Elegant Wines from Burgundy's Taupenot-Merme

Jun 17, 2008

Sunday dawned in Burgundy with a steady rain. I spent most of the day with Romain Taupenot of Domaine Taupenot-Merme in Morey St.-Denis. He and his sister, Virginie, are the seventh generation to manage this family estate. The domaine consists of 32 acres in both the Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuits; the vineyards have been farmed organically since 2001.

Their style of wines focuses on elegance and purity. They can be firm in their youth, with good tannic support, yet age gracefully as the tannins round and the sweet core of the fruit emerges.

The plant material is a selection of the best vines of their holdings and, up until 1988, all the propagation and grafting was done in-house. The average age of the vines is 35 years.

The clusters are completely destemmed before undergoing a cold soak for about 10 days to extract color and retard the fermentation temperature from spiking too quickly. All the stainless steel tanks are temperature controlled. Taupenot likes both pumping over and punching down the cap, although in 2007, he did no punching down to prevent extracting any bitter tannins, because “the seeds were less mature than the skins,” he explained.

The must ferments with indigenous yeast, and the malolactic conversion is also spontaneous. The wines are bottled without fining or filtration, after 15 to 18 months in barrel and tank (for the last 3 months). The grands crus see 40 percent new oak, the premiers crus get 30 percent and the villages wines, 25 percent.

“I like the 2007s, because of the purity of the fruit,” said Taupenot. “Like 2006, they will be charming and very typical Pinot Noirs.

“There was no winter, a very warm April, and we were one month in advance,” he added. “Then everything slowed down. At the end, the maturation of the polyphenols was very good overall.”

All the wines had finished their malolactic conversion. We tasted the 2007s from either 1- or 2-year-old barrels.

The three village-level wines from the Côtes de Nuits expressed typical characteristics: The Chambolle-Musigny (from Les Bussières and La Taupe) was aromatic and elegant, the Gevrey-Chambertin showed earth, spice and black fruit and the Morey-St.-Denis was in between, with rich cherry and a velvety texture.

The Chambolle-Musigny La Combe d’Orveau, from 62-year-old vines was singing among the premiers crus, all silk, finesse and precision.

Taupenot-Merme bottles its Charmes-Chambertin and Mazoyères-Chambertin separately (Mazoyères is entitled to be called Charmes). “I make the distinction between Charmes and Mazoyères, because we have a large superficie [area under vines], but they are very different from the start,” he said.

Indeed, the Charmes is open and charming, the Mazoyères less showy, yet concentrated, structured and more animal in character. There is also a tiny (one-tenth of an acre) of Clos de Lambrays that was aromatic, but tight and minerally on the palate.

We also tasted a range of Taupenot-Merme’s 2006s in bottle. They were bottled about six months ago, and Taupenot suggests leaving them for another two to three months for the tannins to integrate a little better. The Chambolle-Musigny was floral and complex, the Corton Le Rognet wild and on the austere side now, while the Charmes and Mazoyères continued their yin and yang of open and fleshy, brooding and dense, respectively.

To demonstrate how the wines develop, Taupenot opened three Charmes-Chambertin: 2001, 1993 and 1985. The 2001 had a lovely aroma and offered the beginnings of sweet fruit and spice notes (91 points, non-blind); the 1993 was even more perfumed, showing floral, dried fruit and truffle aromas and flavors, balance and structure (93 points, non-blind); the 1985 featured autumn leaves, spice and leather with an inherent sweetness and harmony (92 points, non-blind).

France Burgundy Red Wines Pinot Noir 2007

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