Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Same Terroir, Different Hands

I was thinking about my Burgundy trip the other night at 3:30 am while rocking a squalling baby in the crook of my arm. We sampled well over 100 wines from barrel representing many different terroirs. Some we sampled only once, such as the phenomenal Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Gaudichots at Lucien Le Moine. We did get to sample several wines from the same terroir, though. Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought, to list them all, to see the wines that occurred most frequently? To compare the expressions of terroir in different highly capable hands?

This is the kind of thing that can fascinate you at 3:30 am with screaming baby. If what follows is of little interest, I ask that you either bear with me, or print this out and save it until you have a baby. Then pull it out at 3:30 am and you'll see…

So I found that the most commonly occurring terroirs across our visits were Bonnes Mares and Charmes Chambertin, both Grand Cru, both tasted four times. An interesting duo, if I may say so. Neither of these is in the most elite class of Grand Cru wines, although Bonnes Mares is probably a notch higher than Charmes Chambertin. Moreover, these wines have personalities that might be described as polar opposites.

Bonnes Mares is interesting in that it spreads across two villages. About 14 of its 15 hectares are in Chambolle-Musigny and one lone hectare, the northern most portion, is in Morey St. Denis. The wines in general are said to be dense and masculine, highly structured and unyielding in their youth. I've never had a mature Bonnes Mares, so I cannot comment on what happens with age. Reference standards include Dujac, Roumier, and Mugnier.

Charmes Chambertin is one of the Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Crus, bordering Chambertin to the west and the villages-classified Champs-Chenys to the east. The wines in general are said to be, as the name might suggest, charming, with elegant red fruit and finesse, and a subtle power running underneath. I don't know who are the reference standard producers. I'm going to guess Dugat, Roty,Rousseau, and maybe Bachelet.

I am not presenting this as a comprehensive study of these two Grand Crus in 2007. It is just a set of tasting notes, that’s it. But as you’ll see, there are some interesting similarities and differences among the wines. The Bonnes Mares wines seemed to exhibit similar characteristics across the board, although Le Moine's was more immediately drinkable than the others. The Charmes Chambertins were a bit more varied, and maybe that's because they sometimes and sometimes not contain grapes from neighboring Mazoyeres Chambertin.

Mounir Saouma of Lucien Le Moine.

Here are the notes on the 2007 Bonnes Mares:

JF Mugnier Bonnes Mares
savoury nose, so much so that I spelled savoury with a “u.” Umami all the way. Deep dark fruit on the palate, incredibly dense and difficult for me to really taste. Mugnier pours this before he pours his 1er Cru Amoureuses.

Georges/Christophe Roumier Bonnes MaresReticent nose, some umami notes with coaxing. Dark plums on the palate, lots of extract, leaves something minty after swallowing, which is quite appealing. This was poured after the Amoureuses.

Lucien Le Moine Bonnes MaresNose of deeply perfumed fruit and hoisin sauce. On the palate sweet dark fruit, plums, hoisin, lots of sap, great length and purity. There is a stony mineral grip, and a minty aftertaste.

Domaine Dujac Bonnes Mares
Smoky nose, dark plums and hoisin, an energetic core of aroma. Closed on the palate, but there are hints of dark fruits and the minerality is evident. The finish is deeply fragrant with herbs, very complex.
Terroir whizzing by our car's window.

And now the assortment of 2007 Charmes Chambertins:

Georges/Christophe Roumier Charmes Chambertinwide open nose of fresh fruit and baking spices, hints of black tea. Very pretty red fruit on the palate with great acidity, sappy and deep. Lovely wine.

Philippe Pacalet Charmes Chambertin - incredibly dense nose of spicy fruit, orange peel, and minerals. Elegant and powerful, and still somewhat closed, if you can believe that. Rich and deep on the palate, the wine spreads out and coats the mouth with gentle red fruit. There is great clarity here, balance, poise, richness, and a powerful core of fruit.

Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin
- A bit reductive on the nose, but still lovely with roses, tar, and tea. Sappy red berries on the palate, great acidity, very elegant with a fragrant rose petal finish. Very pretty wine.

Domaine Dujac Charmes Chambertin
- Nose is quite closed, but the palate shows a core of deep fruit, baking spices, and a bit of oak with nice fruit-filled length. Dense right now, hard to evaluate.


Anonymous said...

Love the synthetic approach.

Another thing occured to me; a producer from Chambolle (Roumier) had a style of winemaking engraved in his DNA and all the winemaking is benchmarked on the Chambolle wines. Whereas Dujac's DNA, although maybe less stricken to Morey St Denis, the Chambolle and the Charmes are guided to bottle differently.
I'm not trying to state the obvious, "every producer makes wine differently", but if Mugnier for exemple made a Charmes Chambertin from a similar parcel of Dujac and Roumier, would it ressemble more Roumier's Charmes?

I find this theory most explicit when tasting Pommard from Volnay producers and vice versa.

Anonymous said...

Can you describe what you mean by sap or sappy? This term is used is tasting notes (especially for burgs) all the time and it confuses me.

I posted on Parker and Tanzer boards and got about 5 different opinions.

What does it mean to you?

Brooklynguy said...

hey Tista - i understand your point, and I imagine that the answer is yes. But it doesn't have to be yes. maybe Mugnier's style is different from Roumier's, and it is mostly the Chambolle terroir that brings them together.

hi anon (why anon?) - here's what i mean when i describe a wine as "sappy:" i can feel the infusion of aroma and flavor from the dry matter imparted to the juice in a pronounced way.

An analogy might be boiling sugar water to create simple syrup - this is NOT what I mean by sappy. I mean instead using something like raw cane or dark coconut sugar to make the sugar water - it is a more pronounced and deeper sugar aroma and flavor using the same amount of water.