My recent annual visit to Burgundy focused on the 2012 vintage. It was a challenging one for growers but, in the end, there are some lovely wines. I tasted more than 330 young reds and whites, mostly from barrel, although some wines had been racked from barrel and blended in tank for the bottling. In some cases, mostly whites, the wines had recently been bottled. All wines were tasted non-blind.
Appointments at Domaine Chanson and Maison Alex Gambal, on opposite sides of Beaune, allowed me to opt for the preferred mode of transportation: by foot! Part 1 considers the new vintage at Chanson.
"You can summarize the 2012 vintage in a few words," explained Gilles de Courcel, the friendly president of Domaine Chanson in Beaune. "Extremely low quantity, but I am pleased to say, very good quality."
De Courcel should be pleased. He and winemaker Jean-Pierre Confuron presented me with a terrific range of 2012s, both red and white. The selection of premiers crus from Beaune were some of the best I have tasted at this address.
The volume harvested at Chanson was 20 percent less than average. De Courcel said the vines benefited from the low yields for the final ripening. The September weather also cooperated. Some wines had been bottled; others de Courcel and Confuron had prepared from barrel, making a representative blend of new and used oak.
Since 2012, there is a new procedure in the cellar at chez Chanson. They have decided to cool the grapes rather than the must, an important differentiation because Confuron ferments using whole bunches and this allows them to macerate under cooler temperatures in the beginning. This technique retains freshness and fruity aromas and flavors. (In 2013, however, the harvest took place in October and cooling the bunches wasn't necessary.)
For the 2012 Chanson Père & Fils lineup, there are potentially outstanding wines in the Santenay Beauregard Domaine, Savigny-lès-Beaune Dominode Domaine and Pernand-Vergelesses Les Vergelesses Domaine, however, the real fireworks start with the Beaune premiers crus. On a visit in 2007, de Courcel and Confuron first gave me a tasting tour of the Beaune premiers crus in the Chanson cellar, and the differences are fascinating. These are wines that deserve to be better-known.
Beaune Clos du Roi Domaine sets the pace with perfumed aromas of rose, cherry, spice and smoke allied to a refined, elegant frame, with a lacy texture and long finish (90–93 points, non-blind). The Beaune Teurons Domaine is reticent in aroma, austere, tightly wound and firmly tannic yet dense, needing time (88–91). "It's always like this, it's a character of the terroir," said de Courcel.
There is a touch of jam to the cherry and strawberry notes in the Beaune Champimonts Domaine, tasted from barrel, along with spice, backed by assertive tannins, but overall it's elegant and long (89–92). Also from barrel, the Beaune Grèves Domaine shows oak, but also black cherry fruit and spice allied to a rich texture, with fine length and a long, minerally finish (91–94).
Beaune Bressandes Domaine delivers fragrance, black cherry and ample spice. There is more density here than the Grèves, all velvety, fresh, mineral and long (89–92). The Beaune Clos des Marconnets comes from the northern part of the appellation. The cool, reserved nose offers cherry and kirsch. Elegant, but more austere, it has a firm base of tannins, if lighter style, very long and minerally (89–92). Both were barrel samples.
The Beaune Clos des Mouches was bottled the week before my visit. It shows floral, cherry, strawberry and sandalwood notes on an elegant, refined, almost ethereal profile, followed by terrific length and expression of fruit, spice and mineral (91–94). Sadly, there will be no Clos des Mouches at this address in 2013, according to de Courcel, due to hail damage. Still in barrel, the Beaune Clos des Fèves Domaine exhibits fine depth, evoking black cherry, violet and spice flavors accented by cedar, sandalwood and mineral (90–93).
Also worth noting are three Côte de Nuits reds from purchased grapes that are harvested and vinified by Chanson. A terrific Nuits-St.-Georges from under Les Cailles and Pruliers, just bottled, displays violet and black currant perfume, matched to a vigorous, silky and firm frame (89–92). From vineyards on the Brochon side, north of Gevrey, comes this rich Gevrey-Chambertin, full of black cherry, tobacco, earth and hints of mineral, all very fresh, intense and long (89–92). The grand cru Chambertin-Clos de Bèze displays a ripe, smoky, earthy nose. Broad and powerful, it's stitched together with fine if stern tannins (91–94).
Among the whites, the Chablis Montée de Tonnerre stands out for its smoky, flinty, mineral and citrus notes, allied to an intense, linear frame (90–93).The Chablis Les Clos has more cut and muscle, showing lanolin, apple, melon and stone flavors followed by a steely finish (91–94).
It was an easy seque to the stony Meursault Perrières with its floral, peach and apple flavors, finishing really long and minerally, with great cut (90–93). The Corton-Charlemagne and Corton Vergennes are a study in contrasts. The former evokes citrus, pear, mineral and chalk notes, with an underlying steely austerity and chalky sensation (91–94). The latter is special, rich and focused, revealing peach, apple, honey, lime and pastry flavors, with great texture, beautiful balance and terrific length (92–95).