The Age of Bourgogne Aligote: Part 8 – Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils Bourgogne Aligote 2020…

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils is one of the most famous red Burgundy domaines in the Cotes de Nuits and today the estate rests in the capable hands of Sébastien Cathiard, Sylvain’s son. Often described as a “thoughtful and focused winemaker” who seeks to improve the wines with each and every vintage that he’s in charge, is a philosophy that has helped make an already high collectable domaine even more so, with their profound Pinot Noirs commanding massive prices, elevating this Vosne Romanée producer to one of the perennial must-have allocations every vintage. But did you know that even this iconic winery produces an esteemed Aligoté white?

The 2020 Aligoté is normally bottled in around April along with their red wines after being vinified in stainless steel. Sourced from 2 hectares, 95% coming from Villiers Lafaye, which according to Jasper Morris MW, is mostly from vines planted in 1945 and 1948, with the remaining 5% coming from grapes in and around Nuits St Georges. Hitting the shelves at between £40 and £50 a bottle, this is certainly positioned in the premium premier league of Aligoté wine offerings. So how did it perform?

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils Bourgogne Aligote 2020, 12.5% Abv.

Quite golden yellow in colour, this is classical Aligoté on the nose with notes of freshly cut apples, citrus oil, tangerine, greengage and white flowers. The palate is full, glycerol and opulently textural with a soft fleshy acidity and a luxurious mouthfeel more reminiscent of a Bourgogne Blanc or Cotes de Beaune village white wine made from Chardonnay than Aligoté. This is undoubtedly a serious expression that is full in the mouth, displays a fine harmonious balance with plenty of apple and pear puree honied intensity on the long, persistent finish. A lovely wine but be prepared to pay an extra premium for the fabled Domaine Sylvain Cathiard name on the label. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Getting Ready for Burgundy En-Primeur 2021 with a Fabulous Private Client Dinner Featuring the Wines of Top Talent Bruno Desaunay-Bissey…

I first discovered the incredible wines of Bruno Desaunay-Bissey in January 2021 when I was invited to review the “in-bottle” 2018 vintages with his main UK importer Wimbledon Wine Cellar. I had never heard of Bruno’s wines, never tasted them and was unable to even find anything of interest online about his wines… not on Vinous, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate or even Jasper Morris’s new Burgundy web resource. Bruno genuinely seemed to not only fly below the radar but remained one of the best kept secrets of the Cotes d’Or.

Together with his wife, Marie-Christine Bissey and his son, Bruno manages this small family domaine based in Flagey-Echezeaux that consists of 6 hectares, some of which is owned by the family, including prestigious old vine plots in Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, with additional plots farmed on a “fermage” basis. With first vintages produced in 1975, it seems almost inconceivable that wines of this quality have managed to enter the market almost unnoticed, especially considering the current clamour and fervour of wine merchants to discover “the next big thing” in Burgundy. Over the years, some of the production was sold off to other domaines and as recently as the mid-1990’s, several of Bruno’s valuable barrels of Grands Echezeaux were being sold to illustrious names like Dominique Laurent. The Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru appellation takes the shape of a triangle with its northern point orientated towards Musigny, its eastern flank bordered by the Clos Vougeot Grand Cru and its western flank by Echezeaux Grand Cru. The Desaunay-Bissey old vine parcel, planted from 1928 onwards, is located on the point of this triangle.

Come the UK Winter, in November and December, all attention and thoughts automatically swing back to the Burgundy En-primeur tastings that will occupy the minds and palates of most Burgundy lovers in the UK for the duration of January and February. Just to get some customers back in the mood, Wimbledon Wine Cellars hosted an incredible food and wine paired dinner with 30+ private clients to taste through a cross section of Burgundy’s best kept secrets from Bruno.

The evening started with a delicious glassful of Bruno’s Bourgogne Blanc 2019 (89/100 GSMW) as an aperitif. Rich and textured with fleshy, citrus oil layers infused with minerality, combining with pithy, waxy lemon peel nuances that made this wine a perfect piquant aperitif white Burgundy before launching into the reds. The opening salvo from the first pair was incredible and really set the tone for the rest of the evening. The Nuits Saint Georges Les Belles Croix 2017 from Vieilles Vignes (94+/100 GSMW) was dark and deep with bottomless layers of blue and black berry fruits, a subtle oystershell salinity and an incredibly mouth-watering underlying acidity that energised the wine beautifully. One of the night’s favourite wines despite only being a lieu dit and not a Premier Cru.

The Nuits St Georges was followed by a vibrantly youthful 2014 Gevrey Chambertin that I had not tasted before. This rich, deep, earthy black fruited example showed an impressive depth of fruit and fine tannins wrapped around a fleshy, earthy, plummy, cured meat core of intensity. Plenty of vibrancy and youthfulness evident (93/100 GSMW). As if not to be outdone by the savoury black fruited opulence of the Gevrey Chambertin, a beautiful 2017 Chambolle Musigny from Combe d’Orveaux more than held its own alongside the Gevrey, showing impressive classical precision, focus and spicy mineral tannins as well as all the text book elegance you’d expect from a top Chambolle Musigny (94/100 GSMW).

The next flight was made up of two Vosne Romanee Premier Cru classics, Les Beaut Monts 2018 and Les Rouges 2018, both of which left a long-lasting impression on me the first time I had the privilege to taste and reflect on these wines. The Beau Monts 1er Cru remained classical and regal with fabulous power and depth of black berry fruit, intense cassis fruit concentration and subtle bramble berry and Vosne five-spice notes scattered liberally across the palate making for a very complex expression (95+/100 GSMW). The Les Rouge 2018 was another standout expression showing plenty of opulent concentration, blue and black berry fruits, purple rock candy and all the textural power and drive that you could hope for from a top Vosne Romanee producer (95/100 GSMW).

Just like a wintery November Guy Fawkes fireworks evening, there always needs to be a few big guns to end the show to reiterate the absolute pedigree of the finest red Burgundies produced. An incredible final pair including an Echezeaux Grand Cru 2018 (95+/100 GSMW) and a very regal Grands-Echezeaux 2019 (96/100 GSMW), were alluringly bold, concentrated and red fruited displaying incredible purity, power and textural promise, helping to end a most spectacular evening of food and wine in true style. Sadly, Bruno was not there to share his unique story, but the wines were as fascinating and beguiling now as they were the very first time I tasted them.

Watch out for Bruno Desaunay-Bissey’s incredible 2019 reds that have arrived in the UK and will be hitting the shelves of a few select merchants. Unfortunately, most of his prestigious wines will have sold out already on En-primeur release. But the eagle-eyed Burghound might still be able to sniff out a few rogue bottles of back vintages. Otherwise, you can beg and grovel for a small allocation of his 2021s which will be offered in the UK in the coming months. This is most definitely one producer in Burgundy to watch very closely indeed.

Contact importer Wimbledon Wine Cellar to register for a future allocation.

Reviewing Domaine de la Romanee Conti’s 2019 Releases As a New Era Dawns for the World’s Most Famous Burgundy Estate…

As the world’s wine merchants return from Burgundy after tasting the almost non-existent 2021 vintage, Domaine de la Romanee Conti prepares for the latest ‘in-bottle’ releases of their 2020 vintages in early 2023. But as I tasted the 2019 releases earlier this year, it was certainly clear for all to see that a new era was dawning at the Domaine with Bertrand de Villaine taking over from his uncle Aubert, and Perrine Fenal moving into the place of the late Henry-Frédéric Roch. For an estate that is based on tradition and unerring continuity, these changes constitute a true “changing of the guard” and must be considered substantial and significant in nature.

So sadly, this occasion probably constituted the last new vintage tasting I will ever do with Aubert de Villaine in attendance. Thankfully, the 2019’s are another truly incredible array of Burgundy wines.

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Corton Grand Cru 2019

Launched in 2009, the Corton Grand Cru blend delivered a truly graceful expression in 2019 showing its perfumed elegance to perfection, with complex aromatics of rosehip, violets, brambly sweet vermouth spices over dark black berries, fruit cake and dried orange peel. The fruits of the palate are dark, earthy and sweet with impressive concentration, a rounded mouthfeel and a harmonious yet fresh interwoven acidity. The finish is elegant, mineral-laced and very precise.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Neal Martin discusses the 2019 vintage with proprietor Aubert de Villaine

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2019

As the last of the domaine’s reds to be harvested, this 2019 reveals a fully ripe, exotically red and fruited core boasting notes of mulberry, spicy blackberry compote and stewed winter black fruits. The palate follows with notes of macerated black berries, stewed black cherries, plum stone and brambly wild nuances laced with dried mint and wild herbs. A ripe, opulent, generous expression of Echezeaux.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2019

Paler and brighter than the Echezeaux, the aromatics are equally seductive and complex showing lovely perfumed notes of Rosehip, pressed violets and top notes of cherry kirsch liquor. The palate follows with a similar sense of graceful power and coiled intensity of red and black berries, blood orange and pomegranates over limestone minerality and a cool freshness the accentuates this wines purity. A very classy Grands Echezeaux vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2019

Harvested slightly earlier than some of the other cuvées, this Richebourg offers up a wonderfully perfumed richness and generosity of violets, cherry blossom and intense notes of red cherries, pink musk and sweet exotic vermouth spices. The first sip confirms the wines intensity and power, racy freshness and piercing concentration that arrives in supple waves, drenching the palate in refined flavours of red and black berries, sun dried cranberries and pink rock candy nuances. Lovely focus and precision but also super refinement.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2019

This vintage offers up a distinctly rich, round, opulent expression cool aromatics of stony blue and black berry fruits, black cherry and bramble berry spice. Its boldness lies in fruit generosity rather than ethereal perfumed intricacy with a real sweet and sour acid vibrancy on the palate, piercing concentration and a seamlessly elegant persistence. Simply beguiling harmony and power.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2019

A wine Aubert suggests rivals the great 2018 in its youth, this is certainly a rich, ripe expressive La Tache with plenty of dark mysterious black earthy berry fruits, raisined cranberry, sweet black berry compote overlying a resinous sapidity and richly extracted depth of fruit. The freshness is uplifting and effortless and helps invigorate the long, persistent finish mixed with dried herbs and crushed mint. A wine of great substance.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2019

A decidedly deep, taut and broody expression of Romanee Conti that reveals imposing old vine concentration and an aromatic melange of pressed roses, chalky minerality, black fruit purity and baked black plums. The palate is silky and effortless, intense and concentrated with regal depth, contemplative textural intricacy and delectable prowess. A Pinot Noir blessed by the gods themselves!

(Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2019

Always special to taste a maiden release especially when it’s from DRC, and this new white conjures up the same excitement as tasting the maiden 2009 Corton red. Rich and golden, the aromatics offer up all the classic Charlemagne notes of lemon pastille and butter, lemon cream biscuits and a deliciously complex mealy, leesy intensity. On the palate there is clear pedigree with generous, unctuous, mouth-coating concentration and fabulously savoury, harmonious balance with freshness and a light touch elegance on the long finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Age of Bourgogne Aligote: Part 7 – Domaine Sylvain Bzikot Bourgogne Aligote 2020…

Like one of my other favourite producers in Burgundy Francois Mikulski, Sylvain Bzikot is also the descendant of Polish immigrants and is a large broad-shouldered man who was known to enjoy playing the odd bit of rugby back in the day. Some say his wines resemble him, often being rich, full-bodied and expansive. But while I have heard of this producer and his highly respected wines, this was my first opportunity to make a humble acquaintance with his wines via his Bourgogne Aligote.

Sylvain is based in the heart of the Côte de Beaune village of Puligny-Montrachet making wines with real personality. His 13-hectare estate was originally created by his grandparents in the 1940s who had arrived as Polish immigrants to work in the vineyards around the neighbouring village of Meursault. After a few years working in the fields they were able to buy small parcels of land which they subsequently planted. Third generation vigneron Sylvain is traditional and respectful in his approach to winemaking and the effect really shows in the end product. The grapes for this modest Aligote were organically grown and the emphasis in bottle is all about minerality, purity and freshness, and ultimately, allowing the grapes to express their terroir.

Domaine Sylvain Bzikot Bourgogne Aligote 2020, 12% Abv.

This is another thrilling expression of Aligote that leans firmly in the direction of restraint and reserve. The aromatics are stony and mineral with notes of crushed limestone, white citrus and stone fruits intertwined with dried herbs, dried hay and a fresh fennel leaf complexity. The palate shows wonderful balance and poise, a medium textural weight enlivened by pithy rasping acids, lime peel zest, lemon bon bons and subtle yellow grapefruit nuances on the stony, phenolic, slightly grippy finish. So much energy and an abundance of mouth-watering tangy freshness with a classic wet river pebble stony finish. There are riper and sweeter fruited expressions than this Bzikot Aligote, but my money would be on throwing this into an opulent seafood and oyster dinner extravaganza for full effect! Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Age of Bourgogne Aligote: Part 6 – Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Amphora Aligote 2020…

Jean-Marc Millot based in Nuits-Saint-Georges has been making elegant, understated, classical red Burgundy wines for over two decades and has more recently started to take on a new globally collectable cult wine status. In the last couple of years, Jean-Marc has also taken a step back towards retirement after being joined by his daughter Alix Millot as the family winemaking baton is slowly passed on to the next generation.

I first came across Jean-Marc’s Aligote in 2018 when he sent us a few samples of his 2017 vintage Aligote mixed in alongside his 2016 red En-primeur samples. With the 2020 En-primeur campaign well underway, I took the opportunity to retaste their latest Aligote release as the 2020 vintage is already in bottle and on the retail shelves, making this tiny production wine definitely something that gets the Burg geeks very excited. In 2020, a highly rated quality white wine vintage, the domaine has realised new heights of quality and intensity.

Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Amphora Aligote ‘Les Deux Terres’ 2020, Bourgogne Aligote, 12% Abv.

Tasted from a Zalto Universal glass, this delicious young Aligote is ripe and expressive with intense aromatics of cantaloupe melon, green pear, dried herbs and honey on white toast over an intense wet limestone minerality. The palate is every bit as expressive as the nose with a lovely mouth-filling sweet – sour yellow citrus fruit depth embellished with a pithy tangerine peel complexity. The texture is so balanced and harmonious, tangy and fresh, one sip inviting yet another. This has the glycerol mouthfeel of a serious white Burgundy with the alternative, exotic flavours of Aligote. This superb wine exemplifies the upward quality spiral of Aligote and further justifies its growing cult following around the world. Drink now to 2025+.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A True Burgundy Star On the Rise – Tasting the New 2018 Red Releases from Bruno Desaunay-Bissey…

So much has been written on or about the iconic domaines and wines of Burgundy making it so much more satisfying coming across a top drawer producer that I have not encountered before. Discovering the incredible wines of Bruno Desaunay-Bissey and unravelling the story behind this family domaine has been a great pleasure. These are wines with wonderful focus and purity of fruit, carefully considered extraction, impressively creamy concentration and an understated power all polished off into a final artisanal expression in bottle that shows an authenticity of style that represents Bruno’s own personal taste and passion for wine.

Together with his wife, Marie-Christine Bissey and his son, Bruno manages this small family domaine based in Flagey-Echezeaux that consists of 6 hectares, some of which is owned by the family, including prestigious old vine plots in Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, with additional plots farmed on a “fermage” basis. A fermage is a piece of land which is owned by someone other than the person cultivating it, or a farming tenancy in effect.  It is estimated that in 2010, two-thirds of all French agricultural land was tenant-farmed. Because vineyard land tends to inspire affection in the families who own it, even when they have become involved in other activities, fermages are very common in French wine regions even though this may not necessarily be identified on the producer’s wine labels.

With first vintages produced in 1975, it seems almost inconceivable that wines of this quality have managed to enter the market almost unnoticed, especially considering the current clamour and fervour of wine merchants to discover “the next big thing” in Burgundy. Over the years, some of the production was sold off to other domaines and as recently as the mid-1990’s, several of Bruno’s valuable barrels of Grands Echezeaux were being sold to illustrious names like Dominique Laurent. The Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru appellation takes the shape of a triangle with its northern point orientated towards Musigny, its eastern flank bordered by the Clos Vougeot Grand Cru and its western flank by Echezeaux Grand Cru. The Desaunay-Bissey old vine parcel, planted from 1928 onwards, is located on the point of this triangle.

Since 2007 Bruno uses no herbicides or pesticides and all the soil is tilled. Bruno’s winemaking is very terroir-expressive, doing short pre-fermentation macerations, using only indigenous yeasts and crucially, not too much extraction.  Barrel-aging is on average about 33% new except for the Grands Cru reds where a slightly higher percentage is used.  Since the early 1990s, the wines are neither fined nor filtered.  Bruno’s wines are normally only racked twice, once after malolactic fermentations and once before the assemblage.

Bruno cultivates, together with his father-in law, Daniel Bissey, several other parcels of very old vines situated in Vosne (some 80+ years), Echezeaux (some 110+ years) Grands-Echezeaux (70+ years), Chambolle (90+ years) and Nuits St. Georges (60+ years).

Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes 2018, 14.5 Abv.

This ‘entry level’ Bourgogne appellation Pinot Noir displays some of the most seductive exotic notes of purple flowers, pink musk, blueberry and black cherries showing where the old vines start to make their influence felt. On the palate there is focus and tension, powdery tannins and fine textural shape all framed beautifully by bright fresh acids. A delicious offering with intensity and blue and black berry length, hints of wild strawberry and a beautiful saline bite on the finish. This really punches above its weight. Drink now to 2028+.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gevrey-Chambertin 2018, 14% Abv. 

Deep and alluring, this Gevrey shows an impressively broody depth of black currant, blueberries and a savoury, brambley, meaty complexity with a kiss of graphite spice. Pure and expressive, there is impressive concentration and focus on the palate with Parma violets, caramelised cherries, blueberry crumble and some attractive chalky limestone mineral grip on the finish. Vibrant, energetic and textually very polished, this should evolve beautifully over a few more years in bottle but it’s already so mouth-watering and delicious. Archetypal premium quality village Gevrey. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chambolle-Musigny Combe d’Orveaux Vieilles Vignes 2018, 14% Abv. 

This famous Chambolle plot yields a richer, earthier expression with a wonderful overlay of perfumed dried flowers, potpourri and subtle savoury Chinese five spice hints. Laser like focus on the palate, the wine shows a potent intensity of red and black berry fruits, mouth-coating richness and a long, liquid minerality on the finish. A very pretty wine that displays impressive powerful and tension behind a classy, elegant demeanour. Drink from 2022 to 2035+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vosne Romanee Vieilles Vignes 2018, 13.5% Abv. 

Initially this displays a deep, earthy, broody dark fruited aromatics with bramble berry, black currant and layers of savoury Vosne spice. With a little more coaxing, this wine starts to yield notes of pink musk, violets and blueberry hints which follow to a wonderfully chiselled, focused, tight knit palate with incredibly chalky, fleshy sweet tannins. Again, plenty of concentration, blue and back berry fruits, purple rock candy and all the textural power and drive that you could hope for from a top Vosne Romanee producer. Despite being perhaps a little less intricate and exotic, this wine’s power, concentration and pure focus are alone enough to bowl me over and make me contemplate pouring a second glassful. Absolutely delicious. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux-Monts 2018, 14% Abv. 

Sourced from an 80+ year old vines, this wine shows pure class and allows its pedigree to shine through in this serious expression of Vosne Romanee. One of the most respected 1er Cru vineyards delivers quality in bucket loads in 2018 with even more perfume, lift and intricacy than the village wine. The aromatics display a splendid array of crunchy wild strawberries, red and black cherries, subtle dried herbs and alluring Vosne spice. The palate reveals incredible depth and breath with piercing mouth-watering concentration, fine-grained tannins like polished marble and a tart, bright maritime salinity on the finish that retains a seductive kiss of pink rock candy. This is a very serious effort indeed. An utterly seductive Pinot. Drink from 2022 to 2038+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Echezeaux Grand Cru 2018, 14% Abv. 

Made from old vines planted in 1902, 1940 and 1945, this Grand Cru red shows a more reticent and broody demeanour to begin with before revealing a complex melange of red and black berry fruits on the nose, seamlessly integrated oak and a subtle freshly tilled earth savoury note. Broad, suave and texturally plush, this is a wine to savour, to lose yourself in and to allow the more intricate finery to reveal itself slowly over time in the glass. The texture is dense, compact, almost creamy, with powder fine tannins, layers of bright blueberry, cassis and Fraises des Bois notes that linger for an age on the finish. Grand Cru Burgundy is not just about more volume, it’s about intricacy and complexity of rhythm, more drum, more base and an altogether more melodic crescendo. Drink from 2022 to 2038+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru 2018, 14% Abv. 

There is plenty of fragrant intricacy and complexity evident on this big hitting Grand Cru all delivered with the most considered delicacy, complexity and subtlety. The wine shows notes of rose petals, violets, pink musk and perfumed red and black orchard fruits underpinned by a grounding of chalky, stony minerality. The palate displays a broad seductive rainbow of flavours starting with tart red berry fruits and strawberry pith before fading to more darker blue and black berry fruit notes. But it’s the tension, taut energy, stony minerality, focus and length of flavour that really makes this a real eye opener. Quality comes at a price and this is certainly worthy of top echelon Grand Cru Burgundy status. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines available in the UK from Importer Wimbledon Wine Cellar London and Handford Wines.

Tasting The Luxurious Wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti From The Classical 2017 Vintage…

It’s a real anomaly that Domaine de la Romanee Conti releases its new vintage allocations one year after most of burgundy’s producers. So while we finish off the small but swift Burgundy En-primeur 2019 campaign, DRC are only about to release their “in bottle” 2018 vintage wines. But in South Africa, the official DRC agent Great Domaines operates yet another year behind with the 2017 vintage allocations only now going out to a handful of very lucky consumers.

But it was this fact that reminded me that the DRC tasting in London was one I did manage to attend before the UK went into lockdown in late March 2020. So time to post my notes on these rarified wines which are some of the most sought after hedonistic Pinot Noir cuvees known to man.

2017 was the first truly generous vintage for the domaine since 2009 yielding wines packed with generosity, energy, refinement and utter charm that expressed a more classical interpretation of intricate structure, power, intensity and length.

The grandes Dame of the UK wine trade Jancis Robinson MW melting in the presence of “the Pope”…

The vintage was marked by three significant events, namely a threatening frost between the 27th and 29th April, the second a wonderfully early and fast flowering over three days at the end of May, and lastly, a final notable event being the retirement, after 39 years, of Maitre de Chai Bernard Noblet. In the end, when the final bottling was completed in the Spring of 2019, another exceptional vintage had been completed at the world’s most famous wine estate.

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Corton Grand Cru 2017

A fabulously bright and inviting nose greets you with lifted perfumed offerings of crushed red cherry, strawberry compote, violets and earthy red plum. The palate is vibrant and fresh with more classicism, tension and restraint than seen from more riper recent vintages like 2015 and 2016. All the hallmark harmonious balance is on display with a fine mineral under vein, powdery tannins and a fine focused finish of moderate length.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2017

The Echezeaux displays a strikingly darker fruited nose than the Corton with complex black berry notes, earthy black currant, dark orchard fruits together with alluring notes of sappy wood spice and pink musk. The entry is pure and focused with a crystalline purity of red cherries moving to a mid palate of red and black bramble berries and wild strawberry before becoming slightly more reticent again on the stony, mineral finish. Again, a wine that speaks of the vintage through its elegance and classicism.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux Grands Cru 2017

This is a serious offering with perhaps less lift, overt opulence and sex appeal but hides a finely tuned V8 engine under the fine structured curves of its bodywork. There is ample fragrant dark black berry fruits, black bramble berries and a sweet wood spice underpinned by sweet plump chalky tannins, full glycerol concentrated weight and an impressively balanced fruit – acid balance. What this wine may miss now in immediacy and showiness, it more than makes up for with structural precision, classical power and an intense, harmonious long finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2017

The aromatics of this expression show the intense stony dusty minerality of Burgundian terroir with notes of graphite and sappy spice lending further interest. The red cranberry and red cherry fruits are subtle and restrained in a way that classical Burg hounds would find highly appealing and reassuring in this age of global warming and ripe, showy vintages. There is nevertheless plenty of concentration, depth and broody structured power that should reveal all in years to come.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2017

The RSV offers up a harmonious, complex melange of fine limestone dust, wood smoke, wet stones together with hints of cherry pip, forest strawberries and dark broody black orchard fruit notes. The palate is seductive and pure with crystalline red fruit notes, sleek polished marble tannins and a mouthwatering acid freshness. This has the perfect balance of power, minerality and fruit purity.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru 2017

Sweet, earthy red fruits, red bramble berry and sweet strawberry notes, with chalk spice, piquant minerality, wet stones and sappy chalk duster nuances. Palate is foursquare and fleshy with palate weight, breadth and expansive complexity of red musk, pink and purple rock candy and a silky, sensual, long persistent finish. Utterly sublime and probably wine of the vintage?

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru 2017

Deep dark and broody full of black bramble berry fruits, violets and cassis, salinity and sapidity. Crystalline and glassy with tension, taut tight fisted reticence and finely formed chalky mineral tannins. Broody, restrained and cloaked in mystery, there is subliminal power and depth, textural feel and potency that will come to the fore with time in bottle. One for the classical Burg lovers with deep pockets.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Armand Rousseau’s New 2018 Pinot Noir En-primeur Releases Shine Brightly Once Again…

The En-primeur tasting season gives wine merchants and consumers a last look at the new Burgundy releases before most of them are bottled between March and May. After Domaine de la Romanee Conti, there is probably a small handful of Burgundy producers that every collector wants in their cellar. Close to the top of this list has to be the spectacular wines of Domaine Armand Rousseau.

Tightly allocated in every global market, buying Armand Rousseau’s wines on release at beneficial En-primeur prices is every collectors holy grail. So any opportunity to taste and assess these exceptional wines before they disappear into deep dark cellars must be considered a valuable learning experience whether you’re a novice or a professional Burgundy collector.

I recently had a snap shot tasting of three of this producer’s delicious wines drawn from barrel samples.

Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos du Chateau Monopole 2018

Showing a gently scented, sweet fruited nose with hints of Gevrey spice, earthy bramble berry, sweet clove and grilled herb spices. Palate is both opulent and plush yet softly textured with underlying Christmas spices and savoury red and black berries. An approachable, concentrated style that’s juicy and harmonious without being profound.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2018

This opulent red shows plentiful notes of earthy bramble berry fruits, wood spice, grilled herbs, stewed winter fruits together with botanical herbs and incense spices. Supremely polished and elegant, there is a phenomenal core of sweet blue and black fruits, black cherry confit together with energetic acids that are beautifully harmonious and integrated into the concentrated palate fruit. Shows all the gentle, seductive understated Charmes Grand Cru elegance and finesse that this vineyard is so well known for. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 2018

This grand vin shows distinctive aromatic notes of earthy winter fruits, bramble berries, Christmas pudding and sweet grilled herbs and botanical spices with an undertone of savoury cured meats. The palate is focused and elegant yet power packed and intense with more vibrancy, energy and acid freshness than the aromatics initially suggest. Sweetly fruited with a dreamy creamy palate texture, this wine finishes with a long, lingering persistence of kirsch liquor, macerated black plums and wild strawberries. A hugely impressive wine in its infancy but with a long promising regal future ahead.

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Domaine de la Romanee Conti 2016 New Releases – An Excellent Vintage Born of Tumult and Despair…

After the success of the 2015 vintage at Domaine de la Romanee Conti which Aubert de Villaine described as one of the three most successful vintages ever at the domaine, the wines from 2016 had a seemingly impossible act to follow. In the end, some incredibly beautiful wines were produced … “an unexpected success, which now places 2016 amongst the most perfect vintages of these past few years.” ~ Aubert de Villaine.

While the excellent 2015s were born out of a superb vintage and growing season, the 2016s were the prodigy of a tumultuous season, born out of tumult and even despair at great cost. The winter of 2015-2016 was very mild with none of the usual frosts or snow to cleanse the vineyards of latent pests and diseases. Budburst was early in April and the Spring was also the wettest on record with 516mm (20.31 inches) of rain between January and May making for a very busy time in the vineyard for the Chef de Culture Nicolas Jacob.

A momentary cessation of the dreary weather at the end of April was a false dawn with three days of savage frosts descending upon the vineyards of Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, burning off virtually all the young shoots. The remaining vineyards in the DRC holdings were miraculously almost untouched yielding an average crop load of exceptional quality. Readings of anthocyanins and tannins taken around the 18th September were superior to even those in 2015. Harvesting started on the hill of Corton on the 23rd September.

Corton Grand Cru 2016

With an average vine age of 46, the three 2016 Corton vineyards yielded a miserly 22 hl/ha to produce 5,040 bottles. With a deep ruby colour, the aromatics of this wine offer up classically mineral, stony, dusty notes of chalk, limestone, unripe red cherries, small black berries, graphite and a touch of sappy stem spice and pink musk. Unmistakably cool climate Pinot Noir. The palate has fine focus and density, fanning out from the front of the mouth to enliven and invigorate the palate with tart red berry fruits, logan berries, cranberry and tart strawberry, all with a characterful mineral laden under tone. There is plenty of concentration, poise and a generous intensity all finely framed by fresh crunchy acids and powder-fine tannins. A very classy expression of Corton. One of the best ever from DRC?

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux were bottled only in Magnum format and not shown for tasting. 980 of the first and 710 of the latter, will be released at a later date. The yields were a spectacularly small 6hl/ha for the Echezeaux vines and 7hl/ha for the Grands Echezeaux vines. No decision has been made on the release date or who they will be offered to.

Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2016

The 2016 RSV vines of an average age of 38 years of age yielded a slightly higher 27 hl/ha or 15,648 bottles. Vintage similarities with the Corton continue here with extra powerful, lifted aromatics. Once again there is the ethereal perfume of sweet red and black berries, Parma violets, pink musk, pink rock candy and sappy strawberry cream all underpinned by classical stony mineral and crush limestone dust. The palate texture is supremely polished and harmonious with noticeably rich fruit concentration, a creamy intensity and pin point balance. This is a deliciously opulent headstrong RSV that shows off the vintage’s small yield concentration concisely. Wonderful length, profound sweet and sour cherry and strawberry promise and feminine, dreamy tannins. Very impressive and oh so mouth watering.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Richebourg Grand Cru 2016

The vines in the DRC Richebourg parcel are now averaging 46 years of age and in 2016 yielded 24 hl/ha or 10,416 bottles. If ever there was a vintage that lends itself to the flamboyance of the DRC Richebourg style, you would imagine that the concentration and power of 2016 to be the perfect moment. Indeed, the nose is bold and opulent, rich and seductive showing a wonderfully lifted melange of red and black crunchy berries, exotic baking herbs, graphite spice and complexing dried tobacco leaf and cigar ash nuances. The palate shows fabulous fruit concentration and vibrant freshness but also clear and evident coiled spring tension and intensity, linear acids and an overall powerful, taught skeleton. The finish suggests great potential but is perhaps a little compressed at the moment. Another thoroughly beguiling, characterful, concentrated Richebourg.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2016 

Produced from a monopole vineyard with vines averaging 51 years old, the site yielded 31 hl/ha or 21,768 bottles. This famous noble monopole Grand Cru produced a fabulously aristocratic expression in 2016 with floral, fragrant aromatics almost unmatched by any of the other wines. The lifted perfume of dried rose petals, cherry blossom, raspberry herbal tea and crushed violets mingles effortlessly with creamy, spicy red cherry, strawberry and small crunchy black berry fruit nuances. The palate too is powerful, regal and supremely polished with a seamless texture that boast authoritative dusty, powdery tannins harmoniously balanced by intense sappy, spicy red fruits and a leafy, red plum and loganberry confit concentration that lingers with such prowess. A impressively generous, rich and finely crafted La Tache that will turn many heads once again.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2016

This legendary vineyard now boasts vines with an average age of 57 years old. In 2016 the site yielded a modest 24 hl/ha or 5,280 bottles. Always producing a profound expression of Pinot Noir, the 2016 is no exception and boldly delivers a supremely complex array of aromatics that seem to have extra levels of depth and intrigue. Together with lifted, perfumed cherry blossom, rose petals and violets there is an extra broody, savoury, bruised red fruit and blood orange note that gracefully teases the senses. The palate as usual combines the most awesome fruit and acid intensity with creamy, supple mineral tannins and a sweet, sappy seductive old vine depth. What a beautiful wine with a splendidly tender, harmonious intensity and a confident, precise regal finish. Always a privilege to taste this wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

One of the Stars of the 2017 En-Primeur Campaign – Tasting Domaine Fourrier’s Clos St Jacques…

Clos Saint Jacques is one of Burgundies most famous Premier Cru vineyards situated in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. The vineyard was split up and sold in 1954 by the Comte de Moucheron to four producers. One of these producers was Henri Esmonin, who at the time of the sale was the metayage for the vineyard and bought 1.6 hectares. The other producers were Armand Rousseau, who purchased 2.20 hectares, the Fourrier family who purchased approximate 1 hectare, and Domaine Clair-Dau who purchased 2 hectares.

Today, this 6.7 hectare vineyard with five strips running from the top to the bottom of the vineyard, are currently owned by five different producers. Sylvie Esmonin, the granddaughter of Henri Esmonin, holds 1.60 hectares. Bruno Clair and Maison Louis Jadot own 1 hectare each, which was split between them from the land purchased by Domaine Clair-Dau. Domaine Fourrier holds 0.89 hectares.

Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 2017, 13.5 Abv.

A fine classical vintage that seems to play into the hands of Jean Marie. While there are plenty of easy drinking premier cru’s, the 2017 CSJ displays impressive lifted perfume of pithy black plums, macerated black cherries, black currant confit and a stony, strawberry pip minerality with no overt oak imprint evident. Just fine purity and plenty of focus. The palate too shows fine depth, spicy textured extract, concentrated sweet red and black forest berry fruits tightly underpinned by an impressive stony, graphite minerality. Jean Marie’s wines never lack plush opulence and fruit sweetness, but in a more classical, “pretty” vintage like 2017, his wines strike a superb balance between concentrated fleshy fruit opulence and focused, polished tannin minerality and structure. If you can get an allocation of this beauty, they are certainly worth buying.

(Fine Wine Safari: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)