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