1994 E. Sauzet Chevalier Montrachet

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.

r.a.h.

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1997 Faiveley Corton Charlemagne Faces the Premox Problem

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.

r.a.h.

1976 Bachelet-Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Clos de la Boudriotte

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.

1990 Gagnard-Delagrange Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er

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.

1985 Pousse d’Or Clos de la Bousse d’Or 1er (Monopole)

1985 was a great year for Gerard Potel and red Burgundy in general. Widely considered to be front runner for vintage of the decade, ’85 was also the year that Gerard bought out the remaining shares at Domaine de la Pousse D’Or and made this stunning wine, aiding in his ascent to the top of the Burgundy wine making pyramid.

Distinctly brick in appearance with a narrow, watery, russet-tinged rim.  Explosive nose of springtime Adirondack cabin – a ridiculously rich nose of forest, cold hearth, sweet wet earth, heavily perfumed antique Burgundy, a very heady nose that lingers to a light spearmint & smoke note.  The palate begins with a fruit compote attack, then a touch of smoke, fresh tomato leaf and a suggestion of iron on the finish.  Medium-bodied, the quality is refined and elegant with a feminine profile, all complex developed aromas and flavors.  Tannins are completely resolved & indeed there is a fair amount of sediment in the remaining inch of the bottle.  This is a wine where we seek balance, integrity and length, which this clearly possesses in spades.  It suffices to state that yes, it is indeed delicious.

*In all honesty we struggled slightly to find the right words for the above assessment. As with each great bottle of red Burgundy we drink and opine on, the beauty in this wine was how it all came together, like great art. It feels difficult (sometimes inappropriate) to isolate specific aromatics or specific flavors. Truly great red Burgundy is more of an experience in perfect texture, balance, sound structure and generosity of fruit. Is it worth pulling apart what is a harmonious whole?

2004 Girardin Meursault 1er Les Perrieres

While 2004 was possibly the most mediocre vintage in the last decade for red Burgundy, the whites have often impressed me. This bottle impressed me. The wine is very pale almost to the point of being clear but tinged with gold and showing a star-bright clarity. Straight out of the bottle the nose was sharpened to a point by bright aromas of lemon and concentrated minerality. The palate told the same story with bright acid dominating but not overpowering the experience. With air this tightly wound package then began to relax itself and what had been thoroughly zesty became softer and more round. Richer notes appeared on the nose with a touch of cream complimenting the lemon and a lovely nutty note adding its voice. The palate gained richness as well adding to the cream, notes of ripe stone fruit. As the bottle dwindled a subtle honeyed note appeared, bringing the wine to its final delicious incarnation before the last was consumed. The wine was very clean, highly focused and most importantly balanced. A great effort.

1994 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche Grand Cru

No signs of oxidation in the appearance. Medium gold color. The nose delivers a lot of complexity with honeyed, ripe pineapple/tropical fruit juice, shortbread and cream. On the palate, not much was expected given the vintage, but it was very pleasantly surprising. A round, medium+ body and a creamy texture matched the nerve of acid, delivering far more on a structural level than expected. Delicious tropical fruit juice, no current signs of decline but it is quite clearly at its peak.