Conclusions from the tasting:
This is the third report in what will be a series on the much-feted 2005 burgundies. The first was a tasting presented by Ken Moon in Auckland in May 2015. The second covered a tasting I presented to Otago winemakers in August 2015. For both those, the nett impression was that the wines were withdrawn and reserved, but would they in fact finally offer the beauty the earlier commentators had promised. This third tasting in October 2016 produced a somewhat different result, partly because having regard to their tannin-rich backward natures, I selected at least some winestyles which should normally be ready at the 10-year point. And indeed this was the case. Some of the lighter wines have arrived. But again, this batch of wines scarcely yielded the magic one hopes one or two wines will reveal, in any burgundy tasting. Two well-regarded New Zealand 2005 pinot noirs were included as foils in the set, not so much in the sense that our pinot noirs can yet teach Burgundy very much, more in the hope they might bathe in reflected glory. And indeed, neither were shamed. One of them turned out to be remarkably competitive.
The top five wines in this 2005 Burgundy Library Tasting beautifully spanned the range of pinot noir winestyles, from the softer Cote de Beaune wines through to the more aromatic Cote de Nuits. The top New Zealand wine was clearly in the latter camp: 2005 Domaine de Montille Pommard Les Pezerolles Premier Cru, 17½; 2005 Domaine Chandon de Briailles Corton Les Bressandes Grand Cru, 18; 2005 Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block, 18; 2005 Domaine Maume Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, 18½; 2005 Domaine Denis Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Non-Filtré, 18½.
The Introductory material handed out to participants, and backgrounding the vintage, repeats material presented in the August 2015 tasting. The info provided for each wine is now incorporated in the 'admin' section of my wine review format, below.
The Invitation, and background information on the 2005 vintage:
Burgundy is still the home of the finest pinot noirs on earth. And in recent years most agree that the 2005s are the finest wines from that district in our lifetime. Our tasting will include 1 grand cru and 4 premiers crus (though one of the premiers is a de facto grand cru), 5 wines from the Cote de Nuits, 4 from the Cote de Beaune, 1 Bourgogne, and 2 from New Zealand, for perspective. The stand-out Premier Cru is Clos Saint-Jacques, Gevrey-Chambertin.
The Quality of the 2005 Vintage:
Jasper Morris, MW, in the now 'standard text' Inside Burgundy, says: For years I used to discuss the potential of a good new red burgundy vintage with Dominique Lafon, and we would say 'yes, that's good, but not as good as 1978'. However there was no such question over 2005 – clearly of greater potential than 1978 or anything else since – or indeed any vintage for many years before. Possibly 1959 ? The reds will be magnificent over the long term.
Elsewhere Tim Atkin MW wrote an article for the The Guardian titled: Is 2005 the best ever year for Burgundy?, and quoted Morris as saying: "This is the most uniformly successful vintage I have seen in my career." Across the water, the Wine Advocate (R. Parker) vintage chart rates the Cote de Nuits 98 and Tannic, the Cote de Beaune 96 and Tannic. No other vintage in the span covered (from 1970) compares. Wine Spectator is similar.
There seem few if any voices dissenting from these evaluations. Jancis Robinson in an article on her website titled: Burgundy 2005 - background to the vintage, says: The 2005 summer was quite exceptionally dry but the vines coped well ... Temperatures and sunshine hours on the other hand were generally lower than average ... so 2005 was no repeat of the heatwave vintage of 2003. Thanks to the lack of water, the grapes may have been pea-sized with thick skins full of flavour, tannin and colour, but for most red wines anyway, yields were relatively respectable. Domaine Armand Rousseau managed an average of just over 40 hl/ha [ 5.2 t/ha = 2.1 t/ac ] which seems pretty general for Gevrey-Chambertin. "It's quite exceptional to have this combination of ripeness, fullness and quantity," Eric Rousseau told me.
Fred Mugnier of Domaine J F Mugnier, sees a contradiction in the 2005s because they have both the freshness of a cool vintage and the richness and texture more reminiscent of an overripe vintage. "This makes the wines very interesting," he assured me, "because they have great current appeal but also real potential for ageing." If there is one dominant characteristic of these wines it is their thrilling combination of ripeness and acidity. In general all the wines are charming, truly succulent and they faithfully express their origins. Can one ask for more?
The Burghound View of the 2005s:
Allen Meadows on the 2005 Cote de Beaune Wines, in 2007: The best 2005s from the Cote de Beaune are quite simply sublime burgundies that will be capable of exceptional longevity with 20 years being a given. As in the Cote de Nuits, it seems that each level of the Burgundian hierarchy transcends its usual quality category and ascends to the one directly above, which is to say that regional wines perform like villages wines, villages wines like good if not absolute top 1ers, good 1ers are like solid grands crus and the best examples of Corton grands crus are among the best that I have ever seen.
The average wine is firmly structured but not at all aggressive and for several reasons. First, there is abundant mid-palate concentration to buffer the structure; two, the structural elements are all quite ripe, which takes away any sense of aggressiveness from the tannins and three, the acid levels are in keeping with the ripeness of the tannins, which means that the acidity does not have the tendency to accentuate the perception of astringency; for example, less successful '04s seem more tannic than they are in actuality because of the firm acidity.
As I mentioned, the aspect that I admire the most about the '05s is the textural impact that they have in the mouth. There is a real sense of volume and punch but at the same time, no sense of undue heaviness. Indeed I would go so far as to say that the most successful '05s epitomize the intrinsic genius of a great burgundy's ability to deliver power without weight. Stated differently, the better '05s are gorgeously balanced wines with a real sense of underlying harmony as there is everything they need to age gracefully for years.
And on the 2005 Cote de Nuits, in 2007: ... they're complete wines in every sense of the term. For starters, the wines are quite ripe without falling over the edge into surmaturité or even where the fruit begins to lose its distinctive site specific character. The aromas are also exceptionally clean and the only off notes that I encountered were a direct result of wine making flaws, not from rot, hail-taint or other maladies. The flavors are also clean, bright, precise and balanced and are generally wrapped in velvety finishes that coat the mouth on the vibrant finishes. The acid/fruit/tannin balance is consistently nigh on perfect as the tannins are ripe and while the acid levels are solid, they're less prominent than what one typically sees in the '02s but a bit more pronounced than in the '99s. My favorite aspect of the '05s though is the gorgeous mouth feel because there is a wonderfully tactile quality to them, which comes from having real mid-palate densities or real sève. To make the distinction clear, sève or sap is the concentration that comes only from the vineyard when yields are low. For example, the best 03's have ripe tannins and are dense as well but there is something mildly brutish about them whereas the '05s are sophisticated and refined. They are also built to age and some of the top wines will see their 50th birthdays without breathing hard. Even villages wines should enjoy a good run over at least a decade and 15 years is not out of the question for the more structured versions.
Meadows' nett impression of the 2005 vintage, in 2007: 2005 is quite simply the best top to bottom vintage that I have ever seen ...
About the Library Tastings:
# The tastings are presented blind, so that assessment is not clouded by views offered in the tasting notes in the hand-out. Rankings are requested by simple vote at the blind stage, and later comments are invited, if forthcoming. There is no requirement to say a word.
# Cork taint / TCA: In sharing in this tasting, tasters accept the risk of corked bottles. That is just the same as if you had cellared the wine yourself. It is not practicable to have back-up bottles for each of 12 wines. If a wine is clearly corked at the decanting stage, a reserve wine will be substituted. Tasters receive 12 wines, but maybe (luck of the draw) not a key / expensive one.
# The presentation is based on 12 wines all out at once, so comparisons can be made. The glasses will be XL5s, or better. Note however the pours are small (30 ml), both to enable more to share sometimes rare bottles, and to lower the entry price. Please come prepared to sniff and sip and savour rather more than initially drinking. Such a small volume can very easily be consumed, without thinking.
Sue Blackmore, Oenology and Viticulture Lecturer, Nelson & Marlborough Institute of Technology, provided total administrative support for the tasting over several weeks, plus use of a superb sensory-evaluation lab. Ian Clark, Nick Picone and Vince Edwards all of Villa Maria, likewise provided complete and much-appreciated facilities within the Villa Maria Marlborough winery complex. Scott Gray of Maison-Vauron kindly loaned the Meadows information. My sincere thanks.
Morris, Jasper 2010: Inside Burgundy: The vineyards, the wine and the people. Berry Bros & Rudd Press, 656 p.
Norman, Remington & Charles Taylor, 2010: The Great Domaines of Burgundy. Sterling, 288 p.
www.burghound.com = Allen Meadows
www.erobertparker.com = Robert Parker and increasingly the associates
www.jancisrobinson.com = Jancis Robinson and associates
www.winespectator.com (when others lack reviews)
THE WINES REVIEWED:
# The price indications below are current values, from wine-searcher, not the original purchase price. Background information in the notes is mostly from Morris, 2010.
Rich ruby and velvet, deep for Burgundy, the second deepest wine. Bouquet is deep, dark, infantile, and initially somewhat reserved. It opens up with air, and 18 hours later shows darkest red rose florals on all-black cherry fruit, fruit clearly dominant over good oak. In mouth the wine is still a baby, big fruit, rich tannins so much so the wine seems short on fruit (to casual inspection), but in fact the fruit richness is excellent. You just have to dissect it out from the tannins. The wine is not unduly oaky, just very powerful. In 10 years time this may well have overtaken the Maume. An exciting example of pinot noir, pushing the boundaries for ripeness and concentration, but just staying within bounds. Cellar 10 30 years. This was the most liked wine of the tasting, 10 people rating it their top or second wine. Intriguingly, seven also thought it could be a New Zealand wine. GK 10/16
Rosy ruby and garnet, surprisingly light for Gevrey-Chambertin, the lightest wine. Bouquet is highly varietal, and one of the exciting wines, red roses and vanillin, red cherry, very sophisticated cedary oak. Flavours in mouth build astonishingly on the colour and bouquet never did a wine so clearly exemplify the maxim: never judge a burgundy by its colour. At the tasting the wine looked a little too oaky, or under-fruited as one perceptive taster put it, but 18 hours later the all-red fruits have intensified dramatically, giving a glimpse into its future development in bottle. Lovely pure modern highly varietal wine, to cellar 5 20 years. My enthusiasm for the wine was not widely endorsed by this group of pinot noir-oriented winemakers, three only ranking it their top or second wine. Only one wondered if it might be a New Zealand wine. GK 10/16
Ruby and garnet, one of the older colours, above midway in depth. Bouquet is simply astonishing on this wine, a dramatic evocation not only of pinot noir the variety, but burgundy the winestyle. And specifically, in its excitement and zing, it reminds of the Cote de Nuits, not the Cote de Beaune. It is floral, but it is stretching the analogy to say boronia, the fragrant and maturing components being so married into the wine. There is also an autumnal suggestion, fitting with the colour, but it does not smell old in any negative sense. Red and black cherry fruits are now seamlessly complexed with oak, the wine at full maturity. Palate is rich alongside the burgundies, with the total acid up fractionally, though well covered by the mature fruit flavours. There is a suggestion of stalky complexity, only a trace, markedly less so than the other New Zealand wine. Eight people rated this their top or second wine, the second-highest group rating, and six thought it could be a New Zealand wine. GK 10/16
Rosy ruby and garnet, scarcely distinguishable from the Maume, the second to lightest wine. Bouquet is a little unusual, totally Cote de Beaune, soft browning pink-hued rose petals, strawberries and a hint of soaked sultanas, all soft and beguiling. Palate is silky, lovely fruit richness, fruit flavours reflecting the bouquet, red cherry dominant over fragrant oak, all maturing now. For a Corton, I would have liked a little more richness and vigour, but this is lovely mature wine. By and large, tasters did not share my enthusiasm for the wine, two only rating it their top or second wine, and four placing it as their least wine. Nobody thought it New Zealand. The implications (to me) are firstly that (generalising) in a young wine country, winemakers do prefer younger wines, and secondly, New Zealand winemakers are primarily focussed on the wines of the Cote de Nuits as their pinot noir model, and this soft mature highly typical Cote de Beaune wine was overlooked / passed by. Has the substance to hold for a number of years. GK 10/16
A classic pinot noir colour, rosy ruby, a suggestion of garnet nearly apparent, below midway in depth. One sniff and this is Beaune too, the softer less aromatic more strawberry / raspberry side of red cherry fruit, but browning now with a good volume of bouquet. Palate shows clear classed-growth quality of fruit and dry extract, contrasting vividly with some of the skinnier / shorter wines on the table, clear red roses, red cherry and gentle oak, all approaching full maturity. In some ways this wine is the best exemplar of pinot noir the variety in the set. Cellar up to 10 more years. Again this wine did not find favour with the group, one only ranking it top or second, and six thinking it might be New Zealand. GK 10/16
Colour is one of the older pinots, a fair bit of garnet in the ruby, the third-deepest wine. Bouquet is complex. Freshly opened there is almost a thyme aromatic lift, which by the time of presenting the tasting had married into a highly zingy, totally aromatic Cote de Nuits bouquet. It would be inconceivable to place this wine in the Cote de Beaune. As you smell and taste through the wine, you realise there is quite a stalk / whole-bunch lift to the bouquet, on red and black cherry fruit. The flavour lets it down a little, the wine lacking the harmony the better burgundies and the Black Poplar wine show. There is good fruit, but an overt fruit-sweetness sitting slightly incongruously alongside elevated stemminess and total acid, both still to harmonise. The colour suggests the wine is well along its maturation profile, but not unduly so. In five years time this may be as harmonious as the slightly older-looking Black Poplar is now. This wine was quite well liked by the group, five rating it their top or second wine (one speaker noting he liked an obvious whole-bunch component), and five also thinking it could be New Zealand. I cannot confirm they were the same five. GK 10/16
Another classic pinot noir colour, fractionally older (more garnet) than the Pezerolles, right in the middle for depth of colour. Bouquet is a little more piquant and zingy than the Pezerolles, pointing to the Cote de Nuits, with also just a trace of stalk, as if there may be a whole-bunch component. The nett impression is refreshing, as Robinson would say, and the flavours follow through perfectly, red fruits, a nearly floral component, a slight tannin lift, not quite the weight of fruit / dry extract of the Pezerolles. Cellar 3 8 years. This wine appealed more to tasters, five rating it their top or second wine, and three thinking it could be New Zealand GK 10/16
Youthful vigorous ruby and velvet, well above midway in depth. One sniff and this is a big wine, deep, dark and tannic, almost spicy, and not exactly varietal to first impression. With air it gradually reveals more of itself, but it is remarkably substantial (for the appellation). You get the impression there is no new oak, and comparison with the Bachelet Vieilles Vignes reinforces that thought. The wine is almost monolithic, tannin-rich, yet somehow just manages to still remind of pinot noir. It needs another 10 years at least: once it crusts in bottle it will be much more pinot-varietal. There might be light brett, which may lead to premature drying, but probably not enough to worry about given the richness. Pretty interesting stuff, for the appellation. Two tasters had this as their top or second wine, and intriguingly, seven thought it New Zealand. The all-old-oak factor argues against that interpretation. GK 10/16
Ruby and velvet, soon some garnet, the deepest wine of the 12. Bouquet is distinctive on this wine, being deep, rich, ripe to over-ripe darkest plums more than black cherries. The more you look at it, the riper and oakier it seems. There is even a hint of caramel, and the oaking is so seductive the whole wine style puts you in mind of Wolf Blass and his sweetly-oaked Show shiraz wines. This is not what I look for in pinot noir or burgundy, so you can't help thinking Robinson was seduced by the young wine on the day, in her report (above). The perils of barrel-tasting with the winemaker ! Palate is rich, but also massively oaky. It is a most unusual wine style to come from Burgundy, where sur-maturité is so frowned upon. Cellar 5 20 years. Impressions from the group were interesting, two really liking it and placing it top, but no votes for second. Five thought it could be from New Zealand, which makes sense on the over-oaking. All in all a highly educational wine, but not for totally positive (in a pinot noir sense) reasons. I will be interested to see this in another 5 years: will the fruit blossom ? There is no denying it is rich. GK 10/16
A good burgundy colour, medium, some garnet creeping in, right in the middle for depth. Bouquet is soft, fragrant, mature, lifted and spicy, highly varietal in one sense. Palate is all red fruits / red cherries browning now, but with clear spicy complexities suggesting significant brett, gentle oak a little new, the whole wine zingy and aromatic in mouth but not because of Cote de Nuits fruit characters. This will be a wonderful food wine, as bretty wines so commonly are, but it might be better not to cellar it for too long, 3 8 years maybe. There is a risk of drying. Five tasters rated this their top or second wine, and none thought it could be New Zealand. GK 10/16
A good burgundy colour, ruby and some garnet, below midway in depth. Bouquet is soft, sweetly varietal, slightly savoury, with suggestions of the zingy lift that one associates with the Cote de Nuits. Accordingly I used it as wine one, to set the pace for the tasting. In mouth the wine is lesser, small fruit, slightly tannic, acid a little noticeable, but still good varietal flavour. 18 hours later it seemed weaker still, so this is a wine at full maturity, time to be drinking it over the next few years. One person quite liked it in the group, placing it second, while three had it as their least. At that point it is intriguing to go back and check this wine against the Corton which four rated least. There is no comparison, the richness of the latter wine and its length of aftertaste being exemplary in comparison. GK 10/16
A light burgundy colour, garnet overtaking the ruby, the third to lightest wine. Bouquet is clean and fragrant but fading Cote de Beaune pinot noir, nearly floral in a brown way, and similarly browning red fruits. Palate is soft, harmonious, perfect fruit / acid / oak balance, but all past full maturity, a hint of almond, fading harmoniously. This wine needs to be finished up. Generalising, with a winemaker-dominated audience, winemakers don't like old wines as much as keen amateurs, and this wine had no first or second rankings (the only one), and seven least-liked votes. But it is still harmonious mature burgundy, in a smaller Cote de Beaune way. It would be much better than no wine, at dinner ! GK 10/16