Some wines, like Chateau Musar or Vina Tondonia are generally easy to spot from the aroma. Another is (most) white burgundy. And so it was that I confidently pronounced this wine (Saint-Aubin Champs Tirant, 2014) as such, despite it being opened twenty-four hours and double decanted. As it turned out I’ve got a bottle, as yet undrunk, Geoff having picked up a few marked down in Waitrose. A classic supple, spicy nose, with a hint of struck match, rich smooth mouth-feel followed by a complex lemony taste. A bargain at the reduced price of £16.99.
[Geoff: I’m delighted to hear that Richard has another bottle – this wine was excellent and certainly a bargain. I’m becoming an advocate for decanting all wines, regardless of colour, as it certainly paid off with this wine. Pre-aeration it was closed, slightly reductive on the nose and dominated by lemony acidity. When tried 40 mins after decanting it became broader, livelier and had lost those dominating aromas and flavours. After enjoying it on Saturday night I returned it to the bottle where I vacuum sealed it with the result Richard has described. Decanting is a must]
This was Zaha’s 2015 Chardonnay made in Mendoza, Argentina. Made from vines grown at 1200 metres, the wine is sold by the Wine Society, who, amongst other descriptions, describe it as ‘taut’. The cost is £20 which puts it into the white Burgundy price bracket.
A pronounced green colour suggested acidity but the viscosity also hinted at richness. There was a very slight smokiness on the nose which smelt predominately of stone fruits. (R. thought there was burnt match smell, possibly a sign of reduction). The big mouth feel was attractive as was its richness, dryness and the expected acidity. It didn’t shout Chardonnay to me – not that it needed to – but it was a good wine, nevertheless.
If I was pushed to liken it to a classic Burgundy it was certainly more southern but not as broad as the Maconnais wines. Another good wine on this weekend of good wines.
[Richard: I thought this was very good. £20 for a South American chardonnay might seem ambitious but, as Geoff has implied, it compared well to a Burgundian equivalent.]
The numbers reference the fifth bottle out of a case of six white Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Burgundies Richard purchased “as a single man” (his words). We’ve blogged them all and Sunday was the turn of Les Combettes, a premier cru vineyard abutting the Meursault AC. The vintage was 2011.
A pronounced yellow, with a green tinge, in appearance, the wine showed some languid viscosity in the glass as it swirled. A nose of fresh lemons was the initial hit but the longer it sat the more smokiness came through. The palate was of medium weight, long, rich with a beguiling aftertaste of honeysuckle and fresh green hazelnuts. These wonderful flavours started coming through after about fifteen minutes sitting in a broad bowled glass; the warmish late-afternoon temperature certainly helped. A refined wine, certainly.
Burgundy’s high prices are well documented and this premier cru wine certainly was expensive. In a restaurant I suppose we may not begrudge spending £50+ for a really good wine but that is certainly a top price in the retail market, in my opinion. Our discussion spun around ‘value for money’ of these wines and whether the demand has put these excellent wines out of range of many wine lovers’ budgets. My estimation of this wine’s true price (if there is such a thing) would be about £35. That’s not denying its undoubted quality but “too much money is chasing too little product”.
[Richard: wines like this are the equivalent of what, in the sightseeing context, has been described as ‘worth seeing but not worth going to see’. I’m certainly glad to have tried top quality white burgundy – and prices are even more expensive now – but I can’t see I’d ever buy another bottle of premier cru. From the nose through to the taste this was clearly a very classy wine which Geoff had no trouble identifying. For me there was rather too much richness and not enough acidity although the many and varied smells and tastes made it a very enjoyable ‘vino da meditazione’, as the Italians put it.]
A (man made), flinty aroma of freshly struck matches is, for me, the most instantly recognisable wine smell. As ever, Jancis Robinson explains it well. She quotes an Australian producer, ”over the last three to five years or longer we have seen winemakers of high-end Chardonnay actively seeking to emulate the reductive “struck match” characters found in so many Burgundian whites including Domaines Leflaive and Coche Dury.”
And so it was with this wine. Pronounced struck match nose which followed through onto the taste, a rich mouth feel, lots of tropical fruit flavour but slightly too sweet for me. I had no hesitation in identifying New World chardonnay, which was correct, from Australia, which wasn’t. In fact it was a 2015 New Zealand from Dog Point, a wine I’ve tasted before, although I don’t remember it as being so sweet.
[Geoff: I have to admit looking forward to this wine because of my liking for well-made chardonnays. Only a few days before I enjoyed an excellent Newton Johnson chardonnay from South Africa; the Dog Point, I assumed, would be at least as good. Richard’s notes sum up my experiences, everything spot on until it came to the finish which was sweet and seemingly out of balance with the relieving acidity. Can’t help but think the Marlborough region must have been very sunny and/or hot that year. Even a spell in the fridge couldn’t up the acidity notes and Claire, my wife, remarked on the sweetness. I recall having the same issue recently with a Pinot Gris from Kumeu River, so much so I returned it. What a pity! Got another bottle to go.]
I know we’ve done this before but I just couldn’t resist another taste. It is from Marsannay, the northernmost AC in the Cotes de Nuits and, as such, starts in the southern suburbs of Dijon. Traditionally famous for its rose, this area also produces red and white wines which, because of the spiralling cost of Burgundy, have been the focus of buyers looking for good value Chardonnays and PNs. It is made by Loius Latour, a well-established Burgundian name of some repute. The vintage is 2011, a good one especially for the white wines.
Pale green colours hinted at good acidity levels and the lack of viscosity also indicated a leanness on body. The nose was very slightly creamy as well as being fresh from lemony citrus. But the over-riding smell was one of fresh hazelnuts.
Dry and long on lime/lemon notes, this was a clean, crisp Chardonnay with very slight yoghurty/creamy flavours which developed as it sat in the glass. A well-balanced, well-made wine if not particularly complex but nicely tight but ripe for drinking now. A ‘straight up and down’ white Burgundy which cost about £9 from Majestic (they were getting rid) and such good value. I had it with home-made fish soup, lovely.
Cramant is a Grand Cru village on the Cote de Blanc, two miles south of Epernay. The limestone rock and Chardonnay grape help produce wines of delicacy and finesse and this was no exception. Part of Richard’s mixed case of growers’ champagnes from the Wine Society, it was a pleasure to try, made even more pleasurable by my relatively abstemious Christmas.
Suenen a Cramant (12% ABV) was an intense lemon yellow, with maybe a touch of green, in colour with a fine mousse. An elegant nose of bruised, rather than stewed, apple was easily spotted as was the yeasty notes that it seems only Champagne can give.
The palate was certainly dry and high in acidity but also with a richness underlying a lemon-sherbet taste. This richness wasn’t allowed to wallow self-indulgently but rather ended in a minerally, chalky flavour which gave it some pleasing firmness. This was full of character, distinctive and, for the host “the quintessential aperitif to stimulate the taste-buds”.
Technically interesting, the label proclaimed a base wine from 2012 (richness), degorgement in March 2015 and a dosage of 3 grams of sugar per litre, giving it the Extra Brut classification (between 0 – 6g/l).
I prefer this Blanc de Blanc style to the Blanc de Noir because of its finesse but think that it has to be well-made otherwise it can be unforgiving and aggressive. This was certainly neither of those.
[Richard: from a WS ‘growers mixed case’, about £25. We’ve being working through these over Christmas and I think this is probably the best. Unfortunately, now out of stock. Pure and very drinkable, and, even though the acidity is high, the accompanying balancing richness makes for a lovely drink.]
Last Saturday I had the very great pleasure of opening a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes 2012 from Roland Rapet. M & S were selling them off relatively cheaply and I had bought some in a mix with other Burgundies and some claret. When M & S do this there are bargains to be had because they also throw in 25% discount for 6 wines; this cost about £15.
PV is a village west of Aloxe-Corton and thus one of the most northern of the Cote de Beaune. It produces both red and white wines and represents good value for money – if that epithet can be applied to Burgundy wines at the moment. However, speaking personally, I’d rather have one of these bottles than two wines of average quality.
The colour was pale yellow, very slightly green, beautifully clear with some viscosity showing. The complex smell was lemon and quince, pungent, concentrated and slightly smokey. The abiding impression from the palate was one of power. The very long dry finish came after the lemon/lime mid-palate and a rich quality that was balanced by the acidity. Freshness, finesse and full of flavour were all the ‘fs’ I could think.
The white Burgundy characteristic I struggle with is ‘hazelnuts’. I could never apply it to Burgundy I had drunk – until I bought and tried some green hazelnuts (cobnuts). And there it was, that Burgundy note. So, roasted hazelnuts are not applicable but fresh nuts are. The PV had this quality. A superb wine from a good vintage.