A fine wine dinner with Jacques Devauges of Clos de Tart

A fine wine dinner with Jacques Devauges of Clos de Tart

Monday 27th March 2017
by Chadwick Delaney

Singapore is a market which has long been particularly close to Justerini & Brooks.  A country filled with substantial and highly knowledgeable private collectors, Justerini & Brooks wine dinners in the private dining room within the Four Seasons hotel – dinners which began as soon as that hotel was first built and still run regularly today - have become the stuff of legend. Regularly attracting the biggest wine collectors from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

They were in attendance again last week for a series of fabulous Clos de Tart dinners.  Jacques Devauges, the new winemaker at the estate, flew in to Singapore especially for the events.  Clos de Tart is indeed a rare and special wine from a truly ancient estate.  Founded in 1141, it is one of only five Grand Cru monopoles.  It also happens to provide the oldest history that Justerini & Brooks has with a Burgundy estate.  In fact, a beautiful bottle of Clos de Tart 1928, bottled by Justerini & Brooks, still holds pride of place back in St. James’s street. 

The Singaporean line-up of vintages was the same each night, with bottles coming either directly from the cellars of Justerini & Brooks, or with the two oldest vintages, directly from the cellars of the estate.   We began with a chilled glass of Dom Perignon ’04 as guests arrived, before moving to the first red of the night.  The first three wines were served whilst we ate a delicious mixed plate of Spanish Suckling pig topped with Sevruga caviar, poached chicken in Chinese wine, and a crispy king prawn.  The vines at Clos de Tart average 60 years of age, with the oldest parcel planted 99 years ago straight after the first world war.  La Forge de Tart 2014 – a Premier Cru wine made from the younger vines from the vineyard (younger in the sense of those under 25 years old!) – was bursting with expressive red fruits and a lovely hint of smoke.  On the palate it was juicy and already full of pleasure.  The next wine, the Clos de Tart ’14, was a big step up in complexity.  It was actually a lot more reticent in the glass to begin with, but with air it kept revealing little enticing hints, and after time in the glass it was absolutely gorgeous.  On the palate it had that enticing style that is proving to be characteristically 2014 Burgundy.  This is certainly a wine that will provide huge pleasure when it’s ready.  We then moved to the ’12 in the glass.  This proved to be the most concentrated of all the Clos de Tart vintages we were to drink that evening.   Not surprising when one learns the yields at the estate in 2012 were only 17 hectolitres per hectare  – the smallest since their records began! It would be hard for me to pick my favourite wine of the night – but if pushed this would be it (with the ’10 linked like a twin).

The distinguished line-up of the wines from Jacques Devauges of Clos de Tart. 

As we moved to wok-fried pork and cucumber, the Clos de Tart ’10 and ’09 were poured out.  For several of the guests this was the flight of the night.   But such different wines!  The 2009 is full of seduction – the aromas fill the glass as its poured, and the palate is rich, soft and lingering.  Yet the nuance and layering of fruits that comes from the 2010 shows its profound depth and complexity.  In a decade this will be a rare, extraordinary wine fully in its stride, and I can’t wait to try it then. 

As the plates were cleared, and wagyu beef cooked with garlic and shallots served, the Clos de Tart ’08 was poured out.  Each night this wine created camps of admirers and camps that stepped elsewhere.  For the purists and lovers of high-toned Burgundy, they adored it.  For those wanting more fat and richer fruits, they preferred others.  For one major collector, he picked this vintage as his favourite style to drink, and said it reminded him of 1993.   

Guests share a glass with Jacques Devauges of Clos de Tart and Justerinis' MD, Chadwick Delaney.

A truly fine wine evening: Jacques Devauges, Chadwick Delaney and guests. 

As we moved to the last course of a delicious slow-cooked lobster in rich, poached rice we also moved on to the last flight – Clos de Tart 1999 and Clos de Tart 1996.  These two were absolutely stunning!  Jacques’s view is that Clos de Tart begins to hit its drinking plateau after fifteen years in bottle, and this was clearly visible from these two last vintages.  These were both spectacular wines.  My preference was the ’99, and Jacques’s the ’96.  But both made you pause for thought as you began to sip them.  There was so much to taste – the flavours kept building with each sip.  Quite sensational.  There is undoubtedly something very special about Clos de Tart, and I think it derives from it being a Monopole. All of the different expressions of that seven hectare Grand Cru hill and its many-changing soils are all able to go into one single wine, rather than being bottled separately as happens in almost everywhere else in Burgundy.   The end result is a wine of huge breadth across the palate and lingering complexity.  What was clear from the flights above was how consistent the quality of this estate is – each reflecting beautifully the vintage it was born in.  But what also became clear is there is an elegance in the more recent vintages that may even be viewed as a gentle shift.  It gives even greater hope for the years still to come.  Years that begin with Jacques’s first vintage at the estate – 2015.

Chadwick Delaney

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