To Morot!

And so to Domaine Albert Morot, on Beaune’s ring road, and a tasting challenge between two of the Beaune Premier Crus heavyweights that Hallgarten ships. It’s Les Bressandes v Les Teurons from vintages 2014 – 2017, Winner Takes All.

2014 vintage…

Domaine Morot, Beaune 1er Cru Les Bressandes


The Bressandes has a lovely soft mushroom feel to it, but with a succulent freshness. This is a Farmers’ Market wine; lovely and soft and clean.  Meanwhile, the Teurons is oxtail soup gamier and bigger, more assertive, with very firm, though not harsh, tannins. This is the masculine to the Bressandes’ feminine.

 

2015 vintage…
The Bressandes nose here is quite closed, but there is a herbal feel to it, with cherry Tunes furtively hanging around in the background. The tannins are languid and seductive. Easy to fall in love with this Mistress. The Teurons has an unusual nose. Where are we here? In the Rhône? This has a touch of the liquorice and anise flavour of the south. This is a real fruit bomb.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Teurons

 

2016 vintage…
But just when you feel everything is going to plan, the 2016 kicks in. Because, while we have a heavenly soft sweet mouthful of Bressandes, with touches of oak, touches of vanilla and touches of crunchy forest fruits, the Teurons decides to go all shy on us. For sure, it is a silky little number, but its parents would be shocked at how it has conceded bragging rights to the usually feminine Bressandes. A real eye-opener, this vintage.

 

2017 vintage…
Intrigued, we move on to the 2017 – a real vintage! The Bressandes cavorts forward and teases us. It has beautiful soft forest fruits lying under the forest floor, a touch of smoke from the covering of soft branches. But – Ta Da! – the Terurons reverts to type, coating itself with a swirling Black Forest Gateaux cape. But, liked any caped magician, it has finesse, a softness. It has learned its lesson. It pays respect to Bresssandes before strutting its funky stuff. Move over, darling!

But hold on – what’s this?

 

They’ve just brought in another wine. Ah, this is the Les Marconnets, another Premier Cru situated on the far right of the commune. An interloper – how exciting. I taste the wine. I pause. I think. Remember when Cameron Diaz walked into the room and Jim Carrey’s jaw hit the floor? Well…

It has got the femininity of the Bressandes, the structure of the Teurons. But it also has something else: a wonderful minerality running through the centre, a saline feel to complement its roundness and structure. Jasper Morris describes it as “probably the best of the northern vineyards” – and recommends Morot as a producer.

Events like this are so good for a buyer. The smack between the eyes. I cannot remember why we have not listed this before. Lack of availability. But that will soon change and we leave the tasting with the thought enticing us: We must list this.

THE first Gevrey-Chambertin winemaker to not use sulphur…

“I will be the first winemaker in Gevrey-Chambertin to make wine without sulphur. I am going to make crazy wines.”

 

We have been working with Pierre Naigeon for a dozen years, but you still feel you’re with a ‘Duracell Bunny’ as he whizzes round the winery with frantic, chopping steps, his arms pumping away like pistons. During the harvest he walks fifteen kilometres every day but you get the impressions his battery never seems to wear out. Bev and I are struggling to keep up.

 

He chatters to you over his shoulder as he jumps from one barrel to the next, flourishing his pipette like an épée. “I aim to be organic by 2019, and then we will look at being biodynamic in the longer term. Meanwhile, we will look to make sixty or seventy percent of our wine sans sulfur. Here, try this, it is from Maladières,” he says, pouring us a ravishing Pinot Noir – all raspberry and red berries – from the vineyard at the base of Chambolle-Musigny.

 

“I don’t like all the concepts behind biodynamics but I do agree with the basic stuff in terms of fertiliser and the movements of the moon, you know. Here, what about this…” as he pours another Pinot, this time from En Champs in Gevrey-Chambertin. This one is a touch heavier, more serious.

 

“Being organic in Burgundy is tricky; don’t forget we are at the extremes of winemaking. Come, come. Where did I put that Fixin? Must be here somewhere.”

 

He dashes from one warehouse to another like an Olympic Racewalker. The last time I visited he was still in his tight, cramped – though romantic – cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin. Now he has moved to a utilitarian complex on the edge of town. He needed to; he had outgrown his former premises. You cannot keep a man like this in a confined space. He needs to grow, to experiment, to be wild.

“Listen to me. What we are doing with sulphur wines is amazing. The wines are so so fresh, very savoury. I am not looking to make wines that smell of shit and look brown. They are disgusting wines. No, we will make amazing wines. This means changing all of our habits. Bottling will be earlier, much less racking, less time in bottle before release, no fining, no filtration” (though his wines have been unfiltered and unfined for years.) His is the passion of a zealot.

 

We pass by one of the numerous tanks on which is written: “Don’t forget, beer is made by men, wine is made by Gods.” Glancing at it, Pierre looks triumphant!

 

He shows Bev and I his new bottling line, unwrapping it like a kid on Christmas morning. But before we can pause to admire it, he rushes us across to his three ceramic – not concrete – vats which are not trendily egg-shaped but round and squat. “Cost seven times the cost of a barrel – but they will last forever!”

 

But before we can admire those, he has dashed back in amongst his tanks, impatient to show off his wares. We start by tasting all of the 2017s in tank, then move on the 2018s in barrel. The 17s are more typical of Burgundy; the 18s are atypical and he is still not sure how they will turn out.

 

The 2017s culminate is a stunning tasting of two specific-site Gevrey-Chambertins. First up: Creux Brouillard. This has dark, tannic notes, sweet violets, forest fruits, great structure, smooth tannins. Pierre thinks this is a perfect example of Gevrey-Chambertin. We contrast this with a Les Crais, which has a riper style, with more minerality cutting through a sweet confiture. It has a lightness of touch. He thinks this is an example of a more mineral style against the more traditional style of the Braillarol. “Comes from the alluvial soil.”

My wine-splashed notes contain superlative after superlative. We go on to Les Corvees (from very high up the slope, so it needs to be kept), Les Marchais (an iconic Gevrey-Chambertin, according to Pierre), Sylvie, from just under the castle of Gevrey-Chambertin (one of the biggest, with spicy oak, liquorice and game), and Meix-Bas, from right at the top of the slope, so not a Premier Cru (and which is almost Rhone-type in its boldness.)

 

We move on to the Mazis-Chambertin (the most mineral of the great Chambertin vineyards), with an incredible herbal nose.

 

The Charmes-Chambertin is powerful and complex, with a hint of vanilla matching the dark intense fruits. The Master of Wine standing to my left does not spit this. It is long long long.

 

His 2018 barrels are mostly marked No Sulphur or Low Sulphur. Any use of sulphur is limited to a very small dose between vineyard and winery. Once in the winery they see no sulphur. Even those wines which see a small amount of sulphur will have this explained on the back label.

 

Tasting the 2018s, I am struggling to describe an amazing Gevrey-Chambertin Creux Brouillard (no sulphur). It has incredible fruit juice but also a wonderful saline flavour. “Iodine,” says Pierre, watching the look of puzzlement on my face. “Ah,” I reply. “This is the Laphroaig of this wine tasting.”

We try a Sylvie from two year old barrel, and then from ceramic. The barrel sample has masses of black fruit and a roundness. The ceramic is completely different, being more forward, with more purity of fruit, more one dimensional – but what a dimension: an arrow straight to the heart.

 

By now – with eighteen pages of tasting notes in the bag, Bev and I are groaning. Pierre senses this and takes pity on us and we trudge wearily back to his small office where he cracks open a bottle of 2017 Creux Brouillard (no sulphur). Again, it has this wonderful lifted, elevated, feel to it.

 

“In Burgundy you have six or seven consultant oenologists who dominate,” says Pierre. “What style they suggest is the one that gets recognised. But you have to find your own style. Who need a consultant? If you are in good health you don’t need a doctor.”

 

We sink back in our chairs and nurse our bodies. It is not the vines who need medical help – it is us!

“I adhere to organic rules, but I don’t want to be certified”

Driving along the A6, my mind is filled with last night’s pictures from Paris showing the burning and rioting in the capital as France’s gilets jaunes try their best to reinvent 1968. Paris is on fire, Macron is on the run. But as we exit the motorway and swing into Beaune, the only evidence of unrest is a bunch of apologetic-looking yellow vests who half-heartedly ask us to stop and then, as I open the window and shout: “Anglais,” wave us through with a shrug.

 

Over by their encampment a heap of broken pallets is now burning fiercely and heating up the freezing air. A queue forms behind us, klaxons blaring, as the yellow vests wave down the traffic and, among the artics and four wheels, I see a fire engine and wonder if that has come to put out the bonfire.

 

It seems the “movement” is not so violent in genteel Burgundy; Beaune is not for burning. But you have to admire the French. When they protest, they seriously protest. In the UK we’d probably last half a day before heading down the pub.

Bev and I had stopped off in Chablis for a good tasting at Domaine Grand Roche, which included an excellent 2018 Sauvignon St Bris (an under-rated wine), followed by another with the affable Philippe Goulley (pictured above) at Domaine Jean Goulley. His Montmains and Fourchaume are looking as good as ever, but the surprise was a quite brilliant Mont de Milieu, which has a beautiful salinity running through its limey richness, and which definitely deserves to be considered for a listing. “A good year, but not an easy year,” is Philippe’s verdict on the 2018.

 

Here in Santenay, Antoine Olivier agrees. “Very interesting year quality-wise, very good in parts, but not the easiest for reds in particular.” Antoine is in fine form, dashing from one tank to another to provide us with a massive tasting of wines from four vintages, while giving us his view on his approach. “My father is a Christian, my mother is Jewish, so I cannot stand dogma. I adhere to organic rules but I don’t want to be certified. If I have mildew I want the ability to protect my vines.”

Of the whites, Antoine prefers the 2015s (complex) to the 2016s (ready to drink) and says that the 2017 was an “odd” vintage. Standouts are the 2017 Rully St Jacques (intense and citrus-dominated mouthful), the 2017 Santenay Sous La Roche (full, rich, creamy nose) and the 2015 Sous La Roche (classic nose of lime, cream and hazelnuts.)

 

Of the reds, an unlabelled but just bottled 2017 Bourgogne Pinot Noir has us singing, with its young, heady and vibrant fruit. The two Santenay Beaurepaire wines are showing beautifully (the 2016 has a wonderful depth of plummy flavour while the 2017 has a rasping raspberry palate.) The award-winning Les Charmes has beautiful soft plummy tannins.

 

Antoine is now in expansive mood. “I have been accused of being a lazy winemaker because I prefer to do as little as possible with my grapes. I stand guilty!”

 

And at that point a bunch of the local anti-drug squad Gendarmeries stroll in wearing full metal jacket and we watch incredulously as they sample a selection of wines, nodding approvingly, their fingers hooked into their bullet-proof vests, before making their purchases and walking off with a case of red. Maybe off to have a tasting with the gilets jaunes?

Festive Wine

The festive period is one of the busiest in the on- and off-trade calendars, as businesses look to enhance the guest’s experience and create a memorable visit that will encourage return visits.

In a recent survey from guest experience management experts, HGEM, they discovered that during the Christmas period, 40% of guests like to try somewhere new that offers a unique menu. To help set yourself apart from the crowd we have come up with suggestions on what to pair with traditional festive dishes, from both the New and Old World wine producing regions.

As an aperitif:     

Berton Vineyard, Metal Label, Moscato Firzzante 2018

This wine is fresh, light and sweet with a subtle spritz that tickles the palate and aromas of fresh grapes and orange blossom.

Low in alcohol and perfect as an aperitif to ease guests into a festive banquet.

Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru, Art Déco NV

A more traditional aperitif to serve guests, this is a broad style of Champagne with developed biscuit notes from extended ageing on the lees and a lovely long and salty finish.

Any leftover is also a perfect partner for a light game starter.

With a warming starter:

Larry Cherubino ‘Ad Hoc Hen and Chicken’ Chardonnay 2017

A complex wine with green apple, melon and citrus aromas enhanced by buttered brioche and a toasty nuttiness.

If you are serving a seafood starter, this is the ideal accompaniment.

Castello Pomino, Frescobaldi, Benefizio Bianco Riserva 2017

This barrique aged white wine is elegant and distinctive with a rich array of aromas and flavours such as apple, pineapple, citrus and honey.

Serve chilled to accompany meat starters, such as guinea fowl, chicken or wild mushrooms and white truffle.

To pair with a festive main course:

Doña Paula ‘Selección de Bodega’, Malbec 2015

Awarded 95 points by Tim Atkin, in his Argentina Special Report. This wine is big with balanced flavours of spicy blackberries, dark chocolate and wild herbs with an opulent and mouthfilling texture – elegant, rich and long.

Best alongside a piece of prime beef fillet, with a bit left over for the hard cheeses in the cheese course.

Château de Cîteaux, Philippe Bouzereau, Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Les Duresses 2015

Beautiful Pinot Noir expression of ripe black fruits, peppery hints and a touch of violet on the nose. Silky, with rich but delicate fruit and a long finish.

When it comes to a traditional festive turkey dish, you don’t need to look beyond Pinot Noir from Burgundy, and this Premier Cur showcases a premium expression of the grape and the region.


To finish off the event:

Saint Clair, ‘Godfrey’s Creek’ Noble Riesling, Marlborough 2016

 A deliciously complex dessert wine, with a bouquet of poached apricot, candied citrus and white clover honey. Opulent and silky on the palate with rich orange, lemon and cocoa notes leading to a long, smooth finish.

This botrytised Riesling is ideally suited to a fruit-based dessert or blue cheese.

Barros 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro

Dried fruit aromas complemented by  delicate vanilla and chocolate notes

This is the multi-award winning fortified wine is the perfect partner to go with your Christmas pudding, its soft and silky texture and subtle nuances of wood are balanced by a refreshing palate which culminates with a long and elegant finish.

Winemaker Profile: Florent Lançon, Domaine de la Solitude

Domaine de la Solitude belongs to one of the oldest families in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is packed full of history. Wines have been made on this estate for several hundred years, dating back to 1264 when the family arrived from Italy to serve the pope in Avignon. Here we take a look back to the very beginning of how the Domaine started and how current winemaker, Florent Lançon, is taking it forward.

Roman era
The site of Domaine Solitude was occupied as far back as the Gallo-Roman period, as evidenced by the presence of coins from the time.

1264
François Barberini, the first family member to arrive from Italy to the region, is born. He went on to spend time living in Provence as well as the region.

1400s
The Domaine Solitude family made Châteauneuf-du-Pape their home in the 15th century, making them one of the oldest families in the region.

1604
Jean Barberini changes his name to Barberin in order to sound more French. Later, his daughter marries vineyard owner Claude Martin and so the winemaking dynasty begins.

1623-1644
François’ ancestor, Maffeo Barberini, serves as the Pope in Rome under the name Urban VIII. Other family members go on to become Cardinals before settling in Avignon.

La Solitude labels today feature three hats, signifying the two bishops and a Pope in the family’s history.

Middle-Ages
Current wine labels exhibit a number of other links to the family’s history including three bees, a reference to the family in the Middle-Ages.

1815
Another of the family’s ancestors is awarded a medal by Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo, the medal still features on labels today, giving another nod to the family’s history on current bottles.

1970s
Michel and Jean Lançon begin working at the Domaine under the guidance of their father, Pierre Lançon.

1980s
Following time working under Pierre’s expert instruction, Michel and Jean take over the management of the Domaine.

1999
Jean and Michel begin creating Prestige Cuvee wines to showcase the very best of the vineyards and region.

Today…

Florent Lançon, Michel’s son, now manages the day to day running of La Solitude. His focus is on a perfect balance of tradition and continuous improvement, and he is passionate about innovation. His range of wines includes both traditional styles and more modern interpretations. Careful attention is paid in the vineyard, where the harvest is carried out by hand, and only the best grapes are carefully selected. No fertilisers are used and the vineyards are farmed sustainably.

Florent also balances tradition and innovation in the winery, where tulip-shaped concrete tanks are now used alongside more familiar oak and stainless steel. He believes that using a blend of grapes creates a longer lived wine and expertly utilises the particular strengths of each grape variety to create wines with poise and complexity.