Bitten by the Burgundy bug in 1989 after staggering out of the Marché aux Vins in Beaune, having swallowed every sample from one of those ridiculous silver tastevins, little did I realise the torture ahead. There was a lot of self serve bottles open in those days too, ouch. Navigating the Côte d’Or needed direction and the bible was written by Clive Coates MW who left us this year. Prolific, rigorous and firm in opinion, his writing was the guide. Better off friends who subscribed to The Vine were bothered for the latest good word. Towards the end of the nineties the first vins naturals were arriving on the shelves of favourite Paris wine shops where prices were good and the hand luggage home was very heavy. Frédéric Cossard and Philippe Pacalet were sought after as makers of clean, fresh and perfumed Pinot in the new natural way. So, to my only bottle of the cult of Cossard’s Chassorney. From Caves Augé in 2004 when the risk of checked luggage was by then the only choice. Opened with old furniture odours of bottle age and clouded by remaining sulphur reduction, smelling like an egg sandwich. As the sulphur cleared over a patient hour or two, the colour livened from brick to red. The aromas freshened too, a puff of faded roses, sweet wild strawberry compôte, a bright blood orange crunch too both in flavour and energetic acidity. Then that final flood of sweet earthy richness and ironstone like mineral that you hope for from good Nuits? Not sure how else to describe those stony flavours us wine fiends treasure. Ineffable maybe? Or f’s sake, that’s good? Cleaned up with gently powerful emery board tannin. Probably could have saved a lot of words with a simple Clive Coates’ very fine plus.
13.5% alcohol. Cork. The budget was about €50 a bottle in those days for Paris holiday bottles.
It was perhaps last century when I realised how good Michel Laroche’s Chablis were in terms of clean winemaking and consistency. Maybe not the magic of the now beyond reach Raveneau or Dauvissat. Laroche was perhaps one of the first French producers to use screw caps as a logically scientific answer to the organic whims of tree bark, such was the care taken. It was a surprise to read the family business had sold. I should try and keep up. It must have been of some size. Le Domaine d’Henri seems to be a much smaller operation run by ses enfants and named after his père. This particular bottle came as another hearty recommendation from Randall’s Wine Merchants. Starts off with a whiff of sulphur reduction that clears quickly in the glass. In honesty you can only describe aromas in terms of those which are familiar. So bear with me but this has that heady perfume of one of those Australian wattles in full bloom, don’t know which one and there’s a lot of them. Like walking in seaside forest on a warming sunny winter day as those acacias are vivid in their yellow fragrance. More familiar are flavours of pears in honey, exotic citrus, yuzu or Meyer lemon, a whisper of white peach and cut apple, all cruising to a detailed end of real length. Texturally there’s a quiet build of feather tickle acidity that starts as a murmur and builds to a self confident sweep of beautiful fruit. Plenty of wine description fancy too in those Chablis chalky mineral flavours. Such good manners and maybe at a point in life where it’s most comfortable in its skin?
12.5% alcohol. Diam. Didn’t keep a receipt which is wise after visiting Randall but about $60 I think.
94 points, just fading a scintilla on day two to 93. Silly quibble really.
Two direct imports from Dan Murphy’s or Pinnacle Drinks or whichever brand one of the three big supermarkets who bypass the usual wholesale call themselves. Australia’s appalling wine taxation seems to make us wine freaks seek some import value wherever we can. I’ve noticed that the most viewed posts on this sporadic blog seem to be for cheap imports, glad to know I’m not alone in my ache to find a gem that helps the budget. The exploration has been entirely Dan Murphy’s and Aldi. One day I’ll brave Vintage Cellars or the other versions of Coles booze outlets again but their silly pricing and lack of spark still look pretty discouraging. Dan’s and on rare occasion, Aldi offer the odd one good enough to raise the enthusiasm for a recommendation. Often the shiny new French, Italian or Spaniard on the shelf turns out to be not exactly a disaster but something that’s just acceptable, certainly not worth bothering a reader about. Maybe it’s worth the time to point out those that are OK if you’re desperate for a latin fandango but not much more. I’ve certainly laboured my way through a few over two or three nights. Don’t think a little disparaging here is exactly going to worry the megastores. It’s only opinion anyway. So….things to maybe avoid if you want to make every bottle count.
The Bourgogne Gamay. Impossible to nail down a producer. Googling just leads to opaque branding and a suggestion the Gamay in question comes from “Beaujolais Crus”, who knows where the Combe St Jean makes wine? Light to medium weight, sappy cherries, sweet green herbs and nuts, good firm 2020 acidity but dilute through the end just when you’d prefer some weight and clipped with what tastes like a heavy hand with safety first sulphur flinging. The Mommessin from Dan’s versions are much better value and often delicious. Enough here to go back to see if there’s more to come but ultimately there’s not.
13% alcohol. Screw cap. $23.80 in a six.
87 or 88 points and a nice gold medal sticker too.
The Sangiovese. Must admit to a long time love of Emilia Romagna, Champagne socialists, food, red brick ancient cities, delightfully out of fashion Lambrusco and the occasional great Sangiovese. Whenever a new Sangio import appears, the lure is siren. Flashy heavy bottle here, filled by a winery that’s part of one of those large conglomerate Italian businesses. Industrially clean, heavily extracted from just OK, just ripe enough grapes. Loads of furry tannin and reasonably mouth friendly acidity. Sadly, the fruit decides to take a holiday as that structure flexes. Not sure I could say it were Sangiovese were it not on the label. Again, no faults but not much joy. it’s very difficult to find proper Sangiovese under $30. Suggestions welcome.
14% alcohol. Diam. $17.80 in a six.
A pre arrival offer from Randall’s, a local Melbourne importer of good things, and some great reviews from Bill Nanson’s Burgundy Report made buying irresistible at the sort of prices we are warned won’t last. The increasingly earlier vintages seem to bring flavours and structure to Chablis which aren’t perhaps exactly typical. Recently, if I hadn’t known what’s in the glass, my first guess would have been more Yarra Valley Chardonnay than Chablis in a couple of cases. Wondering why, a bit of…er…my own research found accounts of early seasons more like the Yarra in timing where the tartaric acid remains firm with little of the malic acid which of course turns into that mouthwatering lactic tang I love in Chablis. Isn’t science good? Thus, it was a joy to stick my nose into this and think Chablis. More ripe citrus and sweet green herbs than stone fruits and then that invigorating marine scent of oyster shells and chalk. Gloriously refreshing. Perhaps more of a firm grip than a luscious tingle but still impossible to put down. Tremendous depth of fruit for the humble bottom of the Chablis pyramid. So clean, fresh and head first into a cool ocean. Didn’t buy enough.
12.5% alcohol, nice. Diam, hooray, the difficulty of getting one back in the bottle won’t be a problem here. Currently $33 in store. Hope there’s some left.
93 points, as many as the richer, more powerful 2019 1er cru on the table at the same time.
June 2022 and another bottle. Like the first, much better the second day. The fruit gains so much weight and length. There’s quite a grapefruit tang in the middle verging into pleasantly sour. Maybe a whisper of pyrazine green capsicum? Nonetheless, so delicious. Did I mention I love Chablis?
92 points perhaps for this but don’t expect objectivity.
The Chablis from Laroche were always a very good and reliable choice but don’t seem as common on retail shelves these days. They also were among the first French producers to use screw caps. When this lonely bottle appeared on the auction website, a quick check confirmed the family connection to the Chablis producer. Happily for me, not many bids. Spotlessly clean but not sterile. Fragrant and flowery. Top note of dew fresh raspberries with wild strawberry and cranberry crisp harmonies. Succulent acidity and fine limestone tannin bring things to a long and refined close. Considering the theoretically humble appellation there’s quite a swell of just ripe fruit. Looks like it comes from a fancy Côte d’Or address.
12.5% but just so ripeness. Diam, nice. $36 at auction. Current vintage about $44 on the importer’s, Airioldi Wines, website.
A negotiant bottling I think as the front label has a cryptic OT reference and the back label says bottled by Maison Tricon, perhaps the Olivier variety of Tricon? The source aside this was one of those bottles that was disappointing to start and ended up with the feeling the bottle was too small. Still a good fill level and a long firm cork with virtually no travel was encouraging. Still lightly coloured with a tinge of green gave even more hope. First sniff and taste was a let down of cheese and nuts aldehyde, sort of oxidised like Fino. Grapes with no protection from oxidation like apples cut and left to brown. First taste, crisp and fresh to start, then a cloud of the oxidative making hides any fruit through the mouth until a flicker of citrus and honey to end. Enough to stuff the cork back in and back into the fridge to see what happens with a day’s air. Kill or cure. Second day and the oxidative edge is still there but as it sits in the glass, booming flavours of beeswax, acacia flowers, honey, exotic citrus, mushrooms and that sense of stream water over cool limestone or something similarly fanciful. The aldehydic note nearly disappeared. Not sure how wine science explains that. The lessons here I think are, the 2012 Chablis vintage is very, very good and despite some old fashioned or dodgy winemaking that fruit quality will out. So wish I had some 2012s in the cellar.
13% alcohol. Cork. $48 at auction.
Started 85 points, ended up 93 days of yore points.
Confounding bloody Burgundy. The first bottle of this was drunk fairly quickly over a meal and didn’t really excite, the layer of coffee and cedar oak a little strident to smell and gummy in the finishing shape. The second attempt looked a little more settled but still felt like it was good to open, drink, enjoy and leave the better bottles for a more special occasion, er..like opening a special bottle. Well, that was day one. As something more enjoyable was open, this languished on the table and over half a bottle went in the fridge for the next day. Utterly gobsmacked, the oak still there but now had to compete with that mid to back palate depth of fresh red fruit that Pinot from the Côte d’Or hangs onto over the years. A fine and beautiful swell of wild strawberries, kirsch cherry and something between dark cocoa and clay soil. Detailed acidity and some skin texture fight the oak to the end. Really didn’t expect a fifteen year old Pinot Noir to need twenty four hours to explain itself. There again Chassagne was originally a red grape place and this a premier cru where it’s still worth hanging on to some Pinot vines. Not sure I’ll ever learn.
13% alcohol. Cork. About $45 pre arrival in 2007, those were the days.
90 points day one, 94 day two, who’d a thought.
Sort of not so petit with large framed flavour and shape. Maybe it’s the warmer vintages? Thankfully this hangs on to some typical Chablis smells and tastes despite the rich and ripe feel. Lots of ripe lime, other sweet citrus verging into almost melon. Viscous glide full of creamy glycerol texture. Nevertheless for us Chablis fanciers there’s sea breezy saline, a hint of crustacean shell and a cut of yoghurt tangy acidity that still manage to scratch the insistent itches for which there’s only one treatment. A little broad in the beam but anchored to its sea shell bed. Lacks the detail of a premier cru in a cooler vintage but delicious and honest. Beggars and choosers as the old cliche goes.
12.5% alcohol the label says but… Diam, yes. $30 pre arrival offer from Randall the Winemerchant, nice selection.
91 but so much more for Chablis truth.
Watching the metaphorical sand run out of my personal hour glass, time to drink what’s left in the cellar. Old Leslie Pruliers is on form for the Nuits premier cru league team tonight, Pinot fans. In the opening minutes, there’s great width of sweetly developed kirsch, dark chocolate and earth. Old Les really lifts his game towards the end with a great energetic burst of red fruits and minerals before running headlong into a wall of velvet skin tannin. The second half brings autumnal damp forests, dried blackberry and an enormous pile of sweet earth. The crowd’s roar at the final whistle reverberates with a profound clang of iron and stone. Well deserved home victory for NSG, take that PSG.
13% alcohol. Cork. About 40€ from Lavinia’s Paris treasure trove before Burgundy transfer fees got really out hand.
95 points for a win.
Enough bad football metaphors for quite a while.
Rarely but happily great wine still ends up in the glass on occasion. On the table with that Vietti Villero was my last treasured bottle from the doyenne of Chambolle premiers, Madame Ghislaine Barthod. Vietti power and Barthod grace, how rich and great the times. Cool, composed, spotlessly clean. Gracefully extracted flavours of cherry, perfect autumn raspberries and ripe squishy strawberries, like the fragrant Mara de Bois ones that the French love. Fresh and dark, perhaps destemmed and a cold soak? Fruit and sweet earth build and carry to the horizon on an extraordinary mineral, limestone like trajectory. Not sure how else to describe the controlled powerful sense of somewhere. Unlike some more brash Burgundies, there’s no jolt of oak influence. In a word, beautiful. Smitten by Charmes.
13% alcohol. Cork. About €40 at the Paris Lavinia in 2002, those were indeed the days.