TN: 2012 Burgs Blind

When the first snow hits, you know its time for our blind tasting group’s annual check on the new red Burgundy vintage.

A few general points on this tasting. First, while our expenditure on this tasting has risen over the years, it hasn’t kept up with Burg-flation. So a few years ago there might have been a Roumier Bussiere in the mix, the last two years we had Lafarge, and now we’re down to Guillemot. So this tasting is really more of a “how this vintage compares to other vintages, if you’re spending $75 for your average bottle this year and spent $60 for the 2005s”, rather than a comparison within producers. For all I know, Roumier Bussiere is amazing this year, but it had better be.

Second, the tasting is single blind with no discussion permitted before ranking. This format leads to a LOT of variance in rankings, so any group conclusions other than maybe the top bottle or two, the bottom bottle or two, and a big cluster in the middle should be taken with a big grain of salt. We also have varying palates in the room, some folks who like their wines bigger and some who like their wines leaner, and the group rankings represent a (sometimes awkward) consensus.

Now, some points specific to me - I like my burgs with red fruit, minimal stems, and I don’t mind judicious low char oak. I hate reduction, high char oak, I dislike dark fruit, and I have a low brett tolerance. My subjective burg preferences are strong enough to outweigh normative difference, so I don’t warrant my notes as remotely objective.

General thoughts on the tasting: Hugely disappointing. This tasting should have some of my favorite wines of the year, since you can get me to giggle over the right Bourgogne, and these aren’t Bourgognes. It was still my favorite tasting - Burgundy is so interesting, but I didn’t think the wines were that good. I was reminded strongly of the 2008s for some of these wines - juicy and lively, but also a bit hollow. Some of the more experienced (read older) tasters in the room brought up the 1999s because of the ripeness of the fruit - these were, after all, fruity and approachable. Regardless, these aren’t close to the 2009s and 2010s, and while you have plenty of total duds in 2011 that are worse than any wine on this table, the 2011s that got ripe have more substance, IMO. Also, while I normally recoil from stems like they’re radioactive (and my number 1 wine was 100% destemmed, as per usual), I didn’t mind the stems nearly as much as usual in this vintage. They’re not as green as they can be - more juniper / pepper than green bean. Some of the stemmed wines were among my favorites, which rarely happens.

Anyways, onto the wines. Notes are from when the wines were blind, except when obviously colored by the reveal:

Group’s 8th, my 5th:
2012 David Duband Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Clos Sorbé - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru (12/11/2014)
Stems here - there’s that juniper again. Mixed red and dark fruit - more red on the nose, more dark on the palate. Oddly bitter/extracted and shows some heat, even though it’s a light-bodied wine. Not bad, but the winemaking here is weird. (85 pts.)

Group’s 7th, my 2nd:
2012 Domaine Pierre Guillemot Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Narbantons - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru (12/11/2014)
Divisive - the folks who like feminine burgs were big on this, the folks who like their burgs bigger strongly disliked. Very pretty red fruit / juniper / sichuan pepper / flowers nose, nice use of stems. Palate not concentrated, but seamless - not as hollow as most wines tonight - and a nice mix of red fruit and a saltiness. Just a kiss of light tannin on the finish but this is structured more by acid. Pretty obvious as CdB blind, but I like wines from the CdB. (90 pts.)

Group’s 6th, my 7th:
2012 Domaine de L’Arlot Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos des Forêts St. Georges - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru (12/11/2014)
Weird. Dark, even maybe a touch bretty. Loads of volatility and dark, meaty, prune/plum fruit, but also a stem character? In the mouth, overripe fruit, but hollow and juicy. There’s also oak here. Finished bitter. A mess for my palate, but I’ve never liked this producer. Reminds me of the 2008s that didn’t work. (82 pts.)

Group’s 5th, my 8th:
2012 Domaine Francois Lamarche Echezeaux - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru (12/11/2014)
Reduction and high char oak. Smoke, coffee and rubber. Concentrated and tannic - obviously one of our expensive bottles. I hate this style of burg. Consistent with other bottles I’ve had from this producer in other vintages. Divisive - the folks who like their burgs bigger liked this wine. Not for me. (80 pts.)

Group’s 4th, my 3rd:
2012 Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Vosne-Romanée Les Vigneaux - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée (12/11/2014)
Nice, if somewhat uncharacteristic nose of herbs, mixed red and dark fruit, touch of anise. Almost like a Burgundian wine from Provence. But really good palate; layers of red fruit accented with something darker, a bit of oak fills out the midpalate. Doesn’t have the over extracted bitterness of some of the other wines. Not super complex but I like this a lot. Not really characteristic of Vosne at all, though! (88 pts.)

Group’s 3rd, my 4th:
2012 Domaine Duroche Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru (12/11/2014)
Another good experience from this underrated producer. The nose starts off problematic, with a medicinal, cough syrup cherry aspect, but settles down with time into something more pure and red. Juniper - some stems here, but just a touch. Nice and long in the mouth; a touch hollow and 2008y in midpalate but this seems more substantial than many of the other wines tonight, and not at the expense of any overextraction. Nice use of low char oak to buffer the juiciness a touch. (88 pts.)

Group’s 2nd, my 6th:
2012 Domaine Joliet Fixin 1er Cru Clos de la Perrière - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Fixin 1er Cru #12/11/2014#
You don’t turn around a vineyard overnight. Very juicy/crunchy fruit, sort of a stewed cranberry thing going on. Green, spicy nose - first wine that shows real green. Hollow and short and sharp. OK quaffer but where is the substance? Very 2008y. (84 pts.)
[NB - I found the group’s ranking of this wine mystifying; not like the Arlot where I could understand that if you want something big and dark, you might dig it.]

Group’s 1st, my 1st:
2012 Domaine Hudelot-Baillet Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru (12/11/2014)
Lovely wine. Red fruit, flowers, low char oak, no stems. Layered and full in the mouth despite good acid. The oak covered up the hollowness. Ripe and long, yet feminine. Mineral finish. No bitterness. Gorgeous. Presses all of my burg buttons. (91 pts.)

Then, I blinded the group with a bottle that I expected to show very well in this company. It did.
2013 Littorai Pinot Noir Les Larmes - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (12/11/2014)
Spectacular bottle for this level. Not blind to me, as I brought it as a ringer to a 2012 burg tasting. IMO, despite being one of the less expensive wines on the table, it was the best. A turn riper and sweeter than the burgs - but not out of place - with pure red fruit, loads of florals, and great concentration for such a light bodied wine. Lively acid - even a prickle of petillant? Very similar to a top notch 2009 burg. Can’t wait to see how this ages. Best Littorai Larmes I’ve ever had. (91 pts.)

Finally, perhaps to wash the taste out, Corey and I went out afterwards and had a proper Burgundy.

2000 Domaine Dujac Clos St. Denis - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru (12/11/2014)
A touch of brett brings this down a notch. When first opened this was very good but not great - a touch soft and short and dominated by brett. But with an hour or two in a decanter, it improved significantly. Ripeish plum and red cherry fruit, mint, well integrated stems and low char oak. A very Vosne like Asian spice thing. With air, more fruit and a real peacock tail in the back. Very fine, ripe tannin. Just a touch short - the amazing GCs have more power. And, of course, the brett. Reminded me of top notch Loire CF. Nice to have a classy burg - the difference is obvious. (92 pts.)

I don’t have my notes with me, but a few quick responses.

I quite liked the wines overall, though not the prices. With the exception of the Lamarche they had a lot of fruit and most were very transparent. I like the structures, too – moderate tannins and acids with very bright red (mostly) fruit profiles. Not a vintage for the ages, but I would greatly enjoy six of the eight. At the prices, I’m not a buyer, but what’s new.

The Lamarche was a bit reductive, but I thought, before the unveiling, that it might be the best wine in the long term. It had great depth. I think it may just be a grand cru made for the long haul and less appealing right now than the others, which were remarkably fruity. Am I sure of its trajectory? No, but I think it’s hard to appraise, particularly in this line-up.

The Littorai was terrific. As I said last night, it lacked a little personality in the context of premier cru Burgundy – there’s a slightly generic quality to the pinot – but its structure, fruit profile and balance fit right in here. Bravo, Ted Lemon!

I’m a big fan of Dominique le Guen’s wines from Hudelot-Baillet and sell them in the UK. Whilst the Clive Coates’ received wisdom is that the Charmes is the better 1er Cru - older vines - I’ve always preferred the mineral drive of Les Cras. Surprised by the comments about Lamarche, though. Cliches aside, I’ve always found these rather delicate and red-fruited, and the wine making to be very light of touch. There’s definitely a touch of reduction, but to me this emphasises the mineral elements and complexity.

Nice showing for a humble blend from Littorai!

I liked the Lamarche more than you, David – it was rather reductive, and I’d have preferred less charry oak, but it had much more depth and structure than most of the others.

I think the Joliet did well among some of the group because it was sweeter on the attack than the others, with a lot of oak.

I generally thought these wines were disappointing. A lot of them struck me as an odd combo of fleshy up front with high acidity in the back, but they tended to lack depth through the mid-palate. I agree with you that the Littorai was the best wine of the group. The only wine that came close to justifying its price was the Hudelot-Baillet Cras, which I also ranked 1st.

I missed that the first time I read your post.

Wow! I liked it and it’s a great value, but I didn’t find it nearly as complex as most of the Burgundies.

It really boggles my mind that a sophisticated and well run group like yours could not come up with a better list of 2012 Burgs. What were the limits for the tasting?

Actually, with 20" of snow on the ground, I’m thinking of Porto. [cheers.gif]

I didn’t source, but I don’t think that’s a fair critique. With the 2012s, the prices are so high (and quantities so small) that options were limited at this price point. Of course, everyone has a favored producer that isn’t included. But there’s a lot of Craipillot out there b/w $50-$80.

If you were going to pick eight 2012 red burgs, with an emphasis on premier crus, that can be found at retail, with an average price under $75, and at least half from the Cote de Nuits, what would you pick? Keep in mind that large parts of the Cote de Beaune, which is where the value is these days, got wrecked by hail in 2012 and there isn’t much wine from there, and what there is is hard to find.

I tasted a range of 2012s in Burgundy earlier in the year from some good producers. I would rate this vintage above 2010 and 2009.

I’m surprised these showed so poorly, and only one of them was rated above the Californian Pinot.

I take the point about the quality of the line-up, but the Dujac should have showed well. Maybe they are closing down?

Well, I don’t really want to read notes on the same-old, same-old - but I’m anyway confused by the notes. :wink:

Was your price range $50-80? If you were another group, people who do not know Burgundy, I could understand your reaction. But, you guys know Burgundy. I have only had a relatively small amount of 2012s so far and will have a lot more in February at the grand tasting at the Paulee, but what I tasted last year when we visited Burgundy was really good (although not near 2010). I had some wonderful reds from Dublere that, even at their high end, would fit easily into a $50-80 price range. I also had really good 2012s from Clos de Lambray (which would be too expensive), Jadot (some easily in your range), Lafon (too high), and Tremblay (which I do not believe are in the US yet).

You guys live in NY City with great access to wine stores (unlike some in other parts of the country) and people in your group knowledgable about Burgundy. Where were known producers of excellent values like Dublere, Chandon de Briailles, Pavelot, etc. Where were Santenays from Pousse d’Or or Chapelle. Beaune premier crus from Jadot, Bouchard, Drouhin or even Lafarge. How about Morey premier crus from Stephane Magnien? Haven’t had the 2012s, but his 2010s were wonderful. I could go on.

Certainly, there is a lot of crap in the $50-80 price range and I would expect a lot of people to buy only that. But given the knowledge of you guys and the available wines, I would have expected you guys to avoid that - unless you were intentionally trying producers new to you where you just hit a bad lot.

Maybe I am all wrong. Maybe I just hit a lucky few last summer in Burgundy. Maybe I will find a lot of junk when I go to the Paulee in February. But, I doubt it.

I would think it would be hard to come up with any opinion of the vintage after only tasting 8 random wines. I was very happy with what I tasted earlier this year in Burgundy.

Lamarche to me gets better and better. I think Nicky is doing a great job. Always at the top of my list of domaines to visit when I’m there.

I must say I feel like crying when I taste these wines. All I can think of is what the wines that used to come from these vines. So sad.

Well, Bill, based on your notes/book, I would pretty much describe my burg palate as precisely the opposite of yours. Or put differently, if I was on a desert island and my choices were to die of thirst or have a glass of Sylvie Esmonin CSJ, death is looking like a good choice.

And your list above contains 3 producers which I dislike - (CdB, Pavelot (I STRONGLY prefer Guillemot for Savigny) and Bouchard (a house that’s never found a CdB wine it can’t overoak into whimpering submission). That’s kind of the point - none of these producers are objectively worse or better than each other, but it’s just a matter of personal preference, and no list is going to satisfy everyone, especially in a group that is not 100% AFWE. If you like stemmy wines then we probably could’ve included a Bize or CdB; if you like meaty burg there are Marsannays from Pataille or Roty; if you like your Burg with more oak, there’s Bouchard, etc.

But generally I think the above list encompasses a mix of styles and villages at a reasonable price point. I wouldn’t avoid 2012s going forward just from this but I certainly will be more selective, especially in the >$75 class. For the 2009s and 2010s tastings, the quality was obviously higher, IMO. How much of this is a function of the wines we used to drink getting priced out of range (see e.g. Lafarge, Fourrier, Grivot, Chevillon, etc.) I can’t tell you. Maybe if our budget had doubled along with prices, 2012 would seem like the equal of 2010, but the QPR issue is in some ways integral to the assessment of a vintage. A great vintage that no one can afford the great wines from is of no use to anyone but the ultrarich.

Finally, FWIW, the person who put the tasting together has deep and lengthy experience with burgundy. I think you’d find his judgment of how to best allocate funds would satisfy even the most skeptical participant.

Lambrays is now a $200 wine. Tremblay’s village vosne is pushing $100, let alone her 1ers. Jadot’s domaine CdN 1ers (Fuees, Baudes, Boudots, etc.) in 2012 are all generally over $100 now at current retail, as is Drouhin’s Chambolle 1er and Bouchard’s Cailles and Suchots. Stephane Magnien has limited distribution and is hard to find. Even Chevillon’s “lesser” 1ers are now nearly $100.

For the Cote de Beaune, Drouhin’s Clos des Mouches and Bouchard’s Enfant Jesus are now generally $100+. 2012 Lafarge (or any Volnay or Pommard, really) basically doesn’t exist. Last year we had Bize and Montille and Lafarge and Comte Armand, this year those sorts of wines are harder to find and much more expensive when you can find them.

And while not fashionable around these parts, it’s also not like Arlot and Lamarche and Duband are Hudelot-Baillet are trash these days. They get pretty good critical reviews.

I too will be interested to taste some of the better-regarded producers at La Paulee.

Are the prices of 2012 really so much higher in the US? They’re up in the UK but very rarely by as much as you guys seem to be suggesting - aside from Grivot but he’s actually back pedalled a bit for 2013 pricing.

The prices can be a little better if you shop around for deals, ship from a cheaper source far away, buy pre-arrival, have allocations from a merchant with whom you have a long-term relationship, or some combination of the above. If you just want to buy a bottle off the shelf of a retailer near where you live, then yes, they really are that bad.