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Mature Burgundy: Barolet, DRC, Giroud, Roumier, and more

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A group of us recently gathered to taste mature bottles of Burgundy.  Due to everyone’s generosity, several different flights were formed.  We began with a blind flight of three different Champagne from the 1996 vintage.  This was followed by the main focus on both the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti.  A very old bottle of Burgundy was then served.  A pair of Champagne Brut Rose was served while dinner was prepared.  After a slew of dinner wines, both young and old, dessert wines were deployed.  Several of the wines were off but due to everyone’s generosity, there was plenty to drink at a generally high level of pleasure.

1996 Champagne

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We kicked off the evening with a trio of Champagne from 1996.  The guest who generously brought these bottles poured them so we could taste them blind.  Of course I had no chance of guessing correctly, I have far too little experience with Champagne.  But I suspect with that experience these wines could have been identified blind.  The Gosset is mature and vinous, a wine to drink now. The Billecart-Salmon is elegant and lively, delivering its tart and chalky flavors with verve.  The Philipponnat is intense, rich and ripe, yet balanced by green apples and lemons.  I particularly enjoyed the last two.

Blind #1 – 1996 Gosset, Grand Millésime, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12%. A touch of stink eventually blows off. In the mouth are mature flavors followed by ripe fruit in the middle. Age has given it a vinous quality. Additional air reveals this is a wine to drink now.  *** Now.

Blind #2 – 1996 Billecart-Salmon, Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Elegant on the nose with a fine mousse and lively precise nature in the mouth. The flavors cut through the palate, supported by acidity. Quite enjoyable with attractive verve. It wraps up with tart citrus and a chalky finish. **** Now – 2029.

Blind #3 – 1996 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses, Champagne Brut
Alcohol 13%.  A touch more aged yellow in the glass. The most intense nose with an intense offering in the mouth. The bubbles explode upon drinking, leaving a short-lived mousse which is replaced by a green apple note. It moves on to rich and ripe flavors with a lovely lemon finish. **** Now – 2029.

1965 and 1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

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I was fortunate to purchase a small parcel of old wines including the following quartet of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The wines were originally purchased by a couple in the Washington, DC area who bought their wines from MacArthur Beverages. For decades these bottles were stored in the basement.  I am not sure what happened during those years, perhaps a basement flood, for the labels and fills varied.

These were not the best looking bottles but given the scarcity and generally insane pricing of these wines  I had to organize a tasting around them.  For I doubt I could ever again taste the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche in one sitting.  And what a pairing of vintages, the disastrous 1965 with the very good 1966.  But I had another reason for pairing the two vintages.

Neal Martin wrote in Fermented Grape Juice: Romanée-Conti 1953-2005 how Aubert de Villaine recently served the 1965 Romanée-Conti to a large group.  Michael Broadbent rates this soggy vintage zero stars yet the very late October picking resulted in a wine that Neal Martin found “mocks its vintage reputation and defies all expectations.”  One guest with deep Burgundy experience believes he had never before tasted any Burgundy from the 1965 vintage.

The wines were single-decanted then immediately poured.  With all four glasses in front of us it was obvious our bottle of 1965 Romanée-Conti was flawed as was the 1966 La Tâche.  The 1966 Romanée-Conti was suffering a bit but the 1965 La Tâche was in fine form.  Despite being less than ideal, the 1966 Romanée-Conti  initially offered a complex nose I had trouble describing.  The 1965 La Tâche was the star of this flight for me.  A lovely wine all around and complete shock given the vintage.  Compared to some of the other wines with similar age, this has quite a bit of substance.  I held on to my glass for a long time.

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1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 01281
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Very clean on the nose, revealing incense and perfume. Elegant yet with depth. This is a mid-weight wine which still sports some supporting tannins. With air it reveals a silky nature, infused with fat, and a baking spiced finish. **** Now but will last.

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1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 00578
Imported by Frederick Wildman. The stink on the nose is hard to get around. Shame as it is round and dense in the mouth with a mineral cut. The flavors have power but the nose reveals it is a flawed bottle that eventually falls apart. Not Rated.

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1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 03090
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Shame, the worst nose and gross in the mouth. Not Rated.

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1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 01221
Imported by Frederick Wildman. An exotic nose with perfumed aromas that I have difficulty describing. In the mouth it is supple and elegant with some spice. *** Now.

A Blind, Rather Old Bottle of Burgundy

After the DRC flight we were treated to a bottle of Burgundy served blind.  Two lines of inquiry developed as to the vintage and appellation.  Though one guest eventually narrowed in on Pommard, I do not possess that sort of experience so I focused in on vintage.  It was certainly older than 1964.  Based on a handful of bottles I have tasted from the 1940s and 1930s I decided it had to be older, perhaps 1920s or even 1910s.

The bottle was revealed to be 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots.  I was excited to guess the general age but more so to finally have tasted a Dr. Barolet wine.  The excitement level rose even more when we next learned that it was acquired at the 2006 Acker auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  I will write more about this particular bottle in a subsequent post but whether it be a real or fake bottle, it was very good.  Michael Broadbent writes that the 1928 Epenots and Rugiens were among the best of original bottles at the 1969 Christie’s auction.  At our tasting, it was one of the best bottles as well.

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1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots
Purchased at “THE Cellar”, Acker-Merrall & Condit, January 2006. The lightest and most mature brick color of all wines tasted this night. Clear in the glass. A fine, scented nose with ripe hints. It develops with air showing apple orchard and hints of red fruit. In the mouth it is red fruited, tart with some vein of very old wine flavor. There is a meaty note. Precision comes from the spine of acidity. It focuses with air.  **** Now but will last.

Champagne Refreshment

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A pair of Champagnes acted as a palate refresher while the preparation of the Coq au Vin was finished.  The Paul Bara, Special Club is on the sweet side for my preferences.  I can imagine serving it outside at a BBQ.  I prefer the Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne.

2012 Paul Bara, Special Club, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports. Alcohol 12%.  A burst of sweet fruits comes with the initially firm bubbles.  A creamy mousse persists along with the sweet fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2006 Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Aromatic.  Focused flavors and firm bubbles lead to dry, baking spices.  There is a vein of sharp acidity around which rounded, berry notes form until picking up a racy hint in the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

Dinner Wines

With dinner we moved on to several old and a few young Burgundies.  Some of the oldest Burgundies I have drunk comes from Maison Camille Giroud.  Founded in the 19th century, this negociant firm still believes in long barrel aging.  They hold back stock, releasing some wines decades after the vintage.  The 1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru and 1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes reflect perfect provenance.  Both wines sport some old-wine concentration but the 1949 is more tangy and elegant from age whereas the 1966 is completely different with its attractive baked cookie notes.  It was my second experience with the 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux and I still like it very much.  It is a hedonistic wine for drinking now.  In moving forward nearly two decades, the 1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny is certainly younger but still full of character.  I particularly liked the scented nose and understated complexity.  In contrast, the 2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets  is very young and tonight, in need of more age.

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1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru
Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  Round with sweet and sweaty flavors with a beautiful, old-wine concentration.  The finish is initially a little short and there is some heat but there is plenty to engage with.  The wine does flesh out with air, taking on tangy citrus, spices, and stones in the long, lifted, ethereal finish. **** Now.

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1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes
Imported by USa Wine Imports. Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  A deep mahogany color.  The array of spices on nose reminds me of Nurnberger Lebkuchen.  A round and sweet start brings on some old-school flavors carried by a structural vein.  Sandalwood. **** Now – 2024.

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1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Exotic perfume on the nose.  The cherry fruit flavors persist with good acidity.  This is a weighty, expansive wine with fat in the finish.  Hedonistic and drinking well right now.  **** Now.

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1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny
Alcohol 12.7%.  Nice with a strawberry scented nose.  An elegant wine with some gravelly density.  It balances youth with complexity leaving the impression of a lovely, characterful wine.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets
Very youthful, pure, almost candied with flavors of red grapefruit.  In the end, I think this wine needs more time.  *** 2022-2032.

Dessert Wine

With a chocolate tart we had a small grouping of dessert wines.  In order of age, the 1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles is perhaps the most concentrated wine I have drunk.  With notes of dried figs and baking spices, this unctuous wine has enough acidity to keep it balanced.  There is so much flavor packed in that you only need the tiniest of pours.  The 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen continues to deliver unctuous flavors with tea notes but this bottle showed a touch less acidity than before.  It is always a treat to taste these old bottles of Riesling.  Finally, the 1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva offered a good surprise.  The nose was pungent, evocative of Madeira, with dried fruit and spices, along with a touch of red fruit.  I had no idea what to expect so I was pleased.

1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles
Imported by Classical Wines.  Alcohol 17%.  Bottled in 2011.  Surely, the most concentrated wine I have tasted.  Incredibly dark and viscous enough to stain the glass brown.  Lifted aromas of dried figs and baking spices.  An acidity driven start followed by a knife-edge of acidity pierces through the unctuous and sweet flavors.  Fresh, wet baking spiced flavors coat and persist in the mouth for a long time.  One of the most concentrated wines I have ever dried, you only need a tiny pour.  **** Now until whenever!

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1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars. From the Don Stott Cellar.  A youthful yet aged golden yellow color.  Baking spices on the nose.  A sweet core with weighty flavors of apricot and tea.  A bit soft, plumped up with fat and perfume.  There is less obvious acidity but the tea and tannins keep the wine fresh.  *** Now.

1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 16%.  Wow, of course I like this wine for the pungent aromatics remind me a bit of Madeira.  There are flavors of sweet, spiced, dried fruit and plenty of texture around the fuller bodied wine.  There is enough acidity to be supportive.  The wine tastes of mature flavors with old leather and old-school notes in the finish.  Towards the end this viscous wine becomes more red-fruited.  ***(*) Now – 2039.

Wines That Were DOA

The following three bottles were bad!

  • NV (1970s) Simi, Burgundy, Sonoma
  • 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
  • 1985 Comte Armand, Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux

From mature Aubert to old Mongeard-Mugneret, an annual holiday dinner with Lou

December 21, 2015 2 comments

Lou and I gathered with our wives last week for our annual pre-Christmas dinner.  We started in the living room drinking Champagne and eating a crab dip based on a recipe Lou grew up with as a child.  The NV The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Champagne was our young bottle.  With more biscuit aromas than yeast the textured flavors were of lemon fruit and chalk by the finish.  This is an easy going Champagne which will continue to provide interest for several years to come.  I opened the 1970s release of the NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne with great curiosity.  I served it extra cold to help preserve any bubbles.  Despite the sound of some gas escaping when I removed the sound cork, the wine was indeed flat.  This then was a balanced, lively old wine with the right amount of density, tart apple flavors, and old wood.  I even found the fine golden amber color matched the nutty aromas on the mouth.  Lou mentioned Abe Schoener’s carbonated sparkling wine so I had every intention of subjecting a small sample to our Soda Stream.  While I forgot to do so I did mix a glass of the two Champagnes to positive effect.

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With dinner we started with Lou’s oldest bottle of Aubert in the form of the 2008 Aubert Wines, Chardonnay, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.  This is a fairly alcoholic wine so it took an iteration or two to get it at the right temperature.  Once the temperature was correct, this was a glorious Californian Chardonnay.  It was aromatic, rich in the mouth, and quite mouthfilling but with fine acidity and minerality.  It was a treat.  We then moved to older Burgundy.  The popped and poured 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux immediately smelled great.  Lou and I exchanged a quick glance to confirm the bottle was in sound shape.  It took almost half an hour for the flavors to catch up.  Then for one hour this was a compelling wine to smell and taste, reasserting that old Burgundy can make a fine drink!  The evening ended with a glass of 1966 Offley Boa Vista, Vintage Port.  It is not the most complex of wines but the sweetness is delivered with a seductive mouthfeel and a noticeable dose of old wood.  It is an old Vintage Port that can be drunk without concern.

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NV The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Champagne
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose reveals more biscuit aromas than yeast.  In the mouth, the very fine and firm bubbles quickly dissipate leading to a lively start of lemon flavors.  With bright acidity on the tongue things wrap up with a textured, chalky finish.  *** Now – 2020.

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NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne (1970s release)
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  In the glass was a golden amber color with a finely aromatic nutty nose.  The acidity gives an initial impression of a prickle on the tongue but there is no doubt this wine is flat.  There is a fine balance of nut flavors, old wood, and tart apple flavors.  The wine is slightly textured with salivating acidity, and a slight density.  All in all, it is a charming still wine.  *** Now.

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2008 Aubert Wines, Chardonnay, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Alcohol 15.6%.  With air and proper temperature the nose smelled of waxy sweet aromas, butterscotch and supportive oak.  This is a mouthfilling, sexy with but the consistent acidity and good minerality make it a joy to drink.  The flavors start with sweet yellow fruit but turn to white by the finish.  ****(*) Now.

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1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  The fine and deep nose was scented with aromas of cranberries and cherries.  It took 15 to 30 minutes for the tart red fruit flavors to take on sweetness.  This mixed well with the floral start, watering acidity, and ripe old wood hints in the finish.  This lively wine was compelling to drink for another hour and even picked up a touch of grip in the end.  **** Now.

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1966 Offley Boa Vista, Vintage Port
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 20%.  The marshmallow sweetness is matched by the round body making for a luxurious feeling wine from the very first glass.  While not too complex, the fruit is pure and the supportive hints of old wood are just right.  This bottle was in great shape without any hints of heat.  In the end, a great old Port to drink.  ***(*) Now but will last.

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