Friday, March 27, 2009

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday – Red Burgundy Feb 21 2009

As I have noted before there is nothing more confusing in the world of wine than Burgundy. The only really simple fact is that the reds are made from Pinot Noir. That is unless they are from the Beaujolais region in which case they are made from Gamay. Yes, Beaujolais is considered part of Burgundy; I told you it is confusing.

Lost as I may be in terms of understanding the appellation system in Burgundy that does not stop me from tasting the wines. Although I am often hesitant in buying them for the simple reason of, again, confusion. Confusion with what is written on the labels of the bottles. At these Saturday tastings I always go up to the wine bar after I have tasted and scored the wines to record their alcohol content. The reason for doing this is almost unconscious and it has its explanation in being a Shiraz lover. It’s a macho thing, I have to prove to myself that it is Shiraz that carries the big numbers. In any case with Burgundy, it doesn’t matter if its red or white, what is written on the label is often much more than what is written on the tasting sheet. Now it may be that the person writing up the wine list is just trying to save space. But all the head nodding, going back and forth from the wine labels to the tasting sheet, makes me look like my head is on a spring. And that is just not kind especially to someone who was told as a 15 year old that it would be a good idea if he did drop French and take up Agriculture!

What do I expect from red Burgundy? Well there should be power mixed with grace. Don’t confuse tannins with power; the power should come from the fruit (if a young wine). The mouthfeel should be silky, slippery, gliding over the tongue. And the flavors will have an Old World earthiness mingling with aromas of strawberry and cherry. There should be acidity and it should enhance the lightness of the wine on the palate. Lightness, grace and power, they seem a contradiction but when I taste a really good Burgundy all three are there, swirling and dancing around each other.

First Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Strawberry, Cola, a little cherry and brambles. Nice acidity, adequate length. Well structured even if quite a simple wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.5, 9.5=17.0/20, 85/100.
Drink: 2012-2016.
Wine: 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune, Domaine Arnoux Pere et Fils (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: $17.99USD

Second Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Quite muted with suggestions of cherry and orange peel struggling up from the wine. A slightly sour acidity is the dominant feature and its not helped by the lack of depth to the middle palate.
Score: 2, 2, 3.4, 9.4=16.8/20, 84/100.
Drink: 2013-2017.
Wine: 2006 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $18.99USD

Third Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Aromas of graphite and a hint of truffles dominate over a touch of cherry. A well structured lighter wine with juicy acidity and good carry of Pinot Noir flavors across the palate. A pleasant wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 9.8=17.5/20, 87/100.
Drink: 2012-2018.
Wine: 2006 Mercurey Premier Cru, Clos de Montaigus, Domaine Patrick Size (Côte Chalonnaise)
Closure: Cork
Price: $25.99USD

Fourth Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. A little sulphur with forest floor and cherry notes. Quite fragrant but this does fade. Medium weight with good structure and balance and an appealing finish. A more pronounced presence on the palate that the previous wines.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.0=18.0/20, 90/100.
Drink: 2011-2018.
Wine: 2006 Santenay Premier Cru Clos Rousseau, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Price: $31.99USD

Fifth Wine
Bright cherry red with pink edge. There is more power to this wine and its enhanced by notes of musk, brambles and cherry. A wine of excellent balance and structure. The acidity is quite pronounced but it adds real zip to the wine and marries well with the fine finish.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 91/100.
Drink: 2013-2020.
Wine: 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge, Plantes Momieres, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Price: $31.99USD

Sixth Wine
Bright cherry red with pink edge. Definite Pinot Noir characters of strawberry and cherry intermingles with a little dusty oak and anise. The prominent acidity covers the palate and curls the tongue but its supported by excellent flavors and good length. Too young at present. Will definitely improve.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 9.6=17.7/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2014-2020+
Wine: 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Seuvrées, Domaine Castagnier (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $44.99USD

Seventh Wine
Light Cherry red with pink edge. Sulphur/graphite over faint lychee, mushroom and spices. Medium weight with excellent mouthfeel. Better concentration than the previous wines even though the acidity is again dominant. Excellent length. Will need time to show its true character but it pushes all the right buttons.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2=18.3/20, 92/100.
Drink: 2013-2019.
Wine: 2006 Aloxe-Corton Les Caillettes, Domaine Henri Delagrange (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $38.99USD

Eighth Wine
Vibrant cherry red with pink edge; looks to be very young. Much riper and forward than the rest with mulberry, raspberry, oak and sweet tea – seems New World. Medium weight with excellent flavor carry, bright acidity and very firm tannins on the finish; even the alcohol pokes out. Will needs loads of time to soften.
Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 10.0=17.7/20, 88/100
Wine: 2006 Chambolle-Musigny, Les Bussières, Domaine Olivier Jouan (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $38.99USD

Ninth Wine
A deeper cherry red with a red/pink edge; darkest wine of the group. Quite confected with anise and mulberry. Soft and velvety on entry with excellent flavor carry across the palate, finishing with firm tannins. Shows considerable concentration and power. Has the potential to really improve over the next 5-10 years.
Score: 2, 2, 3.5, 10.3=17.8/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2015-2025.
Wine: 2006 Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru, Les Ruchots, Domaine Olivier Jouan (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Price: $44.99USD

From under the Wine Bar

The Burgundy tastings at Vintage Wines are $10 affairs and sometimes there are a few special wines under the bar. I just happened to walk up to the bar to see if I could fill out the identities of the wines from the labels when the store owner began to pour out two additional wines, and he gave me a taste. Both were Grand Cru wines; the 2006 Charmes Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Oliver Jouan (Côte de Nuits), and the 2006 Clos Saint Denis, Domaine Castagnier (Côte de Nuits). I received only a small pour, not really enough to sit with and write notes on, but both wines were what red Burgundy is all about. Velvety soft with wonderful spicy, floral, earthy aromas that caress the palate with the sensation that it has been enveloped with the most wonderful of liquids. Wines you could luxuriate in.

As a contrast to this sampling of red Burgundy I asked for a taste of the one California Pinot Noir on the Wine Bar. It was the 2007 Siduri Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills region. Santa Rita Hills is a cool-climate viticultural region within the Santa Ynez Valley, and is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Siduri was dark cherry red in color with a reddish pink edge. Initially it smelled of pepper, plum, ripe cherry, and glue (incomplete malo? EDIT: As winemaker Adam Lee of Siduri Wines notes in his comment below the wine did indeed finish mallactic fermentation.) with a toasted note developing with time; nothing at all like my impression of Pinot Noir. On the palate it was medium to full bodied with excellent flavor carry, juicy acidity, soft, ripe tannins and an attractive spicy note on the lengthy finish. It was very drinkable. It just was not Pinot Noir (EDIT: Just for clarification. I am not asserting that the wine was not made from the Pinot Noir grape. As winemaker Adam Lee has noted this wine was made from "100% clone 115 Pinot Noir, with 15 barrels coming from the Clos Pepe Vineyard and 6 coming from the Cargasacchi Vineyard.") Score: 2, 2, 3.2, 9.9=17.1/20, 85/100.

For more on Burgundy go here. For more on the Burgundies tasted go here.

Image ©


Adam Lee said...


Why is it necessary to speculate on winemaking when a simple email or phone call could confirm whether or not you are correct? In fact, the 2007 Siduri Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir completed malolactic fermentation. Moreover, despite your assertion at the end, the wine is 100% Pinot Noir, 100% clone 115 Pinot Noir, with 15 barrels coming from the Clos Pepe Vineyard and 6 coming from the Cargasacchi Vineyard.

Whatever you thought of the wine, I do wish you had followed basic journalistic principles and made sure that the information you posted was factually correct.

Adam Lee, Siduri Wines,

Michael Pollard said...


Thanks for your comment and the information that the wine had indeed completed malolactic fermentation. I have appended a note stating that you have corrected that statement. Unfortunately if I was to enquire about every aspect of a wine that concerned me, I'd be spending quite a bit of time doing just that. However I sincerely apologize if I have offended you.

In terms of your wine not being Pinot Noir. I'm not trying to assert that you have not used the variety in your wine, just that your interpretation of how the qualitites of the grape can be expressed is not the way I view Pinot Noir. Today I tasted the 2006 Rippon Estate Pinot Noir from Lake Wanaka in Central Otago, New Zealand. This, like your wine, is a highly regarded Pinot, but just does not express the qualities I seek in the variety. Obviously this is my opinion and I make no claim to infallibility. I know that your wines are highly sought after and I’m sure that those who buy them appreciate them. In fact as I stated with your wine, and have noted with others of a similar style, the wines are well made, very drinkable, and the flavors very appealing. But for me at least, I find it difficult to identify them as them as Pinot Noir. As I noted with the 2005 Ampelos Cellars “Lambda” in my March 4th post.