Allen Meadows Seminar on Vosne-Romanée
Allen Meadows is the writer and publisher of the Burghound newsletter, aka Burghound.com, and author of the recently published The Pearl of the Côte, the Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée. He is also one of my favorite wine writers and critics, and I am fortunate to have attended a number of seminars, tastings and dinners with him when I lived in L.A. When I saw that Chai Consulting and Wine Gavel Fine and Rare Wine Auctions was hosting a two-hour seminar with Allen in San Francisco, I rearranged my schedule to be there.
Philip Abrams’s glowing review of Allen’s book was posted here early last month. I’m in the middle of the book now, and enjoying it immensely. The book contains the most current and authoritative description of all the great Vosne vineyards, including the results of Allen’s lengthy research into the historical and current boundaries of those vineyards, complete with maps and photos of each vineyard that were created specially for the book. It also contains a terrific brief history of Burgundy that includes the most thorough description I’ve seen anywhere of the phylloxera years, how Burgundians grappled with the destruction of their ancient vineyards, what it was like to be a wine grower and winemaker during those years, and how the phylloxera era ultimately altered Burgundy permanently. Sprinkled throughout are Allen’s thoughtful recommendations as to benchmark producers, and what to buy, including top values. Another extra is the most extensive tasting notes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines, including bottlings dating to the mid-1800s, to be found anywhere. I highly recommend the book, which is currently only available to purchase via the Burghound website, through this link: http://www.burghoundbooks.com/
Allen’s seminar was largely in promotion of the book, giving those who haven’t read it yet a feel for what it covers, and of the rich topic of the wines of Vosne-Romanée. The seminar included a tasting of six wines from the appellation, from different vintages and producers, and Allen’s comments about them. Allen agreed to let me video record some segments from his talk, which will give a flavor for how he presents the material, and some of what the book covers. I also asked him a question afterward about what was the single most surprising thing he learned in doing his research for the book, so that answer appears at the end of this post.
Over 80 people (close to 100?) were on hand in the large space of The Box for this event, so it lacked some of the intimacy and interactiveness of smaller seminars I’ve attended with Allen in the past. Nonetheless, it was nice to see such a large turnout mid-week to hear from Allen, and I hope it encourages him to get up the Bay Area even more in the future.
Here’s a clip of Allen talking about the origins of the concept of terroir in Burgundy, deriving both from animistic ideas of the uniqueness of place, as well as the view that the Catholic Church (owner at one time of many of the best vineyards in Burgundy, whose priests and monks played a vital role in analyzing and comparing wines from the different vineyard sites) eventually promulgated that differences in vineyards were “messages from God, that deserved to be celebrated”:
This next clip shows Allen talking about his own experience of smelling the soil in individual Burgundy vineyards, following the example of the vignerons he regularly visited, and learning what a great difference there is between the individual terroirs:
I thought the producers of the event put together a rather odd assortment of Vosne-Romanée wines for us to taste, including two villages wines, two premier crus and two (in my opinion, remarkably weak) grand crus. They literally had an assortment of ’99 Dominique Laurent premier crus for the tasting–one bottle of each–and were a little vague as to exactly what section of the room had been poured from which bottle. In the second hour of the seminar, however, Allen dutifully got to each of the wines and told us something about the producer, the vineyards from which the wines were made and the vintages represented, without commenting directly on what we were actually tasting in our glass. By far the standout of this motley assortment of wines for me was the stunning ’02 Méo-Camuzet Aux Brulées–not surprising because it’s a terrific year, top producer (one that Allen calls the “reference point” for this vineyard) and superior premier cru. In Allen’s view, Aux Brulées is a wine “of muscle, rich, that’s reminiscent of Richebourg without the minerality.” Allen explained that the Domaine Méo-Camuzet holds it in such high regard that when visitors come to the domaine, they serve them three of their grand crus before it, with only Cros Parantoux and Richebourg coming after.
The ’97 Jadot Grands-Echezeaux that I tasted may have been from a faulty bottle–my buddy Eric Lundblad tasted from a different bottle after the seminar which he said was showing a little better–as it was definitely fading in the glass, and lacked the power and depth I expect from a Grands-Ech. Allen opined that Jadot made some of the best ’97s among negociants, having managed to get ripe but not roasted fruit. He also said that Grands-Echezeaux is the “value play” of grand crus in Vosne, although you “never find the same level of finesse in them as in more refined grand crus.” Our other GC, the ’01 Charlopin-Parizot Echezeaux, was the weakest wine of the tasting. Allen told us ’01 is one of his favorite vintages for drinking today, with finesse, but not lightness, and the fact that many are ready for drinking already. He also explained that this wine was from a third of a hectare Philippe Charlopin owned in the En Orveaux climat of Echezeaux, a climat he shares with Sylvain Cathiard.
I rather liked the Mugneret-Gibourg villages ’06, which has some potential for development. Allen told us that the ’06 vintage “had the unfortunate occurrence to come after ’05.” He described it as a “lovely vintage, especially in the Côte de Nuits.” He thinks it will be a medium-term vintage, worth holding for awhile, but also drinkable while we’re still waiting for the ’05s to come around. Allen personally likes to drink his Burgs “when you can start to see secondary characteristics.” I thought our ’98 Rouget villages wine, from a few parcels Rouget’s uncle Henri Jayer used for his Vosne villages, including a parcel right next to Jayer’s house, in Vigneaux, was less successful than the Mugneret-Gibourg, but decent for a villages.
The remaining wine, that my row and the couple in front of mine received, was the ’99 Dominique Laurent Aux Malconsorts. It was beefy, powerful, and tight yet. It led Allen to talk at length about Malconsorts as an underrated premier cru, and one that he believes will be seen as being in the very top rank of Vosne premier crus in the future, in part because one of the historically underperforming producers, Thomas-Moillard, sold off his large parcel in recent years to two superior producers, de Montille and Dujac. Here’s a clip of Allen talking about the vineyard:
- 2006 Domaine Georges Mugneret/Mugneret-Gibourg Vosne-Romanée – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée
Dark cherry red color; bright cherry, mineral nose; tasty, tart red fruit, lifted, rosehips palate with medium acidity; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
- 1998 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanée – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée
Rosehips, floral, tart red fruit nose; solid, tart red fruit, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
- 1999 Dominique Laurent Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
Dark cherry red color; beefy, savory, bacon fat nose; tight, beefy, mineral palate with firm tannins, still needs a few years; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
- 2002 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brulees – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
Medium dark cherry red color; mushroom, roses, loamy soil nose; tasty, elegant, roses, tart cherry, cinnamon, rosehips palate with depth and structure; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
- 1997 Louis Jadot Grands-Echezeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru
Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; cedar, redwood, chlorine, mushroom nose; mature, fading, tart red fruit, mushroom palate with firm tannins; medium finish (87 pts.)
- 2001 Domaine Philippe Charlopin-Parizot Echezeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru
Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; VA, bean dip, raspberry, menthol, forest floor nose; tart red fruit, mushroom palate, probably heat damaged; medium finish (86 pts.)
Here’s Allen, after the seminar, answering my question as to what was the single most surprising thing he learned in doing his exhaustive research for the book: