Masters of Their Terroir – Tasting the Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles 2014…

Jean-Claude and Noël Ramonet are at the head of Domaine Ramonet, the iconic Burgundy producer that delivers exceptional quality wines year in, year out, with international demand insatiable. From lowly Aligote all the way up to Montrachet Grand Cru, the wines always show intense terroir minerality, a measure of restraint and a mouth watering, salty fresh acidity.

Produced in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses in Cote de Beaune, where red and white wine styles are both permitted, the appellation production consists of a little more than half red wine, and slightly less than half white wine. In 2008, there were 135.32 hectares of vineyard surface in production in total for Pernand-Vergelesses wine at Village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to around 750,000 bottles, including almost 400,000 bottles of red wine and a little over 350,000 bottles of white wine.

In keeping with the exceptionally high quality standards of Domaine Ramonet, they too produce one of the most exceptional Pernand-Vergelesses whites from one of the most famous village level “lieu-dits” single vineyard sites, Les Belles Filles. In the great 2014 vintage, they made an absolute cracker of a wine that was able to rival the best Premier Crus sites for quality. Always sought after, these wines can and often do represent exceptional value for money when seen on restaurant or wine bar lists.

Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles 2014, Burgundy, 13 Abv.

The 2014 Les Belles Filles starts off tight, taut and as linear as physically possible. Liquid rocks, limestone and dusty wet slate notes dominate the aromatics. A few minutes in the glass allows this wine to open its shoulders slightly, revealing a more complex array of white citrus zest, white blossom, crunchy green pears and a hint of hazelnut savoury spice. Although so youthful and tightly wound, you can already feel the wonderful textural weight that coats the palate and unfurls slowly in alternate layers of minerality and tart, saline pithy citrus fruits. Superbly focused and wonderfully precise for this ‘lesser’ Burgundy appellation wine, the finish packs plenty of punch with more liquid minerality, smokey struck match flinty citrus spice and a cool, clean waxy lemon cordial length. A wine that is initially very reticent, blossoms into a lean, complex, well honed, superbly made white Burgundy with fine nuanced complexity and good ageing potential. Drink from 2020 to 2030+.

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

Burgundies Most Revered Wineries Championing Aligoté – Tasting Domaine Coche-Dury Bourgogne Aligoté 2011…

Working a 9.43 hectare estate, Jean-François Coche took over his father Georges’ Domaine in 1973 to continue the production of some of the most profound and individual whites and reds in the whole of Burgundy. Officially retiring in 2010, he still makes his presence felt alongside his son Raphaël and wife Charline who have taken over winemaking duties.

The Domaine shows meticulous attention to detail with every stage of picking and winemaking, often resulting in very low yields that produce wines with incredible intensity, precision, and individual character. If Domaine de la Romanee-Conti produces the most sought after reds in Burgundy, Domaine Coche-Dury undoubtedly produces the region’s most sought after whites.

The white Chardonnay vineyards cultivated by the estate include 0.34 hectares of Grand Cru Vineyard Corton-Charlemagne which was acquired in 1986 and three holdings of Premier Cru vineyards in Meursault with 0.20 hectares in Perriéres, 0.07 hectares in Caillerets and 0.08 hectares in Genevriéres. Village classified vineyard holdings consist of 0.05 hectares of Chevalières and 0.29 hectares of Rougeots, both in Meursault, plus 0.20 hectares of the Puligny-Montrachet based Les Enseignières vineyard acquired in 1985.

But perhaps few grapes have been as scorned in Burgundy in the last 25 years as Aligoté, often being described as thin, acidic and insipid, capable of nothing better than serving as the historical base for a kir, in which white wine is flavoured with creme de cassis. But many of Burgundy’s most revered names, including cherished estates like Coche-Dury, Leroy, Roulot and Ramonet, Lafarge and d’Angerville, de Villaine, Ligier-Belair and Ponsot, persist in growing Aligoté.

Why? Because, when the grapes are farmed conscientiously with intent and the wines are made with precision and attention to detail, they can be deliciously distinctive, full of the energy, salinity and minerality that are the hallmarks of Aligoté.

Domaine Coche-Dury believes strongly that the white wines of Burgundy should have core nerve, and theirs are never amongst the ripest or highest in alcohol. It is their vibrant acidity, often hidden in their opulence that helps them to age so successfully and predictably and that includes their Aligoté.

Domaine Coche-Dury Bourgogne Aligoté 2011, Burgundy, France

Another beautifully expressive white from Domaine Coche-Dury. Made from Aligoté vines located behind the family home, it has a wonderfully fragrant nose of spiced crunchy green pears, white blossoms, buttered pastries and lime pastille sweets. There are some hallmark Coche-Dury struck match reductive notes but they are certainly finely integrated and secondary to the wine’s citrus fruits, green apple and liquid mineral intensity. The palate feels round and opulently textured in the mouth with a fine lemon / lime cordial acid line cutting cleanly through the lovely lemon curd and salty apple purée concentration. Superb depth, intensity and Aligoté varietal personality. I struggle to think of a better example of this variety. Drink now or cellar for another 3 to 5+ years.

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

Not a Plentiful Vintage, But Certainly a Delicious Vintage – Tasting Domaine Ferret’s New 2016 Pouilly Fuisse Release…

Founded in the 1840s, Domaine J.A.Ferret is located in the heart of the most famous “climats” of the Fuissé amphitheatre, and has followed a female line of succession, who cleverly decided to bottle their wines themselves long before the practice became common place in Burgundy. The 18 hectare Domaine was acquired in 2008 by the Louis Jadot empire and encouragingly, the estate has remained unwaveringly quality focused ever since.

The 2014 vintage was produced in good quantities but because it was so exceptionally good, stock evaporated prematurely. The 2015 follow up vintage was rushed through to plug the hole and this supply was met by equally voracious demand. The gods were unkind in 2016, yielding a smaller, more restricted vintage but fortunately of very high quality once again.

Domaine J A Ferret Pouilly Fuisse 2016, Burgundy, 13.5 Abv.

Rich aromatic nose full of limestone, graphite, crushed rocks together with green apple, white citrus and white blossom with a subtle almond skin nuttiness. Less ripe and overtly lush than the 2014 or 2015, the palate carries impressive tightly wound concentration, golden delicious apple purée nuances, bitter lemon rind and a subtle wood spice piquant finish. Lovely classical profile, delicious depth, and impressive liquid minerality on the long finish. Drink now to 2025+.

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

Clos Saint Jacques 2016 Shoot Out – Domaine Armand Rousseau versus Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier…

Clos Saint Jacques is one of Burgundies most famous Premier Cru vineyards situated in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. The vineyard was named after a statue of Saint James that had been placed in the area, as it was a resting point on the way to Santiago de Compostella, the destination of the ‘Way of St. James’ pilgrimage.

It 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.

Clos Saint Jacques vineyard directly north of the village.

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.

(Both bottles tasted were barrel samples)

Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint Jacques 2016, Burgundy

A wine that is wonderfully bright, lifted and perfumed, loaded with red cherry, cranberry, pink musk, cherry candy and sappy lipstick spice. Classically proportioned, this profound wine’s palate is dense and concentrated, packed with cherry pith, red plum and red bramble berry depth. Impressive classic finesse and textured, balanced length highlight this wine’s pedigree and signature class that is rarely surpassed within this appellation. Another breathtaking example from this Domaine. Drink from 2022 to 2045+

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

Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint Jacques 2016, Burgundy

Always a dense, fleshy expression, this 2016 retains a more classically weighted style, showing cool graphite, earthy red berries, bruised red plums, cherry coulis and a sweet, saline liquorice spice. The palate has all the hallmark Fourrier concentration, opulence and overt fruit flesh, yet the wine never looses its coiled spring tension and nerve. Lovely balance and a fine tannic core, this is a delicious Clos Saint Jacques expression with impressive depth and breadth. A very impressive wine. Drink from 2020 to 2038+

(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Verdict: Two very impressive wines, both almost as good as any Grand Cru’s tasted from the 2016 vintage. For me the Armand Rousseau remains unsurpassed, combining freshness, precision, structure, and depth. Some how they manage to marry amazing concentration of fruit and classical liquid mineral intensity. Not a cheap wine, but worth every penny. Rousseau takes it by a head…

The Silver Lining of Burgundy’s Rocketing Prices and Shrinking Allocations – The Rise of the Super Aligoté Cuvees…

Thibault Liger-Belair is cousin to the more famous Vicomte Liger-Belair of Vosne Romanée. In 2002 he took over an older family property in Nuits St Georges taking back the vines which had been previously leased out to various other smaller growers. He promptly rented a winery just down the road and now produces an iconic range of wines including sought after wines from Grand Crus Richebourg and Clos de Vougeot to prestigious Nuits St Georges reds like 1er Cru Les Saint Georges.

The domaine’s vines are certified organic and farmed biodynamically, with horses used to plough the vineyards where possible. The fact that Thibault’s Grand Vin reds are increasingly hard to access has lead to a growing following for both his delicious Aligoté whites as well as his bold and impressive Cru Beaujolais reds.

This wine is produced from grapes grown on a parcel located in Nuits St Georges bordering the Village appellation of Nuits Saint Georges “les Argilats”. The vineyards were converted to organics as soon as Thibault took them over. The vines were planted in 1978 and offer some mature and impressively aromatic Aligoté. The limestone soils give this wine great length and certainly greater intensity than would normally be expected from this appellation.

Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Clos des Perrieres La Combe, 13 Abv.

A wonderfully vibrant fresh Aligoté expression showing archetypal pithy aromatics of citrus blossom, pear purée, green apples, pithy yellow grapefruit and seductive crushed limestone and chalky minerality. You just don’t usually expect too much complexity on an Aligoté but this wine is nuanced and beautifully animated. The palate has a wonderful elegance and silky light touch, is precisely fresh but not tart, and well balanced with a fine, elegant line of citric acidity together with delicious notes of orange blossom, tangerine peel and apple pastille sweets. A superb vintage delivering wonderful vibrancy, elegant under spoken concentration and a flavourful, liquid mineral finish. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.

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

The Wonder of Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie – Tasting a Vertical from 2005 to 1976…

Les Jumelles means “the twins” in French and refers in this case to the special Cote Brune and Cote Blonde twin vineyards on the burnt slopes of Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhône. It is not a wine you see around very often and is far less well known than other Jaboulet icon wines like Hermitage La Chapelle. All the fruit is bought in for Les Jumelles and current production is around 1,500 cases.

Always a bit of an unknown entity quality wise year on year, final bottle results often depend on how much fruit Jaboulet was able to buy from specifically the high quality Cote Brune growers in a particular year. With this age worthy Cote Brune backbone, some of the best examples I’ve tasted previously have been older vintages, none better than the 1972 Les Jumelles enjoyed with Vinous’ Neal Martin at the 2 Star Michelin the Square Restaurant a few years ago (when still owned by Chef Phil Howard and restaurateur extraordinaire, Nigel Platts-Martin).

Nothing quite that old was tasted in this vertical, but never the less, it was a real treat to compare multiple mature vintages side by side. Several bottles were sadly considered ‘out of condition’, so were not scored (N/S).

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 2005

14 months of French oak aging, with only 20% new oak. Bright and fragrant, violets and cherry blossom lift. Very pretty nose. Hints of leather, black berry, bruleed spice, marzipan but also a real core of dark fruit. Still tight and structured with a real presence of power and focus. Touch angular still, very bright acidity and a medium long tart red fruited finish. Touch of bitter tannic grip but seems to hold good potential to cellar for another 10 to 15+ years.

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

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1999

Wonderfully classic nose of perfume and bruleed cherry spice, savoury cured meats, coffee beans and bloody, irony salinity. Palate shows hints of saddle leather, gun smoke, sour macerated plums with a bright refreshing red fruit acidity and excellent, crisp mouthwatering length. Tart and vibrant, still youthful and plenty of style.

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

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1997 – Oxidised, out of condition bottle. N/S

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1988

Another classically shaped Cote Rotie with lifted herbal notes amplified by wood spice, saddle leather and wood smoke. Quite spicy and piquant, with cassis leaf, coffee bean and medicinal red fruit spice. The palate follows suit with herbal spice, savoury red and earthy black fruits but with a slightly challenging bitterness with chalky, grippy tannins and a finish laden with bitters and vermouth botanical spice complexity.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1985

Darker, deeper broody nose with hints of wet earth, cured meats, diesel rag, black bramble berries and subtle herbal garrigue and pot pourri spices. The palate is denser, broader and altogether fleshier than the 1988, with the herbal nuances more like footnotes than chapter headings. More balanced and harmonious, this still has dry mineral stony tannins but very impressive length. Not tiring, this can still be enjoyed for a decade or more.

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

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1983

Complex from the start, the 83 shows alluring herbal complexity, rich notes of kirsch cherry, bramble berry and marzipan spice. Hints of diesel rag and savoury cured meats in a German deli. Plenty of pepper spice, sleek harmonious tannins, vermouth richness and exoticism. Not a massive wine, but it is ageing beautiful, with some leanness and austerity, so perhaps the fruit is starting to dry. I suspect this is a sleeper and won’t change terribly quickly, and will be even better with food. Enjoyable wine.

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

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1982

Seductive, meaty, smokey wine with notes of gun flint, graphite, pot pourri and ground coffee beans. There is richness, ripeness and spicy brambley fruit but all very measured and classical. Definitely a riper feel, fine density of fruit and a lovely raisined cranberry and caramelised plum finish combining well with chalky tannins on a long finish. Very classy, and would probably be incrementally better if drunk with food. No rush but enjoy bottles now.

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

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1980

Touch meaty and heading towards oxidation. Bottle considered out of condition. N/S

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1978

One of the noted great vintages of the Northern Rhone, this Cote Rotie shows big depth and breadth with definite tertiary notes of diesel rag, graphite, coffee bean, crushed gravel and pot pourri spices. The palate is plush and fleshy, shows glorious opulence, but fading a little and perhaps just starting to dry out. Piquant and bright, well balanced with a salty black fruited note and a saddle leather finish. Powerful and multi-layered. Delicious!

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

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jumelles Cote Rotie 1976

The palate is perhaps more vital than the nose which shows saline, plastersine, black berry, iodine, bloody, irony, graphite notes. Very chalky and mineral, the palate holds great weight and intensity, balanced with savoury earthy red fruits, raisined cranberry and tart stewed plums. Mature, but grows in gravitas and really starts to outshine the 1978 with time in glass. A real gem.

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

Tasting Another Great 2014 White Burgundy From Domaine Henri Boillot…

Henri Boillot is a fifth-generation vigneron, who began his wine education at his family’s winery before leaving to found his own négociant house where he honed his skills and developed his own personal style.

After returning home to take over the reins of the family estate Domaine Henri Boillot, he continued to develop his négociant business under the Henri Boillot label, where he overseas all vineyard work and harvesting himself.

His meticulous and uncompromising quality focused winemaking has earned him a place in the top echelons of producers in this premium French region. Today he is joined by his son, Guillaume, who makes the red wines while Henri makes all the whites.

As the dust settles on the 2016 En-primeur tastings, I decided to taste a bottle of Henri’s superb Puligny Montrachet 2014, from a vintage that has been likened by many to the quality of the forthcoming 2016 vintage.

Domaine Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet 2014, Burgundy, 13 Abv.

A pale lemon gold colour, this 2014 white Burgundy displays an impressive dusty minerality, chalky limestone and wet river pebbles. This aromatics are youthful and tight and need plenty of coaxing out the glass before revealing notes of citrus blossom, crunchy green pears, Granny Smith apples and lime peel hints. The palate is tart, vibrant and intense showing gravelly liquid minerality, bergamot, pithy yellow grapefruit, pear fruit purée and a pronounced rasping, briney edge that finishes succinctly with salty liquorice stick nuances which combine with the wine’s precise thread of acidity. A Puligny Montrachet with stature above its Village status thanks to this superb 2014 vintage, and should improve for 3 to 5 years and drink well for 8 to 10+.

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