I am sincere when I said I am honestly trying to diversify my drinking beyond Burgundy but Burgundy as always, remains the hottest topic in Hong Kong wine circles.
Therefore I couldn't pass up Pearl of Burgundy's En Primeur 2016 Tasting, which includes not only the latest vintage from Burgundy but also the winemakers themselves. This year's line up was a bit different than last year's, most notably no Jean-Marie Fourrier there this year as he had already visited Hong Kong earlier last year in December. There are some new faces such as Thibault from Domaine Y. Clerget, which is his father's domaine. Other participating domaines include:
Côte de Nuits:
- Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin: François Orise
- Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat, Chambolle-Musigny: Charles Van Canneyt
- Domaine Lamarche, Vosne-Romanée: Nicole & Nathalie Lamarche
- Domaine Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin: Pierre Duroché
- Domaine Coquard Loison Fleurot, Flangey-Echezeaux: Claire Fleurot
- Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée: Mathilde Grivot
- Domaine Bizot, Vosne-Romanée: Jean-Yves Bizot & Thomas Berry
- Domaine Jean-Marc Millot, Nuits saint Georges: Alix Millot
- Domaine Henry Gouges, Nuits saint Georges: Grégory & Isabelle Gouges
- Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet, Fixin: Amelie Berthaut
Côte de Beaune:
- Domaine Bernard Moreau, Chassagne- Montrachet: Alexandre Moreau
- Domaine Paul Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet: Chrystelle Mortet-Pillot
- Domaine Y. Clerget: Thibaud Clerget
- Domaine Launay Horiot: Xavier Horiot
- Domaine Tessier, Meursault: Catherine Guillin
- Domaine François Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet: François Carillon
- Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet: Jean-Marc Pillot
- Domaine Michelot, Meursault: Nicolas Mestre
Strangely enough, personally the smaller domaines as oppose to bigger names (such as Fourrier, Cathiard, Roulot, De Montille, Hudelot-Noellat) tasted better. I don't know if it was the expectation or the fact that the more well-known domaines used techniques that required full fermentation etc. but the smaller domaines shone. A few highlights of wines that really stuck with me two weeks on:
Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Caillerets’ 2016
The wines tasted here were the Chassagne-Montrachet village, Chassagne 1er Cru Les Caillerets and Chassagne 1er Cru Morgeot. I think it was important to try the Chassagnes of 2016, given that it was so rare in yield generally speaking. Jean-Marc Pillot is a domaine that I have heard but have yet to try and I have to say the Caillarets was super enjoyable. I personally prefer weightier wines from Meursault but the Caillerets was easy and expressive. It lacks the verve and zing of the better vintages but definitely pretty in the mouth.
Domaine Michelot Meursault ‘Narvaux’ 2016
This is a domaine that is actually located right next to a Meursault domaine that I am much more familier with, Domaine François Mikulski. He brought his Charmes and Genevrieres but the ones that showed best was actually the Narvaux, even if its was the lesser 1er cru of the two. The Narvaux was an absolutely darling, clear, bright and fresh on the very first sip. Charmes and Genevrieres by comparison, was less eager to show off but you can tell that there is a certain depth and minerality that is telling of their age-ability. Winemaker Nicolas Mestre (Michelot is his mother's domaine) was very kind in walking me through the Meursault parcels, which I think is exactly reflective of the charm of smaller domaines!
Domaine Coquard-Loison-Fleurot Clos de La Roche Grand Cru 2016
I am speaking as someone who doesn't think much of Ponsot's Clos de La Roche (spoiled, I know). However trying this alongside their 1er crus and other grand crus, this stood out in it's majesty and roundess of the nose and palette. Morey St. Denis if memory serves, was not too affected by the frost compared to its neighbour Gevrey Chambertin and it shows. Beautiful palette, good structure and finish. Considering the price that Pearl of Burgundy is offering the wines at, I would definitely pick up as many cases as I can.
Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Echezeaux Grand Cru 2016
This is another small domaine that I haven't had much exposure to. I tried the Echezeaux alongside his Suchot, which was also just wonderful. Echezeaux again is another lieu-dit that so far has yet to wow me (although I have heard great things from Liger-Belair and Anne Gros Echezeaux—one of these days I suppose) so I was completely shocked and pleasantly surprised by the intensity, opulence and generosity of this wine. And the most amazing thing was, given how expressive the wines were, I was sure they were opened hours before to bottle breathe. However after the wines were quickly gone, they opened another bottle right in front of me. Holy shit! Even though the cork was only pulled seconds before wine was poured into my glass, there was no hint of reductiveness that almost all new wines have. I don't know if it means that this is a wine that cannot age but my guts tell me those lush notes will only get more nuanced with age. DAMN.
Domaine Bizot Echezeaux Grand Cru 2015
This was perhaps the hottest wine of the night with Jean-Yves Bizot and his right hand man, Thomas Berry, present in the evening. Bizot is a rather low key producer, even for by typical Burgundian vigneron standards so I was surprised to see him in person in Hong Kong. I didn't get a chance to talk to either man as they were surrounded by some seriously fierce groupies (if middle-aged, mostly white, male bankers can be described as such) but I did get a few sips of the wines. The 2015s compared to the 2014s is more easily palatable and maybe it was the natural wine techniques but it was super lush and vibrant. The grand cru quality shone through but lack of sulphite actually gives a distinct complexity lends a certain dimension not offered by other domaines and their respective techniques. Truly excellent.
The big takeaway for the 2016 is that despite stories of Jack the Frost and more (if you have already read Neal Martin's exceptionally flamboyant review of the complex vintage), the wines are doing ravishingly well and superbly approachable now even its current unfinished, unbottled form. I do not have the experience to confidently say how these will age later on but sensing the density of the fruit and surprising amount of structure to them, I am sure quite a few (not all) will do very well in the cellar.
Another takeaway is that even though the reds have all the spotlight this year (but when doesn't it?) is that the whites are quite enjoyable across Chassagne, Puligny, St. Aubin and Meursault. It does differ from producer to producer and appellation to appellation but as a whole, Burgundy whites were criminally underrated. A lot of them has a certain gusto and complexity, which makes them very much enjoyable even if some lack the zing and finish of the glorious 2014s.
Given how much Burgundy en primeur prices have risen despite a somewhat uneven vintage (Bordeaux 2011 flashbacks anyone?) and knowing how good it is in 2017, I am not 100% convinced that the 2016s are worth it. Yet again, for those who are keen and have the bigger purses—this vintage is for you.