Those who know me know that I, like my colleague Bruce Sanderson, was weaned on Burgundy. It was the region that I tasted in depth before I even realized I had a career in the wine business. It’s had a soft spot in my heart ever since.
It also still holds a prominent place in my cellar, as I continue to buy the wines of a few producers—Dominique Laurent, Marquis d’Angerville, François Raveneau, Louis Carillon. As Burgundy lovers know all too well, when a Burgundy is on form, it’s really on.
But when a Burgundy is off, it’s a killer, and it seems to hurt more than off bottles from other regions. This burgeoning theory of mine was on display the other night as I opened a bottle of 1998 Henri Gouges Nuits-St.-Georges Les St.-Georges. Hard and tannic in their youth, many of the top ’98 Côte de Nuits reds have begun to reemerge recently. It's a vintage I tasted in Burgundy in '00, and I loved the muscular cores of dark fruit they showed back then, but knew that patience would be required to bring out their best. This bottle was showing some classic secondary aromas, along with a still-tight, iron-filled, grippy finish. It wasn’t singing just yet, but was starting to hit its stride. And that was the tease …
After finishing the bottle I went back downstairs to continue the theme, and pulled up a ’98 Vaucrains from Gouges. (I always love doing tightly matched contrasts when it comes to wine, and these neighboring premier cru vineyards, the town of Nuits' best, are always a fun pairing.) The cork though lacked the deep red stain of a decade’s age—never a good sign—and the wine itself was a bit flat and firm. Not overtly corked, but clearly not pristine. Airing it out did nothing.
Refusing to let the momentum of the first bottle fade, I made another quick trip downstairs—I needed to one up myself to make up for that poor bottle. So I reached further back and pulled up a 1996 Dominique Laurent Nuits-St.-Georges Les St.-Georges, keeping the close contrast theme going while picking an even older and better vintage. Now this wine should’ve been singing, as previous bottles have always held great promise. This, however, my last of six, was marred by that dreaded tanky, chlorine aroma of a clearly off bottle. Argh!
Momentum was dashed and my faith in Burgundy was now being sorely tested, again. I threw up my hands in despair and as I started to dump the ’96 down the drain I sighed at Nancy. “Just bring up something, anything,” I said.
It didn’t take her long to return with a bottle that she knew could get things back on track: the 1998 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It needed just a little air to kick start it before it showed its sappy kirsch fruit, tar and mineral notes, along with the start of some secondary hints of pepper and chestnut in the background. The '98 Châteauneufs are hitting their stride these days, and this bottle quickly washed away the memory of the two bad bottles of Burgundy.
Still, I couldn’t help but think, there was a time when just one bottle of Burgundy could easily best three bottles of Rhône. But now, more and more, I find it‘s the other way around.
Tim Ballard — Gilroy Ca — April 17, 2008 1:04pm ET
James Molesworth — April 17, 2008 1:29pm ET
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — April 17, 2008 1:45pm ET
Dominic Passanisi — Los — April 17, 2008 2:06pm ET
Mark Horowitz — Brooklyn, USA — April 17, 2008 3:16pm ET
Tim Walton — Waterloo, Ont — April 17, 2008 9:06pm ET
William Keene — North Carolina — April 17, 2008 9:31pm ET
James Molesworth — April 18, 2008 9:29am ET
James J Sherma — hershey, PA — April 18, 2008 11:13am ET
Claude Kaber — Luxemburg — April 18, 2008 3:04pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — April 18, 2008 4:13pm ET
Jason Carey — willow, ny usa — April 19, 2008 4:46pm ET
James Molesworth — April 23, 2008 4:41pm ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — April 24, 2008 1:36pm ET
James Molesworth — April 24, 2008 1:54pm ET
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