Week 34 – Goisot, La Ronce 2012

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Today’s a first for The Wine Analyst, as I return to a producer who will be familiar to those who keep track of my weekly reviews. The goal of these articles is to present different wines, not too often with a link or common element, but nearly always to show how diverse wine can be. It speaks to the credit of this week’s winemaker that, even taking into consideration the fact that it is a small estate, the range of wines is astonishing and packed with different identities. Guilhem and Jean-Hugues Goisot playea defining role in putting the lesser known appelations of Auxerre on the map. I already introduced their Saint-Bris earlier this year; today I turn the spotlight on what they offer in red.

Moving up in the appelations that may ring a bell with a general public, Côtes d’Auxerre is located on the right bank of the Yonne, whereas Coulanges la Vineuse was on the left bank, more to the south. It is slightly larger, covering about 200ha but when it comes down to red, vineyards are planted on pretty much the same area as ClV. Wines from Côtes d’Auxerre are capable of a more elegant, different kind of complexity as soils here are a mix of marl and Portlandian, which contains less chalk and fossils than the famous Kimmeridgian terroir of Chablis.

Goisot currently owns about 30 hectares across various appelations, and certain parcels get the single vineyard treatment. One of them is today’s La Ronce 2012. From the get-go there is an astonishing difference in colour, brilliant and not as hazy as last week’s Vini Viti Vinci. There is a reductive touch on the nose that only really disappears on day two in favor of cherries, wild flowers and a rather distinct toasty touch. If I had not known what I had in my glass, I would have been tempted to place it in Germany as this is often something that comes back in young Spätburgunder. Floral aromas on the palate nicely complement the fruit and while tannins present can benefit from aging, the wine as a whole comes across incredibly balanced. There is lovely depth in the finish that you would be hard pressed to find in some of the more famous and at the very least more expensive Burgundian appelations!

Other Burgundy wines talked about: 

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Week 33 – Vini Viti Vinci, Grôle Tête 2014

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Last week’s Jura region may not be widely known among the general public, today’s region has in all likelihood not popped up on the radar of your average winelover. Not even Jancis Robinson has a tasting note on this region in her database! To be fair, Coulanges la Vineuse is a tiny appellation that has the misfortune of specializing in pinot noir (as you would you expect in Burgundy) but in a region not remotely associated with red wines: Auxerre. ClV is so small that even on their own website the appellation first mentions the vineyards of Auxerre at 1300ha, before hiding the fact that they only cover 135ha of this themselves.

Nicolas Vauthier ran a renowned winebar specializing in natural wines until he decided to pack up his bags to start a new life as négociant Vini Viti Vinci in the north of Burgundy, focusing on little known appelations. He does not own all vineyards himself but sources grapes from those who work organically or biodynamical, taking full control at harvest. He has only really been making wine for a couple of years with patchy results (according to the merchant where I bought the bottle) as he tries to work as natural as possible with little to no sulphur added.

All his wines have cartoon labels, some more appropriate for the general public than others! Grôle Tête 2014 is one of a few wines produced under the ClV appelation, even though some vintages are sold as Vin de France. The immediate impression you get when popping the cork, is Kriek Lambic. If I had not opened the bottle myself, I would have easily confused it for beer! The colour is not what you would expect of pinot noir, non-filtered but light, almost pinkish red. On the palate it is surprisingly structured though, a lovely acidity with a hint of tannins towards the finish. There is a tiny element of greenness at the end but overall this is the perfect example of a vin de soif, the type of bottle that is empty before you even realize it. I have to admit that it is difficult to judge. It is no way pinot noir, not even wine if you judge it purely on the nose, but it is delicious. Is it not that what counts?

Other Burgundy wines talked about: 

Week 32 – Domaine de Saint Pierre, Les Gaudrettes 2014

IMG_3008When talking about pinot noir in France, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who links it to another region besides Burgundy. Granted, it is nigh unbeatable reputation-wise, as the recent auction at Hospice de Beaune proved with a whopping 39% price increase versus last year. Nonetheless, other regions are perfectly capable of producing unique pinot noir. For instance, Jura wines may not be the easiest, are from time to time hijacked by hipsters and enjoy sudden bursts of popularity on the sommelier scene, but on plenty of occasions they are utterly delicious.

The Jura is only a stone’s throw away from the heart of Burgundy so comparisons are unavoidable. Winemakers used to be quite self-conscious, preferring to use pinot noir as a blending component and operating under the assumption that they could not compete with the Cote d’Or. They are increasingly confident in the region’s own sense of an identity however, and monovarietal wines are on the rise.

The Jura has become popular in recent years in part because the region is a hotbed of natural winemaking. Big names like Ganevat or Overnoy only seem to exist on social media these days but they have laid the path for plenty of winemakers held in high esteem. One of these is Domaine de Saint Pierre, taken over by Fabrice Dodane, the estate’s winemaker for 20+ years, following the death of its founder in 2011. Fabrice was the driving force behind the estate’s expansion to six hectares, as well as the conversion to organic winemaking in 2008.

Les Gaudrettes 2014 is a young wine and is intended to be drunk as such. It is made with carbonic fermentation, in which unpressed grapes are put in a sealed tank filled with carbon dioxide. Without oxygen present, the fermentation process will start inside the grape, and the result is a fruit-driven wine, showing redcurrants and a hint of raspberry (on day 2) in the nose. Juicy and crisp in the mouth, almost too one-sidedly fruity until you get a tangy, mineral streak in the finish. It is a thirst-quencher, charming in its forwardness offering easy drinking pleasure. Open it a couple of hours earlier, serve it a bit cooler than usual and in a large Burgundy glass for maximum enjoyment!

Week 30 – Geil, Geyersberg Frühburgunder 2012

dAs clarified a couple of weeks ago when talking about Tschuppen 2007, Pinot Noir is never just Pinot Noir. Clonal variety can lead to differences in flavour and aromas, as we see with Spätburgunder. Nonetheless, the wines are still distinctly Pinot Noir in fragrance and structure. It becomes a bit trickier when we start looking into mutations or crossings.

Frühburgunder is one of those mutations that leads a quiet but successful life on its own. Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz use Pinot Précoce as header in Wine Grapes, but in all likelihood it originated in Germany. The distinguishing factor is that it ripens about two weeks earlier than Pinot Noir, and seeing as the German climate was harsher than Burgundy a couple of centuries ago, it may very well be possible that the mutation therefore occurred in a Northern region. The hotbed for Frühburgunder these days is without a doubt the Ahr, which will be discussed in greater detail in the future, but it can also be found in Franken (Klingenberg) and Rheinhessen. Overall though, there is very little to be found with only around 400 ha in all of Germany.

In comparison with Spätburgunder, Frühburgunder wines are a bit more intense, aromas go more into darker fruit instead of the delicate red berries that are so characteristic of Spätburgunder. Oak ageing suits it, giving it a lot of structure in the mouth as well as increasing longevity. Johannes Geil’s Frühburgunder Geyersberg Goldkapsel 2012 is a terrific example. It may be a bit too young perhaps to drink right now, but I couldn’t resist. The immediate impression on the nose is dark chocolate, the kind you find so often in South America, raw but pure. Raspberries and blackberries counter it with some juicy fruitiness, helped by the fleshed-out acidity in the mouth. Long in the finish, acidity-driven but never losing the weighty sensation. This is only just coming around, but already showing so much potential. I will tuck away my other bottles for at least another couple of years!

Other Rheinhessen wines talked about: 

Week 29 – Claire Naudin, Orchis Mascula 2009

IMG_2783When the topic of Burgundy pops up in a conversation, focus will more often than not be on the villages of the Côte d’Or and their lieu-dits, premiers crus and grand crus. Nonetheless, excellent value can be found on other appellation levels as well, sometimes even moreso than in overly hyped crus. Don’t forget, grand and premier crus only make up about a tenth of the entire Burgundy wine production and it is really the regional appellation level that is most important to overall output. For instance, the Hautes Côtes surrounding the Côte d’Or are in my opinion not always given the credit that they deserve. Altitude is the most important differentiating factor as the name implies; full ripening, and thus the harvest, generally takes place later than in the Côte d’Or, even though global warming has made this less of an issue in recent years.

During our Burgundian trip in April we had lunch at Claire Naudin’s place. Unfortunately our strict schedule only left us with enough time for a bite to eat and a quick but interesting tasting of some of the wines that she had on offer, so I did not really get a chance at a proper introduction. I tracked down the Belgian importer a while back and was able to procure a couple of her wines from older vintages to enjoy. Claire tries to work as natural as possible focusing on sustainable viticulture, while intervention in the vinification process is kept to a minimum but not refused by default. For instance, she does not add any sulfur to the wine until the bottling stage, allowing a vibrant retention of the color in her red wines while ensuring stability, not unimportant if you want to ship your wine across the world!

Orchis Mascula 2009 is a blend of three different high quality parcels in the Côtes de Beaune. Like I often find with natural wines, aeration is key to lure the wine out of hiding. After some time in the glass a heady floral perfume arises with little red berries, raspberries and rose buds in the background. A medium intense start, but a deep and intense sensation on the palate with tannins present but well integrated, slightly dominated by the juicy acidity that takes over towards the end. It is a subtle, elegant wine that takes a bit of time to show what it is capable of, but the depth and intensity of its flavours, especially in the finish are magnificent!

Other Burgundy wines talked about: 

Week 28 – Ziereisen, Tschuppen 2007

IMG_2780So, summer is over in and it is the perfect time to place the spotlight on wines more in tune with the weather. Autumn calls for two of my favourite varieties, Gamay and Pinot Noir. Gamay for its honest, joyful fruitiness that serves as a reminder of the sunny days we enjoyed up until recently and pinot noir, because it can be so perfectly in sync with the rhythm of nature slowing down, transitioning from lively, exuberant flavours to earthy and more delicate impressions. Continue reading

An overdue reflection on red Burgundy

So, I have kind of used up all possible excuses to postpone writing about Burgundian pinot noir, bar a sudden and inexplicable allergy for the variety. It’s a though one as Burgundy does have some of the greatest, most moving red wines out there which are unfortunately either way too expensive, or hidden in a cesspool of mediocre wines that would have been better off as vinegar (and even then they are sold at prices that would make other regions blush). Continue reading

Biodynamic conversion in practice – Francis Boulard

Biodynamic or natural viticulture is a challenge in the Champagne. In my first post on the topic I mentioned that the focus with most growers lies on securing yield, ensuring that nothing happens endangers the amount of grapes you get at harvest. As most growers are dependent on either the grands marques or the cooperatives, you can imagine the impact of the loss of a crop on their finances. Continue reading

Terroir geekery at Laherte Frères

Success in the Champagne is dependent on different factors. The Grands Marques have the luxury of being able to source their still wines from the entire region and have as such a large supply source, enabling them to create consistent and balanced champagnes over the years. Vignerons who are lucky enough to own land in villages with Grand Cru status can have it easier than others as the labelling alone will often allow them to command a premium price. Continue reading

Rudolf Fürst

I have a love-hate relationship with German red wines. They are either too thin, containing mere superficial fruitiness, or they are too concentrated, displaying alcohol levels up to 15% and tasting more like watered-down port. To make matters even more complicated, whereas you can find a more than decent Riesling for as little as 9-10 euros, a decent Spätburgunder will often set you back at least 20 euros. Continue reading

Franken

If you quiz people on what, if anything, they could tell you about Franken, I’d gather that you would get a lot of blank stares. Even among winelovers, I am fairly certain that most people would stop at bocksbeutel (the signature Franken bottle) and Silvaner (the most important grape variety grown). Continue reading