Le Marathon Bourguignon

Le Marathon Bourguignon

Monday 9th September 2019
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

The Hameau de Barboron was the perfect setting for two Burgundy marathons. 2016 White Burgfest and 2016 Red Burgfest proved to be an unexpectedly comprehensive pair of tastings.

The White tasting held in May, the red at the beginning of this month. A total of 218 white and 259 red samples were mustered, a show of great faith and generosity from growers given the tiny yields of this frost-ravaged vintage. A group of 12 wine merchants and journalists gathered to taste blind over 4 mornings each for the red and white wine marathons.  At white Burgfest there were 38 blind flights, at red Burgfest 43 blind flights, each organised by village and, where possible, vineyard.  The rabble, herded patiently by Jasper Morris, included myself, William Kelley (for the white tasting only) Jason Haynes (Flint), Catherine Petrie (Comte Armand), Matthew Hemming (Vinum), Adam Bruntlett (BBR) Toby Morhall (The Wine Society), Christopher Moestue (Moestue grape selections), Neil Beckett (World of Fine Wine), Luis Gutierrez who made a cameo appearance in the absence of Neal Martin for white Burgfest, and a well recovered Neal Martin himself who returned for the reds this month. A full, collective report of the Burgfest tastings will be published in the World of Fine Wine towards the end of this year. In the meantime find herewith my own personal thoughts: 

White Burgfest 2016 vintage

The tasting confirmed initial impressions from barrel – namely that the quality and style of the wines are uneven but that the vintage was able to turn out some great wines. It is a confusing white vintage where the normal rules are turned on their head:  Clos surpassed by other Chablis Grand Crus, Chevalier outclassed by Bienvenue and Batard, and Puligny’s clay vineyards performing better than the stonier ones - to name just a few anomalies.

The worst effects of the frost revealed themselves in some wines as an odd mix of astringent flavours (possibly second generation fruit) alongside tropical notes perhaps as a result of low yielding vines. Despite these examples there were many wines to get more excited about 

Given the frost and hail thrown at Chablis during the growing season the wines were a lot better than expected overall. For me the left bank fared much better than the right -some of my favourite wines coming from Butteaux, Forets/Forest and Montmains. A bravo to Brocard for his Butteaux, my top 1er Cru, closely followed by Dauvissat’s Forest and Samuel Billaud’s Sechet, Billaud also produced another excellent 1er Cru, the right bank Mont du Milieu, bucking the trend of my left bank bias in 2016.  Grands Crus gave a great account of themselves though oddly a slightly disappointing Clos flight was eclipsed by the rest of the vineyards.  Vaudesir Louis Michel and Grenouilles JP Droin my joint winners, followed by Vaudesir JP Droin and Cote Bouguerots William Fevre.

There was a good showing from St Aubin, overall the wines were more successful than in 2015.  The wines continued to show how underrated they are and what value they offer.  The best wines more impressive than anything from the lower Chassagne vineyards including Morgeot.  Marc Colin produced my best wine, En Remilly, just ahead of his Montceau. Honourable mentions should also go to Lamy for his Murgers des Dents de Chien and Olivier Leflaive’s En Remilly

 

Chassagne seemed to be the village worst affected by 2016’s frost, particularly the lower ground including Vergers, Morgeot, Chenevottes and Maltroie. As ever the gulf in class between lower vineyards and the higher ones was convincingly demonstrated  - the latter firmly among the vintage’s top wines. Paul Pillot’s La Romanee was a standout, just beating by a nose another Paul Pillot wine Grande Montagne. A great showing yet again for winemaker Thierry Pillot.  My joint third wines were Les Vide Bourses Marc Colin and Maltroie Bernard Moreau.


Puligny performed less well than expected but standards have been so high the last few years. A step up from Chassagne, but a closer-run thing than anticipated. The Champs Canet vineyard particularly shone for me and Folatieres also performed consistently well.   Olivier Leflaive’s Pucelles and Jean Chartron’s Clos du Caillerets were my highest scoring wines. Champs Canet from Chateau de Meursault and Jacques Carillon were joint third with Sauzet’s Referts. 

 

The most successful village for me was Meursault, certainly in terms of consistency. Possibly revealing that, like in Puligny, clay based soils worked best. There were not quite as many great highs as in Puligny but there were a host of very enjoyable wines.  I rated Antoine Jobard’s Poruzot best of all. Perrieres from Roulot and Ch de Meursault, as well as Bouchard Genevrieres were my second joint favourites.

 

Corton Charlemagne put in a solid performance. Largely outclassed by the best 1er Crus in the Cote de Beaune, which is often the case, Corton nonetheless offered up a pretty consistent showing and the wines were a clear step above 2015 – no surprise given how un-adapted the hill of Corton is for warmer vintages.  Henri Boillot’s was my top wine, followed by Bonneau du Martray and Olivier Leflaive in third.

 

By contrast the Chassagne and Puligny Grand Crus averaged a little less than in 2015. The average brought down by a less consistent 8-strong Chevalier Montrachet flight.  Bienvenue and Batard bucked the trend of recent vintages and out performed Chevalier.  My top wine was the solitary Montrachet – Bouchard – followed by Bienvenue Batard Jacques Carillon, Batard Olivier Leflaive,  Chevalier Clos des Chevaliers Jean Chartron and Chevalier La Cabotte Bouchard.

 

My White Burgfest 2016 top scorers:-

Chablis 1er Cru – Butteaux 1er Cru JM Brocard 93 points, Forest 1er Cru Vincent Dauvissat 92 points, Mont de Milieu Samuel Billaud 92 points

Chablis Grand Cru – Vaudesir Louis Michel 93 points and Grenouilles JP & Benoit Droin 93 points

St Aubin – En Remilly Marc Colin 93 points, Montceau Marc Colin 92 points

Chassagne – La Romanee Paul Pillot 94 points, Grande Montagne Paul Pillot 92 points

Puligny – Clos du Cailleret Jean Chartron 94 points, Pucelles Olivier Leflaive 94 points, Champ Canet Ch de Meursault 93 points, Referts Sauzet 93 points, Combettes Jean-Marc Boillot 93 points

Meursault – Antoine Jobard Poruzot 94 points, Perrieres Roulot 92 points, Perrieres Ch de Meursault 92 points, Charmes Dessus Tessier 92 points, Genevrieres Bouchard 92 points

Corton-Charlemagne -   Henri Boillot 94 points, Bonneau du Martray 93 points

Grands Crus from Chassagne and Puligny – Montrachet Bouchard 96 points, Bienvenue Batard Jacques Carillon 94 points, Batard Olivier Leflaive 94 points, Clos des Chevalier Jean Chartron 94 points, Chevalier Cabotte Bouchard 94 points

Red Burgfest 2016 vintage

The frost seemed to be much less of a factor for the reds than the whites. The vintage style made its mark on the wines much less than in 2015, though 2016 might be considered marginally less consistent. Where its good, though, 2016 is an excellent, very classically structured red burgundy vintage with good textural ripeness and lifting vibrancy.  At their best the wines are crisp and ripe in equal measure.      

The tasting kicked off with 7 mixed Beaune 1er Crus and a separate flight of 4 Beaune Greves. This was a solid and reliable start to the tasting from what is an often, unfairly, overlooked appellation.  There were some good wines here and the quality felt steady and consistent, one of the better Beaune vintages. L’Enfant Jesus from Bouchard was my winning wine over the two flights with Violot Guillemard’s Clos des Mouches hot on it’s heals. Beaune Greves Trois Journaux Ch de Meursault and Beaune Bressandes Domaine des Croix also deserve honourable mentions as next best in class.

In Volnay, a 6-strong Taillepieds and Caillerets flight was the best of four Volnay series, as you may expect, even though we were without any d’Angerville samples, but the tranche of 5 Clos des Chene pushed it surprisingly close – a notably successful year for this vineyard - both of these flights were a clear step up from any of the other Volnays including Santenots.  Lafarge’s Clos de Chene was a stand-out and clear favourite of mine, others that shone for me were two other Clos des Chenes, from Francois Buffet and Ch de Meursault, Taillepieds from Bitouzet Prieur and Lafon’s Santenot du Milieu.

Pommard continued good form, surpassing its success last year. After a solid but unexciting mixed flight there followed a cluster of Clos des Epenots / Epeneaux and Pezerolles, in turn followed by 7 Rugiens – both flights showing a gulf in class between these vineyards and the rest. Rugiens from Francois Buffet and Heitz Lochardet were sweet spots for me, followed closely by Clos des Epeneaux Comte Armand and Clos des Epenots Ch de Meursault. 

Corton performed marginally better than in 2015 but was still outclassed by the best of Pommard and Volnay. Michel Maillard’s Corton Renardes and Franck Follin’s Corton were two bright spots. Sadly we had no Tollot Beaut samples this year which often show well.

We moved intrepidly into the Cote de Nuits next, where frost did its worst damage to Pinot Noir.  However there were no signs that this resulted in any lack of balance in the final wines: We began with four flights of Nuits, totalling 29 wines, the first of which were sites in Premeaux, where frost bit hardest. Some great successes emerged from here  – Clos des Grandes Vignes Comte Liger-Belair and Clos de l’Arlot two fine examples.  Nuits overall performed even better than last year and still rates as the most shamefully undervalued of the Cote de Nuits villages.  In addition to the aforementioned wines Chevillon’s Cailles, Gouge’s Vaucrains and Perrot-Minot’s Richemone were among the best. Top dog overall, though, was Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair’s Nuits Cras.  There was so much to like about these wines, as diverse as they were in style. North side Nuits clearly displayed more silky, ripe characteristics where in central Nuits, the likes of Cailles and Vaucrains, there was a perfect mix of tamed power and freshness.

Ten Moreys were tasted in two flights, Dujac’s Premier Cru and Remy’s Clos des Ormes the best of them.  A solid performance from all and a notch up from last year, though no more than we expected being a frost-free village that rates 2016 as one of its great success.  This was largely borne out by its Premiers Crus though a later four wine flight of Morey Grands Crus disappointed a tad, so high were my expectations.  An ensuing 5 wine flight of Clos de la Roche lifted me up again, mainly thanks to a brilliant wine from Hubert Lignier – head and shoulders above anything else in Morey for me.

Chambolle performed correctly, expectations are so high these days, but the top wines never quite hit the heights of 2015 - the brightest light was Hudelot Noellat’s Chambolle Charmes. The exceptions were Amoureuses and the Grand Crus, which very much excited as much as ever. Bonnes Mares was a particularly strong flight, I felt. The outright winner was Bruno Clair’s example, almost all of which comes from the Morey side of the vineyard.

Four Amoureuses and three Musignys provided great thrills. A crystalline example from Robert Groffier was the best example of the former, while Mugnier’s Musigny was top and one of the wines of the whole tasting.

Three  Vosne Premier Crus flights revealed some excellent wines though they were marginally less consistent across the board than last year. Surpassing 2015, a particularly exceptional Vosne year, was always going to be tough.  The high vineyards were a class apart and not far off their 2015 predecessors.  Both Petits Monts and Reignots from Comte Liger-Belair excelled most, for me, closely followed by Les Rouges du Dessus from Cecile Tremblay – her most impressive showing at Burgfest to date.

Ten Echezeaux offered a hotchpotch of styles and qualities. Not the most consistent of vintages for this Grand Cru, some good wines but none hitting the heights of previous years. The same can’t be said of Vosne’s other Grands Crus, which as far as I am concerned excelled 2015’s showing and provided some of the greatest wines of the vintage.  This is of course no more than anyone should expect of them, but tasting them was an absolute joy.  Three Romanee St Vivants, La Romanee, Grande Rue, and Richebourgs from Grivot, Thibault Liger-Belair and AF Gros. Quite a line-up.   La Romanee Comte Liger-Belair was the star, my highest scoring wine of the whole vintage – 99pts.  Grivot’s Richebourg was not too far behind with 97pts, which, alongside Mugnier’s Musigny was my second favourite wine in 2016. 

Clos de Vougeot began a heavier-going day that included Gevrey and all its Grands Crus, perhaps the most tiring of all of the tasting days but not without its rewards. The last couple of years have been successful vintages, 2016 included, but it does feel that over and above this producers are make huge progress with their Clos de Vougeots. It will always be a bigger burlier style than other Cote de Nuits Grands Crus, but the last few years have proved that, made in the right way, Clos de Vougeot can produce wines of genuine Grand Cru quality. The best displayed tremendous drive and tone to go with the vineyard’s habitual muscle.  Of 16 tasted, Comte Liger-Belair’s was my favourite, seconded by Hudelot-Noellat’s. 

A flight of mixed Gevreys was always going to suffer after the might of Clos de Vougeot but there were some pretty wines. A seven wine flight of Lavaut/ Lavaux St Jacques offered a small step up, above all a fine example from Camille Giroud, but the five Cazetiers that followed were a higher level still, Henri Magnien’s the best performer for me.  Next came one of the habitual highlights of Burgfest – 5 Clos St Jacques. One of the most thrilling flight of the 4 days, outclassed only by Musigny/ Amoureuses, the 8 wine Vosne Grand Cru flight and Clos de Beze. The standard was very high, the wines offering a common thread of vibrancy aligned to charm and power.  Armand Rousseau topped the charts this year, taking Bruno Clair’s crown away from him. 

Of the next four Gevrey Grand Cru flights Charmes lived up to its name with some really lovely caressing, red fruited wines. Mazoyeres was markedly more dark and butch in profile, as were, to varying degrees, the rest that included Chapelle Latricieres, Ruchottes, Griotte and Mazis – 21 wines in total.  Latricieres Rossignol Trapet, Mazis from Tawse, Mazoyeres from Perrot Minot and Rousseau Charmes my top picks. 

The four day tasting culminated in two fittingly Grand Flights – 5 Clos de Bezes and 4 Chambertins.  The former a more consistent and charming flight, the latter more up and down but containing the two best wines of the 9 – Rousseau’s stunningly focused, haunting Chambertin (surpassing their Clos de Beze) and a spicy and very long Rossignol Trapet Chambertin.             

My Red Burgfest 2016 top scorers : –

Beaune – L’Enfant Jesus Bouchard 92 points

Volnay – Clos des Chenes Michel Lafarge 93 points, Clos des Chenes Francois Buffet 92 points, Santenots du Milieu Comte Lafon 91 points

Pommard – Les Rugiens Francois Buffet 92 points, Les Rugiens Heitz Lochardet 92 points, Clos des Epenots Ch Meursault 91 points, Clos des Epeneaux Comte Armand 91 points

Corton – Corton Renardes Michell Maillard 93 points, Corton Follin-Arbelet 92 points

Nuits – Aux Cras Comte Liger-Belair 94 points, Clos des Grandes Vignes Comte Liger-Belair 93 points, Cailles Chevillon 93 points, Vaucrains Gouges 93 points.

Morey – Dujac 1er Cru 93 points, Clos des Ormes Remy 93 points

Chambolle -  Charmes Hudelot Noellat 93 points, Chabiot Bichot 92 points

Clos de Vougeot – Comte Liger Belair 95 points, Hudelot Noellat 93 points, Bouchard 93 points

Gevrey – Clos St Jacques Armand Rousseau 96 points, Cazetiers Henri Magnien 95 points,

Grands Crus from Gevrey – Chambertin Armand Rousseau 96 points, Chambertin Rossignol Trapet 95 points

Grands Crus from Morey – Clos de la Roche Hubert Lignier 93 points

Grands Crus from Chambolle/Morey and Amoureuses – Musigny Mugnier 97 points, Bonnes Mares Bruno Clair 96 points, Amoureuses Groffier 96 points

Vosne – Reignots Comte Liger-Belair 94 points, Petits Monts Comte Liger-Belair 94 points, Les Rouges du Dessus Cecile Tremblay 93 points

Grands Crus from Vosne – La Romanee Comte Liger-Belair 99 points, Richebourg Jean Grivot 97 points, La Grande Rue Francois Lamarche 95 points