November 2nd 2017
After visiting Napa and Sonoma last month and now being back in Burgundy tasting the 2016s, the life of an ageing wine merchant couldn’t be much better. The weather has been glorious, but of more importance is that throughout the Côte d’Or we are greeted by happy winemakers. 2016 might be a tiny vintage but the quality is good to very good. However, what is so pleasing is that the 2017 vintage, which is now safely in the cellar, is an abundant and good vintage, the largest since 2009. It would not be an exaggeration that without the 2017 vintage many domaines would have major financial problems and might not have survived.
Day three of our 2016 tasting is “La Toussaint” when most doors are shut, so it’s been a very relaxed day. We began in the Côte de Beaune at Domaine de Courcel in Pommard. This old family owned estate makes wonderfully traditional Pommards; wines that require age to shed their very high tannins, but once they do they are magnificent. The 2016s are classic Pommards which have pure Pinot fruit with good concentration and telltale tannins. In most domaines the 2016s will be early drinkers, but not here. These will need ten years before you reach for the corkscrew. We were discussing older vintages and discovered Gilles has a secret stash of Pommard Grands Clos des Epenots 1996 magnums. One was opened and was stunning, just confirming that if you are patient these de Courcel wines are ones to buy. We will have a few of these to offer later in the year.
We then moved to the next door village to taste at Domaine Thomas Bouley in Volnay. This is a visit down memory lane for Tom and me. We bought from his father Jean-Marc until the financial crisis of 1991. Jean-Marc made some terrific wines but Thomas has taken the Domaine to a new level. The quality of his 2016s is outstanding. The superb fruit, the balance and the ripeness of the tannins give his 2016s an immediate appeal. His village wines are lovely and his trio of 1er Crus Carelles, Caillerets and Clos des Chênes will give huge pleasure. His 1er Cru Pommard will need a little more time but will be worth the wait.
Our afternoon found us once again on our way north to Gevrey Chambertin to visit Domaine Sérafin. We have worked with Christian for more years than I like to remember. The tastings are now done with Karine, his daughter, and Frederique Goulley, the longstanding wine maker. As always the fruit here was utterly superb. They have made a stunning Bourgogne which will be a must buy, amazingly coping with 100% new oak. The grander wines were at a slightly difficult stage as the new oak was dominating but the underlying quality of these 2016s is unquestionable.
The day ended with a delightful dinner with the Charlots of Domaine Voillot. Jean-Pierre is one of the great wise men of Burgundy; a font of insightful information, great stories and even a bit of spicy gossip. The wines he opened were a real treat, a magnum of Volnay Fremiers 2007 and Pommard Pezerolles 1969 to celebrate Jamie Strutt’s birthday.