Posts Tagged ‘Simon Bize’
Saturday’s Andover Wine Friends’ fine wine supper was based on a six-bottle case sold by the Wine Society as ‘World Class Pinot Noir’. The marketing worked perfectly – I duly bought the case and we enjoyed the wines. It was very good value at just under £140. But ‘world class’? I don’t think so. In the New World wines at this price level are very good indeed, but not the very best. In Burgundy, bottles at this price can be good, they occasionally can even be very good. Supply and demand make it impossible for them to be world class. The Côte d’Or is a small area and individual vineyard holdings are tiny. Our three modern representatives tasted below hold 5.35, 7.09 and, for Burgundy, a decent size 12 hectares respectively. The very fact that hectares are stated to two decimal places tells its own story. There is strong demand for these wines and so prices are high. World class probably now starts at £50 a bottle and rises to steeply thereafter. You are not going to get that in a £140 half case.
What the tasting did provide was a splendid introduction to the joys and mysteries of Pinot Noir. Fortunately, at least for most of our tasters, it skipped the all too common disappointment of the red Burgundy – not just pale in colour as it should be, but lacking in quality fruit, excitement or intensity.
The evening’s wines can be best be divided into home and away, Burgundy and the rest of the world. Thanks to a generous supply of bonus bottles from participants, we had 13 bottles in all to taste, two sparkling, five still red wines from Burgundy and six from around the world. We will deal with them in these groups.
Fortunately our local supply of Pinot Noir rosé which was destined to be the aperitif for the evening was out of stock so we stepped up to a top quality pink Cava and a ‘Blanc de Noir’ Champagne. They could not be more different in style – one is pink and the other is not, the former is all about ripe red fruit, the latter about yeasty sophistication. Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut, Freixenet NV has the attractive mid salmon pink colour you can see in the picture, medium intensity cherry and strawberry fruit, with medium acidity and body. It is clean, very well made and fruity but that is about it. By contrast, Waitrose Blanc de Noir, Champagne, Brut NV made by Alexander Bonnet, is about the interaction of fruit and yeast: brioche. savoury notes and sage on the nose over red fruit. The palate reverses the priorities so that the red fruit leads and the savoury notes play the supporting role. Very good length. At £20 a bottle this is a bargain for its complexity, finesse and balance.
The’ rest of the world’ category was a bit thin on the ground, especially as the German example I am going to group with Burgundy. In particular it missed a really big, extracted Californian example and anything from Australia or Oregon – but I plan to make up the last omission before too long. But what was there was good: Marlborough, Nelson and Central Otago from New Zealand, one choice from South Africa and one from Santa Barbera, California. The two Wine Society selections in this section showed well. Neudorf, Tom’s Block, Pinot Noir, Nelson, New Zealand 2009 is characteristically mid ruby, several shades deeper than Burgundy at this level; fine notes of red plum and red berried. It made a good bench mark for the new world examples. Picnic, Two Paddocks, Central Otago, New Zealand 2010 was a good contrast which was deeper yet in colour, quite powerful and rich on the nose, with medium palate weight, quite tannic and impressively long for the second wine of the estate. (Disappointingly the top wine is not called ‘Banquet’ or even ‘Dinner Party’ but just Two Paddocks Pinot Noir.) Our third Kiwi has a bit of bottle age: Spy Valley, Marlborough, Pinot Noir 2008 and showed it with its moderately intense ruby colour with a touch of orange on the rim; bright red berries and plum now joined by some compost notes, and a rich palate; impressive. Across the Pacific Ocean, Au Bon Climat, Los Alamos, Pinot Noir, 2007 is an excellent example of relatively cool climate California. Pale ruby (and thus looks like Pinot, unlike some of Californian examples), this has a very fine approach – fragrant red fruit, subtle oak and smoke effects followed by sweet, ripe fruit (cherry and strawberry) on the palate. Fine noticeable tannins will give it an ageing ability; overall, very classy. Across the Atlantic and back in the southern hemisphere we travel to inland but elevated Franschhoek, with vines at 550m making Pinot a possibility: Chamonix Reserve, Pinot Noir, Franschhoek, South Africa, 2010. Here we have an earthlier, dustier profile, with liquorice, chocolate and tobacco on the nose with the red berries and smoke. The ageing is 15 months in barrels, 80% new, but the wine has the weight of fruit to go with this. A good level of complexity but the wine was still a bit rough and ready – those chewy tannins need more time.
These new world wines are easy to appreciate, recognisable and mostly about fruit. By contrast the Burgundian pyramid is about subtle differences and nuances of delicacy and texture. Our five are all either village level wines or premier crus, so we don’t have either generic Burgundy or grand cru, but there is still quite a quality and price range. The first is from a little known village at the top end of Côte de Nuits, Marsannay, Domaine Sylvain Pataille, 2010. This is from the domaine of a trained enologist who reduces yields for even this modestly priced wine: dark cherry in colour with the blue edge of a young wine, pleasant red fruit and a fine textured palate. A few found this pale and unexciting, others liked the light, fresh fruit and refreshing acidity. And even at the basic level, there was something of the Burgundian silky texture. There was a clear step up to the three premier cru wines (two official premier crus and one village wine of the same quality). Beaune PC Montée Rouge, Domaine Potel, 2007 was pale ruby in colour, with a reticent nose but a taut, clean fruit palate and very good length. It combined a delicacy of red berried fruit with the structure on the palate. Gevrey-Chambertin, Mes Favourites, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Alain Burguet, 2006 is technically a village wine but was completely at home among the premier crus. While Gevrey has a reputation for being sturdy and full, this was notable for its delicate but concentrated fruit, and for its subtlety and length. Good but expensive at £39. The pre-penultimate wine, a bonus bottle from our own cellar, got the closest to the ‘world class’ of the title: Domaine Louis Boillot, Nuits-St-Georges PC Les Pruliers, 2001. In its twelfth year, there is the first signs of garnet at the edge of the rim and with the years in the bottle the nose is really beginning to express itself with the seamless combination of refined fruit and a touch of oak. The palate however was still full of sweet, red fruit and completely belied its age; it could be a five year old. Marked minerality on the palate completed the picture for a wine that has probably got at least another decade in it.
The final pair showed Burgundy’s ability to age and how differently Pinot Noir can turn out 500 km north in Germany. The oldest bonus bottle was from a great vintage and from the year after our youngest taster was born. It wore its 30 years remarkably well for a minor village: Savigny-les-Beaune, Simon Bize, 1983. Vintages are important in Burgundy and so are growers and this wine combines the best of both. Pale garnet, almost pale orange in colour, it was a fine combination of forest floor notes and remaining red fruit, light on the tongue but still with fine strawberry fruit at the core. The most unusual wine, and most distinctive expression of Pinot, has however to go to Hommage Sanct Peter, Spätburgunder (ie Pinot Noir), Walporzheimer Alte Lay, Brogsitter, Ahr, Germany, 2006, just north of the 50th parallel and so at the absolute limit of where grape vines – especially with red grapes – will ripen. A distinctive, almost brown, pale garnet in colour and a nose and palate dominated by oxidative, yeasty notes. This wine had clearly been aged for a long time in porous barrels with the result that for a relatively young wine, the meaty, savoury notes are more prominent than anything else. A local style with good complexity, rather than a representative example of Germany’s Pinot Noir renaissance.
With thanks to all those who brought bonus bottles and made this a tour de force of some of Pinot Noir’s potential …
The Bring a Bottle Club was in a rather different format for its late January tasting, or rather a refinement of its format. We already have ‘BBC1’ which is ‘bring an interesting/good bottle of any sort’, while ‘BBC2’ has a theme, on this occasion, white Burgundy. The refinement was that one of our number offered to liaise with members before hand so that we didn’t end up bringing the same wine – a particular problem given that just about everyone in the group has a strong connection with Caviste in Overton. It was just as well that there was this level of organisation as the wines posed the usual challenge in terms of identification. The region and the colour had been fixed and there is a very strong likelihood that we were going to be tasting Chardonnay in its various guises. We started with a pair of wines.
||This first wine opened with a powerfully oaky nose, some good lime and peach fruit, sophisticated oak again on the palate, altogether a very polished performer. Nobody spotted that it wasn’t Chardonnay, not even the person who brought it. This a very fine wine made from the Aligoté grape variety, normally the source of thin, acidic wines best made into aperitifs. Arnaud Ente, Bourgogne Aligoté, 2009. I had thought about bringing Sauvignon de Saint-Bris to complete the set of possible grape varieties.|
|By contrast wine number two was unoaked and full of green apples and lemon, showing vibrant fruit but with a taut, mineral, even seashell, undertone – which sent us all off in the Chablis direction, wrongly. In fact this was Simon Bize’s ‘Les Perrières’, a lieu-dit (named vineyard but not a cru) in Savigny: a fine wine trading simply as Bourgogne 2008, with the racy acidity of that cool year. 2-0 to white Burgundy.|
|There was a strong connection between wines three and four, with wine number three showing particularly well. Pale lemon in colour and medium intensity on the nose (as most of these were) this had fine, subtle fruit, balance and was very attractive. Eventually its importer recognised Sur le Mont. Domaine Cheveau, Mâcon Solutré, 2010.|
|Something had gone wrong here: a heavily oaked wine with caramel and nut notes, a bit dried out if with continuing acidity: Aux Bouthières, Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Michel Cheveau, 2006. Same family of producers as the previous wine, but an earlier generation. The only spoiled wine of the evening.|
||The next mini-flight was three wines with a connection of some sort. By this point in the evening, I had the advantage of knowing that the two wines which Janet and I had bought had not yet appeared. Wine number one was delicate, with pleasantly spicy oak and a fruity palate that was more intense than the nose. Number two had good lemon notes, good sharp grape fruit (that’s fruit of the grape rather than grapefruit), and eccellent acidity, classy.|
|Wine number three was all toffee apples and oxidisation; someone else suggested marshmallow – something of a marmite wine. And the connection – all three were from the most northerly part of Burgundy. The complication was that they weren’t all Chablis – after a few moments it came to me. Wines one and two were the wines we had brought: Cuvée|
Louis Bersan, Dom. Bersan, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre 2008 – next door to Chablis and great value and Chablis 2008 from Vignoble Dampt, ‘Vielles Vignes’. Number three was Patrick Piuze, Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux, also 2008.
Time for some food: a superb chicken dish from the Red Lion, Overton.
|Having done Chablis, Mâcon and some outstations, the final line up of four wines had to be from the Côtes de Beaune, from the great white wine communes – and indeed they were. Sorting them out and distinguishing between village level and premier crus was much more challenging. I got the quality levels right but had no idea about the communes.|
|All from the same cool 2007 vintage, the Meursault was was fresh and taut while the village Chassagne-Montrachet was powerful, exotic and fatter. The Chassagne PC by contrast was showing a real complexity on the palate with some more vegetal notes and the Puligny-Montrachet an excellent combination of lime fruit, subtle use of oak and some still vibrant youth.||
From the left:
It is easy to knock white Burgundy – you can find more vibrant young wines in Australia and bigger, more powerful Chardonnays in South Africa or California. But for subtle differences in a range of food friendly styles, you can’t really beat where it all began.