End September sees the Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois Trade Tasting return to London. Last year’s tasting was described by the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin as a very fertile hunting ground for great value, affordable quality, drinking red Bordeaux.
If the region of Bordeaux is to retain its admired status as the most collectable wine by connoisseur’s, it is crucial that smaller, lesser classifications are bought and drunk by regular consumers. The love affair with Bordeaux has to start somewhere, and for many wine enthusiasts, it starts with drinking tantalising Cru Bourgeois wines. So tonight I’m getting into training for the tasting by drinking a delicious bottle of appellation Margaux Cru Bourgeois.
Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere 2012 Margaux, 13 Abv.
A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this is an absolute cracker from the Margaux appellation. Sweet red plum and blueberry fragrance lift effortlessly out of the glass. Violets, jasmine, dried mint leaf, pot pourri herbs and seductive musk notes add massive complexity. There is also plenty of rich earthy cassis and lush red cherry exotism to excite even the most reluctant Bordeaux connoisseur. Palate concentration is very impressive yet you never lose sight of the wine’s Margaux’esque elegance, allure, perfume and seductive beauty. Creamy, powdery tannins are the order of the day making this a top notch Margaux that is both precise and pretty, yet deceptively powerful and intense. True to the vintage, there is ample accessible upfront fruit, fine balance and harmony and bright pure freshness. This is a fantastic offering that cannot fail to excite. Drink now to 2030.
The popularity of Jura wines has been exploding over the past few years as consumers turn their attentions away from stratospherically priced, impossible to buy Burgundy. However, the problem with this is that many, if not most of the top domaines in the Jura are also tiny and only produce small amounts of wine.
So when it comes to unicorn Jura wines, there are none more rare and sought after than Japanese producer Kenjiro Kagami, who owns 3 hectares in the Grusse area of Jura. Mentored by the Ganevats and Bruno Schueller, Kenjiro crafts some extraordinarily fine wines that seem nearly impossible to find. This 100% Chardonnay is made from organically grown grapes, which are vinified and then left on their lees for 12 months with no sulphur added during any stages of the winemaking.
A medium dark yellow straw colour that is slightly hazy. The aromatics are explosive, with lemon peel, oranges in cognac, bruised yellow peaches, summer orchard fruits and an intense, liquid minerality of wet limestone and dusty crushed granite. The palate begins with upfront yellow peach, saline alka seltzer zest, yellow citrus notes and waxy apples before shifting into fifth gear and offering up notes of exotic botanicals, incense, dried herbs, white peach, grapefruit and vermouth like complexity. The wine is balanced, harmonious and deliciously fresh, but also intriguing, multi-dimensional and impressively concentrated, all at 12.5 Abv ripeness. The fruit and minerality coat the palate leaving no corner of the mouth untouched. The longer the wine sits in the glass, the more it grows in complexity. The finish is unctuous and vibrantly fresh with sweet / sour peach and sour yellow plum notes melding beautifully with herbs in liquor and exotic botanical spices. A really profound Jura expression, it is easy to see why Kenjiro Kagami’s wines are now some of the most collectable and sought after unicorn wines produced.
Fontaine-Gagnard in Chassagne Montrachet is probably a domaine better know for its white wines than its reds. But the last few years have seen their reds go from strength to strength, in no small part due to the focus and attention to detail of Celine Fontaine, who seems to have taken over all winemaking duties.
I recently had the opportunity to taste several vintages of their glorious Volnay Clos des Chênes, one of the most impressive 1er Cru expressions in the appellation. With allocations of Domaine Michel Lafarge rarely making it past En-primeur now days, picking up a bottle of Clos des Chênes that’s almost ready to drink is becoming a rare luxury.
The reds grapes at Fontaine-Gagnard are normally destemmed with light crushing. The must is then transferred into vats for the alcoholic fermentation for up to a week with little to no temperature control. The reds undergo daily punch downs and pump overs and then usually undergo a light filtration.
A dark ruby colour, there is interestingly little to no graduation of colour in the glass. A very pretty nose awaits with a beautiful bouquet of crushed rose petals and cherry blossoms. There are wonderfully expressive notes of strawberry confit, caramelised red cherries, and red berry pastille fruits. Lovely lift, freshness and an attractive sappy, stalky, minerality develop in the glass with just the faintest hint of sweet wood spice. An elegant, medium-bodied palate is perfectly harmonious and sleek, thoroughly seductive with a focused concentration of cherry pith, sappy spice, bramble berries, tart red plums, and a mouth watering maraschino cherry finish. Plenty of stony, dusty tannins add a little extra frame to the wine. A really attractive expression of Volnay that should easily drink well for another 10 to 12 years.
The Burgundy En-primeur tasting season in the UK over the months of January and February is a very exciting time for buyers, if for no other reason than the probable likelihood of discovering a new family scion or black sheep Burgundian off-shoot that has started producing a new range of wines. Getting in early with an order could be critical in securing an ongoing allocation.
Domaine Duroché is currently run by fourth generation Gilles Duroché along with his son Pierre, so they are by no means a new winery. But they have definitely resurfaced as one of the most sought after wineries in Burgundy over the past 4 or 5 years, along with producers like Domaine Denis Mortet, Domaine Georges Noellat and Heitz-Lochardet. I myself only really started to notice their wines on the En-primeur circuit around 3 years ago, probably too late to secure any meaningful allocations. But the wines are so good my endeavours continue.
Their Gevrey Chambertin holdings include three wines each at village level – Jeunes Rois, Etelois and Champ; Premier Cru level – Champeaux, Estournelles St Jacques and Lavaux St Jacques; and Grand Cru level – Charmes-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze and latterly, a tiny parcel of Griotte Chambertin.
A wonderfully seductive bouquet greets the drinker with lifted perfumed fragrance, violets, sweet jasmine and cherry blossom. But it’s the intense red maraschino cherry note that rings the loudest. So powerful and beguiling. The crystallised cherry purity resonates across a beautifully vibrant, crisp fresh palate bristling with tart cranberry, caramelised cherries and kirsch liquor complexity. So pure, so supple, so seamlessly elegant. The Lord alone knows how Duroché achieves this concentration of fruit together with this level of purity and textural balance at only 12.5 Abv. A really impressive creation. Such a pleasure to drink.
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 1 hectare Les Perrières vineyard, located on the so-called ‘back side of the rock’, les Perrières lies halfway up the slope, just above the les Clos parcel. The slope, which faces south-east, is somewhat steeper than that of les Clos itself.
The average age of the vines is 35 years old and are grown on soils derived from alluvial deposits, consisting of a mix of deep silt and clay containing a few stones. The subsoil features streaks of limestone and limestone marls, while the top layers, which are moderate in depth, and are littered with calcite and flint stones on the surface over a metre-thick layer of limestone marls.
Domaine J A Ferret Pouilly Fuisse Tete de Cru Les Perrieres 2014, Burgundy, 13.5 Abv.
The anticipation of top quality for this 2014 was high and this wine certainly does not disappoint. The nose is steely and Roulot’esque, bristling with hints of dusty limestone, struck match reduction, lemon & thyme, lime peel pith, yellow grapefruit preserve and salty sea breeze notes. Not just lifted and complex, the aromatic intensity and focus is so very impressive. On the palate there is beautiful intensity with supreme balance and textural harmony. The creamy oak tastes very expensive but is very intelligently applied, allowing it to melt into the lemon lime fruits. It’s so rare to get this supreme crescendo of minerality, salinity, struck match reduction and vibrant acidity in perfect equilibrium with crystalline fruit intensity. A really superb wine from a once in a decade quality vintage. Drink now to 2030+ (Recommended retail £38 per bottle).
One of the great rewards of working in the wine trade are the diverse international friendships that are formed while tasting, buying and selling fine wine. This past weekend my wife and I packed our bags and boarded the Eurostar to attend the wedding of my Beaujolais buddy, Geoffray Benat.
I recently wrote a post about Geoffray’s amazing bistro restaurant Cepages in Westbourne Park Road in Nottinghill, which you can read here…
While Geoffray and his wife Erika now run their successful restaurant together, it was in one of his previous wine sales jobs many years ago that I first made my acquaintance with Geoffray. Of course, the fact that Geoffray’s father owned and ran the excellent Julienas estate of Domaine de Cotoyon was an added extra, and before very long, I was not only buying an array of Languedoc wines from Geoffray but also the superb wines of his father Frederic Benat, produced in Julienas and St Amour. Fast forward 6 or 7 years and finally it was time to visit Geoffray at home in Julienas to celebrate his wedding.
Vignerons are of course spoiled for choice for wedding wine selections when not only your own family make great wines, but also your best man and several of your close friends also attending the wedding.
For those travelling from afar, we attended a lovely welcome dinner on the Friday evening at Geoffray’s parent’s house. This was a wonderfully casual family affair gathering outside in a marquee for dinner. The evening proved to be a very useful opportunity to meet all the extended friends and family.
Saturday the 1st of July was the big wedding day at the local Mairie or town hall, followed by a most impressively well planned celebratory dinner for 150 people at the local Chateau de Pruzilly.
But first, an afternoon Vin d’Honneur in the Parc of Chateau Pruzilly followed, where a wider group of friends and family, not just those invited for the dinner, had the opportunity to congratulate the bride and groom with a glass or two of wine… in this case, the lovely Cuvee Reservee Methode Traditionnelle Sparking wine also made by Geoffray’s family.
6.00pm signalled Champagne, Cocktails, and pre-dinner Canapés in the courtyard of Chateau Pruzilly before the grand banquet officially kicked off at 8pm. Once again, we were plied with never ending amounts of fine Champagne, white Burgundy made by Geoffray’s friends in the Maconnais, and of course magnums of Frederic Benat’s fantastic Cru Julienas 2015 Beaujolais.
What a wonderful event celebrating the marriage of a really lovely couple. Also encouraging to see how the whole local vigneron community of friends came out to support the Benat family in celebrating this happy union.
All good things must come to an end and so on Sunday we started the long trek back to Paris. A big thank you to Geoffray and Erika and the whole Benat family for your wonderfully welcoming hospitality. I look forward to visiting Beaujolais again soon!
Another superb highlight from lasts weeks Art of Chablis Tasting comes from a highly renowned producer but from a more modest appellation. The William Fevre Chablis really stood out on the “Village level” tasting table, and in fact was more impressive than many of the 1er Cru Chablis being shown.
Winemakers predicted a good vintage across France in 2015 despite some producers being hit with a hailstorm on the eve of harvest. The Chablis 2015 vintage started off well and it was soon apparent that an early wine harvest was on the cards after the vines flowered in early June, followed by a long, hot and dry July and August. But, dreams of a good vintage were jeopardised by a hailstorm that hit several producers in Chablis on the 1st September, just before the harvest.
There was a fear of a lack of acidity in 2015’s wines. While all have crystalline purity, some do lack an element of tension and vivacity. The 2015 vintage will however be remembered as a sunny, fruit forward, correct vintage producing very accessible, customer friendly wines.
Domaine William Fevre Chablis 2015
The 2015 village Chablis has a dusty, chalky, austere, wet granite nose with a wonderful crystalline purity and impressive saline notes. Finely poised, the palate is fresh and crisp with a respectable line of acidity framing lovely green apple crunchy fruits, lemongrass, wet straw, pineapple and lime peel nuances. Like all the best 2015s, there is a potent marine, sea breeze influence on the finish of this impressively seamless, harmonious, well balanced wine.