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Three Négociants

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Feb 9, 2009 9:37am ET

My next three visits in Burgundy were with a group of expats who have négociant operations. Canadian Pascal Marchand has been making wine in Burgundy for more than 25 years, Alex Gambal, an American, started his label in 1997 and Michael Ragg, from England, cofounded Mischief & Mayhem in 2003.

Pascal Marchand made a little wine in 2005, but the range fleshed out in the 2006 vintage. With the 2007 harvest, he made nine reds and three whites. He looks for vineyard sources that are a minimum of 40 years old. In some cases he purchases finished wines; in others, he ferments the grapes himself.

The Bourgogne is a blend of seven components. Three come from premier cru parcels in Chassagne-Montrachet, plus St.-Romain, Monthelie, Côte de Nuits-Villages and Morey-St.-Denis. We tasted some different components as well as the approximate blend, which was rich and supple, with black cherry flavor (86-89).

“My idea with that wine is to make a Pinot Noir from the vintage. It’s not a terroir wine,” explained Marchand.

The Morey-St.-Denis Clos des Orme, vinified by Marchand, includes 40 percent whole clusters. An exotic nose of Asian spices and sandalwood was followed by sweet berry, licorice and spice notes and good length (88-91). The Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers, from purchased wine, was destemmed. It showed smoke and mineral accents and a core of blackberry. Still marked by oak, it was structured and long (89-92).

Pascal Marchand draws a sample of one of his 2007s.
Marchand made both the spicy, exotic Clos St.-Denis, a floral-, black cherry- and mineral-infused red (90-93) and the dark, muscular Clos de la Roche, which evoked pure black cherry, blackberry and mineral flavors (90-93). Both wines had been racked three weeks ago from new barrels into second-year barrels.

The Latricières Chambertin, purchased as a finished wine, showed elegance and refinement, with berry, spice and mineral notes on a firm structure (90-93). The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze was marked by the oak, yet revealed plenty of substance underneath, with cherry and mineral flavors, plenty of finesse and wonderful length (90-93).

Since 2006, Marchand also makes the wines at Domaine Jean Féry, a 27-acre estate based in the Hautes Côte de Beaune. There is a lovely Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Connardises, from 80-year-old vines, with a deep flavor of black currant supported by fine tannins (87-90). The Vosne-Romanée Aux Réas was rich, offering fresh floral, cherry and spice notes (88-91). The Nuits-St.-Georges Les Damodes burst from the glass with coffee, mocha and spice aromas and a cassis flavor. It was round and long in the mouth (89-92).

From the range of whites, I liked the mineral character of the Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes, with apple and citrus notes on a tensile frame (86-89) and the rich, round yet fresh Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeots (88-91).

It snowed most of the day in Echevronne, but as I descended into the valley through Pernand-Vergelesses, on my way to Mischief & Mayhem’s cellar in Aloxe-Corton, it turned to rain.

Michael Ragg and I took refuge in the cellar, where he had prepared a tasting of eight whites from the M&M lineup. Some had been bottled; others were drawn from barrel.

“We concentrated on white, not exclusively, but we like the quality. We have five reds that are just bottled or will be bottled next week,” Ragg said. He added that three words sum up the 2007 whites: Minerality, purity and acidity.

My favorites were the lovely, peach-, lime- and hazelnut-flavored Puligny-Montrachet La Garenne, with its core of mineral (88-91), the round and structured Meursault Charmes, full of peach, citrus and honey notes (88-91) and the Meursault Gouttes d’Or, a riper version with concentrated peach, lychee, honey and spice flavors (87-90).

The star of the tasting, however, was the Puligny-Montrachet Les Caillerets (89-92). It featured citrus, hazelnut and pastry notes matched to a firm structure and creamy texture, a complex, intense and very long Chardonnay.

Sunday dawned crisp and clear and there was ice on the ground as I walked to Alex Gambal’s winery on Beaune’s ring road.

Gambal now owns a little more than 6 acres of vineyards, adding an acre in 2008 with the purchase of two parcels of 55-year-old vines in Puligny-Montrachet and a small parcel of Chassagne-Montrachet La Maltroie.

For Gambal, the key to success in 2007 was a good amount of selection in the vineyards and winery, especially for the reds. As a result, the yield for Pinot Noir is 20 percent less than average. The Chardonnay is normal volume.

“People that really love Pinot Noir will like the ’07s,” he said. “They’re very frank and the terroirs show very well.”

Among the reds, the Bourgogne Cuvée Les Deux Papis (80 percent comes from estate vineyards) was fresh and round, tasted of cherry and berry that lingered nicely (84-87). It was bottled last September. The Volnay Les Santenots Vieilles Vignes, racked in December and now in tank, showed noticeable oak, with rich cherry and spice flavors underneath and a long finish (87-90).

From the Côte de Nuits, the Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes delivere a super nose of spice, raspberry, and strawberry married to a rich, supple texture, all well-balanced (88-91). The Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes, purchased as wine, boasted pretty raspberry, black currant and mineral notes, very silky and pure (89-92). The Clos Vougeot started out with subtle red cherry and red currant aromas, all refined, turning firm by the finish, with a juicy midpalate and mineral aftertaste (90-93).

Gambal’s Bourgogne White Cuvée Prestige is a step up from the straight Bourgogne White, with extra ripeness and concentration to its grapefruit and toast flavors (86-89). I’m a big fan of the St.-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chiens. The 2007 displayed lemon cake, grapefruit, hints of peach and hazelnut aromas and flavors on a creamy, minerally profile (88-91).

The Clos St.-Jean and La Maltroie from Chassagne-Montrachet are a study in contrasts. The former was voluptuous and infused with peach and apricot notes (89-92), while the latter showed a chalky mineral element, smoky, grapefruit flavors welded to a racy profile (90-93).

Finally, the Corton-Charlemagne was less forthcoming on the nose, on the austere side and powerful, with citrus and mineral notes matched to a tensile frame (90-93).

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