After the Hospices tasting, we returned to Alex Gambal’s cellar to taste his 2009 red and white Burgundies. What was immediately apparent after tasting the Hospices wines was the lack of new oak influence in Gambal’s cuvées. This allowed the lovely, ripe fruit character and precocious charm of the 2009 harvest to shine.
I want to stress that this is still very early in the evolution of the 2009s, so what I was looking for was an impression of the vintage. From the Bourgogne to the Clos Vougeot, there was beautiful fruit at this stage in the reds and from Meursault villages (the Clos du Cromin) to Corton-Charlemagne, defined fruit flavors, mineral and freshness in the whites.
I hope to revisit these wines in early 2011; in the meantime, Gambal had organized his 2008s for me to taste. The reds had finished their malolactic conversions and adjusted for sulfur dioxide. Gambal and his new winemaker Geraldine Godot had racked them into tank, where they will spend four to six months until ready for bottling, to preserve the fruit.
Beginning with the reds, the Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes was lively, with good richness, elegance and flavors of red berry and spice. The Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes showed extremely well, offering gorgeous aromas of raspberry married to a silky texture and racy structure.
Deep, with sappy fruit character, the Clos Vougeot revealed pure cherry and berry flavors. It was well-structured and showing a bit more oak at this stage than the Chambolle Charmes. Gambal now has a Chambertin in the cellar, beginning with the '08 vintage. It was deep and brooding, very powerful, with black fruit notes, tobacco, oak spice and a long finish: Muscular, yet classy.
The whites were in various stages. A few had been bottled already; others were in tank since being racked in September, but without any fining or sulfur addition.
From tank, the Meursault Clos du Cromin exhibited a vibrant structure, which easily supported its pineapple, grapefruit and toast flavors. The Chassagne-Montrachet Clos St.-Jean showed plenty of butterscotch and toasty oak notes, along with grapefruit, all persistent on the long finish.
The Chassagne-Montrachet La Maltroie was very creamy and complex, displaying lime, hazelnut, acacia and mineral flavors that lingered. The Corton-Charlemagne, from a parcel in Aloxe-Corton facing south and one in Pernand-Vergelesses facing west, came this tensile, structured white, boasting pear, pineapple, lime and mineral notes.
From the bottle, the St.-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien delivered ripe apricot, pineapple, lime and mineral aromas and flavors, but also great cut and tension between fruit and stone.
Regarding the 2008 vintage, Gambal explained the whites weren’t a problem, but the reds were trickier. “We had good sugars, but good sugars aren’t what the reds are all about,” he said. “You didn’t want extraction, because the seeds weren’t ripe. We did a light pigeage [punching down] and pumping over to get the best out of the fruit.”
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