Aged Beaujolais tried in Bistro du Vin, Hong Kong.Read More
Nobody is more disappointed than myself, when I say I don't remember what I drank that night at a St Aubin White Blind Tasting last week. Super pumped for this event, I was ready to record meticulous tasting notes for you readers here, from top producers such as Bachelet, Ramonet, Lamy and more.
In end, I committed a huge mistake – that is I got shit faced. That is quite obvious in hindsight, however I had too much hubris and forgot many valuable lessons from US undergraduate collegiate life: eat before you drink and pace yourself. This tasting was done with friends so no professional faux pas was made.
To help you, my dear readers, in hosting your own blind tastings, do make a note of the following lessons I learnt the hard way:
- Stay Organised (a.k.a. the hardest part).
- Ideally you have someone not involved in the blind tasting to help you organise the bottles so that you only know what you brought.
- Bring numbered bottle socks to keep the order straight.
- Record which number bottle is brought by whom before you start.
- Slow down. For some reason, many people like to breeze through the wines to get a quick "feel" for them before tasting begins. However you can honestly go at your own pace, if you stay organised and know which bottle is which. Then you can really go at without worrying about mixups, hence why staying relatively organised makes it so important!
- Bring spittoons. Sounds unnecessary when the tastings themselves are not professional and purely for fun but quickly after going through a few faulty bottles or an overly generous pour, you don't have to commit to drinking the whole thing or find the nearest sink to pour. This also is relevant to points 1-3.
- Optional: Additional glasses. This is optional because it's understandable not everybody has enough glassware around to do this. However it really helps to discern between two very similar wines and allows you to revisit.
Organising a blind tasting isn't as hard as it sounds. To be honest, it's the best kind of tasting in terms of pushing your experience, biases and palette, in a structured way. However when you have a lot of bottles and a lot eager drinkers, you can easily overwhelm yourself and get in over your head.
Any other tips? Let me know!
It is not often you get to meet a vigneron early on in his/her career nor one openminded enough to be interviewed on how he/she is transitioning to his/her role as regisseur of a domaine. Yet Thibaud Clerget was clearly up to it when I approached him during his visit to Hong Kong last month.
He is latest amongst a long line of Clergets dating back to 1268 to make wines in Burgundy at the family estate of Domaine Y. Clerget. After his father Yvon (the Y in Y. Clerget) retired in 2009, the grapes from the family domaine were sold to négociants until Thibaud stepped in officially in 2015. Before he took over he had learned winemaking from Lycée Viticole in Beaune, Hudelot Noellat, Domaine Drouhin in Oregon and Giesen Wines in New Zealand before returning to Pommard, where he is now based. The domaines holdings include: Volnay, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle Sous La Chappelle, Volnay 1er Cru Santenots and monopole Volnay 1er Cru Clos de Versuil (just north of one of my favourite, Volnay 1er cru Taille Pieds).
You are a very young winemaker but have you always been interested in winemaking? What were you first career goals? Did you struggle to make a choice or was it an obvious and easy one?
Yes, of course, when you are born in a winemaking family and wine producing region, it’s inevitable and I have always liked wine. When I was young I wanted to attend a golf school to become a professional player but in the end I preferred taking over the family business. But my father let me choose my career and I took my own decisions.
How come there was no smooth handover from your father’s last vintage (2009) to your first vintage (2015)?
My father was here to support me and he was always here to answer my questions but he trusted me and let me work the way I wanted and respected my decisions and choices.
You have studied at Beaune Wine University, shadowed Hudelot Noellat, and went to work in Giesen Winery in New Zealand and Domaine Drouhin in Oregon. What was your biggest learning experience and how does that inform your winemaking now?
The Beaune Wine university was a great place to gather theoretical knowledge and my working experience with Hudelot Noellat was very enriching as it taught me lot about the wines I wanted to make. The last working experience at Drouhin was an amazing experience from a human point of view and their winemaking techniques were very interesting.
2016 was an exceptionally difficult vintage, even for the most experienced winemakers. What was your biggest challenge in 2016 and what did you to do manage it?
2016 was indeed difficult because of the frost. During this difficult period, my father was here and other wine producers were close and supportive of one another. It was really hard not to have a lot of grapes in the vineyards but I eventually manage to go through.
Domaines that have as much history as yours have a hard time balancing their legacy and yet continue to modernize. Do you face such challenges? What is your vision for the family domaine? What kind of wines do you want to make?
Yes, we have a family heritage and the domaine is evolving with the years, it’s not an issue for us to maintain our heritage and modernise our business. I do respect what I was given and I’m liable to my family heritage. I want to make wines that respect the pinot noir, elegant, subtle and fine wines in accordance with each vintage and appellation.
Do you still work closely with your father Yvon Clerget? What kind of advice did he give you and that you continue to use for winemaking today?
My father has an eye on the family domaine because it’s part of his life but he trust me regarding the business and enjoys being retired.
His first vintage of 2015 garnered praise from Steen Ohman to Allen Meadows. His 2016s from what I tasted were fresh, vibrant and easily approachable. He used little to no new oak as he wanted the wines to be more approachable young, which I noticed is an increasing trend across Burgundy it seems these days.
Domaine Y. Clerget is promising and it shows that though Thibaud is young, there is a whole village in supporting him and his growth as a winemaker. Yvon, though comfortably retired, remains a guiding force for his son. I see some parallels between him and Benjamin Leroux, another young winemaker that started in Pommard with Domaine du Comte Armand. Benjamin was ambitious and within a decade, he is now making beautiful wines now across multiple appellations. Thibaud has the benefit of already having a family domaine to work with so we shouldn't have to wait very long to see whether he will be making the best wines in his appellation if not the greater Côte at large. He is not however the only young ambitious vigneron, particularly with competition the likes of Maxime Cheurlin of Domaine George Noellat and Charles Lachaux of Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux but for us consumers, competition makes for better wines all around in and out of the Côte.
This Friday saw the launch of a new Burgundy domaine here in Hong Kong: Domaine Arnaud Mortet. The winemaker is Arnaud Mortet himself, best known for his work at his family domaine Domaine Denis Mortet based in Gevrey Chambertin. Domaine Denis Mortet is a cult domaine that quickly rose in status after Arnaud father's Denis took over in 1978 at the age of 22 with his wife and Arnaud's mother, Lawrence. However he tragically died in 2006 and Arnaud took up the full mantle of chief winemaker since. The family has plots in Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot, 1er Cru Les Champeaux, 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques and noted village wine Gevrey Chambertin 'Mes Cinq Terroirs', amongst others. It makes sense then that Arnaud would feel comfortable to acquire more prime parcels of Gevrey Chambertin such as Charmes Chambertin, Mazoyeres Chambertin, 1er Cru La Perriere, 1er Cru Lavaux-St-Jacques and of course more Gevrey village. Overall the vineyards are not certified organic but the methods are minimalist and most amendments are organic.
There is a definitely difference if you were to strictly compare the wines from Domaine Denis Mortet and Domaine Arnaud Mortet. Given that the parcels have only been recently acquired, it will need at least 2-3 years to get achieve the desired domaine style, according to Arnaud Mortet himself. It is also one that I look forward to try again and again at least 3 vintages on and more although the first vintage of 2016 under Arnaud is already proving to be immensely pleasurable and enjoyable.
Gevrey Chambertin 2016
Avg vine age: 50 years. Avg production: 12,000 bottles.
These are made up of parcels located to the South and East of the appellation with some to North. There is a good mixture and combination here that gives it complexity and richness for village level wine. The nose here is quite chewy and not quite accessible, however the fruit is obvious here with generous almost bubblegum like notes coating the mouth. Aged only in 1/3 new oak, it is approachable but also should not have problems in the cellar.
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru “La Perriere” 2016
Avg vine age: 60 years. Avg production: 2,000 bottles.
This plot is located below Mazis Chambertin, half calcareous clay soil and half marl. It is a combination of two parcels, one that is 40 years old and another that is an incredible 80 years. There is not much on the nose again, being such a young wine, however the palate is astonishing. The wine is extremely approachable yet shows complexity, depth and fruit. With 50% new oak, there is enough heft for this to age well.
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru “Lavaux St. Jacques” 2016
Avg vine age: 70 years. Avg production: 1,200 bottles.
This is Arnaud's favourite parcel and for good reason. Firstly, it is located next to the legendary Clos St. Jacques and shares a number of similar characteristics, such as the slope, soil composition and the breeze that goes through Combe, adding freshness to the grapes. Secondly, like Clos St. Jacques, Lavaux St. Jacques is capable of producing grand cru quality wines in hot vintages such as 2005. In contrast to the approachability of the first two wines above, the Lavaux St. Jacques is hard to open at the first and the nose is almost reduced. However after sometime, with some more air act, it opens up softly and blooms. This is a wine with lots to give but of course in return, you need to give it time. And you should because with up to 70% new oak, this is a heavily structure wine with exceptional profile that is sure to age flawlessly. Something to revisit in the future with the dense fruit of this particular vintage.
Gevrey Chambertin Mazoyeres-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016
Avg vine age: 45 years. Avg production: 1,800 bottles.
This is a personal favourite climat of mine (not that you cared). It's a trustworthy reliable grand cru that seems to always deliver no matter the producer. Arguably, that makes it much less interesting I suppose for bigger wine geeks out there but there is something is so enticing and seductive in the elegance and opulence of wines from this climat. Not to mention the accessibility! The nose is suprisingly open, pretty and expressive with a complex, intense palate of luscious ripe berries. Mazoyeres tends to produced easily identifiable rich, well rounded wines and in such a dense vintage of 2016, drinking this feels almost like eating the grape itself.
Gevrey Chambertin Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016
Avg vine age: 40 years old. Avg production : 800 bottles.
I am biased in that I have never been particularly charmed by this lieu-dit but Arnaud Mortet has certainly put his best foot forward in form of these 2016s. While sampled next the Mazoyeres, the wines here are evidently more mineral and savoury on the palate. The nose here was more refined and delicately perfumed, in contrast to the in your face flash of fruit of the Mazoyeres. It does lack the oomp and pizzaz of the Lavaux and Mazoyeres yet Charmes should not be prematurely judged. I am sure in due time–with age–can be fantastic and tasty in its own right.
In my absence for over a month on this blog (yikes!) I have been drinking very well thanks (not that you were asking). One of these momentous occasions was this Rousseau Dinner last month at Serge et le Phoque.
Domaine Armand Rousseau is one of those legendary domaines that you are always keen to try (and for sure know that you would LOVE) but never have the budget to really go for it. This time I tasted the Gevrey Chambertin village, the famous premier cru "Clos St. Jacques", Mazy Chambertin, Clos de La Roche and of course the mighty Chambertin.
In terms of domaine news, Eric is slowly handing the reins over to his daughter Cyrielle, who is continuing her father's well established practices. One of the most significant changes she has made (at least to consumers) is that she took a 25% hike in pricing. It sounds like a massive difference—one that everyone feels down the supply chain—but it makes sense considering the Rousseau has been underpriced for a long time upon release. This more recent change brings it in line with domaines of similar prestige and stature and arguably at an even better level of wine-making.
I have long been a huge fan of Clos St. Jacques, which is a very approachable lieu-dit for Burg rookies like me. It has depth, structure and pronounced notes that make it so easy to love. My favourite version previously has been from Sylvie Esmonin, which I am surprised to find now that is is the parcel that is furthest away from Rousseau's legendary one.
- Armand Rousseau – 2.21 ha
- Sylvie Esmonin – 1.60 ha
- Louis Jadot – 1.00 ha
- Bruno Clair – 1.00 ha
- Fourrier – 0.89 ha
Thanks to extremely clear pic from Steen Öhman, who is by the way godsend when you are trying to find more info on individual parcels or in depth history of any sites (sorry Jasper Morris but you're too brief!), you can see how the almost 1er cru is divided amongst domaines. Interestingly enough the 1er cru only did not become a grand cru was because the previous single owner, Comte de Moucheron, was a royalist and defied the new classifications under the new Republic government. The Comte's land was sold to Rousseau, Fourrier, Esmonin and Claire-Dau and Claire Dau further split and was sold to Jadot and Bruno Clair to the present day holdings as you see above.
As an ardent and vocal fan of Clos St. Jacques, I was well taken back by how much I enjoyed the Chambertin. This seems like a no brainer as Chambertin is ultimately the flagship wine of the estate but I truly had thought my previous experience with this lieu-dits will lead me right back to it. Rousseau's Clos St. Jacques as compared to Esmonin was much more vibrant, powerful and structured, with intense fruit and peppery notes that almost reminded me of well aged Northern Rhone syrah. The taste has redefined the expressiveness, range and capability of the pinot grape to a whole different level. The Chambertin on the other hand had the same intensity, structure and power however the peppery notes were more nuanced, giving it a sense of finesse and elegance that edged it above the Clos St. Jacques.
Although the Mazy and Clos de La Roche were slightly overshadowed by the adoration and attention paid to the Clos St. Jacques and Chambertin, they were both fine well-drinking beautiful wines in their own right.
This dinner proved that in spite of the price hike, Rousseau is very much a domaine worth the time and money to seek out.