TN: Bourdy's Decades tasting: One wine from every decade of the 20th century, to 1904


I was originally introduced to the wines of Jean Bourdy through Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste. I remember being on the mailing list and receiving an email in 2008 regarding a tasting of Bourdy wines taking place in New York, with wines all the way back to 1865. What? Civil War-era wine? That exists, and I could try it? To that point I had never heard of Bourdy nor tried any of the wines, but I was so intrigued that I began looking at ways to get myself to that tasting. In the end I didn’t want to take that gamble on something that was unknown to myself, so I passed. Since then though I’ve been a fairly deep buyer of Bourdy wines, honestly most in part due to the promise of exemplary ability to age them. Until tonight though, I had not actually had an aged Bourdy wine, only young ones. I love the wines of the Jura, and Bourdy’s wines are the top of the list. They are also incredibly reasonably priced on release, making them one of the greatest values in wine in the world. There aren’t many wines you can spend $19 on and expect them to age for 100 years… and that’s not an exaggeration! Well, this was all theory until tonight, but I have enjoyed the young Bourdy wines I’ve had as well, so there’s certainly no harm in continuing to buy them even if I weren’t to reserve them for my 100th birthday.

I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity to taste these wines by E&R wine shop in Portland. After having experienced the young Bourdy wines in the past few years I have long thought about missing that ancient tasting in New York. The E&R tasting was frankly pretty darn close to the grandeur of that NY event, and in my own home town. Jean-François Bourdy made the trip from the Jura and offered continual commentary for the two hours that we tasted the wines, offering amazing insight to this ancient region that remains fairly untapped in the US. Jean-François wanted to make it clear at this tasting that this isn’t something that he does all the time. Aside from the Garagiste tasting in New York, this present tasting was the largest collection of aged wines he has ever assembled in his life. Again, what an insane opportunity to be a part of this. Sure, they’ll frequently taste ancient wines at tastings, but only a bottle or two…

The storied history of Bourdy is wild to think about. Jean-François is the 15th generation making wine at the family estate that dates back to 1475. He currently lives in the same, original house, and still makes wine out of that original 500 year old cellar that his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great great-grandfather did (it’s true). I believe he said they currently hold 10 hectares. In 2005 they became Demeter certified Biodynamic. They did so not to meet any new trend, but to continue to make wines as they always have, and be acknowledged for that. There is no experimentation done here. They make wine the same way they did hundreds of years ago, and will continue to do so. When asked what types of things he does in the winery to produce the wine, Jean-François simply stated, “we do quite nothing.” They only use old barrels to allow the underlying material to shine through. Currently all fermentation is done in stainless steel. The cellars of Cheateau Bourdy hold 13,000 old bottles, dating back to 1781.

Jean-François said “we never, never show the best vintages.” Those are for him, and his family! They only publicly taste what they have a lot of bottles of. Anything they’re down to 20-30 bottles of they keep for themselves; there must be 150+ bottles at the winery if they’re going to drink publicly. For instance, they have 300 bottles remaining of the 1904 Blanc that we’re going to have this evening! Crazy to think…

I gather that most of these bottles are frequently “reconditioned.” At the cellar, they wind up recorking and refilling vintages ever so often. He doesn’t expect these corks to last 100 years… but the wine inside should, with proper care. So perhaps the wines I buy from him will not last quite the length as these have with the attention that has been given to them.

  • NV Jean Bourdy Crémant du Jura - France, Jura, Crémant du Jura
    As we arrived we were greeted with a pour of the Crémant du Jura as we walked around and mingled. This was fresh and zesty on the nose, with quite expressive minerals and apples. Smells great. The palate is fresh again, and absolutely laced with minerals. Really nice acidity as well; tart and bright. The finish is a little funky at first, with odd acidity, but the odd stuff fades revealing fresher minerals and components of spiced apples. Really coats the mouth. The bitter acid at the end is a little detracting though. (89 pts.)

All these wines are very difficult to score as they are very different to what we traditionally score. They were all experiences in their own and it feels a little trite to score such history. However, a score also does do what I always say it does best and offer a relative enjoyment level vs. anything else I’d rather put in my mouth. Even if a wine here that’s 90+ years old scores in the 80s, I am FAR more grateful for the experience of having this wine than the $17 Cru Beaujolais that I scored 91 last week… but if you were to give me either without context on a Tuesday night and not tell me what’s what, I’d rather have that Beaujolais. That’s where the score comes in… but I truly believe this tasting was one of those rare opportunities that come along in a lifetime.

Interestingly and perhaps a bit counter-intuative compared to the rest of the world, in the Jura we taste the red wines before the whites, because the whites are “much stronger” than the reds. I do not disagree with this assessment, as both in the way of complexities and texturally, the whites definitely had a heavier feeling to them than the lithe reds. Besides the 1915, all the reds are 1/3rd blends of the three allowed grapes: Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir, all co-fermented. It seems the modern trend in the Jura is to offer single varietal wines of these three, but Bourdy always blends them. Perhaps it’s just the single varietal international trend that’s causing people to do that these days. I think Bourdy is the one who knows where it’s at, though…

Côtes du Jura Rouge
An interesting note about the bottles you see Bourdy’s red and whites bottled in, which is entirely unique to the Jura. Jean-François’s grandfather found a bottle of Jura red wine produced from 1219 that was in a bottle shaped like this. He brought it to a bottle maker to recreate it, and ever since they have been bottling their wines in a similar shaped bottle. For me it does add something extra to the special packaging of these wines.

  • 1983 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Rouge - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    This was copper in color, and the lightest color of the Reds. I’ve seen aged Chardonnays look this color, practically. The aromas are very pretty, and quite dusty. Smells a bit of mushrooms covered in dust, with a note of acidity. It actually smells quite like many 1983 Red Burgundies I’ve had. It certainly doesn’t taste it though, as this turns bright on palate entry. The texture is soft and elegant. No real tannins to speak of, but there is mild acid. Overall, fairly light body. Lots of acid dials up on the finish, and really overtakes the mouth. After 10 seconds it’s still lingering strong, and nothing else is left. Quite tart and puckering, without too much complexity. A fun quote from Jean-François while tasting this wine, “We never propose young fruity wine. No. Never.” (90 pts.)
  • 1945 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Rouge - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    The best I could describe the color of this wine is that of old looking port. It even seemed to move in my glass like it. This is where the wines started getting really interesting. This thing smells like mascerated fruit covered in smoked caramel… I also get a hard fruit candy that has sat in its wrapper for years only to try once it’s gotten all goopy and sticky (yes, I’ve had my grandfather’s candy that was at the back of his drawer). There’s also a meaty, nearly smoked fish, component to things. Totally wild and complex aromas. The palate enters lightly, but after 5 seconds huge deep strawberries dial up. Totally awesome. Some really bright, high tones are present here, with a grippy grittiness to it. Lots of complex soil and mushroom notes as well. Really grand palate. The finish calms a bit, and is slightly muted at first, but then again on the finish the acids kick into high gear and take over. Acid is definitely dominant and covers up any other complexities that may lie. Overall though, the finish is quite bright and rich even a minute later. Great experience. (93 pts.)
  • 1926 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Rouge - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    This wine offered the darkest color of any of the reds. Amazing. Jean-François said this is “a wine from another time.” It was produced 10 years before the AOC was created in 1936, which stipulated just the three red grapes could be used: Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir. This wine had TEN different red grapes in it, including one that Jean-François said had “10 times the acidity of any other red grape known.” I did not get the name of that grape… I want some. The glass I was poured this wine in was somehow tainted as it smelled like a musty old glass. Lucky for me Dan allowed me to try his at the very end of the night… the funk smells turned into beautiful herbal aromas, but overall lighter than the 1945. The palate is rich in body, with amazing acid on palate entry. Lots of bright strawberry fruit remains here. This is like eating a shock tart candy the way the bright fruit and punishing acidity dance together. This has the most incredible streak of acid in it than any wine I’ve had over 20 years old… and it’s 86 years old. On the palate, this doesn’t taste old in the slightest. Not unexpectedly, there’s tons of acid on the finish. The fruit dances brightly as well, but the interplay with the acidity is fantastic. No hint of age on the finish as well, which leaves my mouth puckering. (92 pts.)

  • 1915 Jean Bourdy Poulsard Côtes du Jura Rouge - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    Now we’re talking over 20 years before the AOC. This wine is 100% Poulsard, from grapes grown entirely in Chateau-Chalon (which for 80 years has forbade red grapes)! Wild. Wow, this one’s really funky on the nose. For the first time, it smells a little bit oxidized. Besides that though, things are hugely rich, with tons of caramel aromas. The wine enters the palate softly, showing light fruit at first, but as things move around in the mouth the complexity really dials up and it gets quite intense and complex. This offers rich soil tones coupled with tart fruits. I thought I could just let it dance on my palate forever, but after a bit of time the acid dials up and becomes too intense. Fantastic richness and tartness though. The finish offers rich chanterelle mushrooms coupled with intense acidity. Crazy. Really nice complexity and depth here; the best of the reds, and humorously, perhaps the only one that’s truly in its peak drinking window. I only had three sips of this wine, but each one left me shaking my head. This wine is 97 years old, and I swear if you poured this blind for most people they wouldn’t expect it to be more than a couple decades old, if that. (94 pts.)

Côtes du Jura Blanc
When drinking these ancient bottles, Jean-François recommends opening them very similar to the practice I’ve followed for a while, the “Audouze method”, proposed by François Audouze on the erobertparker forum years ago. Basically, Jean-François recommends the bottle be stood up before hand and the bottle be un-corked long in advance of pouring… up to half a day, and allowed just to rest open. No decanting, no nothing. Just rest. The wine should then be poured at “room temperature,” the same for reds or whites.

The “cinnamon” in the 1973.

  • 1973 Jean Bourdy Chardonnay Côtes du Jura - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    Wow… ridiculous aromas of spiced fruit. This smells likes apples with cinnamon on top, but the cinnamon layer is thicker than the apple layer. Funny, with the fine sediment it looks exactly like that too (see photo). Heavy spice aromas; this smells earthy as well, like morel mushrooms cooked in spicy cinnamon and wine. The palate is rich and amazing. Tart yet decedent presence, like a desert wine in texture, but there’s nothing sweet about this; it’s just sensual as it coats the palate. Tastes of caramel apple, with tons of acidity, rich morels, salt and earth. Killer finish, just ridiculous acid dials up on a finish that explodes with richness and complexity. This has depth, like you’re falling down a mine shaft but able to catch the scenery the whole way down. Rich and tart, and I swear I have a tannic sensation noticed on this one. What richness. (95 pts.)
  • 1955 Jean Bourdy Chardonnay Côtes du Jura - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    Crazy, totally different aromas here. This one smells tart, with a pickle juice/lemon combination offering ridiculous intensity. Really blows my mind with its uniqueness. The palate is rich and creamy; delicious, with amazing richness and complexity. Very deep and intense, with nicely integrated tannins. Again some tart pickles are noticed, mixed with spiced apple skins. Awesome and silly. Rich finish that’s tart with acid and a nice depth to it. Very rich and spicy. (94 pts.)

Yes… this bottle is 108 years old (but perhaps the label isn’t).

  • 1904 Jean Bourdy Chardonnay Côtes du Jura - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    Think about this… if we were to put away a wine today and have it sit and age until it’s as old as this wine is today, we would be drinking it in the year 2120! Sounds like science fiction to me. Jean-François Bourdy mentioned as we got to this wine that he hadn’t had it in 20 years, so he was excited to try it again as well. It offered some caramel notes on the nose, which was generally quite rich and spicy. However, it also oddly smelled a bit yeasty (not real yeast surely… 108 year old yeast?). Overall though the nose was fairly light and quiet. It tasted of old wood; in a similar way that an old scotch tastes after it sat in barrel for too long and the distiller said, “oh crap, we’d better bottle and sell this.” It also had a strange, chunky texture. Overall a quiet palate, but it STILL offered loads of acidity. The finish starts with a tartness, but it’s an odd kind of tartness, one that somehow feels stewed, and a bit oxidized. There’s still lots of acid here, and it’s plenty tart. The thing is, I’ve had wines that taste like this before… but they were nowhere near 108 years old. I tried a final sip after an hour in the glass and it was worse, with an off putting soy sauce flavor. Score is for peak enjoyment. It feels a bit trite to be a little disappointed by a wine that is 108 years old… just the mere opportunity to taste such a monument is insane. Many people talked about how alive this wine was, and even two days later I heard how amazed people were how it was still together, and perhaps was the lasting memory in their minds of the tasting. I do agree that this wine was still together, which is an absolute feat. However, I do feel that it is beyond peak, and not up to the standard of the previous Blancs in the lineup. Yeah, insane that I can even claim that a 108 year old wine (yes, I like stating that… I just had a 108 year old dry white wine) is still palatable and enjoyable; it’s just not at the same level as the others. (88 pts.)

Onto the Chateau-Chalon wines… surely the longest lived white wines on the planet. One day I will try one of these from the 19th century, I’ll see to that. An interesting question was posed as to what foods one would pair with these wines. He could have just said, “anything delicious and decedent,” as his answer was the likes of Foie Gras, lobster, fish in a cream sauce, spiced Indian cuisine, old cheddar cheese, old parmesan… he said avoid blue cheese and the likes of camembert, and any sweet foods.

  • 1990 Jean Bourdy Château-Chalon - France, Jura, Château-Chalon
    The youngest of the lineup, from the wine of the lineup that will surely age the longest (notes from Civil war-era Bourdy Chateau-Chalon are things of dreams for me), it was no surprise that this smells incredibly young (… and it’s 22 years old, remember). It was very tight, showing only general tartness, with lots of lemon aromas. The palate is creamy, rich and soft. There’s tons of acid present, with decedent white fruit. It tastes “grapey,” but this is coupled to a yeasty flavor and other tart fruit. The finish is quite rich, with sweet fruit that dials up at the end, coupled to deep acid, and this entirely coats the palate in a very pleasing way. Overall it’s just incredibly tightly wound, and feels entirely too young. (91 pts.)
  • 1969 Jean Bourdy Château-Chalon - France, Jura, Château-Chalon
    This offers much richer aromas than the 1990. Fantastic depth; rich and decedent. This smells like caramelized butter and brown sugar. Delicious. Incredible palate presence, which is very rich, deep, and thick in texture. It’s tart and rich, but so gracefully plays a balance between that lightness and rich cream mixed with white fruits (like white peaches) cooked in butter and a lemon tartness on top (but not the lemon flavor). Wow, the finish attacks with rich acids and tartness. Really impressive presence, with incredible intensity. Killer stuff here. 93+, and yes, the + means it will only improve from here. (93 pts.)
  • 1934 Jean Bourdy Château-Chalon - France, Jura, Château-Chalon
    This one smells a bit older (I know it’s ludicrous typing that… like, no shit fox, it’s 78 years old… and it’s wine). Smells like marshmallows macerated in butter. The palate is rich, with nice depth and tart flavors. No hints of the age on the palate, as this is incredibly rich and creamy, offering primarily lemon flavors, but it’s on a paradoxically rich and creamy, yes decedent, texture. Tastes like a caramel lemon desert (but without the sugar)! The finish offers tart acids, and this is very puckering and coating. Intense, grippy as all hell, with a crazy, wild streak to it that is entirely its own and like nothing else I’ve experienced. The flavors are a combo of yeast, soil, mushrooms, and marshmallows. Sounds totally weird, but it was fantastic. Very interesting, deep, and long finish. (93 pts.)

Galant des Abesses
This “wine” is quite the intrigue. Basically a Macvin infused with 25 Indian and Chinese spices. This is produced from a secret recipe only known by the Bourdy’s and dating back to 1579 (as stated on the bottle). It’s not their recipe , but I believe they are the only ones who know and use this original recipe that Jean-François’ ancestors found.

  • NV Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Galant des Abesses - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    Wow! I just don’t know what to say about this “wine.” I had seen the CT notes for this before the tasting (which is what caused me to pre-order some as I didn’t expect to be able to taste this tonight), but I still just didn’t quite believe it could be true… The aromas here are completely insane and overwhelming of the senses. For a wine infused with so many herbs and spices, perhaps it’s obvious to state, but I could not believe the onslaught of interesting spices present on the nose. Completely wild, but at the same time tame, elegant, and graceful… like you tamed a feral beast and taught it to dance for you. It is one of the richest and most complex aromas I’ve ever smelled in anything in my life. You must really pay attention to get all the delineations, but it is beautifully delineated; so much so that my head almost exploded as I tried to detail what exactly it was I was smelling. There’s just too many herbs and spices to note! For the plate I first just wrote, “What the hell just happened…” I don’t even know what to say about the richness here. Yes, profoundly complex with just the hint of sweetness. Again, this is all on a fairly light frame and requires attention. No one would dismiss this as not interesting, but it does require attention to find the depths that are lurking here. The finish is crazy, deep, and long, and yes again, showing profound tartness and a complex range of acids. This was far better than expected. I had this again, from the same bottle, two days later and I simply wasn’t zoned into it as much as I was this night, but I could still sense the depth of this creature. Maybe not so much “wine,” but what a magical concoction this is. My all time favorite of anything like this, as it compares to things like Chinato for me. (96 pts.)

This was such an amazing opportunity to taste these wines together… previous to tonight, the oldest dry wine I had tasted was 1961… I beat that tonight… 6 times. You almost wonder if Jean-François is playing some grand trick on us with these wines… mixing a bit of that or this together, and then saying, “Alright, here’s a 1926 Jura Blanc!” Not that I really mean that, but coming from the traditional mindset of wine and how it ages, these wines are complete revelations and redefine what’s possible with age. I said it time and time again the night of the tasting, but if you put most of these wines in front of very experienced tasters of aged Burgundy I’m sure the majority of them wouldn’t expect any of them to be more than 10-20 years old. They really feel ageless. There is something absolutely magical about this property, or perhaps it’s the Bourdy family… I’m not even sure what it is, but I do know it’s magical, and defies what we’ve all learned to expect from aged wine (and this from a guy that already vastly prefers drinking wine older than himself).

Posted from CellarTracker


Thanks so much for the report on what surely must have been an eye-opening experience. I’ve started drinking wines from the Jura myself recently and the potential is indeed staggering.

Thanks for the great write up. I am sipping on a Vin Jaune as I write, a very young B&S Tissot “W” Vin Jaune 2004 Arbois. I have a few older Macle in the cellar… None of my wine friend like the style but for me it has greatness. Cheers Mike

FANTASTIC! What a tasting of a lifetime. Vin Jaune to me is the most unique and fascinating wines on the planet…would love to be able to try some of those century wines!
I’ve got a lone bottle of the Bourdy 66 blanc…as well as some young rouge and VJ. The great thing is…no need to hurry when to drink these wines…just pick an occasion and enjoy!

Fantastic opportunity, David! Thanks very much for the notes.

That’s pretty awesome.
Thanks for the write up!

Thank you so much for detailed notes and photographs. Like others here a night I would done nearly anything to have been a part of.

Really amazing write up. Thanks for sharing the experience!

Great notes. I’m glad they poured the Galant des Abesses. It’s become somewhat of a ritual at our house to serve it during the holidays with a pretty intense ginger and spice cake my wife makes. A great drink and an amazing match

Was so disappointed I wasn’t able to be in PDX for this, but am VERY thankful for your detailed report. Sounds like an incredible event.

Absolutely killer stuff DP. Completely jealous is all I can say

Wow - thx for this. I have really enjoyed their $20 basic wines and I was salivating reading your notes.

Thanks for the comments, guys. It really was a special evening, and amazing to be around wines with that kind of history. They really are family heirlooms that were shared with us. As I said, I’ve been buying these wines for the last four years with the promise of this great ability to age. But the best wines were the 40+ year old ones… I’d still be in my 70s by the time what I’m buying now reaches the point where these really begin getting interesting. So not sure where that leaves me… probably still buying I suppose, because for $20 they definitely drink fantastically right out of the shoot.

Yesterday E&R put on another tasting of other wines throughout the Jura… some 20 wines or so. Nothing stood out the way the young Bourdy wines do… so again, there’s definitely something special about this producer. I’ll post a link to those notes once I get them typed up.

Discovered these wine many years ago and seemed to be one of few people in Hong Kong that even knew they existed. As a regular buyer I was even inducted into their Confrerie (Prieurie as I recall). I guess in those days (1980’s) just finding anyone overseas who knew and enjoyed Chateau Chalon was probably as much a mystery as a surprise. Over the last few years we have found a few fellow wine drinkers who love Chalon and one who has actually lived in the area and knows the obscure stuff. So we have had some fabulous tastings, many 1949’s which is a birth year many of us share - wine in absolute pristine condition by the way. How things have changed. Recently I was in Melbourne and spotted a bottle of Ch. Chalon on the bottom shelf of a specialist wine shop. I grabbed the bottle and went up to the counter feeling for sure they would ask something about the wine. But no. The guy told me 12 bottles of the wine had arrived 3 days before and this was the last bottle and some lady had bought 3 vintages. Seems many people now know these wines. And a good thing too! Thanks for the memories!!!

thanks for the great notes, I have only one bottle of the Bourdy Chalon 1949 from a Garagiste weak moment.