Thursday, May 24, 2007

Miele Showroom Tasting – Jakarta (April 06)

It was one of those rare months that I partook in not just one, but two great tasting events. This is a BYO night in a beautiful and cozy setting of Miele latest showroom in Jakarta. The host hired the former Chef of Java’s Blue, largely considered as the finest French chef in Jakarta, to prepare the dinner that night.

All the wines were served in a “semi-blind” format, with the owner of the bottle raising the question such as, “North or South? Côte de Beaune or Côte de Nuits? Villages, premier or grand cru? Which commune…? Etc.” He (sadly, there was no ‘she’ that night) would only reply with a “yes” or “no”.

The first pair of white was Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne 1996 and Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet 1999. I can’t think of anyone who makes such voluminous, fat, and showy Corton-Charlemagne other than Latour. Excellent Puligny-like stone-fruit which quickly turned toward figs more caramel-infused, more Californian chardonnay’s popcorn oil personality. It was both rich and powerful, and, to some extent, heavy. I would only associate this in a blind to a Meursault “Charmes” or a Bâtard-Montrachet, definitely not Corton-Charlemagne. After Latour, the Ramonet Chevalier seemed so much skinnier, more lean, compact and simple. Honestly I had a hard time associating this wine to a grand cru white burgundy. It neither had the volume, sweetness and midpalate to qualify as one. Nonetheless, it had a good minerals and acid quality in addition to honeyed and stone-fruit quality. This was not quite so delicate and refined, which made me think it was a Chassagne-Montrachet.

The 1970 Robert Arnoux Romanée St.-Vivant was good but not great. This bottle was in a pristine condition and I was not surprised that indeed it was shipped directly from Arnoux’s cellar. Pale color (1970 was not a great vintage in Burgundy), with tertiary aroma of sous bois and plum. No trace of volatile acidity and it was still quite fresh, the palate showed some toughness with stalky and earthy elements. It finished with some austerity and was leaning toward rustic. Impressive for the age and vintage, but one to drink up soon. 1998 Leroy Richebourg is very Leroy. Although I admired the impressive richness and scale, I often think of her wines to be less defined in terms of “terroir”. Leroy was the pioneer in biodynamique and her yield size is almost amongst the lowest in the whole burgundy (which also explains the premium price command by Mdm Lalou-Bize Leroy). Little has been said that she is also among the first to pick in Vosne-Romanée. I believe this has all to do with her ultra-low-yield vineyards, where the grape acidity quickly turned to sugar during ripening period. The Richebourg was lush and seductively sweet. It showed Vosne spices, with a pliant and textured palate. Not particularly high pitched but well delineated nonetheless.

The balsamic nose of 1985 Chandon de Briailles Corton-Bressandes was actually quite classic. I thought it was a Pommard. The palate was more youthful in an austere, slightly rustic and compact personality. Good pitch, with earth and an almost Tuscan-Sangiovese like acid-spice. 2001 Bouchard Le Chambertin was actually supplied by me and I failed to recognize the producer. I did however guess it right as a Chambertin. The elegance combined with power, precision and purity, mineral and well-delineated palate were all the essence of Chambertin. The 2000 Armand Rousseau Chambertin clearly was superior to the 2000 Clos de Bèze I had in another occasion recently and was clearly one of the strong show for this vintage. Brilliant color, suggesting good level of acidity, it was less direct than the Clos de Bèze, with higher pitched, firmer more structured frame and clearly had a more focused and precise palate. It was however less textured and spicy than the Clos de Bèze, but instead this showed more raw power. I also found more evident minerality and sappy materials in this cuvée. 1998 de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles-Vignes was more youthful than my previous experience (which is a good sign). Better pitch, firmer and more structured, it had some mocha-wood infused, but the fruit was leaning toward more crystalline red fruits. I would have happily guessed this as the domaine’s Bonnes-Mares due to its precision, power and reserved personality.

The next wine served was simply one of my best red Côte-de-Beaune in recent times. It was dense and powerful and what Serena Sutcliffe would call, “burgundy with the punch.” The precise dark fruits with underlying sappiness in addition to the structured frame and volume, it would easy fool any Burgundy expert to think it was a north grand cru. The earthy, slightly rustic frame led me to believe, however, that it was from the south, but the pitch, sappy palate, combined with the massiveness and the overall completeness, I mistook this for Corton. In fact if this were to turn out to be a Corton rouge, it would have been simply one of the finest Corton I have ever tasted. As it turned out, it was more impressive than I thought – it was actually a Pommard, a 1990 Clos des Epeneaux by Comte Armand to be exact. A monumental Pommard and I couldn’t agree more with what Sutcliffe had once said, “when the best crus are made by the most gifted winemakers, they are probably the most exciting wines of the Côte de Beaune!”

The next wine served was clearly a Vosne-Romanée to me. It was sexily sweet, spicy and pliant. It turned out to be Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée “Cros Parantoux”. It was not a particularly strong show and rich effort, yet it was quite structured and fresh for a 2000. It offered candied dark raspberry in a lovely open-knit style that was both delicious and balanced. 2003 Frédéric Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny “Les Amoureuses” was indeed not his usual elegant and pure style. The fruit profile leaned toward darker fruits, perhaps dark raspberry, or even suggesting fruits such as currants and plums. Less tangy and sappy, it also displayed none of the usual red raspberry found in this domaine’s wines. It was however very attractively sweet, almost liqueur-like. The palate was seamless and velvety with very ripe tannins. Thankfully, the wine was not “hot” and was surprisingly vibrant.

I have tasted Bernard Dugat’s wines of Domaine Dugat-py in several occasions and in my opinion it was perhaps too modern in style and he is not necessarily my preferred producer in Gevrey-Chambertin. However, his 2001 Charmes-Chambertin indeed left me quite impressed with the results. The candied sweet dark fruit suggested whole cluster fermentation. It however showed less torrefaction than all my previous samples. The palate was surprisingly tighter and compact, possessing solid core, with well buffered acidity and a sense of elegance. The dense color and the sheer volume promise a good future ahead. I actually thought it was from a 1999(!?) and from a producer in the likes of Joseph Roty(!!)

I have become pretty consistently accurate in guessing de Vogüé in blind. Dark raspberry, with spices, in edge-free frame with velvety, palate-staining sweetness, yet the overall package was surprisingly well delineated and weightless, 1991 de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles-Vignes is at it best drinking now. Very profound with inviting sweet, ripe fruit quality. Not as obviously structured and detailed as the 1998, and expectedly lacking the depth and breadth, I also detected some underbrush quality and a rather dry finishing, which made me think it might already begin to show some tiredness. Drink up.

I have once again confirmed my affection towards 1999 red burgundies and my admiration for Freddy Mugnier. His Musigny 1999 displayed both the potentials of the vintage and the characteristics of the producer. The nose sported a trace of Christophe Roumier style wholecluster fermentation – candied, crushed raspberry, and rose petals. Very elegantly pure and detailed, with good levels of sap and mineral components. The delineated and acid-buffered palate makes one forget to realize the hidden power of this beauty.

Since my first tasting of 1998 Bruno Clair’s Chambertin-Clos de Bèze at Burg table @ Kheam Hock, I had fallen in love with this beauty. Ever since, I have bought 3-4 dozen and I have tasted it at least three times, and none has failed to impress. Previously, Clair was not my favorite producer in Gevrey-Chambertin. I found his wines to be too edgy (interestingly, now I kind of look forward to this characteristic instead), too earthy and very often, too much underbrush, or sous-bois, and at times sauvage flavors. Since my encounter of Clair’s 1998 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, all these had changed. The 1998 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, unlike many of their other vintages, has none of the “wild flavors”. In fact, it was quite pristine and the pitch was among the freshest I’ve ever come across coming from this commune. The unmistakable candied dark berries (not raspberry), coated with minerals in a satin smooth texture that is so glossy and irresistible, one would never realize the hidden power and weight and neither can one trace the tannins and the acids. It is a fact that the wine has such a precise and balancing cut on the finish. The overall balance and harmony of this wine is simply incredible. This stylish, silky and attractive sweet red is something no one would refuse subsequent pours. A thrilling juice!

I could hardly recall my impression on the next wine served, but it was in fact a 1980 DRC Grand Echezeaux. This was clearly my least favorite of the night and particularly so since it was tasted alongside with my biggest surprise of the night: 1998 Leroy Le Chambertin. In spite of my immense respect for this dmaine’s minuscule production and its track record of making some of the most massive and concentrated wines of Burgundy, I must confess I have found the “terroir” element to have the tendency to be simply buried underneath all these concentration and the 100% new wood applied. You can always count on Mme Leroy’s wines to be lush, seamless and, what Tanzer would have described as “painfully intense”. The fruit profile often leans toward dark fruits, quite often in the dark raspberries spectrum. Never quite high pitched, but instead more pliant, and spicy, they too tend to lack details, clarity and sappiness. However, I was impressed with this 1998 Le Chambertin. I am not sure whether it was the vintage factor or simply this particular climat is better suited to her style. The wine was youthfully structured, with typical Gevrey earth, possessed exceptional purity and a rare presence of sappiness. The pitch in this cuvee is among the highest I have ever encountered from this domaine. The rare display of acidity and vibrancy also gave the wine more crystallized red fruits. Overall, this is the most impressive and satisfying Leroy’s wine I have ever tasted to date.

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