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.

2016 Louis Jadot Côte de Nuits Villages Le Vaucrain

Apart from the odd Bourgogne, there’s been little Burgundy buying around here since the 2005 vintage when already high prices started to get just daft. When a normally sensible wine buying friend returned from a frenzy of a wholesaler’s warehouse clearance sale buried under a mountain of bottles with a average price of about $15, it would have been rude not to accept an offer to split the spoils, just not sure where to put it all? Always had a soft spot for Jadot, who make something like 240 different wines each year without seeming to resort to much rationalist blending and industrial safety. Le Vaucrain is a single vineyard holding in Comblanchien where the Nuits Saint Georges vines give way to limestone quarries. Bit of reduction and lift to start which clear quickly. Then there’s a dark stony edge here that maybe reflects those NSG preconceptions. Dark dried cherries, over ripe wild strawberry and a whiff of roses, all cut by suave acidity and firm grape skin tannin. A touch of earthy mulch to season the cut of a mineral grip. Improving over two days, those cool soft tingles, perfect ripeness and that composed freshness which can clearly mark Burgundy are much in evidence. A delicious surprise, though a current RRP pushing $100 makes it perhaps not the best value Pinot Noir on the planet.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. Thanks D and finewineco.com for such a bargain.

93 very suave points.

2014 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir

Producing good Pinot Noir seems to need the close attention only a dedicated, hands on producer can provide. In this case, naked bodies immersed as well according to reports. Still a good bright red colour for an Aussie Pinot, fragrant with tart berries, rose oil, wild strawberry and that sort of incense like mystery that does nothing to stop the obvious comparison to things from the Côte d’Or. There really is a flavour ripeness you don’t often see in Australian Pinot, energy, focus and poised between the herby and the brown sugar sweet. Mouthwatering acidity and a lick of iron filing tannin. Spotlessly clean too, as you’d hope the pigeage was too! Must be a good place to grow Pinot.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.

94 points.

2009 Stefano Lubiana Grande Vintage

After months of sensible pandemic restrictions, the joy of being allowed to cook dinner for a dear neighbour was doubled when they turned up on the doorstep with such luxurious bubbles. Something like 70% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir left on lees for nine years before disgorging and goodness, some impact and power. Starts a bit reductive and green but with the dense bubbles tickling the nose, there’s a richness of spice, caramel, butter pastry, crystalline citrus, barley sugar and aniseed. Lingers with a deep flavour of ripe Chardonnay and still fresh chalky acidity. Not exactly subtle but a powerfully balanced mouthful. Splendid Australian sparkling wine of its own merit. What a great way to celebrate our lockdown patience and true neighbourliness.

12.5% alcohol. Diam. Thanks.

94 points.

1999 Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er cru Les Mitans

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.

96 points.

1999 Domaine Perrot Minot Charmes Chambertin

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.

95 points.

2017 St Hubert’s Pinot Noir

St Hubert’s has been a confused brand in the TWE empire of labels for quite a while now. When their friends and family direct sale website had a mystery six pack for $75, I must admit I jumped in. When six bottles of St Hubert’s turned up, they stirred some early memories of Yarra Valley joy before the Penfolds marketing department got their hands on one of the valley’s originals. This bottle was a bit subdued on opening, stalky, brown sugar and spice. As the air got to it, dried strawberry and raspberry preserves with a fleeting whiff of rose oil amongst the woody stalks. Nice use of whole bunches to lift what seems a little awkward ripeness. Although 2017 was thought a later, cooler year, the ripeness here does provoke thought about climate change and just how Pinot Noir will cope in the warmer valley floor sites. Looking forward to some Grenache grafting perhaps?

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.50 in a six pack!

90 points for some deft winemaking.

1999 Domaine Alain Burguet Gevrey Chambertin 1er cru Les Champeaux

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.

95 points.

2012 Mac Forbes Pinot Noir

Mac Forbes’ wines with their early picked lower alcohols and gentle extraction always make me think of those Yarra Valley Pinots and Cabernets from the 1980s and 1990s, before the boom in planting and warmer seasons. Mac being a Mount Mary alumnus does a lot to focus that impression. This is just what I like in Yarra Pinot, still a bright red, perfumed with ferny undergrowth, herbs and wild strawberries grown in a wild wood. Tart raspberries expand as it ends with a wash of still keen acidity, fine tannins and a hint of lemony oak, all more water coloured than alcohol warmed. The whole thing nicely sweetened by bottle age. The fruit weight may not be loaded enough for some but this is about perfume and focus and all the better for it.

13% alcohol which is almost extreme for a Mac Forbes Pinot. Screwcap. Was about $30 on release.

93 points.