A bird’s eye view of Burgundy 2010, thanks to Bouchard Père & Fils
March 13, 2013
2010 combines some of the richness of 2009 with the precision of 2008
Spring is near and as good a time as any for the refined pleasure of Burgundy. The sun is shining in France, as I take another sip of an affordable Monthelie 2009, by well-known producer Bouchard Père & Fils.
Highly acclaimed by critics and customers alike, the 2009 vintage is marked by the sun, providing ripe pleasure. Perhaps especially for cooler soils and lesser-known appellations – such as this village level wine – bright berry fruit aromas, accentuated by an evidently flavorful palate prove irresistible. I had tasted the Monthelie from barrel with Bouchard’s winemaking director Philippe Prost and now, from bottle, this wine proves its promise. The sunny 2009 vintage was particularly kind to colder soils from which this wine emerged. ‘Normally we have rather severe tannins from this appellation,’ Prost had then remarked. But it is not the case with 2009.
Some Burgundy lovers seem less content with 2009. The vintage can lack subtlety, they say. And they favor the 2008 vintage, for its more evident acidity. But as always, it is not so simple. Such broad-stroked assessments mislead. 2008 can be supreme, to be sure. There are some marvelous reds in 2008. But for village level red wines, 2008 can be hard. Furthermore, it can seem an “intellectual” choice lacking the evident charm of 2009. Hedonists will find nirvana in 2009. And the best 2009s express terroir more than any naysayers may think. Based on what both Philippe Prost of Bouchard and Jacques Lardiere of Louis Jadot have said, 2009 is comparable to the 1959 vintage: a great vintage.
But could the happiest of compromises be 2010? 2010 has been called a “promising” vintage. The harvest started at Bouchard on September 20th and finished October 1st. The grapes were small, with concentrated juice. Bottling dates were a little earlier than normal. Many have said that 2010 is like a riper version of 2008. It evokes the “precision” and freshness of 2008, but also some of the “friendliness” – and warmth – of 2009.
Getting a bird’s eye view
Any visit to Burgundy rewards the wine lover. Its myriad plots and micro climates, which yield such varied wines from the single grapes Pinot Noir for red and Chardonnay for white are beautifully highlighted by gently sloping vineyards, separated by some of the most charming villages that France has to offer.
Each time I go, I make it a point to discover a new domain, to meet the owner, to visit the cellar and the vineyard and to taste the wines. It is always beneficial to visit reputable maisons de negoce, as well, because they make wines covering many more appellations than most single domains can. So one can get a “bird’s eye view” of the quality of a given vintage.
One of the very best maisons de negoce today is Bouchard Pere & Fils. Bouchard’s Château de Beaune – in the heart of Beaune – is worth visiting. Constructed between the 11th and 15th centuries, the château includes vast under ground, naturally cold and humid cellar space. In addition to housing older vintages dating to the 19th century, the cellars there offer ideal ambient conditions. Thanks to their natural hygrometry and constant temperatures, the wine enjoy from youth an environment that is perfectly adapted to tranquil ageing.
When I had visited Burgundy in November 2012, I was able to taste a series of 2011s – to get that bird’s eye view. While 2011 is a fine vintage – you can read my notes here on this page – a group of professional tasters and wine bloggers in Washington D.C. discovered the superb quality of 2010, thanks to wines donated by Henriot for a dinner tasting held earlier this year at Lavandou Restaurant, one of the friendliest BYOW bistros in the nation’s capital.
Participants included D.C.-based Burgundy fans Ken Brown, Karl and Adelaide Keller, Howard and Nancy Cooper, Amy Ray, Darryl Priest and Paul Marquardt. Professional wine trade representatives included Ben Gilberti of Calvert Woodley, Tim O’Rourke of Weygand Wine and David Choi, owner of Pearson’s (where a similar version of this article has been published).
Active bloggers and wine writers included Kevin Shin, who is a member of the Grand Jury Europeen and Aaron Nix-Gomez of Hogshead – A Wine Blog. Aaron wrote a fine feature on the tasting and I highly recommend reading it. Also present were the dynamic duo of Annette Schiller, owner of Ombiasy Wine Tours. Annette is organising many tours to wine regions around the world. Her husband Christian Schiller is a very active wine blogger (schiller-wine). He seems to be writing about wine 24/7 with a passion for wine that is hard to match. Be sure to read his account of this Bouchard tasting as well.
Aaron also snapped some great photos (above and below) from the tasting. Finally, Kevin Shin’s copious notes appeared in Cellar Tracker and in Wine Berserkers: click here.
Certainly the highlight of the evening was the 2010 Montrachet. One cannot really understand truly great “Chardonnay” until one tastes Montrachet. Albeit a barrel sample, it combined what one can expect from a truly great wine: on one hand, it was opulent and rich. On the other hand, it exuded delicate elegance. And its very long finish makes life seem all the more appreciable. Professional tasters praise wines that have ‘tension’ – meaning vibrancy on the palate that keeps one interested. The Bouchard Montrachet 2010 was full of this energy. Sourced from soils of gravelly limestone and aged for up to 14 months in no more than 20% new oak, the wine had about 14% alcohol and was totally balanced, caressing the palate while also … impressing it. As fellow taster Aaron Nix-Gomez put it: “precise, focused, and determined.” But because most of us mere mortals cannot afford Montrachet, it is with the lesser-known appellations that a wine producer can prove his mettle, and Bouchard did in 2010.
Meursault Les Clous: This is a wine I had often served while working as a wine steward on Nantucket Island’s Chanticleer Restaurant for a couple of summer seasons. Always fairly priced, Meursault Les Clous is sourced from soils of calcareous marls on a hard platform. Aged for up to 10 months in 15% new oak, the alcohol is a well-integrated 13.5%. This wine displayed wet stone combined with notions of pear and apricot. The verve of the vintage made it both tonic and fresh. A good buy.
Beaune Clos Saint-Landry Monopole: Over dinner at the Bouchard Château last November, we had enjoyed a very good 2002. This wine is not as well known as other Bouchard wines, and yet Bouchard has owned this since … 1791. Coming from just under two hectares of vines on soils of limestone and clay with marls and aged for about 10 months in up to 15% new oak, the wine seemed to have more acidity than the Les Clous – perhaps a bit more substance too on the palate. But Les Clous is a wine that will drink better sooner. Give this a couple years to come together.
Corton Charlemagne: Almost always a pleasure to drink, Bouchard’s Corton Charlemagne mirrored the minerality coming from its limestone soils. Aged for one year in 20% new oak, it was full of energy coming from fine acidity. Its almost 14% alcohol was hard to believe. The palate exuded red apple and citrus notes in a subtle fashion. Fellow taster Kevin Shin called this “a great example of big scale Corton Charlemagne, displaying piercing acidity and incredible minerality,” and I could not agree more. Like the Montrachet, if not quite as impressive, this wine has superb depth and will age well in your cellar. The key advantage here is also the price: it costs about four times less than Montrachet…
Beaune Teurons 1er Cru: Aged about 11 months in 30% new oak, this wine provided “frank” enjoyment. More complex than the Monthelie, for example, with greater freshness, coming no doubt from the predominantly limestone terroir – and the vintage. The tannins also have a refined quality, almost caressing the palate.
Savigny Les Beaune Village: I recently enjoyed a delicious premier cru from Bouchard, Savigny les Beaune Les Lavières, from the 2006 vintage, at a restaurant just outside Strasbourg. In 2010, Bouchard hit a home run on the village level. This exuded deep dark fruit aromatics, preceding brighter red fruit on the palate – certainly an indication of the acidity from the 2010 vintage. Participants often noted that this was among the most “inviting” wines. A “thirst quencher” perhaps? My palate requested more with each sip. “A good restaurant wine,” remarked Kevin Shin. Readers take note: this is hardly a critique. If you come across this wine in a restaurant, do not hesitate!
Volnay Caillerets Ancien Cuvee Carnot 2010: From just over 14 hectares on a slope with excellent southwest exposure, this wine proved so far to be the best of the reds. Bouchard seems to excel with this cuvee. Over dinner at Bouchard last November, the 1962 stole the show (all wines enjoyed ended in “2” because it was 2012…). The 2010’s floral freshness was impressive. The palate exuded ripe fruit, with subtle opulence that teases. Thin layers of limestone and clay on a cracked rocky under soil perhaps lent fine minerality to the wine. The almost 14% alcohol displayed not a hint of heat. As Kevin Shin noted: “Rounder and more complex fruit expression, root beer, fresh beet, raspberry fruits, cherry, flower and limestone. Warm and round palate with good acidity that keeps the wine fresh. Lovely and pretty wine.”
Vosne Romanee: Here a velvety and rich wine, with the palate showing fine balance among acidity, tannins and fruit. Although not a domain wine, the selection of purchased fruit and subsequent vinification ended up with a fine mix of fresh red and black fruit expressions on the nose and the palate – drinking very smoothly.
L’Enfant Jesus, Premier Cru: A few years ago, I had enjoyed a 1976 vintage of this wine. I would say that it could very well be the best Beaune Premier Cru that one can enjoy overall. A “flagship” red from Bouchard, it is made from wines in the heart of the Greves vineyards at the Cote de Beaune, from just under four hectares of vines. The 2010 proved spherical, with excellent substance on the palate – fine sap – with the floral freshness of the Volnay tasted earlier, but amplified, and with a silkier palate.
A bit of history
Bouchard Père et Fils is a wine grower and négociant, based in Beaune, in the Côte de Beaune. Established as a cloth merchant by Michel Bouchard in Volnay in 1731, son Joseph Bouchard began selling wines and acquiring vineyards a few years later. Over subsequent generations, Bouchard Père et Fils acquired one of the best portfolios in Bourgogne: 130 hectares of vineyards in the heart of the Côte d’Or, with 12 Grand Crus and 74 Premier Crus, including: Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Corton, Corton-Charlemagne, Clos Vougeot, Chambertin, Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, Volnay Caillerets, Meursault Perrières.
Since 1820, the headquarters are at the Château de Beaune in the heart of Beaune, classified a historical monument by the French government. Bouchard Père et Fils benefits from ideal natural conditions for leaving its precious bottles to age and it includes many older vintages, some dating back to the 19th century.
The Henriot Family has been in Champagne since the 16th century. Henriot Champagne can be found around the world. Following the death of Etienne Henriot in 1957, his son Joseph Henriot, a trained agronomist, took over the reins of the family company from 1962. A successful businessman, he bought Bouchard Père et Fils in 1995.
Further reading on Burgundy:
Bouchard 2009s tasted in Washington D.C. the year before