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]
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 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.
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.
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.]
Majestic, now under their new CEO, are disposing of some stocks and it seems to be on a store-by-store basis. My local store had got some Louis Latour Marsannay, an 08 and 09, for £9.99 ea. We tasted the 08 last Sunday.
Marsannay is the first AC south of Dijon – so right at the top of the Cote d’Or and produces all three colours of wine, red having replaced the rose in popularity. The white production is relatively small and, to be truthful, I wasn’t expecting much. The name Louis Latour was the clincher for me.
It was still citrussy-fresh whilst, at the same time, having some depth on the nose. This followed the pale green colouring which was clear, bright and showing some alcohol on the sides of the glass. The palate was weighty and rich with plenty of acidity to maintain its surprising youthfulness. It was a big mouthful of serious wine – not particularly complex but well-made and great value at under a tenner. The normal price was £16 and I wouldn’t have begrudged paying that for it.
White Burgundy – mmmm.
[Richard: excellent wine, good nose, some weight and richness, great value at the sale price. I’ve had some ordinary Louis Latour over the years but this wasn’t one of them. I rarely go to MWW these days – don’t like the way you are forced to buy two of most wines to get a decent price – but perhaps I should.]