Great Drinking, Lots of Bidding, No Buying, at Zachys Robert Caine Auction

If you are a lover of great White Burgundy, the catalogue for Zachys Friday installment of its La Paulee auction was impossible to resist. Leflaive, Ramonet, Niellon, Coche Dury and other great names, with multiple and sizeable lots going back to the 70s and 80s. Case lots of the great 96 Chevaliers from Leflaive and Niellon. Magnums of 86 Ramonet Montrachet and 92 Ramonet Batard Montrachet. A famous cellar promising excellent provenance. All the enticing ingredients in place. Problem was, the event quickly became an exercise in masochism as most lots hammered at prices substantially (not marginally) in excess of the high estimates and just as substantially in excess of actual historical market pricing. For the narrow minded, tethered to some foolish notion of “value”, the pickings were slim indeed.

But did I mention the 96 Leflaive and 96 Niellon Chevalier Montrachets? Because they were for me the redeeming value of the day. Goodness, what special wines. Brad, who is both perceptive and poetic (for a Minnesotan), called them “Majestic”. Always fun to drink side by side, these are–in my personal experience–among the greatest wines of a very great (when not premoxed) White Burgundy vintage. On this particular day the Leflaive came out of the box swinging and hours later I hadn’t changed my initial view that it was the best wine (among many, many other fine wines) at the table. The nose was wild with mature White Burg stink with Leflaive’s particular signature. Great volume in the mouth, but balanced by excellent acidity and wonderful minerality. Only the experience of drinking the Niellon by its side–and yes, perhaps the memory of past bottles–hinted that this was a relatively forward example. As for that Niellon, it was by contrast perhaps the youngest version I’ve experienced to date. Minerals, minerals, minerals…and focus and length. Peter (who brought a 96 Carillon BBM whose troubling color thankfully wasn’t reflected in the mouth–an excellent wine when not premoxed) is a wise and experienced White Burg guy who correctly advises that these great wines benefit from hours in the glass, and my first thought on tasting both was that the tortoise Niellon, given time, might catch the hare Leflaive. Well, while predictably it continued to evolve and grow in the glass, in my opinion the day was Leflaive’s.

So not such a bad consolation prize. And I haven’t mentioned the DP, Krug, Pommery, Mugnier Musignys and Amoureuses, and trust me they are worth detailed notes which perhaps some others among the company at the table will provide. Ray, for one, seemed reasonably satisfied and I suspect the White Burgs played a limited role for him.

Congratulations to Zachys and Rob Caine on a what for them–and sellers in general–was a great auction. As for me, my selfish hope is that the “La Paulee effect” had more than a little to do with the elevated prices, and that I will get the opportunity in the not too distant future to replace those bottles of Leflaive and Niellon in my cellar. For now “Plan B”, sadly, is to simply pay up.

great reflection. Sounds like an amazing lunch.

Did you drink the Pommery when I took a men’s room break?

Is that your contribution of “detailed notes”? And if you must know, yes I did.

’82 Krug - Late released in '91 this was most likely disgorged a couple of years later than most '82 Krug original releases. Youthful looking with a very pale yellow color and exuberant effervescence. Big and bold fruit on the palate with more yellow than red fruits for most Krug vintages. Some classic green apple notes as well. Perfect acidity balances out the bold fruit and surely gives this wine several more decades of evolution. After being open for three plus hours, it is still vibrant but becomes rounder ad creamier in palate texture. Staggering minus

’76 Dom Perignon - I love drinking Krug and DP together since they have such different styles but are both at the top of the Champagne hierarchy. This was a good but not great bottle of '76 DP. Slightly advanced in flavors but without the DP signature coffee notes that develop with age. That said, this was still immensely enjoyable with some marshmallow and vanilla flavors, and the bottle was drained equally as fast as the '82 Krug. Much rounder and softer than the Krug, but even though not a perfect example it still stayed strong over the course of the morning/early afternoon. Excellent

’69 Mumm Rene Lalou - The cork needed to be removed with a corkscrew since it broke off as I tried to remove it, which gave me some trepidation. However, as the cork was removed I heard enough pressure being released that I knew the bottle was still vibrant. And it was even more vibrant than that. Amazingly youthful with quite a bit of effervescence. Good structure and acidity with feminine floral notes. Extra credit for it being in the best looking bottle. Excellent plus.

I would chime in on the Pommery - whatever vintage that may have been - but I will leave those comments to more seasoned authors of fiction.

Pommery, Mumm…you know, to the palate nurtured on White Burgundy, it is sometimes hard to keep these carbonated beverages straight. [rofl.gif]

And thanks for the detailed tasting notes!

a little prostate advice: What is a Condom Catheter? (with pictures)


Why not get those astronaut diapers and never leave the tasting? [snort.gif]

Ray, I confessed my confusion, but I think you need to accept full responsibility for the thread drift!

Pal, you lost me right there.

The wisest man was the seller, who sold an incredible quantity of White Burg, but not nearly so much red Burg. Methinks he intends to keep the good stuff for drinking! [wow.gif]

Notice the darkened towards brown bottles in some of the pictures, these bottles sold for big bucks and they look suspiciously oxidized to me. You white burg guys have your own world. Champagne has added sugar and CO2 which protect it from oxidation and allow complex aging. Even so we see very few 20,30,40 year old Champagnes which are great (most burn up). Why 20,30,40 year old White Burg would be drinkable except in the most exceptional rare of cases (DRC Montrachet at 5K a bottle) is incomprehensible to me.

I do appreciate the allocation of these dollars into this segment of the wine world. Would have been a pleasure to drink with you, but given the auction lineup and the service at Daniel, I didn’t want to have to bring my own glasses to the event.

Given recent prices I shoulda bought a middle seat on Jetblue just to drink the 82 Krug and 76 DP.

Just a quick thanks to the rear corner table composed by Misters England, Klapper & Tuppatsch, who so generously shared some of their spoils with yours truly.

The 76 DP was quite the conundrum, all nutty/caramelly & dare I say slightly oxidized on the nose yet showing plenty of spunk, nerve and life on the palate. I commented to a co-worker (and to K.A. himself) how much it reminded me of an older Lopez de Heredia Tondonia.

The 82 Krug was simply spectacular! Notes of delicious lemon curd and fresh bread kept jumping out at me. The bit on this baby was quite evident. This is one that will last quite a while longer.

The 69 Rene Lalou was a revelation. If memory serves me right, it is the oldest Champagne I’ve had the good fortune of trying. And yet, it hid its age damned well. Much less developed than the DP, this was quite citrusy on the initial attack. A bit of swirling released some more complex notes of buttery pie crust and sweet cream, yet balanced by a steely mineralness. A beauty.

Finally, Mr. T passed over a couple of 88 Mugniers, the Amoureuses & the Musigny. The former was quite elegant and youthful with just the slightest bit of that charming Burgundy “smell” that lovers of these wines adore. The latter suffered a bit from TOO much of said smell. A good breathing session in the glass cleared up some of the issue, but in my scorecard, it was still beaten by its 1er cru little brother.

Thank you again gents.


I think you are spot on with your assessment on the white burgs. It will be fun to watch these over the years and i expect it to be a back and forth on any particular evening. Obviously two different styles between Lafleive and Niellon. Make sure you get the pronunciation right.

The Mumm was killer and really a special treat Thanks KA.

Todd, I know you want to turn this into an analytical exercise about the preservative qualities of sugar and CO2, but I’m just not gonna go there! I know what I like, what gives me pleasure, and if that happens to be an 82 Ramonet Montrachet, all of your chemistry lessons aren’t going to change my wild hedonistic impulse to embrace that mouldering corpse of a wine. I accept I live in “my own world” (albeit populated by enough similarly minded eccentrics to drive the prices of these dead wines through the roof) and I’ll remain content to do so. I hope you’ll visit me know and then.

Having said that, my actual notes weren’t about “20, 30, 40 year old White Burgundy”, but rather a couple of vibrant young teenagers. I would readily concede that the vast bulk of White Burgs are well into decline by the age of 20. But we’re not talking about ordinary wines here. Ramonet, Leflaive, Niellon Grand Crus are among the finest wines produced in the Cote de Beaune. Well preserved bottles from fine “pre-premox” vintages like 78, 82 and 83 should be not just surviving but thriving! And they are. I’m sorry I can’t satisfy your intellectual curiousity as to why that should be so, but my experience confirms it.

So Todd, we’ll agree to disagree except when it comes to 69 Rousseau Chambertin and 78 Giacosa CRR. It seems to me that can form the basis of a beautiful friendship. And by the way, the Pommery–I mean the Mumm–was absolutely delicious!

Thanks for the impressions.

Top '82 and '83’s are still wonderful wines, and every bit as complex and interesting as any champagne IMHO.

Having had old white burgs from the 20’s to 40’s, I can’t see why these might not age the same way…the later pre mox issues are another thing altogether…

^someone that posted in this thread; IIRC, while WB was offline over the weekend, snatched up a ‘relative’ bargain on a GC ‘older’ wh. Burg over on

There was no Paulee effect when Eric G.'s ‘Imperial Cellar’ garnered equally higher than high estimate prices. Excellent provenance from a renowned long-time Burg collector, along with Burghound’s own seal of approval that he’d never had a bad bottle from this collection (guess BH musta missed some of those lesser bottles in this auction, lol) is more than likely the reason for the high prices. Just look at the prices for Jayer that came from Martine’s collection sold by Acker in HK.

I suspect BH would be a bit less enthusiastic about these, all depends on your preferences—look at some of BH’s notes on Leflaive from the '80’s. Some people are not going to like/appreciate that much more ‘mature’, if not oxidized, flavor of an decades old wh. Burg. Then again, from a very cold cellar, many of these wines can retain quite a bit of youth.

And likewise any of these older bottles are greater risks when they haven’t been stored in such cold conditions their entire lifespan. The apparent difference in color btw the Lafon-Perrieres '76,79,83,85 & '81/'82 sitting between them is seemingly great - p48, lots#1240-1243 & 1248. Lafon went to a darker bottle with more current vintages making it nearly impossible to judge color of the wine inside. Many of those photos don’t, and cannot accurately convey color anyway, some haven’t been taken against a white background that would make it easier. Auction houses are not likely to provide ‘standardized’ white background pictures to attempt to portray accurate color representations…too difficult to do in print catalogs or via internet…color varies depending on medium of display.

Really Old white Burgs are a bit of an acquired taste, no doubt about that, but then most really old wines have an element of this also…

Good '82 BdM CC still look like 5-10 year old whites…and Ramonet’s from this period are fantastic. Leflaive a bit more variable IMHO.

I agree though, I looked at a lot of the pictures, and with the obviously darker ones thought “you are only really buying it for the bottle”…


You’re starting to crack up and get serious. Clearly you know what you like. [rofl.gif]

There’s nothing to worry about, all this tasty Champagne is sillyness. [shock.gif]

Squirrels have been captured, ordered a monster new smoker today and having a couple guys over for wine tomorrow to new Maison. Will see you in March.