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Louis Jadot: Return of the Gagey

It is the nervy nature of great Chardonnay from Burgundy that makes it more thrilling than the majority elsewhere. With Thibault Gagey back in Taipei for the second time this year the opportunity to taste through another raft of Jadot wines was too good an opportunity to miss. Having started with vineyards based round the town of Beaune it is of little surprise that however impressed I can be by their reds it is their whites that I find have the power to move. Not that this tasting was necessarily a fair reflection. In classic regions where vintage variation is often quite marked, the whites were better placed to demonstrate their class being from the distinctly superior vintages of 2013 and, in particular, 2012. The majority of the reds were from the high acid 2008 vintage whose saliva inducing nature was a hallmark that some wines managed to carry off better than others. These were accompanied by wines from 2007 whose overall structure was pleasing as long as there was enough fruit concentration to add flesh to the sinew rippling beneath the surface.

There are more detailed notes below but it is worth pointing out the consistently high quality of the village wines on show. Whatever the global demand for Burgundy, any justification of high prices for insipid Burgundies that flaunt their famous labels whilst being miserable little buggers once the cork is drawn simply won’t wash. Jadot like to remind everyone (and Thibault was sticking to the script) that they often declassify/sacrifice a portion of their wines that are entitled to 1er Cru status to help bolster the quality of the village wines. Here the rhetoric was proved to be true by the pleasure exhibited in the glass. Whether it was the Chambolle, Puligny or Chassagne, these wines were deliciously representative and whilst not remotely inexpensive they waved the flag for their appellations’ without necessitating the need for a loan.

 All wines listed below are from Louis Jadot and St. Finesse in Taiwan.

Oaking for village through to Grand Cru wines is more or less the same: One third new, one third one year old and one third two years old French oak barrels. 

The Prices listed include some exceptional offer prices on the 1er Crus but there are limited stocks. 

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 80% Gamay & 20% Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in steel
Note: Red cherry and red currant nose, brisk and bright with just a touch of spice. Ideal lunch time wine as it requires little cogitation. Gentle tannins leave your mouth feeling refreshed rather than assaulted.
Price: 900NT
Score: 15/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Rouge 2012, 12.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in both oak barrels and vats
Note: Proper Burgundy Pinot nose that is red fruit driven but with a touch of clove spice. Shows the ripe fruit style of the vintage whilst also having just enough grip to fix the memory of the wine on your tongue.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 2008, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: The beginnings of some earthiness and proper Pinot perfume that adds complexity to the subtly spiced red fruit. Has the juiciness of the vintage with the bright acidity the dominant structural element. Yet the fruit is no shrinking violet lending a strong voice, that makes up for its relative lack of volume with an elegance that is classic Chambolle.
Price: 2,770NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Feusselottes, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Delicate and perfumed nose and the palate is brisk with more sinew than the village but the pronounced acidity is a little strident for the fruit making it a less obvious pleasure than the village Jadot.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Sentiers, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Bright but with enough fruit concentration to balance. Classic Chambolle that has the prettiness associated with the AOP but with the requisite spine.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru ‘Les Baudes’ 2008, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking:18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed and floral with concentrated fruit and a depth that marks this out as a prime site. Deliciously virile and appetising with the ability to age gracefully for another 5-8 years.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Earthy and more closed than the Les Baudes but still with some subtle floral quality percolating through. On the palate this has the sinewy nature and precision that we associate with this part of Chambolle but I prefer this premier cru in warmer and less ‘classic’ vintages when its obvious refinement is supported with a little more fat.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Baudes, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Interesting to compare my favourite 2008 in this flight with the 2007. This has less concentration and therefore finishes a little short. Remains a decent effort however.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Almost transparent so delicate and precise is this wine. Yet lurking beneath the layer of chiffon is a toned physique that manages to persuade you to forgive the lack of density (a result of the vintage) and instead focus on the pretty.
Price: 2,090NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2011
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: A little dumb but there is no masking the muscle that makes itself felt immediately on first sip. This feels Grand Cru-ish; dense and tannic with good (for 2011) levels of fruit concentration.
Price: 3,545NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw) 

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed, brisk and sinewy. This amount of structure requires time…the only caveat being whether the acid will always sit a little above the fruit rather than knitting harmoniously together. Time will tell.
Price: 3,795NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2001
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Lovely nose showing some of the leafy, spiced complexity of mature Pinot. The tannins retain some of Vougeot’s chewiness and there is a lack of fruit concentration that may come to haunt this as it ages further. Still good but is it Grand Cru good?
Price: 4,260NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Whites

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 55% Chardonnay, 45% Aligote
Winemaking: Fermented and matured in steel.
Note: Crisp and whistle like in its cleanliness. A simple but satisfying wine with which to wet your appetite for the region.
Price: 1,030NT
Score: 14.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Eight months ageing in both wood and steel
Note: Simple but with good levels of intensity and concentration that lifts this above more insipid and gutless examples from this basic Burgundy AOP. Good value.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Pouilly Fuisse 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Both vat and barrel
Note: Ripe apple & citrus sits alongside something a little more savoury. There is a richness that betrays its provenance as being from the best part of Macon whilst retaining enough acid giving freshness to suggest this will continue to age for up to another five years.
Price: 1,620NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny Montrachet, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in barrel
Note: A sudden jump in aromatic presence and complexity with a mealy, nutty character accompanying the toasty oak, citrus and physalis style fruit. Firm but not oppressively so, this again shows the quality to be had from Jadot at village level.
Price: 2,825NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 2013, 135
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18 months in oak
Note: More closed and will benefit from another year or two before broaching. Dense, rich and with good length, this Chassagne amply illustrates its pedigree whilst not having quite the same drive/precision of the village Puligny. This though again is an excellent example.
Price: 2,870NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru La Garenne, 2012, 13.5% (High altitude over 300m)
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Mealy, toasty and tangerine like. Brilliant acidity gives the wine great line and poise on the palate. A long finish completes the picture of a fine wine fit for a further decade in the cellar…if you can wait.
Price: 2,030NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Folatières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: Another excellent lesson in Puligny precision. This Folatières has the struck match character, the chiselled structure and tongue tingling acidity that makes Puligny so popular and unfortunately expensive. Delicious.
Price: 2,400NT
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:12-15 months in oak
Note: Slightly riper style after the precision of the two Puligny 1er Crus but the little extra fat on show here is supported by a grapefruit style pithiness that helps balance the extra girth. Very good.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Mersault, 1er Cru Les Genevrières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Dense and delicious with a complex interplay between citrus (grapefruit), oak, nut, power and precision. Impressive stuff.
Price: 2,560NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:18 months in barrel
Note: Smoky and powerful, creamy, full bodied chardonnay but with that grapefruit finish that provides freshness. Whilst being a long way from disappointing this clearly needs time to morph from its somewhat gauche teenage temperament to a more considered young adult. Try again in five years.
Price: Price on request
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Montrachet, Grand Cru, 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak
Note: Mealy, rich, nutty and mushroom like aromatics are accompanied by an apricot skin like perfume that suggests ones nose is not in the company of everyday Chardonnay. This is not an easy wine to appreciate with plenty of restrained power growling beneath a serene exterior but as yet it is not in the mood to give too much away. Give it another ten years and it may begin to repay the ransom that you will have paid for ownership.
Price: 13,300NT
Score:? If you drink it now then 16/20. If you wait a decade perhaps 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

D93 The return of Gagey bottles

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A Second date with Louis Jadot: Part II

What follows are the notes for the red wines tasted on the 12th and 13th of May 2015. They are, like the whites, grouped by vintage and are all available from finessewines.com.tw. 

Marsanny ‘Clos du Roy’ 2012, 13%
Note: Pronounced and pure with a slightly bitter cherry fruit core that is both crisp and delicious. Brilliant value Burgundy.
Price: 1,750NT
Score: 16+/20 

Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos des Ursules’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: This was the vineyard where it all started for Jadot and it remains a consistently excellent producer at (for Burgundy) relatively fair prices. Floral, spicy, mineral and exotic this is properly delicious.
Price: 3,950NT
Score: 17/20

Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Les Vergeleses’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: Jadot’s excellence in their Beaune heartland is exemplified here via this great value Savigny. Spiced cherry, mineral with and a touch of the exotic, this is like a mini Corton.
Price: 2,050NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Pommard 1er Cru ‘Les Rugiens’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: The most famous of Pommard’s vineyards and one that produces wines capable of delivering over the long-term. As a result this is still fairly closed with Pommard’s tannic grip very much the dominant element at present. I have only scored this 16, but give it another five to eight years and the carapace of tannin should have softened enough to reveal a more charming centre.
Price: 4,490NT
Score: 16/20 

Santenay ‘Clos de Malte’ 2012, 13%
Note: Excellent value, firm and crispy, very much like a baby Pommard, this is definitely worthy of a place in your cellar for medium term-drinking.
Price: 1,750NT
Score: 15.5/20

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru ‘Les Beaux Monts’ 2008, 13%
Note: Pretty and elegant but with just a little too much acidity for the fruit. Finding the right balance in 2008 was clearly a difficult task although Jadot manage to get away with it here…just.
Price: 4,920NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru ‘Les Suchots’ 2008, 13.5%
Note: My preferred Vosne Romanee from this year as it has just a little more density that helps balance the brisk acidity.
Price: 4,380NT
Score: 16/20

Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Croix de Pierre’ 2008, 13%
Note: I love the wines from this vineyard but the quality of the terroir here can’t quite make up for the relatively hollow nature of the vintage. Pleasant.
Price: 1,600NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Beaune 1er Cru 2008, 13%
Note: Elegant but a little lacking in fruit, a wine to drink now.
Price: 1,850NT
Score: 15/20

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Baudes’ 2007, 13.5%
Note: Some of Jadot’s wines from Chambolle are rather un-Chambolle like in their firmness and vigour (more Morey St Denis like in fact). This though is Chambolle in its famed supple and charming guise. Delicious drinking now.
Price: 5,270NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Fuees’ 2007, 13.5%
Note: Charming but lacking a little density. Drink now.
Price: 4,100NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Griottes Chambertin Grand Cru 2006, 13.5%
Note: Violets dominate in this perfumed Griottes and although still a baby it is charming enough to enjoy now. Those of you with more patience will rightly tuck this away for at least another five years.
Price: 9,600NT
Score: 17/20 

Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2006, 13.5%
Note: Similar density to the Corton but with more sinew. This may never be the most elegant Charmes but it has the depth of earthy fruit and charge of tannins to promise much in the future.
Price: 8,490NT
Score: 17/20

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Estournelles Saint-Jacques’ 2006, 13.5%
Note: 2006 is a precocious year for reds in Burgundy. They are generous and easy-going and manage to makeup for their lack of a more elegant, chiselled profile by drawing your attention to their curves. Relatively evolved and supple with just enough sinew under the flesh to keep you interested.
Price: 4,650NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Petite Chapelle’ 2006 13%
Note: Similar in style to the Estournelles but without that wine’s density.
Price: 4,755NT
Score: 16/20

Chanmbolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Fuees’ 2006, 13%
Note: I felt this was very much a calling card for the 2006 vintage; precocious, fast maturing and slightly ill defined giving plenty of pleasure but without a great year’s complexity.
Price: 4,400NT
Score: 16/20

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru ‘Les Petits Monts’ 2006, 13%
Note: Dark and exotic with sandalwood and leaf mould providing a rather sensuous bouquet. Mouth-coating and with just the right amount of opulence, this is delicious now but will offer much pleasure over the medium term.
Price: 5,500NT
Score: 17+/20 

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Les Boudots’ 2006, 13.5%
Note: A little rustic, even burly but that does not prevent this from being a pleasure to drink. Meaty and mushroomy, this is a wine crying out for a piece of rare steak to keep it company.
Price: 4,650NT
Score: 16.5/20

Corton Greves Grand Cru 2006, 13.5%
Note: For all of the precocity of 2006 there are some wines from this vintage that due to their heritage will remain tight-lipped and unforgiving for another decade. This is firm and fine but requires patience.
Price: 4,380NT
Score: 17/20 

Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos des Ursules’ 2004, 13.5%
Note: The best red wine of the two days for me even though it comes from the maligned 2004 vintage. This was exotic, floral, vibrant and fresh with that sweetness of fruit that hangs around in quality Burgundy whatever the age. A triumph for the year.
Price: 2,850NT
Score: 17.5/20 

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Feusselottes’ 2001, 13.5%
Note: All graphite and potato skin (I’m English so I appreciate the charms of this tuber more than most) this has the delicious scent of mature Burgundy. Not overly complex but with enough vibrancy and general allure to engage.
Price: 3,950NT
Score: 16/20 

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Les Cras’ 1999, 13.5%
Note: Mature nose of porcini and undergrowth gives complexity but it would benefit from just a touch more fruit. Classic Nuits with granular tannins that provide a very structured wine that is still going strong.
Price: 4,500NT
Score: 16/20 

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Aux Thorey’ 1999, 13%
Note: Dense, almost chunky with enough muscular power and fruit to suggest further development is possible but drink by 2020.
Price: 5,600NT
Score: 16.5/20

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A Second Date with Louis Jadot

There are no histrionics with Thibault Gagey the deputy general manager of this Burgundian stalwart. He may be young but he carries the weight of his family name (he is the third generation of the Gagey family tasked with the day to day running of the ‘Maison’) and the importance of his role with a lightness and grace that seems to mirror some of Jadot’s best Beaunes.

Thibault was in town to oversee three days of Jadot based festivities with their long-time partner here in Taiwan, Finesse Wines. Having had the good fortune to spend some time with him, opening bottles and checking the wine in return for the opportunity to taste over 40 of them, it became clear that Master Gagey is both refreshingly humble and an enlightened custodian. It would be all too easy for him to revel in the spiralling demand for his and for Burgundy wines in general and celebrate the profits but Thibault prefers the long-term view. When his grandfather was in charge the wines of Burgundy, though respected, were not revered in quite the same way as today. The cost of the grandest of grand crus partly explains this reverence but Thibault is clearly troubled by these often prohibitive prices, and the prices of many of the basic wines too. He is passionate about Burgundy but also sanguine and realises that in another twenty years the wine buying public may have found a new region to worship. With this in mind he takes his role very seriously, the extensive range of wines he wanted to show demonstrated this better than anything he could have chosen to say.

Below is a list of tasting notes for Jadot’s whites and our next post will feature the reds. For obvious reasons the notes are somewhat slimmer than usual with less headings. All of the wines are from Jadot, all the wines are available from finessewines.com.tw, all the whites are made from Chardonnay and all the reds from Pinot Noir. Jadot also use very similar wine-making techniques for all their wines from village level to Grand Cru. This involves approximately 25% new French oak. Due to the vagaries of vintage and the individual vineyard, time spent in these barrels will vary, but overall the message is simple; the homogeneity of the wine-making should allow the terroir and the vintage to speak.

The Whites were all tasted on the 12th and 13th of May.

Chablis 2013, 12.5%
Note: Green apple, lemon peel, mineral and with a delicious mouth-watering salinity, this was not just benchmark Chablis but the best vintage I have tried from Jadot. Excellent!
Cost: 1,400NT
Score: 16+/20 

Chablis 1er Cru ‘Fourchaume’ 2012, 12.5%
Note: 2012 is in most cases better for reds than for whites and you can see that with this Fourchaume. This is a well crafted wine, varietally pure and very representative of its home but the extra weight of the vintage means this hasn’t quite got the nerve tingling acidity evident in cooler more ‘classic’ years.
Cost: 2,570NT
Score: 16+/20 

Chablis Grand Cru ‘Preuses’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: Still very young with the toasty richness of the oak sitting on top of the fruit at present. This has the precision I want in my Chablis and I expect this to evolve into a very fine wine given another five years of integration.
Cost: 4,210NT
Score: 16.5-17/20 

Pernand Vergelesses ‘Clos de la Croix de Pierre’ 2012, 13%
Note: Toasty, limey and precise. I love the reds from this vineyard but had never had the white before and it did not disappoint. Arguably the best value white here and obvious 1er Cru quality even if it is officially only at ‘village’ level. I would buy a case while you can.
Cost: 1,930NT
Score: 17/20 

Mersault 1er Cru ‘Genevrieres’ 2011, 13.5%
Note: Broad and rich but also focused makes this Genevrieres my kind of Mersault. Nutty and nectarine like with a little toastiness this is just beginning to drink well but will reward a further few years patience.
Cost: 4,550NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Folatieres’ 2011, 13.5%
Note: Of the 2011’s this received my lowest score but that is more about how it compared on the night with its neighbours. The taut and tensile nature promises more to come as these structural elements begin to loosen their grip on the fruit. Given another few years in your cellar this could well prove to be the best of these 2011’s.
Cost: 4,950NT
Score: 16+/20 

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Abbaye de Morgeot’ 2011, 13.5%
Note: Generous and precise this was delicious although it will continue to improve over the medium term.
Cost: 3,950NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos des Guettes’ 2010, 13.5%
Note: I have always been a fan of this wine that delivers a lot of Puligny like finesse in cooler vintages or in warmer years a Mersault like richness. Of course the benefit to the drinker is that Savigny is often half the price and it is more precocious meaning it is perfect for drinking now.
Cost: 1,930NT
Score: 16/20 

Beaune 1er Cru, 2010, 13.5%
Note: Similar to the Savigny but less precise and a little blowsier (this could almost have been Pouilly Fuisse) and will appeal to those who like their Burgundy broad and easy.
Cost: 2,010NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Mersault 1er Cru ‘Les Charmes’ 2010, 13.5%
Note: Great aromatics; nutty, spicy and savoury with a lemon oil fruitiness that helps preserves a sense of freshness. Rich and powerful, this is classic Mersault and a fine wine but is just a little heavy for my palate.
Cost: 4,300NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008, 13.5%
Note: A little reticent at present on the nose but on the palate this unfolds to reveal a full, rich yet decidedly elegant wine that has great line and persistence. The best white wine here by some distance.
Cost: 7,300NT
Score: 18/20 

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Folatieres’ 2007, 13.5%
Note: Has the richness and slightly mushroomy nature of mature Burgundy that is reminiscent of good Champagne. Generous and complex but it could do with just a touch more fruit to make it perfect. Drink in the next couple of years.
Cost: 4,750NT
Score: 16/20 

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Referts’ 2007, 13%
Note: Another beautiful smelling 2007, all buttered nut with a lemony savouriness. Less broad than its neighbour ‘Les Folatieres’, it is more precise but also slightly less persistent. A wine to be consumed sooner rather than later.
Cost: 4,300NT
Score: 16/20 

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Grandes Ruchottes’ 2007, 13%
Note: Long and broad but with a seam of acidity that lends this wine a greater poise than the two from Puligny and suggests that this might be the longer lived.
Cost: 4,600NT
Score: 16.5/20

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The Best of British

There are few things more English than Chablis. This small town may be located on the wrong side of the channel (forgive me my French friends) but its wines are as entrenched within my notion of Britishness as a cup of tea and spaghetti bolognese. The reason for the English fondness of Chablis surely lies in the subconscious appreciation of a wine that is so very similar to our own quintessential English traits. Chablis is cool and austere, a little restrained with a focus on line and length and a structural tidiness over gobs of fruit and overt generosity. Chablis is a stiff upper lip of a wine.

It will come as no surprise therefore that when last week, La Chablisienne, paid a visit to Taipei that I was there, salivating at the thought of a taste of home. La Chablisienne is one of France’s great co-operatives with three hundred growers helping them produce a quarter of this region’s production. Although unapologetically large in scale, La Chablisienne’s wines are rarely disappointing if not necessarily the best. What they provide is a reliable benchmark against which other Chablis can be judged and they can do this because their members are represented in every single Chablis appellation. If you are not a ‘Rosbif’ then exploring the wines of Chablis with the help of this high quality co-op will provide you with the perfect introduction to this English classic.

Of the seven wines tasted I have listed just three but they provide a base from which you can explore the wines of Chablis further. 

Chablis la Pierrelee, 2012
Grapes: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 10 months on lees
Note: All citrus and nervy acidity with some mouth-coating leesiness and minerality that elevates this above most basic Chablis. Nicely persistent.
Price: 1100NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: www.tfhow-wine.com 

Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, 2011
Grapes: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 20 months on lees and in barrel
Note: Lemon oil richness that holds hands with a mineral saltiness sees this wine screaming out for some oysters or mussels. Broad, deep and intense; the best of the 2011’s.
Price: 2800NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: www.tfhow-wine.com

Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchot, 2012
Grapes: Chardonnay
Winemaking: : 20 months on lees and in barrel
Note: Quiet and restrained with a whiff of butter. On the palate there is plenty of power and intensity with anise and citrus balancing the mouthcoating chalkiness. Persistent.
Price: 2800NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: www.tfhow-wine.com

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Post 101

Today Sniff is 101 posts old, a mini-milestone for us and an apt number on which to pause, as any of you remotely familiar with Taipei’s most famous landmark will appreciate. We will not dwell too long on what has come before as nine months work does not justify the hanging of bunting or any great retrospective. All we want to do is thank the wine producers and makers that have allowed our visits and generously fielded our questions, and to thank our small but growing readership; we promise to continue to try and justify your faith in us.

Having spent Sunday morning in the company of the famous wine critic, Allen Meadows aka ‘Burghound’, it was good to hear him advising those assembled to ‘Be loyal to your own impressions, that’s what counts the most.’ Whilst this is a sentiment I preach to my students, the ever-increasing demand for Burgundy’s best allied to their expense makes their appreciation that much more complicated. How does one trust one’s ‘own impressions’ in the face of such luxury? This is the conundrum of Grand Cru Burgundy. If money is no object then there is little need to worry, you can afford to be disappointed by your two hundred euro wine. But staying true to Mr Meadows’ maxim and having the confidence of your own palate when the perceived wisdom is that the wines should be magnificent, remains a challenge to all but the most assured of individuals. It would have been interesting to take a poll of today’s tasters to see if their preferences had mirrored those of Meadows’ scores or whether people were comfortable enough to follow the advice of their own tongue; advice that might have seen them deviate from the expert opinion.

‘Great Burgundy is not just about their ability to endure but their ability to transform’. Our hope for the next 101 posts is that Mr Meadows’ assessment is as relevant for Sniff as it is for the world’s greatest Pinot; we certainly intend it to be so.

Below are three very different but equally alluring examples of the wines tasted with both mine and the Burghound’s scores included.

Pierre Damoy, Chambertin Grand Cru, 13.5%, 2011
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Approximately 80% new French oak
Note: The best wine of the day. This was dense and dark, brooding yet virile with a muscular and mineral palate that was the epitome of the velvet gloved fist. Fine.
Price: 9,375NT
Score: 18/20. Burghound 93/100
Available from: Domaine Wine Cellars, Taipei 

Olivier Bernstein, Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, 13.5%, 2010
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 50% de-stemmed and aged in approx. 50% new French oak
Note: Deliciously spicy and structured with a profound depth to the dark fruit that promises years of further development to come.
Price: 11,250NT
Score: 17.5/20. Burghound 93/100
Available from: Domaine Wine Cellars, Taipei 

Nicholas Potel, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 13.5%, 2006
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 50% de-stemmed and aged for 18 months in 30% new French oak
Note: A wine that is showing some earthy and undergrowth aromas as it approaches its tenth year. Beautifully rich and with considerable depth this is supple, velvety and generous.
Price: Available in magnum for 8,750NT
Score: 17.5/20. Burghound 93/100
Available from: Domaine Wine Cellars, Taipei

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No Beefsteak but some Burgundy

Having being recently invited to lunch at Le Cocotte, a restaurant of some standing here in Taipei, I was looking forward to the food almost as much as the wine. The occasion, a gathering of the ‘Beefsteak and Burgundy [dining] Club’ meets monthly and is populated by a diverse membership whose specialisms range from robotics to removals.

On arrival I was handed a glass of ‘Champagne’ and having tasted it I looked behind the bar for the bottle. I should have expected as much but the sight of the four wines we were to be served over lunch, sitting swaddled in tin-foil, produced the very slightest of palpitations deep in my innards. I knew that it would not be long before I was asked ‘what I did for a living’ and the realisation that a wine ‘expert’ was in their midst would make the blind tasting an altogether more interesting prospect…for some.

As we took our seats, paid homage to the Queen and our respective leaders of State, all I could think about was the origin of the inch of effervescence that sat whispering from the flute before me. ‘Touch of yeastiness, chalky texture, citrus and apple fruit…ok, its traditional method, old world, more than likely French but definitely not Champagne, acidity is too low…so Cremant but which, de Loire or de Bourgogne…?’, oh the joys of drinking in public. I’ll be honest, I went for the Loire, seduced by the apple and minerally mouth-feel, ignored the bright but not whistle clean acidity and of course if you close your eyes to the obvious you end up looking foolish; it was from Burgundy.

The wines that followed were more straightforward. Firstly an excellent, aromatic and pointed dry Muscat from the Minervois, then a dough and bruised apple scented Savagnin from the Cotes du Jura, before a final sweet wine from Ste-Croix-du-Mont. This appellation being on more elevated terrain, peers down through the botrytis inducing mist onto the vineyards of Sauternes that squat on the opposite shore of the Garonne.

I do not know if I will be invited back, but tasting (even when blind), drinking and eating in good company, especially when accompanied by some less than usual wines is a rare pleasure. Below are reviews of the four tasted:

Maison Vitteau Alberti, ‘Cuvee Agnes’, Cremant de Bourgogne NV
Grape: Chardonnay
Wine-making: Traditional method
Note: As mentioned above, this has a lovely chalky texture and fine fruit. The acidity is crisp and less taut than Champagne but this makes it easier to appreciate. Good value.
Price: 1,480NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes,
www.cellierpoetes.com

Clos du Gravillas, ‘On the Rocks’ Muscat Sec, 2013
Grape: Muscat blanc a petit grains
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: This is excellent Muscat with the sweet aromas of grapes and white flowers whilst being deliciously dry, bright and minerally. Excellent value
Price: 1,080NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com 

Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Cotes du Jura, 2009
Grape: Savagnin
Wine-making: Kept in old oak barrels for three years without topping up and with a veil of flor adding aromatic complexity.
Note: Not the most popular wine of the day but these strongly savoury and bone dry wines require a certain amount of practise to appreciate. If you like Fino Sherry or Amontillado you will like this.
Price: 1,680NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com 

Chateau La Rame, ‘Traditionnel’ Ste-Croix-du-Mont, 2012
Grape: 100% Semillion
Wine-making: This is botrytised sweet wine matured in tank for two years.
Note: Sweet but with good freshness this young, honeyed apricot and lemon scented wine has less obvious fat than a Sauternes but most would never notice the difference. The price for a full 750ml bottle is a bargain.
Price: 1,580NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com

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Austria: A Statement of Intent

On Wednesday, Taipei hosted the ‘Best of Austria’ the most impressive attempt so far by this bijou European to win the hearts of Taiwan’s wine cognoscenti. The turnout was as impressive as the importers, who were enthusiastically doling out wine to guests following the introductory seminar and guided tasting. These are the true champions of the wine world, their desire to spread the word of the under-appreciated to the uninitiated takes guts. Whether Taiwan is quite ready for Gruner Veltliner and Zweigelt (nevermind Rotgipfler) is open to debate but for the development of a true and sustainable Taiwanese wine culture to thrive, the likes of Austrian wine needs to gain a foothold.

In stark contrast to this rather grand event, the evening brought the opportunity to attend a much smaller yet equally excellent BIVB (Burgundy Wine Board) live tasting, hosted by the hugely knowledgeable Ingrid Lin. Burgundy is well represented in Taiwan and the Austrians can only hope that at some point in the future their wines are talked about with as much reverence as the best from the home of Pinot Noir. Ms Lin, a certified educator for the BIVB, gave our group three pairs of wines from the famous neighbouring villages of Gevrey Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle Musigny. Each pair consisted of a village wine and a premier cru and all six wines were from the 2011 vintage. As an exercise in benchmarking stylistic traits inherent to these villages, it proved extremely worthwhile and outlined a model that the Austrians would be wise to imitate; education is, after all, key.

Burgundy’s reputation is borne on the back of just two varieties (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and although the Austrians lack a red variety with the same nobility as Pinot Noir, they do have Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. The biggest issue for these two grapes is their colour; not being red remains a hindrance in this part of the world. Yet if the Austrian Wine board can craft a well-funded education programme (like the BIVB’s), the inherent high quality of these two noble varieties, allied to the enthusiasm of the importers, can bring Austria the attention its wines so readily deserve.

Below are four wines from Austria and Burgundy.

Hiedler, Reserve Thal ‘10TW’, Kamptal, 2013, 13%
Grape: Gruner Veltliner
Wine-making: Matured in stainless steel
Note: This was ‘proper’ Gruner, it was a little spicy and peppery with a mouth-coating oiliness (in a very pleasant way) and had drive and intensity through the citrus tinged palate. Very clean, very pure and very delicious.
Price: Approx 35USD
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

F.X. Pichler, Smaragd ‘Loibner Loibenberg’, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: Matured in old oak
Note: Magnificent. Intense and concentrated with a restrained stone-fruit nose and a salty, mineral-like and hugely persistent finish. Yes please!
Price:
Score: 18/20
Available from: www.eslitegourmet.com.tw 

Harmand-Geoffrey, Gevrey Chambertin, Vielles Vignes, 2011, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Wine-making: 12 months in 40% new French oak
Note: Perfumed with iris, cherry stone and exotic spice this was the most approachable of all six Burgundies tasted. Powerful and firm of tannin but with a freshness and concentration that elevated this to the ranks of a great village wine. Good value.
Price: Approx 30GBP
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Gevrey Chambertin, 1er Cru ‘Bel Air’, 2011, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Wine-making: 12 months in 30% new French oak
Note: Arguably the best wine of the evening if as of yet not the most forthcoming, this was quiet and restrained on the nose with some floral and savoury characters but on the palate it promised much. Concentrated, firm, powerful but bright-eyed, this was still barely out of short trousers but with the structure for further positive development over the next 5-8 years.
Price: Approx 55GBP
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: This exact wine is not available in Taiwan but this producer is represented by www.chateaux.com.tw

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Dry White Wines for Keeping

The vast majority of the world’s wines are made to be drunk within a couple of years of bottling and this is particularly the case for whites. Without the preservative effect of the tannins found in red wines, the fruitiness and virility of white wines fades all too quickly, yet as with most things there are a raft of honourable exceptions.

Burgundy from the great villages of Puligny, Chassagne and Mersault as well as the hill of Corton, are capable of producing wines that can last a generation. In the last month I have had bottles from these areas (one is listed below) that were more than a decade old and full of vibrancy. But what else is there? I wrote earlier in January about Von Buhl in Pfalz and there is no doubt that the best of these dense, steely and profound Rieslings will continue to develop and shine over the coming twenty years. With the imminent arrival (in Taiwan) of the wines of Von Winning, also of Pfalz, Riesling’s significant age-ability will again be highlighted.

For those who like the idea of aged Sauvignon Blanc, the best examples are to be found in Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux. These wines usually feature some Semillon and are matured in oak making them less overt but more complex than is usual and the finest go on to give years of custard scented pleasure. Outside of Germany and France it is less common to find white wines that are built for the long haul. Spain has the tradition of aged white Riojas but this oxidative style that smells of hay and mushrooms rather than fruit and flowers is dying. Only Tondonia still produces this grossly underappreciated and magnificent anachronism. (Below I have reviewed Murrietta’s new(ish) white that replaced their wonderful traditional Rioja).

Lastly, in future years it may be that South Africa starts to produce age-worthy Chenin Blancs (think Alheit, Sadie, Mullineux) that can match the longevity of Savennieres in the Loire. This variety has the requisite acid and extract to age beautifully and when allied to the will of the new generation of South-African winemakers, this should be a new source of fine dry white wines for keeping.

Hospices de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cuvee Francois de Salins, 2004
Grape:
Chardonnay
Wine-making: Oak fermented and matured
Note: Not cheap but this is still as fresh a daisy with excellent concentration and drive. Rich and ripe with oodles of fruit and saliva inducing acidity, this should last another ten years.
Price: 6,250NT
Score:
17.5/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Marques de Murrietta, Capellania (single vineyard), 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Viura
Wine-making: Matured for 20 months in in new French oak.
Note: As disappointed as I am at the departure of the old, more overtly oxidative style, it is hard not to be impressed by this much more modern wine. Fantastic mouth-feel that is both creamy and rich coupled with baked apple and citrus fruit aromas, this promises improvement over the medium term. Whether it will have the longevity of its predecessor will become clear in the years to come. Price: Not currently available in Taiwan but approx. $30USD globally
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: N/A

Von Winning, Forster Ungeheur Grosses Gewachs, 2013, 12%
Grape:
Riesling
Wine-making: Fermented in old wood.
Note: More forgiving than the Von Buhl Rieslings of a similar quality with a slightly softer and less dense/firm character. Perfumed with sweet apple a subtle minerality and good persistence. This will continue to reveal itself more fully over the next decade.
Price: Approx 2,500NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Soon to be available in Taiwan from Vinoza

 

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A Date with Louis Jadot

Last year I wrote a piece entitled ‘Boring pinot Noir’ that received more views and comments that any other post since. The general consensus of opinion was how dare I criticise Pinot. It is that kind of grape, one that generates a fanatical following from those that have been seduced by its perfumed and ethereal charms.

I never actually said that all Pinot was boring, just that the grape needed help to be great. Luckily for me I was invited this Sunday to taste a flight of ten wines, all from the 2004 vintage, from one of Burgundy’s most significant producers: Louis Jadot. This large producer has such extensive holdings that it is possible to enjoy the luxury of tasting wines from across the region and from many of the most prestigious vineyards. This, allied to the knowledge that the winemaking employed by Jadot varies little from village to village, ensures that the differences one tastes are a result of site. Nowhere was this more apparent than when trying some of the best of Gevrey Chambertin. We had five wines from this village including Les Cazetiers, Lavaux Saint Jaques and Clos Saint Jaques (all 1er cru) followed by Charmes and Chapelle Chambertin, both Grand Cru. What I had hoped would be obvious were the differences between these wines, differences in intensity, concentration, tannic power and their maturity; I was not disappointed.

I will not bore you with a blow by blow account of each wine’s every nuance (there are tasting notes below) but there are certain points that are worthy of comment. Clos St. Jaques is considered to be the best of Gevrey’s premier crus and one could taste why. This had the stuffing, for another five years improvement whilst the Les Cazetiers (arguably the next best 1er cru in the hierarchy) was perfect now, virile and delicious but a touch more evolved. The Lavaux was, if anything, just past its best, all secondary aromas and more savoury. This was a great advert for the hierarchy of Burgundy, demonstrating with aplomb that vineyards within the same village can be markedly different. Pinot like this is never boring.

Below are the notes on the five Gevrey wines.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux-Saint-Jacques 2004
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: No stems, long cuvaison, 18-20 months in oak
Note: Usually considered less age-worthy than the Les Cazetiers and Clos St. Jaques and this proved to be exactly the case here. Notes of soy, leaf mould and spice made this the most evolved wine of the flight. Still hanging on but best to be drunk this year.
Price: 4,080NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers 2004
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: No stems, long cuvaison, 15 months in oak
Note: Jasper Morris MW again describes this vineyard as being an exceptional 1er Cru. Virile and more scented than either the other two premier crus, this would be the one that I would most want to drink now and over the next couple of years whilst the Clos St. Jacques continues to develop.
Price: 4,500NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jacques 2004
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: No stems, long cuvaison, 18-20 months in oak
Note: Jasper Morris MW describes this as an exceptional 1er cru or grand cru and this tasted like it was exactly that. Greater depth and profundity than the other two 1er Cru’s with plenty of life ahead of it. Persistent and delicious.
Price: 7,290NT
Score: 17.5-18/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2004
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: No stems, long cuvaison, 18-20 months in oak
Note: Considered the weakest of Gevrey’s Grand Crus due to its size (30ha when both Mazoyeres and Charmes are added together) and thus can be inconsistent. This was excellent with the most alluring aromas of all the wines here. Very floral and iris scented with exotic Chinese medicine and just the beginnings of some leafy more evolved aromas. Splendid. Price: 6,500NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru 2004
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: No stems, long cuvaison, 18-20 months in oak Note: Situated below Clos de Beze on very sparse soil. This was the most backward but also the wine with the greatest concentration and the finest tannins. Still with a way to go before it is at its peak but after two hours in the glass the perfume, suggesting what is to come with more time in bottle, had become much more pronounced. Excellent
Price: 8,800NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

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When Less is More

When speaking with many wine producers serious about their trade, the majority will be quick to tell you that the real work, the area where quality is ultimately derived, is in the vineyard.

As a believer in the influence of site and thus of the notion of ‘somewhereness’ being reflected in the glass, this is a view that I am generally in agreement with but with some important caveats. If it is true that ‘you can’t polish a turd’ (I have never tried but the assertion appears reasonable) then the quality of the fruit entering the winery is of course the determining factor but it would be disingenuous to overlook the influence of the wine-maker. Choices about de-stemming, crushing, maceration times, yeast use, pressing, fermentation temperatures, fermentation vessels, extraction methods, maturation times, use of oak, Sulphur dioxide additions, the promotion or blocking of the malo-lactic conversion, use of fining agents, whether to filter and what to close the bottle in and with, will significantly affect the style and quality. Winemaker’s are more influential than they would have you believe.
The irrelevance of discussing (in most cases) the merits of one process vs. another should not be underestimated as it really SHOULD depend on the style, price and intended audience of the wine being made. For example the use of small oak barrels can work brilliantly with grape varieties such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon as in many regions of the world their innate structure is further enhanced (or ameliorated) by their use. Conversely using the same barrels for the production of Beaujolais Nouveau would be nonsensical as time, style and the price-point commanded by the wine does not warrant such extravagance.

The two wines below have been chosen as they reflect the decisions taken by the winemaker very clearly. The first wine is unfiltered and the second is made without recourse to oak maturation – alternative options are available from both producers.

Louis Jadot, Beaujolais Villages Primeur 2014, Unfiltered
Grape:
Gamay
Wine-making: Inert vessels and unfiltered
Note: Ripe red fruits, very pure and fresh but with a little more weight, colour and grip than the unfiltered version, which is also available. This proves (if you were a sceptic) that filtration does affect the style of the wine significantly. On blind tasting I preferred this version but some the brighter character of the filtered wine.
Price: 888NT
Score:
15/20
Available from: Finesse

Duemani, CiFRA, Costa Toscana IGT, 14%, Biodynamic
Grape:
Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: Fermented and aged in cement vats
Note: Pure, fresh and sprightly. The tannins are perhaps the most interesting aspect as they have a slight rusticity about them, perhaps a result of the lack of exposure to oxygen through the maturation process (unlike wood, cement cannot breathe). A wine I could happily drink everyday and I can give no higher praise than that. If you would like the oaked version ( called ‘Duemani’ which is also delicious) made with fruit from their best terroir you will pay four times the amount.
Price: Approximately $25 globally.
Score: 17/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan

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