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The Burgundy Seminar at the superBOWL 09/11/2003 TNB

Bill Nanson presented Griottes-Chambertin from two different vintages and three different producers, or he would have done had Drouhin not decided at the last moment that their 2001 was not ready to "come out". This is the sort of event that one would ideally take an evening over to muse upon the interesting comparison of producers and vintage, and to consider what it told us about the essential character of Griottes-Chambertin.

Griottes is a tiny 2.7 hectare vineyard bordered by other Grand Crus: Clos de Beze, Charmes and Chapelle-Chambertin and below by the village-level Aux Etelois. It has a reputation for elegant wines that mature a little earlier than some of the surrounding big names. To focus my mind on the matter I have opened a bottle of Maume's 1999 Aux Etelois as I write this and that wine too shows focussed sour-cherry fruit with just a bit of meaty underpinning.

And so to the producers: Joseph Drouhin is a large negociant but they do have a good reputation for the wines they make from their own holdings. The Griottes 2000 was quite an open, generous, soft wine: early-maturing probably (because of the vintage) and needing only a year or two before it reaches what should be a fine peak.

Domaine de Chezeaux owns over half of Griottes apparently but the wine is made under a "metayage" agreement whereby the whole process of winemaking is carried out by Ponsot and Leclerc who give one-third of the wine to be labelled and sold by Chezeaux. On the plus side, the consumer gets a Grand Cru Burgundy made by a good producer quite cheaply. On the down side, you might worry that the producers will not send their best lots to be labelled as Chezeaux and when you buy it you don't know whether you are getting the Ponsot or the Leclerc version! The latter are happy with this since it means Chezeaux are not so clearly undercutting their own higher-priced offerings. Be that as it may, I thought the 2000 was the weakest wine on show, very high-toned but rather ungenenerous - the only three-star wine in an otherwise four-star crowd. The 2001 on the other hand was a lovely savoury, wild-cherry Burgundy. Whether the two wines were made by the same producer, I guess I will never know.

And so to Fourrier, an estate that passed to the current generation (Jean-Marie) in the mid-nineties and which many good judges are saying is a great rising star of the region, although the wines are still available at not unreasonable prices. The philosophy here is just what I like to hear: high-quality fruit from the vineyard; elegance rather than "blockbusters"; modest new oak (20% per year) and minimal sulphur use. The wines are not filtered and they are bottled with a touch of dissolved CO2 which can lead them to be quite closed when young - the 2001 was very much this way, but after some retasting I thought this would open up and be really fine - I would say decant an hour or so before drinking. The 2000 was I thought the best wine from that vintage, combining the high-tone of the Chezeaux wine with the complexity of the Drouhin. This is a producer I am looking out for!

added to Fine Wine Diary 09/11/2003   Return to top