Friday, 25 April 2008

NYW - Jean-Claude Boisset Tasting

Jean-Claude Boisset Tasting
Noel Young Wines - Trumpington
16 April 2008

Tasting run by Noel Young Wines in Trumpington HIgh St, Cambridge. Its the first time I've been to a tasting in NY Wines, its not exactly smack in the middle of Cambridge you see, getting there and back is rather complicated. However, this tasting was really excellent, I ran out of superlatives at the end of it. Prices are retail at NYW.

The speaker, Gregory Patriat, is the head winemaker at JC Boisset; a man who knows and obviously loves his wine, is an excellent and captivating speaker (with jokes I really shouldnt repeat in a public domain such as this). He started off working in the vineyards, gradually moving up to become winemaker. JC Boisset used to be thought of as a run of the mill kind of winery, making basic and overpriced Burgundies; but this has changed under Gregory. They now make small parcels of many different wines, focusing on the true and pure expression of the terroir; they dont own much land themselves, instead choosing to buy in parcels of fruit from all over Burgundy. They are very involved in the actual grape growing (they are foremost a wine grower, not a wine maker - nice soundbite eh?). This is rather important as wine growers tend to have a farmers' mentality, that is, trying to make as much fruit as possible as they get paid by the tonne; this unfortunately makes poor wine as the fruit will be flavourless, diluted, and very often under ripe - farmers get real twitchy at the sight of bad weather near harvest time, so left to their own devices, they would rather harvest early and secure the crop. By forging long term relationships with the wine growers, JC Boisset has the pick of the crop and they say in the actual wine growing; in many ways this is a good business model. If its a bad year, they simply make less wine and only buy fruit from areas which performed OK; in good years, they just buy more fruit and make more wine. Hence they have a massive portfolio of different wines produced in very small quantities, ranging from 600 to 10,000 bottles, which is nothing compared to the massive negociants in Burgundy. Enough background, on to the drink itself.

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2006
£11 [B+]

The entry level white from JC Boisset, they tend to think that the entry level wine is where most of the big negociants get it wrong: its normally overpriced and/or rubbish. Here, we have a fruit-driven wine, full of white fruits, peaches and citrus peel; its very fresh, with crisp minerality and light acidity. There is some tartness towards the end, lending to a balanced, perfectly acceptable mouthfeel. I felt that this was a good wine to start a tasting, awakens the tastebuds with its light, tingly flavours. Its not one to keep, but a few years wont hurt it at all. I think its wonderful if you just wanted to show what a properly made white Burgundy should taste like. Value isnt bad either.

Marsannay Blanc 2006
£16 [A-]

From vineyards just north of the Cotes de Nuits. This was sort of the entry level, taken to the next step. The purity of flavour and fruit-dominated palate is similar to above, but this wine had a slightly heavier mouthfeel; it was more expansive, just slightly more fulfilling. Whereas the first wine above was light and tingly, this was more assured and lingered for a while, enticing you a bit. I loved the balance and togetherness of the wine. This may keep around 5yrs if you could keep it that long.

Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Sur Gamay 2006
£25 [A-(+)]

Despite the name, this wine is all Chardonnay, from an up and coming area (Saint-Aubin); the 2002 vintage won an IWC white burgundy trophy some time back, The main distinguishing feature from the two above is the weight on the palate, this one feels creamier, heavier, larger and fatter. A slight departure from white fruits, into more developed complex notes. There are more attarctive secondary characteristics, here I detected some organic chemistry-related notes (turpentine etc); the wine itself doesnt slip through quickly, it almost beckons you to stop and take notice. This will most certainly develop in the next 5-10yrs. Absolutely lovely, balanced and complex.

Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2005
£45 [B+(++)]

The most expensive white on tasting tonight, but not my favourite. There is an overriding acidity that will supply the backbone for aging, but now, its just a bit too aggressive and cutting; its also almost tannic (yes, I know it sounds weird). Dont get me wrong, its still wonderful, there is a creamier, buttery and largeness about it that I just know will be perfect in due course. Fruit wise, we're moving from citrus to grapefruit and lime. At the moment, its a bit too exuberant and lively for me, its not yet 'together' flavour wise; the different aspects (acidity, fruit, weight and motuhfeel) are still pulling the wine in different directions. I have no doubts thil will develop very well with time; its not short on class either. Keep 10+ yrs.

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006
£11 [B+]

Entry level red from JC Boisset, made much in the same spirit as the white. Its an honest Burgundy, made properly from decent grapes. Its dominated by light red fruits; tartness reminiscent of cranberry and raspberry. Tannins are a bit out of place for my liking, I like my Pinots to be smooth and rounded, this one had some edge to it. Its a vibrant and happy wine, to be had with food (pork or even lamb). Drink now, no dont think it'll keep.

Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits 'Les Dames Huguettes' 2006
£15 [B(+)]

This I thought didnt express itself well during the tasting; it may be on a bad day. It seemed rather closed and astringent, which I thought was strange. There is some red fruits though, but the tannins just needed some time to soften and develop. My rating reflects the hope that it will get better with time, perhaps 5yrs just to open a little?

Santenay 1er Cru Grand Clos Rousseau 2006
£25 [B+(+)]

The appearance of this wine was lightly darker than the prvious two, an indication as to its flavours as well. There is certainly greater concentration of flovaours in this wine, red fruits still readily apparent with a sprinkling of secondary caharcteristics of wood / herb. The mouthfeel was slightly heavier and larger and the finish just that bit classier. It should keep, the tannins could do with some time 5-10yrs.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Greves 2005
£28 [B(+++)]

Another potentially great wine which didnt perform during the tasting. My lasting memory of this was how tightly wound this wine tasted, the tannins were astringent almost to the extent of being raw, grips like tyres on a hot tarmac. The shame is that there are great secondary flavours here: light spices, licorice and floral nose were all there, the fruit was hidden behind the tannins. I'm told by the winemaker that this wine has a tendency to enter a 'closed' phase where it just shuts down for a few years and he wasnt surprised that this wine tasted like it did. Time should take care of it though. I'm sure this tasting note would look different in 5yrs time; maturity and full complexity wont be till 12-15yrs time. Once won the IWC Burgundy trophy, cant doubt the pedigree.

Chambolie Musigny 2005
£32 [B+(++)]

This was a really serious wine, from the first sip you could tell it meant business. The concentration of flavours, even at this stage, was impressive; the nose was strong yet delicately perfumed. Taninns are present but not harsh; there was a hidden power behind this wine that you could feel will serve it very well in due course. There is a layered, structured feel that is so seductive; the savouriness is just brilliant. I apologise for being so abstract, but I absolutely adored this wine even now; I shudder to think what greatness could be expected in, say, 10yrs time; maturity probably after 15yrs.

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2005
£67 [A-(++)]

Alright, this cost twice as much as the previous one but I honestly cannot say it was twice as good. The good points from the wine above are obviously here, I couldnt detect much difference bar the fact that this wine was drinking better now, compared to the Chambolie Musigny, hence the grade difference. Whats notable is the layered palate; the hidden power and structure is appealing; the finish is slightly more sustained. Maybe 5-10yrs to start tatsing interesting bits; 15yrs for maturity. Honestly though, I'd rather get two bottles of Chambolie Musigny.


Incredibly impressed with the JC Boisset portfolio. All wines showed pedigree, they didnt muck about with the grapes; there was no excessive oak treatment, whatever oak they used was tasteful and elegant. The clarity anf purity of expression of the terroir is absolutely first class. I honestly cannot say anything bad about the wines here. Notable white was the Saint-Aubin, as probably guessed from the notes, for its balance and expression. Notable reds were the Bourgogne Pinot Noir, for its value; the Chambolie Musigny for its elegance and potential.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The grading system explained

This entry just tells you more about my ranking system thats normally indicated next to the price of the wine. Of course one cannot be completely objective about what 'grade' a particular wine gets, but you can sort of try. I am fully aware of the perils of giving grades, particularly if the grade / point given can make or break a wine (cue Robert Parker). To me, the grading system is a guide - should I have the opportunity to buy some of these wines, I know where to look for a quick glance and thats how I suppose you ought to treat it. I must also admit that this grading system is adapted from Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Guide.

Firstly, there is an actual grade as to how the wine performed during the tasting. I try my best to take price out of the equation, but this is often not possible. Alternatively, if I thought a wine was of particularly good or poor value, this should be in the actual tasting note. The grade ranges from A+ to C-, I dont think I have ever rated a wine C-, though some have come close. They correspond roughly to:

A* : Buy a few cases, at least. Now.
A+ : A case in the cellar will make me a happy man.
A : Definitely re-buy a bottle, at least.
A- : I'd happily drink most of a bottle.
B+ : I'd drink a few glasses.
B : I'd drink a glass.
B- : Probably wont finish whats in my glass.
C+ : Half a glass is plenty, thanks.
C : I'd finish the tasting pour only to be polite.
C- : Wheres the spittoon again?

If I ever find the occasion to award lower than a C- (lets hope not), then I will say so in the tasting note, probably followed by a string of expletives too. In addition, there are ratings next to the grade to indicate aging potential as I am aware many wines tasted are not at their peak and would benefit from bottle aging. This will be written in brackets; the extent to which the wines will develop is indicated by the number of +s. So a wine with [A-(++)] may one day, at its peak, be [A+]; this will be a thing to look for especially in Bordeaux tastings.

So thats that, my grading system explained.

Addendum Nov 2011

For en primeur tastings, a 20-point scale is used, with the number of (+) an indication as to how it might develop. This would roughly translate as:

A*  20pts
A+  19-19.5pts
A  18-18.5pts
A-  17-17.5pts
B+  16-16.5pts
B 15-15.5pts
B-  14-14.5pts

General - 16-23 April 2008

Various wines that were tasted during this week, all with food.

Cliff Edge Shiraz 2001, Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards, Australia
CWM - £14 [B+]

Its quite rare to be able to taste a big aussie shiraz thats been aged abit, I must admit, this was why I bought it. This wine was no pushover, I think the alcohol level was upwards of 14%, but somehow you didnt feel the burn as much as usual. There is a fantastic fruitiness to it, the nose reminds me of blackcurrant cordial / ribena / berry pastilles, there is a mintiness perhaps eucalyptus nose as well. It really was a big wine, voluptuous even, but it didnt have the same kind of kick compared to a young aussie shiraz; its lost the punchiness to it and gained a smoother texture too. I actually like it very much (not for everyday drinking, mind) and it went really well with spaghetti and italian sausages.

Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006, France
NYW - £11 [B+]

This is the entry level red bourgogne by JC Boisset; a full tasting note from a Boisset tasting will be uploaded shortly, I bought this wine on its own for dinner. This wine displayed much forward fruit, ripe cherries and raspberries dominate; there is some tartness as well, like drinking cranberry juice. The tannins are enough to support the body. I was impressed by the purity of expression; its not some Grand Cru stuff, but you feel that this wine was well made, they didnt muck about with too much oak etc. Its a vibrant, happy wine really; and great value for what is a decent Bourgogne to drink now. I had it with a roast belly of pork in a white wine and garlic reduction sauce and it was lovely; the fattiness of the pork didnt overcome the wine at all. Drink early though, this entry level wine is not for keeping.

Finca Antigua Merlot 2004, Martinez Bujanda, La Mancha, Spain
Restaurant price £16, Retail unknown [B]

Ordered this wine for a curry dinner at the famed Shish Mahal Restaurant in Glasgow's West End; they recommneded it, and apparently this wine won a medal at the IWC 2005? The wine itself is everything one would expect of a pure Merlot; large, round and juicy fruit; the nose is deep with cassis and red fruits. There is a woodiness and smokiness to it, I would imagine this had some new oak treatment, but cant be sure. Often one finds such pure Merlot (esp New World) to be quite dilute where the flavours are not concentrated, this wine didnt suffer from this problem; the soft tannins are ripe and if you try hard enough, there is even some secondary chracteristics with spices etc. Overall, this wine complemented the curry dinner nicely, if sometimes slightly overwhelmed. Cant complain.

Magpie Estate 'The Salvation' Gewurztraminer 2007, Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia
NYW - £9 [A-]

Made by the good people at Noel Young Wines, this is only the second white wine they have made in 10 years and I feel they got it spot on. The floral, slightly perfumed nose is enticing; the palate is full of white fruits, citrus, pineapple, some candied ginger and even the elusive lychee. There is still some sweetness (to an Auslese level?), but this is balanced by the fruity acidity that runs through, leaving a clean, lip-smacking finish. I think its wonderfully balanced and shows good expression of a Gewurztraminer. I dont know whether this will evolve in bottle, it might just gain a bit more weight and lose some of the freshnes of youth, but its wonderful now, honestly. I had it wine some simple sweet and sour pork; the spiciness/sweetness of the dish was complemented very well by the wine. Very impressed and will definitely consider buying again.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

General, 12 April 2008

Ch Cru Cantemerle 2003, Bordeaux Superieur
Oddbins £8.5 [B]

This Merlot dominated wine (88%) showed excellent fruit-driven characteristics and juiciness, undoubtedly due to its high Merlot content. The palate is dominated by fresh light fruits and a hint of toast/woodiness; the palate is firm, welcoming and plump, if perhaps a touch dilute (I imagine its something to do with the ripenes of the grapes when picked, but that could be complete bollocks). Its a decent drink and reasonably priced if bought in bulk, what with Oddbins' 20% off any dozen offer - £8.50 is the retail price, without the offer. The tannins are present, and I think they are as refined now as they are ever going to be, this wine is not a Bordeaux you buy to keep and enjoy ten years down the road. Have it with your sunday roast, or any meat-dominated dish.

A note of interest: Ch Cru Cantemerle actually neighbours Ch Cantemerle, a fifth growth classified winery in Haut-Medoc, which often makes people think that this wine is the second wine of Cantemerle. Its not, the second wine of Ch Cantemerle is Les Allees de Cantemerle. Just thought I;d make that clear.