A spoil for a very quiet dark Saturday night in Melbourne under curfew. For once the cork was still firm, taut and came out in one piece. Good omen. The contents of the bottle? Very ripe wild strawberries like they sell in those small punnets in French markets. Some rich cherry extract and a good amount of sweet autumnal leaf litter from the twenty years slumber. All very of the essence with no sweetness, each sip leaving a haunting perfume in the retro nasal canyons. Sometimes a good sized nose is a blessing. Great adult flavours built on a firm but lithe backbone of austere chalky acidity and powder fine tannin. Just beautiful.
12.50% alcohol, size it not everything. Cork. 593 gms of glass. Maybe about €40 years ago in Paris.
There’s not many 1999s left now in the cellar. This one from the shelves of Lavinia on Boulevard Madeleine. Happy days. Still red in colour and oaky in smell. Lots of new oak does seem to lead to strong colours and a sanitary outcome, lots of furry tannin disrupting the finish too. As well as the oak which it must be admitted is very good, those Burgundians know how to choose being so close to the best coopers, there’s loads of other evocative smells and flavours. Something like an old English pub, worn leather, a smoky open fire and a background of warm alcoholic haze. Buried under the oak and extraction are deeply meaningful notes of kirsch, strawberry liqueur, dark blood orange juice, cocoa powder and an indescribable essence of a fine autumn evening. So pure, dense and achingly sweet. Amazing fruit from a vineyard a road width’s away from Chambertin itself. The nineties were a time when maximum extraction seemed the goal all the way from Central Otago to the Côte d’Or. Some grapes survived the thrashing better than others.
13% alcohol. Cork which broke and crumbled of course. Need more practice with old Burgundy! Memory fails about price but I can remember a €100 limit.
Maybe complexity in wine can be good or not so good? Under and over ripeness, obvious oak or plain faults could all bring complexity, this has none of those things but it does have a kaleidoscopic range of beautiful flavours. From a vineyard in the larger premier cru of Vaillons noted for its floral perfume, you’d barely need a sense of smell to agree. My scribbled notes, flowers! Wattle in bloom, waxy honey, muddy chalk. Precise and powerful laser beam of ripe citrus, perfume and drive, perfect ripeness just floats off into the distance. Dense and compact too. That was just the first day. After twenty four hours, it gets even more florid….more sea salty, candied Meyer lemon, almost bergamot builds in the mouth, perfect seasoning of oak caramel and a great sweep of pebbly, dry, ripe acidity sweeps through leaving the perfume of a perfect spring day in a flower and honey strewn meadow. Notwithstanding the fanciful nonsense, this is a brilliant drink.
12.5% alcohol. Cork, groan, a screw cap and ten years on, I wish. $110 rrp.
Not much left in the cellar from the last millennium, now there’s one less. Opened a little red brick coloured but gained a deeper garnet as it aired and rid itself of some still residual sulphur. Still fresh and fragrant. Wild strawberry, perfumed geranium, clove, aniseed and freshly dug sweet loam. Cherry liqueur and chocolate. Weirdly reminiscent of a Bass Phillip when on form in smell and an unfiltered cloudiness. A little smoky reduction still drifts in and out after twenty years of age. Delicious tang of blood orange juice acidity and those so cultured Côte d’Or tannins, now soft and mellow. Les Champeaux is up on the Combe in Gevrey and should be a bit cooler in theory than the lower burly crus. Well, true enough if the wine’s so beautifully fresh and supports the idea as it does here. What is undeniable is the lingering fragrance of a superbly decadent old Burgundy. Another of those hand luggage bottles before the world changed in 2001. Now the idea of any luggage at all seems exotic.
13% alcohol. Long squishy cork just doing the job. Was about €40 from old Caves Augé.
A weekend treat for this Chablis lover. Opened a little bit yeasty and wild but soon calmed down as it took a breath of air. Oh yes, this has all those Chablis smells and flavours of ripe citrus, maybe quince, creamy yeast lees, a yoghurt sourness and that ocean spray. Natural and relaxed. The concentration of flavour ramps up as it glides on flinty rails through the mouth, flaunting it’s premier cru caste. The flavours swell and linger, carried along on a cool watery stream of chalk and pebbles. Oddly this may be a real memory of smell and taste. Growing up in Wessex, my early summer holidays were often spent splashing in a gravelly chalk river. So immersed on a rare hot day that I probably swallowed a fair drink. Delicious Chablis will do these days.
Older bottles of Burgundy can certainly be a test of your patience, even after they’ve been carefully left somewhere cool and dark for over a decade, waiting. First the cork was a dreadful piece of tree bark. Carefully turning a good quality corkscrew only led to the middle of the cork collapsing into fine particles and dust. Fifteen minutes of patient digging got most bits out, leaving a small plug that dropped into the neck. Good thing it was so reductive it needed a double decant through a strainer to get the last bits. The first sniff and sip after leaving it to air was, as Billy Connolly once said, like a fart in a space suit, a particularly sulphurous one too. Quite a bit of spritz as well from dissolved CO2. Oh well, not tonight then. Twenty four hours of more breathing and then muttered expletives. Still a little smoky but an incredible density of warm ripe Pinot Noir heaven. Intense, fresh wild strawberries, cherries, liquorice, and chalky earth that bounce around the olfactory bits for what seems a very long time. Like a stairway to heaven, it made me wonder. The sheer concentration coats the mouth with flavour and what flavour. It’s as if the best summer fruit at its most perfectly ripe has been preserved with precision until now. The tannin and acidity were, of course, the perfect foil to carry and then freshen. Once in a while a bottle makes you remember how Burgundy can touch the sublime. Even if it means even more patience.
13% alcohol. Cork, foul but did its job, just. The cost forgotten.
96 points, could have gone 97 if less recalcitrant, the wine not I.
Goodness, maybe that’s the first long French name I’ve carefully typed without a single accent or circumflex. It’s red wine too despite the deluxe Chardy address. Seems Chassagne was prime Pinot soil before vine eating bugs arrived and the world’s infatuation with white Burgundy took hold. This is deeply coloured, just starting to lose some saturation. Good fruit density with smells and tastes of wild strawberry, kirsch cherries and quality chocolate earth. Builds well as it rests in the palate before ending with fine and still fresh acidity and cocoa tannin. The only unwelcome guest in the flavour party is some oak which grates as if it’s been badly seasoned perhaps and tastes a bit of old nuts and stale spice. Delicious grapes though, les gars Bachelet.
13% alcohol. Cork. Was about $45 pre arrival direct import.
A very polished and finessed version of Gevrey, perhaps a bit Rousseau like if I’d drunk enough of that hallowed producer to really say. Sweet essence of blood orange, dark wild strawberry, wet potter’s clay and slightly cardboard yeasty lees. Glides well on a chiselled, very fine acid base and a rustle of tannin aristocracy. It’s that density of ripe fruit built on a filigree of the finest carving that marks the posh middle of the Côte d’Or’s slope. Feels like you have to dress up for it.
13% alcohol. Cork. Very nice birthday present some years ago.
Côte d’Or aristocracy in a glass, something to lose one’s head over. My one and only bottle from this famous estate. It opened a bit off puttingly smelly like any twenty year old who’s just awake after the party that was vintage 1999. Lurking in the middle of the first mouthfuls was a core of deep, intense liquorice flavour that suggested a good bit of ventilation might improve things. A brave double decant and the perfume got sweeter, a little caramel and autumnal but some faded wild strawberry with a ferrous, bloody lip edge was visible through the mist. As the evening wore on and food in the form of a potato and truffle flavoured pizza arrived, the smells freshened and a deep, fine, and well, downright elegant purity of fruit emerged. The cut of perfect acid and iron filing tannin leaving a mouth just watering for more. In no way large scaled but lithe, the fruit a complex of that wild strawberry perfume, kirsch, a fine cocoa sprinkle and that earthy iron. A later reference to Remington Norman’s bourgeoisly informed “Great Domaines of Burgundy” notes that Champans does contain a lot of ironstone amongst the clay and limestone rubble. Well, there’s a coincidence. One of those bottles of Burgundy, well out of reach these days, that shows what caused the infatuation in the first place. Oh well, back to earth.
13.50% alcohol. Cork. Was about €50 in Paris some years ago.
Back in 2000, a simple call from a Paris station public phone in bad, halting Français was all it took to arrange an appointment with this wonderful Chambolle address. In the days when a Burgundy obsession was at least extravagantly affordable rather than a ludicrous billionaire’s foible. Lucky for me it was a rainy afternoon on the Côte d’Or and Madame Barthod was happy to stay in the cellar and pour tastes rather than be amongst les vignes. An unforgettable tour of Chambolle’s Premier Cru from barrel showed that Pinot can be even more tasty before it’s bottled. Anyway, the sight of a Bourgogne for 30 euros in that tempting basement of Lavinia was a chance to revisit good times. As meticulously clean and made as ever, gentle scents of wild strawberries, cherry and the smoothest limestone and clay swirl into a precise mouthful of just ripe fruit, a tingle of bright acidity and a trail of silky tannin. No huge weight or bombastic extract despite a bit of cold soak perhaps, just a well pitched melody. As good as many producers’ village level efforts. Some trophy bottles of late 90s and early 2000’s Burgundies have gone off to auction for jaw dropping prices to help fund other indulgences but there’s one, and only one sadly, 99 Barthod Charmes that’s going nowhere but my glass.
13% alcohol. Cork. What price great Burg these days?