Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pierre Yves Colin-Morey

I find it hard to understand wine at large tastings because I can't enjoy them slowly and see how they unfold in my glass, see how they work with dinner. All I can really do at large tastings is just that - taste wine, and see whether or not it interests me enough to seek out on my own. It's especially hard to taste delicate and subtle wines at large events. The whole environment, to me, is just wrong for these kinds of wines. They can get lost among the larger row of wines that I might be tasting in rapid succession, or among the general sway of people and the constant noise.

Almost two weeks ago at the Michael Skurnik Grand Portfolio Tasting I tasted through Pierre Yves Colin-Morey's lineup of beautiful white Burgundies and it was really an amazing experience. Not only because they seem to be such great and delicious wines, but because even in the midst of all the noise and the bustle, and having already tasted a load of wine, they were stunning for their intricate detail, their grace, their balance. Tasting through the lineup was a lesson in Burgundy terroir, and I've not before experienced that in an industry tasting environment.

I haven't found a lot of information on the producer, but I can tell you this: he made wine for his father at Domaine Marc Colin until 2004, and began his négoce project in 2001. He continues to make wine from purchased grapes and now also from the parcels he inherited in St. Aubin. I don't know if the vineyards are cultivated using organic or biodynamic techniques, in fact I know nothing about how the fruit is grown or handled. I read that Colin-Morey uses 350 liter oak casks for elevage instead of the typical 228 liter barrels, that he leaves wine on the lees for a long time with no stirring, and doesn't filter the wine. I know what you're thinking - I stood before this man and tasted all of his wines and I don't know any more than this, how could that be? But at this kind of an event I can focus either on tasting wine or on asking questions about technique. I'm limited in that way, sorry. You can read a bit more about Pierre Yves Colin-Morey in this Jancis Robinson essay or on the Skurnik site.

I can, though, tell you a little about why I was so impressed with the wines. They showed great clarity and detail, they were delicate and refined in texture, they were all very focused, they simmered with intensity. Also, they tasted great. If there are white Burgundies that are fish fillets poached with herbs in concentrated fish stock, sprinkled with fleur de sel and smoked paprika, Pierre Yves Colin-Morey's wines are fish caught in a cold river and immediately pan fried - that's it.

There were four 2007's, and they showed the clarity and precision that I've come to expect from this vintage. They were lively and compelling wines, even the humble Bourgogne Blanc, an absolutely lovely wine with a gentle but focused core of fruit and excellent acidity. This should retail for about $25 and I am guessing it will be one of the best value whites of the vintage. The three St. Aubins were very good, although they are step up in price, as might be expected. The 1er Cru Les Champlots was very open and drinkable with a pretty nose of fresh fruit and flowers. La Chatenière was more elegant and detailed and En Remilly was richer and more intense, as one might expect from this not-so-secretly great vineyard that borders Le Montrachet.

There were five 2006's and these were great wines too, although these are more difficult to drink as they are priced in the same outer limits as most wine from Chassagne, Puligny, and Meursault. Still, if I were to spend $90 on a bottle of white wine right now, it might very well be the superb 2006 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Gains, which was just beautiful with its expansive and complex fruit and mineral flavors, its firm structure allowing only glimpses of the elegant beauty within.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I was pretty floored by these wines, and I'm curious to buy one and drink it at home. Anyone out there done that and care to share their thoughts?


ned said...

There's a Champs Gain in both Puligny AND Chassagne and it appears he made both, that could get confusing. I haven't tried Pierre's. The name Colin is attached to at least half a dozen domaines in the Cote de Beaune Recent years have seen some splintering, I've had trouble keeping up. If it helps, Zachy's is selling the Puligny for $69. I'm going to check these out, thanks.

Unknown said...

My wife and I enjoyed a Colin Morey '06 Meursault Narvaux with our Valentine's day dinner. I picked this bottle because she is inclined to like more obvious white Burgundies, and I thought a Meursault from '06 would fit the bill. The wine had an intense nose, with a sort of eucalyptus and mint thing along with more typical white burg aromas of white flowers and some earthiness. The wine was unctuous, and almost thick feeling, and also initially a little austere. A real zing of acidity is obvious. With some time it became more giving, but still seemed tightly wound. It worked nicely with the whole roasted red snapper sauced with buerre blanc (the wine's acidity and obvious lemony flavors complementing the sauce), but I would make the obvious recommendation of giving this bottle some time. All in all I thought this wine was a stunner - my wife was a little off put by its initial austerity, but she warmed to it as it warmed and the remnants on day two were undeniably delicious. Far from being an obvious wine (although I should say that its quality is obvious), this is a wine that needed time and attention to reveal what it had to offer. I picked it up during the winter sale at Crush for a little more than $40, which seems a real value given the prices you listed. I hope you have a chance to try one with a meal, and the time to enjoy it - and I will keep an eye out for the '07s, it is a vintage that I have generally liked better than '06 for white burgs, though that generalization is based on limited experience. And I'll probably wait for another sale.