J ean-Pierre Chambas, founder of Aleph Wines, brought some blockbuster wines from Burgundy with him to Wine World Friday night. Starting at the Cotes du Beaune in southern Burgundy and moving north to the Cotes du Nuit, Jean-Pierre led a tasting of 8 wines with retail prices ranging from approximately $47 to $146.
“Now you know what Pinot Noir and Chardonnay really taste like,” he said at the end of the evening.
Besides tasting the wonderful wines, Jean-Pierre explained some of the modern history of Burgundy, the French region where some of the finest wines in the world are produced.
“From 1964 to about 1984 Burgundy wines committed hara-kiri,” Jean-Pierre said with a laugh. “That generation of winemakers cut corners, used pesticide and fertilizer. They were weakening their vines.
“You could still buy great wines, but in small quantities, and it was uneven. We started seeing some change with a new generation of kids who realized things weren’t right in the vineyards.”
The winemakers started going back to nature, to working the vineyards the way the Cistercian monks did when they worked those vineyards for hundreds of years. Many of the vineyards are now worked by horses instead of tractors because the tractors were compacting the soil too much.
Many vineyards are managed biodynamically, planting and harvesting by following earth’s natural cycles. Only natural yeasts are used in making the wine.
Jean-Pierre said most of the wines tasted were produced in small amounts, 500 cases or less.
“In each of these cellars you know there was someone looking for perfection,” he said. “Wines like this at some point will reach perfection. It’s up to you to decide when that is.”
All wines are 2009 vintage, which Jean-Pierre said was the perfect vintage all across Europe.
St. Aubin Blanc, Jean-Claude Boisset Estates
Tasting notes: This was a beautiful, warm wine with good acidity. The least expensive wine of the evening, it still had an elegant feel to it. Jean-Pierre said the village is in the back of the Cotes du Beaune and doesn’t have a great reputation. “But the wines have been getting better and many, like this one, are in the class of some of the great wines,” he said.
Beaune 1er cru, Clos du Roi, Domaine de la Vougeraie
Tasting notes: This had a great nose. I smelled cherries and Teri smelled burnt sugar. The taste was beautiful and rich, but not heavy. It is more delicate and complex. The wine for this premier cru comes from about halfway up the hillside in the valley. Burgundy is about 30 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. Jean-Pierre said the best wines generally come from halfway up the hills. The reds will get darker with age. He joked that we were committing “Pinotcide” by drinking these wines so young, but they tasted so good, it would be hard to keep them in your cellar for too long.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Les Champ Gain, Jean-Claude Boisset
Tasting notes: This white wine actually was more full bodied than the red Clos du Roi. It comes from a very small area of the vineyard in the Puligny-Montrachet region. “This is a very serious wine,” said Jean-Pierre. “If you blindfold yourself and taste this with a red wine and mix them up, you could not tell which was red and which was white. This kind of wine lasts forever; it won’t turn. In a three star restaurant it wouldn’t be put on the menu until at least 2015.” It really was a spectacular wine.
Pommard Les Petits Noizons, Vougeraie
Tasting notes: The nose on this also showed cherries and burnt sugar. It is very complex, well-rounded. It was rich and fruity, but subtle. “Pinot Noir is never overpowering,” said Jean-Pierre.
Vougeot 1er cru, Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot, “Monopole,” Vougeraie
Tasting notes: This was the most expensive wine of the night, and it tasted like it. Even though it used the same grape varietal (Chardonnay) and was made by the same winemaker, this wine’s taste profile was much different than the Pouligny-Montrachet. It had a different feel in the mouth, and a very long aftertaste. The difference is the terroir, a different plot of land with a different microclimate. This is a great wine, complex and elegant, with everything in balance.
Gevrey Chambertin, Vougeraie
Tasting notes: Where the Pommard was bold, this was a little more subtle. It had notes of cherry, with good acidity. It’s a lively, bright wine. This wine is from the Cotes du Nuits, where Jean-Pierre says the wines are generally more elegant compared to the rustic wines of the Cotes du Beaune.
Chambolle Musigny “Les Chardannes,” Jean-Claude Boisset
Tasting notes: This wine was still a bit closed, but will develop as it ages. The wine still was very drinkable, with lively fruit and balanced acidity.
Vougeot Clos du Prieure “Monopole,” Vougeraie
Tasting notes: This wine had the classic Burgundy barnyard smell. “That’s always a good sign,” said Jean-Pierre. “It is still developing and will come into its own at some point.” This wine had a little more acidity, which Jean-Pierre said comes from the clay soil where it is grown. It had black cherry flavors and a big taste in the mouth, with an extraordinary aftertaste. Jean-Pierre said the wine has tremendous aging potential. “When it turns you on, that’s when the wine is ready,” he said.
When: Friday, October 12, 2012, 7pm.
Cost: $22 prepaid. $30 at the door if space is available. Reservations suggested as space will be limited.