Monday, April 18, 2005

A Darker Side of Burgundy
A Tasting of Domaine de la Vougeraie

A recent commentator on my blog qualified drinking Burgundy as beguiling and mysterious. As one descends from the Côte de Nuits down thru the Beaune, one encounters many shades of the Pinot Noir, where subtlety and nuance is the barometer of difference.

It is here where the interaction between terroir and style is most marked. As one moves north into the Nuits, the wines become earthier, with darker fruits. Beaune Pinot tends to be marked by the red fruit and the ‘sweet spices’ like nutmeg, cinnamon and anise. The early 90’s saw a Dominque Laurent influenced ‘extracted’ style of Burgundy. Toasty, dark and tannic Pinot Noirs were the rule, but in recent years, typified by winemakers like Perrot-Minot, we have seen an about face, and a return to softer, more elegant Pinots.

So with winemaker Pascal Marchand in town to animate a tasting of his top wines, it was time to see where Vougeraie fits into this spectrum. Of his own admission, he is an ‘extractor,’ with darker and denser wines than the majority, though he foresees a move towards les severe vintages in the future. He believes in long maceration, organic agriculture, optimal maturity and limited yields. Thanks to Vincor for arranging a fantastic morning of drinking. Notice how the whites were tasted after the reds.

Pinot Noir 2001, Terre de Famille ($27..saq)
These grapes were harvested in Vougeot and Chambolle, so it had a characteristic Nuits earthiness. I found it very grapey with hints of cooked fruit. Slightly smokey bouquet, it made me think of dark jube jubes. Nice concentration but a bit heavy. I prefer the Daniel Rion generic as it is a little more elegant.

Côte de Beaune 2001, Les Pierres Blanches ($40...saq)
The only Beaune in the line-up, but very classic with hints of strawberries mixed with some sweet spices, most notably anise. A sub soil of calcaire gives this wine an interesting minerality (think of a lead pencil). With a better acidity than the generic, it had silky and soft tannins that drank wonderfully.

Vougeot 2001, Le Clos du Prieuré, Monopole ($82..saq)
I love Vougeot as it tends to have the richest and sexiest bouquet in the Nuits, so much so that you almost don’t want to even drink it. Floral with hints of truffle, I found it a bit soft in the mouth, and perhaps lacking a certain amplitude…But the bouquet!

Vougeot 2001, Les Cras, 1er Cru ($97..saq)
The red winner of the day. We return to slightly calcaire soils, and thus a more mineral quality that added a complexity that the Prieuré lacked. It had the same beautiful bouquet but with a hint of redder fruit. Explosive, expansive, and an incredible length, this is Pinot at it’s best.

Mazoyères-Charmes Chambertin 2000, Grand Cru ($105..saq)
A smokey, almost leathery bouquet, this was a Burgundy still in development. I found the tannins a bit tough, limiting my appreciation. It needed some food and another couple of years but one had a sense of the good things that was to come.

Bonnes Mares 2001, Grand Cru ($169…saq)
An appelation that is divided between Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle Musigny, this product of exceptionally old vines (circa 1902) was another complete package. With soft yet explosive tannins, it had an incredible richness and texture. The evolution in the mouth was equally exceptional as it started with blackberry and finished with hints of strawberry. Incredible length , very expensive, but grandiose.

La Grand Famille 2000 ($234..magnum..saq)
A mix of various Grand Cru barrels that was bright and cheerful, but lacked a sense of place. Okay.

And now 2 whites…

Vougeot 2001, Le Clos du Prieuré, Monopole ($82..saq)
A very ripe Chardonnay that had those wonderful Vougeot aromas. Hints of caramel and smoked hazelnuts and not overly oaked, it had a slight sweetness at the end that I found a little annoying. I would say missing a bit of ‘cut,’ but for the Cali Chardonnay lover, a nice bridge into Burgundy.

Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot 2001 ($127…saq)
I wrote ‘wow!’ in my tasting notes and while less fun to sniff than the Prieuré, it had a mind-blowing complexity. Rich and buttery like great white Burgundy, it had a creamy texture that when mixed with aromas of nuts and clover, approached 'Chardonnic' perfection. A sublime cocktail, I went back for seconds.


Anonymous said...

Chardonnic perfection, eh? I do believe you hast coined a new phrase. Now where do I sign up for one of these Caveman Bugundy-tastic tastings?

Great post,


caveman said...

Thanks Beau,
I figured you would appreciate that one.. Essentially, you gotta buy alot to get into these little tastings.. but if you can make it to Montreal, i could always use another set of taste buds... I spent close to $3000 after the last one...ouch.

john bossy said...

Having spent all my money on wine, I'll have to experience the Dark Side of Burgundy vicariously. You're a good tour guide, Bill. Food for the imagination.