It’s that time of year again, and despite telling you in my last post that I wasn’t going to join the wall to wall wallpaper of 2014 Burgundy Primeurs Week, you know that when it comes to the annual Vinoteca Tasting, I’m going to make an exception. As usual, it’s a chance to sample the wines of the two Ozgundians, Mark Haisma and Le Grappin (aka Andrew and Emma Nielsen). Mark also showed the wines of Vincent Paris again, alongside those from the new venture in Romania Mark is connected with, Dagon Clan. We were also treated to an introduction to a young artisan from Gevrey who shares some space with Mark, Jérémy Recchione.
So, what do we think of 2014 in Burgundy? The introduction to the 2014 vintage review in Decanter this month described it as a “challenging year that has yielded some classic reds and beautifully approachable whites”. That is indeed a very broad generalisation, but in all generalisations lies a grain of truth.
Beginning at Le Grappin, I tasted five whites, starting with their tasty Macon Blanc, sister wine to the Fleurie we have already bought. It comes from vines near Péronne, just north of Clessé (so classic Macon territory). I can foresee Andrew working more and more with fruit from down here, a clear source of value as well as quality. This was followed by four Côte de Beaune whites – Savigny, St-Aubin, Santenay and Beaune, the latter two, premier cru. I’m not sure everyone agrees with my favourites, but the St-Aubin “En L’Ebaupin” appealed a lot. I stayed several times in La Rochepôt many years ago, and this site sits right up on the northern edge of the Saint-Aubin AOC, just over the hill from that village. It’s lovely what Andrew has done with this fruit. Probably harder to make than my other favourite white, the Beaune “Grèves”. But all the whites were very good. You could buy any with confidence.
Andrew doing his thang! Mark working the floor!
I hope that in saying that the Reds fall more into the “classic” camp, it won’t seem like a negative. But Andrew’s Savigny red and his Beaune “Boucherottes” were quite different from the 2013s. The depth does not appear to be there at this stage, yet they are perfumed, elegant, and without any doubt a very creditable pair. I’m really reticent to judge them at this stage of their life, and with my relative lack of experience compared to the true Burgundy pros. But I think they will be delicious.
Of course Andrew and Emma faced one genuine difficulty in 2014, and that’s the price they had to pay for the grapes. It’s a credit to them that they have kept prices from rising more at the consumer end. Perhaps the best way to try Le Grappin’s wines is to purchase one of their Sampler Cases, a little over £200 all in for a bottle each of the six Côte de Beaune wines. Or find them at one of the London markets they attend, where they also sell their increasingly famous “bagnums”, along with the Macon and Fleurie.
Mark Haisma showed a long list of wines, but I started off with a taste of what he’s doing in Romania, in Dealu Mare, with little doubt the country’s most dynamic and exciting sub-region, east of the Carpathian Mountains. There were three Dagon Clan wines. A white called “Clar”, meaning Clear, is made from Féteasca Alba aged in oak, of which 50% was new. Then a pink, called “Har” (meaning Grace). This is a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The red, called Jar (meaning Amber, hope I’ve got that right) is composed of 60% Féteasca Negra and 40% Pinot Noir, with some new oak.
These are naturally commercial wines, but very well made. The rosé is the simplest, being soft and smooth and a wine I’d be happy to sip in summer. The red has a bit more bite and a super nose. It’s a bit more serious and a lot more interesting. For me, the White was the star of the three. It seemed to have a degree of complexity and this local grape seems of very high quality, especially as handled by Mark.
The wines from the Mark Haisma stable in Gevrey were very much in the usual mould – very high quality with good fruit to the fore and, in many cases, an exquisite bouquet. I tasted far too many to note them all, so what was especially good or interesting? In the latter category I thought the Aligoté was an exemplar. Brilliant nose and no overarching acidity. Not cheap for good Aligoté, though. The other interesting white was the Viognier 2015. This is a Vin de France, though it does hail from the Northern Rhône. Mark wasn’t very specific as to where his secret stash is located, but he was prepared to say “higher altitude”. Detectives away! 14% alcohol, but so fresh you’d probably not guess.
Turning to the Burgundian wines I’d recommend most, this gets difficult as everyone has their own favourites. Mark’s Nuits “Charmotte” was bright in all senses. I enjoyed contrasting the Volnay (truly gorgeous nose but light on palate) with the Pommard 1er “Les Arvelets” (less aromatically friendly, but good body and a pleasant earthiness, more serious). Everyone was extolling the virtues of the Clos de Bèze, but as it was an oldie, it’s unfair to play that card. I tasted a delicious Bonnes-Mares, which impressed with it’s colour and didn’t look back. The Morey was superb as always. I never know whether it’s just me, but this particular wine has something, a tiny something, that truly appeals.
Onto the Cornas. Pretty much everyone is calling 2014 a white wine vintage in the Northern Rhône. Some critics have even gone into print suggesting we drink the Reds from the off (or “right from the gate” – Jeb Dunnock on “erobertp…”). John Livingstone-Learmonth recommends them for their “delightful pleasure” (on his “drinkrhone” site).
The standout wine for me, here, was the Vincent Paris Granit 60. A big step up from the “30” as always, but more so, I think, in this vintage. But then I also like what Mark does with Cornas, and his 2010 still stands out among the increasing number of producers bringing this village to market now. The wine on show yesterday was just so approachable you’d not believe it. Whether that means it will be an uncharacteristically short-lived version, I have no idea, but I’d be happy to drink it sooner than usual.
Before curtailing this post before it becomes a jumble of tasting comments, I must mention those wines from Jérémy Recchione. I really wanted to chat with him, but the usual crush of the small room at Vinoteca, and a lunch appointment, stopped me from doing that. I think he owns no vines, so in that respect he’s like Mark. The whole range from the Bourgogne upwards was pretty impressive from someone who looked so young. I’d love to spend more time trying these wines, and perhaps that might happen next trip. In the meantime, try them if you get a chance, though I didn’t get any prices. There seems to be some potential here and I wish him and his partner every success.
The crush at this tasting, even in the morning, is testament to the popularity of the two Aussies, both of whom are really nice blokes who know what they’re doing with their grapes. To be honest, with my train twenty minutes late, I had less time than I’d have liked. But it doesn’t matter. The key with all wine is to trust the producers you like, and the wines I tasted yesterday, from a somewhat difficult vintage, did confirm that strategy.