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  • Chateau de la Tour Clos-Vougeot Grand Cru 2017


    Review to follow

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  • Chateau de la Tour Clos-Vougeot Grand Cru 2018


    “The 2018 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru “Cuvée Classique” displays good amplitude on the nose, incense and iris flower permeating the vibrant black fruit; there is real depth and complexity here. The mineral-driven palate is very well balanced with gentle grip and a chalky finish similar to the Vieilles Vignes. Superb. Drink: 2024-2055. 96 points

    It had been several years since I had sat down and tasted with winemaker and proprietor and president of the BIVB, François Labet. Our previous two meetings were cancelled due to surgery and pandemic respectively, though finally we were able to meet on the first sunny morning of my five-week stretch in Burgundy. I also had the chance to meet Labet’s son, Edouard, who will be stepping into his father’s shoes after entering the domaine in 2018. When Edouard exited the room for a moment, François took the opportunity praise his son, noting the role he has played in revising ideas and practices, including ushering biodynamics into the vineyard, even though organic viticulture was incepted as far back as in 1992. “You cannot see it in the vineyard but you can taste the difference in the wine,” he told me. There is also no SO2 used at harvest, while the use of whole clusters is less dogmatic than in the past.

    Together we tasted through both the 2018s and 2019s for Château de la Tour and Domaine Pierre Labet/François Labet. “It was quite an easy vintage in the vineyard,” François Labet told me. “It was in line with 2018: a warm and long summer. The flowering was difficult in 2019 because it was cold and rainy whereas in 2020 the flowering took three weeks. We had some heat waves in early summer and then the rest was pretty balanced. We started picking the 2019s on 27 August, starting with the old vines and we finished two weeks later. Everyone rushed into the vineyard because they were scared of the heat wave but the forecast of rain meant we took our time. We ended up with 22mm of rain on the second day of the harvest and this changed the fruit. We gained 8% in weight per berry. In one week the vines absorbed that moisture and the berries that were a bit too hard became fleshier. We are extending the barrel ageing for the 2019 so that for the Château de la Tour it is 22 months. I would have liked longer with the 2018s. We do whatever the wines need. We have custom made barrels. We buy the staves and cooper makes the barrels once the wine is made. In 2018 we picked from 4 September for the whites and the 2019 a couple of weeks later. All the wines in 2018 and 2019 are below 14° alcohol.” I also asked him about his approach towards the whites. “We conduct a long press cycle of crushed grapes that is scaled up. There is no SO2 and we allow a micro-oxidation in the vat below the press. Then the juice is transferred into vat and after débourbage [clarification] it is transferred into barrel straightaway with no inoculation. Sylvain Pataille consults for the whites.”

    In the past, it is true that I did not rate Labet’s wines as high as others and so to be frank, I did not know quite what to expect. But I found these wines to be at a higher level than previous vintages. “In my opinion, the kind of wines that we produce at the moment have no equivalent compared to past vintages,” Labet enthused. “We have the right viticulture, picking time and winemaking. Everything is now so controlled.” I concur. These wines conveyed much more purity and elegance than I expected. They did not seem so eager to impress or as hubristic as I found them previously. The result is that they articulate their respective terroirs with greater clarity. Even though the Domaine Pierre Labet wines do not occupy the most prestigious vineyards, they surpass their potential and represent great value. Pushing Labet to compare the two vintages, he opined: “The 2018 is a monster vintage and more muscular. The 2019 vintage is more elegant.” Readers should also note that I have included a wine that Labet makes on the island of Corsica and an intriguing Vin de Pays from a tiny plot of interloping Pinot Beurot, local word for Pinot Gris, located in Clos de Vougeot.”

    Neal Martin, Vinous (12/20)

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  • Chateau de la Tour Clos-Vougeot Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru 2016


    “(13.2% alcohol; 18 hectoliters per hectare produced; from vines harvested on September 23): Bright, moderately saturated medium red. Explosive, fruit-dominated aromas of dark berries, cherry, spices, mint, menthol, flowers and minerals. Conveys compelling sappy energy in a silky, medium-bodied package, with its black fruit and herb flavors complicated by a touch of saline minerality. Boasts glorious density of fruit–and near-perfect balance in spite of the very low yield. The very long, rising, perfumed finish offers a serious tannic spine for aging but no rough edges. This penetrating, urgent, classic Clos Vougeot, a standout for the vintage, boasts real pinosity. François Labet told me that, beginning with his 2015s, he did not use enzymes and did not add any sulfur until the middle of the élevage, well after the malolactic fermentations finished. He bottled this 2016 with just 20 parts per million free sulfur and 35 total. Drinking window: 2026-2044. 96 points”

    Stephen Tanzer, Vinous (06/19)

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  • Domaine de la Vougeraie Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016


    “The 2016 Charmes Chambertin les Mazoyeres Grand Cru, which is 100% whole cluster from their single parcel of century old vines, has a tightly wound, quite floral bouquet that gradually opens with aeration but remains a little laconic compared to its peers. The palate is medium-bodied with fleshy ripe red berry fruit, fine mineralité, quite dense (especially toward the second half) with touches of blood orange and spice toward the finish. This gets more interesting as it goes along! Good potential. Drink: 2022-2045. 92-94 points

    The big news earlier this year was winemaker Pierre Vincent’s move from Domaine de la Vougeraie to Domaine Leflaive. When key personnel transfer to another company, then it is bound to cause concern about the continued success. Pierre had been instrumental in improving the wines at Vougeraie over his 11-year tenure. Previously, the wines had been rather overextracted and Pierre imbued them with more terroir expression, greater restraint and more class. It was no surprise that Leflaive snapped him up. Winemakers come and go, but the vines stay the same. When I asked about who was taking Pierre’s place, I was informed that rather than highlighting a single person, they would prefer to emphasize that there is a winemaking team, obligatory when you have such a diaspora of vineyards the length and breadth of the region.

    “We used more whole bunches to gain more complexity,” François, one of their winemaking team told me and, indeed, examining the list of wines I can see that several cuvées include 100% whole bunch, even the entry-level “Terres de Famille” red includes 30%. “We found this gave more balance in the reds. We had good results [using whole bunch] with the 2015 and so tried to do the same with 2016. The yields were low and the concentration of the grapes was good. We lost 55% of the production because of frost and lost our Beaune Grèves and Beaune Clos du Roi entirely, although Les Damodes, Le Petit Noizon and Les Clos Blanc did not suffer damage. We started the picking on 15 September with the whites with the Les Clos Blanc. We did a small pigéage. I did not want a brutal extraction, so I used lower fermentation temperatures. The wines are all matured using one-third new, one-third one-year and one-third two-year oak, racked from barrel by barrel, from new into used barrels. I found that the malolactic fermentation in 2016 was longer than in 2015. The wines were racked just before harvest, and I will bottle them a little later in April 2018 rather than end February.”

    With such a wide array of propitious parcels scattered all across the Côte d’Or there is always bound to be a clutch of great wines from Domaine de la Vougeraie. Add into the mix the frost and mildew and ineluctably you will get a lot of variation in quality, and that is the case here. There are crus that I felt were discombobulated by the growing season and only just managed to stumble across the finish line, others that are quite brilliant, both white and red. I will leave readers to peruse the reviews. Buy carefully, and you might have a great and, dare I say, well-priced wine on your hands.”

    Neal Martin, Wine Advocate (234)

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  • Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Aux Combottes 2008


    “Tasting note

    A very stylish and ultra fresh nose offers up classy if restrained red pinot fruit liberally laced with notes of stone and rose petal, both of which can be found on the detailed, pure and lacy middle weight flavors that are complex, focused, mouth coating, crisp and solidly persistent. I like the balance and punch.

    Producer note

    Jeremy Seysses described the 2008 vintage as one that had a “great deal of shot berries and this was important for two reasons as it added concentration as well as naturally gave better aeration to the normal-sized bunches. There was a lot of sorting required, both for rot and for under ripe berries. We did a normal vinification of between 10 to 12 days of cuvaison with a relatively high percentage of whole clusters, which ranged from 2/3 to a full 100%. We reduced the amount of new wood slightly though probably not enough to really be detectable in the finished wines. Overall, I am very bullish on the vintage and I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people who were influenced by the pre-malo comments.” The in-bottle ’07s came in about where my ranges suggested that they would and while they are very pretty, and in some cases genuinely excellent, they cannot match the quality of their ’08 counterparts when taken as a group.

    Drink: 2020+. 92 points.



    Allen Meadows, Burghound (41)

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  • Duroche Gevrey-Chambertin 2016


    “The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Village is an attractively gourmand, fruit-driven wine that bursts from the glass with notes of sweet red cherries, raspberries and dried flowers, followed by a supple, succulent palate. Duroché began producing Gevrey-Chambertin lieux-dits bottlings in 2005; before that date, the parcels that produced those cuvées went into the domaine’s Gevrey village and the others were sold to négociants. Drink: 2018-2033. 88 points”

    William Kelley, Wine Advocate (242)

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  • Rossignol-Trapet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2018


    “The 2018 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes comes from vines averaging 60 years of age, within nine parcels that are representative of the appellation. It has a lovely bouquet of undergrowth scents percolating through red berry fruit that is slightly darker than the Bourgogne Rouge, the 50% whole cluster nicely integrated. The lightly spiced palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins, a fine bead of acidity and an elegant finish that exerts gentle grip. Give it two or three years in bottle. Drinking window: 2021-2032. 89-91 points

    Rossignol-Trapet is a domaine that is starting to step up a few gears in recent years. Their wines have performed impressively during the annual Burgfest blind tastings, a perfect litmus test to see who’s really doing the business inside the bottle. I met with brothers Nicolas and David Rossignol who gave me the lowdown on the growing season. “We started the harvest on 4 September until 12 September, commencing in Beaune and then through the Gevrey appellation, finishing with the Latricières-Chambertin. We used around 40-50% whole bunch except for the Bourgogne Rouge, the stems helping to add freshness and longevity. The wines underwent a two week cuvaison, the colour coming easily. There were some cuvées that took a while to finish their alcoholic fermentation, though they all eventually ended with zero sugar. The premier crus are all raised in around 25% new oak, the village crus will be bottled in February, the premier crus in March and the grand crus in April. I think it is a good idea to have a good length of élevage.””

    Neal Martin, Vinous (01/20)

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  • Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jacques 2017


    “The 2017 Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1er Cru includes 50% whole bunch fruit and matures in 60% new oak. It has an intense bouquet with notes of blackberry, blueberry, crushed stone and hints of graphite, the terroir showing through nicely here. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit and gentle grip. I feel the new oak taking a more backseat role compared to previous vintages, that allows the terroir to really show through on the precise finish. This is an excellent Clos Saint-Jacques from Sylvie Esmonin. Drinking window: 2023-2045. 92-94 points

    My call at Sylvie Esmonin is always a brief one, since she only has five cuvées, although when one of them is Clos Saint-Jacques, I can’t complain too much. It ostensibly forms Esmonin’s back garden, and her dog, as usual, was tearing up and down the slope, weaving in and out of the vines. As I quipped, it’s a shame she can’t train him to pick fruit.

    “We picked relatively late, on September 11,” Esmonin told me. “There was hardly any chaptalisation, just 0.3° for the Gevrey-Chambertin Village. I used just a little less whole bunches this year, but apart from that, it was a normal vinification. What I like about the vintage is that the Bourgogne Rouge is the Bourgogne Rouge, the Clos Saint-Jacques is Clos Saint-Jacques and so on. I feel it is a classic vintage.”

    Esmonin’s style might be classed as more modern: deep colour, black fruit, grippy tannin and a riper style that renders her Clos Saint-Jacques easy to pick out blind. You could compare it stylistically with, say, Domaine Christian Sérafin or maybe Dugat-Py. It is not a style for those seeking lighter red fruit or transparency in their Pinot Noir and incontrovertibly the wines require time in bottle, but they can be worth waiting for.”

    Neal Martin, Vinous (01/19)

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  • Heresztyn-Mazzini Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru 2013


    “The 2013 Clos Saint Denis Grand Cru contains about 40% whole-bunch fruit and matured in close to 50% new wood. It has a perfumed bouquet, floral and refined, with hints of black cherries and dark plum. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp, slightly chalky tannins. There is great purity to this Clos Saint Denis, and a thrilling sense of tension toward the finish that I hope remains in situ once in bottle. Look out for this gem. Drink: 2018-2030. 91-93 points

    If you are traveling the main thoroughfare of Gevrey village, avert your eyes opposite the best little retro coffee shop in Burgundy (“La Jeanette” if you need the name), you will see a brand spanking new sign for Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini. I like to think I played my own little part. Upon visiting for the first time last year and asked if I approved on their “snazzy” redesigned label, I answered that I did, but perhaps they ought to consider “snazzy” new signage out front. The one rusting outside was unbefitting a domaine that is successfully reinventing itself. Sure enough, a few weeks later, Florence Heresztyn sent me a message with a picture of the new sign. Returning to the domaine, I was interested to see how both her and her husband Simon Mazzini had coped with what was perhaps a more challenging growing season than 2012…

    “We worked a lot more to reduce the quantity of the grapes during the growing season,” she told me. “I wanted to get the concentration because a lot of people were saying the vintage was not good, so we decided we wanted a low yield. The grapes were cool when they came into the reception and we maintained a low fermentation temperature at under 30 degrees, in order to capture the fruit and not tannins. The Harvest began in Chambolle-Musigny on September 26, stopping on the Saturday because of the bad weather and started in Gevrey again on September 28, finishing five days later. Some vintages underwent less pigeage and more remontage and the malolactics finished very late, starting after Christmas and finishing around July.”

    Florence and Simon did a good job in 2013, and while their wines do not quite match their 2012s, I suspect that they are in a different league than what would have been produced only a decade ago. Just up the lower end, did I feel that the limitations of the growing season compromised the quality of the wine. But when closer to home, especially within the Gevrey ambit, their efforts paid off with a clutch of pure and harmonious, terroir-expressive wines. Florence’s deft use of whole-bunch fruit worked well, lending the wines freshness and perhaps just shaving off a little of the high acidity. I cannot wait to taste their promising 2014s next year.”

    Neal Martin, Wine Advocate (216)

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