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Bouchard Pere et Fils & Joseph Drouhin

May 12, 2016

Many will not admit to this, but the fact is most oenophiles in love with Burgundy tend to view negociant-growers with some condescension, claiming that the range of wines offered are usually far too extensive and that it is not possible, under such circumstances, to fully understand each terroir, resulting in a tendency to regress towards a “house” style that robs the wines of individuality and identity, qualities that define Burgundy above all else. And, of course, there is that romantic underdog notion of small independent domaines struggling to survive against the big boys that appeal so much to oenophiles, as is the scarcity of highly-coveted wines made by these indies. These assertions may well be true to quite an extent, but to generalise every negociant-grower likewise is to miss out on some absolute gems that embody the glory of Burgundy. This was amply shown up at a promenade and dinner of Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils and Domaine Joseph Drouhin, both of which I have had the good fortune to visit in Beaune last autumn and it was good, once again, to meet up with M. Jean-Paul Dumond, Sales Director of Joseph Drouhin, as well as M. Luc Bouchard, both of whom were in attendance at this FICOFI event on 04 April 2016, held at Aura at the top of the fabulous new National Gallery, Singapore.

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Bouchard Pere et Fils was established in 1731 and, through gradual acquisitions, it has become the largest domaine in the Cote d’Or, boasting a grand total of 130 ha of vines, 12 of which are grand cru and 74 premier cru, and its ownership of Montrachet Grand Cru can be traced back to 1838. The wines are transferred by gravity and vinified at a state-of-the-art facility at Savigny-les-Beaune. A visit to Bouchard’s massive cellars of Chateau de Beaune is definitely a must, where a bottle of 1846 Mersault Charmes is still lying there. Comparatively younger, Domaine Joseph Drouhin, founded in 1880, has 73 ha of vines, two-thirds of which are grand cru and premier cru, favouring higher density plantings with low yields. Throughout the tasting, I was consistently impressed by the structure, complexity and balance of Joseph Drouhin, how “correct” they all seemed to come across on the palate, and by the delicacy and complexity of the whites of Bouchard Pere et Fils that are certainly on par with, if not better than, other benchmark producers.

2000 Henriot champagne. Attractive earthy pungency and toasty oak on the nose with complex citrus, green melons and fine acidity on the palate, slightly short at the dry finish.

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2011 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru. Roses and red fruits dominate amidst some earthy minerality with an attractive pungency. Soft and rounded with good concentration and acidity but lacking in structure, imparting a feminine impression, aided by further notes of camphor and ash.

2011 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Clos de la Roche Grand Cru. Darker in tone and weight with a lovely satiny texture imparted by an abundance of dark roses and raspberries of subtle intensity, medium-bodied, rounded and very well balanced.

2011 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Clos Saint-Denis Grand Cru. Highly aromatic, dominated by a rich complex of violets, dark currants and dark cherries of excellent intensity. Structured and masculine. Almost lush.

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2011 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru. Highly lifted aromas of dark cherries, raspberries, violets and mulberries enhanced by a beautiful earthy pungency with plenty of fat on the mid-palate. Voluptuous with a lovely balance, structured by velvety tannins and fine acidity, finishing with great persistence. A complete wine.

2011 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Musigny Grand Cru. Whereas the Bonnes-Mares may be a tad showy, this pinnacle of Chambolle is a study in absolute balance where the classical beauty seduces with the perfumed fragrance of incense and camphor from the rich complex of dark roses and ripe dark cherries, yet maddeningly poised with a quiet elegance, almost aloof, glowing with subtle intensity. Beautiful.

2011 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru. Generous in rosy characters, a wine of great exuberance and flamboyance and highly refined as well through velvety tannins, oily textures and very fine acidity, offering plenty of structure, suppleness and presence. Fat, succulent and persistent. Excellent.

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2013 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet Grand Cru. Lying firmly on the Puligny side of Montrachet (ie. more northerly), this flagship white is blessed with generous lifted aromas of white flowers, pines and peaches with a faint suggestion of sweetness that hinted at delicacy and harmony, matched by a gleaming tone of gorgeous minerality, incense, supple creme de la creme and understated acidity, open and almost ethereal with great purity and precision, finishing with excellent mouthfeel. Wonderful.

2012 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche 1er, served from double magnum. Highly aromatic, recalling exotic fruits, pineapples, white flowers and other tropical fruits, displaying good balance though slightly more fruit-forward for a Chassagne. Rather placid on the palate with subdued acidity, lacking the last ounce of divinity that would elevate it into grand cru.

2011 Bouchard Pere et Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru. Complex, perfumed bouquet of fig, white flowers and seared caramel. Harmonious and beautifully balanced but tight with traces of tropical fruits at the finish, just a tad short.

2011 Bouchard Pere et Fils Montrachet Grand Cru. Highly lifted floral complex on the nose, matched by excellent concentration of gentle pomelo, clear citrus and minerals that exuded lightness and real delicacy with a lovely feminine balance and proportion, still tightly-knit with a bit of sternness that enhanced the complexity. Although Bouchard’s 0.89 ha of Montrachet lies on the Puligny side, it is actually bordering on the Chassagne side of this hallowed plot, and this is very well reflected by the wine’s minerally balance. Consistent with my memories of a similar bottle tasted within the domaine’s cellars last year. Superb.

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Side-by-side: 2011 & 2014 Bouchard Pere et Fils Montrachet Grand Cru

1976 Bouchard Pere et Fils Le Corton Grand Cru, poured from magnum. Displaying a dusky red with a mild medicinal glow of licorice and raisins on the nose, this wine is still amazingly alive with notes of dried mushrooms, ash and prunes with a trace of sweetness, not at all heavy.

2009 Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Greve Vignes de L’Enfant Jesus 1er. A monopole of Bouchard named after Maugerite du Saint Sacrement who predicted the birth of King Louis XIV even though his mother, Anne of Austria, was supposedly sterile. Somewhat reticent and backward, medium-full, marked by vanillin oak with a spicy edge. Not distinctive.

2014 Bouchard Pere et Fils Montrachet Grand Cru. Grassy tone with an overlay of morning dew. Again, there is something inherently feminine about Bouchard’s Montrachet, an expansive floral beauty, full-bodied yet highly enticing with great acidity and a wonderful sense of lightness from the open minerality and delicate intensity, unceasingly teasing, drawing one in sip after sip. Superb and, with time, may surpass the 2011.

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With M. Luc Bouchard

2014 Bouchard Pere et Fils Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. Lovely aromas of white flowers and grassy elements dominate on the nose, leading to a rich, exuberant full-bodied wine, laced with acidity and delicate minerals. A Corton-Charlemagne to match the best of Bonneau du Martray. Excellent.

2014 Bouchard Pere et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru. Lovely bouquet of white pepper, mild grassy elements and white flowers with fabulous concentration and great acidity, very fresh and vibrant. Supple, focused and detailed. Almost on par with Montrachet. Outstanding.

2014 Bouchard Pere et Fils Mersault Les Genevrieres 1er. Lifted with top-notch creme de la crème. Well-proportioned, rich, yet delicate with understated chalkiness. Highly attractive.

2014 Bouchard Pere et Fils Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru. Nose of earthy red fruits with tangerines. Medium-full, crisp, racy and exciting on the palate, slightly forward in fruit balance but a tad short in structure and finish.

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