Today is Seminar 2 of the 2019 Negociants Working With Wine Program; a biennial wine masterclass series brought to Australia by premier importer and distributor Negociants Australia.
This seminar is focused on Pinot Noir, with a selection of flights centred on Burgundy, plus top NZ and Australian Pinot Noir to answer the question ‘Is it possible to be Burgundian in the New World?’.
Domaine Dujac’s Jeremy Seysses is here to talk Burgundy, with Peter Caldwell of Dalrymple, and Helen Masters from Ata Rangi for more perspective with Nick Ryan as the panel anchor. You’ll see the quotes referenced with initials of each member.
As with Seminar 1, I’m writing this as we go with my giant laptop (I love my big 15.6″ screen but it’s tricky with small tables), so notes and quotes are as written while juggling glass, spitoon and laptop.
Lucky the wines are worth it.
Oh and my scoring is harsh in the scheme of things. Many of these wines I’d probably give even more points after draining a bottle.
Flight 1 – Burgundy north to south
JS: ‘A traumatic year for Burgundy growers with heavy frosts. South of Nuits st Georges, Chambolle and more got frosted. After the frost we had a wet spring with huge downy mildew problems. Many growers got caught out as a result. But a lovely warm summer and in the end no real heat, in the end really balanced wines. Maybe a little angular in those vineyards that got frosted. Like 4 hectolitres per hectare yields in Chambolle for Jeremy. This is a vintage that is hard to pick out one feature, the wines are just really nicely balanced. Nothing sticks out. Wines are really balanced’.
‘Keep in mind these are small towns, small villages’.
Geantet-Pansiot Gevrey-Chambertin 2016
JS: ‘Likely 100% destemmed. In the 90s there was a big move towards extraction, and Gevrey was the epic centre. Lots of cold soak and dark wines. A little less now, but still dark’.
Really pure red fruit here but with an animal side. It’s like a guttural, blood and bone edge. Quite grippy too. Substantial. Drying. Not what you’d call pretty, but plenty of red fruit in there still. I like. Substantial if a bit meaty and less juicy. 17.7/20, 92/100
Domaine Dujac Morey-Saint-Denis 2016
90% whole bunch. Jeremy sees cinnamon and slight grainy tannins. ‘They’re not wines of immense polish’
Pretty nose. Glace red fruit. Pure. The palate picks up pace with more mushroom, more grip, more depth. Very much a classical Burgundy, complete with tannin grip too. Lovely pure red fruit – an airy, pretty Burgundy, except with tannins. There’s maybe an extra layer not here, but its a village wine. 18/20, 93/100.
Domaine Comte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanee 2016
Plenty of flattering oak, but so well integrated. This feels instantly complete. There’s a push towards red fruit, classy oak fills out the palate, the palate unwavering with its beautiful fruit and then it builds weight. I can’t fault the way this flows – it’s Burgundy 101, in the best possible way. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Domaine Faiveley Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru ‘Aux Chaignots’ 2016
A step behind in this bracket. It’s a bit creaky, the acid seems a bit intrusive and it doesn’t feel quite clean. Mildew? Finessed tannins but it also feels a bit mixed ripeness. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley Volnay Vieilles Vignes 2016
There’s a really clear personality here – old vines, very pure fruit. It’s almost too singular as if it’s missing an extra factor of structure. But as a pure expression of that Volnay beauty, it’s bang on. I want a little more tannins, but it’s silky and lucid red fruit. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Flight 2 – 2014 vintage through a Dujac prism
Dujac is a relatively young domain, setup in 1968. JS: ‘My father bought a small holding in Morey of 4.5ha now its 17.5ha. 1968 was a horrible horrible year. 45 days of rain in the lead up to harvest. 1969 he made some delicious wines and they remain a reference point for the domaine’. Typically whole cluster for Jeremy’s father, they only bought a destemmer twenty years ago! JS: ‘2014 would once have been normal. A little bit of botrytis. Solidity of nerves, while you wait for your grapes to ripen, was the main problem’.
2014 was not especially tannic and Jeremy doesn’t use less whole bunches in cooler years. JS: ‘I can always justify whole bunches’. ‘The only times when I feel whole bunch works less well is in some parcels. Like Gevrey Chambertin which doesn’t need it’.
JS: ‘Grand Cru in Burgundy makes you feel more cleverer than you are. Grand Cru things tend to go right. I’ve made mistakes in winemaking with vineyards that are less good’.
JS: ‘As we move to organics and biodynamics we have noticed more tannins. I get tannins in must which is very unusual. It could be as a product of warm vintages too, but it happens more and more’.
JS: ‘I don’t think chaptilisation changes flavour, but it does change textures’.
Domaine Dujac Morey-Saint-Denis 2014
You can see the first expressions of age here – a whisper of forest floor. Immediately this is different to the 16 – less pretty, more brackish, drying, less generous. There’s still great lines here, but its not an expressive wine. More closed. Quality Burgundy, but not open, and not a fruity wine. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Domaine Dujac Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru 2014
Fascinating to see the jump in concentration and detail here. Welcome to real wine, like a butterfly coming out. It’s still not pretty, or open, but with more ripe fruit through the middle to drive things along. The tannins are a bit dour still, and no shortage of acidity. 18/20, 93/100.
Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2014
Jeremy thinks this is a more closed bottle. More glycerol red fruit, more depth, and feels more complete. It’s still not a great vintage, which makes it hard to justify the step up in price here, but this trades power for character. It’s a moody wine, with more crunch, stern tannins too, the fruit fighting with that dour heaviness to come through. High-quality wine, but doesn’t move me – there just isn’t the energy and life, even though it’s clearly fine. 18.5/20, 93/100+.
Domaine Dujac Clos St Denis Grand Cru 2014
Besides a little VA, this feels less like a wine of the vintage. Riper, cinnamon, ripe red fruits, drying stems. But drive! Long, red fruit, real tannins. Composure that’s missing in the other ’14s, with beauty and layers of flavour. It has Grand Cru flavour and width, even though it’s not as easily loveable. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Flight 3 – Vertical of Aux Combottes
A cru that has been previously pushed for elevation, with Jasper Morris a huge fan of this style. Lies directly adjacent to Latricieres and Mazoyeres.
A tidbit. JS: Burgundy used to be hard to sell, then it got easier, now we turn people away. But now, you can’t grow your business (as vineyards are just getting bought up by outsiders). We’ve gone from a negociant model, to domaine bottled, to maybe more to tenants for other people who own the vineyards’.
Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Aux Combottes’ 2015
Masculine. Brooding, tannic, and frankly not ready. Bordeaux goes to Burgundy. Extractive tannins, the red fruit heads into more dark fruits, ferrous, less polished, but driving flavour. A darker spirit here, maybe even more noticeable alcohol. Impressive, if not strictly seductive. 18.5/20, 94/100+
Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Aux Combottes’ 2010
Much more approachable. Red fruit, fennel, then tannins, tannins, tannins. There’s a cooking smell on the nose that I can’t pin down. It never seems to yeild, the fruit behind a veil of structure. But for sheer depth it is right up there – a near perfect, definition of dark fruit Burgundy. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Aux Combottes’ 2006
To me this seemed just a little bit corked. I’m not rating this. 2nd bottle: Still tight, still primal, it feels like it’s in a transition phase. Closed, waiting. This feels lesser for mine as it just doesn’t sit in primary or secondary flavours. But all the signs suggest greatness to come. 18/20, 93/100+
Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Aux Combottes’ 2002
Fully mature and just delicious. Cranberry spice, cooked mushroom and sous bois. almost fatty and Syrah like, with a long, meaty finish that is beautifully composed. Don’t mention it, but maybe a whisper of good Brett too. Still, this is the wine of the bracket. So long, and open and with drying tannins. A drinking Burgundy. Complete and completely delicious. 19/20, 96/100.
Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Aux Combottes’ 1999
Even more mature, more meat, more wet leaves. In the autumn of its life, the flavours going into darker fruit, autumnal flavours and briar. Just over the hop, perhaps, but it’s completely open and easy. Another drinking wine, a secondary wine of charm. 18.7/20, 94/100.
Flight 4 – New World Pinot Noir New Zealand
It’s so interesting delving into these after the Burgundy. The purity and cleanliness of these wines is on another level. The beautiful fruit, if less tannins. They’re not going to live like the Burgs, but the beauty and the brightness arguably makes for more drinkability.
Fromm Clayvin Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
The Clayvin vineyard lies in the southern Valleys unofficial sub region of Marlborough, with more clay sub in the soil. Reductive nose. Before the 25th March – cyclone Debbie. This is such a pretty wine. This really clear red maroon pretty fruit. For all there is a hint of manure here, though not brett. Something interesting. It’s such a pretty wine too. Maybe a little light on the tannins, but super pretty and lithe. The ideal Marlborough Pinot, even though it looks a little light in context. 18/20, 93/100.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2017
Lovely, just lovely. It’s so pretty, but not facile. I struggle to not drink this, with it’s perfect strawberry fruit, the acidity not intrusive, the background suggestion of stock not enough to detract from the pretty fruit. What a delicious, silken, pure red. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2015
A little cloudy this wines personality. There’s a hint of fern, a little bracken and tomato leaf to the really pretty fruit. It marks this wine, and the palate tends to be drying at the edges too. There’s character, but I don’t find this an embrace. 17.7/20, 92/100
Ata Rangi McCrone Pinot Noir 2015
Intriguingly, this feels closer in character to the ’17 than it does the ’15 Ata Rangi. There seems to be a real line of acidity here, a wash of acidity, even though it’s still more primary than secondary flavours. It’s a pretty wine, again, and the aftertaste is the lovely strawberry flavour. What I want in an Ata Rangi Pinot, even if the pretty, juicy 17 is more fun. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Valli Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
I’m seeing the same suggestion of tomato leaf in this wine. But while the Ata Rangi is pretty on front and back palate, this is more drying, more sophisticated. It’s too high toned to be compared to Burgundy, finessed tannins too. Quality, pretty and yet build weight through its purple fruit. 18/20, 93/100.
Flight 5 – New World Pinot Noir Australia
Ashton Hills Pinot Noir 2016
The panel had a go at this accusing it of ‘lacking the architecture’ compared to other wines in this lineup. But I think it’s excellent. Just excellent. Great to try this after the Burgundy – you can see more warmth of climate to give more glycerol, more red fruit, more fruit sweetness. But the structure, the shape, the tannins mark this as high quality. Bright red raspberry, grippy tannin, long flavours. Perhaps the only challenge here is that there is just the edge of dry red about it. As if the smoky edges of that Adelaide Hills overripeness. Still, it’s excellent, supremely well-handled wine that is too good to be just the ‘standard bottling’ release – it’s on a similar par to the village level Burgundy above. 18/20, 93/100.
Kooyong ‘Haven’ Pinot Noir 2016
Open and expressive, generous and full. Shows none of the heaviness that some Mornington ’16s show. Red lolly raspberry and very pretty and lavish. It’s maybe not as serious as some vintages of Haven, but the lusciousness is pretty damn appealing. Lovely vibrant flavours, the smoky tannins building up through the finish. Grunty. 18/20, 93/100.
Dalrymple Vineyards Cottage Block Pinot Noir 2017
Reductive at first, really shows the whole bunch character, slightly unbalanced palate though. Stemmy wood tannins forward, light fruit second. Good quality, but missing an extra layer to be next level. 17/20, 90/100+
Dalrymple Vineyards Single Site Coal River Valley Pinot Noir 2017
Much better. Pretty fruit, a hint of dandelion, almost plum purple flavour here, squishy purple berry fruit and this lovely purity to it too. Maybe a bit simple, but plays the strength of that plum fruit nicely. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Dalrymple Vineyards Single Site Coal River Valley Pinot Noir 2014
Smoky cinnamon and clove, the flavours already heading into a secondary direction with smoky edges and an oak richness too. Not getting any better, but enjoy the mid-palate depth. 17.5/20, 91/100.