…My name is Ozburgundian, Winemaker of Winemakers, Look on my Wines, ye Mighty, and despair!
Okay, not quite what Shelley had in mind, but the mighty Ozgundians were in town again yesterday, this time joined by another Australian washed up on the shores of the Côte d’Or, Jane Eyre. Still utilising the facilities of Vinoteca, but switching from Farringdon to Soho, they exchanged a dark basement for a lighter first floor room without giving in to providing us with any more space (though there seemed to be more wonderful cheese to nibble). The move was a good one, although I know of at least one poor man who rocked up at St John Street (where their previous tastings had been held) and gave up due to the atrocious weather. It does pay to read the email!
Le Grappin, Andrew and Emma Nielsen, Beaune
Andrew and Emma Nielsen have had a magnificent year. When John Bonné described Le Grappin as “One of Burgundy’s next superstars” he wasn’t exaggerating. Not only have some of our own very senior wine writers discovered them, but they have been fashioning what might just be their finest wines yet. Indeed, 2015 was a great success for all of the exhibitors, but there’s a sense that Le Grappin is really hitting its stride now.
This comes at a time when Burgundy is playing hard to get with the micro negociants. Small crops, caused by hail and other climatic nasties, have caused prices to rise inexorably, so that Andrew said “we are starting to become a Beaujolais producer who makes some Burgundy”. Don’t despair. The Côte d’Or wines will stay as they are, but expect some expansion in Beaujolais and the Rhône for the du Grappin range in particular. Whilst Andrew and Emma were showing their Côte d’Or wines yesterday, let’s not forget that they are making Beaujolais which is just as exciting as that made by the young guns who are the superstars of the Parisian and New York wine scene.
To the wines themselves (prices for the EP offer in brackets are for a 6-pack in bond here). There were four whites and three reds. Don’t just focus on the reds because Le Grappin made some very fine, and well differentiated, white wines in 2015. The Savigny-lès-Beaune Blanc (£137) has a warm, friendly, nose. It might be the “entry level” white, but it has bags of personality, not least because Andrew is very precise about when, and how much, sulphur is added.
Saint-Aubin “En L’Ebaupin” (£152) is a step up, but quite different. Almost exotic, delicious, with a nod towards Meursault, despite this lieu-dit being situated right at the northern tip of the Appellation. It has a good bit of gras and body to it without losing acidity. Santenay 1er Cru “Les Gravières” (£170) has a more elegant nose. It’s less opulent but more serious, as befits a Premier Cru. The Beaune 1er Cru “Les Grèves” (£190) is a very fine white, with great balance and finesse. Although the Beaune is a touch more expensive, my personal favourite was the Santenay. A personality thing, I think, and it’s interesting because it has taken me a long while to see the potential in the wines from this village.
Just two reds to whet our appetite. Savigny-Lès-Beaune (£137) has all the plush fruit you’d expect from 2015, amazing fruit actually, with a silky smoothness, and freshness too. Beaune 1er Cru “Boucherottes” (£177) is generally my favourite Le Grappin red. It’s an interestingly sited vineyard on the Pommard border, below Vignes Franches and Clos des Mouches. The nose is very different to the Savigny, and overall the wine has more depth. For a 2015 there is exemplary weight and balance. But of course, the price reflects this.
I won’t deny that the wines here are getting more and more expensive, but they do represent good value for the quality. I’d strongly recommend buying now, especially if you are new to Le Grappin. I’ve been following them for several years, almost from the very beginning. 2015 is potentially a magical year at this address, and the wines, now very much in favour with those in the know, ain’t gonna get any cheaper.
Mark Haisma, Burgundy and Rhône
Mark was showing a long string of wines, as usual. I tasted every one, and although I can’t write about them all, Mark’s 2015s (and one 2016 sample) were singing. The 2016 was his Viognier (£16.50/bottle) from the Ardèche. As with the Auvergne, this is an area which, with some great terroirs and younger winemakers, is taking off. Mark has his finger on what is essential with Viognier at this level – to retain fresh acidity and to keep the alcohol down. He succeeds! The bottle I tasted from, with Mark, had lost its chill, but the wine was still holding it together. I know that when freshly opened this is Viognier not unlike Stéphane Ogier’s La Rosine Blanc. The other Ardèche wine is a Syrah/Grenache Vin de France (£16.50), made with lowish yields from vines on schist, near Flaviac, in the hills south west of Valence. Great value, sappy fruited, tasty stuff.
Of the Burgundian whites, the Saint-Romain (£24.50) is lovely, restrained for the vintage, but of course the village is up in the cool hills north of the main Côte de Beaune villages. It’s a lovely wine, but the real find is Mark’s Aligoté (£17.50). If 2017 is the year when Aligoté may make its breakthrough, this is one to help push that secondary grape forward.
Of course all the Côte d’Or reds are very fine, just different. The Bourgogne Rouge (£18.50) is always worth snapping up (we did a dinner featuring a string of Mark’s straight Pinots a couple of years ago), and add in the vintage, 2015, and you know that it will punch above its weight. Of course, it doesn’t compare with the top wines, but neither does the price. There’s Nuits “La Charmotte” (£32.50), Volnay “Paux Bois” (£31.50), Gevrey-Chambertin (£33.50) all at village level. The two Premier Crus, Morey-St-Denis “Les Chaffots” (£52.50) and Pommard “Les Arvelets” (£47) are both particularly fine and classy, and quite well priced for this quality. Mark’s Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru is legendary. It would knock you back £235 per bottle, and he’d only let you have two per person, but I think he said there were just eight bottles left. The 2015 is already stunning, and I did ask myself what on earth I was doing spitting it out, an automatic tasting reflex when there’s a spittoon nearby.
Mark also showed his well priced Cornas “Les Combes” (£29.50), very purple, beautifully scented and structured. It needs the respect of time, but I’d say this should be added to any order. As usual the wines of Vincent Paris were also on show, and again the Granit 60 showed greater class than the Granit 30, albeit as a dense and quite tannic wine right now. But oh, the 2008 Geynale! Worth the entry fee for the nose alone. And at £27.50 it is even cheaper than the majestic, but only cellar ready, 2015 (@£31.50). Cornas has jumped in overall quality in the past decade, and wines like this are amazing value when set beside Hermitage and Côte Rôtie.
Jane Eyre, Bligny-Lès-Beaune
Jane moved to Burgundy in 2004, working with Dominique Lafon, with whom she now shares a winery and cellar in Bligny-lès-Beaune’s old château, whilst still working as full-time winemaker at Domaine Newman in Beaune. She began making wine under her own label in 2011. Jane also makes Pinot Noir in Australia, with logistical help when she’s away from her friend and mentor, Bill Downie. There were five 2015 wines on show, all from the Côte d’Or, but expect a Fleurie from the 2016 vintage. This was the first time I’d met Jane and tasted her wines, and without being condescending, I was very pleasantly surprised. I wondered why I’d not heard about her…too much of a well kept secret.
The Volnay (£31) was a promising start. It’s the only wine that underwent a light filtration, the rest being unfined and with minimum sulphur additions. Bottling took place in December. The Volnay’s promise over the next decade lies in its bouquet, floral and ethereal. But the ’15 doesn’t lack for structure at this stage.
The Savigny 1er Cru “Aux Vergelesses” (£32.50), is from a vineyard which sits at the northern end of the Appellation, right on top of one of my favourite vineyards in Burgundy for value, Pernand’s Ile des Vergelesses. Jane made four barrels of this, using one new barrel and three older ones. A wine of lively energy, precise, concentrated cherries on nose and palate, and fine tannins. This was a real eye-opener, and it was not only my favourite of Jane’s reds, but one of my wines of the tasting. 14% alcohol, but you’d never know without looking.
There’s a Beaune 1er Cru Cent Vignes (£32.50) which shows how fresh Beaune might prove in this hot vintage, the cru being situated northeast of Beaune, adjacent to the Clos du Roi, towards the A6 Autoroute (it’s a large vineyard, there are more than 100 vines!). Then there are two Gevreys from the Côte de Nuits. The village Gevrey Chambertin (£32.50) is dark fruited with spicy notes. The Gevrey 1er Cru “Les Corbeaux” (£60.50) is situated right next to the village, but travel a few metres south and you have stepped into Mazis-Chambertin. Jane uses 20% whole bunches and 40% new oak on this wine. We are back with cherries, and a deep licorice. The oak is quite strong, but this is built to age. All of Jane’s wines will age gracefully, on the basis of what I tasted here, but this wine particularly so. It has the fruit to go the distance. I think Jane’s estimate of 8-15 years errs more to the French taste than the British – it will live longer than that.
Jérémy Recchione, Gevrey Chambertin
Not an Ozgundian, indeed very much a local, we met the young couple behind this Gevrey domaine last year. This time Jérémy was on his own as they are expecting a baby soon. They have planned it well, at least avoiding harvest. The domaine is based in Gevrey Chambertin, but the white comes from the Côte de Beaune. Saint Romain “Combe Bazin” 2015 (£24.50) is rich and ripe, quite tropical. The winemaking is gentle, the fruit is scrupulously clean (not so difficult in ’15) and the care taken has created a wine that despite its voluptuousness, is also elegant. The village wine from Gevrey Chambertin (£32) has a nice high toned bouquet and is well structured on the palate. Fixin 1er Cru “Les Arvelets” (£45) is a supple wine with an elegant nose, which might persuade older tasters that Fixin, like Marsannay, is now firmly part of the Côte d’Or heirarchy. Someone told me that they didn’t like Jérémy’s labels, but to be frank, who cares. The wine is good, and this lovely young couple deserve to do well.
Dagon Clan, Dealu Mare, Romania
Dagon Clan is a collaborative venture between a local family and Mark Haisma, who makes the wines here. These are Romania’s most famous vineyards, Dealu Mare, on the lower curve of the Carpathians, directly north of Bucharest. There are both traditional grapes with a long history, and Western European varieties, some of which blend well together.
The wines include a crisp, dry, white, an off-dry white, a pink and a red. The dry white, based on Feteasca Alba, is very good. Bottled about four months ago, it is very fresh and lively. The rosé deserves a mention. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah, it is pale, dry and fruity. The off-dry white is also fresh. The style perhaps might not appeal to the wine buff, but it should appeal massively to many novices, although that’s to do it a disservice. The star, for me, is the red. It blends Feteasca Negra with Pinot Noir (which has been present in Romania for a very long time), and it is indeed a fortuitous blend which works very well. The blend is 60:40, and it is oak aged (about 30% new oak). The 2015 is bright and elegant with good fruit and acidity, even for a vintage which was as hot in Romania, as in much of Europe. The 2014 had the advantage of an extra year in bottle and showed nice richness, though the ’15 had deeper fruit.
These are well priced artisanal wines, made with lower yields by a highly skilled winemaker at the top of his game, and they are made in a style intended to appeal to Western palates. They are clean and well made, and just a little bit different. They help show the enormous potential of Romania, where there is a vast, untapped, supply of good vine material and excellent terroir, which Mark is helping to highlight.
Dagon Clan are available via Wanderlust wines for between £10-£15. www.wanderlustwine.co.uk
I’m well aware this has been a long piece of writing. It’s hard to do justice to everything here. It’s also hard to pluck out a few wines when everything was genuinely good. But I won’t sit on the fence. The following are the wines I’d buy myself:
- Le Grappin Santenay 1er Cru Blanc “Les Gravières” 2015
- Le Grappin Beaune 1er Cru “Les Boucherottes” Rouge 2015
- Jane Eyre Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Cru “Aux Vergelesses” 2015
- Mark Haisma Bourgogne Aligoté 2015
- Mark Haisma Bourgogne Rouge 2015
- Mark Haisma Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru “Les Chaffots” 2015
- Mark Haisma Cornas “Les Combes” 2015
- Dagon Clan “Jar” (Red) 2015
But of course, when it comes to Andrew and Emma’s Beaujolais, it’s a case of filling your boot with anything you can get. Add in a few of those and I’d have a very desirable mixed case.