I’m sure I was not alone in itching to get a first overview of this highly praised vintage at ten years old. One single wine from a moderate producer is all I’d tried of 2005 Red Burgundy before Monday night, my bottles sensibly tucked away in the least accessible part of the cellar. The idea, put forward and organised by my friend Dave Stenton, was to take advantage of free Monday corkage at Quality Chop House, and look at a dozen wines at village level, to see where they are at, and just how (potentially) good they might be.
The wines were by no means as closed as many of us imagined. The brief summary is that we liked most of the wines, none were faulty (except for the Fourrier Clos Solon 2004 which someone generously brought along for a fun comparison – it was corked to death), and even those that showed less well had obvious potential. There is no doubt, looking at this array of village wines, that 2005 has the potential to be a truly great vintage. Even at village level, from carefully chosen producers. Those who have some stashed away should be in for a treat when they finally get pulled out.
The detailed notes below should give an idea of where we are at with 2005, at least at this level. Many of the wines can be enjoyed now, but most with be substantially better in a few years. If you have a lot of them, then take a look at the earlier drinkers. If you have just a few, keep them locked up a while longer. I hope that expresses not just my view, but the opinions of most of the people present.
Quality Chop House is becoming a regular venue for wine evenings. The food is unashamedly old fashioned, relatively simple in presentation but majoring on fine meat cooked to perfection. My last two meals here consisted of pork and lamb chops, so it had to be a return to their famous minced beef on dripping toast with their equally infamous confit potatoes on Monday. The key for this dish is to go easy on the entrées, and to nibble a bit of cheese in place of a dessert. Even then, don’t expect to jump out of bed with a spring in your step the next morning, but it’s worth it, if filling.
Michel Lafarge Volay – This split opinion. We were two tables of five and oddly my table found it very closed, whilst the table we nicknamed “the classicists” thought it majestic and aristocratic. This has obvious potential, but for my taste it requires Lafarge levels of cellaring.
Rebourgeon-Mure Pommard – This was a complete contrast to the Volnay. A touch of age on the nose, one of the most open wines of the night, and generally enjoyed over both tables. The fruit is fine, and the palate almost voluptuous. My only question is whether it will go the same distance as the others? This producer was unknown to me. A real find.
Confuron-Coteditot Vosne-Romanée – The contrast it colour between this darker Nuits wine and the slightly paler Beaunes set the tone for the rest of the tasting. There was initially a slight whiff of alcohol, but it blew off and, as it warmed, there was a nice spicy richness, almost sweetness. Opening for business with lots in the tank. Universally liked.
Bruno Clair Chambolle-Musigny Les Varoilles – Inevitably closed, spicy but seemed to lack weight. There was a tiny touch of volatility, though not enough to upset me. A wine which improved in the glass. I do like Clair’s wines, but this wasn’t one of my wines of the night.
Digioia-Royer Chambolle-Musigny – Quite exotic nose, savoury, umami. Opens up voluptuously, but there’s muscle underneath. It’s very good now. It builds in the glass, it would be nice to drink a whole bottle. Very much a seductive Chambolle, very popular.
Robert Arnoux Chambolle-Musigny – A big wine with whopping legs on the side of the glass. There’s some polish here, but also a woody/stalky note which slightly disappoints.
Virgile Lignier Morey-St-Denis – This is apparently Lignier-Michelot’s negoce label, a first for me again. As expected, softer than the domaine wines which followed, very good and enjoyable, but one of the least complex wines on the night.
Lignier-Michelot Chambolle-Musigny – This domaine wine is more serious than the above, but when compared with the Lignier-Michelot Morey-St-Denis our table found a clear comparison, suggesting a producer-led style than terroir-led. Others may not have agreed. The Morey was the most individual of the two. One taster noted a biscuity (digestive) note on the nose, a savoury quality, and maybe some oak poking through?
Domaine Dujac Morey-St-Denis – For our table, Dujac’s domaine wine shone brightest. Suave and sophisticated, it begins with a mineral salinity beneath an elegant nose. It has sweetness of fruit and refreshes. It isn’t tannic but it has the restraint of a wine not yet quite ready to go.
Jean-Michel Guillon Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes – Initially unclean on nose, but that dissipates and the wine becomes very attractive. Another under-the-radar producer. It’s a dark wine, maybe some new oak still in evidence. I was getting to like this after half a glass, but I think the slightly farmyardy note came back.
Pierre Damoy Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Tamisot – I’m in the very unusual position of being more familiar with Damoy’s Chambertin and, even more so, Clos de Bèze, than their village wines. This was concentrated, earthy, starting out quite dumb, and for me only just beginning to show some progress by the end of the glass. A little too dense to judge properly at the end of the evening.
The room voted for Wines of the Night and the result was:
- Digioia-Royer Chambolle
- Confuron-Coteditot Vosne
- A tie between the Dujac Morey and Lafarge Vonay (a clear split between the two tables)
My own top three, for what it’s worth – 1. Dujac, 2. Digioia-Royer and 3. Confuron-Coteditot, though I did really enjoy the Rebourgeon-Mure as well.
Our table decided to cleanse our palates with a lovely Txacoli from Gaintza, off the QCH list, an 11.5% blend of Hondarrabi-Zuri and Gros Manseng. The other table decided to resolutely avoid it (philistines!).
No one left disappointed, although a couple of us left feeling the pleasures of the mince just within the limits imposed by nature. I do always feel a glow of satisfaction on leaving QCH, but I don’t always relish the train home (attempting to stay awake whilst digesting the meal). The restaurant always look after us really well, and service is always friendly and helpful. I do tend to repeat this rather often, but it is one of my favourite places to eat in London, especially for down-to-earth, no nonsense, meaty sustenance.