The Dark Side can be (much) brighter + Video

Just came back from Burgundy. I tasted many 09s, which many Burgundians call too ripe, too international in taste. As a wine lover, I heartily disagree, putting such talk in the category of “we have trouble selling 08s and 07s and no problem selling 09s so let’s talk up the former” … But not always.

A serious discussion yesterday with Frederic Mugnier for example almost convinced me that he had a point, that the 08s have more cool climate Pinot Noir Purity than the 09s. In some cases, yes, I found myself preferring 08s to 09s. Take his Bonnes Mares 2008. Better than some Bonnes Mares 09s I had tried, which were a bit too heavy (in comparison), a bit too ripe for their own good(?), lacking some nuance and freshness.

But then, compare Mugnier’s Clos de la Marechale 09 with this Clos de la Marechale 08, and you can see why the 09 is better, and will likely age better. I will post detailed notes on my website very soon on these and other tastings, but all this to say that for all this talk of Burg 09s being a bit New World in style, such talk does not hold a candle to what is happening in parts of Bordeaux, where 15 to 15+ alcohol levels are making THOSE wines far more New World than any 09s from Burgundy.

And hence my big hugging of Burgundy… The Dark Side, my friends, is proving brighter, with greater freshness and, yes, nuance. Not always. And there is a certain apple and orange aspect to all this. How can you compare Cab to Pinot?`Or Merlot to Pinot? Well… you can. Subjectively speaking, you can. And as alcohol levels head ever higher, ever headier in parts of Bordeaux, I will opt for the Pinot. Still, I do love Bordeaux, do not get me wrong. There are Bordeaux estates that are brilliant and their wines cannot be beat. But it was great to be in Burgundy and discover also rather inexpensive wines that beat the crap out of some more expensive, more extracted, bigger and bolder New World like Bordeaux. Here but three examples (many more)…

Domaine Newman Pommard 2009, €25 ex cellar
Domane Mugneret Gibourg Vosne Romanee 2009, €25 ex cellar
Domaine Taupenot Merme Morey St Denis 2009, €25 ex cellar

All very fine, exhibiting ripe fruit, but freshness and nuance, and for the price, and availability, cannot be beat. Ok, I spent more money on more prestigious appellations, including €75 per bottle for Mugneret Gibourg Exchezeaux, but that bottle was floral, cherry pit, cassis purity, with 60% new oak oh so well integrated. An amazing wine, that for the price - reflecting genuine scarceness - is a better deal than some higher end Bordeaux that also cost even more money.

Welcome to Burgundy, the Dark Side can be brighter. And can be devilishly fun. [wink.gif]


Glad you had such a great time. I am looking forward to going there and Alsace this summer and cannot wait. Seems like the whole wine board has been there this week; hopefully, you guys have not drunk it dry.

we left a little for you, Howard, but not very much. I’ll post conclusions on my last burgundy instalment, but I partially agree with Panos–I think that those winemakers who took some care made excellent wines in 09 and that 08 is going to be a very tough vintage to bring under control. I do think 2010 has a chance to be a fairly classic vintage.

a bientot…and another convert to the dark side, Panos!

Not me. I’ll be there next week. [cheers.gif]

Hey Panos, notice my avatar. I was born for the dark side. Welcome.

Hi Panos,
I’ve had the '08 several times and have been very impressed and think it will be stellar with age and that it will age for a long time. I CAN imagine it with a touch more fruit and in my mind, I think I agree with you however, I’ve not tasted the '09. I’m looking forward to your note on the '09!

Hi Panos,

I couldn’t agree more. Last summer I was rather surprised by how many growers (Freddie Mugnier especially) were a bit sniffy about 2009s being too ripe and easy - I loved them for their hedonistic charms and no-holds-barred lubricity value. When I wrote up my little trip to Burgundy I feel if anything I was not positive enough; my more recent tastings have shown there to be an embarrassment of desirable riches from 2009. The best certainly merit cellar time and will have long, pleasure-dealing lives. Quality kit all right, the 09s.

I am passionately of the view that at the bottom end Bordeaux is far too often poorly-made, poor-value dross and at the top end the prices are well beyond staggeringly indecorous; Burgundy is a comparative bargain. Buying direct or on release it is even possible for people like me (which is to say: nutcases of paltry means) to secure quality wines of real class and character without having to sell an internal organ to Steve Jobs. No shame in buying those village wines you list.

Howard, may I suggest a stop whilst you are in Burgundy? In Morey-St-Denis on the main square there is the Caveau des Vigneronnes which has wines from most of the producers in the village at cellar-door prices. By next summer some of those lovely 09s should be on the shelves and their range makes me drool even to think about it. Well worth dropping by.


well, Panos, with all due respect - and noting that I drink with you and think you have a fine palate (and of course I’ve not drunk the 08s or the 09s) - but I am prepared to take Mugnier’s evaluation of the vintages more seriously than yours as he has simply tons more experience with Burgundy than you do and I suspect his palate lines up a bit more closely with mine and that of other burgundy old-timers.

I remember Becky Wasserman writing to me after the 2008 harvest and reporting that M. Mugnier had popped into her office and reported that his wines did very well in 2008 - and she commented that his reaction boded well for the wines from her producers because “we all know what an eeyore he is.”

In some cases, yes, I found myself preferring 08s to 09s. Take his Bonnes Mares 2008. Better than some Bonnes Mares 09s I had tried, which were a bit too heavy (in comparison), a bit too ripe for their own good(?), lacking some nuance and freshness.

But then, compare Mugnier’s Clos de la Marechale 09 with this Clos de la Marechale 08, and you can see why the 09 is better, and will likely age better.

You’ve just concisely articulated why rating/comparing vintages is very tricky, and the criteria must be understood. I know nothing much about either vintage, but the grand crus shine vis a vis the other wines in less ripe vintages…and, therefore, people focusing on them like those vintages more, IMO. The grand crus run the risk…though often overcome it…of being too much in riper vintages like 2009/1990/2005,etc etc. One of the main reasons that they are “grand cru” classified,historically, is they always had a better shot at being fully ripe. Now that the climate guarantees more prevalent ripeness…accross the board…the grand crus can become the problems in such a vintage.

Your stated experience, though, seems very consistent with the nature of these two vintages and their comparables earlier on…

I am going with Panos. [pillow-fight.gif] neener He has had a fine upbringing on developing his Burgundy palate. [welldone.gif]

Actually, I have heard that the 2009s are showing more structure recently than they did a year ago and so Pano’s more up to date view may be more accurate than the view a year ago by a true expert. Maureen, at least it won’t be too long before both of us have more educated views on the subject. [cheers.gif]

Sorry Panos I’m with Maureen and Freddy, particularly if the conversation on 08’s was yesterday. He would know and has no worries selling his wines, no reason to promote one vintage over the other. Still I can believe the Clos de la Marechale 09 may be better than the 08, probably not the Chambolles though.

while I have a MUCH more limited exposure than some of you guys and gals, I am rather worried about the 08s coming into a harmonious whole and, while there were certainly some 09s that I thought bore an unwelcome similarity to 03, many were also outstanding wines. This may be a penultimate example of YMMV.


At the Grand Tasting at the Paulee this year I got to taste a whole mess of 2008s and had some awfully good ones, including from Faiveley, Rousseau, Mugneret-Gibourg, Liger-Belair, Clos des Lambreys, Lafarge, Fourrier and others.

Well, we all have our opinions. And I fully respect Mr Mugnier, bien sur… But I cannot deny my own tasting impressions. The Mugnier wines are of such great quality that one could argue that they are in a league of their own, along with Roumier for example, where the 08s I had tasted were also very fine. But other producers, including Bouchard Pere & Fils, seem to be better (for reds) in 2009 than in 2008. I wish Jürgen Steinke would chime in, as he was even bigger on the 09s than either me or Mike, I think. And I have heard from Burgundy sellers - people who are in the business to sell the wine so who do not have an interest in talking down a vintage - who think that it is not quite as great generally speaking as some amateurs (I use the word in the French sense!) may think. That is what makes me wonder more so than my own rather limited experience tasting the stuff, because perhaps I am still too used to Bordeaux, and young 2008 Burgundy is a bit too far away from the Gironde still for my palate? A bit of a joke, there, but I am only half joking. On the other hand, and this is important, Mugnier also said that 2009 is “a great vintage” and “one which will last” even though it is not exactly his style… So, it is all the more reason to buy a bit of both and compare and contrast over the years.

PS - Once I know the exact dates of Howard’s visit, we may be able to taste some 09s and 08s together, too.

I did buy many 1985 Burgundy when they came onto the market and 2009 has a lot in common with the 1985. 2009 is a great vintage and those who say it´s not must have some sort of an agenda IMO. The wines are fresh but the fruit quality is so great that some my think the wines are flabby but that is not the case IMO. I guess and strongly believe the 2009 will be much more elegant when they are ready to drink. It´s normal that great years in Burgundy and Bordeaux seems to be very fruity as young wines but then they throw of a lot of their baby fat and what is left is a beautiful wine. 2003 was a year whith a lack of freshness because even the nights were hot. That was not the case in 2009. And 2009 wasn´t a hot year at all. It was simply the chance for any winemaker to produce wonderful wines.

2008 was a difficult year because the vintner has to battle many maladies. The best producer made very good wines but I have problems to think a winemaker can produce better wines in a problematic vintage than in a great one. Where is the logic? That doesn´t mean 2008 wines are bad in general. But my guess is that in some time the 2009 will be considered as something very special while flaws in 2008 wines may be way more obvious than they are today. I would drink 2008 wines earlier than the 2009.

I truly wish we could stop putting sinister motives on people who disagree with us. To say someone has “an agenda” really isn’t necessary. We don’t all have to like the same wines.

As I have said, I have tasted very few 2009s so far so do not have an opinion on the vintage.


I respect any opinion. I often added IMO.

2009 is not higher in alcohol as 2008 - at least not significant. The fruit was much healthier as most Burgundy vintner admit. The acids are not lower - at least not significant. The fruit was in better shape and that is probably the biggest difference. Why some people say 2009 is too ripe is beyond me. The year was not hot. The nights were cold. The cycle of ripeness was almost perfect. How do some people come to the conclusion 2009 is not a superb Burgundy vintage is to me not understandable. Again - that is my point of view. But I admit I have hard times to understand the motives of those who don´t love the vintage. If someone doesn´t share my opinion it´s aboslutely o.k.


Sor far, I have only had a few Jadot 2009s that were actually surprising to me as they were more closed and structured than I would have expected. So, with virtually no knowledge, let me provide three areas of speculation:

One, I have heard from someone (actually Ray) that a few months ago the wines were showing very differently than they are now. Then, apparently they showed more big fruit; now more structure to go with it. In my experience, young Burgundy jumps around a lot. I remember tasting 2000s when they were first released and thinking they were very light wines with not much to them. A year later, I could not believe how much fruit they added. So, my first guess is that you are tasting them at a good time. Hopefully, this is a permanent improvement.

Second, you have self-selected the producers you are tasting. The wines you taste from better producers are not necessarily indicative of all the wines. If someone tasted more widely, would the wines taste as good as the ones you guys have been tasting. One time someone on this board defended a vintage by saying that a few producers that he named made really good wines. The producers were top notch and I respond that if all he was going on were those producers virtually every vintage is a top vintage. For example, I am not a fan of 2004 Burgundies. But if all I had tasted were Truchot and Mugneret-Gibourg I would think it is an excellent vintage. Could it be possible that you are getting what we might call “outstanding producer bias”?

Third, at least in the US, prices for 2009s are very high in comparison to prices for 2006s, 2007s and 2008s, in many cases. I think that in this economy there is a certain amount of questioning as to whether they are worth the price. I must admit that, given how good and reasonably priced a lot of 2008s are, I view 2009 as sort of a prove it to me if you want me to pay that price vintage, at least with respect to some producers. Does not mean I won’t buy any, but so far the only wines I have bought from 2009 I believe are from Ray and from Mugneret-Gibourg.

Here a brief video on the challenges of tasting 2010 in late May… I recall tasting the 2009s from barrel in December last year, and it was easier. Not just because they were… 2009s. In any case, many thanks to Mike Grammer for arranging this visit, yet more proof of the brightness from the dark side! Which was the main point of this thread. After tasting the 2010s from barrel, we tasted some lovely 2009s, and I have just posted all my notes on my website, here is the page: