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Balanced Wines, in a Lighter Style

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 29, 2009 10:27am ET

Bruce Sanderson is in Burgundy tasting the soon-to-be-released 2007 reds and whites. The evaluations of individual wines below are score ranges, because most wines were tasted non-blind from barrel or tank, or had recently been bottled. Sometimes the tastings took place in cold cellars, giving the wines a harder, more angular impression. Final reviews will be based on blind tastings in Wine Spectator's New York office.

“The key to 2007 is the balance between fruit, acidity and tannins,” explained Nicolas Potel as he began pouring samples from his négociant range of reds and whites. “It took a long time for the wines to achieve this. At first, after the alcoholic fermentation, they were soft and heavy. After June [2008], they really changed.”

“It was a gentle vintage, so any process [the wine underwent] had to be done gently and allow time to recover,” he added.

Potel theorized that the good weather early in the growing season, before and during the flowering, was the key to the aromatic complexity found in many 2007s.

The wines are lighter, between 12.0 and 12.5 degrees of alcohol (the past few vintages have been at 13.0 and even slightly higher for Burgundy in general). Potel prefers not to add any yeast, enzymes or sugar (chaptalization) to boost the alcohol.

At the village level, I liked the pure, violet-scented Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes (87-90), the peppery, rose- and juniper-tinged Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes (87-90) and the juicy Morey-St.-Denis Vieilles Vignes for its red cherry note and ample flesh (87-90).

At the premier cru level, the Volnay Caillerets (88-91) and Volnay Santenots (88-91) were both excellent examples of their respective styles. The former showed pure rose, cherry and raspberry notes on a linear frame, while the latter was deeper and more powerful, with loam, black cherry and mineral flavors.

However, it really got interesting as we moved into the Côte de Nuits. There was a firmly structured, intense bilberry- and black cherry-infused Nuits-St.-Georges Les Cailles (88-91); the Gevrey Lavaux St.-Jacques revealed red cherry, tobacco and spice notes on a pure, racy profile and fine length (89-92).

Two of my favorite villages in 2007 are Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée. The elegant Chambolle-Musigny Les Hauts Doix showed a touch of pepper on the nose before yielding to raspberry, floral flavors with an underlying chalky element (88-91). The Les Amoureuses was on another level, offering complex red and black currant and violet notes matched to a silky texture. Even more ethereal than the Hauts Doix (which adjoins it to the north on the slope) it had refinement and length (89-92).

The fireworks continued as we tasted the fleshy Vosne-Romanée Les Chaumes with its juicy red cherry and floral flavors (89-92) and the ripe, yet racy and tensile raspberry drenched Vosne-Romanée Les Petit Monts (89-92). It was followed by the Vosne-Romanée Les Gaudichots, a wine I rarely taste from a vineyard just next to the southwest corner of La Tâche. It exuded sandalwood and warm Asian spice aromas and blackberry falvors, great breadth and length (90-93).

Potel’s range may be at it’s best in Morey-St.-Denis. The Clos de la Roche, a pure, intense, red and black cherry laced wine also showed tension and a mineral streak, with a long finish (91-94). By contrast, the Clos St.-Denis was opulent and spicy, evoking cherry and raspberry, really expansive and long (91-94).

The Bonnes Mares fit somewhere in between the above pair, less straight than the Clos de la Roche and less opulent than the Clos St.-Denis, displaying plenty of cherry, spice and mineral notes allied to a firm structure (89-92). From Gevrey, the Latricières-Chambertin was very ripe and redolent of red fruit, with a silky texture and racy, linear profile (90-93).

The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze exhibited a reserved character, yet a vibrant core of black cherry, mineral and spice, a well-balanced expression of both power and finesse (91-94). More opulent, the Chambertin featured rich black cherry, more spice than mineral and a lingering aftertaste (91-94).

Domaine Potel is a relatively new project for Nicolas Potel, who seems to have endless energy and ideas. Founded in 2005, the grapes were sold until the 2007 vintage. The 37 acres of vineyards will be increased by another 17 acres in 2009.

The vineyards are farmed organically and the winery is "green," utilizing heat from burning vine cuttings and making use of recycled materials wherever possible. Even the corks come from an organic forest.

The appellations aren’t as ambitious as the négoce operation, but there are old vines and the winemaking and attention to detail remain the same. All the wines were bottled in September 2008.

Of the wines that will appear in the United States, there is a bright cherry- and strawberry-tinged Savigny-lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes with a mineral component and grainy tannins (87-90) and a Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Peuillets that offered ripe cheery, spice notes on an open-knit, juicy frame (87-90). There are also four whites, including a lemon cake- and hazelnut-flavored St.-Romain Vieilles Vignes that was creamy and long (87-90).

As we tasted, it began snowing, eventually turning to rain. The run of good weather for the week was over.

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