Tasting Burgundy, From ‘05 To 1959

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - December 05, 2007
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2003 Drouhin Marquis de
2003 Drouhin Marquis de

I was privileged to attend a Burgundy wine gathering recently that featured more than 40 different wines from the famed region, with vintages going back to 1959. This gave me a terrific opportunity to take an overall look at how the wines from particular vintages are developing - or not.

A couple of caveats here: This is only a snapshot in time, and wines will show differently from bottle to bottle depending on the provenance and storage, especially as they get older. Here is how this snapshot looked.

The 2005 vintage for whites are everything they are cracked up to be. A bottle of 2005 Corton Charlemagne was stunningly good, with a ripeness and richness that only comes from growing great grapes. Grab one if you can find it.

* 2003 is a “loud” vintage with screamingly high alcohols that somewhat throw off the elegance that I enjoy so much in great white Burgundy. The ‘03s are more California-ish. The 2003 Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet was hugely perfumed and hedonistic. It would make any Chardonnay drinker fall in love with Chardonnay again, but seemed burly and aggressive in comparison to more “classic” vintages.

Cuvee Duvault-Blochet
Cuvee Duvault-Blochet

* The whites from 1996 continue to develop well. They have a brightness of acidity that helps them retain their youth, which in conjunction with complexity of flavor, make these some of the most “classic” wines to start drinking now. A ‘96 Bouchard Pere et Fils Chevalier Montrachet was gorgeous, filled with complex flavors of fruit, minerality and spices. It will still repay several years of proper cellaring, but is so good already.

In the red category, you have to be very selective with the 2004 vintage. Some of the wines in the Cote de Nuits have a light bitterness and herbaceousness that is not necessarily desired.

* 2003 continues to impress me, much like the white counterparts there is huge fruit in these wines, but I find more balance in the reds vs. whites. Even a Premier Cru such as Meo-Camuzet Frere et Soeur Chambolle Musigny Les Cras exhibited the fresh fruit with deft of balance. I like the ‘03 reds more and more.

* 2002 reds have true elegance and flavor at the same time as exhibited by the Domaine de la Romanee Conti Cuvee DuvaultBlochet Vosne Romanee 1er Cru. Such a young and delicious wine!

* 2000 has been much maligned by the press, but I enjoyed both of the Romanee St. Vivant from this vintage. I preferred the version from Confuron as it was spicier, more silky in texture - just more sexy. The 2000 reds are precipitously close to being ready for drinking. They provide real enjoyment at a lower price than other more-elevated vintages.

* 1999 was represented by only one wine, but a great one - Domaine de la Romanee Conti Cuvee Duvault-Blochet Vosne Romanee 1er Cru. I liked it better than the 2002, which was already very good.

* 1998 is looked upon as a lesser vintage as well, but provided one of my top five wines of the tasting with Domaine de la Romanee Conti’s Echezeaux. It has a seductively pretty floral and fruity nose and texture that keeps you coming back for more. I would say this is exceptional for the vintage as my experience with reds from 1998 has not been particularly pleasing.

Chambolle Musigny
Chambolle Musigny

* 1997 is like a prettier cousin to 2004, nice fruit and great drinking now through mid term. A1997 Remoissenet Corton Clos du Roi was stellar, but the 1997 Comte Georges de Vogue Bonnes Mares was a bit weedy and bitter.

* We had only one wine from 1996, but I enjoyed it - Arlaud Charmes Chambertin Cuvee Unique, which had a very sweet, candied-fruit-like character with a good acidity and tannin structure that will allow it to develop well over five to 10 years.

* 1990 was a great vintage by all accounts, yet I was spectacularly underwhelmed by the two presented. The 1990 Comte Georges de Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes was the biggest disappointment; it seemed denuded of fruit and flat.

* The 1989 Faiveley MazisChambertin was perhaps the best wine I’ve ever had from Faiveley. It had a deeply earthy, almost mocha core along with black cherry fruit and a velvety texture that was thoroughly satisfying.

* Now when the wines get this old, there are only great bottles. We actually had a bottle from 1973, Dujac Bonnes Mares, my own birth vintage. I’m not sure that I liked it more because it was from my naissance. It certainly was not a “classic,” but still a very nice drink.

* The 1969 Leroy Echezeaux was one of the rock stars of the night. It was remarkably complex with layers of flavor that continued to welcome you back with each sip.

* 1966 Remoissenet Pommard Clos des Epenots Premier Cru was particularly earthy with base notes of mocha, dried berry and truffles. It also had a density that seemed grander than its premier cru status.

* Finally, the 1959 Remoissenet Clos de Vougeot was a beautiful wine: spiced cherries, wet earth, forest floor and a texture more reminiscent of a Vosne Romanee Grand Cru. It may not go down in the annals of winedom as one of the greatest, but this night at this tasting, it was.

Thank you to everyone who shamelessly exhibited their generosity.


Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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