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A Morning in Beaune

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 24, 2008 4:28pm ET

I’m back in New York now, where I noticed some scaffolding has actually disappeared from my neighborhood. Though I had a reprieve from the Internet in Burgundy, I was frustrated by the lack of access at my hotel. It seems they were between network providers. As a result, it was catch-as-catch-can, trying to send blogs and check e-mail whenever and wherever possible.

So, I apologize for the delay, but I will bring you up-to-date quickly on the remainder of my visits and tastings.

The weather finally broke on Wednesday, ushering in warm, sunny conditions. My first two appointments were in Beaune, and I enjoyed getting around by foot, first from my hotel to the office of négociant Alex Gambal, and afterward to Maison Louis Latour, where I tasted with Louis-Fabrice Latour, seen below.

Gambal had prepared samples of the 2007s for me. In general, the grapes in 2007 possessed high levels of malic acid, and thus malolactic conversion took a long time to complete. At Chez Gambal, they are just beginning to rack the whites and reds. The wines that completed their malolactic conversions earlier this year were showing the best; others were still jumbled and will need more time to come together before bottling.

“There’s a real nice purity to the wines,” said Gambal. “I’m thinking the whites will be like 2004, or maybe 2002.”

The problem for the reds was rot, even in some premier and grands cru vineyards. “You had to do a great deal of triage in both the vineyards and cellar, throwing away 20 to 40 percent of the grapes,” he said. To get decent grapes in 2007 it cost more money for considerably less volume.

The Bourgogne Cuvée Les Deux Papis, from the approximate blend, was fruity fresh and lively. The Savigny-lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes showed more depth, with touches of earth and mineral. The Volnay Les Santenots Vieilles Vignes was rich and classy with a round profile, but grip on the finish.

From the Côte de Nuits, the Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes and Clos Vougeot were the two cuvées showing well. The former displayed warm spices, red fruit and a sappy concentration, the latter red and black fruit and mineral flavors on a vibrant profile.

The Bourgogne White, which has a little Meursault and Savigny-lès-Beaune in the blend, was rich, with peach and toast notes. The Fixin matched lemon and apple flavors to a fat profile, yet had good acidity for balance.

The Puligny-Montrachet exuded ripeness in the form of peach and apricot notes. Though rich, its finesse showed on the long finish. Gambal’s St.-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien was the straightest, most linear wine in the cellar, with a strong minerality. There was also a rich, creamy Chassagne-Montrachet Clos St.-Jean.

From Gambal I went to Latour’s headquarters in the center of town. The late malos precluded a tasting of the ’07s, so I tasted a large range of 2006 whites and reds with CEO Louis-Fabrice Latour and enologist Jean-Charles Thomas. Since these were mostly finished wines (bottled between January and April 2008), but tasted non-blind without a peer-group context, I assigned a range of scores. Look for official reviews of the 2006 Latour Burgundies in upcoming issues of Wine Spectator.

The 2006 whites achieved a high level of ripeness, and the acidity is on the low side; my favorites were those with the best balance, like the fresh, honey and peach-scented Beaune (87-90, non-blind) and the opulent Puligny-Montrachet, full of apricot and hazelnut notes (86-89, non-blind).

I found a nice mineral streak in the refined Meursault-Blagny Château de Blagny (87-90, non-blind), while the Meursault Charmes was rich and creamy, with lime-tinged honey and spice notes (88-91, non-blind). The Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières offered a finer grain, reserved hazelnut flavor and good length (88-91, non-blind). My favorite of the premiers crus was the Chassagne-Montrachet Cailleret for its peppery accent, pastry, lime, mineral notes and fine balance (89-92, non-blind).

The Corton-Charlemagne didn’t reveal much in the way of aromas, but was full, rich and powerful, with apricot and mineral flavors (89-92, non-blind). A creamy texture and finesse highlighted the citronella- and mineral-infused Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles (90-93, non-blind). The Montrachet itself featured a vibrant backbone for the toasty apricot, citrus and mineral notes, allied to a long, powerful profile (91-94, non-blind).

From the selection of reds, the black pepper- and cinnamon-tinged Vosne-Romanée was elegant and lingering (87-90, non-blind), and the Aloxe-Corton Les Chaillots showed ripe cherry and plum notes on an elegant frame (87-90, non-blind). The Vosne-Romanée Les Beaumonts exhibited bright berry and spice elements, with an underlying mineral character (87-90, non-blind).

Among the grands crus, the flagship Corton Château Corton Grancey was big and rich, with lovely fruit, quite open yet with sturdy tannins underneath that need time to integrate (88-91, non-blind). The Charmes Chambertin, bottled in January 2008, revealed a rich, broad tapestry of cherry, spice and earth flavors (88-91, non-blind), while the Echézeaux offered smoky black cherry notes and firm tannins (88-91, non-blind).

The Chambertin and Romanée St.-Vivant Les Quatre Journaux were bottled at the end of May. The former featured deep rich, black cherry and mineral notes before shutting down on the finish (90-93, non-blind); the latter was more floral, with red cherry and berry flavors on a long, elegant profile (90-93, non-blind).

Jeremy Sharib
San Francisco  —  June 26, 2008 5:10pm ET
Bruce, happy to hear I shared favorites from 2007 with you(esp. Chassagne-Montrachet Caillerets and Corton-Charlemagne), as I was in Beaune the last couple weeks as well. Too bad we didn't cross paths!

Anyway, as long as your web connection is back up I have a question. I tried my first Vosne-Romanee 1er cru (Les Suchots '07) while at Louis Jadot. I was blown away by the beautiful black violet color contrasting the finesse on the palate even at its young stage. Possibly a gross over-simplification but is this the general terroir of V-R? I guess I always expected more power and masculinity.

It was interesting for me to experience the marked differences from north to south. I was most intrigued that, to me, south of beaune presented the more robust pinots (with the exception of Chambertin which was also quite powerful) and finer, minerally chards; while north of beaune it was basically the reverse.

Finally, did you get any gauge on pricing for the 07s?

Sorry for the long post. As always, appreciate your blogs - Jeremy
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  July 16, 2008 2:23pm ET
Jeremy,Sorry for the late response. Regarding the Vosne-Roman¿Suchots 2007, bear in mind that it is an unfinished wine. It will undoubtedly change somewhat, showing more of the terroir and less primary fruit as it develops. It's difficult to generalize the terroir of Vosne-Roman¿ To me, the character of V-R combines power and finesse, with red and black fruits, floral and spice notes. I find Suchots denser in fruit and structure than some of the versions from higher on the slope, like Beaux Monts and Br¿l¿.Pinots from the south can be more robust, but many Volnays are the exception; in the north, Nuits-St.-Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin tend to make the most robust wines of the C¿te de Nuits.

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