Friday, 10 April 2009

Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 'Clos St Jean' 2005

Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 'Clos St Jean' 2005 (Burgundy, France)
$105, Cork

I don't really 'buy' much white Burgundy. I taste a bit, think about buying a bit, but end up actually purchasing very little. It's a curious situation, given I have quite a penchant for Chardonnay, and will happily fork out my dollars for top shelf Chardonnay based wines from elsewhere. But if ever I needed reminding why I buy so little, it is in this bottle.

The challenge is that buying white Burgundy has become a lottery. Like buying wines at auction, you never really know what each bottle is going to be like, even if you are completely in control of the wines providence. If its not the dreaded random oxidation (randox), its cork taint. If it's not cork taint then it can just be the all encompassing 'bad bottle'. Finally, if its not a bad bottle, its just an average wine, or a good wine that has developed, often prematurely, into an average wine.

So, faced with this situation, the attraction of forking out considerable sums (especially in our exchange rate challenged nation), for what could potentially be a very expensive bottle of average wine, is rather lessened.

This wine then is an ideal example. Having tasted (and enjoyed) the 06 vintage of this very wine, and being a fan of the other Blain Gagnards, I popped one of these in the basket. At $105, its hardly cheap, especially given that I can pick up two bottles of superb Australian, New Zealand, even French, Chardonnay based wines for the same price. But, the rationalisation is that its top quality and thus deserving of the sum.

The wine, however, ultimately falls well short of what is both expected and desired. To make things worse, the variability spectre hangs over the whole experience. You can't just write the wine off with some authority as a 'dud', as you simply can't tell what the next bottle will be like. Will another bottle be better or worse? This didn't smell oxidised or tainted, so we can cross that off, but perhaps its just a ubiquitous bad bottle? Without opening up yet another (potentially average) $105 bottle, I may never really find out...

This Blain Gagnard itself mid yellow in colour, quite bright even, with a nose that is pure white Burgundy. Caramel development, some golden fruit, mealy oak & a slatey, slightly metallic edge. Not bad so far. From here the palate starts out creamy & fat, rich & mouthfilling, but like sand through your fingers, it just falls away. Butterscotch development ultimately renders the back end all awkward and quite unpalatable, ending chunky, ugly & even astringent on the finish, leaving a rather sweet, burnt butter aftertaste. Its all flab and no fruit, with no freshness to be seen

The wine then isn't particularly enjoyable, reminding more of an older Margaret River Chardy, from an indifferent vintage, than supposedly Premier Cru (from an exceptional vintage) white Burgundy.

What this wine also does is remind, yet again, how much I take for granted consistency. The knowledge that most likely, my chosen bottle of (screwcap sealed) Clare Riesling, Marlborough Chardonnay, Alsatian Pinot Blanc, Austrian Gruner, German Riesling & Tasmanian Pinot, will taste near to, or exactly, as the maker intended. Furthermore, until the perilous reliability situation of white Burgundy changes, I won't be buying much in the near future. 15.5


  1. Hi there, I'm Stan, french wine maker, worked in OZ couple of years ago...I now own a wine store near my birth place. See I don't know much about this wine, but can surely relate to the vintage who suposingly was superb. As another paradox, I figured out the too warm years don't give those chardonnay's best wines. 04, and definitely 06 are more interesting. One thing the wines will be fresher as with more natural acidity, In burgundy they don't and CAN'T add tartaric. Just like the 2003, in a lesser way though, the 2005 won't be as good with the whites, as they are with the reds. IE, right now 2006 Côte de Nuits are just perfect, smooth, heaps of fruit,on the contrary 05 which are built to age, are closed, quite harsh, nothing nice at all.... You could try Bernard Moreau,Ramonet(if available at a normal price down under!!!) and other 1erCrus, as the Morgeot, Mourottes,etc..


    PS, Ido have a blog, in frenc, :) where you can find me and my events as well...

  2. G'day Stan,

    Firstly, thanks for stopping by, its rare that we get European opinions on here & different perspectives are definitely appreciated.

    Your spot on wit the 05 White Burgundies - so many are very tight & dry, giving little away at present, especially when placed next to the more open and opulent 06s.

    This wine however was simply a dud - quite forward, even prematurely forward, with its butterscotch overtones. Bad bottle? Could be. Dud wine from a good vintage? Also possible.

    Ah, the perils of (particularly cork sealed) fine wine!


Love to see your comments! Don't forget to tick the 'notify me' box to get followups to your comment!

Don't miss out on a regular (most days!) email wrap of my latest posts: Subscribe Here