We were delighted to act as hosts again for Sarah Marsh MW’s second “Time to Mature Tasting” at our offices on Bermondsey Street last week. In June last year Sarah had arranged a wonderful selection of mature white Burgundies to taste with a select number of wine journalist friends, sommeliers and wine merchants. This time it was Pinot Noir’s turn. With the support of a number of Sarah’s vigneron friends she amassed a stunning selection of wines from the now fully mature 2001 and 2000 vintages. All the samples came from the growers’ personal cellars and therefore provenance was 100% guaranteed and, although a touch biased, I think our new tasting facilities on Bermondsey Street provided the perfect environment to taste these wines in the very best of conditions!
Personally, this was a unique opportunity to remind myself of the individual characteristics of the two vintages. I had tasted both en primeur in cask at the turn of the century, but to taste such a flight 18 years later was a rare treat indeed. My memory of the two vintages was that 2000 has always been a somewhat overlooked vintage for the red wines. At the time of their release their attraction was their balance, they were never big wines but had a beautiful Pinot purity, relatively delicate tannic structure and a subtle acidity. I have always enjoyed their charm and whilst they are not big wines, it has been a vintage which has always given pleasure and it is a sadness that it never received the recognition it deserved. The 2001 vintage in contrast was released with a little more hype. From cask they were bolder in style, appeared to have a greater degree of substance, with a firmer tannic core, whilst the best had a fine bright freshness giving the impression that this was the vintage with greater potential for longer ageing. So how do they compare today?
Suffice to say, I still love the 2000s, I always have done and always will. The very best were quite simply gorgeous… But they are not the vintage I am going to write about, I will leave that to my buying colleague Catherine Petrie MW to comment on in her blog. I am going to focus on the 2001 vintage and highlight some of my favourites.
2001 was not the easiest of years in the vineyard. It was remembered as a wet, cool and slightly cloudy year. Flowering was late and due to the humidity at the time, there was a certain amount of mildew in some vineyards, more predominantly in the Côte de Beaune. It was a year where green harvesting was important to minimise an excess of bunches and allow the limited amount of sunshine to maximise its potential in ripening the berries. In addition, at the time, it appeared to favour the later pickers at the end of the month of September benefitting from a longer hang time and the drying winds which concentrated the fruit and reduced the yields. Seventeen years on, perhaps the division is not quite so clear cut.
In our tasting of 22 wines, whilst we didn’t have harvest dates to hand for the individual growers in the tasting, some wines (which I suspect were at the latter end of the spectrum), appeared to lack some flesh and the dried berry tannins were beginning to monopolise making the wines rather hard and possibly past their best. In contrast there were some exquisite wines that still balanced sufficient concentration with bright mature gamey aged sweet Pinot flavours and subtle freshness. There were few wines that I would suggest will develop further in bottle and therefore the majority I recommend for immediate consumption. With only 3 wines from the Côte de Beaune it is difficult to say whether it was a Côte de Beaune or Côte de Nuits vintage. The accepted wisdom is that the northern appellations did better and I suspect the limited showing of wines from the south to a certain extent supports this. My abiding memory is that the best have what Pinot Noir does so well: they focused on sweet, subtle, gamey red fruits flavours with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. They are old in colour and style, but have a degree of refinement and are a testament to the most dedicated vignerons can do in years when the climatic conditions are not the easiest.
We tasted 21 different wines and whilst not listing them all, the highlights were as below.
2001 Pommard, 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux Comte Armand
A favourite estate of ours, made by former winemaker Benjamin Leroux. Brilliant shining Victorian red brick colour. Attractive gamey aromas with hints of autumnal scent and hints of fresh truffles. This is a broad and full style, but maintains a lovely natural sweetness of fruit, with a tight tannic core underneath. Very long and absolutely in its pomp of drinking.
2001 Vosne Romanée, Clos du Château, Domaine Comte Ligier Belair
Louis-Michel’s second vintage and the consensus is that domaine has evolved considerably since the early days, but I thought this wine from the walled vineyards around the family Château in the middle of the village was absolutely sensational. Totally opposite in style to the Comte Armand wine, this has a delicate orange and garnet hue. This is all about delicacy and grace, with its gentle flavours of cherries. The tannins are incredibly fine and despite its extraordinary subtlety the flavours linger forever (By chance I was lucky enough to enjoy the 2007 from the same vineyard this week and it was equally rewarding. The delicacy and femininity are obviously key characteristics of this monopole).
2001 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier
Expectations are always high when one tastes this famed vineyard that snuggles closely alongside Grand Cru Musigny and as a result opinions were divided, but I loved it! Brilliant shining brick red colour, with hints of fresh cherries and sweet raspberries on the nose. A more delicate style than some had anticipated, but I felt this was to its favour. Extraordinarily pure, focusing totally on natural Pinot fruits, the wine is beautifully layered, with a natural intensity. Nothing is forced, it relies totally on the quality of its terroir and its 60 year old vines. This wine exudes class. What a treat.
2001 Clos St Denis Domaine Dujac
A total showstopper and an indication of its absolute class that in such an esteemed group of wines, it was the absolute winner amongst the 21 wines for this vintage. Shining young purple colour, it looks and smells so youthful, with its striking sweet wild strawberry aromas. In the palate it has harmony and balance, with refined sweet wild hedgerow fruits. It is elegant and yet fleshy, with incredible intensity, but there is nothing to excess. The flavours just go on and on, which I am so grateful for as you just don’t want the experience to finish. I will be hard pushed to taste a better wine again in 2018! Perfection!
2001 Mazoyeres Chambertin Domaine Perrot-Minot
Mazoyeres is within Charmes Chambertin and many domaines sell under the more recognised name as it is a little easier to pronounce! Not a domaine I know well, but the sweet vibrant cocoa and coffee been aromas instantly caught the eye. This has a real “sauvage” character, with its wild hedgerow fruits, a wine with power and structure, incredibly vigorous, with a vibrant energetic freshness on the finish. Very classy .
2001 Bonnes Mares Domaine Roumier
Domaine Roumier needs little introduction as one of the Côte de Nuits’ great estates. I was really looking forward to tasting this wine, but in essence it is still an absolute baby. This for me was one of the hardest wines to taste, its deep rooted powerful intensity seemed to take control of the fruit and I suspect we were tasting 10 years to early. This was the only wine in the flight I would recommend you sit tight and let it evolve before it reaches its time of greatness. Watch this space.
2001 Chambertin Domaine Rossignol-Trapet
As former England captain Michael Vaughan would say, “form is temporary, class is permanent”. This domaine has a fine reputation but for some people it occasionally underperformed. This superb wine shows the greatness of its origins and is everything that the famed Grand Cru of Chambertin should be. Shining purple colour, it is still remarkably youthful. Striking aromas of sweet preserved fruits, in the palate it is beautifully layered. With a feeling of composure the initial sweetness of fruit is balanced by an intense tannic core. It is very long and will be the perfect accompaniment to well-hung game. A wine exemplifying the regal class of Le Chambertin.
To conclude this tasting was an absolute joy and very special thanks must go to all the domaines who supported the event and in particular Sarah Marsh who made this tasting happened. Roll on the next one…