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Burgundy 2016 en primeur Tasting Notes

We are delighted to announce that Stuart Grostern has joined our team at WanderCurtis.

Stuart has an exceptional palate to match his cellar. His excellent tasting notes  and recommendations spanning 15 years can be found on the Wine Spectator Forum under BirDungy. Below is his valuable insight into Burgundy en primeur 2016.

After having to miss the entire 2015 vintage tasting due to unreasonable work responsibilities, I have rebounded to attend the annual Berry Bros and Rudd Burgundy en primeur tasting. I was fortunate to have arrived early enough to taste some but not all of the greatest wines there, notes below on approx 40 wines.

To start, I think everyone has heard that 2016 was a year badly affected by frost which drastically reduced crop size in some vineyards by as much as 90%. The wines are, therefore, harder to get good allocations of and up (again, especially coupled with Brexit GBP devaluation vs. EUR) in price. However, many of the wines I tasted were beautiful and highly expressive of their place, open to taste, and showing very well during the tasting. Against this, given the ever changing complexion of the region, many new makers are on the rise, with many established makers extending their reach beyond their typical villages. This is not always a good thing, as I found a real mix of newer names, some excellent, and some not so, to be evident from this tasting.

Reds were, in general, open for tasting, fruit driven and well-balanced. I found quite a lot of barrel influence in evidence, even at the villages levels, with some clumsy efforts made especially in those makers who either picked later or tried too hard to find an expression for their wines that didn’t always match the appellation. Some of the villages wines were excellent, and definitely represent the best value IMO. A big shout goes for Ghislaine Barthod’s Chambolle Musigny villages, easily one of the top 3 wines of the night. Morey St Denis also did well and was not very affected by frost. Clos Vougeot in the grands crus stood out. The up and coming winemaker from this tasting for me was Jerome Castagnier, whose wines were all beautiful and full of life.

I have bought across the Cote de Nuits apart from NSG (no real reason), and have not focused on whites because I just have too much white Burgundy and do feel now that some of the newer world chards from NZ (esp) and cooler climate Aussie whites are so close in quality at a fraction of the price that I just couldn’t bear adding any more.

I only tasted a handful of whites, so I don’t have a lot to say here. Colleagues of mine did taste more and liked the vintage, which is reputed to have produced good quality whites across the spectrum, more akin to the 2014 vintage.

Here are the notes:


Pommard, Clos des Epeneaux, 1er cru

Concentrated purple fruit nose, emitting strong dark grape essence. In the mouth, medium bodied, more purple concentrated fruit, grapey, with fantastic balance of fruit, acidity and tannins. Very long finish. Excellent wine, seem to have hit the nail on the head with this wine.


Santenay, Clos Rousseau 1er cru

Red fruit nose of raspberry, dried roses, and a bit of smoke. Very balanced mouthfeel, giving a real sense of elegance matching the nose. This wine is pure and honest, is what it is and represents excellent value at approx. £38/btl all in. One of my favourite wines of the tasting.

Charmes Chambertin grand cru

Beautiful light red fruit nose, powdery, perfumed with sweet flowers with an underlying concentration of fruit belying some power. A wonderful balance of fruit, tannin and acidity, with a hint of animal savoury flavour. This wine has perfect balance, and its name is apt for its charm. Excellent.


Chassagne Montrachet, Embazees 1er cru

Very strong ripe fruit nose, with vanilla essence. Very honeyed in the mouth, showing the pear and pineapple fruita but perhaps too much. I think this is overripe for my taste. Not sure how well this will age.

Meursault Genevrieres 1er cru

Very strong vanilla influence on the nose, overpowering. IN the mouth, overpowered by the vanilla essence, leaving an overly sweet cloying flavour. Again, not to my taste and not clear how well this will age.

Volnay Clos de la Cave des Ducs 1er cru

Darker fruit nose with caramel and vanilla. In the mouth, tart fruit with good concentration and acidity. Very elegant, and nicely balanced. A beautiful wine, very very good.

Pommard Rugiens-Haut 1er cru

A darker Pommard character shines out, slightly animal with purple fruit nose. The palate is lighter initially and then gives way to concentrated fruit, followed by bigger hit of acidity than the Volnay. A drying finish, and then a touch of ox that perhaps gives the sense of over enthusiasm with barrels.


Vougeot Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot 1er cru (white)

Slightly charred nose, but giving the essence of chardonnay. Sweet tart fruit, wonderful depth and concentration, perfect balance of acidity and fruit, an absolutely stunning wine. Outstanding.

Gevrey Chambertin Les Evocelles

Slightly ox’d nose, cloves, a little cloying. Good fruit concentration, drying tannins. This wine needs more time.

Clos de Vougeot grand cru

Very smokey nose, slightly animal, dark fruit with some perfume showing but quite closed for the vintage. Silky tannin mouth, wonderful on the palate with a good slug of wood offsetting the clearly ripe tart fruit and the acidity, leaving a very well balanced wine. Finishes with darker fruit. Very Very good.


Chambolle Musigny Les Cras

Very pale in colour compared to most other wines. Gamey with red cranberry juice, strawberry jam and cinnamon – almost not a wine nose but something from my pantry. Strawberry jam flavour, with good acidity against the fruit, but not a lot else. Not very complex. Good

Nuits St Georges Clos des Argillieres 1er cru

A bit of horseradish, vanilla, strawberry jam, with a slightly smokey edge nose. Good tart fruit, nicely balanced strawberry and cherry with some spices and tea. Mid weight on the palate, long finish, and well balanced. Very very good.


Nuits St Georges Clos de la Marechale 1er cru

Strong fruit nose, grape koolaid or juice, and very purple. Tart fruit set against good acidity with very drying tannins. Very well balanced fruit and acidity, leaving this feeling effortless. Long finish. Very very good – this wine is often impossible to taste at this stage, quite sulfuric, and needing more bottle time so quite a good showing for a long sleeper.


Vosne Romanee

Typical Vosne nose hits you straight out of the glass, cherry, tea, vanilla, earth, animal. Ripe dark fruit, a bit sherbety with real concentration and power. Chewy tannins balanced by the fruit and acidity. A very lovely wine, very very good.\

Vosne Romanee Aux Malsoncourts 1er cru

More closed than the villages with subtle cherry, roses and tea leaves. A riper fruit palate, sweet cherry with some fat, and strong concentration of sherbet powder on the very long finish. Excellent.


Vosne Romanee

Cherry candy nose with a whiff of animal. Concentrated raspberry with a strong taste presence, finishing slightly bitter with mid length – typical Grivot young wine. Very good.

Nuits St Georges, Les Pruliers 1er cru

Darker roaster nose of cassis. Taut palate with very concentrated dark fruit – a driven wine with strong acidity and a long finish. Very very good.

Clos de Vougeot grand cru

Voluptuos nose of fruit and flowers, complex bouquet of flowers and vanilla. Strong cherry fruit with some animal essence, spices, cassis, dark cherry, just bags of fruit here. A strong barrel influence for this young wine, tannins in force but well balanced, with a slightly drying bitter finish. A beautiful sweet long finish screams balance. Wonderful.


Vosne Romanee

Cough medicine and sour cherry nose, smells like it’s slightly oxidised. Same in the mouth. Bleh.


Chambolle Musigny

Sappy fruit, violets, and raspberry, with purple fruit in the nose. A darker wine than usual. Very concentrated but supple fruit, with an underlying power that finishes super long. Just a beautiful make you want to cry wine. Excellent.

Chambolle Musigny Les Baudes 1er cru

There is an extra dimension of florality on this compared to the villages that is in addition to everything the villages has, including a bit more vanilla. This is such an elegant wine, precise, long – a real wow wine with a slightly hot finish. Wow.


Gevrey Chambertin

Grape bubblegum nose, essence of grape Koolaid. Taste is similar, with concentrate grape jelly, but much weight in the mid-palate, which doesn’t live up to what the nose tells me I will get. Sweet and tart fruit, very nice balance but is this really from Gevrey?? Tastes more like Volnay to me

Gevrey Chambertin Les Evocelles

Similar nose but wutg more concentration. More fruit in the mouth, with good acidity balanced against the tannins with a bit more weight and length than the villages. Good but again, not really GC to me.


Charmes Chambertin grand cru

Very ripe raspberry and cherry nose, with flowers and earth. A beautiful nose with hints of tea. Sweet ripe cherry fruit, with strong acidity balancing it out, and tannins just so. A beautifully balanced wine. Excellent.

Clos de Vougeot grand cru

A subdued nose with a bit of horse hair, purple fruit like cassis. Super concentrated ripe fruit, tart acidity. Medium bodied, very precise and long. The tannins are chewy and balance well against the fruit and acidity. A super wine. Excellent


Morey St Denis Vieilles Vignes

Purple fruit with some animal, really sexy nose. Concentrated tart fruit, with good acidity and beautiful tannins. A really well balanced wine with a linear fruit taste profile. Very very good.

Morey St Denis Les Faconnieres

Just like the VV but with more animal essence in the nose, just a lovely wine to breathe. Dark syrupy fruit of cherry and raspberry, very concentrated with a bit of fat sweetness and a good finish. Wonderful wine. Excellent


Morey St Denis

Lifted nose of fruit, flowers and vanilla essence, concentrated grape juice and cinnamon. A beautiful fruit expression of concentrated grape juice like the nose. Strong acidity is well balanced by the tannins. A great wine. Excellent

Clos des Lambrays grand cru

Nose much more closed, with some hints of the MSD. A super charged concentrated wine, perfectly balanced between ripe tart fruit, silky tannins, and acidity, finishing slightly hot. Amazing. Excellent


Gevrey Chambertin Symphonie

Raisined nose characteristic, still a bit sulfury and a bit dirty on the nose. Concentrated drier fruit of prunes and raisins with good acidity and tannins. Was this picked too late?? Ok

Gevrey Chambertin Mes Favorites Vieilles Vignes

Nose of dried fruits, cloves, raisins, with some horse hair and earth. Concentrated sweet and tart fruit, with a better palate than nose, showing cloves and spices. Very good balance and long finish. Very very good.


Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes

Overty oaky nose, over dominates the rest. Clumsy oaky wine with drying tannins that really needs a lot more time in bottle. Not knit. Clumsy.

Chapelle Chambertin grand cru

Charred smokey nose, with cherries and flowers, very pretty. Sweet ripe fruit, vanilla and spices but a bit lightweight in body. Nice concentration of fruit but more pretty than substantial. Drying finish. Very good.

Chambertin grand cru

Charred smokey nose, lots of barrel, with horse/manure, animal, earth and cloves hiding the fruit in the nose. Sweet fat fruit, fresh raspberry and cherry with good acidity enclosing the fruit. Strong tannins with a slightly hot finish,. Good balance and very long. Very very good.

Hope you enjoyed these.

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Chateau Haut Condissas – punching well above its weight!

It’s really not that hard to find great wines: go for a prestigious region, select one of the big names, just check that it has a good score from an international critic or two and bingo! As long as of course you don’t mind paying through the nose……  And in Bordeaux the wines have steadily been extracting larger and larger amounts through said nasal passage to the point at which they are now truly eye watering.

Which is why I have been a fan of ChateIMG_9919au Rollan de By for many years, it is a reliably delicious Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc, worthy of aging for a few years and sold at a very fair price.  So I was intrigued to hear that proprietor Jean Guyon (who also owns Chateau Greysac & a few others) also makes a more ambitious wine at Chateau Haut Condissas with the aim of rivalling the classified growths.

Arriving at a recent vertical tasting of the wines the very air in the room was scented with plums, cigar box and coco powder, a very promising start and the wines did not disappoint.

IMG_9922Wine maker Olivier Dauga (who used to work at Sociando de Mallet another of my favourite Medoc producers) explained that his goal is to achieve fine tannins by avoiding too much extraction, the fruit should be in the fore with the wood in a supporting role & not the other way around. His philosophy is that good grapes make good wine very good grapes make very good wines. The vineyards of Haut Condissas are to the very north of the Medoc near the Atlantic on the plateau de By close to the river bar.

These are rich merlot driven wines but have an unusually high proportion of around 20 % Petit Verdot.  This gives the wines colour & spice and extra freshness but they have to be careful as PV can give green tannins. Made without aeration or filtration in a very pure way with 100% new oak of which 10% American. The chateaux believe that affordability is important for high quality wines in the Medoc.

Haut Condissas 1999. Nice cigar box nose with red fruit berries. In the mouth medium body, fresh, light red fruit, more cedar, soft slightly powdery tannins & medium length. At its peak I would have thought but still full of life. Lifted & Refined. Very good. Returning later vegetal notes had developed.

Haut Condissas 2009. A hot year. Ripe plums, red fruit, faint cloves and smoke on the nose. Full body, medium + acid, more plums, cooked red fruit, some more cloves, coco powder, toasty, ripe soft tannin, and a long finish. 14% alcohol so a big wine but finely balanced. Excellent.

Haut Condissas 2010. Beautiful scented nose of red fruit, cedar and smoke, clove. On the palate: lovely & cool balanced, medium body, good fruit, lifted, tasty lashings of toast and spice. Very long. Excellent.  Returning later ground coffee & forest fruit compote.

Haut Condissas 2013. A Kosher wine – This is made in a different way observing the Sabbath & according to Judaism’s dietary laws.

There was a lot of rain in 2013 the wine is light in colour and intensity. More fruit driven nose with black plum & coco. Lighter body fruit, some toast and vanilla, slightly more angular tannin. Very drinkable. Very good.

Haut Condissas 2014. On the nose red fruit, some black berries, spice, smoke. In the mouth great balance, lifted and fresh, full fruit, nice spice, ripe tannin. Long a Lovely wine. Excellent.

Haut Condissas 2005.60% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot,10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. On the nose rich ripe fruit, smoky, coco & vanilla, forest floor an intense & complex nose. On the palate: lovely texture, medium plus body, more opulent than others, developed with mature flavours, leather, loam etc. with a lovely fruit core, holt chocolate. Very complex & vibrant. Great length and good freshness.  Gorgeous! An outstanding wine.

The chateau bottled a small quantity of single varietal wines from each of the grape varieties in the 2005 blend and in a brilliant twist to the normal wine tasting invited us to produce our own blend.IMG_9921

2005 100% Merlot. Dusty coco and plum nose, not particularly intense. Gorgeous fruit pie and chocolate shake, full body, powdery coating tannins. Medium acid.

2005 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Clove, indistinct fruit on nose. Cool, refined great structure, high acid, full body, long.

2005 100% Cabernet Franc. More delicate fruit raspberries etc. Bit of smoke. Beautiful fruit, fresh, refined, long & lifted wow! Light tannin and light structure.

2005 100% Petit Verdot. Spicy slightly funky with dark and stewed intense fruit, clove & lots of tannin.

My blend: 25% Merlot 25% CS, 40% CF, 10% PV. Slightly less open than actual blend, showing the austerity of CS and lighter fruit & high notes of CF.

It was fascinating to taste each varietal in its mature state and experiment with how each component adds to the blend.  Interestingly the only wine which really stood on its own two was the Cabernet Franc & the 2005 blend was far and away greater than the sum of its parts.

The 2005 and 2010 are still available at around £30- £35 per bottle by the case which for back vintages of an outstanding wine is great value!

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Achtung Blaufränkisch!

Alert! Austria’s other great grape Blaufränkisch turns out, like its sister Grüner Veltliner, to be an amazing food wine.

This was beautifully demonstrated at a recent lunch hosted by Leithaberg DAC paired a selection of the region’s top wines with HKK Hakkasan’s equally top Chinese tasting menu.

Where, you may be wondering is Leithaberg (pronounced Light-a-bear -gh)…… in Austria of course as I’m sure our well healed readers know only too well.  The appellation (DAC) is at the far eastern end of the country close to lake Neusiedler & the Hungarian border. Not to be confused with Neusiedlersee DAC which is on the other side of the lake and also boarders Hungary.  The Neusiedlersee is of course the lake that provides the perfect conditions for noble rot allowing wine makers Alois Kracher and Feiler Artinger to produce amazing sweet wines of international repute.   However don’t be confused as these don’t fall into either DAC region and are normally just labelled from Burgenland.

Link to map of wine region

Anyway now that that is all clear the important thing to remember is that the wines of Leithaberg are delicious and astonishingly good with Asian cuisine.  Austria’s wunderkind Gruener Veltliner now regularly appears on restaurant wine lists in the capital because it is so versatile with food, but look beyond this grape and you will find that Weissburgunder (pinot blanc) and Blaufränkisch (one of Austria’s indigenous reds) are equally great food wines.   This was amply demonstrated at the lunch hosted by Leithaberg DAC at HKK Hakkasan’s restaurant in the City.img_7943

Leithaberg DAC produces Chardonnay, Greuner Veltliner, Neuburger, Weissburgunder & Blaufränkisch but the wines that shone for me were the last two grape varieties.

Weissburgunder is made in a range of styles from simple unoaked, dry full bodied wine with citrus, mineral & sometimes slightly salty character to more complex, textured, spicy and flinty offerings from old vines that may have seen the inside of large old oak barrels.  The range of wines on offer at this tasting all had a good twist of acidity and wet stone character no doubt thanks to the schist & shelly lime stone hills and cool nights thanks to the lake.

Blaufränkisch comes in many styles and is often blended with other grapes but I was delighted to find that the majority of the wines on show were 100% Blaufränkisch and only subtly oaked if at all.  For me this pure style shows the grape’s delicious rounded fruit & savoury spice character lifted by freshness at its best.  I love the entry level blended wines which are so approachable and reliably tasty but the grape also produces great single vineyard wines with more structure and plenty of layers of fruit, spice, wet stones and sometimes blood.  These wines age well too as the wines at lunch showed.

The lunch:

img_7940Michelin-starred Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee and his kitchen at HKK put on a great menu to showcase their super refined Chinese cuisine.

Dongji Wagyu beef mushroom, shiitake mushrooms with pickled vegetables, onion, mooli .

Chardonnay Leithaberg DAC 2015, Weingut Esterhazy.

A concentrated citrus chardonnay that stood up to the pickled vegetables.

Gruener Veltliner Himmelreich 2013, Weingut Sommer.

Fresh but with some body and great structure, nice mineral wet stone and grapefruit pith. This wine worked as a brilliant foil to the doughy fake mushroom filled with beef and the real fungi.

Zhang Dim sum Trilogy. Prawn and seaweed dumpling, king crab and dry scallop dumpling, label Rouge chicken and pickled Chinese leaves puff.

Weissburgunder Golden Erd 2012, Weingut Tinhof.

Floral medium body, with a bit of spice which resonated with the Asian spices in the dumplings.

Weissburgunder Leithaberg 2010, Weingut Heinrich.

A lovely structured wine with great tension and lift but the body to cope with the delicious seafood flavours of the Dim sum.  This outstanding combination was over far too quickly & is now firmly lodged in the memory.  This is obviously why Pinot Blanc exists!

Signature Cherry Wood Peking Duck. Chef Tong’s speciality served in three parts, smoked crispy skin, outer meat with hoi sin sauce & rich inner meat.

Blaufränkisch Altenberg 2012, Weingut Hans & Christine Nittnaus.

Floral, ripe plum, great balance and a savoury, spicy finish. Wow these wines are the perfect pair to hoi sin duck!  The savoury & plumb flavours in both the wine & dish complement each other but the wine has enough structure &  lift to cope with the fatty meat.

Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2010, Weingut Nehrer.

Mushrooms, white pepper, red and black fruits on the nose, good body and more fruit and spice in the mouth, complex & delicious the just resonates with the smoky crispy duck skin.

Served on their own

img_7936Blaufränkisch Goldberg 2005, Weingut Prieler

Nice development, cherry, baked fruit, good balance, soft tannins, engaging & long. Shows how well these approachable and friendly wines mature & develop in complexity.

Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2006, Weingut Anita & Hans Nittnaus.

Characteristic ripe plum and cake spice, enjoyable but not sure if 2006 was a particularly strong year?

Lamb cannon with water chestnut, salted egg yolk and lotus root.

Blaufränkisch Gritschenberg, Weingut 2008 Altenberger

Mature, spicy a wide spectrum of fruit, freshness and rounded tannins, the age & tertiary notes work well with the subtle flavours of the lamb dish.

Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2010, Weingut Wagentristl

Mature, cloves, stewed rhubarb, stewed plum, spices.  Again the aged notes work well with the dish.

What a great demonstration of how well wine can be paired with Chinese food.  No more beer or jasmine tea for me!

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Champagne where the bubbles are beside the point! (part 2)

Champagne Ayala

Champagne Ayala established its reputation for a dry style of wine when it became popular in the second half of the 19th century amongst the English aristocracy thanks to Edmond Ayala’s younger brother who had settled in London. Mind you at that time residual sugar of 19g per litre was considered dry, a far cry from the zero dosage wines which have between 0 and 3 g/l that are increasingly popular today!

ayala-01The house was bought by family Bollinger in 2005 and they have since rejuvenated the winery and put in place a young and dynamic team to take it forward as a house with its own distinct character. With an annual production of around 700000 bottles this remains a small hands on winery in the heart of Ay. Caroline Latrive is the chef de cave responsible for maintaining the fresh and elegant character of these chardonnay focused wines.

Brut Majeur NV.  A blend of 40% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir and 20% muenier. Aged for a minimum of two years before disgorgement and with a low dosage of 7g. A nice ring of persistent bubbles with a great tactile & invigorating mouthfeel. A reticent nose of lemon and zest.  In the mouth more subtle citrus, biscuit notes and very fresh. A great aperitif to lift the spirits.

Rose Majeur NV A blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir (of which 6% is added red wine) and 10% pinot muenier. Aged for a minimum of three years before disgorgement and with a low dosage of 7g. Presented in a box festooned with pink flowers. Copper salmon in colour. On the nose pink grapefruit a touch of peach. In the mouth fresh and dry some gooseberry & citrus fruit then a slightly salty finish.  This would be great with a meal of sea food.

ayala-03Brut Nature NV. The same blend as the Majeur but with no dosage and about four years aging on the lees. The nose is similar to majeur but with some spice and lovely autolytic notes of fresh bread. In the mouth great freshness hits one with a wash of sea spray then lime. Wow this has a great finish of minerals, bread, lemon peel and is very very long. Fantastic an excellent food wine.

Blanc de Blancs 2008.  A blend of chardonnay from the Cote de Blancs 60% Chouilly (known for its creamy character) & 40% Mesnil sur Oger (known for displaying more exotic fruit notes). It spends 5around 6 years on lees and has only 6g dosage. Served in an extravagant clear glass bottle this wine has a rich & complex nose of baked lemon, scents of roasted nuts, pastry: crème Anglais. In the mouth pineapple, caramel, ripe stone fruit but still delicate with great freshness and persistence. Long finish.

Perle D’Ayala 2005. The blend is 80% chardonnay from Cote de Blancs and 20% pinot noir from Ay which cooled by breezes along the Marne is known for its delicacy. The wine spends 8 years aging on the lees and has 6g dosage. Fine but less pronounced mouse, looks more like a wine. A rich nose of dried hay, pot-pourri and baked lemon, nice tertiary nutty notes. In the mouth spicy notes, baked pastries, lemon, vanilla & chalk, all in a restrained and nicely balanced way. Very complex and long.

None of these wines feel the need to pose or pout for one’s attention but nevertheless they achieve a level of balance, lift and complexity that confidently commands it. Champagne Ayala


Dom Pérignon


Standing high up in the gardens of the Abbaye Hautvillers one looks down on the meeting point of the three most important regions in champagne: the eastern end of the Valley de Marne, the northern tip of the Cotes de Blanc and the final sweep of the Montagne de Reims. Behind are the remains of the monastery where Dom Pérignon himself, the Benedictine monk credited with transforming wine making practices in the region, was cellarer.  One can’t help feel somehow near the epicentre of Champagne.


The tasting room over the cloisters

Chef de cave Richard Geoffroy’s choice of tasting room; a spectacular thirty metre long hall sitting over the last remaining wing of the monastery’s four sided cloisters, also seems to emphasise the historical significance of the place. However as we tasted & discussed the wines it became clear that far from looking backwards Richard is a forward thinker constantly striving to make new & singular wines. Richard asserts that his wine making is not about style but is all about making the best vintage wines, and yet it is clear to us that they are all undoubtedly Dom Perignon.


Not every year is good enough to produce a vintage but in an unprecedented run Dom Perignon produced consecutive vintages of P1 from 2002 to 2006 and it was fascinating to taste these side by side.  The vintage character is discernible but somehow seen through a ‘Dom Perignon filter’ like a pair of tinted sun glasses that make the sunset richer and more vibrant than it might otherwise be. In some years certain characteristics are more pronounced and in others they recede into the background but they are all always present coming together to make up the whole.

Richard doesn’t believe in artificial scarcity, if there is a good wine to make he will make it, this has meant taking calculated risks in certain vintages and thankfully they have paid off. Otherwise we would be so much poorer without superb wines like the 2003 and 2005.  These really are the epitome of champagnes where bubbles are beside the point.

Prestige cuvees of champagne tend to be expensive and Dom Perignon is reassuringly so.  However if have the opportunity to drink these wines you can be reassured of an extraordinarily special experience.

Also see Dom Perignon P2 ‘does exactly what is says on the tin’ for more details of the three Plenitudes that Richard makes and the thinking behind them.

Our contributing editor Stuart Grostern’s detailed tasting notes follow:

All of the wines had the same pure colour, with very little in visible bubbles served in Spiegelau white burgundy glasses.

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2002. Sweet and slightly oxidised nose, green apples, smoke, caramel and a little mango, almost burgundy-like. In the mouth, sweet lemon rind, rich, white burgundy mouthfeel. Very concentrated, sweet, very long. Exquisite.

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2003. From the earliest harvest to date, August 20th. A hot summer where the vines stopped producing sugars due to water stress while continuing to produce phenolics. Many champenois did not produce a vintage wine, but Richard inspected the ingredients and thought ‘of course!’. Smokey bready autolytic nose, a bit spirity with a hint of windscreen washer in a good and interesting way. Sweet, delicate, a bit of salinity, with a little hint of dessert wine botrytis. Beautiful balance, took me by surprise with its completeness even if it lacked the penetration of other vintages. Wonderful.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2004. Sprightly apple, smoke, spice nose. A zip when the wine hits the palate, followed by sweet baked apple, spices, a concentrated lemon and apple fizz, followed by a lovely saline lingering finish. This is a more linear wine, with such balance, and persistence and a long, long lingering sweet and salty finish. My favourites of the P1 vintages. Sublime.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2005. A warm and wet vintage in which the Pinot noir suffered from botrytis. On the nose, a lemon lime and iodine character. In the mouth, sweet attack in width of limes and spices with a linear concentration and salty character. The flavours narrow and concentrate onto a single point at the front of your tongue, with a hint of bitterness lingering alongside the lemon, lime and saline flavours. Sweet and savoury, so interesting. A great wine.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2006. Appley, smokey, iodine nose with something else (something savoury and beguiling), and a hint of red fruit. Good acidic attack of linear lime, slightly baked apples and bready slightly hot finish. Huge concentration that just sits showing the ripe deep fruit, with a never ending length. Amazing wine.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime Rose 2005. Served in a red burgundy glass. Copper pink hue. Some tar, more typical Cote de Beaune Pinot Noir with a hint of cola and liquorice. Fascinating nose. Sweet light red fruit followed by limes with a slightly tannic and dry palate, followed by more lime and peach. Wonderful length with lingering red berries, amazing persistence and balance. So beautiful, but I didn’t spend quite enough time to really get intimate with this wine.

dp-p2Dom Perignon Brut millesime P2 1998. Disgorged in 2008/9.


Tasting session: Leesy, smokey, iodine and lemon skin nose. Rich red fruit at the start followed by lemons, limes with real concentration. Slightly drying and sweet Chardonnay lingering finish, with a hint of sherbet. Wonderful and so interesting.


Lunch: matched with papaya, scallops and caviar. Blended seamlessly and matched the flavours of the food perfectly, though its character was masked. With roast Turbot with olive oil and saffron risotto, this wine really came alive again, bringing out the sweetness of the fish, acidity cutting the flavours and enhancing the dishes just so well. An amazing and inspired match.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime P2 1996. Smokey iodine and lemon candy aromas. As it opened, some oxidative and bruised apple emerges. Brilliant acidity, with lemon and lime attack, laser like acidity on the tongue followed by a savoury and sweet pastry gush. A bit of red fruit of cherry with savoury moreish after taste. So very, very long, an incredible wine!


Dom Perignon Brut millesime P3 1973. While all of the other wines had almost exactly the same colour, this had a light gold shimmering hue.

Bready and shy, smokey with sweet mango nose. A sweet light mouth, delicate, precise, with savoury finish. The perfect balance of acidity, fruit, body and flavour, with a fine body. An ethereal wine of great character, paired perfectly at lunch with the yellow plum and osmentus ice cream dessert. A phenomenal finish to a magical day.


As I write this review I realise that I forgot to ask Richard perhaps the most important question of the moment: when is the 2008 P1 going to be released?  I can’t wait! Dom Perignon


Champagne Andre Robert


When I made a surprise request for a video interview in the vineyards Claire Robert and her husband Jean-Baptiste were at first charmingly nervous but by the time I had fluffed the introduction on the first take and run out of battery part way through the second, they were their open and  engaging selves again.  clare-jean-baptisteClaire is the 5th generation of wine makers at Champagne Andre Robert taking over from her grandfather Andre who started making his own wines in the 1960s alongside supplying grapes to one of the big name houses.  There was something slightly reverential in the way that Claire and Jean-Baptiste showed us around the family vineyards situated just outside Le Mesnil sur Oger and clearly they realise just what a special in the Cote de Blancs place it is. At the sometime they are obviously excited at possibilities that their new winery, just outside the village, open up for the future.  Claire and Jean-Baptiste have plenty of new ideas too such as commissioning new oak barrels made from the local woods to make Les Mesnil in Le Mesnil barrels. They also plan to start producing a late disgorgement vintage champagne to add to the range.


Reserve Grand Cru  A blend of 2010 & 2009, 100% chardonnay from a selection of plots near the village, 30% made in oak barrels. Then 3 years in bottle on the lees. This wine will soon be renamed Le Gardin de Mesnil.  On the nose lovely lemon,  pineapple & grapefruit. In the mouth great balance, linear crisp & dry with a very long finish.  The wine develops in the glass showing mineral and toasty notes. It has minimal bubbles another real wine. Pure and elegant.

Mesnil Grand Cru vintage 2009. 100% chardonnay raised 100% in oak barrels for 7 months, lees stirring and then 6 years in the bottle before disgorgement. A wider creamy nose with butter, nuts, toast & some brioche, complex and accessible. Nice concentrated flavours precise and defined great freshness & balance. Long.


Mesnil Grand Cru vintage 2008. Lovely has an extra intensity to 2009 some floral notes, more patisserie, cake spices, buttery. On palate rich, hedonistic, but with a saline buzz & citrus zing, then the palate moves on to oak influences: toast, sweet nutty flavours. Great balance and a very long finish.  Potential to age a long time. Superb!


Seduction 2008 Still chardonnay lead but with 45% pinot noir from an old parcel of vines dating from 1974. 7g dosage. On the nose ripe apple, some peach and a touch of spice even light pepper. In the mouth chalky mineral notes a hint of cumin, ripe red apple very long.


The wines here are superb and under Claire and Jean-Baptiste’s care the winery and the wines are destined to go from strength to strength. Seek them out and try them. Champagne Andre Robert

Available from Scala Wine

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Champagne where the bubbles are beside the point! (part 1)

Travelling by train from Paris you notice the vineyards lining the Vallee de la Marne long before you arrive at the surprisingly brutalist railway station in Epernay, an early intimation of just how big and diverse the Champagne appellation is.

With three different grape varieties, a vast arrange of vineyards too choose and the ability to add reserve wine from past vintages into the blend the Champenois enjoy more flexibility than almost anywhere else to produce a palatable tipple.  Oh and don’t forget the bubbles, just as carbon dioxide demonstrably improves the flavour of fizzy drinks so does it enhance the taste of most Champagnes.

Synonymous with celebration & the lubricant of a good party it is easy to enjoy & consume Champagne without particularly focusing directly on the wine itself.  Large quantities of Champagne are made for just this purpose but more and more there are Champagne makers whose aim is to produce first and foremost wines which just happen to have a few bubbles.

Champagne where the bubbles are almost beside the point! These are the wines that we have concentrated upon in this series of tasting notes.

 Champagne Geoffroy

Bristling with excitement and tension at the imminent harvest Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, owner and winemaker at Champagne Geoffroy, arrived in dusty boots straight in from the vineyards.  As he showed us around the winery and introduced us to his wines, it was impossible not to be caught up in his enthusiasm and it was clear that Jean-Baptiste is someone who absolutely loves what he does.

img_7581Although located in Ay almost all vineyards are in Cummieres at the eastern end of the Vallee de Marne and are pinot noir & Pinot Meunier. The plots are all owned by family having been divided up over the generations.

In 2006 Jean Baptiste bought the winery in Ay from a cooperative because an access road at the rear allows grapes at harvest time to be delivered straight into the top floor and then the whole wine making process can be carried out by gravity down through 3 floors and eventually into deep cellars cut into the chalk below.  Jean-Baptiste uses the traditional ‘coquart’ vertical wooden wine press unique to champagne. Each press takes 4 hrs and he operates 2 in rotation he feels maintaining the tradition is important and it works for his wines even if it’s more labour intensive.

Champagne Geoffroy believes that some oxidation is beneficial to the wines and so age approximately 35% for their non-vintage and 100% of the vintage wines in used oak barrels.  They use a large range of barrel sizes including some large Foudre de chene from Austria along with second hand burgundy barriques. They also use old fashioned enamel vats because Jean-Baptiste finds their use results in less reduction than in stainless steel barrels.

Cuvée Expression Brut NV

A blend of 2 vintages 2011 and 2010 (35%), some oak in the reserve wine and 90% black grapes. It spends a minimum of 3 years in bottle on the lees. Very fruity, bruised red apple, soft red fruit, bread, chalk dust,  nice mouthfeel understated fine bubbles, great lift at end nice minerally chalky finish.  Dry, complex and engaging, fresh but welcoming with great balance. This champagne really punches well above its weight.

Cuvée Pureté Brut nature NV

Same blend as the Expression but older vintages 09 & 10 and with zero dosage. Lovely, more savoury flavours, a bit fresher but not sharp or austere at all. Just super dry. One for food.

Cuvée Empreinte Brut 2009

Pinot noir driven blend. Made in 80% oak using a mix of large and small barrels. On the nose red fruit, strawberries and ripe red apple, creamy notes and a lingering aroma of rising bread dough. In the mouth red berries, baked apples with spice, minerals, nuttiness and a long finish ending with a minty note.  Even more complex. Excellent.

Cuvée Volupté Brut 2007

A blend of 80% chardonnay and 10% PN & PM.  Half raised in oak and low dosage that would qualify as an extra brut.

A lovely nose of brioche, a touch of after eight chocolate and lemon zest. In the mouth an interesting chalky character, dry, pastry, some coco powder & more ripe citrus notes with a long finish. A very satisfying wine that remains fresh. img_7578

Cuvée Rosé de Saignée

Deep pink colour. This wine is 100% pinot noir from a single year.  The colour bleeds from the grape skins rather than coming from an added wine which Jean Baptiste feels does not result in a harmonious and integrated wine. A rather subdued subtle nose, hints of soft red fruit. In the mouth red fruit: cherries, strawberries, fruit salad, and a nice chalky slightly sweeter finish. A touch of red wine body with really great balance overall.

Cuvée Blanc de Rose Extra brut 2011.

Gold pink colour. This rose is also made by allowing the colour to bleed from the Pinot noir grapes but is 50:50 Chardonnay and Pinot noir.  The blend is made by mixing the grapes together and then macerating and fermenting them together. Floral on the nose, rose and chalk. In the mouth lemon peel, pink grapefruit, dry with good body and freshness, dried red fruit. Sophisticated.  Really unique, would be great with a ceviche fish starter.

Cuvée Millesime Extra Brut 2005.

This is a blend of about half Chardonnay, 30% PN and the rest pinot meunier. Made in 100% oak and left for a minimum of 8 years on the lees. Jean-Baptiste recommends to decant older vintages as this allows any initial closed oxidative character to blow off. He also says that this wine which is only made in great vintages is better to taste a day or two after opening.

First bottle which had been opened two days previously. Slightly smokey nose, delicate. A silky mouth feel with minimal bubbles. Delicate citrus, cream, slightly saline, very Burgundian, nice nuttiness and subtle oak notes. A long mineral finish.

Second freshly opened bottle. Bit more edge, more freshness, less of the subtlety of the opened version but made up for with greater vitality and intensity. Very long. Really really good!

Jean Baptiste suggests that this wine can be cellared easily for 10 + years and is beginning to keep back 500 bottles of each vintage to age further on the lees before disgorgement.  The first to be released will be the 1999.

Champagne Geoffroy

 Champagne Gosset

The oldest wine house in Champagne founded by Pierre Gosset in 1584 in the days when the wines were still.  The wine is sourced from around 200 growers from 70 villages mostly in the Montagne de Reims and the Cote de Blancs. The freshly pressed juice of each grape type from each village is vinified separately and even the non-vintage champagnes are left to develop in the lees for a minimum of three years.  Finally all the wines are bottled in the distinctive shaped bottle that champagne used to use in the 18th century.

img_7585In 1994 Gosset was bought by the Renaud-Cointreau group and under new management the annual production has doubled to around one million bottles a year. This may sound like a large production operation but isn’t when compared to many of the larger Champagne houses.  The focus here is on making high quality chardonnay led wines and the recent investment has clearly achieved this. With new wine making premises and cellars in Epernay bought in 2009 the house has capacity for further expansion and as we discovered when we tasted the wines this can only be very good news!

Blanc de Blanc Brut. NV.

Chardonnay sourced 2/3 from the Cote de Blanc and 1/3 from the south east corner of le Montagne de Reims. Dosage 9g. A lovely peanut brittle nose with chalky notes. Vigorous mouse. Nice ripe lemon peels some flinty notes, and tasty leesy notes.

Grand Rose NV

Gosset’s biggest seller at 12% of the production. A 50:50 blend of Pinot Noir and chardonnay with 8% Pimg_7598N red wine. Salmon pink, peach colour with tiny bubbles. Chalkiness on nose, a bit reticent with a touch of soft red fruit & lemon zest.Similar flavours on the palate, chalky with soft red fruit a hint of cumin.  This would be a great pair with Asian food.

Grande Reserve Brut NV

Aged 4 years on lees and with about 20% reserve wines often from 3 different vintages in the blend. The wine is Pinot dominant with 40% Pinot Noir, 20% pinot meunier & 40% chardonnay all from premier cru villages. Rich bright gold colour.  A tight nose of honey, smoke, nuts. Concentrated, rich & intense, on the palette with cooked lemon, pastry, and a great structure. Very long. Put this one in the cellar for a year or two and it will uncoil beautifully.

Grand Milleseme Brut 2006.

The blend is 55%PN & 45% chardonnay with a dosage of 6g. Richer darker gold colour. On the nose fragrant Manuka honey, roasted nuts, biscuit then crystallised orange & lemon a touch of dark chocolate, really complex. Lovely ripe grapefruit, nuts, biscuit a compelling luscious sweet zesty finish. Very long.

Celebris Vintage 2002 Extra Brut.

The blend 52% chardonnay & 48% Pinot noir. Aged 10 years on the lees before disgorgement. A struck match nose over ripe mango, roasted nuts, and with floral notes. Very sophisticated delicate palate of exotic fruits, mango, lemon and cheesecake, really elegant long & complex a superb wine!

15 Ans de Cave a Minima’ Brut

A limited edition late disgorgement release originally cellared in 1999 60:40 chardonnay pinot noir with 7g dosage. Even more golden in colour tiny bubbles. On the nose honey, biscuit, dried fruits a nice touch of oxidation and maturity. On the palate lemon tart, honey, baked fruit, spice fuller body, complex and very long. A wine for those that enjoy maturity & sophistication.

 Champagne Leclerc Briant

For someone in charge of the complete the rebirth of Champagne house Leclerc Briant Frédéric Zeimett looks pretty calm and collected.  In fact he is clearly enjoying the opportunity of creating something new and unique.

Three years ago when he bought the biodynamic winery with American investors Frédéric embarked upon an ambitious program to rebuild the winery which is now nearing completion.  With a keen eye for aesthetics the new winery brings stylimg_0176e and function together with state of the art equipment. Rows of double stacked stainless steel tanks flank each side of the chapel like fermentation room with tall slot windows at each end adding to the effect.

Along with the modern Coquart press we noticed interesting egg shaped terracotta casks and Frédéric explained that he has brought in leading biodynamic wine consultant & ‘wine whisperer’ Hervé Jestin with an open brief to explore and push the boundaries of biodynamic winemaking.  Hervé is experimenting with different the energy that different materials such and terracotta, wood and even glass give to the wine.

This is where the intriguing mix of sophisticated style and esoteric biodynamic ideas that Frédéric calls Bio-chic starts to become evident.

Frédéric elaborates upon his concept of Bio-Chic.

Leclerc Briant. Brut Reserve.

All from 2013, 40% pinot noir 40% pinot meunier and 20% chardonnay with 4g dosage.Served in burgundy glasses at 11 to 13 degrees. Only bottled in June/ July 2014, 30% of the wine having been raised in barrels then disgorged 2 years later. The wine is only bottled so late because it is a biodynamic principle to wait until the next years flowers arrive on vine. Minimal bubbles. On the nose fruity & chalky with a slightly dusty spicy cumin note. In the mouth very dry, lime with pink grapefruit a fresh saline thread lingers in mouth. Lovely!

Blanc de Meuniers Chamery 1er cru

Served blind a sample bottle of a 100% pinot meunier champagne harvested 2013. 100% raised in wooden barrels for 9 months with zero dosage. Unfortunately we failed to identify this as 100% pinot meunier from Vale de Marne! On the nose leesy with a touch of spice nice cumin. In the mouth dry, fresh lime, grapefruit, chalky and a bit spicy.  Frédéric mused whether the final wine would benefit from the addition of some dosage or remain zero?  Interesting as it was and not austere but my feeling was that more fruit might manifest itself with a lift in sweetness.

La Croisette from the single vineyard range.

100% chardonnay all from the 2013 vintage and all vinified and aged in old Sauternes barrels, zero dosage. A spicy nose, lemon peel and a little hint of marmalade perhaps from the barrels.On palate more citrus, spicy notes minimal bubbles and a nice subtle toastiness. Long.

Champagne Leclerc Briant

Champagne Corbon

Agnes Corbon almost single headedly runs this gem of a winery in the heart of Avize on the Cote de Blancs.  Lovingly producing just 10,000 bottles a year Agnes believes in long aging on the lees and minimal intervention. Since Claude Corbon started the tradition 40 years ago the house has always made a vintage wine every year.   Agnes explains her wine making approach in the video below.

Absolument Brut.

Approximately 50% chardonnay and 25% PN & 25% PM zero dosage. Base wine 2010 bottled in 2011 disgorged after about 4 years on the lees in June 2015. Minimal bubbles. Red berries on the nose, lemon rind, white flowers, chalky nuts & a hint of cumin. Dry but not austere, complex buttery, nutty and long.

img_7647Brut d’autrefois

Solera style perpetual blend with 50% new wine added each vintage into a large 30 hectolitre oak foudre. Bottled in 2008. The blend is 80 to 85% chardonnay and about 15% pinot noir although moving towards 100%. The blend was started by Agnes’ father in about 1982. Quite mind boggling but resulting in a wine of lovely complexity with ripe fruit: apples, & lemon, dried fruit, spices & toasted nuts.  In the mouth, honey & hazel nuts with a nice sweetness. Very long. Again minimal bubbles. An extraordinary wine!

Champagne Chardonnay vintage 2005.

100% chardonnay aged 10 years on the lees with 6g dosage. To keep the wine fresh no malolactic fermentation is allowed and the wine is made in 100% stainless steel barrels. On the nose a whiff of smoke, candy fruit & pear drop. In the mouth intense baked lemon a touch of honey& some slightly resinous notes great balance and lift.

These wines somehow reflect the both the location and the winemakers patient approach quirky yet captivating!  Well worth seeking out.

Champagne Corbon

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Dom Pérignon P2: ‘does exactly what is says on the tin.’

dp05Take a moment to consider what ‘Plénitude’ means:

‘A state which is at its highest level of development, which is in full force and intensity, is complete.’

and one might think choosing it as the new name for Dom Pérignon’s Oenothèque champagne a touch immodest, all be it easier to pronounce! Especially so along side  the claim that DP reaches this exalted state not once but no less than three times over the course of its long life!

However having been lucky enough to recently taste a selection of extraordinary P2 vintages I would have to agree that DP’s Plénitude simply ‘does exactly what is says on the tin.’


Chef de cave Richard Geoffrey

Presenting a vertical tasting of Dom Pérignon’s P2 wines chef de cave Richard Geoffrey reveals his physician’s mind using the metaphor of a double helix to describe the way successive plenitudes of the wine come to the fore during its development. The first after about 8 years when the vintage is first released, the second after a further eight to ten years when P2 is released and finally after about 30 years P3. We stray further into a discussion of how time at Dom Pérignon is non-linear, which is why as DP develops it reaches a series of relatively stable plateaux, and this along with the strikingly elemental marketing imagery contributes to a fleeting vision of Richard the alchemist bending space & time to create these phenomenal wines in the silence of DP’s cellars.

Whether or not there is any magic involved the key factor in creating P2 is extended active yeast maturation over the first vintage release. Richard believes this process preserves the wines energy & intensity and makes it more integrated and elongated. He makes a clear distinction between power and intensity; the latter is never weighty and is lingering and memorable. The prime contribution of the yeast is to fight oxidation and the wine actually eats up the lees gaining depth and profundity.

The tasting notes:

DP 1998 P2

A nose of white flowers, acacia, Hawthorne, patisserie, ripe lemon, toast, smoke, very complex and persistent.

In the mouth, med high acidity, more pastry, a great minerality, tart citron, med body. This is beautifully subtle with great elegance and length.  A really seductive wine.

DP 1996 P2

More pronounced citrus fruit on the nose, some lemon, some orange peel, roasted nuts and a spectrum of floral notes.

On the palate more powerful flavours of nut tart, praline, citrus, a faint touch of the vegetal and then smoky notes. The wine has a taught mineral back bone and has great length and persistence. Really complex and characterful.dp02

DP 1995 P2

On the nose: smoke, baked lemons, then a complex succession of pastry aromas, white flowers and cake spices.

On the palate great balance, fresh acidity and plenty of body. Complex with an endless succession of, fruit salad, smoke, minerals & underlying pastry notes. For a wine of this age it is extraordinarily vibrant yet with the full depth of its many years of development. Superb!

DP 1993 P2

This wine was disgorged in 2006 so has ten years of bottle age too.

On the nose aromas of dried porcini mushrooms, bit of chalk, a touch of acacia honey, with underlying patisserie & bread. An incredible complex & heady nose.

In the mouth again great vibrancy, intensity it takes up residence on the tongue and just stays there. So integrated that it is hard to separate out the individual characteristics of dried mushroom, delicate citrus, bread etc. Taste and silky mouth feel meld into an intensely pleasurable experience. Subtle minerality is the lasting impression.

Richard says an element of oxidity has sneaked in a little extra sweetness & body at the loss of some complexity which is just fine by me! Where the 1995 is a more cerebral pleasure the 93 is much more sensual. For me this wine was the peak of an amazing tasting!


Current Dom Pérignon vintages are: DP P1: 2006, DP P2: 1998 and there are P3 1997 & 1983.