What is quite surprising is that it takes 12 hours from Hampshire to my supper in Beaune, via the Eurostar. I think a flight from Heathrow next time is back on the agenda!
Monday morning, the start of our second week of tasting, the sun is shining, the day is incredibly mild and I am ready for our first flight of 2017s at Domaine Simon Bize in Savigny, hosted by Chisa Bize. 22 ha of vines so a fairly big domaine, split 30% white and 70% red. Similar quantities to the 2014 vintage.
The Savigny-lès-Beaune Rouge Aux Grands Liards is wonderfully wild with strawberry and blueberry fruits on the nose. The palate is refined, so fresh and pretty, with silky tannins perfectly integrated. So easy to enjoy in its relative prime.
Next is a flight 1er Crus, Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Fourneaux is perfumed and wild on the nose, although intensely concentrated the tannins are silky and perfectly balanced.
Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Talmettes is a star for this year. It has a fabulous nose that I love, strawberries, cranberries, a melange of fresh red fruits. It is very elegant and soyeux with textured tannins.
Everyone will have their favourite 1er Cru cuvée this year, and if you want to focus on a denser, more powerful cuvée from Bize then Vergelesses is fantastic.
We finish on their only their Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru, 5 barrels in 2017 (only 3 in 2016) and the nose is just stunning! It is wild, sauvage and earthy, the aromas really leap out at you. The palate is seamless and lacy, the tannins crescendo in the mouth, yet remain perfectly balanced and harmonious. The balance between finesse and power is impressive. A brilliant cuvée.
A five minute drive away and we arrive at Domaine de Courcel in Pommard, hosted by the wine maker Yves Confuron.
Their Pommard 1er Cru Croix Noires has darker fruit on the nose and is wonderfully intense and concentrated. The style of the wine is broad shouldered, with textured Pommard tannins, although the wine remains quite soyeux and juicy on the palate, I really like this.
The Pommard Premier Cru Les Fremiers is a favourite of mine (stylistically more on the side of Volnay) and the 2017 doesn’t disappoint, gorgeous redder fruit profile on clay and limestone soil. Seamless balance, very fine.
The Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Épenots (5ha which is nearly half the total of the domaine) is darker and more sauvage on the nose. The wine has a gorgeous texture on the palate, so silky and fresh with good concentration and the Épenots obvious structure, it builds and builds, this is superb.
The Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens is a brilliant wine (only 1 ha), this cuvée is always finer, so very different in style to the Épenots. The wine has a sweet core of fresh red and darker fruits. The tannins are soyeux and textured, a ferrous note is evident on the palate, it is very refined yet structured, crescendos on the palate. This wine is pure class.
Next up we arrive with Thomas Bouley in Volnay to taste his magnificent Volnays.
Thomas describes this vintage as ‘a small 2015′, fleshy, ripe tannins with good energy. He notes that he cares more about the ripeness of the skins in general, than the sugar content. When we question him on challenges, he says it was very easy.
The Volnay Vieilles Vignes is created from a much warmer, beautiful red soil (clay with iron) parcel, below Sous Les Carelles. Very fine and textured, lots of matiere and has a ferrous character that is utterly delicious and a big step up in terms of quality and a wine I will be buying this year.
Ok, I am warmed up and imminent are Thomas’s 1er Crus (30% new oak on each) this next cuvée is always a highlight for me, The 1er Cru Caillerets has a steep slope, poor soil and is always the most mineral of his cuvées. So elegant and so fine, with a seamless balance. I love this wine. The purists should look no further: it is a classy wine.
Les Carelles (soils are clay with iron, no wind), this is Thomas’s favourite cuvée. You have a wonderful fleshiness on the mid-palate, there is a sweetness to the fruit and a broader texture than the Caillerets. Lovely cuvée.
Next up is Volnay Clos des Chenes (50% whole bunch) and my taste buds are positively humming. This is a much higher terroir, more windy, so it is always more reserved. I love it, pure and driven. This is always a cuvée that needs time, minimum 10 years to really express itself.
His two 1er Cru Pommard Fremiers (warm and sunny, just below Rugiens Bas with beautiful red soil). Wow! So soyeux, the tannins are silky and I love the texture here. A glorious Fremiers.
We finish on the Rugiens (located above the Fremiers with very poor soil, 100% destemmed no whole bunch and you can instantly note that). Very mineral and fresh, so precise and fine. Crystalline fruit. So long. Pure class. This is a grand Cru in all but name. The wine of the tasting for JL.
After a fabulous lunch at La Buissonniere, a haddock fillet washed down with a bottle of Auxey Duresses, Comte Armand 2013, we arrived at 2pm at Chandon de Brailles, a fully biodynamic domaine. No mildew here as they spray 20% low fat milk and copper on the vines. 2017 is the second vintage using a vertical press, so no problem to blend when it comes to the clarification.
We taste a delicious Savigny-lès-Beaune (no whole bunch, 100% destemmed) that has been gently pressed. It is so pretty and elegant, I love the sweetness, so so fine.
Next up a wonderfully bright and clean Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Fourneaux, so precise on the palate, followed by a 1er Cru Les Lavières (50% whole bunch) that is singing today. The wine has fantastic sweetness, a sauvage and darker fruit character that is utterly delicious. Interesting to note that the silkiness on the finish, is according to Claude, due to the new vertical press.
Moving into the 1er Cru Pernand Vergelesses you instantly encounter the elegance and quality of tannins, a spicy style and such silky tannins. Quite a tense style, very linear that finishes long.
The wine of the tasting so far (with Lavières) for me is the 1er Cru Île des Vergelesses, fabulous dark blueberry fruits and the classic Pernand Vergelesses spiciness. The palate is so elegant and silky. I love this.
The three Grand Crus are a pleasure to taste (all are 80% whole bunch). We begin with the Corton Maréchaudes, so fruity, so fresh, a wine personified by its elegance and intensity. So pretty and wild.
The difference between the Maréchaudes (5 barrels) and the Bressandes which I now have in my glass is also impressive. The wine is darker forest fruits, earthy, the tannins are soft and silky. Wonderful balance. One of the best wines I have tasted today.
We finish one of the most exciting tastings that I have experienced here at the domaine with their Grand Cru Clos du Roi (4 barrels) so velvety, fine and silky, but the star for me is the Bressandes. 2017 is a great vintage for Chandon de Briailles.
When the taste buds are heightened it is hard to go home and freshen up and thank goodness we have one more visit. We end this wonderful day tasting with Olivier Lamy’s top flight selection of St Aubins. All the wines we tasted are currently in tank and the domaine began to harvest on the 25th August.
1er Cru Les Frionnes has such freshness and vibrant acidity. Lots and lots of energy for a sunny vintage.
But it is the 1er Cru Clos de la Chatenière, with its slightly hot climate and more limestone, that is getting me extremely excited. More of a Chassagne expression, very grown up. More flamboyant, so delicious on the finish.
1er Cru En Remilly, as one would expect is taut and compact in comparison. I adore the mineral drive that courses through the mid palate. Pure class. A wine that will require patience to fully unwind.
We end the day on a 2016 En Remilly, peachy on the nose, so fine, taut and racy on the palate and a 2014 En Remilly that remains a baby and will continue to be so for another 5 years or so.