Volnay and Pommard Tasting (Oct. 13, 2009)

Tomer Gal and Burgundy Wines Ltd. have a new tasting room in Yaffo, on the ruins of the late, great Keren restaurant and it's a beautiful setting. I wish them all the luck in the world and I'm happy to report they christened the place with an interesting and quite yummy tasting.

In any tasting pitting these two famous bastions of Cote de Beaune red wine, two questions come up almost invariably:

Were the monks and the INAO correct in denying Volnay and Pommard any Grand Cru vineyards?

Can the two be cleanly categorized as feminine Volnay versus masculine Pommard?

The tasting left these questions rather unanswered but it sure was fun helping Tomer with the research.

Comte Armand, Volnay, 2006

The nose is a promising start to the evening, with quintessential Pinot red fruit, game meat and lightly pungent earthiness. Inviting yet subtle at the same time. The palate is medium-bodied, leaning towards light, with raspy tannins, delicious but typically Villages in the way the nose overshadows the palate. Tomer said this wasn't a very feminine wine but I have to disagree. This is definitely a woman, but she sure has a sharp set of nails! 190 NIS.

Chateau duPuligny-Montrachet, Pommard, 2006

This is really not that widely different from the Volnay. Sure, the red fruit is more upfront, the earthiness less pronounced on both nose and palate and there is more fruit on the mid-palate, making the wine rounder and better balanced. But personality wise, this too is a woman. In fact, she even trimmed her nails. This is a better wine right now, but I find greater intellectual pleasures in the Comte Armand Volnay. 200 NIS.

Dugat-Py, Pommard, Levrieres, 2006

A very impressive nose, and very concentrated for a Pinot, spicy and meaty, with, surprisingly, black pepper as well. My neighbor muttered "Gevrey" and I'll have to take his word for it. Moving on, I wouldn't go as far as to call the palate oaky, yet the oak is definitely felt, although overall it is a very balanced wine and maybe the only truly masculine Pommard of the evening. Final verdict: great nose and fine tannins. 530 NIS.

Domaine Leroy, Pommard, Vignots, 2005

Tomer's tasting are never over until the old lady sings and this time we got to taste Madame Leroy's wares twice. This is from the domaine, meaning that at this stage (pardon me while I circle a few sacred bovines), it's more about Leroy than about Pommard. Slow to open, the nose shows ripe fruit and dusty ground and in time the earthy essence becomes deeper and bolder. Taut palate, with great length and fine tannins. The Madame sure makes great wines, but here, as usual, the pleasure costs at least twice as much as I'd be willing to pay. 1300 NIS.

De Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Brouillards, 2006

Another chick. And a fickle one at that. The nose opens and shuts down and then opens and shuts down again. While it is open, I get ripe cherries and that candied feel of a young Bourgogne. Then it develops mineral notes that overshadow the fruit and then shuts down. The palate is fruity with unsatisfying length. It's an interesting one but it's also a tease, and the thing about teases you can never decide whether you like them or not. 310 NIS.

De Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Champans 2006

I had my reservations about De Montille when I tasted the 2004's, and now the nose on the Champans itself was enough to finally dispel any remaining qualms. A few steps up from the Brouillards (well, probably an entire story), the nose is simply gorgeous, with enticing red fruit, game meat and a smoky minerality. The palate is deftly balanced and if it still pales besides the nose, one would have to be a very dour taster not to feel optimistic about the future that the fine tannins and the mineral finish only hint at. Lovely. 360 NIS and worth it.

De Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Grands Epenots 2006

There is a family resemblance to the Champans, as the nose has the same signature of ripe cherries, although they are rather more candied. It's a sweeter wine, which is where the resemblance starts to break down, although that sweetness is tempered by a mineral streak (more pronounced on the nose than on the palate). It is rounder than the Champans, more of a flirt, but much less of an intellectual treat, challenge, what-have-you. 360 NIS and no way I'd pay that if I can get the Champans at the same price.

Comte Armand, Pommard Premier Cru, Clos des Epeneaux 2006

If you know your Burgundy then you know this is one of the most famous red wines of the Cote de Beaune. In fact, Epeneaux and Rugiens are regarded as potential Grand Cru material, although this wine doesn't feel like a Grand Cru to me. Whatever, this is is probably what people think of when they say Pommard is a masculine wine, although I offer the opinion that the Dugat-Py would win any pissing contest even though this is the most tannic and dense wine of the tasting (and yes, I know there is a paradox in there, but who says women are the mysterious sex?). The nose is oaky and modern at first, but becomes more Bourgogne in time, with meaty notes and sweet spices. The palate is angular and rusty but tight. 440 NIS.

De Montille, Pommard Premier Cru Rugiens, 2006

For my money, the Clos des Epeneaux wasn't a Grand Cru candidate but this one is. Definitely. Not because it is a more powerful wine (it's not) but because it has enough class to display its power almost off-handedly and there is an elegance here that is hard to put a finger on. The nose is the best of the night, but its quality is ephemeral and I can't quite explain why it's better than the rest, just that it strikes great balance between fruit and clay notes. At the end of the day, I'll just quote Terrentino: "personality goes a long way". 480 NIS and if you can afford it, it's worth it.

Maison Leroy, Volnay Premier Cru Santenots, 1978

This comes from the Maison, not the Domaine, which means the Madame bought the wine from growers she respects (yet who forever remain anonymous, that's real respect for ya) and released it when she thought the wine had peaked - last year in this case. The nose pays tribute to Leroy's patience, with rotting earth, iodine and spices over a background of fruit that has long since lost any affinity with specific color. The palate, alas, feels slightly past its best, with a backbone of acidity that will never fade away, while the fruit has rather receded, leaving traces of balsamic vinegar on the finish, which I'm never a fan of. It's not falling apart, simply begging the question whether Madame could not have released this in the previous century. I think fifteen, twenty years in her vaults would have sufficed. But she took her sweet time and now the oligarchs of the world will have to pay 2500 NIS (or their equivalent) for the pleasure.