I was having lunch at my club in London today, the Savile Club, drinking a couple of Burgundies from well-known négociants with some friends, and I began thinking about what people really say about the big names of the Côte d'Or. There is a real snobbism in favor of small producers, from me included. But the big houses can make some thoroughly good reds and whites. And many times they can be outstanding if they come from the right vineyard, preferably their own.
In a strange way, I have been more disappointed recently with trophy names in Burgundy than the more commercial ones. I guess because Burgundy is so expensive you have high expectations for what you are opening. For example, I have been lucky (or unlucky) to drink a number of 1998 reds from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and the wines are really weak considering the money you have to pay.
Then again, when DRC is amazing, it is amazing. This summer a friend from Hong Kong was nice enough to share five different vintages of La Tâche, including 1997, 1995, 1991, 1990 and 1989. I scored the wines (non-blind, of course) 94, 92, 97, 99 and 95 points, respectively. Of course, the legendary 1990 lived up to its lofty reputation with sweet ripe fruit, raisins and spices with cloves and cinnamon on the nose and palate. It was full-bodied, with rich fruit and velvety tannins. It has a long life ahead of it.
The real surprise was the 1991 La Tâche. This is a forgotten vintage by many, and it delivers much of the same quality and richness of the 1990, and at a fraction of the price. The La Tâche was still dense, bold and rich, with lots of seductive, exotic fruit.
Granted, the DRC wines are ridiculously expensive, so few of us can afford them.
Today, I drank 2004 Louis Latour Meursault and 2002 Faiveley Nuits-St.-Georges Les Argillats. Both were about $45 on my club's small wine list. The Latour blanc was surprisingly good for a weak vintage, showing good lemony acidity and fresh tropical fruit. 88 points, non-blind. The Faiveley was excellent and drinking wonderfully, with spicy, red fruit and hints of cedar and cinnamon. It was full and velvety on the palate, with a long, long finish. It's ready but still showing potential for the future. 91 points, non-blind.
In a funny sort of way, today's luncheon Burgundies were a bigger surprise than the DRCs of this summer. So, don't forget négociant wines of the Côte d'Or, especially from top vintages like 2005, 2002 and 1999.
Carlo Dinatale — Coon Rapids, MN — September 6, 2009 1:43pm ET
Liberty Wine Merchants — Vancouver B.C. Canada — September 8, 2009 4:38pm ET
Aidan Campbell — Calgary, AB, Canada — September 17, 2009 5:59pm ET
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