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)

Tasting the Tantalising New Releases from Jessica Saurwein – Part 1: Nom Pinot Noir 2020…

If you don’t know Jessica Saurwein and her delicious fine wines, let me introduce you to ex-model, super mum and more latterly a high-flying winemaker with an incredibly deft touch. Now in her 6th year of winemaking under her own brand Saurwein, the 2020 vintage sees some of her most accomplished and seductive releases yet. In December 2020 I reviewed her stunning new release 2020 Riesling (93+/100 GSMW) and now, just ahead of international “Drink Pinot Noir Day”, I get the chance to assess her latest red creations – the Nom Pinot Noir 2020 from WO Elandskloof (think Kaaimansgat / Villiersdorp etc) and also the Om Pinot Noir 2020 from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge.

Made from vines grown on shale soils in the Elandskloof Valley near Villiersdorp, the vineyards lie at 700 metres above sea-level and are surrounded by towering mountains making this terroir ideal for cooler climate varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Nom Pinot Noir features classic Burgundian clones 115, 667 and 777 from a vineyard planted in 2008. We all know about the dry 2018 vintage and the cooler, more classical 2019 vintage, but 2020 was a year with ideal ripening conditions. Wind during fruit set led to a reduced crop of smaller berries and thus wonderfully intense musts with medium tannins and vibrantly fresh acids.

Jessica at the new home of Saurwein Wines in Stanford

The grapes were hand-picked and cold soaked prior to fermentation which began spontaneously with natural yeasts. Post fermentation, the wine spent 10 months in a combination of new and older 228 litre French oak barrels.

As if two new stellar Pinot Noir releases wasn’t enough, Saurwein Wines has now found a exciting new home at Waterval farm in Stanford. Jessica and family recently moved to the farm and will embark on a regenerative agricultural farming venture including the establishment of a small vineyard over the next year or two. I can’t wait to visit Jessica and Roland at their new home in the near future.

Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2020, WO Elandskloof, 14.5% Abv.

The 2020 Pinot Noir shows an abundance of depth and intensity with aromatics brimming with notes of savoury red cherry, red currant, sappy freshly cut hedgerow and earthy, bramble berry spice nuances. The oak is incredibly well integrated and plays very much a minor backing track support role. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied but dense, wonderfully intense yet simultaneously weightless, fleshy and powerful with delicious savoury red and black berry fruits, ripe sun raisined sloe berries, roasted nuts, hints of wild strawberry and a full, opulent mouth coating finish with finely poised tannins and delightfully balanced acids. Another very detailed, opulent, savoury expression of Pinot Noir from the Cape. Drink this on release and over the next 8 to 10 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 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)

Creation Estate’s New Release Emma Pinot Noir Battles it out for Supremacy with the New Art of Pinot Noir 2019 Cuvee…

The beautiful Creation Winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge region of Walker Bay has established itself in a relatively short period of time as one of the quality benchmark producers for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in South Africa. Originally from Switzerland, owner JC Martin together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Every year there is a mega battle of wills and palates (and maybe egos?) as JC Martin fights it out with his daughter Emma to see who will take the spoils with the international critics for the best rated Creation Pinot Noir between the Emma Cuvee and the Art of Pinot Noir Cuvee from their Creation estate. I love the competitiveness and the resulting quality realised every vintage. Last year the 2018 Emma excelled and was clearly a more intense, complex, mesmerising expression on release. But 2019 was a different beast of a vintage offering up a lot more structure, tension, minerality and sapidity. So it was all to play for!

Game on! I recently tasted these two exceptional wines over two days and the results were as follows…

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

A barrel selection by Emma – JC and Caroline’s 18+ year old daughter from the Art of Pinot Noir vineyard barrels. This is certainly a very serious glassful of premium Pinot Noir. Opened on Boxing Day 2020, it was taut and spicy showing some overt oak notes over savoury bramble berry fruits and hints of black plum and sous bois. But tasting this wine over two days really does it justice as not only is it super youthful, but it’s one of the most serious and luxurious expressions of Pinot Noir in South Africa. Day two and this wine blossoms with true Pinot Noir grandeur, unfurling layers of strawberry, cranberry, dusty limestone chalk, sappy stalky spice, red cherry pastille and an underlying structure of crunchy acids, graphite minerality and spicy polished tannins. This is definitely a keeper and will require a few years in the cellar to do it justice. Very impressive yet again.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Like the Emma, the aromatics of this young wine are a little disjointed straight after pulling the cork but allowed a bit of air and time, this wine also comes together impressively. The aromatics are markedly different with more sappy red berry, sour cranberry, sour plum and a savoury, earthy red berry core. There are complexing notes of crushed leaves, sous bois and sour cherry but on the palate the density and concentration is harmonious and polished, pithy and chalky merging with an irony, bloody, red berry tartness and a long, stony, brambly finish. Intense, captivating and thoroughly delicious. Give this 3-5 years before enjoying.

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

So the final verdict sees the Emma, the defending champion, retain the title of Best Creation Pinot with punch! But of course, they do say anything a man can do, a woman can do better!

One From the Cellar – Tasting the Second Release of the Crystallum Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2018…

I recently hosted a dinner with a couple of good friends where the theme was top Burgundy. Wines were tasted blind while we gave our assessment before revealing the labels and drinking the rest of the bottles with some lovely steaks. One of my clients sneaked the 2016 Crystallum Whole Bunch Pinot Noir into the line up and a I can honestly say, hand on heart, that we all thought it was a very good youthful Cotes de Nuits Burgundy red from a good grower at possibly village or premier cru quality level from 2015 or 2016. The grand reveal had us all fooled with the maiden release Crystallum Whole Bunch 2016 showing a beautiful intensity and a youthfully alluring power.

While I was slightly surprised to see Tim Atkin MW recently review the 2018 instead of the new 2019, he nevertheless scored the second release (there was no 2017) a mammoth 97/100 points. So as I am on the cusp of reviewing the 2019 in the coming days, I thought I would enjoy another bottle of the fabulous 2018 from my cellar to recalibrate my palate.

Crystallum Whole Bunch 2018 Pinot Noir, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 14.2% Abv.

The 2018 Whole Bunch Pinot Noir marks the second release of this initially experimental wine made from fruit sourced in the Cuvee Cinema vineyard in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and the Shaw’s Mountain Vineyard. Fermented using 100% of whole bunches, the result is possibly one of Peter-Allan’s most mesmerising creations yet. The aromatics show the best of both worlds with a delicious pure black and red berry fruit concentration, black currant compote, black cherry and red currant notes with subtle hedgerow and underbrush complexity together with the classic whole bunch nuances that offer extra sapidity and a stalky mineral spice. The whole bunch component definitely adds the extra magic that elevates this wine into the ranks of truly special New World Pinot Noirs that firmly tip their hats towards the masters of Burgundy. There is boldness and an extra confident swagger, opulence but also controlled mineral spicy restraint all packaged with an incredibly supple, seamless, harmonious tannin texture. You can drink this wine now but with the maiden 2016 still showing an incredibly youthful glow, it would be a shame not to bury some of these in the cellar for 8 to 10+ years.

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

Ps. I scored the Whole Bunch 2018 the same score on release back in January when I tasted the wine the first time with Peter-Allan.

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2020/01/17/peter-allan-finlayson-unveils-some-of-his-new-releases-from-crystallum-and-gabrielskloof-in-london/