Monday, April 09, 2007

Day 3 in Beaune, capital of Burgundy

Aaah, another day, another bunch of wineries to visit. And what a great bunch! What a treasure chest of lovely wines to taste and passionate people to visit. My 3rd day in Beaune found me sluggish and realizing that I wasn't a youthful 35 anymore. No, I've turned into quite the old 35, thanks to my many wine friends I've made in this business.

After my evening of "tasting" with Christophe Roumier, I certainly wasn't making any early appointments. Luckily, my first tasting this day was at 2pm with Frederic Mugnier, in the beautiful town of Chambolle Musigny. Like its wines, this village is absolutely charming, with a feminine touch that translates into its wines. I pulled into Mr. Mugnier's courtyard and rang the doorbell. Nothing. Uh-oh. I hadn't brought his phone number and after a few minutes I began to get a bit nervous. It was 2pm, today, right?

I rang again.


Oh, zut alors, please don't tell me I'll have to drive around until my 4pm with Dujac in Morey St Denis. To add insult to injury, it began to rain lightly and the wind picked up. Great, so this is how it's going to be?

I rang a third time.

This time, I heard someone running down the hallway. Oops, did I disturb someone's lunch? A charming young lady opened the door, and we exchanged pleasantries. She led me into Mr. Mugnier's office, a nice, elegant and very orderly place with aerial pictures of mountains on the walls. "Mr. Mugnier will be right here," she told me. Within a minute or two, Mr. Mugnier appeared. I had forgotten how quiet and reserved he could be, but he was quite polite and nice. We chatted a bit, and he seemed to warm up as we discussed some of the many things we had in common. Then he got some glasses and led me down into the new cuverie.

Barrels of some of the most beautiful wines on the planet sat all around me and a silly, stupid grin lit up my face. Mr. Mugnier is very pleased with his 2005s, saying they are powerful yet delicate, achieving a level of grace and elegance that is quite rare. And I have to say, he was correct. In general, his wines sang with a stunningly flowery bouquet, marked with an incredible freshness and vigor, balanced by a ton of supple tannins and a lovely crisp acidity. As at Roumier's, the wines' bouquets were just dreamy. He popped a stopper and poured the first wine, the Chambolle Musigny. This was lively, fresh, with bright red fruits and a crisp mouthfeel and a surprisingly long finish. He even remarked how happy he was that a simple village wine had turned out so well. I've always been a fan of his village wines, so I could only agree. Next came the Chambolle Musigny les Fuees, which was like the bigger twin of the village wine. Larger in all aspects than the Chambolle, with some slightly darker red fruits and a longer finish, with more mouthfilling texture. Again, the tannins were quite present but supple and not intrusive. We took a major step up in quality when he poured the Chambolle Musigny les Amoureuses, a wine showing spicy, flowery aspects, everything you love in Amoureuses, but more so. Its amazingly silky texture ended in a long finish. This is when it really hit me, that the 2005s are everything we look for in a good Burgundy, only more so. It's like all the wines have been ratcheted up several notches, both in quality and in prices (sadly).

Now we went to explore his newest holding, the Nuits St Georges Clos de la Marechale. This is Mr. Mugnier's 2nd vintage with this wine, and so far he's been pretty pleasantly surprised. He’s learning more and more about the terroir and its capabilities, and so far, he’s satisfied. The 2005 is darker and more rustic than some of the other wines, but quite elegant at the same time. This might be a diamond in the rough that needs polishing. NB: he also made some white, which we didn’t taste as he’s not certain how it will show, never having made whites before. Then he pulled a sample from a barrel labeled BM, and I knew what that was: the Bonnes Mares. Yay! Big and brawny, yet supremely elegant, with darker fruits than anything tasted so far, this held a massive amount of tannins that coated the back of the palate, and a finish that lasted for a minute or more. Heck, I think I'm still tasting it 24 hours later. Wow. As happy as I was at this moment, I was about to be getting a slap in the face. At this point, I thought I'd tasted the top of the top of the wines of 2005. But I was about to be put straight.And so it happened...

Kill me now, for I have tasted perfection.

This next wine was Mr. Mugnier's Musigny. Absolutely brilliant red and black fruits emerged from a flowery, perfumy bouquet that was so intensely pure and enticing that you didn’t want to taste, you just wanted to sniff this for days, weeks, years, centuries. The texture was crunchy yet silky, fresh and lively, ending with some serious tannins. This was the promise that the wine would live long and prosper, even after most of us were long and gone. This is a wine for the ages. Amazing. I do believe I shed a tear or two knowing that if I'd be able to afford a bottle, my children, their children, and possibly their children would be able to enjoy it as much as I had. Then Mr. Mugnier went into his cellar and pulled a bottle he said he'd been curious to try, a 2004 Nuits St Georges Clos de la Marechale. As good as this was, after tasting the 2005s, this was a bit of a letdown (dare I complain?). The 1st vintage from this vineyard, this showed hints of the now-notorious green elements present in the 2004 reds, but not overpoweringly so, with dark red fruits and spices and a long finish. Rustic but nice. We chatted some more before he went back down to the cellar and brought up a bottle of 2003 Chambolle Musigny les Amoureuses. More typical of the vintage and less the vineyard, this showed lots of syrupy, almost extracted dark ripe red fruits, earth, and spices, but in comparison to other ‘03s, this was positively elegant. Then again, everything’s relative. Mugnier believes this will be better with lots of age as the fruit calms down and everything comes into balance.

Finally, it was time to say our goodbyes. Mr. Mugnier, despite his gruff appearance, is a typical Burgundian: reserved at first, they do open up somewhat after some discussions. But he is the sort of person who won't speak unless he has something to say.

From Mugnier, I drove along the beautiful winding Route des Grands Crus to Morey St Denis, where Jeremy Seysses was awaiting me at Domaine Dujac. The first time I had been in Burgundy I'd tasted here, and at the time it was Jeremy's first vintage. He had been pretty shy, but now he's come into his own and is outgoing, switching fluidly between English and French. Wasting no time, we headed down to the cellar, glasses in hand. To facilitate tastings, they'd bottled in half-bottles some of their 2005s. What, I wasn't the only person coming to visit? What a surprise...

The first wine was a white, a Morey St Denis Blanc. Quite nice and elegantly ripe, with some lovely white flowers, ripe lemons and a tart finish, everything in nice balance. We moved on the first red, a Morey St Denis Rouge, a rustic and fruity wine, with some earthy tannins and a medium finish. We talked a bit about the vintage and their new directions, and then he poured the Chambolle Musigny. More feminine and delicate than the MSD, this too had a nice bouquet and a slightly rustic finish. Jeremy opened the Bonnes Mares, which was definitively a step up, with some enticing dark fruits, a flowery nose of violet and purple fruits, a brooding hulk with a lovely earthy, minerally note, buttressed by spicy tannins. Big-bodied, it danced over the palate before ending in a long, long finish. Now we kept moving into Grand Cru territory with one of my favorite Dujac holdings, the Clos de la Roche. Oooh, big and brawny, very masculine, with tons of dark red fruits and spices balanced by a noticeable minerality and a long, mouthcoating finish. Yummy. On the other end of the spectrum, the Clos St Denis was amazingly different: feminine and yet powerful, with fabulously long notes of red fruits and game, ending with a long tannic finish after coating the palate in a wonderfully light texture. Finally, we hit the newest wine in their portfolio: the Chambertin. Wow, this was just out of this world. Huge, dark and brooding, as well as light on its feet and elegant, this was, as I told Jeremy, "a Sumo wrestler dancing ballet". He laughed and agreed. It was just absolutely fantastic, with so many different notes appearing, disappearing, then reappearing that it was a thinker's wine, in a hedonistic sort of fashion.

As the tasting wound down, we said our adieux, and I left, my palate tingling at all the phenomenal wine I'd just had in the space of 2 hours. I do believe I may have TXT messaged quite a few folks in my buzzed state. I headed back to Beaune via the Route des Grands Crus, taking pictures of some of the more important places as I did so (see previous post). However, dinner at Sushi Kai with some sake was a welcome reprieve after all these wines, believe it or not.


1 comment:

Irish Wine Contemplations said...

Hiya Vinotas,

I'm just after stumbling across your blog a while ago and I must say that I'm impressed! I'm very much in awe of the tastings/experiences that you have had in Burgundy. I've subscribed to your blog so will be keeping an eye on it from now on.