About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

1976 & 1979 Red Burgundy

Our local wine group met last week at Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville, NJ.  I have lauded the food chef/owner Allan Russo sends forth from his kitchen many times before.  He did another outstanding job, treating us to a trio of perfectly cooked and sauced pastas proceeded by appetizers of Bruschetta and Antipasto.

Orecchiette w/ Broccoli Rabe & Breadcrumbs
Penne w/ Zucchini & Eggplant

Cavatappi w/ Veal Ragu

Jeff, our Burgundy expert, was in the wine queue and he chose red Burgundies for the 1976 and 1979 vintages.  I am unfamiliar with both of these vintages as well as most of the producers he brought that night.  From what I have read, "the prolonged hot weather of 1976 produced tannic, highly concentrated wines.  The drought-like conditions of summer resulted in good ripening in the Pinots, but the quality of the Chardonnay suffered in comparison.  Many of the vines were stressed by the drought and the tannins never fully ripened. This resulted in over-balanced wines with a structure that dominated the fruit, especially in the Côte de Nuits. The Côte de Beaunes are better. At the top levels there is still much enjoyment to be had.

1979 produced a large crop of fast-maturing and fruity wines.  A cold, damp winter, followed by a cool spring, which lasted well into May, resulted in a delayed but successful flowering. Although summer, on the whole, was temperate, hailstorms in the middle of July wreaked havoc with the crop in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle-Musigny. The rest of Burgundy escaped unscathed, and the end of September saw a successful harvest".

We began the evening with 2010 Hubert Lamy St. Aubin Clos de Meix Premier Cru.  Fresh fruit with nice acidity but a bit of oak distracted the finesse of the wine in my opinion.  According to the notes Jeff provided, Olivier Lamy, who has been running the vineyard since 1996, has begun to reduce the amount of new oak and has introduced demi-muids (300-600 lt barrels) which has helped to improve the wines and resulted in a greater propensity for them to age.

1976 Domaine Jaboulet-Vercherre Chambertin.  This wine has seen its better days.

1976 Felix Ravinet Clos de la Roche.  A bit more life to this, but not much better than the previous wine.

1976 Domaine Henri Richard Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru.  Much, much better than the previous two wines.  Fruit was very much alive and the wine showed nice balance and a bit of complexity.

1976 Maison Louis Latour Corton Bressandes Grand Cru.  Emil and I detected a slight cork to this bottle.  The others did not.

1979 Bouchard Pere & Fils Nuits St. Georges Les Perrieres Premier Cru.  While I felt this wine was in decline there was enough fruit and balance to give a sense of how good a wine it was a decade or so ago.

The estate is one of my favorites in Burgundy.  It was founded in 1731 in Beaune by Michel Bouchard, and it is one of the oldest wine estates in Burgundy, perpetuating tradition for over 280 years and 9 generations. Over time, by acquiring various terroirs with great care and patience, Bouchard Père & Fils has built up the biggest domaine in the Côte d’Or.  Today the estate boasts 130 hectares of vines, of which 12 are classed Grand Cru and 74 classed as Premier Cru. Each parcel has its own specificities due to its situation on the slope, its exposure and the nature of the soil. At Bouchard Père & Fils, each of the Beaune "crus" deserve to be vinified separately in order to fully express its personnality: fleshy, elegant, powerful, racy, brisk...

After bottling, the ageing period commences. The Château’s cellars, also nearly 10 metres below ground, offer perfect conditions for ageing Bouchard Père & Fils’ wines.

The final two wines of the night, from Maison Leroy, were clearly the top two wines of the evening.  While I had never tasted her red wines, her reputation is well known for making fantastic wines.  Importer Martines Wines says of Madame and the estate,

“No name enlivens and ignites a discussion of Burgundy as quickly as Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. She is unrelenting in every way, from her personality to how she runs her business to the quality of the wine in the bottle. The Leroy family’s 50% ownership of Domaine Romanée- Conti gave Lalou ample ability to amass the deepest and most revered cellar in Burgundy during the past six decades. Speculation is rampant about its size and holdings; only one person knows for sure. Today, Lalou is the force behind three domaines: Maison Leroy, Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay.

The story of the Leroy family’s dominance in the wine world began more than a century ago, in 1868, when François Leroy founded Maison Leroy in Auxey-Duresses, a small village near Meursault. When Lalou’s father, Henri, joined the family business in 1919, the firm was already established as one of the greatest in Burgundy. Lalou joined her father in 1955, taking over the house in 1971.

Maison Leroy is the heart of the Leroy empire, a négociant house through which Lalou purchases and distributes wines from most appellations in Burgundy. With her legendary palate and relentless standards, she unearths some of the most thrilling wines of each vintage, then ages or finishes the wines herself, only releasing them to the market when she knows they are at their peak. Lalou never fails to impress with her unparalleled depth and understanding of the most hidden corners of Burgundy’s terroir.”

1976 Maison Leroy Pommard Villages.  This was very much alive and after 20 minutes in the glass the funky bouquet vanished and was replaced with a rich Burgundian nose.  The palate was soft and elegant and was echoed in the finish as well.

1979 Maison Leroy Pommard Les Vignots Villages. Easily the WOTN.  This was the essence of Burgundy, elegant, round, delicious and a lengthy finish.  Each sip was better than the previous one.

A final note, her wines are not easy to come by and quite expensive.

Thanks Jeff for yet another excellent Burgundy lesson.