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.]
I was trying to explain to a colleague why I prefer wine to spirits and cocktails. The two aspects of wines which I find most interesting are subtlety of flavours and its evolving quality. For me, as nice as a cocktail is on first tasting, I think that’s it, I understand it and like it – or not – but it will be the same for the next sip. Spirits likewise but I am ignorant of these drinks and recognise the gin market is now so popular that there must be more to it than I’m realising. Whilst uninteresting wine is wine that never changes or has no depth and subtleties, good wine changes in bottle and glass making the next taste different to the previous one. This dynamic quality compels me to pay attention and think about what I’m experiencing.
Puligny-Montrachet’s subtle and changeable qualities were in very much evidence in Sauzet’s PM 1er cru Champ Chanet 2011. The lemon colour, tinged with very pale green hinted at acidity and freshness and the nose continued that theme. Melons and matchsticks were the immediate impressions but that moved to a slight oakiness the longer it sat in the glass, whilst it still maintained its citrus appeal.
The layers of flavour came through in the palate. Fresh, soft lemons, very slight oak with good length this was a wine worth sipping. The overall impressions were of refinement, delicacy and balance – three lovely qualities.
[Richard – the fourth of the (increasingly expensive) bottles from a mixed Sauzet case. All the others have been blogged. Of the four I was least impressed by this one. Good but not great, rather forward with just a bit too much ripeness for me.]
Walter Pater, 19th century critic of the arts, coined a famous observation “All art constantly aspires to the condition of music”. He claimed that the purely aesthetic response that music generates is the goal for all other forms of the Arts. I would like to adapt Pater’s comment and state ‘All white wines constantly aspire to the condition of white Burgundy’ , especially after tasting Sauzet’s Puligny Montrachet ‘Les Referts’ 2011. This premier cru vineyard abuts the Meursault AC to the north but the wine is significantly different the broader flavours of Meursault.
This pale yellow green wine had the aroma of ‘struck match’, a descriptor so loved by Burgundy critics but very appropriate in this instance. It was a wine that could be smelt at all evening and still find some nuances not experienced previously. There was lemon acidity but little evidence of oak, although it had been matured in oak barrels. The flavour – a wonderful combination of lemon and lime – was lean, persistent and focussed but, as it sat in the glass, also developed a subtle, floral quality which suggests that this wine would change for a few years yet. I think we drunk it in its youthful stage; it would be great to try it in three/four years time.
Clive Coates MW describes Puligny Montrachet as ‘the greatest white wine commune on earth’. The description hasn’t Pater’s eloquence but I might agree with the sentiments. I just need to test a few more for confirmation!
[Richard: bottle three from a case of six 2011s by Sauzet from six different parts of Burgundy. Fortunately Geoff has a very large book listing all the areas, in considerable detail. Bottle two, with a link to bottle one, is discussed here. Looking for the price (around £70 paid) I came across the WS tasting note, ‘broad and weighty Puligny from a vineyard towards the bottom of the slope with rich soils. 2014 to 2017.’ I think they have the drinking window right – the bottle developed well over the rest of the evening but the description is the exact opposite of what I tasted. Fine, detailed, not in the least heavy, delicate and not mouth filling, though persistent. Incidentally, this is the first time I’ve really got the ‘struck match’ aroma, quite marked here.]
Tom Stevenson states ‘a premier cru Puligny by a top grower such as Etienne Sauzet is one of the most flavour-packed taste experiences imaginable’. No ambiguity there then.
La Garenne is a Premier Cru vineyard in Puligny Montrachet AC, close to the village of Blagny; this was Sunday night’s wine, made by the renowned Sauzet. It cost £40 from the Wine Society. The 2011 vintage is regarded as producing a fresher, more forward style of wine and this proved to be the case with our tasting.
In the glass it was a uniform pale yellow in colour, with no hints of green, and some viscosity evident. The nose was a lemon-citrus and initially shy but longer exposure to air gave the wine a richer, riper bouquet. (Richard will write about this later development). It had wonderful balance of lemon freshness on the palate but was light, dry with some length. We both came up with words such as delicate, pure, refined. This was wine to sip and enjoy gently, respectfully – it didn’t warrant being rushed. Thanks, Richard, a very enjoyable experience.
[Richard: this is the second bottle from a mixed half case of 2011 Sauzet. First one was blogged last year. This is also the second cheapest (a mere £51) and was, by consensus, ready to drink. My reactions mirrored Geoff and, as the evening progressed the wine developed into a fuller, richer style. Another argument for decanting white wine.