Grand Cru Burgundy or tea?


I just got back from three truly interesting days in Burgundy. I was with a remarkable family, Yannan and Zhihua Wang, their son Zhengxi and their good friend Dadong Wang. Yannan runs Guardian Auctions, the equivalent of Sotheby and Christies in Beijing, and is the daughter of a remarkable man Zhao Ziyang, who showed immense moral courage at the time of Tiananmen Square.

They were all true wine lovers. Zhihua’s notes on each domaine we visited would put even David Roberts to shame, whilst Zhengxi’s blind tasting was hugely impressive, nailing the vintage on two occasions.

We visited some great domaines from Méo Camuzet through to Comte Armand and tasted some great wines: Echezeaux 1991 at Domaine Grivot, Corton Bressande 2009 and 2006 at Chandon de Briaille, Romanée St Vivant 2009 at Hudelot Noellat and Pommard Les Epenots 2010 with Benjamin Leroux. I can’t thank all the domaines more for their generosity.


Even more exciting than tasting these older wines was having my first chance to taste the 2012s. I knew it was a desperately small vintage in the Côte de Beaune but I had no idea about the quality. I can assure you that it is a really lovely vintage, clearly superior to 2011, and just might rank alongside 2009 and 2010. We will be going back in November to taste them again for a more detailed view.

As to the 2013 vintage, the weather has been as bad, cold and wet as it has been in the UK and flowering is two to three weeks late. The good news is that, although the domaines have had to spray against mildew, the vines were looking healthy. As long as the flowering goes well and good weather is forecast, then 2013 might well be a reasonably large vintage. It will certainly be late, at the moment well into October.

The size of the vintage is really important for many of the domaines. Yields have been so low recently that they have lost the equivalent of a whole vintage in the last three years. Many are struggling financially and the banks are being less than helpful – happy to lend to the great domaines that don’t need the money but not prepared to help the smaller producers.


The other great thing about the trip is that I am now an expert on Green tea (ok, I admit this is a slight exaggeration). Yannan gave me packets of tea which are the tea equivalent of 1er and Grand Crus all of which are quite delicious. Our discussions about tea reminded me of a story that one of my fellow wine merchants scoffing at a Chinese friend as to how his compatriots could drink Ch Lafite with coke, got the reply “But how can you English drink tea with milk and sugar?”