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Back to Burgundy: Previewing the 2011 Vintage

I'm back in France for my annual tour of Burgundy, with my first stop at the small but growing négociant firm of Mischief & Mayhem
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 30, 2013 10:30am ET

I'm back in Burgundy for my annual trip to visit growers and merchants, this time to taste the 2011 red and white Burgundies. Many of the wines I will taste here are still in barrel, not yet racked or treated with SO2. This is a good time to assess the young wines of the region. Others may have been racked and assembled in tank, with sulfur added, in preparation for bottling. Some may have been bottled already. I will note the various stages of the process in as much detail as possible.

Consequently, the scores given to wines will be given in ranges because they are unfinished and will continue to be refined until being bottled.

Mischief & Mayhem

Michael and Fiona Ragg, managing partners of Mischief & Mayhem, a small négociant in Burgundy, have come a long way since moving to Aloxe-Corton 10 years ago.

In addition to fine-tuning the range of wines over the past decade (for the first two vintages, M&M essentially purchased finished wines), they bought their first parcel of vines in 2012 and now have a burgeoning winery. M&M's wines are currently distributed in 18 countries.

I dropped by to taste the 2011s, my first visit kicking off a week of tasting the new vintage in cellars around Burgundy's Côte d'Or. Ragg had prepared eight samples from among the 14 wines they will bottle from the 2011 vintage. All were still in barrel and had not been racked. The wines will be bottled over the next few months, beginning with the Meursault villages.

The 2011 Meursault shows a nice stony inflection on the nose and just a hint of oak (this sees 25 percent new barrels, with the remaining aged in 1-year-old oak, along with a portion aged in stainless steel tank). It's lean on the palate, offering citrus, peach and mineral flavors, all very clean and open, with moderate length (87–90 points). It's almost ready to enjoy. Despite most of the blend coming from the lieux-dits En la Barre and En l'Ormeau, with a little from Les Criots east and north of the village, it feels more like a wine from higher up the slope with its sleek, stony intensity.

With its forthcoming aromas of peach, citrus and herb, the Meursault Les Genevrières also seemed open and accessible, yet with more class and length than the Meursault. There was an underlying mineral or seashore element complementing the ripe fruit flavors (89–92).

By contrast, the two Puligny-Montrachet premiers crus Ragg presented were much less evolved. The Les Pucelles revealed very elegant aromas and flavors of white flowers, lemon and stone matched to a racy frame and long, mouthwatering finish (89–92). With its backbone and dense texture, this will be bottled roughly three to four weeks later than the two Meursaults.

Though only a road separates them, the Les Caillerets is different than Les Pucelles. Its expressive aromas of citrus, citronella and ripe stone fruit remind me of Chevalier-Montrachet, while the palate is big and powerful, with a smoky, mineral reduction and complexity. An impressive white (90–93). Since there were only two barrels, one was aged in new oak, the other in a 1-year old barrel.

While the range of whites has hardly changed over the past few vintages, the lineup of reds has, given rising prices of red juice, particularly in areas like Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle-Musigny.

First up for the reds was the Volnay Santenots 2011, offering a brilliant garnet hue and aromas of smoke, meat, cherry and raspberry. It's structured and firm rather than dense, exhibiting fine balance and lingering cherry and mineral notes (88–91).

A new red on the roster is the Volnay Les Caillerets, full of cherry, berry and floral aromas and flavors. Dense and tight, it was more severe than the nose indicated, with a spicy, peppery finish (88–91).

The Aloxe-Corton Premier Cru comes from 80-year-old vines in the Les Paulands lieu-dit. Intense cherry, earth and smoke aromas presage a dense, sappy wine with fruit and mineral undertones, ending in a sweet, mouthcoating finish (87–90).

The most reticent of all, the Corton-Bressandes has a nose that hints at red and black cherry, sandalwood and licorice, while its dense, firm structure and assertive tannins roam the palate. It has concentration and length, but will need more time than the others (89–92).

Mosen Defrawy Md
The OC —  January 30, 2013 10:44pm ET
Hmmm! Interesting article. Kudos to the Raggs!

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