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.

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.

The Most Important Burgundy Releases from the 2015 Vintage ~ Tasting the Wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti with Aubert de Villaine…

“We see this sort of vintage 2 or 3 times a century. Very Special.” Aubert de Villaine, Domaine de la Romanee Conti

When you hear words like that spoken by one of the most iconic grandee figureheads of Burgundy, it’s enough to make your heart race and your blood pump wildly. Tasting any cuvée from any vintage of Domaine de la Romanee Conti is a very special privilege, but to taste the iconic block buster vintages, well, those are moments that make working in the wine trade so very special and memorable.

In the words of Aubert, “there is no such thing as a great or poor vintage, but rather only easy or difficult ones.” With those few simple words, you immediately understand the quality philosophy and commitment that goes into making the greatest expressions of Pinot Noir in the world. Having personally tasted every new release DRC vintage since 2004, I can confirm that the excitement and anticipation never recedes, but to the contrary, grows more and more vivid and intense with every additional vintage experienced.

With Aubert de Villaine at the release tasting.

The 2015 Growing Season

The winter of 2014/15 had been mild apart from a usefully cold spike in mid February which reached -6c, and with heavy rains for the water table that were to prove useful for the dryness that was to come later in the season. Spring was likewise warm and dry apart from two storms on May 1st and June 15th. July offered just 14mm of rain with a heat wave between the 2nd and the 8th, with night time temperatures reaching 30c.

The vineyards enjoyed this hot dry weather remaining perfectly green with no signs of stress and ripened quietly. The second half of August was fabulously hot and dry again with harvesting beginning in the white Montrachet vineyard on the 4th September and in the red Corton vineyards on the 5th September. The berries were small, fabulously ripe, thick skinned and with high intense sugars.

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Corton Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

Wonderfully bright and lifted, this shows plenty of verve and energy. The fruits are dark, intense, very elegant and accessible. Layers of stony black plums, cranberry, strawberry pips and wild forest berries. The lovely mineral graphite hint is very pronounced at this youthful stage. The palate is full of silky stuffing, deep and dense with sweet spicy sappy fruit, wood spice and a pithy strawberry and cherry pip finish. The fruit envelops the acidity and tannins and emerges as a seamless, beautifully harmonious, concentrated mouthful. Drink from 2020 to 2040+.

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

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

The Echezeaux is decidedly more expressive on the nose than the Corton, with that extra bit of lift, power and fragrant perfume. Lovely notes of violets, cherry blossom, red liquorice and sweet pink musk mix with subtle hints of rock candy and powdered bon bons. The palate shows beautiful intensity of fruit, concentration and depth but is held in check by a defined seam of salinity and sea shore exoticism. Tannins are textured, finely polished and spicy, helping to carry the long, seductive finish. Drink from 2022 to 2035+

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

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

The Grands Echezeaux is decidedly deeper and denser and more grande than the Echezeaux, showing more gravitas and depth of fruit. The nose is brimming full of creamy fraises des bois, bramble berries and red cherry coulis. Such wonderful purity, focus and precision backed by power and intensity. The powerful aromatics follow to the palate that shows impressive concentration, plush opulent breadth and a mouth coating deliciousness. This is going to be one of the great expressions from this terroir in years to come. Truly exceptional. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

Usually tasted after Richebourg, in 2015 Aubert de Villaine reversed the order to follow the Grands Echezeaux. The aromatics are fine and ethereal with a chorus of delicate whispering. The nose shows subtle violet perfume, dusty spicy red fruit lift, raspberry coulis, fresh leafy cranberry, red cherry confit and pink bon bons punctuated by a constant seam of chalky minerality. The palate mimics the aromatics, with pretty, animated red fruits, sweet bruised red cherries, red cranberry, and distinguished finesse and flare. Belying the attractive fruit elegance and intensity, are the most compact, dense, balanced silk textured tannins that suggest this wine will have a very long and rewarding future. Very pretty indeed.

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

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2015, Burgundy

Aubert described 2015 as a vintage tailor made for the Richebourg style. The wine is certainly stand apart from the previous cuvées tasted, with incredibly bold and opulent aromatics bursting with sweet strawberry confit, cherry candy, toffee apples, bruised black plums and a sprinkling of crushed peppercorns and chalk dust. The palate sings a bold joyous tune of opulence, generosity, flamboyance and hedonistic pleasure. Such breath, depth and mouth watering deliciousness, this wine is so relaxed and at ease with its greatness. An eye wateringly fine example of Richebourg. Possibly one of the best in the past two decades. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.

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

Domaine de La Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2015, Burgundy

As different as the Richebourg was, this La Tache is altogether more deep, dark and mysterious, showing plenty of grandeur and elegance, but with reserve and noblesse that only breeding can bring. The aromatics show layers of broody dark fruits, saline cassis, blueberry, black cherry and black bramble berries touched with a lick of salty liquorice and polished mahogany. The palate reveals an incredible intensity of fruit, a pinpoint acidity and harmonious, seamless powdery tannins. So complete, so noble ~ an incredibly grand vin. The finish is powerful and layered with a length that knows no bounds. What this wine lacks in flamboyance, it more than makes up for with restrained grandeur, structure and effortless structural precision. Drink from 2024 to 2040+. A breathtaking wine.

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

Domaine de La Romanee Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2015, Burgundy

One of the lightest and most crystalline of the wines in colour, what this wine lacks in visual depth, it more than makes up for with its ethereal fragrant beauty. The aromatics are less of a compilation of greatest hits but more of a melodious chorus bellowed by angels on church spires. Smoked herbs, pot pourri, cherry skins, violets, jasmine blossom, crushed limestone, sappy peppery cranberry and subtle graphite spice notes make for an effusive nose. Blink and you will miss the ever changing notes unfurling in the glass. The palate perhaps remains truest to its terroir and combines the concentration of the vintage with the intense liquid minerality of the vineyard site, with its sappy, spicy black berry weightlessness of Pinot Noir at its mercurial finest. A true symphony of greatness. Always a pleasure to taste. Drink from 2025 to 2045+.

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