A dusty bottle with the clearest ruby red liquid resting inside. As the cork was pulled halfway out you could read the date and Morey St Denis Clos de la Bussiere. The nose was pure burgundy. Sweet bright cherries and earth with faint hints of menthol. The silky palate presented more lovely cherry and spice with seamless purity. Absolute perfection.
Due to its deep color and questions about mid-90s white Burgundy, we were not expecting much from this bottle. However, were pleasantly surprised with what we found. The medium gold color and bruised apple aroma were the most noticeable features right out of the gate. The first sip shows some structural weakness with a strange, abrupt interruption of the flavor profile through the mid palate. There seems to be a beginning and an end, where’s the middle? Time will tell and within a few minutes the wine begins to gain a creamy meringue & pear aroma and starts to fill out. Now the palate shows acidity that gently and appropriately frames the fruit and compliments the nose by offering pear & apple once again. We debate the age of the wine and whether it has aged appropriately. It is almost 20 years old at this point and seems mostly to have held up quite nicely. Is it amazing? No. Is it a wine of complexity and contemplation? No. It is a very lovely lunch wine though.
In our tireless efforts to combat the premox (premature oxidation) problem coming out of Burgundy and provide our customers with the best bottles and most current information on the subject, as related to our inventory, we routinely go through our white burgundy and assess the color of the wines that fall within the limits of the afflicted years (1995-?). Over the past few years since the problem became widely discussed MFW has “graduated” its entire staff from the school of premox detection through tireless and repetitive comparison of the many bottles of white burgundy in our collection.
The most obvious and simple method of premox detection is tasting and it is almost always a part of MFWs “cull or keep” process. How does it smell and how does it taste? The answer is most often plain to see, or rather smell/taste. If you have ever tried a prematurely oxidized white burgundy you know how obvious it is. However, this method cannot be solely relied on if there is to be any mid-late 90s wine left to pass on to customers because by nature the process requires opening and thus “destroying” the bottle in question.
A different technique is required in order to assess bottles and keep them intact, that method is based on using much less obvious visual cues for analysis. Part of what makes the eye test more complicated than the taste test are the many various colors and shades of glass that are in used in Burgundy. These variations make the task of assessing the clarity and color of the wine nearly impossible for the uninitiated. Is the color due to age or premox? To make a long story shorter, the key to successful premox detection by eye is the clarity, in addition to color, of the wine. This can really only be accurately judged by those with reference points born out of experience. Through trial and error MFW has become very skilled at the art of detecting premox.
In this most recent round we came across a few old/rare bottles of the above wine and fell immediately to the task of analyzing the juice. In this instance Faiveley uses a brown glass for the 2,780 bottles produced of their Corton Charlemagne. In part a choice to defend against sun exposure, the use of brown glass is the most difficult glass through which to detect and assess the health of a white wine. What is an age appropriate gold/deep gold color and what is borderline-flagrant premox? In this case we found Faiveley’s Corton to have not only survived the scourge but to have thrived in its older years.
Note: The wine has a deep golden color with the clarity of a healthy wine. Fully mature, the nose offers up complex aromas of mellow, creamy citrus, subtle cinnamon and faint whiffs of petrol. The palate is soft and luxurious with a creamy, rich mouth-feel and notes of golden yellow apple, honey and again, subtle spice. The wine’s firm acidity is key to the protection and presentation of its generous sensory experience as well as its longevity. A true delight from an unheralded vintage.
Clos de la Marechale is wine that is no longer made by Faiveley since the end of their metayage agreement with J.F. Mugnier. Made now by Mugnier, the quality of the Marechale parcel has suffered in recent years.
But this is the 1969 effort from Faiveley and it is delicious! With near brilliant clarity, the healthy aged color progresses from brick to apricot to salmon to a watery rim. The nose shows some alluring funk w/ a leathery masculine lean. Sweet, sweet, sweet on the palate. Fruit macerated in brown sugar, sappy & tertiary. Living its golden years now, this wine has clearly reached the apogee of its capabilities. As only a quality product can, this bottle has thrived in its old age by developing that most mysterious and attractive of wine profiles, antique burgundy.
The appearance is brick with a watery rim. The nose is a Burgundy potpourri with a pretty mixture of herbs, flowers and a woodsy note. The nose, despite all these dried notes, is quite bright and lifted, enhanced by a prickle of menthol. The wine is alive on the palate with plenty of acid and tannin remaining. The structure and it’s stuffing grant a lovely weight to the attack. Post-attack however, we all found the wine to fall off rather abruptly. This wine is fully developed and pleasant to have experienced.
Coming to us from an old Burgundy cellar, this 1943 finally got to get out and stretch its legs yesterday. The wine emerged from the bottle looking impressively alive, with healthy color, wrapped in a medicinal, earthy funk. The medicinal nature was the confluence of subtle notes of menthol, clove, petrol and more noisy aromas gauze and band-aid. Almost 100% of the time these “Dr. Office notes” are off-putting and ruin a wine, somehow here it was more pleasant. While the miracle of a drinkable 69 year old village wine may have had something to do with our ability to look past those less desirable aromas, the palate certainly helped and was the most impressive thing about this wine. The weight and texture were remarkable as the wine moved across the palate with lingering sweetness and lively acid. It was silky, luscious and a truly delightful mouthful.
Adding to it’s appeal was how the Chambolle behaved with time in the glass. Where the 1990 G.D. Chassagne Rouge (from earlier yesterday) started to fall apart after some time in glass, this ’43 actually broke the other way and grew into its medicinal funk, reigning it in, making it it’s own and incorporating it into a more rounded Burgundian perfume. This little village wine was lovely, but more than that it was fun and special to be drinking something bottled during the last World War!
This bottle exhibits a youthfulness that complicates blind tasting. The color and clarity are vibrant, the tannin is slightly gritty and the acidity is bright; the wine is 22 years old. Does this have anything to do with the tricky path that many 1990 Burgundies are traveling? This is sturdy and rustic with pronounced earthiness and red fruit. Food helps tremendously to enjoy what is in the glass. With something else on the palate the sweetness of the fruit emerges. Will time in the bottle improve the wine? I think not. Instead of growing to fill in the gaps in structure time in the glass seems to be detrimental, things begin to fall apart rather quickly. Good fun to analyze this 1er Chassagne as a blind.