taking risks," he explained.
Saouma also characterized 2006 as being two different wines between pressing and now at bottling. At pressing, they had very fruity, en primeur type of fruit, like Beaujolais Nouveau. They also were very tannic. “The keys were losing this simple fruity character and the tannins, so you have length and sweetness in the aftertaste,” he said.
In the end, Saouma considers 2006 to be a very classic vintage for Burgundy, in that these are the typical wines from the terroirs in a northern climate, where often you must wait for the maturity late in the season. On the other hand, 2005 is a year where the vintage character is dominant, whose best feature is its ageability.
"2006 will be ready to drink sooner," he stated.
I tasted some very approachable, well-structured and balanced reds there, with detailed fruit, ample flesh and length. Some were still in barrel (in fact, a few were still finishing the malolactic conversion), others had been assembled in tank for bottling, and a few had been bottled 10 days ago.
My favorites in the cellar are the following:
From barrel, the Nuits-St.-Georges Les Vaucrains, showing sweet red currant, blackberry and licorice notes and both richness and structure (90-93); the black currant- and blackberry-infused Vosne-Romanée Les Malconsorts, which builds nicely on the palate to a long, subtle finish (91-94); and the fresh, elegant Clos Vougeot, very well balanced with both red and black fruit flavors (90-93). The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze is very floral, offering rose and both wild and cultivated berry flavors. It’s open and inviting at this stage, yet has a good tannic spine and plenty of finesse (91-94). The Richebourg is a deep well of red and black fruit, spice, hints of black pepper and licorice notes, with a long, sweet finish (91-94).
In tank for a week awaiting bottling, the Bonnes Mares displays an energy, with concentrated licorice, black currant and spice flavors. It combines power and finesse, ending in a long, licorice-tinged finish. The Lavaux-St.-Jacques has already been bottled. It’s very expressive, exhibiting fruitcake, nut, mocha and spice notes, backed by a firm, tensile structure.
The reds are extremely appealing and charming, however the whites, especially these listed, are exciting. From barrel, the Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets serves up a smoky, stone and lime blossom aromas that lead to citronella, honey and hazelnut flavors. The finish is long and minerally (90-93). The Meursault Perrières is in tank, a mineral underpinning coursing through its veins. Lime blossom and citrus notes are persistent and this is fresh, salty and acidic at once, resonating with energy (92-95). Also from tank, the Corton-Charlemagne features a glorious nose of ripe apple, cinnamon, peach and loads of mineral. A masculine white, it’s massive, tannic even and very long (90-93). The Chevalier-Montrachet, still resting in barrel, offers a totally seductive appeal. Very aromatic, with jasmine, lavender and lime blossom notes, a creamy texture with hints of vanilla and hazelnut and a terrific finish (93-96).
Luc Provencher — Montreal, Canada — March 25, 2008 6:11am ET
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