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Red Burgundy

by Tom Cannavan, 06/98

A tasting of new and mature red Burgundies from very well respected domaines in the middle ground of the Burgundy hierarchy. Overall I was happy with the quality of the wines in this tasting. Considering Burgundy's reputation for inconsistency, these wines from 4 different vintages, 6 different domaines and spanning basic regional appellations to Grands Crus, showed well as a group. The Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru wine from Laurent was my only real disappointment. This is a domaine Robert Parker is apparently raving about, but I found this wine confusing, atypical, and a bit disjointed at the moment. At such a premium price, I would look for value elsewhere.

Savigny-Lavieres 1996, Tollot-Beaut, £14.99
Bright ruby red, a little thinner and warmer towards rim. Beatifully deep, mocha-coffee scents. Dark, with cherries, strawberries and a little hint of dank undergrowth. Nice and ripe. Extracted, with density of flavour. Quite a kick of hot alcohol in the finish. Earthy and robust, lacking a little complexity and finesse perhaps, but very nice.

Savigny-Lavieres 1996, Tollot-Beaut, £14.99
Very similar colour. A little more even. Nice pinot fruit - ripe with strawberies and raspberies. Again, alcohol on the nose. Medium bodied. A slightly baked quality to the fruit, but good and ripe with a rich mouthfeel, chocolate nuances and good earthy character. Closed and in need of a little time. Good.

It turns out wines 1 and 2 were identical. The only difference was that 1 was opened 24 hours in advance of the tasting and left to breathe. 2 was opened just prior to the tasting.

Hautes Côtes de Beaune 1995, Jayer-Gilles, £13.99
Very dense, even, crimson colour. Deep pinot nose with red cherries, slightly caramelised aromas, hints of burnt rubber and leather. Very chewy and dense in the mouth with prominent, toasty oak. There is plenty of ripe raspberry fruit too, an earthy, smoky quality and soft, silky tannins in the finish. Nicely balanced and with good length. Very good.
I tasted this a year ago and the notes are very consistent - I think it is coming together very well and represents good value at the price.

Beaune 1er Cru "Vignes Franches" 1996, Bouzereau, £15.49
Much more vivid, purple-tinged, youthful colour. More burnt rubber on the nose, but rather blunt and lacking dimension. Tannins and spice to the fore on the palate, with creamy oak and mellow fruit beneath which might emerge in time. Has good structure and decent length, though the finish is dominated by acidity at present. Potential.

Pinot Noir 1996, Ata Rangi (Martinborough, New Zealand), £19.99
Dense, deep ruby red. Inviting nose full of red fruits, caramel and hints of cabbage. More of the same on the palate, with robust fruit, a spicy, mocha-coffee richness, subtle infused oak and supportive tannins. Finishes very soft, but long. Fruit is decidedly sweet and pure, with a rich truffle note continuing. Drinking well, very forward, very nice.
This is very consistent with the '95 vintage - good stuff

Pommard 1er Cru Epenots 1995, Féry-Meunier, £19.99
Pale colour, but quite warm. Fairly closed, but berries and leather emerge with coaxing. A bit astringent. Warm flavours on the palate with clove spice and an orange flavour. A touch hollow. Earthy finish with keen, orange-pith acidity, but good, solid fruit emerging and good length.
Also tasted a year ago. A good, solid wine but maybe there's better value elsewhere.

Nuits St-George 1er Cru Hauts Poirrets 1994, Jayer-Gilles, £32.99
Slightly older colour, with brick tinge to the ruby red. Pungent, earthy, barnyard and wet nappy notes on the nose. Past this, there emerges gorgeous roasted coffee bean aromas, deeply toasted and sweet. Very nice mature strawberry fruit and spice on the palate. Mouth-filling, with a broad acid base, nicely integrated wood tannins and a long, silky finish. Complex and very nice.

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 1992, Meo-Camuzet, £36.99
Deep, mature colour with broad, tawny rim. Very stinky, deeply vegetal nose. Barnyard and cabbage to the fore. A little sweet edge is buried in there. Lovely penetrating, sweet fruit on the palate. Rounded and mellow with excellent structure. Beautifully balanced. Long, velvety finish with drying tannins and great focus.

Echezeaux Grand Cru 1992, Jayer-Gilles, £46.00
Nut-brown, fully mature colour. Deeply scented. Very stinky and Burgundian with rotted, vegetal notes. A little bit ungiving. On the palate there is a great weight of fruit and good structure, with fine acidity and firm tannins. Creaminess dominates the finish. I feel this is a potentially excellent wine that isn't showing its best - whether it needs time or is starting to fade, I'm not sure.
Yet another wine I also tasted about a year ago. The note then was similar but more positive. I wonder if this is fading slightly, or this particular bottle wasn't in quite such good condition?

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 1995, Domaine Laurent, £69.99
Extremely dense purple/black colour. Very bright, minty, high-toned nose with crunchy berry fruit and just a little animal edge showing through. Is this pinot? Very dry and tannic on the palate with plenty of oak and a very structured, almost austere character. Excellent length and very rich beneath the tannins.Spicy and extracted. A little disjointed and unfocused. Not sure what to make of this.

Campbells Old Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat (Australia), £15.99
Lovely walnutty colour. Inviting nose of caramelised brown sugar, burnt oranges and raisins soaked in liqueur. Very PX style of super-concentrated, super-ripe, raisins on the palate. Acidity only asserts in the finish. Like a cross between an old tawny Port and a fully Sweet sherry, but I'm not sure I'd prefer it to either.