2002 Domaine de Chassorney Nuits Saint Georges Clos des Argillières 1er cru

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.

94 points.

2019 Giant Steps Pinot Noir

Nice to see a bit of clarity in labelling. You don’t have to declare grape ingredients below 15% on a label under Australian wine rules but here it’s noted there’s 8.5% Central Otago Pinot Noir as well as the majority Yarra Valley. Kudos for rigour. Sort of apposite to the last Fairbank post as the winemaker has made the move from there to here. Doubly so as both wines seem to be honest, no fiddling expressions of grapes, season and place. Perhaps this hasn’t the weight and charm of that lovely 2015 vintage. Here there’s mint, a lick of Oz forest, sappy stems and wild strawberries. Some lifted perfume, almost incense or joss stick like. Darker fruit emerges. Just enough flavour to buffer the slightly green stem and acid structure which dries things up enough to warrant another sip or bite of food. Must say I do enjoy Yarra Pinot when it’s young and fresh. Maybe with a bit of Otago richness too? Again a good drink not trying too hard to impress.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 on special.

91 points.

2017 Benjamin Laroche La Manufacture Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre Pinot Noir

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.

93 points.

2005 Jean Claude Bachelet et Fils Chassagne Montrachet La Boudriotte 1er cru

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.

2012 Giant Steps Gladysdale Vineyard Pinot Noir

From a vineyard up in the hills of the beautiful Yarra valley. Living in a big city, you often forget the country on your own doorstep. Lovely name too, the dale of Gladys. Expect scones and a nice cup of tea perhaps. Rather than a play for power and impact, this is light bodied, still fresh and perfumed. Bright red fruits in the manner of strawberries, raspberries and the occasional cherry swell through the nose and mouth. Some spice, sort of sarsaparilla and nice savour from hardly noticeable oak and a twist of sappy stems keep the mouthwatered and then gently dried by their tannin and some ripe acidity. Held up really well over two days. Graceful in a swish of silk.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $45 if memory serves?

93 points.

2002 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits Saint Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru

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.

1999 Domaine Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle Musigny Les Charmes 1er cru

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.

96 points.

2019 Abbotts and Delaunay Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc

From a producer who has made some clean, tasty Languedoc Roussillon bottles, often using deeply flavoured old vine Carignan, now dabbling in a cheaper single variety range. Shy and herby but palpably still Pinot on day one, it opened up well on day two. Strawberries, other red fruits and bramble undergrowth with a whole berry lift. A little washy and dilute but the settled fresh acidity shows a poise above its price point. Another of those cheerful and authentic drinks that would suit that mythical bistro carafe with a crispy confit quacker. Smart sourcing and making Monsieur Delaunay, santé.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $13 from Oatley Wines imports own invitation web site, The Sippery, as an introductory special offer, amazing value. Email if you want an invitation.

89 points.

1999 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits Saint Georges Clos des Porrets – St. Georges 1er cru

A special time of year, well, it is when you open a Burgundy from last century. One of the original growers who took to bottling their own in the 1920s and are still making austere reductive wine from low yields with little new oak flavour. Unfortunate bad press years ago from Americans favouring sweet new oak and extract has served to keep Gouges’ prices relatively stable, thank Bacchus. This bottle opened with reservations about being shaken from its sleep and little to say at first. Despite its age, it gained momentum on day two. Deep into the mouthful, mushy ripe wild strawberry, dark sour cherries in game meat sauce, blood and almond paste; all brightly lit by a startlingly wild geology. The French say sauvage and they’re right. Amazing rocks, stones and earth. A tiny bit of bilge water old oak doesn’t detract from driving, life affirming acidity and melting finest sandpaper tannin. Fairly convincing argument that there’s something to this terroir thing.

13% alcohol. Cork. About €40 from Lavinia some years ago.

94 points eventually and maybe just how NSG is supposed to be.

2018 Giant Steps LDR Pinot Noir and Syrah

Count my blessings, a place to live where the Covid numbers aren’t troubling the scorer and a bottle to remember very early days in Australian wine when they cared not for variety but made light dry reds by blending. Sadly I’ve never been privy to one of the great Maurice O’Shea blends. Despite an unreasonable prejudice for Pinot the pure, this works a treat. Perfume and cherry Pinot at hello, spice and raspberry arrive late and keep going on a bit. It was at first crack smoky and too reduced for me and needed a day’s air. Second day, there’s still some biscuity reduction, strawberry and roses at the front whilst that Shiraz has a party at the back with berries and toffee. Fine, open meld of acidity and a lick of stem tannin. Graceful in the making. So much for preconceptions, the some of the parts here is more.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Another bargain from the wholesale clearance.

92 plus a bit for enjoyment.