Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tasting the 2005 Bouchard Père et Fils

Earlier this week I had the great fortune to attend a tasting of the 2005 Bouchard Père et Fils red Burgundies at Carrick Vineyard. A veritable who's who of Central Otago winemakers were here to taste a great selection of wines from this renowned négociant. Bouchard Père et Fils are definitely on the way back after some years in the wilderness in the 80's and early 90's and we picked up a distinctive "house style" that was very new worldy - clean, vibrant, juicy and slightly confected wines that were very drinkable (read soft tannins). On the negative side, for me, the wines were sometimes too oak driven but I am told this will integrate with time. A few were outstanding, most were well constructed but there was also definitely a difference in quality between most of the domaine wines and the négociant wines. Whether this is down to viticulture, wine making technique of the vintners that Bouchard bought the barrels from or both is unknown but the domaine wines, with one exception (which may just prove the rule), were noticeably better.

So on to some tasting notes: -

Côte de Beaune - Beaune, Volnay & Pommard

Beaune wines are usually quite supple and round, not quite as muscular as those of the nearby Pommard and not quite as elegant as the floral Volnays.

Beaune 1er Cru 'Grèves - Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus'
(domaine wine)
Grèves is one of the best of Beaune's premier crus (some say that it should really be grand cru). 'Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus' is a Bouchard Père et Fils soley owned 4 hectare (10 acre) section of 'Grèves on a steep and sandy slope. The wine was a brilliant light cherry in color, you could shave in its reflection. It was a rich, ripe and robust wine that gave up spice and cherry on the nose. The confected note (powdered sugar, candied fruits) that would show in many of the wines in this tasting was evident. Tannins were "chewy" but the wine lacked a mid palate.

Beaune 1er Cru 'Tuerons' (domaine wine)
From a 21 hectare (52 acre) site south of Grèves of which Bouchard has 2.6 hecatres (6.5 acres), this wine is the only "bargain" of the night being south of $60 a bottle at retail. The wine was a touch "milky" and reduced (read sulfur) in the beginning which blew off over the next hour. Tannins were a touch dry but the wine was rich and also had a high toned finish. If you see this around $50 it is well worth a purchase to cellar for 10+ years.

Volnay’s are the most delicate and fragrant of Côte de Beaune due to the lighter limestone soils.

Volnay 1er Cru ‘Caillerets’ ‘Ancienne Cuvée Carnot’ (domaine wine)
Bouchard has 4 hectares (10 acres) in this vineyard on the south side of the commune. The wine was a deeper cherry than the other Volnays in the flight. Lovely spicy, aromatic nose, with a hint of cocoa (some of that confection again?). Chewy tannins, lovely cheek coating mouth feel, and some mid palate depth with some creamy oak.

Volnay 1er Cru ‘Clos ds Chênes’
(domaine wine)
Considered one of the best premier cru Volnay sites, Bouchard has 0.85 hectares (2 acres). Lightest color of the three Volnays. A ripe cherry, briary nose with a powerful aromatic flowers. Chewiness in the mouth. This is a ripe wine – some of that Bouchard new worldiness again.

Volnay 1er Cru ‘Taillepieds’ (domaine wine)
South of the village and on the northern side of Clos des Chênes, Bouchard owns 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of this 7 hectare (17 acres) site. Our side of the room had a bad bottle, not corked per se but muted and oxidized. I personally would be very disappointed if I paid $100+ for this bottle and opened it in 10 years. Upon tasting a glass from the other side of the room this was the best wine of the flight. An absolutely brilliant wine in the glass – a cherry mirror! High toned, aromatic nose – elegant, spicy and floral. Feminine but also rich and deep, killer acid and good palate depth. A well made wine with a charry, toasty oak that just rounded out the wine, rather than overpower it. Worth the price of admission.

The opposite of Volnay – Pommards are big, strong and muscular. Le Corton is at the northern end of Côte de Beaune produce the biggest wines on the Côte.

Pommard 1er Cru ‘Rugiens’ (domaine wine)
Rugiens is considered one of the classic Pommard sites on a steep, rocky slope near the border with Volnay. Bouchard has a small 0.4 hectare (1.5 acre) plot. An earthy nose, perhaps a little “leafy”. Big powerful red cherry but some dry, hefty oak tannins brought the wine down. Broad and powerful Pommard flavors abound. On its own probably a great wine but outclassed in this company.

Le Corton Grand Cru (domaine wine)
Bouchard owns 3.6 hectares (9 acres) half way up the south-facing slope of the Corton hill. A dark, brilliant cherry in the glass. Power and brawn with deep, deep fruit – hefty mid palate and earthy undertones. Cheek coatingness and chewy tannins. The oak distracts a bit but with a long time in the cellar it should just add some toasty, charry notes (one hopes). This is a very masculine wine. I would age this for a LOOOONNG time if I had a bottle.

Côte de Nuits

Nuits-St-George usually produce rustic, rich wines due to the very complex soils in this commune. Often you pick up some ‘minerally’ notes too. Gevrey-Chambertin is the most northerly of the more prestigious Côte de Nuits communes and ‘Le Cazetiers’ is north of the village adjacent to the revered ‘Clos St-Jacques’. Gevrey-Chambertin wines are full, rich and often meaty.

Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru ‘Cailles’ (domaine wine)
I love Nuits-St-George. The darker berry, rich wines from his commune rock my taste buds. Bouchard owns 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in this 7 hectare (17 acre) site on ths south side of the commune. This wine was the best premier cru wine of the evening for me. Rich and lush, this wine was the whole package. Dark, deep, brilliant cherry in the glass. Lovely, lifted aromatics – this wine had some yin to go with the more traditional Nuits-St-George yang. Lovely silky tannins just made this a great wine. Kudos!

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Cazetiers’ (domaine wine)
Bouchard has a miniscule 0.25 hectares (0.6 acres) on this renowned 8 hectare (20 acre) site. Much lighter than the Nuits-St-George in color, but still with that brilliance that marks the 2005 vintage. Sweet fruits on the nose (a tad leafy too which detracts). Powdered confectioners sugar, sweet cherry and chewy tannins. Nice wine but no match for the Nuits-St-George it was paired with.

Grand Crus

Chambertin Grand Cru (domaine wine)
Chambertin is one of the great grand crus. Situated on a gentle incline with limestone soils, Chambertin lies above the Routes des Grand Crus. This was my wine of the evening and I would be tempted to buy a bottle, despite the north of $300 price tag to revisit in 15 years. A rich, dark cherry in the glass with very bright sweet fruits on the nose. Pure, clean floral notes waft from the glass promising an elegant wine. Then in the mouth then wine comes at you with bright darker fruits, rich and firm with robust tannins and rocking “palate bleed” (you can just feel the wine sinking through your tongue). A finish that goes on and on – there is just so much to this wine. Wow!

Chambertin ‘Clos de Beze’ Grand Cru (nègotiant wine)
The two following wines, both non domaine (meaning that Bouchard bought the barrels of wine already made), were controversial and I thought they let the side down. I found this wine virtually undrinkable. Incredibly reduced, like sucking on a burned matchstick, the sulfides stuck out like a sore thumb and a wine fault that I can not forgive from a grand cru. Leaving that aside, the wine was musky and spicy on the nose and very robust and ballsy in the mouth. Some of that “confected-ness” came back again (like “redskins” for those Australians reading this). Too much oak. Not worth the $350+ in my opinion.

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru
(nègotiant wine)
Another wine that was outclassed in this company and again I wonder whether this is again because it is a non domaine wine. Some nice savory notes, but the drying and severe tannins and overextracted oakiness (note, just because a wine is grand cru doesn’t mean it needs 100% new oak). Sweet and disappointing. I would be upset if I paid the $300+ price tag on this wine.

Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru (domaine wine)
Bouchard has a tiny 0.25 hecares (0.6 acres) of this 15 hectare (37 acre) grand cru site that straddles Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-St-Denis. Supple, silky but still rich and deep. A hint of band-aid that doesn’t detract from the wine in my opinion but just adds complexity. Big blue fruit with a gamey edge that was intriguing. I am sure this is a killer wine on its own but just not quite up there with the other grand crus at this tasting.

Clos de Vougeot (domaine wine)
Clos de Vougeot at 51 hectares (125 acres) is the largest grand cru in the Côte de Nuits and is regarded as a second tier grand cru by many and the quality of the wine often depends on how high up the slope you are – the higher, the better. Bouchard’s small domaine parcel is at the top but they also often blend in some purchased wine from down in the lower part of the Clos. From what I understand the 2005 vintage version is made from the domaine parcel only. Very bright and sexy. Silky, rich mouth feel. The wines robustness allows it to hold its charry oak well and gives it tremendous presence. My number three grand cru of the evening. Allen Meadows of Burghound thinks this may be the Clos de Vougeot of the vintage. If so, the cheapest of the Bouchard grand crus at $250 may be a steal.

La Romanée Grand Cru (nègotiant wine, made by Chateau de Vosne-Romanée)
At just 0.85 hectares (2 acres), La Romanée is the smallest A.O.C (Appellation Controllee) in France. Directly up-slope from Romanée-Conti and adjacent to Richebourg, this monopole is regarded as one of the grandest of grand crus. At $1400 a bottle it better be too. I thought it was the second best wine of the night, behind the Chambertin Grand Cru, and the best wine of the flight but most of the room preferred the Bonnes-Mares (the final three blind wines were served as a separate flight from the first three blind grand crus). Intoxicatingly floral and spicy (cloves?) nose. A delicious savoriness and lively cherry fruits – this is a classy wine. A feminine finish that went on and on – like your local Amway representative it would just not go away. I kept returning to this wine again and again. Only three bottles of this wine came to New Zealand and two were consumed at this tasting. I would love to see this wine again in 20 years but alas the $1400 tag is a touch outside my budget. And by the way, the only other bottle in New Zealand was bought that evening by an anonymous participant at the tasting!

So does the 2005 vintage live up to the hype? You bet! As Allen Meadows (The Burghound) has said every wine seems to be tasting “up in class” – your villages like premier crus and your premier crus like grand crus. Also Bouchard is definitely back – and they seem to have learned a lot from the new world about clean, well constructed wines. I would definitely recommend Bouchard Père et Fils as a house to explore for newcomers to Burgundy.


Anonymous said...

Hello there!
I have not visited your site since you left Sebastopol!This Bouchard and sons wine is some of the best, I got thrown out of there in 1983 for trying to join a tour in Beaune I did not realize I was suppose to make an appointment! I still managed to get some great stuff wandered up to Chateau Pommard and bought some 1977 which turned out to be great! The Volnay is great too but not as good. Gervy Chambertin was author and distinctive. The Romanee Conti was $75 a bottle in those days and worth every penny.

New Zealand sounds wonderful would like to check it out as I have not been there yet. Please keep writing!

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