As a warning, the following prose and tasting notes detail an experience which could be described as a wine lover’s dream come true. The path to understanding Burgundy may result in a life-long obsession, which could take priority over everything else you hold dear. Readers Beware!
Wine in its essence is a very personal thing, sometimes even sensual. A good wine will provide enjoyment, relax the soul, and help bring down barriers between fellow tasters. However, a great wine—a great wine leaves a mark on you. Like your first love, a great wine imprints itself into your memory and stays with you for the rest of your life. Finding a great wine takes work, as many of the best things in life often do. Yet all of this work is instantly rewarded when the moment of greatness is realized.
Understanding Burgundy takes work. Knowing that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the two main grapes of the region is easy, but delving into the winemakers, many of which share family names, and the vineyards, which are broken up into tiny subplots throughout the region—that takes work. There is no better way to understand Burgundy than to taste and taste again. You will have letdowns, as quality is not necessarily guaranteed by the name of the vineyard and whether it’s a premier cru or not. But in the end, it is all worthwhile when you find that great bottle.
Recently, I was able to taste through a number of great Burgundies, all in one sitting. The location was Betony in New York City, where Chef Bryce Shuman (formally of Eleven Madison Park) has created a diverse and inspired modern American menu of the highest caliber. I can think of no better place to have tasted these wines than at Betony. The interior styling was classy with dark oak, lavishly upholstered chairs, candlelight and a large banquet table created for our group. Although this was not conducive to this taster’s desire to photograph plating, the atmosphere and arrangement made for a truly engaging, yet relaxing tasting, as each guest could easily see and chat with nearly anyone at the table.
However, in the end, this was a tasting of Blue-Chip Burgundy, composed of some of the top names, top vineyards, best vintages and perfectly aged bottles. Recounting this experience was less about thinking of what to say and more about stopping myself from going on and on. So without further ado…
Morrell Wine’s Blue Chip Burgundy Dinner
The Mystique of Chablis
Hailing from rich clay and chalky limestone soils in the northern reaches of Burgundy, closer to Champagne then the Côte d’Or, Chablis may be the greatest white wine in the world. With age, they begin to show beautifully nuanced and layered bouquets, with depth and richness on the palate which seduces the senses. It is a wine of terroir, and as you put your nose to the glass, you can almost imagine the Jurassic seabed which formed these soils. I loved each of these wines for completely different reasons. The Raveneau was seductive and intense, while the Roulot intrigued the senses and continued to pull me back to the glass. As for the Dauvissat, it was beautiful on this night and perfectly poised for greatness.
2007 Dauvissat-Camus Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – Initially this was closed on the nose, yet it began to blossom and expand in the glass with mineral notes up front, followed by sour apple, apricot, wet slate and blanched almond. On the palate, it was soft, supple and waxy with flavors of peach skins and mineral-laden stone. A core of brisk acidity added balance and verve. Tart apple lingered on the finish, maintaining that satisfying waxy tone. It is youthful and fun with so much potential. (93 points)
2004 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre – The nose was immediately pleasing, and it showed incredible richness and depth with notes of stone fruit, crushed stone, citrus, gorgeous floral tones and a hint of smoky spice. On the palate, it was driven and focused as mineral-tinged apple was offset by a hint of flower petal bitterness, creating wonderful contrasts. It faded slowly from the palate, leaving inner floral notes with a hint of steely minerals. Simply put, this is a beautiful wine which pleases from the second you put your nose to the glass. (94 points)
2004 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Luchets – Almost marine in its profile, yet in the best possible way, the 2004 Roulot Les Luchets opened up with an angular, mineral-laden bouquet, which quickly fleshed out in all directions with a mix of green apple, citrus rind, undergrowth, chalk, slate, flint and smoke. On the palate, it was remarkably fresh and driven by brisk acidity, yet fleshy all the same, showing stone fruits, and saline minerals. The mineral-laden finish reminded me of the seaside with a hint of burnt butter lingering on the senses. It’s a beautiful wine, transparent to its terroir. (94 points)
The 2002 G. Roumier Premiers
The focus at Roumier is the land and the vine. No winemaking magic or intrusive oak, just the fruit of the land made into wine. Frankly, it was almost unfair to place these wines next to each other. The Roumier St. Denis is a gorgeous young wine with a tremendous amount of upside potential. It’s focused with dense, ripe fruit and an elegant structure. I would take this wine over most others on any given day. However, as soon as I put my nose to the glass of the Amoureuses, a premier cru with grand cru potential in the hands of Roumier, all of my olfactory senses were suddenly put on high alert, and I found it difficult to pull away. People talk of Burgundy being a cerebral wine with haunting aromatics—you’ll find no argument here.
2002 Georges Roumier Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Clos de La Bussière – The nose was immediately pleasing and literally radiant with sweet red berry fruit, dark soil and autumnal notes of crushed leaves and hints of mushroom. On the palate, a refined structure with silky textures gave way to herb-tinged tart berry, plum and spice with a zing of acidity and ripe tannins tugging at the cheek. The fruit dried slightly on the finish along with soil and floral tones lingering on the senses. (93 points)
2002 Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses – If the night was judged on bouquet alone, I’d be hard pressed not to award the Roumier Les Amoureuses the winner. The nose was stunning and literally leapt from the glass in a savory expression of black cherry, seared meat, sautéed herbs, and shallots, with exotic spices, saline minerals and hints of mushroom. It was focused with incredible depth on the palate, showing young red berry, blackberry, citrus rind and spice. A core of brisk acidity lent tension as tannin tugged at the palate throughout the medium-long finish. I imagine that this will only get better. (97 points)
Perfectly Aged 1989 Méo-Camuzet
A real treat in an evening full of wonders was the two 1989 Méo-Camuzets. 1989 marked a time of transition at Méo-Camuzet, as Jean-Nicolas Méo had just taken over the management of the cellar, yet these wines are a perfect example of the greatness for which he was capable of. Each of them showed beautifully yet were remarkably youthful. This was the flight where each of the attendees stopped to take notice and found it difficult to move beyond. The Cros Parantoux was everything I’ve ever wanted out of an aged Burgundy. It was a dark and mysterious beauty which tempted the imagination and kept me guessing with each tilt of the glass.
1989 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Clos Vougeot– This showed a wonderful, expressive nose of tremendous depth as layer upon layer slowly unfurled in the glass. At first it was rich and sweet with polished dark fruits and spice, yet it quickly gained more dimension to reveal fresh-turned soil, soaring dried floral notes, and minerals. It was silky on the palate, caressing the senses, as notes of red berry contrasted between sweet and sour with a hint of spice and stem. The finish was rooted in the earth with inner floral notes and dried fruits lingering long. (95 points)
1989 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cros Parantoux – The ’89 Méo-Camuzet Cros Parantoux may be one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year. The nose was seductively rich, savory, sweet and spicy, all at once. Notes of dark ripe fruit and exotic spice were contrasted by savory mushroom, charred meat, espresso, and a beguiling aroma of crushed seashells. On the palate, this wine was driven and rich, showing sweet red berry and plum. As the fruit darkened with time in the glass, a hint of bitter herbs and saline minerals joined the fray, and through this all, a dry lingering note of exotic spice seemed to coat the senses. This wine finished long with dried fruits and dark soil. (97 points)
The Greatness of ’05 Burgundies
2005 was hailed as one of the greatest vintages in Burgundy, and these two wines certainly make the case. The Fourrier being one of the best young Burgundies I can remember tasting, literally brimming over with potential. Both wines were incredibly young, showing tension on the palate, but with beautiful focus. The Fourrier gained my favor through its impeccable balance. However, I would love to have either of them in my cellar.
2005 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques Vieille Vigne – A model of poise and balance, as the nose showed dark red fruits, contrasted by soil tones and moist clay with a lifting hint of mint and herbs. On the palate, it was delicate, supple and finessed with focused red fruits, blackberry, dry spices and earthy soil tones. Remarkably long and fresh on the finish with dried red fruit and herbal hints lingering long. It’s a beautifully balanced wine in its early maturity, yet has decades ahead of it. (96 points)
2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques – The nose was savory and dark, almost sensual, with black cherry, spice, the darkest chocolate, and hints of burnt sugar. On the palate, it was rich and expansive yet quickly firmed up as its youthful structure touched upon the senses. An alluring mix of dark berries, hints of brown stem, and minerals created a truly autumnal mélange of flavors, which slowly faded through the close. (94 points)
In closing, if you haven’t already decided to committed yourself to exploring these fine wines, than I must not have done my job of conveying just how special they really are. Burgundy does take work, and it doesn’t come cheap–but these are some of the greatest wines in the world. Enjoy!
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido