Bourgogne Sightings and Ramblings

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2013

I know what I was looking for in white Burgundies when I started out. I read what the wine the books had to say about the classic idiom and the notion appealed to me: savory, focused whites, carrying hints of nuts and minerals and offering saline, rather than sweet, flavors. Most of the wines I tried at the time (say, seven to ten years ago) were fairly young, so they only insinuated at their potential to evolve into the ideal I was looking for. Many were at least a little oaky and fat and they remained that way when we returned to them years later. At best. At worst they didn't keep well at all, as Burgundy whites have been cursed by premox for the last two decades, meaning there are premature signs of oxidation in wines that used to carry their age much better in the past.

Eventually, I learned how to find what I was looking for. Some winemakers offer wines whose body fat and immediate pleasures make good first impressions, i.e. they were ripe and oaky - and let's face it, ripeness and oak sell wines to newbies. Many buyers remain newbies forever, so there's obviously a market share out there for wines whose lack of focus and depth is obscured by oak.

On the other hand, there are wines that start out fat and oaky, yet I'd sense they have enough substance to carry them long enough through the cellar to shed the fat and oak. Or would, if not for premox.

So I'm on the lookout for a third option, wines where the fruit is clenched in a compact, relatively lean frame in youth and where you can easily get a sense of purity and clarity. I'm not saying everything about the wine needs to be obvious, but I want to be able to easily see past the oak and baby fat.  And I do prefer to err on the side of leanness and acidity. And I don't like oak. If it's there, I want the fruit and acidity to be dominant enough that I don't have to fret about needing to age the wine for so long that premox might be an issue, even though I do believe that wines dominated by acidity and fruit are less likely to be cursed by premox to begin with.

But I was going to write about a wine, and the reason I'm boring you with this spiel is that the En Caradeux easily typifies my ideal in Bourgone whites. It really ticks off every checkbox I need: clarity, purity, that compact, focused leanness that belies substance. And it comes from an excellent terroir, a Premier Cru close to the Corton-Charlemagne hill. Which means importers will hype this as a mini-Corton - and they'd be right. Except that with its green apple peels, flint, Atlantic salt, great length and focus, you could just as easily mistake it for a cooler climat Puligny Premier Cru. (Dec. 1, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

I knew what I'd written for the Rapet went beyond a mere tasting note. I seem to be full of thoughts, simple and intricate, about Burgundy lately. So I just let my muse go rambling though the woods this month.

Domaine des Miles (Domaine Fourrey), Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2015

Chablis was relatively free of the issues that bothered me with the Cote d'Or whites, the steely leanness of the style too easily identifiable and marketable for producers to be tempted to go for too much oak (except for some top crus). This is an excellent example of getting Chablis right, aromas of apples and chalk echoed on the palate, carried by vibrant acidity to a saline finish. The internet says Miles is owned by Domaine Fourrey, and I have to say I wasn't very excited with the Côte de Léchet 2014 from Fourrey proper earlier this year. I assume the two domaines are run by one team, but who knows, and anyway, the media (as well as my limited experience) doesn't seem to make them out to be earth shakers, no Raveneau, Duavissat, Henri or Droin. However, this - this would be a good house wine, especially if Wine Route sell them at a discount, as they are wont to do with wines in this price niche. For now, the selling price of 169 is just okay. (Dec. 3, 2016)

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

I wouldn't go as far as saying the Dampt team are better winemakers than Miles/Fourrey, but someone in the domaine is more sensitive to the Chablis ideal and has a finer artistic flair. Certainly if what you're looking for are the maritime aromas and salty crunch on the finish, you could lose yourself in a bottle all evening long. I know I would, if I had been more conservative with my small stash. This is almost my last bottle and my pleasures have been consistently bountiful. (Dec. 4, 2016)

This was bought at a 2 for 300 NIS discount at Wine Route and I've always been pleased with the purchase.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Clos Beru, 2012

This is the flagship wine of the Château de Beru, unique for being a sort of cult house with no Grand Cru holdings, just a Premier Cru Vaucoupin, a few Chablis cuvées and this, a monople, walled single vineyard in the basic Chablis AOC that costs more than most Premier Crus. It's worth it, though, if you buy a wine for what it's inside the bottle and not what's on the label; I agree that some houses abuse that notion, but in this case, the price is reasonable. Having said that, it's a rather idiosyncratic version of Chablis, somehow managing to be both ripe and racy at the same time, coming on almost like a Champagne, offering baked apples and mushrooms as well as more typical chalk and salt. The acidity is excellent, a perfect counterpoint to the fruit, which is as deep as a Grand Cru's - almost fat in a vaguely Meursault vein, in fact. (Dec. 17, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aux Grands Liards, 2010

I'd been aging this for three years, fretting about opening my 2010's too early (and I opened the Bize Perrières 2010, a mere Bourgogne, too early and never enjoyed it). But this is in a remarkably enjoyable phase, the nose somehow mixing iron, clay and spices with cool black fruit to make for an intriguing complexity, the tannins persistent enough to support the acidity and lend structure without blockading the fruit, asserting themselves as the wine airs to make a point: this village wine will keep and develop for some years to come. Really savory and delicious, the first Bize I've had that lived up to the house's reputation. (Dec. 7, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 240 NIS - still available.

A. et P. de Villaine, Côte Chalonnaise, La Fortune, 2011

Aubert de Villaine has been leading Domaine Romanee-Conti for the last three or four decades. His residence is at Bouzeron where he grows and vinefies Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote. Villaine is said to be the driving force behind the promotion of the Aligote-only Bouzeron AOC. I like his Bouzeron, but to be quite honest, I'm more enamored of other Aligotes (Ente, Bouisson). Following the Bouzeron promotion, Pinot and Chardonnay wines from the village are bottled as Côte Chalonnaise, so this is actually a village wine. I was a fan of Villaine for years and bought La Fortune and La Digoine regularly. Both are Côte Chalonnaise reds from Bouzeron vineyards, the La Fortune sourced from relatively young vines. I wouldn't have thought of drinking a La Fortune at five years of age, especially from a vintage like 2011, which by all accounts is one to drink on the younger side - but a stash at a local restaurant had really tempted me. And it really is drinking remarkably well, stinging me with the Burgundian Cupid arrow of autumnal, mellow strawberries and underbrush. If I set aside this romantic enthusiasm, I have to admit that, while the attack and middle palate are fresh enough, the fruit is just starting to dry out on the finish. Despite my reservation, for me, this is a very good wine (Dec. 10, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Domaine de Montille, Beaune Premier Cru, Perrières, 2010

A simple Montille Bourgogne 2002 was what hooked me on to Burgundy, some twelve years ago. Etienne de Montille turned père Hubert's domaine into a mini-empire, that by now has extended beyond the family's original Volnay and Pommard holdings, into significant Vosne and Nuits vineyards. The Perrières bottling is located relatively low in the hierarchy, but it's a very good Beaune Premier Cru, and a good value in Burgundian terms, year in and year out. Off course, in a great vintage like 2010 it's an especially good buy. Typically for Beaune, we have here aromas of black fruit and minerals - Mediterranean market spices adding a touch of exotic splendor - and vividly fresh fruit and acidity on the palate (more so than the Bize, just to give a frame of reference). It's a good example of Etienne's style: friendly, sexy fruit, with a subtle, yet persistent, tannic structure. A very attractive wine. (Dec. 15, 2016).

Burgundy Wine Collection, 290 NIS for recent vintages. Starting with the 'classic' Montille Crus in Volnay and Pommard, the prices become a little too dear for comfort, but this is, like I wrote, a recommended buy.

The go-to names for Burgundy in Israel are Burgundy Wine Collection and Bourgogne Crown. Both specialize in the region and carry a mix of classic names and up and coming stars. What about the Wine Route empire, though? My problem with Wine Route's Burgundy portfolio has always been lack of commitment. Producers come, producers go. I never get a sense that someone is trying to build up a following or a true partnership. Just look at how they handle Chablis. Dampt one year, Fourrey/Miles the next, only the obvious crus from ubiquitous Fevre hanging in there year to year (Vaillons, Valmur, Clos - a rather short list for a producer with holdings in just about every Chablis vineyard). Burgundy proper has always been even more slapdash, only Jadot maintaining a consistent presence. I sometimes wish they'd just hand over their Burgundy contacts to someone who actually gives a fuck. But, sometimes, they do surprise me.

Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013

This is an interesting offering from from Wine Route, perhaps hinting at a potentially attractive addition to their sporadically interesting Burgundy portfolio. Van Canneyt is the winemaker at famed Domaine Hudelot-Noellat (owned by his grandparents), who started a micro-négociant business in 2012. Demand for Hudelot-Noellat was higher than the supply, and Charles wanted his own business, so there was a personal, as well as a business, justification for the moonlighting gig. His intent is to to produce “classic styles” from vineyards not produced at Hudelot-Noellat (I can't find out if he buys grapes or must, but I hope it's the former if he's capitalizing on the Hudelot-Noellat name). Since the range was initially restricted to top AOCs - only Grand Crus in 2012 -  the assumption is that this 'basic' Bourgogne is made of declassified grapes of pedigree origins. And, indeed, I believe this is no lowly Bourgogne, as this is very elegant and focused, offering a great deal of flavor on a silky texture, with smooth tannins and poised balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is long and vibrant enough to justify the suspicions that it is a declassified village - the internet says Chambolle, and it's true that the floral scents typical of the village become very visceral, nearly intoxicating, in fact. Lovely, (Dec. 16, 2016)

169 NIS. It would be very sweet indeed if this is a trailer for future offerings from Van Canneyt, or even Hudelot-Noellat.

Post Script

My friends and I went through a flight of Premier Crus, that represented all the joys, intellectual and sensual, that the Cote d'Or can provide.

Josepgh Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

We tend to overlook Drouhin around here, but this is arguably the best of the big houses, and looking over my notes, their wines always shows well whenever someone bothers to bring any to a tasting. Which doesn't happen a lot, because we overlook Drouhin, like I said. Also, the imports are in a weird state of limbo in Israel. Drouhin was never well marketed while the Scottish Company carried them, and then the company folded and Tiv Ta'am inherited the stocks, and now nobody knows what's on offer. Take this for example, Zacki found it just last week in a Tiv Ta'am branch, where it's been lurking for god knows how long. It's drinking really great (and should continue to do so for five more years, at least, although I doubt it will get better), very complex and full of iron and rust accents, an elegant version of the Nuits muscle bound rusticity, that I found easy to spot blind. What makes this bottle even more special is how rare a bird the Proces vineyard is. I looked it up, it's one of the 4-5 smallest of the forty or so Premier Crus in NSG.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Clos des Ducs, 2001

My friends and I also tend to overlook 2001, probably because it was overshadowed by 2002, the current 'great' Burgundy vintage when we started out. Later, when we started buying back vintages, I suppose many of us opted for for 2002's, 1999's and 1996's, the other 'great' vintages easily available. This is another example of what a lovely vintage 2001 was, and it also shows what a great producer d'Angerville is, a perfect example of his elegant muscular style. It also shows the quality of the Clos des Ducs monople vineyard, or its longevity anyway: you get the feeling it still hasn't released every nuance of flavor it has to offer. If a tag is needed, let's call it a reserved wine. I loved it.

Etienne de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2007

If 2001 is overlooked because we just missed it when we jumped on the Burgundy train, then 2007 is ignored because it wasn't, in most cases, a vintage for long cellaring, or for showing off at tastings. The Pezerolles, though, is a wonderful specimen, and, like the 2010 Perrières, typical of the house style. Also, with notes of iron threading through the aromas and flavors, it is quite typical of Pommard. The reasons why 2007 is a vintage that pleases but doesn't thrill is that it lacks inches to a yard in every dimension: its not quite deep enough, not quite broad enough, not quite bright or sexy enough.