Burgundy Day 4 – 07 June 2007

by Mike Supple

Things are starting to wind down here, as tomorrow is our last day in Burgundy. We left the hotel a little later in the morning (yay, three whole hours of sleep this time!) and spent the day at a slightly more leisurely pace. In the morning we visited Domaine Bruno Clair and had lunch prepared for us by his wife. After lunch we took a couple of hours and drove through some of the more famous Grand Cru regions, and spent a while walking around La Tache, Romanee Conti, La Romanee, Les Richebourgs, Romanee St Vivant, etc.

I’m now putting the day a little out of order, but here are some photos of this unbelievable area:

Mike Supple at La Tache

Monument to the ancestors of Thibault Ligier Belair, looking across La Tache

Gnarly old Pinot Noir vine in Romanee St Vivant

Looking across Romanee Conti and La Romanee – Unbelievably rich soil!

Les Richebourgs – Baby Pinot Noir grapes, smaller than peas

Shaun Bishop at La Romanee

After our little jaunt in god’s country, we headed to Domaine Henri Gouges, toured the vineyards, tasted with Christian and Pierre (Grandsons of Henri Gouges), followed by a home cooked meal at the Domaine.

Domaine Bruno Clair

Philippe Brun, the winemaker for Bruno Clair, began our tasting for us. He is pictured to the right climbing to the top of the barrels to get us our samples. The history of Domaine Bruno Clair is unfortunately fraught with loss of vineyards due to family dissension, as is the case with so many of Burgundy’s domaines. However, Bruno has been working hard to regain the rights to many of his vineyards, and his production will begin increasing, beginning with the 2006 vintage. In 1988, Bruno inherited approximately 15 hectares of land from his father, but about half of this was locked in to 18 year contracts with Jadot. In 2006 those contracts expired, and the amount of premier cru and grand cru wines Bruno can produce pratically doubled. For the first time, Bruno Clair now produces a domaine Bonnes Mares Grand Cru. Approximately 2/3 of his holdings in this vineyard are still tied up, but they will be his again in 2017, at which point his production of Bonnes Mares will triple.

Besides having access to great land, Bruno takes meticulous care in both the vineyard and the winery, where he is assisted by Philippe. Due to his great passion for the vineyard, Bruno spends as much time there as possible, and truly believes great wine starts in the vine. If the grapes that show up at the winery are not of utmost quality, even the most skilled winemaker in the world cannot make anything worthwhile with them. In order to produce great grapes, one must understand the how the geology works in Burgundy. The vineyards of Burgundy all run along rolling hills. The top of the hills are mostly limestone, and the bottom and valleys are heavily clay. The limestone (aside from allowing water to drain) tends to give the wines a more intense mineral character, while adding finesse at the same time. At the bottom of the hills, the soil is a rich heavy clay, which adds depth, intensity and complexity to the wines. Thus, the obvious choice for a perfect wine would be one that combines the finesse of limestone with the depth and intensity of clay: thus the vineyards in the middle of the hillsides that combine these two soil types tend to produce the best wines. Oddly enough, just about all the Grand Cru vineyards are located in this middle hill region. For this reason, Bruno feels that, “Avec les Grand Crus il n’y a pas de mauvaises anées” (with Grand Crus, there are no bad vintages). It comes down to a matter of respecting the geography and working with what you have. Some years can be greater and some can be lesser, but when treated well, the wine should never be bad.

When asked to compare the 2006 vintage to another one, both Philippe and Bruno agreed that while it might have some similarities here and there to other vintages, it really is something all on its own.

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Marsanny Les Vaudenelles
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Marsanny Les Grasses Tetes
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Bruno Clair Marsanny Le Longerois
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Chambolle-Musigny Les Veroilles
Some of the younger vines in the Domaine ~15 years old.
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru La Petite Chapelle
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos du Fonteny
This is a monopole, planted with 21 year old vines.
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cazetieres
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St-Jacques
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru
Very old vines: 2/3 planted in 1912, 1/3 planted in 1973
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Bruno Clair Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
The first year for Bruno Clair Bonnes Mares.
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Dom Bruno Clair Marsannay Le Longerois
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Dom Bruno Clair Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Dom Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St-Jacques
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Dom Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

Lunch:
After the tasting, we had lunch prepared for us by Bruno’s wife, Isabelle. Lunch was quite the scene, as we got into rather intense arguments and discussions over French and American politics. He also went into his cellar and pulled out an ’88 and a ’95 for us to try. 1995 was not a particularly stunning vintage for Burgundy, so we tested the bottle to see how it had evolved. See notes below.

Les vins:
2006 Bruno Clair Marsanny Rose
-a delicious little wine: bright strawberry notes, with a crisp and refreshing finish
2005 Bruno Clair Marsanny Blanc
-Fresh aromas of tropical fruits, bold pineapple and a hint of meon. Good minerality and nickel on the front of th palate Well balanced, smooth and clean
2005 Bruno Clair Morey-St-Denis en la Rue de Vergy
2005 Bruno Clair Corton Charlemagne
1998 Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cazetieres
-Great truffle aromas over dark red cherries. Rich, smooth and clear aromas. Lively on the palate with spicy fruit and kirsch liquer flabors. Good acid supported by a supple tannic strength.
1995 Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru
-Notes of horse sweat giving a very rustic quality to the fruit aromas. Very minerally on the palate with notes of orange zest. Strong tannins make this tough to drink right now. Probably needs another 5 – 10 years to settle, but the fruit made fade first.

Le repas:
Jambon persil – a regional dish of chilled ham and parsley
Roast chicken
Tomato, cucumber, black olive and feta salad
Pasta salad – bow-tie with cantaloupe, mozzarella, and lardon
Couscous with raisins, green peppers and red peppers
Fresh coleslaw of cabbage, carrots and raisins
Raspberry tort

Domaine Henri Gouges

The Gouge family has controlled the current Domaine since 1919. In the 1930’s, Henri Gouges played an active role in delineating the crus in Burgundy for the Institut Nationale d’Appellation d’Origine. Today the estate is run by Henri Gouges’ two grandsons, Christian and Pierre. Christian met up with us first, and took us on a drive to see his vineyards up close; we were joined later by Pierre in the cellar who led us through the wines. This is somewhat of a role reversal, as Christian is usually in the cellar while Pierre works the vines. In this first picture, Christian shows Shaun the vines in the 1er Cru vineyard Les Chenes Carteaux. These vines have all been evenly pruned to keep the lumber of leaves per stem at approximately 7 or 8. The pruning is done by a machine that drives over the rows. Vines of a similar age tend to grow a specific number of leaves based on the length of the rootstock and the height of the stems. Thus, the machine can be set to crop at a specific height, leaving exactly 7-8 leaves per stem.

Close-up of a grape bunch at Les Chenes Carteaux

Pierre and Christian were among the first to plant a specific variety of grass between their rows of vines, and they currently ave about 7 of their 15 hectares planted with grass. There are several reasons behind using the grass. Grapes are more concentrated and intense the more stress their is on the vine. By having grass between the rows, the majority of the rainwater is absorbed and used by the grass, stressing the grape vine and causing it to grow roots deeper into the soil. The grass also protects the soil from erosion during heavy rains. Due to the added stress to the vine caused by the grass, Christian and Pierre have noted that their grapes planted in the grassy rows in general are much smaller. Smaller grapes mean thicker skins, more resistance to disease and rot, and a higher concentration of sugar and acid. In the winery, the thicker skins add to the intensity of color in the wine, as well as the power of the tannins.

Back at the winery we noticed a lot of construction going on. The old winery has been completely ripped out, and an entire new winery being built – hopefully in time for the 2007 vintages. When we asked about comparing other vintages to 2006, we again received what has become a rather common answer: there aren’t really any other vintages is resembles. 2006 is truly its own animal. For the red wines, in the best Domaines there is a great depth and purity of fruit which is complemented by a fantastic elegance and finesse. When it comes to whites, they are simply amazing. Round, rich and ripe yet retaining incredible acid levels allowing the wines to be balanced, focused, crisp and pure. For Christian, 2006 is a vintage of fruit; silky with integrated tannins: “Il a tres belle couleur en 2006, un pinot de plaisir”.

Before getting to the wines, I need to mention that none of the red wines had gone through malolactic fermentation. Christian believes in following the biology of the wine, and therefor does not start this fermentation but rather lets it happen naturally. Some years it is early and quick, others late and long. He actually prefers to have a later malolactic fermentation, because while the wine is going through this process it is laden with carbon dioxide gas. This gas in the wine is a good thing during the heat of summer because it stops the wine from absorbing oxygen and becoming too oxidized. All of that said, malolactic fermentation changes the impression a wine gives on the nose and palate, so it would not be fair to score these wines right now. I will give notes as to the aromas and mouthfeel, but these could definitely change after the malolactic fermentation.

White:
2006 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Porrets St-Georges
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

Red:
2006 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges Villages
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Chenes Carteaux
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Porrets St-Georges
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Vaucrains
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Porrets St-Georges
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Chenes Carteaux
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les St-Georges
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

Christian and Pierre have an truly amazing and very extensive cellar full of their wines from 1919 to the present. Before dinner they selected a couple for us to try. The first was a 1972 Les St-Georges (because neither Shaun nor myself had ever tried a Pinot from 1972) and the second was a 1940 Clos des Porrets. This is a particularly interesting vintage, because it happened at the beginning of World War II. This made getting any help in the vineyards particularly difficult. This brought up the interesting topic of the theft of wines during WWII. The Nazis, under Hitler’s orders, went in to cellars throughout France and confiscated wines from the best regions and best vintages. In an effort to keep from losing all these irreplaceable wines, many Frenchmen began erecting false walls in their cellars, blocking off large areas and hiding many wines. This sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. By keeping the walls as warm and moist as possible, mold was encouraged to grow quickly to make the walls appear older. Spiders were also collected and placed on the walls to add to the aged feel and help pull off the farce. The proprietor at the time of Dom Henri Gouges erected such a wall in his cellar, and his wines were protected.

A stack of bottles from 1944 and 1940 – all the older bottles in the cellar have recently been recorked.

Les vins:
2005 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru La Perriere
1972 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les St-Georges
-Bold truffle and earth nose. Spicy and gamy with black cherry aromas. Slightly oxidized and materized on the nose. In the mouth the wine is sweet, earthy and smoky with light metallics leading to lingering cherry. The tannins are almost gone, but there is still a lively acid on the mid-palate.
1940 Dom Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Porrets
-The color is still amazingly bright with garnet hues. Smoky and metallic on the front of the nose, followed by earth, black truffle, mint and anise. Very good acidity, and incredibly supple on the palate. Better and livelier than the 1972.

Le repas:
-Saumon pate avec mayonnaise Dijon (no egg) et le salade
-Filets du veau et du porc avec pommes de terre au gratin
-Tart des fruits

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