One of the main events during my trip to Burgundy was Louis Jadot's 150th anniversary tasting and dinner. When I received the invitation with the lineup of wines dating from vintages back into the 19th century, I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed.
Twenty journalists from around the world were present to taste 15 red wines and seven whites spanning the vintages 2003 to 1865. The reds represented each decade of the 150 years that Jadot, founded in 1859, has been doing business in Burgundy.
"We wanted to make this tasting as simple as possible to share with you some bottles we have been aging for some time," said Jadot's president, Pierre-Henry Gagey.
"What was Burgundy like 150 years ago?" he asked. "The power was in the hands of those selling the wines, not the growers," he explained. That situation changed with the advent of the appellation regulations in the 1930s.
It was a fascinating lineup of wines. The whites were more heterogeneous in style than the reds, with some evidence of botrytis and residual sugar. Jadot's technical director, Jacques Lardière, explained that the polyphenols and tannins in the reds were better able to digest any flaws in winemaking, such as the lack of understanding of concepts like malolactic fermentation.
Here are my highlights, in order of preference. All the wines were uncorked and poured immediately. In some cases of excess sediment, a second bottle was decanted. Where wines were deemed flawed, a second bottle was offered. All wines were presented non-blind.
I don't get to taste Burgundies much older than the 1940s or '50s, so the Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 1953 was what I think of as "classic, mature Burgundy." It showed all the decaying fruit and flower bouquet with a core of sweet spice complemented by a touch of licorice. There was finesse, good structure and a lively, long finish with plenty of energy (98 points, non-blind).
The Musigny 1978 possessed a sweetness also, along with fragrant truffle, autumn leaves, berry and spice notes. Still firm and vigorous, it had an ethereal quality about it, very refined, with a mineral and floral essence (97 points, non-blind). According to Lardière, the fruit came from the Comte de Vogüé holdings.
The youngest wine of the flight was the Bonnes Mares 2003. Its nose was intense, ripe, yet fresh, featuring red berries, earth and mineral aromas and flavors tinged by chocolate. The tannins were ripe and dense. With air, a licorice note emerged. This should age beautifully (96 points, non-blind).
My next favorite was a much older vintage, the Beaune Clos des Ursules 1929. The bouquet suggested mature Vintage Port, with plum and leather elements. Very concentrated, rich and opulent, with a supple texture, it showed terrific harmony and length (95 points, non-blind).
I did have a white among my top wines. It was the Corton-Charlemagne 1986. Medium gold in color, it boasted a nose of ice and stone that also exhibited hints of chamomile and beeswax. On the palate, honey and apricot morphed into spice and mineral as this lingered on the long aftertaste (94 points, non-blind).
The Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques 1966 was one of the few wines not vinified by Jadot. It came from the Clair-Daü cellars when Jadot acquired the estate in 1986. Poured from magnum, it displayed sweet cherry, chocolate and the tobacco and spice box aromas and flavors I associate with good Gevrey-Chambertin terroirs. Still with plenty of grip, it had a fine savory, minerally finish (94 points, non-blind).
Lest you think I didn't like any of the older Pinots, I was impressed with the Beaune Clos des Couchereaux 1904 and Clos Vougeot 1898 (both 93 points, non-blind). The former revealed a bouquet of mushroom, cinnamon, leather and beef bouillon followed by sweet cherry, berry and cigar box flavors and ripe tannins shoring up the finish. The Clos Vougeot was racy in profile, with bittersweet chocolate, tart cherry and just a slight musty note at the outset. Its beam of wild strawberry fell off to firm tannins.
Evaluations aside, this was a brilliant occasion to taste history. The wines dated from the American Civil War, through two World Wars, the Russian Revolution, Great Depression and into the age of the Internet. It was as close perhaps as one can get to traveling through time.
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — November 13, 2009 7:50pm ET
Alejandro Duclaud — Mexico City — November 19, 2009 12:41pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — November 19, 2009 2:58pm ET
Alejandro Duclaud — Mexico City — November 19, 2009 7:12pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions