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Champagne & Burgundy

by Tom Cannavan, 03/05

Luvians Bottleshops is a small chain based in the St Andrews area of Scotland, who's jam-packed stores have a huge local following for their extraordinary range of fine wines (and malt whiskies and craft beers). The managers of the various branches tend to be young, pretty fanatical wine buffs, and I was recently asked along to a Burgundy tasting and dinner by Ben Booth, manager of the store in the town of Cupar. Ben presented four Burgundies the notes on which follow, preceded by a glass of the glorious Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1995. This was one of the best little "sets" of Burgundy that I've tasted for some time, with no disappointing wines.

Champagne

Taittinger (France) Comtes de Champagne 1995
The deluxe cuvée from Taittinger is always a remarkably complex and sophisticated wine, made only in years regarded as "exceptional". It is partially barrel-matured, and is 100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru vineyards of Avize, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Oger and Chouilly. Released after five years on the lees, the nose has a delicate smokiness, touches of toasted brioche and nuts, and a core of peachy fruit. There are little herbal notes, and a lemon-zest lift, in a complex picture. On the palate the sweet peachy quality of the fruit persists, with a delicate, mouth-filling mousse and a waxy lemon-rind quality. There is lovely zest about this wine, with great persistence of fruit wrapped with that subtle, toasty layer of flavour that is so appealing. Excellent/outstanding. £74.99

white Burgundy

Jean-Claude Bessin (France) Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2002
Bessin is a bit of an insider's Chablis grower, with a lower profile than some producers, but a particularly strong following, including Luvians, who have been taking his wines for many years. This is purist Chablis, with clean, mineral flavours and only ever the subtlest use of oak. The 2002 Montmains has a surprising sense of opulence about the nose, with a limpid quality of apple and pear fruit, a little floral note, and a core of minerality. On the palate this medium-bodied wine is restrained, even a touch lean without food, with really concentrated white fruit flavours, shimmering lemon acidity and touches of spice on the long finish. Served with a cauliflower and truffle panacotta this wine really shone for its classical restraint but concentrated power. This will cellar, and is excellent. £13.99

Etienne Sauzet (France) Puligny-Montrachet 2002
Sauzet of course needs little introduction, as one of the great names of white Burgundy. The beautifully sweet, creamy sheen of oak is the first impression on the nose, followed by a delicate floral spiciness and real core of minerality with an almost smoky note. On the palate there is clean, ripe and quite fleshy pear fruit with an orangy quality to the acidity and some real concentration that pushes through into a long finish. A subtle wine that revealed itself quiet slowly, but one to drink quite soon in my opinion. Very good indeed/excellent. £29.99

red Burgundy

Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier (France) Chambolle-Musigny 2001
Again, Mugnier is one of the greatest names of Burgundy, and ultra-reliable. This wines comes from two named plots of vines: Les Plantes, which is a Premier Cru vineyard planted in 1968-69, and La Combe d'Orveau, where some of the vines date from 1952. As little as 3,000 bottles are produced, and Mugnier says this wine will cellar for "at least 10 years". There is a wonderfully lush, inviting cedar and spice quality to the nose, with earthy berry fruit, but also sweet violet scents that are very, very fine. The palate offers a raft of soft, sweet-edged strawberry fruit, with very little oak in evidence save a spicy, slightly woodsmoke quality into the finish. It is fleshy and ripe through the mid-palate, and has great balance. Lovely stuff I must say, and excellent. £31.99

Louis Jadot (France) Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Ursules 1997
Clos des Ursules is a walled, monopole vineyard; a vineyard solely owned by Louis Jadot (quite rare in Burgundy) since 1826. It is widely regarded as one of Burgundy's great terroirs. There is a much meatier, much more dense and vegetal character to the nose of this wine, with a vivid power of black fruit, and lovely perfume suggesting violets, old roses and a leathery, slightly barnyardy quality. The palate is silky-textured and has a gorgeous sweetness of fruit. Finely-wrought raspberry and cherry are to the fore, with a deepening note of plum and chocolate into the long, sweet finish. Fabulous stuff, still with 10 years ahead of it. Excellent. £34.99