And The Winner Is??

And  there were a lot of TOP bottles.

Executive Wine Seminars: 2009 Red Burgundies: The Grand Crus
By Howard Kaplan

The 2009 vintage was a gift to France in many ways:  magnificent Bordeaux, luscious Rhônes, delicious cru Beaujolais, and the sexiest red Burgundies since 1990, but with better structure and balance.  For us, there is no debating this statement, as our first tasting of 2009 Red Burgundies (the premier crus) certainly confirmed the extraordinary high quality of the vintage.

For this top-of-the-line grand cru tasting, we assembled a stellar group of 2009 red Burgundies from a wide range of appellations.  Each wine came to the tasting with great reviews from the wine press and/or was a favorite of EWS.

All attendees arrived with high expectations given the strength of our lineup.  They were not disappointed, as this set of 2009s read the script.  All of the accolades are true.  To categorize the top 2009 red Burgundies as anything less than magnificent is to misread the vintage.  Even someone with a palate of stone can appreciate the special nature of the 2009s, Burgundy at its best!

As delicious as they were, this group of 2009s generally fell into two categories:  young and painfully young.  Some wines, like our runaway winner (the 2009 Bonnes-Mares from Lucien Le Moine), were almost there, revealing nuance to please the technicians and seductive fruit for the hedonists.  Other wines were intellectually stimulating, but were in a dumb phase and far away from peak drinking.

In the end, there can be no doubt that the best 2009 red Burgundies should be considered among the most coveted cellar treasures in any wine collection.  They are that good.

The following are consensus tasting notes, written to share commentary and descriptors and to convey the overall impression our group had for each wine.  Ratings reflect the quality of the wines and the enthusiasm (or lack thereof) displayed by our group of 21 attendees during our in-depth discussions.  Note that our ratings are more reflective of the « here and now » than of future development.  In this case, all of the 2009s tasted will improve with cellaring, as I’ve indicated with + marks next to the ratings.

Wines were poured in three flights from numbered bags (1 through 13) and are listed below in the order in which they were poured.  Participants were asked to vote (by number) for their three favorite wines.  We award three points for every first-place vote, two for every second-place vote, and one point for every third, allowing for ties (which explains 22 first-place votes.)

Data is based on 21 voters.  Voting tallies: 1st/2nd/3rd

1) Grands-Echezeaux Cuvée Vieilles Vignes (Dominique Laurent)  –  5 points (0/1/3)  –  93+ rating
Medium-light color.  Pleasing bouquet is somewhat restrained, but keeps improving with aeration.  Notes include dark plum, black raspberry, violet, smoke, spice, black licorice and minty chewing gum.  Terrific impact in the mouth; very rich and youthful, made in the modern style.  There’s excellent structure, gobs of luscious fruit extract, and lots of spice, with noticeable tannins and alcohol as well.  Opens nicely as it sits, and finishes with moderate length.  Should be incredible when fully mature.

2) Romanée-Saint-Vivant (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti)  –  1 point (0/0/1)  –  92++ rating
Medium saturated color.  Sweet, oaky, rich nose is very attractive, with scents that recall black raspberry, minerals, smoke, anchovy and wintergreen.  Extremely youthful on the palate; firm and juicy, with outstanding acidity.  This wine is quite tannic, complex and layered, but it clearly needs cellaring.  It’s tight, with a wet wool note, and some alcohol on the very long, penetrating finish.  Great future.

3) Bonnes Mares (Domaine Georges Roumier)  –  0 points  –  92+ rating
Medium saturated color.  Rather tight, high-toned nose features subtle hints of red berry fruits, macerated cherries and black olive.  More expressive on the palate, with lots of spice.  It’s sweet and flavorful, with notes of cinnamon, black pepper and clove.  Wine #3 is nicely balanced and youthful, and has decent acidity and noticeable tannins, but the fruit is being « held back » right now.  The finish is extra long and consistent.  This is a great food wine with a promising future.

4) Clos Vougeot (Domaine d’Eugenie)  –  5 points (0/1/3)  –  93+ rating
Medium-light color.  Open, toasty nose is gorgeous, with smoke that seems to come from cherry wood.  The black cherry fruit is sweet and alluring.  In the mouth, this is an impressive, rich, complex, high-acid wine.  There’s a soft, accessible entry with excellent structure and a slightly caramelized dark fruit quality.  While this wine displays a cornucopia of assets, it is still very young, with firm, substantial tannin to shed.  The finish is long, sexy and dusty, with a note of talc.  Just another 2009 with a bright future!

5) Corton Clos du Roi (Domaine de la Pousse d’Or)  –  4 points (1/0/1)  –  93+ rating
Fairly deep color.  Open, attractive aromas are filled with scents of blackberry, earth, licorice, spice, forest floor, and decayed, burnt flowers.  Most attendees think it’s the prettiest and most complex nose in the first flight.  In the mouth, still fairly restrained and unforthcoming.  It is clearly a wine with excellent structure and acidity, with nice overall balance and complexity.  The finish is long, turning tart near the end.  Like the others in this flight, wine #5 needs time to evolve.

6) Clos de Tart Monopole (Domaine du Clos de Tart)  –  13 points (2/2/3)  –  94+ rating
Medium saturated color.  Rich, sweet, attractive nose is expressive, very Burgundian, and a crowd-pleaser.  We get notes of black raspberry, mint, tangerine, smoked meat, spice and oak.  Powerful and complex on entry, with great concentration.  It’s a youthful, harmonious, lovely, « classical » Burgundy with moderate tannins.  The finish is very long and consistent.  The 2009 Clos de Tart is holding something back right now, but has a promising future.

7) Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes (Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé)  –  2 points (0/1/0)  –  91+ rating
Medium saturated color.  Sweet, somewhat muted nose features cinnamon-tinged dark berry fruit, cigar wrapper, cedar and spice.  Follows through nicely on the palate; well-structured, with terrific acidity.  This youthful wine is lighter than #6 and is showing a bit too much alcohol right now.  It’s not flashy, and one participant calls it « narrow, » but we enjoy the flavors.  Long finish displays lots of « Swiss chard » bitterness at the end.  Needs time.

8) Bonnes Mares (Lucien Le Moine)  –  50 points (14/3/2)  –  98+ rating
Fairly light color.  Hauntingly beautiful aromas remind us of black cherry, black raspberry, licorice, cola syrup, sassafras, root beer, minerals and spice.  Sweet and seductive in the mouth; the hedonists are in heaven!  This is a flat-out delicious wine that finds us riveted in our seats in awe.  It’s a complex 2009 with a strong sense of terroir and dancing minerals.  The fruit here is special.  Moderate tannins and firm structure suggest that #8 will age well.  Spectacular, extra-long spicy finish.  Everyone LOVED this wine, the runaway first-place winner!

9) Echezeaux (Louis Jadot)  –  0 points  –  89++ rating
Medium saturated color.  Very closed nose makes it challenging to evaluate and difficult to get into specific descriptors.  It’s sweet, with a faint mustard green scent, without the spice.  Rich and tannic in the mouth, but this musclebound 2009 is as unevolved flavor-wise as the aromatics suggest.  It’s more generic than specific tonight, rather flat, with below-average acidity.  A long, consistent finish almost saves the day, but this Echezeaux was clearly not in a prime-drinking mode.

10) Chambertin Clos de Bèze (Olivier Bernstein)  –  4 points (1/0/1)  –  94+ rating
Fairly deep color.  Gorgeous nose is open and expansive, with notable notes of black raspberry, bacon fat, licorice and black olive.  Sensational in the mouth; sexy, creamy and totally delicious.  It’s a tannic, youthful, rather firm wine with excellent acidity.  We enjoy the sweet dark berry and cinnamon flavors.  Wine #10 is perfectly balanced and finishes with length and consistency.  Impressive showing, great future.

11) Musigny (Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier)  –  1 point (0/0/1)  –  90+ rating
Medium saturated color.  Open, complex, sweet « candied » nose features red berry scents, smoke, pepper, violet, minerals and a lot of alcohol.  On the palate, wine #11 seems to be dominated by alcoholic intensity and a medicinal cherry syrup flavor.  There’s excellent fruit extraction, but some tasters are bothered by excessive sweetness.  The sugar and alcohol issues remain through a long finish.  Put this baby in the wine cellar.

12) Clos de la Roche Cuvée Vieilles Vignes (Domaine Ponsot)  –  14 points (2/2/4)  –  95+ rating
Medium saturated color.  Very attractive sweet nose, although somewhat muted.  It features lots of ripe fruit, black earth and smoke.  There’s a great iron ore minerality in the mouth, with a sense of terroir.  No doubt this is a real Burgundy!  It’s a sweet, sappy, powerful, concentrated, structured wine, quite youthful, with a gamey wildness and excellent dark fruit extraction.  It’s a little hot in the finish, but that isn’t enough to dissuade us from really liking this Clos de la Roche.  Great future!

13) Mazis-Chambertin (Faiveley)  –  28 points (2/9/4)  –  96+ rating
Fairly light color.  Ethereal nose leans toward the modern style with the influence of new oak.  But it’s so much more than that, a wine with great complexity, elegant cherry fruit, spice, pepper and earth.  Sweet and seductive on the palate, a truly exciting wine that deftly combines richness with elegance.  The fruit is gorgeous; sweet, spicy and totally delicious.  This refined 2009 isn’t a heavyweight, but it impresses us in so many other ways, especially the extra-long finish.  Wow, what a great way to end the tasting!