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2017 Hospices de Beaune Meursault-Charmes 1er Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay

May 18, 2020

One of the unforgettable highlights of our 2017 trip to Burgundy was the annual benefit auction for the Hospices de Beaune. Convened on the third Sunday of every November since 1859, the auction takes place inside the town hall right beside the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune where entry is limited mainly to registered participants while casual observers will need to queue. Forget about any romanticised notion about the bidding process. The auction itself, helmed by Christie’s, is conducted in a cold business-like manner that proceeds at quite a rapid clip, for there are literally tonnes of wine from that same year’s harvest (all in the form of 228-litre barrels, not bottles) that must be auctioned off before the afternoon is over. Over a sumptuous lunch earlier that day at his domaine, Luc Bouchard had advised us that a parcel of Meursault-Charmes 1er, specially bequeathed by a certain Louis de Bahèzre de Lanlay (who was an inspector of telegraph lines) to the Hospices in 1884, was worth bidding for at an indicative price of €15,000 per barrel. Eleven barrels were up for auction. As we knew that 2017 was outstanding for whites and that one cannot really go wrong with Meursault-Charmes, we took the bait. When that particular lot finally came up for bidding three hours into the auction, Luc, who bidded on our behalf, made sure that we secured a barrel albeit at a higher price than what we’d anticipated. Well, if you really want something, you’ve got to go for it. That is why the best way to realise the full commercial value of wine is through auction. We left the barrel with Luc to take care of the subsequent élevage and bottling, all in magnums, finally taking delivery of the massive lot in early 2020.

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Wines of the Hospices de Beaune can often be a touch-and-go affair, relatively more costly to begin with without quite achieving the best results. Like any burgundy, the key to success lies with the producer. With Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils, one of the very best houses for burgundy whites, handling our barrel, we needn’t be worried. 20200515_121526.jpgEven after just a brief aeration in bottle, the 2017 Hospices de Beaune Meursault-Charmes 1er Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay was absolutely on song. Displaying a slight greenish hue, this wine proffers a generous bouquet of green fruits, mild grassy elements and lifted flinty minerals poised with delicate immediacy and distinct feminity, enhanced by a palate of well-defined chalky tones and delicate crème de la crème superbly integrated with an excellent expanse of fruit and focused acidity, developing some lovely early complexity as it took on a glowing creaminess tinged with peppery spice in the glass, becoming more Chassagne-like after an hour. Its minerally character is not surprising, as this parcel of truly old vines straddles both Charmes-dessous (ie. planted on lower ground in 1947) and Charmes-dessus (on higher ground, 1946). Its potential for future development is huge, given that it already has that near-perfect balance right off the starting block. There are probably another 3,000 bottles of this wine circulating around the world but can they measure up to this outstanding effort by Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils? Merci beaucoup, Luc!

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