Thursday, March 03, 2011

Comparing the 2008 and 2009 Vintages in Burgundy via Domaine Fourrier

Following my interview with Jean-Marie Fourrier, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a Domaine Fourrier tasting that featured several wines from the 2008 and 2009 vintages.

Fourrier's importer Neal Rosenthal organized the event. It was great on several levels - first of all, Fourrier's wines are fascinatingly terroir expressive and it is so instructive to taste them next to each other. Equally instructive is tasting the same wines from 2008 and 2009. The vintages couldn't be more different in character and it was my first chance to compare them in this way (my first bottles, period, from 2009).

If you are categorizing, I think that 2009 is a vintage that can be grouped with 2005 - growers achieved high levels of ripeness and did so without having to sort out a lot of grapes. Not as perfect as 2005, but this is a vintage of big wines that should age well. 2008, on the other hand, was very difficult, without prolonged periods of good weather during the growing season. Many producers had trouble achieving adequate ripeness and I assume that many wines are chaptalized in 2008. Perhaps if phenolic ripeness is not as high as one would hope for, there may be some wines with a green taste to the tannins, or perhaps the wines will not be as long lived. I might include 2008 in the same category as 2007, or 2004 - classic vintages, vintages with the typical array of problems.

Will the 2009's be as detailed and expressive of specific terroir as Burgundy lovers want them to be? Will the 2008's be delicious wines that offer the pleasure that Burgundy lovers want? I have no idea yet, but this tasting helped me form some initial ideas.

Jean-Marie Fourrier had a few things to say as we tasted, and I'll share some of this with you before sharing my notes on the wines. He said that 09 is similar to 1999, and that it is his second favorite vintage behind 1999. He said that there were "very specific aromas above each vat." Regarding his two villages wines, he said they are meant to show variation in terroir at the villages level. Aux Echézeaux at the southern border of Gevrey where it meets Morey Saint Denis is "very Chambolle-like in its purity and body, very different from the wines from the northern border of Gevrey." Fourrier's other villages wine comes from a vineyard called Champerrier in Brochon. Fourrier said that Aux Echézeaux is better with white meats and his Gevrey-Chambertin Vieille Vignes is better with dark meat.

2009 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echézeaux. This is one of those wines in which the fruit really does leap out from the glass. The perfume is alluring and broad and the wine is soft and supple, delicious. Could be the power of suggestion, but I felt that if I tasted this blind I might have guessed Chambolle.

2008 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echézeaux. So different from the 2009. This wine is classic - pure, elegant, and spare. Well balanced with strong acidity, the wine leaves a stony and floral perfume on the palate. I enjoyed the 2009 and it is very high quality, but I would prefer to drink this wine now, as it is more articulate and complex.

2009 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin Vieille Vignes. First of all, the difference in terroir here is immediately apparent, as the wines from here show an earthier, gamier personality. This wine is dark and the fruit is infused with animale notes. The purity is striking and there is a clear sense of the stone underneath the fruit. This wine is layered and deep, and is very intense without sacrificing any detail. Very impressive wine.

2008 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin Vieille Vignes. My personal favorite of the four villages wines. The nose is truly lovely - pure and airy, stony, herbal, and a pretty blend of red and black fruit. The palate is focused with acid-driven red fruit flavors and a mineral finish that is quite pungent. This one will definitely have a place in my cellar.

About Clos Saint-Jacques, Jean-Marie said "Each row is 400 meters long. Vineyards were sold in ouvrees, a plot that is approximately the size that one person can work in one day. An ouvree is 400 square meters, so long time ago when Clos Saint-Jacques was auctioned off, the question wasn't how many ouvrees do you want to buy, it was how many rows." Clos Saint-Jacques is the only vineyard, according to Jean-Marie, in which every owner owns entire rows of vines from the top of the slope to the bottom.

2009 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jacques. An iconic vineyard, and Fourrier is unquestionably, with Rousseau, the reference standard producer. Fourrier's vines here are 100 years old. Yes, 100 year old. This wine is very potent, and I found it very difficult to understand, never mind evaluate. It's as if it hasn't really been born yet. Smoke infuses the fruit, very ripe, and the palate finishes with something herbal, like eucalyptus. Lots of grip here. Seems like there is an enormous amount of raw material, and it needs lots of time to fully harmonize.

2008 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jacques. I loved this wine. The nose is incredible, and I could sense the tiny berries, all dry extract, hard spices, and stone. The nose is so detailed and expressive, and the palate is very powerful with fruit and spice, a bit meaty. Depth, complexity, balance, and the wine has only just begun. To me, wines like this justify the common claim that Clos Saint-Jacques should be elevated to Grand Cru status.

In the end, this tasting reinforced for me the fact that I personally prefer leaner red Burgundy wines from vintages that may not be as ripe, but instead offer a very detailed articulation of aroma and flavor against a more spare core of fruit. Not that I'd ever pass on a chance to drink Fourrier's 09's. Just saying that stylistically, the 2008's are more exciting to me.


Michael said...

Thanks for report. I haven't tried the Fourrier 2009s, but I was starting to think I was the only person who overall prefers 2008 to 2009 (within the limit of such generalities). To me many 2008s are so much fresher than the 2009s - some of which are a bit jammy and flabby to my taste.

Happy to hold the minority view.

Mark Anisman said...

i don't know much about 'rithmatic, and even less about tasting from barrel...
i was quite the lucky guy on a recent tour of Europe, with stellar tastings at Haag/Lauer/Texier/Pinon/Huet/Roilette/Brun (among many unbelievably fine visits, mentioning this for context).
I was also happy to taste from barrel at domaines Bachelet and Fourrier, 2 of my faves. I left those tastings appreciating their wines, to my perception marked by a density that seemed to hide the individual wonders of the vineyards. Enjoyed, but not entranced.
I tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Bad tasting day? They were clearly of great quality, but if i was to choose regions for further exploration, Burgundy would have ranked last based on these tastings. And I had a scintillating experience barrel tasting of the 2006s at domaine Fourrier back in the day. Without a question, I would plump for the 2006 version. I realized it comes down to style preference, and I gravitate towards wines less fleshy. I will shy away from the 2009 vintage, and revel in the 2006 vintages.
What I find most interesting is how you can adore the wines of a domaine, but yet not agree with the winemaker regarding favorite vintages!

Clotpoll said...

Too bad that the older I get, the less money I have to drink the wines I want.

Saul said...

Interesting previous comments. I hold similar views of the Cru Beaujolais. I thoroughly enjoy the wines of Foillard and Lapierre and although the 2009’s were delicious, they were too ripe for my taste. I much preferred the 07’s as well as the 08’s. I’m beginning to think that the “great” years are ones I should stay away from, especially with regards to Burgundy.

Michael said...

First, thanks again for this continued look into Fourrier, I have enjoyed this series of posting very much.

I think an important thing to remember is that, for me at least, ripe vintages are not really of much use when young, but that doesn't mean that they won't be the greater wines once they have had time to resolve. Like most, my mature burgundy, both cellar and experience, is limited. However, from what I can tell the big wines, if made with skill and balance, probably hold great things for those who can manage to wait it out. Even the much-maligned 2003 vintage may yet produce true gems once time has weighed in on the issue. Of course I say this only of the better winemakers. In fact I hold some Fourrier 2003's and a select few other producers in the hopes of exactly that.

But I suppose that the flip side of that involves the difficulty and expense of holding wine for that long, and in that regard it may well be that the leaner, lighter, "prettier" years will provide more pleasure in their youth, at least to those who are so inclined.

Henri Vasnier said...

As a personal guess, having tasted none of the wines mentioned, I'd speculate that the 09's BrooklynGuy tasted are still in process of recovering from being bottled and the 08's have recovered and are showing reasonably well in their young-wine phase (before going to sleep for some years, likely as not).

Again as a generalized guess -- one is inevitably guessing when the wines are so young -- the 2009's will be wonderful if not as long-lived as the generally more structured 2005's.

2008 was a difficult vintage that a producer of Fourrier's quality is likely to have handled with aplomb.

Stevie said...

BG I really enjoy reading your tasting notes! You writing inspires my own. I will look for Domaine Fourrier after your great interview and report. Thanks!

keithlevenberg said...

I keep hearing producers' comments on the difficulties of 2008, but I wouldn't have guessed it from any of the wines I've tasted so far. This is the Burgundy vintage I've been waiting for for so long - it has everything I love about Burgundy but is just short enough of the all-time greats that there is no feeding frenzy to buy them. I like it much more than '07, '06, and '04.

Great tidbit about Clos St. Jacques. I was aware it had the unusual distinction of being the only vineyard where every producer covers the whole span from top to bottom, but had never heard the reason why.