Corney & Barrow’s en primeur tasting of their selection of 2009 Burgundies shows what a treat Burgundy lovers are in for with this new vintage. The weather was excellent and warm in that year on the Côtes d’Or. Even in more northerly Chablis, despite rain in August, a splendid September ripened the grapes and made for good harvest. 2010 wasn’t nearly as good, so 2009 are the young wines to look out for. Of course this is not random sample of wines – these wines are made by very good growers who have been imported by Corney and Barrow, in some cases for many years. So, in a very good vintage, there will only be good to excellent wines present.
With a large number of very good wines to try, you have to have some sort of a plan. In Burgundy, it’s relatively easy, white, followed by red, Chardonnay by Pinot Noir. But there was at least one surprise. In this rather exalted company, A & P Villaine were also showing AC Bouzeron 2009, from the village of that name in the Côtes Chalonnais, the only village AC wine made from the lowly Aligoté grape. In this wine, the normally rather sharp aperitif, has good stone fruit flavours, properly refreshing, but rounded and rather sophisticated. The trick apparently is to plant on poor soils on the tops of slopes and to have the good clones. Every underdog has its day …
Starting with the white wines, I quickly become intrigued by the various styles of Meursault, one of the most important white wine villages in Burgundy. Domaine Matrot, pictured above, had three wines. The ‘village’ Meursault has attractive oak notes to begin with but then is full of fruit. It is surprisingly long for village level wine. Within the appellation there is a hamlet (of three houses) called Blagny, which gives its name to Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru. This wine has some fine honey and oak notes, and then really dense fruit with a good seam of acidity which will give the wine the ability to unfold over the years. These wines are not cheap – the Blagny is £395 a case in bond – but they will be fabulous. Finally, Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru again has excellent packed fruit, with some honey and herb (?sage) aromas. Very good indeed, with excellent potential.
Matrot had a great range of wines on offer, red and white. By contrast, Henri Darnat has just four, two from his own village of Meursault and two from vineyards which he describes as a recent purchase in Puligny-Montrachet in 1994. The latter produce very good wines, but his heart is in the Meursault. These are grown in the vineyards he inherited from his father and which he has worked for 25 years. He believes in late harvesting – 5th October in 2009 – with the aim of enhancing the minerality of the wines.The results are outstanding. It’s a struggle to convey much about these young wines, not because they are rough, but because there is so much to be unveiled – if all goes well . Meursault Clos du Domaine: ‘subtle if forceful’ I scribbled at the time, does not lead with fruit but is rounded, complex, dense. But then there is lots of ripe apple and stone fruit on the palate with plenty of zip. The Meursault Clos Richemont Premier Cru, a monopole (ie the named vineyard is wholly owned by one domaine, which is quite unusual in Burgundy) is a step up again. Like the first wine it will spend 12 months in the barrel and then a further 6 months in tanks before being bottled. So these wines are some way off being bottled, never mind full maturity. They are not initially showy, certainly not on the nose which will develop in years to come, but they are complex, subtle and distinctive. As you can just see in the pictures, these samples have been put in last year’s bottles and bear the maker’s personal touch!
Other good wines were shown by Domaine Patrick Javillier. Meursault les Tillets is made in a densely fruity style, 20% of it being fermented in barrels of which 40% were new – so the oak influence is modest and will fade quite soon. Similar treatment is given to Meursault Cuvée Tete de Mugets, which had peach and almond flavours, with good structure. Pierre Labet’s version of Meursault Les Tillets is immediately enjoyable, with rather obvious oak at the moment but but then excellent peach and apple fruit, very tightly knitted together and a good level of acidity.
Of course it wasn’t all Meursault. I particularly enjoyed the Chablis of Vincent Dampt, a distant cousin of Emmanuel Dampt who I visited in the autumn. The Premier Cru Vaillons is already very attractive, Premier Cru Côte de Léchet still needs time, while the Grand Cru Bougros (where they buy the grapes), is a fascinating combination of peach and melon fruit, some old oak, and a slightly salty tang. Nor of course was it all white wine. Here is a slightly random selection of reds, some affordable, some the stuff of dreams.
Domaine des Varoilles – their Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos du Meix des Ouches , is modest on the nose now, but has excellent red fruit with good complexity. The excellence of the year shows through in the lovely fruit. At just over twice the price, at £325 per 6 bottles en primeur, Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin currently has a pronounced scent of cloves on the nose, is very dense, and has hardly begun to show its potential. How good these 2009s are was shown by tasting a fully mature Gevrey-Chambertin Clos de Varoilles 2001 (from the same grower and a good year), which is pretty refined but has a tough streak to it. At the moment, the 2009s have both charming, ripe fruit and plenty of substance, grip and acidity for development.
Clos du Vougeot Grand Cru, Chateau de la Tour – it is privilege to try these wines, even though they are years off their peak and even 7-8 years off being ready to drink at all. The Cuvée Classique is rich, with dark fruit, cloves and cinnamon (50% of the barrels are new), really concentrated and set for the long haul. The Vielles Vignes, in this case reported to be 100 years old, gets the 100% new barrels for 18 months treatment. This is outstanding with its balsam and rich red fruit aromas and fabulous concentration. So you do get something exceptional for your £100 a bottle en primeur.
You don’t have to spend this sort of money, but if you love Burgundy, this a vintage to go for.