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1996 & 1999 Burgundy Grand Cru

December 6, 2009

The Burgundian group met again at the superb Jade Palace on the occasion of YW’s return, and again it was KG who mooted the above wine theme. But before all that, we began with a Champagne Verve Clicquot Ponsardin Rose NV (courtesy KG), which was pleasant with some mild yeasty flavours, but on the whole it was simple and straightforward, hollow towards the finish. Very agreeable, nonetheless.

The solitary white was a 1996 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, brought all the way from Los Angeles by YW. The initial note from this pale yellow wine wasn’t encouraging, being quite lively on the nose with predominant citrus and lime, backed by a significant degree of acidity, but it lacked richness and concentration, as if the fruit was drying out, finishing short. However, it began to flesh out most impressively in the glass, becoming fuller, eventually putting on layers of nutty flavours, attaining greater weight and minerality. It’s a good drop, but it certainly took a long time getting into its stride.

We moved on to a pair of 1996 reds, a Domaine Comte Senard Corton Clos des Meix Grand Cru (which JJ had found in a dusty corner of Denise at Turf City) and a Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru (courtesy See Lim). Amazingly, the former was still very full and robust, still showing a deep red (for a pinot) and giving off  a very attractive fragrance. I’m reminded of roses in full bloom. Very harmonious and even, with quite a bit of fat in the middle, ending with a rather slick finish. This wine has yet to reach full maturity in spite of its years. Quite a find, really. But as much as this was excellent, the Clos des Lambrays was even more impressive – fully mature and lighter in color and texture, offering notes of sweet cherries, soft, supple, totally seamless and harmonious. It got even better in the glass, developing great depth and definition, with aromas even more lifted, showing off wonderful richness and concentration in the middle, very slick, persistent in its finish. I get the impression that it still has plenty of life remaining. Fabulous. A great pairing.

It was interesting to compare against the 1999 pairing of Domaine Follin Arbelet Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru (courtesy KG) and a Domaine Rene Engel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. Both were huge, concentrated, deep in color and full on the palate, almost hedonistic, the latter being the heavier of the two, with a nose that was still closed. The Follin Arbelet, smooth and luxurious, had begun to develop delicious secondary flavours around its deep red fruit, producing good levels of complexity. A wine still very much on the ascent, entering its drinking window. The Rene Engel preferred to express itself on the palate – open, revealing rich flavours of sweet raspberry and brandied cherries with excellent definition and depth, even though its bouquet was quite restrained, ending in a long finish. On the whole, it was rather intense and tight, still primal, but there’s no doubt it has everything it needs to become a great grand cru in another 10 years. This has been a wonderful and highly educational tasting. Clearly, one needs to think twice about opening the grand crus of 1999 at this stage, but one doesn’t need to think twice about acquiring more to lay down.

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