November 7th 2018
Still on a high from last night’s supper at Maison du Colombier, where we drank some delicious wines – the highlight being a cracking 2013 NSG from Rouget. This really confirmed to us that Emmanuel is making outstanding wine; it was very youthful, with so much power and layered fruit complexity, combined with a beautiful elegance the 2013s seem to possess. We followed that with a couple of Moreys; we had been so struck by this commune from tastings earlier in the day, we just had to sample a few with a little age (no restaurant in Beaune carries really old wines these days sadly!) Morey really is on fire; a blossoming commune. We tasted two from the very best, namely Roumier and Dujac, which were incredibly beautiful.
With a new day of tasting ahead of us we set off towards the Côte de Beaune. We were to be richly rewarded. Jamie Strutt’s hand movements became positively orchestral, when he loves wines he explains with hand movements, two hands = knockout wines… He got very excited, both were in the air many times during day!!! Now, I’m sure I’ve got your attention….
First up Domaine Paul Pillot. Thierry Pillot is turning this domaine into one of the greats of Chassagne. He is one of the young generation who is ambitious and in love with his job. He took over in 2004 and is the fourth generation at the helm, it’s still very much a family run domaine. Today they own 13 hectares of vines, interestingly 4.5 of which are red, make sure you find these! Their white vineyard holdings are exceptional, to name a few of their beautifully positioned vineyards; Champs Gains, Caillerets, La Romanée and Grande Ruchottes. Thierry favours a discreet use of new oak and minimum intervention in the cellar resulting in wines that are harmonious and most importantly exemplify their vineyard of origin. The 2017s are beautiful. Thierry commented that he had not seen quality like this for over ten years. They picked early, harvest began on the 26th August – with the whites in 2017, when people picked, is the HOT debate!!
But no worries here, Thierry definitely picked at the right time. His wines are exquisite, the whole range has a beautiful luminosity. Thierry thinks it’s very similar to his knockout 2014s, but the 2017s have something extra, the fruit is very textured and accessible. The wines have a wonderful depth of fruit concentration, they are crystalline, bright, pure and vibrant. His whole range is very much worth seeking out, each wine has been so beautifully crafted. Both white and red reflect the finest terroirs of Chassagne-Montrachet. For those who want value and to find a new area in Burgundy that offers value, pedigree and top quality, (which is a rare find these days) then please look out for these reds. They offer outstanding value.
On a high we left for the village of Puligny-Montrachet and Domaine Etienne Sauzet, which is arguably one of Burgundy’s finest and most prestigious domaines. We were greeted by the gorgeous Benoît, who, along with his wife Emeline, is the fourth generation of the family to take up the reins of this historic estate. He took us through a thrilling tasting.
Here the wines were harvested on the 28th August – the last time it was this early was in 2015 and 2018. The texture and energy of his 2017s is sublime. They combine grace and harmony with wonderful ripe silky fruit flavours that have vibrancy, layered complexity, mineral drive and honeysuckle nectar on the finish. These wines are so complete and exciting. The 1er Crus are heavenly. The Grand Crus are mighty, but beautiful. A seriously impressive range; even at the Villages and Bourgogne level the wines display the finesse and grace of truly great Puligny. Exquisite.
On to the village of Meursault and Domaine Patrick Javillier. Our tasting was with the lovely Marion, who explained that they were very happy with 2017. ‘Good volume and very good quality’. They have gradually expanded their vineyard holdings to over 11 hectares and have been estate bottling the wines since 1990. They are split 80% white and 20% red, encompassing 14 Communes. They started to harvest on the 13th August. Marion makes the red wines while her father (who was supposed to have retired 8 years ago!) and brother-in-law make the white.
Their Bourgogne Blancs (labelled as Bourgogne Côte d’Or for the first time this year) are vinified as crus and resemble mini Meursaults in characters. The Oligocène is well worth seeking out, coming from the Puligny side, it has a beautiful texture of fruit and vibrancy. The lieux dits from the upper slopes have a touch of honeyed richness and a lovely zesty lift. Flinty, steely, with beautiful poise and charm. The texture and personality of the Clos du Cromin, Tillets and Clousots was gorgeous. These will give a lot of drinking pleasure.
After a quick lunch stop at L’Agastache in Volnay (highly recommended) we arrived at Domaine Joseph Voillot in Volnay. We have been supporters of Jean-Pierre Charlot for many years and this year as he was away we tasted with his nephew, Etienne. In recent vintages their wines have garnered a following from the top critics. He now has around 10 hectares of vineyards, including holdings in 10 premier cru sites spread across Volnay, Pommard and Meursault.
A long drive in the rain and we came to Gevrey-Chambertin and Domaine Drouhin-Laroze. We tasted with Caroline in the full barrel cellars, which coming off the back of 2016 is great to see. Their 11.5 hectares includes some of the most prestigious grands crus; 1.49 hectares of Bonnes Mares, a tiny bit of Musigny, 2 barrels, 1.47 hectares of Chambertin Clos de Bèze, a fraction over a hectare of Clos de Vougeot and one and a half hectare or so each of Latricières-Chambertin and Chapelle-Chambertin. They have all the hallmarks of beautifully balanced, elegant wines.