Senior editor Bruce Sanderson is in Burgundy for a week of tasting more than 300 reds and whites from 2014, some bottled, some in tank ready for bottling, and some from barrel. The vintage presented challenges, but should deliver instant gratification.
Maison Alex Gambal now consists of 30 acres of vineyards, with the latest purchases and lease agreements made in 2015. The lineup in 2014 consists of 26 wines, ranging from Bourgogne to grand cru in both red and white.
Part of the range is in bottle. Others were racked two weeks ago and a few of the reds are still in barrel awaiting the racking and blending in tank to prepare for bottling. Of the whites, only the Bâtard-Montrachet remains in barrel. All of the 2014s listed below are potentially outstanding.
Despite all the problems with the growing season in 2014, the end of August and early September experienced excellent weather. “It was the most beautiful harvest in the 18 harvests we have done,” recalls Gambal. “There was no rain in seven days of picking. We finished at 3:00 p.m. on Sept. 18 and at 8:00 p.m. it started raining.”
Gambal's Chorey-les-Beaune shows fine precision, with intense black cherry flavor, good density and length. The Savigny-lès-Beaune Grands Picotins delivers typical notes of strawberry, spice, earth and a touch of mineral, vibrant, and tense. In 2014, there was less than 50 percent of the average production of the Grands Picotins due to hail.
Still in barrel and vinified with one-third whole clusters, the Beaune Grèves is spicy and aromatic, offering sappy, red berry and mineral flavors, fine intensity and a long finish.
The Volnay and Chambolle-Musigny were racked two weeks ago. The former reveals pretty strawberry and cherry jam elements, very elegant yet long and persistent. The latter starts out reduced, but with air turns pure, sporting violet, black currant and licorice flavors aligned with a chalky, firm profile.
Today, the Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes seems reticent, chunky even, displaying ripe cherry, plum, oak spice and licorice flavors, but it's long and should be fine after racking and some oxygenation. The Charmes-Chambertin, on the other hand, is packed with sweet fruit, spicy cherry and sandalwood notes, all very expressive, open, opulent and long.
The following wines were bottled last December. Gambal's Bourgogne Blanc is rich, round and fruity, offering apple, pear, vanilla and toast notes. The fruit comes from Volnay, Puligny-Montrachet and a tiny bit from the Côte Chalonnaise, fermented and matured in 500- and 600-liter barrels.
The St.-Romain displays apple, pear and spice flavors underlined by fine cut and definition, with a saline finish. Showing classic tension and precision, the Puligny-Montrachet is all hazelnut, lemon and spice notes that linger.
This next group of whites was racked last week. The two Chassagne-Montrachet premiers crus are a study in contrasts: the Morgeot is rich and open, with apple pie and toasted brioche aromas and flavors and acidity buried in its flesh; the La Maltroie is toasty yet structured, balanced and complex, boasting citrus, apple and mineral elements.
One of my favorites of the Gambal lineup is the St.-Aubin Murgers Dents de Chien. Its ripe, broad attack introduces baked apple and pastry notes, yet there is a stony undertow and tension on the finish. Lemon cake, floral and mineral flavors are the hallmarks of the racy Puligny Les Enseignères and the Corton-Charlemagne borders on crisp, with candied apple, pear and lemon notes and a fine structure.
Still in barrel, the Batard-Montrachet exhibits rich, almond, pastry, apple pie flavors. It's fleshy, yet reined in by good underlying acidity with fine length.