Thursday afternoon found me in Aloxe-Corton and then across the Route National to Chorey-lès-Beaune.
In Aloxe, I visited Mischief and Mayhem. Who? What?
Behind the playful name are some serous wines and equally serious wine guys. M & M is a partnership between Michael Twelftree, of Australia's Two Hands winery, and Michael Ragg, of England, formerly of wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd.
Ragg moved to Aloxe-Corton in 2003 and looks after the day-to-day operations, including sourcing fruit and barrels and running the tasting room in Aloxe. The two officially founded M & M in 2005. Their goal is to simplify Burgundy by keeping the front label clean and putting information on the back label, such as where the grapes come from and the style of wine.
For the 2002 and 2003 vintages, Ragg and Twelftree purchased finished bottles, but with the 2004 vintage, they began purchasing barrels of wine. This gives them more control over the complete élevage, fining and filtration (when necessary), bottling, cork supply and packaging. With the excellent 2005 vintage, the range was expanded to 26 wines.
I tasted a representative range with Ragg in the tasting room. All the wines were bottled between July 2006 and March 2007. We started with a crisp, lemony Chablis and a more complex, honey-, herb- and apple-flavored Les Grenouilles grand cru.
Both a Bourgogne white and red have been added to the lineup with the ’05 vintage. The white is fruity and clean with a lemon cake note. It should sell for less than $20 a bottle in the U.S.
The Meursault is lovely, showing a peach flavor, richness and good structure. The Meursault Les Genevrières, even more vibrant, exhibits floral, spice and lime notes. The Puligny-Montrachet is more streamlined, with a citrus essence and long finish.
The premiers crus Les Champs Gain and Les Caillerets from Puligny display class and elegance. The Caillerets has a bit more punch, a creamy texture and mineral character.
From the reds, I liked the concentrated, juicy Bourgogne red, which benefits from 10 percent Gevrey fruit. The Gevrey-Chambertin itself is a spicy, briary mouthful of black fruits.
Vosne-Romanée Les Petits-Monts is a premier cru site just above Richebourg and adjacent to Cros Parantoux. M & M’s version is floral and peppery, with black and red currant coulis flavor and fine intensity. The Corton Bressandes offers ripe, sweet berry fruit, accented by spice notes. It's intense yet has finesse and terrific balance. The Clos Vougeot reveals both red and black fruit flavors, a lush, open attack and firm ripe tannins shoring up the finish. All three are outstanding in quality.
As we concluded the tasting, the skies opened up once more. I’m glad I didn’t have far to drive to my next appointment. There was massive thunder and lightning nearby.
So it was under stormy skies that I met with young Sebastien Gay of Domaine Michel Gay. Just 28 years old, he has been working with his family estate since 2000. My French isn’t perfect, but I understand most of what is spoken. Gay was so full of energy I had to ask him to slow down so I understood clearly what he was saying.
His energy and charm are infectious, and the wines reflect this. Pure in fruit and mouthfilling, they can tend toward slightly burly tannins at times, but they are frank expressions of Pinot Noir. These are good and reasonably priced introductions to the wines of Chorey and nearby Beaune. The jewel in the crown is Corton Renardes, from vines planted in 1956.
Gay had drawn samples of the 2006s to approximate the blends. The wines were in various stages of malolactic fermentations and therefore difficult to taste. We also tasted a few of the ’05s, which are showing beautifully.
The Chorey-lès-Beaune is full and juicy, featuring cherry and spice notes. The Aloxe-Corton shows more ripeness, with a touch of cherry jam and plenty of tannins for support. Gay’s Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Vergelesses displays saturated wild berry flavors, fine purity and intensity.
The Beaune Toussaints, bottled a month ago, exhibits an open, lacy texture and pure cherry note, but the firm tannins stood apart on the finish. This illustrated the serious structure of 2005 in general and why these wines will require time in the bottle. The Beaune Grèves is more linear and compact, with a mineral character. The Corton Renardes shows layers of sweet fruit, fine complexity and harmony.