The Golden Age

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

There’s a moment in the recent Woody Allan film Midnight in Paris where the Owen Wilson character goes back in time to the age he adores, 1930’s Paris. Whilst there, he falls in love with a woman, only to find out that for her, the Belle Epoque was the time she wanted to be alive in. She didn’t like the 1930’s. She wanted to go back too. The point you take out of this is that you never think you’re living in the best time, or even a good one sometimes, but you are.


This is more true for wine then ever we were talking about this over a few bottles last night, particularly in reference to Burgundy. We are incredibly fortunate that the wines are still more or less affordable, if you know where to look. But with every visit to Burgundy, the Modern Age looms larger. There is more money, more sophistication and more internationalism. The parochialism that allows crusty old domaines like Camus to carry on making terrible wine from some of the most hallowed terroir in Burgundy will soon be over. They, and others will probably have to sell their holdings to pay for inheritance tax (in Camus case we worked it out to be over 45 Million Euros) and the people moving in will be the same sorts who have long brought up the UK’s national treasures. It will be a shame and as much as the wine might be better, Burgundy will be a poorer place without producers like Camus. (whose wine is actually quite good value)

We had a mixed bag of bottles, which all showed really well, I wasn’t super-impressed by the Savigny, but only because I have such high expectations of their wine.

2003 Riesling Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese JJ Christoffell

A nice gift from James at Howard Ripley, this was lovely with a real spiky vein of acidity running through that kept it really feeling quite dry. Lots of grapefruit and a nice floral quality. Perhaps a touch short but loaded on the front end like many 2003s

2013 Lioco Chardonnay

A well-priced, well focused cool climated style. It’s not Burgundy and it’s not the highest expression of Californian Chardonnay. But nor is it probably trying to be.

1996 Domaine Peyre Rose ‘Oro’

I couldn’t believe I’d see another bottle of this. This was given to my old colleague when we visited Marlene Soria at her impossible to find winery in the South of France. I was dressed up like I was visiting a Bordeaux estate and I managed to get our car (and my expensive shoes) stuck in the deep clay. Luckily for us, we got a tow from Marlene’s husband and we got to the tasting room in the end. We loved this wine when we were there so she generously gave us some bottles to take home. This 1996 doesn’t seem to have shifted that much since I last had it a few years ago. Which is not hugely surprising as it is a very oak dominated wine, but not in that new, toasty style, more that integrated character I get in Coche-Dury’s wines. Reminds me of the character you get a bit from aged Bourbon.

1999 Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Jarrons Domaine Guillemot

Somewhere on my phone I’ve got some photo’s and tasting notes from the Domaine from a visit four years ago. The young Jean-Pierre showed us some older vintages from the mid-ninteies and they were wonderful. Built to last but also with lovely definition and freshness. This lacked a little finesse for me and had a coarse character that I rarely find in these wines. Others liked it very much though. On a side note, one of the best tales I heard about Jean-Pierres father was this note from Kermit Lynch: “Everyone loved having him, because he wowed them with comparisons of certain wines with various characteristics of the male and female genders. Kermit noticed at some point in the morning that Pierre had quieted down. He looked over and saw that, as Pierre tasted, he did not avail himself of a spit bucket. Suddenly there was an “Alors, au revoir, à bientôt j’espère,” and up the stairs he went. Kermit followed and watched Pierre walk away, awfully close to a Charlie Chaplin pantomime of a drunken French vigneron weaving down the street, barely able to stand up.” Chapeau Pierre!

1999 Cote Rotie ‘Les Rochains’ Bonnefond

I loved this, still enveloped in oak but not in an unattractive way, smokey and dense, well extracted but not OTT and certainly not with that hot, Washington State style that I get from some growers who seem keen on getting every inch of punch from their terrroir.

2013 Syrah Luke Lambert

Lots of black pepper, still quite fruit-forward and dare I say it, Australian but very good. Not sure how much it costs but I’m not sure I’d pay more the £25 for it though.

1998 Fontalloro Felsina

A lot of people really liked this. I enjoyed the high-toned acidity and nice complexity but it seemed like a wine not entirely in balance with itself.

1990 Villars Fronsac

From my own stock, I wanted to try this for a while. Loved it. Loved it so much I probably told everyone how much I loved it for way to long. Just sublime, still really vital and a reminder that Bordeaux can just do mature reds, even at cheaper prices better then almost anywhere in the world.

1989 Suduiraut

Lovely substance and full-bodied fruit. No need to wait.

Joe GilmourThe Golden Age

More than a few glasses at Brunswick House

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

My first visit to Jackson Boxer’s characterful and cheerful conversion of part of Lasscos architecture salvage showroom was not quite what I expected. Largely as I was only due to be there for an hour or two before heading north for another meal, not as it turned out, stumbling into a taxi close to midnight after drinking wine what seemed like hectolitres of red wine.  As the lips stained, dignity turned pale.

Jackson joined us for a few glasses and very generously pulled some beautiful bottles from his personal cellar proving his adage: ‘As I get older, I like my food simpler and my wine better’. The wine list here is a cracker with lots of mature vintages and quirky, well chosen small producers.

The wines:

2011 Tous Ensemble Copain

I’ve loved these wines since I first tried them. A few years ago I visited the winery with a view to persuading them (and the company I was with) that they needed to be in the UK and we in turn, needed to buy them. I love the cool, peppery style that is married with the seemingly natural exuberance of US fruit. Exceptionally stylish wines all, especially the top Pinot. This was very good, but lacking the polish and sophistication you find in their top vineyard bottlings. Which I would, in truth save my money and go for.

2004 Blanc Fume de Dagueneau

Apparently some peeps from Admit brought this wine from the list a few weeks ago and sent it back saying it was flawed. Old Dagueneau has its followers but I am not one. The bottle was not flawed but it is one of Didier lesser bottling and I think perhaps should have been drunk a little earlier. Bruised, apple, toffee and nice complexity but just showing too much oxidation for me.

2004 Coteau de Loire, Domaine de Belleviere

Powerful style, bit too powerful for me as I find ripe dry Chenin Blanc a bit heavy going. just a personal thing really.

2009 Clos Rougeard Poyeaux

Well, I’ve not tried as much Poyeaux as I’d like (who has?) but this was flat-out amazing. Open for business but delivering such phenomenally complex yet joyous cab franc it was one of the best bottles of wine I’ve had all year and just blows all but the very best first and super second Bordeaux out of the water.

1995 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Clos Mont Olivet

This sort of maturity on CNDP I love as the best wines shed their youthful Grenache eagerness to please and become more roasted and complex in style with the total primacy of fruit that one sees in the more young wines receding into the background. Nice peppery notes gave a character of something a bit more Northern.

1983 Conseillante

Was quite pleased with myself as I guessed this as an early eighties right bank Bordeaux and at this point I was really working for my hangover the next day. A nice value vintage Conseillante, on the rustic side but that appeals to me more than more recent, modernvintages of this wine.

2009 ‘Muntada’ Gauby

Spicy and warming with nice Provencal flavour. A bit modern and full, more then that I can’t remember.

2011 Vin des Amis Augustus Clape

I’ve had a few bottles of this in the past few months, as I hang around with a lot of people that share my Clape addiction. Made from young Cote Rotie vines, this is is pure joy and exuberance, not something that you’d always say about his Cornas that can resemble a grumpy old man woken from a long sleep if drunk at the wrong time.

Joe GilmourMore than a few glasses at Brunswick House

Thomas Pico’s brilliant Chablis

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Thomas Pico (Domaines Pattes Loup) Chablis Villages 2012

As I get older I tend to find I get less fixed on certain idea’s and more circumspect about things. Whether this is a good or bad thing probably depends on the scenario but I hope it reflects growing knowledge more than it does indecisiveness.

One wine I do feel strongly about though is Chablis. To me, it is the most over-rated of all of the fine wines of France. There are four of five domains I like and feel make good wines, the rest I’m totally happy to ignore. Outside of these five domains, I would never buy a bottle of mature Chablis because I’ve had too many bottles that were oxidised, brown, lacking acidity and dead to the world. This is a totally personal preference of course, but just saying..

So, it was with great joy I tasted this bottle of Chablis from a producer I was not familiar with, Thomas Pico. It had all of the typicity and cut of great Chablis, but with the depth and substance of Raveneau or Dauvissat. An exquisite villages, it was consumed with gusto at the excellent new Beaune hotspot La Lune.  It was available for a very reasonable price, I think ex-cellar it goes for 9.5 – 15 Euro wholesale and it comes heartily recommended.

Joe GilmourThomas Pico’s brilliant Chablis

The 2013 Vintage in Burgundy

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

The core business of Blast Vintners is older vintages. En-primeur has never been on the radar. In Burgundy in particular, securing allocations from more heralded domains is no longer plausible for a new company. Even established companies who have supported producers for years and decades have to constantly compete to maintain quantities as pressure from new markets continues to build.

Yet a chance to spend a few days tasting the new vintage was not to be turned-down. It’s a unique chance to compare, talk, sum-up and generally form an assessment of the year’s wines.

And if 2013 was going to be summed up in one word, it would probably be hail.

Hail didn’t fall in Vosne. It didn’t fall in Gevrey. It didn’t fall much in Nuits. But where it did fall, in Volnay, Meursault and Pommard, it scarred backs, smashed winscreens and broke the hearts of vignerons. The shots below shows how Guy Roulot’s vineyards in Meursault were affected and the tiny production of Comte Armand’s famous Pommard Clos Epeneaux, only 10 barrels. (250 cases) – Click to see larger photos.

Some we spoke to, like Yves Confuron at Domaine de Courcel were downbeat and a bit depressed following the savage damage to their vineyards whilst others like Benjamin Leroux of Comte Armand seemed more upbeat and positive for general quality.

Overall I think the wines from Volnay and Beaune had suffered, not just in quantity but in quality, many of the wines had an unattractive back note of un-ripe stems and a certain green quality. In Pommard, this might ameliorate with time, but in a Volnay it’s certainly not one would seek. With careful selection, there are wines brimming with life, a general characteristic of 2013 but its not an easy vintage.

In other appellations, in Vosne and Puligny in particular, there are some wonderful wines. Domaine Leflaive’s 2013s where excellent as were Domaine Grivots and many others below.

Below were my general notes and highlights.

Don’t miss

Domaine Leflaive

Lovely wines here, the Puligny, often underwhelming was showing very well, as was the Bienvenus Batard Montrachet. The Batard and Chevalier were dense and closed as one would expect. I thought these wines were as good as any set I have tasted from Domaine Leflaive, including the 2010s and outline just how good this vintage can be.

Domaine Lafarge (Outstanding given the vintage)

Very distinctive Aligote and Meursult here and the reds were stunning. Great Ducs and Clos Chenes. Quite soft, precise and well-crafted. Not in the least bit aggressive or manly, unlike some Volnays we tried. Perhaps not the longest-living vintage they have produced but will give lots of pleasure.

Domaine Guy Roulot

Excellent range and a stunning Meursault Charmes. There is a bit of a house style here that reminds me a bit of that of Pierre Yves Colin-Morey, very mineral, demanding greatness that sometimes just feels a bit hard-work, lacking the effortless quality of some. That’s not to take anything from the wines though. They were, and are outstanding.

Domaine Jean Grivot

Super, super wines here. Probably the best tasted this year. Etienne told us he had ‘incredible base materials’ with which to work in 2013 and there was a really special generosity of fruit that he has rarely seen. Again, he looks at 2008 and 2003 as comparison years, but sees the vintage as being superior to either. Not the most long-lived wine from the range but in terms of pure grace and style, the Echezeaux was majestic and show-stopping in its balance and complexity

Top-Drawer

Comte Armand

Small production but very skilfully managed. The wines here have long been powerful but they seem to have been complemented recently with an extra addition of finesse. A wonderfully lifted Clos Epeneaux.

Domaine Rapet

A producer I’m not terribly familiar with but with a lovely set of wines mostly centred around substantial holdings in Pernand and Corton. His Charlemagne was really nicely done and seemed to sum up all of the characterisitcs you associate with this unique wine. He was one of those winemakers who you first consider to be very rude until you realise it’s just shyness.

Domaine/Maison Faiverley

I’m a big fan of this domaine and really like the style, which for me is admirably finesse-led and really consistant. A big range of wines tasted here, for value I thought the Mazis was really outstanding, the Chambertin Clos Beze was relatively a little disappointing and not the big step up I wanted it to be, and has been in the past.

Arnoux Lachaux

A modern winery and a modern style but executed with considerable effort and it shows in the wines. No problems here with concentration of length. Some great premier crus.

Domaine Arlot

I always thought the wines of the past showed a bit of rusticity but that seemed not to be the case here at all. Like many domains, one of the latest harvests in history (2nd – 10th October) The Suchots this year was an absolute knockout and was the relative standout of the range for me this year.

Good

Domaine Courcel

These wines were difficult to enjoy in their current state. Only three wines were made as quantities were so tiny and the wines showed a very stemmy, grippy, backward character that I didn’t find attractive at all.

Bruno Clavelier

Bruno works with some lovely terroirs including a great plot of Combe d’Orveau I’ll be looking out for in future. The man is clearly passionate about geology as he spent about 80% of the time talking about soil types with us. The wines were excellent, quite forward and pretty, perhaps lacking the refinement to elevate them to the top division, but really enjoyable.

Thomas Bouley

Thomas is a very highly regarded producer and seems to be a real ‘winemakers winemaker’ but I only found the quality I’d want in the premier crus. The village and generic wines seemed a little but pushed and over-extracted for me. I think that the tannins here are also on the grippy side and will need some serious time to come together (if they do at all)

Domaine Henri Gouges

A problem for me in the past is that the wines have always hit something of a glass ceiling which they cannot break through quality wise, at least not without 10 years in the cellar. These are strong premier cru wines but no more. I don’t see this changing in a year like 2013. The Pruliers was the pick for me.

Joe GilmourThe 2013 Vintage in Burgundy