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Clos Vougeot Tasting Dinner

September 7, 2010

CLOS VOUGEOT TASTING DINNER – Lupa Trattoria, San Francisco, California (9/2/2010)

I’ve had a lot of Clos Vougeots over the years that reinforce the question many Burgundy fans have as to why this entire vineyard–at 50.59 hectares or over 125 acres, the largest in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits–should be classified as grand cru. As in Echezeaux, the other very large and dubious Côte de Nuits grand cru, there are dozens of owners in this vineyard–about 86 per the last authoritative count I’ve seen–and over 60 different Clos Vougeot bottlings every year. The walled vineyard, built by the Cistercian order of monks in the Middle Ages, and owned by them until the French Revolution, is the only Burgundy grand cru vineyard besides Mazoyeres-Chambertin whose land runs right down to the main road, adjoining vineyards that, just over the wall to the south, are only entitled to villages status. Nonetheless, there are also some very good examples, typically from the best-drained upper third or so of the vineyard, closest to Grands Echezeaux.

When our gang settled on a Clos Vougeot theme for our latest dinner gathering, I signed up expecting to enjoy the company more than the wine. While the company, and Lupa’s food, were excellent as usual, we were also fortunate to have some very good Clos Vougeots, on the whole much better than I anticipated. We poured them all blind, divided into two flights, the first comprised of our three reps from the current decade and the second featuring our older bottles.

My favorite of the whole evening happened to be the one I brought, which I’d never tasted before. I sought it out after reading Jancis Robinson’s lengthy report on a blindtasting she attended this past July of over fifty 2008 Clos Vougeots. The Leymarie stood out for her in that tasting as one of her favorites, which was a surprise to her as she knew little about this property. Leymarie-Ceci is a very small Vougeot domaine which started in 1933 with a little more than half a hectare of Clos Vougeot, at the top of the vineyard, in the Petit Maupertit climat, abutting Grands Echezeaux. This plot was purchased “impulsively,” according to the Maison Leymarie website, by Belgian wine merchant Charles Leymarie. (In the ’70s, Charles’s son René acquired additional vineyard parcels in Burgundy, and the family also owns two properties in Pomerol and one in Canon-Fronsac.) The grapes are totally destemmed and the wines are given 30% or more new wood. Jancis found the ’08 sample she tasted to have “no shortage of stuffing and pleasure.” Intrigued by her write up, I looked for a mature sample to bring to this tasting. There is virtually none available in the U.S., but one store had two bottles of the ’90, so I snapped them up. Silky textured, with plenty of bright red fruit and a beautiful nose, I was delighted that it was showing as well as it was, and it was WOTF for most of the group.

For more details on the wines we tasted, including our delicious 1970 Port, please see below.

White Burgs

We started with a couple of whites, both poured blind. The ’06 Jadot Les Genevrières was so fruit forward and concentrated that I could easily have taken it for one of the better Cali Chards. The ’02 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet was starting to show some oxidation.

  • 2006 Louis Jadot Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Light golden yellow color; lovely lemon, vanilla, pineapple nose; tasty, rich, pineapple, vanilla, lemon palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet
    Light medium golden yellow color; raw egg, citrus, light hazelnut nose; slightly oxidized, nutty, citrus, mineral palate; medium finish (90 pts.)

Clos Vougeot Flight 1

For round one of our theme reds, we blindtasted our three youngsters. A few of us, including me, properly identified the vintages blind after we were told they were ’00, ’01 and ’02. The ’01 Arnoux was the weakest for me of these three. The vines for the Arnoux Clos Vougeot are also from the upper third of the vineyard. The ’02 Jacques Prieur, which was my favorite of this flight, derives from grapes grown in the upper section of the lower one-third of the vineyard, just above parcels farmed by the Raphets. I’m usually a big fan of Anne Gros’s wines, and her little slice of the vineyard comes from one of the two climats thought to be the very best of the 16 contained within the Clos, Le Grand Maupertui (the other most prized climat is called Le Musigni). I found it good but a lot tighter than the delicious Jacques Prieur. I suspect that the vintages these wines hailed from had a lot to do with how they showed, and ’02 was by far the best of these three vintages, and some ’02s, including our very appealing and spicy Jacques Prieur, seem to be starting to show well now.

  • 2000 Domaine Anne Gros Clos Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Dark cherry red color; nice sous bois, cherry, raspberry nose with a touch of brett; tight, tart cherry, red fruit, mineral palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2001 Domaine Robert Arnoux Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Slightly bricking dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; earthy, sous bois, dried cherry nose; brett, mineral, tart red fruit, iron palate with a cliff finish; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2002 Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Very dark cherry red color; spice, incense, mineral, cherry, dried cherry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, spice, dried cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Clos Vougeot Flight 2

Round two was also poured blind, but turned out to include a pair of ’90s and a mini-vertical of Louis Jadot. I’ve already talked about the ’90 Leymarie in my introduction above. Both our Louis Jadots were quite similar, and there was less apparent vintage difference than I would have expected. 1997 was a more challenging vintage, but Allen Meadows says that Jadot made some of the best ’97s, and our bottle certainly bore out that view. Jadot’s substantial 2.15 hectare parcel is a slice of the bottom half of the vineyard, down toward the southern end of the Clos. The Jacques Prieur ’90 did not show at all as well as the ’02 had, and seemed quite mature and lacking in focus compared to the ’90 Leymarie.

  • 1996 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Slightly bricking medium cherry red color; maturing, mushroom, dried cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, deep, ripe and tart red fruit, tart raspberry, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 1997 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Dark cherry red color; baked red fruit, dried cherry nose with a touch of forest floor; tasty, maturing, tart cherry, red raspberry, mineral palate with grip; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 1990 Leymarie Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Bricking medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; mature, mushroom, baked red fruit, raspberry mousse nose; silky textured, mature, bright, baked cherry, raspberry, solid palate; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 1990 Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Bricking, slightly cloudy, medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; mature, mushroom, baked cherry, raspberry nose; ripe cherry, raspberry, lacking some focus though, with good acidity; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

’70 Port

The last time I had this vintage of Warre was at a tasting in the Graham Lodge in Oporto with Dominic Symington this past May. This bottle, imported by pioneering American importer Frank Schoonmaker, tasted very similar to that one–delicious and well structured.

  • 1970 Warre Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Bricking medium cherry red color with clear meniscus; VA, baked cherry, red bean, raspberry nose; tasty, rich, red berry, baked cherry, red bean palate, delicious; long finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)

Z-H finish

I don’t know that we needed another sweet wine to end on after the Warre, but we got to have one anyway. I usually very much enjoy Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Grises, and this is one of Z-H’s Grand Cru vineyards. I’d had this wine twice before, and this was the best showing of the three times I’ve had it.

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