I opened two bottles of Burgundy during the past week. One was sublime, the other was disappointing.
The disappointment came from a Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 2001 from Domaine Barthod-Noëllat. It was simply too young and in a dumb phase. The aroma was candied cherry, though I got the sense of more fruit in reserve. Despite being pure and focused, it was tart, with firm tannins. My guess is it had shut down.
I was curious to try this wine because I had had two stunning bottles from the 2001 vintage a month ago in Beaune. They were both Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques from Domaine Armand Rousseau. In fact, the first bottle was so good I ordered it again the next night.
My thinking was that if the 2001s tasted in Burgundy were showing well, my ’01s should be coming around also. I still have a few more bottles of the Barthod-Noëllat Chambolles, from several vineyards, but I will wait another two to three years before trying one again.
I had tasted the Les Charmes almost two years ago to the day. It was still full of the fresh, primary fruit character. Currently, there is more structure showing than fruit.
I have drunk a lot of Barthod-Noëllat wines, often at restaurants. I have had bottles from 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Generally, they have shown well any time I have ordered them, offering fragrant aromas and plenty of floral and berry flavors and silky textures.
The other bottle I tried was my last of the Domaine Michel Esmonin & Fille Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques 1996. It was gorgeous. Lush black cherry and rich earth aromas announced its lush texture and sweet fruit flavors.
It didn’t budge much over the few hours it took to consume, despite decanting, suggesting it is still very young. However, it had all the elements I look for in red Burgundy: rich fruit, secondary aromas of earthy, woodsy tones, spice and sweetness matched with silkiness. At 10 years, it was just beginning to show its evolution.
From these and other past experiences, I find that I tend to drink my Burgundies too young. Though many vintages are delicious out of the gate (1999, 2002, 2003 and 2005 come to mind), there comes a time when you have to forget them for several years.
Furthermore, I’m often surprised at how well Burgundy ages. I enjoyed some wines from the ’60s and ’70s on my recent trip there. With the exception of one red, they were all drinking beautifully. A few were stunning.
It’s difficult to project exactly when a wine will be at its peak. That’s why it’s good to buy multiple bottles. I try to buy between three bottles and a case of a specific wine, depending on the price. That allows for a little margin of error when I open something on the early side.
It’s also important to know when you like to drink certain wines. I find that I enjoy red Bordeaux between eight and 12 years of age, but that depends on the quality of the vintage and the level of wine.
The same goes for Burgundy. I’ll be stocking up on some good Bourgogne rouge and village wines from 2005 to enjoy while I wait for the better premiers and grands crus.