Friday afternoon I met up with Alex Gambal, his wife, Diana Williams, new winemaker Geraldine Godot and a group of Americans who had just completed a bicycle tour with Williams.
We arrived at the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune cuverie and cellar to taste the young 2009s slated for auction that Sunday. (Read my news report on the sale results.) Roland Masse is the director of the domaine, overseeing the harvest and fermentation of grapes from the 151 acres of vineyards donated to the Hospices over the years.
There were 43 cuvées in all and we lined up to pass through the rows of barrels to taste. This is clearly an opportunity for many in the wine community to taste the new vintage, either with the intent of bidding on lots at the auction, or simply as a reference of the new vintage.
According to the domaine, more than 3,000 people tasted the new wines over the three days, depleting about 10 to 12 barrels of wine.
At the entrance to the cellar, we met up with Michel and Frédéric Lafarge, and Pierre Morey arrived a few minutes later. Working our way through the wines, I saw Jacques Lardière from Louis Jadot and Jean-Jacques and Antoine Vincent and Philip Tuinder of Château Fuissé in the Mâconnais.
The domaine owns a number of impressive sites, from villages to grands crus (most of their vineyard holdings are premiers crus). This year a new cuvée was added, the St.-Romain Cuvée Joseph Menaut.
We all agreed that from among the reds, the Beaune Grèves Cuvée Pierre Floquet, with its freshness and structure, was a standout, along with the Pommard Cuvée Raymond Cyrot and complex, blackberry-flavored Clos de la Roche Cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron/Georges Kritter. The Beaune Cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron, from the Montrevenots climat, was also impressive for its rich black cherry fruit.
Tasting the young 2009 vintage from barrel at the Hospices de Beaune.
Two Meursault-Genevrières could not have been more different. The Cuvée Jéhan Humblot featured an opulent, precocious and toasty profile, with a long finish of lime and grapefruit notes and fresh acidity keeping it balanced. The Cuvée Philippe Le Bon (the Hospices began under his reign in Burgundy, founded in 1443 by his chancellor, Nicolas Rolin, and Rolin’s wife, Guigone de Salins) was more reserved, showing a lot of structure.
There were a few problematic barrels, one with volatile acidity and another very reduced, but generally, the wines showed rich, ripe fruit, often marked by the new oak barrels in which they are just beginning their lives. In some, the process of malolactic conversion was noticeable; in one or two whites, the alcoholic fermentation had not yet finished.
It’s important to remember, this was a taste from one barrel that may be a third, fifth, tenth or less of the total cuvée. On the other hand, many barrels were sold individually at the auction. Gambal noted that ideally, a minimum of three barrels would give you a good final cuvée, once the élevage was completed and the individual wines blended.
The Hospices tasting also offered a very early preview of the new vintage, one that has already received favorable press and positive hype.
More than that, it was a lot of fun, an opportunity to catch up with a few growers and clearly one of Beaune’s most important events.
Carl Gauthier — laval, québec, canada — December 1, 2009 8:19pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — December 4, 2009 9:48am ET
Carl Gauthier — laval, québec, canada — December 5, 2009 4:56am ET
Vivavin — BEAUNE / FRANCE — December 14, 2009 6:42am ET
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