The Premox Taste Test - High Risk White Burgundies and More

Mood Indigo, Jalan Kilang Barat, Singapore
Tasted Saturday, November 30, 2013 by Paul S with 1,029 views


This was definitely one of the most interesting tastings of the year. AA generously put together a selection of top-end white Burgs with a bad history of prematurely oxidised bottles - as bad as 11 out of every 12 in some cases he told us - when Ming mentioned something about not having had many premoxed wines. It was a bit of a crap shoot, and I imagined having to taste through a whole line-up of soy sauce and old apple tasting wines. Yet when it came down to the crunch, we really had the luck of the draw, with all but 2 of the whites showing in good form, including a stunning 1999 Sauzet Monty. And to cap it all off, other generous donations from AA and the rest of us popped up on the table, including a great bottle of Vincent Dancer Chevalier Montrachet along with a some really nice reds. This really was some afternoon - much thanks to everyone who helped to make it special.

Flight 1 - THE PREMOX TEST (9 Notes)

  • 2006 Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Clos de la Chateniere 91 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Saint-Aubin 1er Cru

    I thought this was very pleasant indeed. The nose was a bit tight, very subtle, with slim shades of pears and apples and some underlying mineral and earth. The palate was a lot more open and giving though. Some of the ripeness of the vintage showed up here in its sappy notes of pears and white fruit, but there was also a nice freshness to it towards the finish, along with a good spine of minerality, all making for a very balanced, nicely put together wine. There was a little nutty accent in there somewhere as well. This particular bottle slightly oxidative note at the very edges and needed to be drank quite soon, but that aside, a good bottle could probably last the mid-term.

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  • 2002 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru

    This was very good, but perhaps at a rather awkward stage now, so it seem to be showing at rather less than the peak of its powers. The nose certainly seemed very developed, with tons and tons of chalky, earthy, mineral aromas along with some white fruit, and then a subtly perfumed backdrop of nectar and honeysuckle flowers. Nice. The palate was a bit more backward though. It seemed almost tight at first in the way its subtle shades of white fruit and green mangoes were held up by lively mineralty anda stern mineral backbone. With time though, it opened up very nicely, taking on fleshier apples and lemons notes doused with tons and tons of mineral - with lots of chalky accents and saline, almost oyster-shell-like notes pulling away into an effortlessly full, powerful tinish. Thankfully for us, this was one of the rare bottles not affected by premox at all. Very impressive stuff, in fact this bottle at least seems to be at a rather in-between stage, perched just beyond an awkward adolescence, but not quite achieving the matured confidence and integration of adulthood yet.

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  • 2010 Maison Sylvain Loichet Meursault 90 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault

    A really pretty Meursault village - a good wine wine for its level. The nose just set the stage nicely for the rest of the wine - with sweet, fragrant scents of flowers and really pure pears aromas. This was echoed nicely one the palate. It was round and fleshy in good Meursault fashion, with green pears and apples rounded off with a little flowery note, but all pierced with the stirring acidity of the 2010 vintage. Lovely purity all round. It was somewhat weaker just at the finish, petering out slightly with some bittersweet mineral notes on a bed of vanilla tones. That aside though, this was really nice - a great value, rather early drinking Burgundy village. Saying that though, I think it will improve over the next few years as it integrated even further and puts on some complexity.

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  • 2000 Domaine Chandon de Briailles Corton-Charlemagne 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

    An eminently enjoyable Corton-Charlie. It had a rather sweet nose, with ripe red apples and kumquat aromas sprinkled with some exotic spice, and then some stony slate and a little suggestion of almond skin. Nice, if rather surprisingly ripe smelling for a Burgundy. The palate was equally expressive. It had a lovely, developed feel to it, with fresh flavours of sweet lemons and apples along with little honeyed notes on midpalate - while not the most complex Grand Cru Burg, it had a very integrated, very complete feel to it. Very nice finish too, very bright and lively, with a little tail of mineral and some nutty accents mingling with sweet fruit notes. So very enjoyable - a bit on the richer, riper side of things, but this was a very nice wine that was right in its drinking window.

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  • 1998 Etienne Sauzet Bâtard-Montrachet

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru

    Like the 1998 Chevalier Montrachet that followed it, this was borderline flawed, with very slight notes of premature oxidation. Still though, it was enough to weaken an otherwise impressive wine, so that this was decently good, but not all that great. I would probably have rated it a 91-92 on my (rather arbitrary) scale, but will refrain from putting down anything given that it is probably not representative of a bottle in top-form. The nose smelt of browned pears, slightly old apples and more typical notes of cream and butter and malted honey. Pretty nice, but you could already get a sense of the creeping oxidation there. The palate was slightly better, almost tasting okay. It was very at first nutty, with macadamias and pecan coated with some caramel accents, then the oxidation came in slightly with some of those browned apples on the midpalate. Pity, because this still had plenty of life in it, with the finish especially showing some really fresh, tingly acidity, with brighter flavours of lime peel laced with a nice line of mineral and spice. It did seem a bit thin, a bit weak for a Batard right at the end, but that could well be the flaw. All in all, still pretty good, but time to drink up - at least with this bottle.

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  • 1998 Etienne Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru

    This was very much like its sibling - a similarly borderline premoxed bottle of 1998 Sauzet Batard served alongside. Again, the oxidation here was not quite enough to ruin the wine, but certainly enough to curtail its powers. In a sense, while this was still a decent wine (it would probably have gotten a 90-91 points on my own scale), it was even more disappointing than the Batard given the pedigree of the vineyard. Chevalier is a terroir I have always liked for its elegance and cut - this bottle was ripe and even a bit flattish at points. I am not sure whether it is the flaw or deficiencies that the wine had in the first place, but I am refraining from putting a numerical score on this. The nose here was warm and ripe, with notes of cream and butter shading into deeper caramel and honey and butterscotch tones. Past that though, the telltale aromas of old, brown apple flesh starting peeking out. The oxidation was rather more obvious here than the Batard, with those tried apple smells transferring to the palate as well, where they were met by ripe, matured notes of honeyed pears, sweet lemons and more of those caramel and butterscotch tones, all scored by an umami, white meat Borderline undertone. Decent, but this needed some acid lift. It was only on the finish where the strength of the wine showed a bit, with a long tail of sweet apples mingling with nuts, spice and a little honeyed note. This may have been quite nice, and it was indeed still eminently drinkable, but surely below Grand Cru standard on the day.

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  • 1999 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet 96 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Montrachet Grand Cru

    A truly superlative wine - this more than made up for the dissapointing performance of two slightly premoxed Sauzet Grand Crus that came right before. Here was a big, rich Montrachet firing on all cylinders. Poured out into a decanter before serving, it literally took the breath away, with the boisterous crowd in the room suddenly moving into an admiring hush with our first sniff and sip. It had a wonderful, wonderful nose, bursting out of the glass with wafts of fresh pears and melons and sweet apple aromas ringed with perfumed notes of meadow flowers and daisies and a gentle spiciness; and then a little counterpoint of earth and mineral emerged to pull the bouquet together into a lovely whole. This was a world away from the old browned apples and caramel notes of the earlier pair of wines - it was just so fresh and fragrant and alluring. Wow. But boy - the palate was even better. How do I begin with this… it had a lovely umami character on entry, with a little touch of white meat to it, and then the wine fanned out over the midpalate with a mouth-filling flow of fresh sweet apple fruit and bright lemons and a twist of something high-toned, almost flowery that reminded me of shiso leaf. There was such wonderful depth and power here, but this was also wed to an effortless grace and poise in equal proportion - a marriage that gave the wine a sense of completeness and finality that, for me, is a hallmark of every great Montrachet; a completeness indeed that one seldom finds in the other great Grand Crus of the Côte de Beaune. And then there was the finish - incredibly long and inexorable, with licks of mineral, spice and earth running alongside sweet apple flesh and a little glow of golden honey that spread across the back of the mouth. Ah wow - this was just wonderful. A truly special wine - this could well be the best white Burg in a year where a 1989 Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche and a 2002 Louis Carillon Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet both knocked my socks off. If there was ever one wine that I thanked my lucky stars was not premoxed, this is it.

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  • 2006 Vincent Dancer Chevalier-Montrachet 94 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru

    On any other day, this would have been a knockout. It just had the misfortune of coming behind an amazing 1999 Sauzet Montrachet, which was amongst the very best white Burgundies I have ever had. Make no mistake though, this was a brilliant young wine by any measure. It had such an attractive nose, with a layer of cream and a sprinkling of fresh herbs over a core of ripe apple aromas and a beautiful stony minerality. It was beautiful to drink as well. Soft, melting and elegant, this was a classic Chevalier, with layers of lemons and green apples unfolding in a beautifully clear, pure palate. It had some of the ripeness and plump generosity of the 2006 vintage on it, yet more than anything, this was marked by really fresh, juicy, yet well-integrated acidity. Nice finish too, with a lovely effortless length to it, showing some spice, more of that chalky mineral and some gentle floral tones underneath. Dancer’s style has been a bit divisive sometimes, but on the Chevalier-Montrachet at least, he is capable of making some stunning wines. Given the fleshiness, this will be ready relatively early. However, there is certainly plenty of life on the wine, and it should happily develop over the next 4-5 years at the very least. 94+

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  • 1998 Domaine de Montille Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Le Cailleret 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru

    An excellent wine in its own right, though it did struggle somewhat under the shadow of the numerous Grand Crus that came before. I really enjoyed this though. It had a nice attractive nose, where ripen fleshy fruit - nectarines and more citrussy lemons I thought - were mixed-in with chalky, minerally aromas. There was a lovely feel on the palate too, very Puligny, with sweet apples with a few floral touches and some nutty almond inflections where tied to a little underlace of mineral at the finish. Great length here. A very delicious, giving wine, yet it was no floozy - there was clearly good terroir here, with a nice structure and shape to the whole proceedings. It was very nicely balanced too, with a nice freshness undergirding its fleshy notes and not a hint of premox in sight. I would never have guessed 1998 if blind. Very good indeed, and drinking perfectly now.

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Flight 2 - RED RELIEF (5 Notes)

  • 1985 Domaine Jean Grivot Clos Vougeot 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru

    Grivot Clos Vougeot 1985. The first of a small, but very solid selection of red Burgundies we had, this was very enjoyable indeed – a real example of how long Grivot’s wines need to come around. This smelt beautiful, with rich, perfumy notes of dried cherries and berries and musky, wilted flowers ringed with secondary notes of herb and damp leaves. The palate was, surprisingly for a 1985, rather thinner than nose suggested, but there was real charm on this. It had beautiful dimensions, with really fresh dried cherry and raspberry flavours showing off the purity and clarity of the vintage, along with fine tannins that ran through a savoury earth and orange peel inflections on the midpalate. The finish was just a bit on the drying side, drifting off with a touch of dried herbs - a sure sign that it is about time to drink this up, but that aside, this was a really nice wine at a good place for drinking now. More a quiet charmer than a blockbuster, but I really enjoyed it.

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  • 1996 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny 91 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny

    You get what you pay for I guess. A criminally overpriced village given what it commands on the market these days, but this certainly punched above its weight class. It had a beautiful nose, very lush and attractive, with flowers and tea leaves and wild berries and cherry aromas on a bed of damp earth - everything you would imagine a good Chambolle to smell like with a bit of dirty thrown in. I thought the palate was quite lovely for a village too. Not the most complex of wines, but it was very attractive. There was a solid weight behind juicy flavours of cherries and berries, all wreathed in a beautiful floral perfume too. Some 1996s are still quite strident in their stern acidity, but this was really nicely integrated, with an energy and freshness that really suited the wine, especially as it leapt into a lovely, energetic finish, with tangy berries and more of that floral perfume. While still quite grippy, the tannins had a good shape to them, so that the wine always came across as elegant and poised. Good stuff, and it is still quite primary too - it will get even better in the coming years I think.

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  • 1999 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru

    Excellent. One of the few 1er Crus in the midst of a flurry of Grand Crus, yet this was probably the best of the reds. It had a rather reserved nose initially, but then unfolded in gentle waves of black cherries and berries and drifts of violet flowers, with wood spice and dried earth – a beguiling mix of masculine and feminine accents. Lovely stuff. The palate was very classy. It had such a lovely purity to it, with beautifully detailed flavours of dark cherries and berries, earth and melting floral tones. There was a sense of strength and definition to the wine that was almost Grand Cru in quality, along with a pure, transparent, almost ethereal feel that was just beautiful. It was a really complete wine, balanced, structured, with a long finish with rings of spice and dried flowers, a pat of wet earth and a touch of herb. It is still young, still full of energy and primary depth, but this was actually quite open for a top-class 1999 Burgundy. As good as it was now, I think it will be even better in 3-4 years. Bravo.

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  • 1999 Joseph Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru

    En magnum. A rather masculine expression of Charmes-Chambertin, but this was good. It needs time yet, but was already quite yummy on the day. The nose had all sorts of funky notes going on - earthy sous boys and bloody meat, a little nutty tone, lots of savoury, umami inflections, and then deep dark cherry and berry aromas. This was very much echoed on the palate, which had a rich, quite ripe show of those berries and dark cherries picked up on the nose, then layers of earth and meat and spice on the midpalate. Certainly not the most subtle or refined of wines, but there was a real depth to this along with nicely judged balanced, with a good freshness to the whole proceedings. Strong finish too, with some mineral and spice coming to the fore. This needs time yet to shed some puppy fat and mellow a little. Like so many wines from this vineyard, I do not think it has enough finesse and cut to ever be a great wine, but it is certainly a good one. This should be a very satisfying drink in a few years time.

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  • 1999 Frederic Esmonin Griotte-Chambertin 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru

    The third in a trio of 1999 Burgs. I have not always been a fan of what Esmonin produces, but I must say this was very nice indeed. It had a little nutty oaky accent on the nose, but this ceded way quite quickly to a pleasant, but rather tight bouquet of dark cherries mixed with some dried earth, mineral and a bit of meatiness. Very Gevrey in character I thought. The palate was surprisingly good. There was a nice juiciness to it, with fresh acidity and fine tannins forming a fine frame for bright flavours of black cherries riding on a darker fruit base. There was some elegance to this I thought, but also a good sense of substance. While still young and quite structured, there were already some secondary notes of earth and savoury meat coming out past the midpalate and into a nicely length finish, where some prickly tannins still made their presence felt. Impressive stuff - it still needs a good 5-6 years in the bottle at least, but there was a lot to like here.

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