Jura, Puligny Montrachet and Champagne

Tasted September 8, 2013 - September 20, 2013 by honest bob with 1,426 views

Introduction

A wonderful holiday and wine journey, despite unseasonal low temperatures and much more rain than sunshine. We felt for all the winemakers we visited, saw bunches of grapes starting to rot on the vine in famous appellations despite intensive spraying, waded through muddy puddles between rows of vines where the rainwater simply hadn't drained. The hope seems to be that a 1998-style late burst of warm dry weather might save the harvest —but the weather forecast has been promising that for weeks already and there is as yet no sign of improvement. Fingers crossed.

DISCLAIMER: I am an amateur de vin, tasting for my own pleasure and education, and paying my own way. On past experience I tend to undermark immature wines tasted from unfamiliar glasses under the watchful eyes of the winemaker. A couple of years later, tasting at home in familiar surroundings, I tend to be more generous.

Flight 1 - JURA (13 notes)

We started out in the Jura, where we once again were overwhelmed by the openness, friendliness and warmth of almost everyone we met, regardless of social status or commercial interest in gaining our favour. This is an experience which seems, alas, far from common in other (often more prosperous) parts of France.

Our principal interest was laying in stocks of Vin Jaune (VJ), especially Chateau Chalon, as it is hard to obtain in Germany, and tends to come with an absurdly high markup. Based on previous experience and extensive reading on the internet, especially a couple of interesting French-language forums on the effects of the economic downturn on the VJ market, we tasted at Macle in Chateau Chalon (tricky to get an appointment; quite an intensive experience in dialogue with the formidable Madame Macle), the Co-Op in Voiteur (walk-in during office hours), Stéphane Tissot and Rolet in Arbois (both walk-ins).

The Chateau Chalon wines were uniformly thinner and more elegant than the Arbois VJ; The 2005 wines were uniformly riper, "cleaner" and more delicious than 2006, except for the exceptional 2006 collection from S. Tissot.

White
2009 Domaine Macle Côtes du Jura France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
90 points
80% Chardonnay, 20% Saviginin. Piercingly volatile aromatics (a mix of fierce citrus vinegar and some powerful solvent you might use to degrease a bike chain) promise (threaten?) more Savignin acidity than the surprisingly civilised entry delivers. The Chardonnay shows on the (almost) smooth mid-palate, even allowing a touch of richness on the unexpectedly smooth finish. Madame Macle said this will keep a decade, but right now it is such a thrilling white-knuckle ride I don't think my bottles will last that long. Head and shoulders above a half a dozen other Chard/Savignin blends tried this week in the Jura. 90P
White
2005 Domaine Macle Château-Chalon France, Jura, Château-Chalon
91 points
Sous bois, mushroom, dried wild mushrooms, beef consommé, yeast... what a scent! The entry is quite deep, if not quite oily; a layered mid-palate with considerable minerality and persistence balances the intense acidity beautifully. Very fine indeed. 14,5% alc. 91P(+)
White
2006 Domaine Macle Château-Chalon France, Jura, Château-Chalon
88 points
This infant has been in bottle for less than 6 months, and has just been released for sale. Amazingly light and very, very acidic. Short, narrow, thin, penetrating (if this makes you think of paint stripper then I'm sorry, but...) Will surely be a good drink in (?) 15 years time, but right now the less than stellar 2006 vintage character dominates. 14% alc. 88P(?)
White
1990 Domaine Macle Château-Chalon France, Jura, Château-Chalon
90 points
After layer upon layer of fungal intricacy it is quite a relief to stop sniffing this wine and start drinking. This very complex wine has a mid-palate weight which belays the very modest 13% alc. declared on the label. Unmistakably a superb wine, but I preferred the 2005 today. Madame Macle watched our faces intensely as we tasted, and after I confessed my opinion, she said that although the conventional wisdom is that Château Chalon needs 15 years, she likes drinking it younger. I agree... 90P
White
2006 Tissot (Bénédicte et Stéphane / André et Mireille) Arbois Vin Jaune En Spois France, Jura, Arbois
92 points
Generous wafting scent of candied citrus peel; thick, almost sweet entry; very concentrated gently citrus-like mid-palate and a long, resonant finish. All absolutely pure, not a hint of cellar mould or fungus (boy, this is a relief after tasting some pretty manky Vins Jaune this week). From young wines planted on an East-facing slope, this is a brilliant Vin Jaune which can be drunk right now or cellared for a decade. 15% alc. 92P
White
2006 Tissot (Bénédicte et Stéphane / André et Mireille) Arbois Vin Jaune La Vasée France, Jura, Arbois
88 points
Thin, under-ripe citrus zest scent is as laser-beam-pure as the super-model-lemon-juice-drinking-skinny-teenage-girl entry. Hard to believe this has 15% alc., or indeed that it is a Vin Jaune from Arbois... stylistically (of course not taste-wise) this reminds me most of a very young Chablis (Les Lys?) which has seen no wood. From a North-facing slope. 88P(?)
White
2006 Tissot (Bénédicte et Stéphane / André et Mireille) Arbois Vin Jaune Les Bruyères France, Jura, Arbois
91 points
Fat, buttery scent – a world apart from the La Vasée – this is so rich on the entry that in direct comparison it even seems to lack a little acidity. But the mid-palate and finish are rollingly pure (again, no fungus, mould or mushroom in sight) so I predict a great and very long future. From South-facing slopes. 15% alc. 91P(+)
White
2005 Domaine Rolet Arbois Vin Jaune France, Jura, Arbois
86 points
Fungal profile from start to finish, but good balance of strong acidity and weighty, oaky fruit (what fruit? I don't know. Something a bit mouldy and very acidic? Ancient cooking apple, perhaps?) Not very clean on the finish. Time may tell; unlike the 2006 there is plenty of stuffing here. 14% alc. 86P(+?)
White
2006 Domaine Rolet Arbois Vin Jaune France, Jura, Arbois
84 points
Mouldy cellar, fresh button mushroom and slightly mouldy dried mushroom scent. Thin, acidic; frankly, this tastes unpleasantly impure. Brand new, screaming baby-like VJ . 14% alc. 84P(?)
White
2005 Voiteur Château-Chalon France, Jura, Château-Chalon
90 points
Pure, skinny, underripe lemon scent (not a hint of mould or mushroom); almost Manzanilla-like salt tang on the entry; delicate yet persistent mid-palate. Fantastic quality for a Cooperative product; great potential if it fattens up in bottle (over the next 25 years...) 89-91P
White
2005 Voiteur Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
89 points
This was fatter than the cooperative's Chateau Chalon, pure and closed up tight. I liked it enough to buy a couple of bottles and look forward to opening one in about 4 years. 88-89P(?)
White
2008 Fruitiere Vinicole d'Arbois Savagnin Arbois France, Jura, Arbois
83 points
From 75cl, P+P in a restaurant. I really wanted to enjoy this (being on holiday, knowing it was being served at a 320% markup and trying not to care...) but alas, this is like drinking an even sharper version of the unpleasantly sour Frankfurt speciality non-sparkling and unsweetened cider called "Äppelwoi" (not a recommendation). Wood, acid, sour grape juice, more acid: burn stomach, burn! Pure Savagnin may be the basis for great Vin Jaune, but there is a good reason why the better winemakers in the Jura blend it with Chardonnay in table wine. 14% alc. Pass the Alka-Seltzer, please. (82-)83P
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White
2009 Domaine de Montbourgeau Chardonnay L'Etoile France, Jura, L'Etoile
85 points
From 37,5cl. This "Chardonnay" may indeed have a high proportion of the aforementioned grape in its blend, but I bet there is at least 15% Savignin in there and it completely dominates. Sour, acid, sharp, cutting... and not as lifted or mineral as the best blends of its kind. Nonetheless, not a bad wine, just not anywhere near what one might reasonably expect from a "Chardonnay" (even from the Jura). Hard work. 85P

Flight 2 - PULIGNY-MONTRACHET (5 notes)

We stopped overight in Pouilly (as a base from which to take a first look at the Beaujolais appellations —boy is this a beautiful area, and a treasure-trove of underrated wines at bargain prices. We will return!) and again in Puligny-Montrachet to stay and eat at the excellent "Le Montrachet" hotel and restaurant.

Once again, the restaurant delivered a superb meal (even if we had to wait 100 minutes from placing our order to getting the first course, a lapse in service barely compensated for by two delicious amuses-bouche). Once again we drank by the glass (most wines in range 11 to 20 EUR/13cl) and unwisely partially followed the advice of the sommelier. Once again he recommended us several wines which were not appropriate for the food served and in at least one case IMHO should not have been on the list at all. Fortunately this time around I had the courage to insist on getting three out of five appropriate wines served.

The main wine-list is, of course, superb (and can be downloaded from the restaurant's website). Such a shame that 95% of the red burgundies are from vintages since 2006, and that even among the Grand Cru wines (even among the DRCs costing up to 10.000 EUR/75cl) perhaps a total of 12 might be considered ready to drink by Anglo-Saxon members of the CT community. I strongly considered drinking whites all through the meal, and really should have done so.

White
2010 Domaine Jean Pascal et Fils Puligny-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet
90 points
Vivid, crystalline-pure lemon-edged scent; this model villages Puligny has a super-clean entry completely free of off-notes (mould, acid, sugar, heat, stewed fruit, volatility...). What a pleasure. Crunchy minerality, lean but not astringent on the mid-palate; linear medium-long finish. Refreshing and wonderfully digestible. 90P
White
2010 Francois Carillon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Macherelles France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
93 points
Important caramel-butter aroma promises something of Montrachet-like density; the entry is indeed pretty impressive, with weighty minerality and muscular yellow fruit. Very fine. Persistent, mouth-watering, mineral, long finish. 93P
Red
2008 Domaine Marc Morey & Fils Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Rouge France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
85 points
I should read my own tasting notes. This is as crabby, thin and miserable as the 2006 was at a similar age (served in the same restaurant, in the same company). "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". Bright morello-redcurrant fruit: If I wanted to be over-positive I'd describe it as a baby Chambolles. Light, acidic, slightly burning finish. And this is a "1. Cru"? Madame Pinot cracks her whip again. 85P
Red
2009 Geantet-Pansiot Marsannay Les Champs Perdrix France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Marsannay
86 points
Umami-like scent: cepes, sous-bois and something sweet and dark. Promising. The entry is dominated by gradualy opening, black cherry fruit., but the mouth feel is so squeaky as to be unpleasant. Mid-palate ruined by a nasty sweetness, not at all inegrated at present, tasting like stirred-in sugar (or fruit juice concentrate). Not a pleasant drink at this stage. Potential for 86-87(+)P at maturity in about 3-5 years(?)
Red
2008 Michel Magnien Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru
89 points
Scent: Sous-bois, cepes, soy sauce. Entry: Dark fruits, painfully young, with pure, almost sparkling acidity. Squeaky tannins on the mid-palate. 4-5 years to drinkability, then 88(-90)P(?)

Flight 3 - CHAMPAGNE (20 notes)

Return visits to Diebolt-Vallois and Guy Charlemagne were a pleasure and a welcome confirmation of the excellence of the former and the solid achievement of the latter. Vilmart were under stress when we visited, but still managed to receive us politely and conduct an interesting tasting between phone-calls. It was quite a shock after experiencing so much perfectionist artisan winemaking to re-taste Pommery's NV Blue Label after a short but enjoyable guided visit in their bombastic cellars and find it so void of almost any discernable substance. But the strongest impression was left by the fascinating tasting at Aubry; a challenge to the intellect and the taste-buds, and quite a revelation! (All appointments arranged without fuss at about 7 days' notice).

White - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Tradition Brut France, Champagne
86 points
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay "mainly 2010." Strongly PN-led and therefore radically different from the rest of Diebolt-Vallois' production. This is all about the entry, which is generous, with ripe (strawberry and victoria plum?) fruit. Not much on the nose, and not much on the clean, abrupt finish. 85-86P
White - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut France, Champagne
89 points
Big, slightly loud, concentrated entry: lemon/orange fruit, strong minerality, very clean and linear, although the weakish mid-palate and short finish don't quite hold up to the outstanding promise of the entry. No brioche at all on the nose, which surprised me. This bottling is a blend of juice from 4 terroirs on the Côte de Blancs, 2009+2010 vintage, bottled 2011 and disgorged March 2013. 6g dosage. Drink within 2-3 years. A bargain for 19 EUR at cellar door. (88-)89P
White - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Cuvée Prestige Blanc de Blancs France, Champagne
91 points
Expressive from nose to tail, this is indeed a "Prestige" cuvée, a rare example of accurate adjective application in Champagne. Very fine yet persistent bubbles, "warm", elegant yellow fruit, outstanding minerality and resonance on the mid-palate through to the long finish. This one really lurks in the crevices of the mouth! Terrific now and for 4-5 years. This bottling is a blend of juice from 3 Côte de Blancs terroirs from 2008, 2009 and 2010, entirely vinified in steel, disgorged 6 months ago. 7g dosage. 91P
White - Sparkling
2006 Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blancs Millésimé France, Champagne
90 points
Closed aromatically; powerful entry with yeasty brioche, pear and almond notes. Whatever stuff the Reviewer-Formerly-Employed-And-No-Longer-Being-Sued-By-Robert-Parker Mr. Galloni was taking when he rated this 94P and said it tasted of dried apricots, I want some of it, please. But even in my relatively sober world, this is a terrific wine, with great balance and potential for 3-5 years. And no, it doesn't taste at all like dried apricots. This bottle disgorged 6 months ago. 90P(+)
White - Sparkling
2005 Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Grand Cru Fleur de Passion Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
89 points
I didn't "get" this wine at all today. The oak seemed very prominent, overshadowing the pleasant brioche, honeyed yellow fruits and floral palate. Hope it comes round, as I bought some on the strength of my positive impression in 2011... The wine in this bottle had one year longer (6 years) sur lie, however, which might conceivably have made a difference. The only thing to do is open a bottle and find out! 89P(?)
White - Sparkling
2006 Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Grand Cru Fleur de Passion Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
92 points
I note to my surprise that CT members have already been buying this: It was served to us today as a preview of a wine not yet commercially available. Much brighter, more forward and exciting than the 2005, with superb racy acidity and a robust but beautifully crafted mineral structure. And the oak wasn't as obvious. A great future in store. 92P(?)
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White - Sparkling
N.V. Guy Charlemagne Champagne Brut Classic France, Champagne
85 points
70% PN, 30% Chard, this bottling is a blend of 2009 and 2010 with 8g dosage. Jammy scent with evident pinot character; entry dominated by sweet yellow fruit (plum) and a slightly aggressive mousse. So far so good, then it kind of vanished into a washed-our mid-palate and an abrupt finish. 85P
White - Sparkling
N.V. Guy Charlemagne Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Réserve France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
89 points
From Mésnil-sur-Oger and Oger, blend of 2009 and 2010 juice, 8g dosage. Intense, punchy lemony scent; candied citrus peel on the entry; linear, lively acidic mid-palate. Lacking the minerality or resonance which might have made it outstanding. Lovely wine. 89P
White - Sparkling
2008 Guy Charlemagne Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
90 points
Mésnil-sur-Oger and Oger juice, 6g dosage. I forgot to ask, but this can only have been disgorged a couple of months ago and is a rough customer right now. Powerful lemony scent and marked acidity on the entry, pushy bubbles, very masculine and direct. Great quality, great taste, if it settles down over 2-3 years this might turn out really well. 89-91P
White - Sparkling
2004 Guy Charlemagne Champagne Grand Cru Mesnillésime Vieilles Vignes Blanc de Blancs France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
87 points
From 75cl, served far too cold at the unexciting Le Mesnil restaurant, just down the road from the winery. Once it warmed up a bit the expected brioche notes came through, but it remained –alas– a thin and overly-acidic brew (compared, for example to the 2002 at the same age) and sorely lacked complexity, expansiveness or resonance on the mid-palate. Finish? Sorry, I wasn't quick enough to catch it passing by... 86-87P
White - Sparkling
N.V. Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Grand Cellier Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
91 points
Powerful green apple and lime scent; the entry is sharp and ripe like biting into a perfect Cox Orange apple, perhaps a hint of candied ginger; ripe red apple mid-palate and a long, satisfying finish with layers of ruby grapefruit, grapefruit-peel oil and more ginger. My personal "coup de coeur" for the best QPR of all the wines tasted this trip. 70% Chard, 30% PN, no malo, disgorged November 2012, 9g dosage. I forgot to write down the age of the wines blended, but think they were from the 2009/2010 vintages. Great now and for at least another 3 years. 26 EUR at cellar door. 91P
White - Sparkling
2008 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Grand Cellier d'Or France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
91 points
Fascinating multi-layered scent with e.g. (unpeeled) pineapple and some elusive spices which the winemaker described as cardamom and white pepper but I couldn't place that exactly. Slender, refined, taste of hazelnut (entry) - grapefruit juice (mid-palate) - macadamia nut (finish), but more linear and apple-acid-driven than that sounds. 80% Chard, 20% PN, no malo, fermented in 228-liter oak barrels, disgorged November 2012, 8g dosage. Drinkable now, but has its best days ahead, perhaps in 2-5 years. 90-92P(+)
White - Sparkling
2005 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Coeur de Cuvée France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
92 points
The scent of hazelnut brioche with lots of butter in the pastry was so strong we looked around the tasting room to see if someone had just walked in with a bag from the bakery. Thrustingly acidic entry held in place by fine mineral "carpentry" and the white pepper and ripe red apple notes which open up on the mid-palate. One of those Champagnes where the bubbles seem irrelevant, because one is simply enjoying the high quality of the wine itself. From 55 year-old vines, disgorged December 2012. 92P
Rosé - Sparkling
N.V. Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Cuvée Rubis France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
89 points
Redcurrant scent; light raspberry and ripe redcurrant entry with some quite sturdy redcurrant-pip-like tannins on the midpalate; the finish has the grip of a light, young, well-made PN from Beaune. 90% PN, 10% Chard, no malo, disgorged September 2012. 89P
White - Sparkling
N.V. Pommery Champagne Brut Royal France, Champagne
85 points
Tasted at the winery in Reims. So neutral, pure and indisinctive that it was impossible for us to structure our impressions into the classic flow of scent-entry-midpalate-finish. All we could positively identify was its supermodel thinness, its acidity and something nicely chalky. It was, however a technically flawless tasting sample. One could start to speculate how long this bottle might have been stored after disgorgement (it tasted like about 30 seconds), but in comparison to all but one of the grower Champagnes we tried on this trip it had very little to offer. 84-85P
White - Sparkling
N.V. L. Aubry Fils Champagne Premier Cru Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
88 points
Reticent, yeasty [bakery] scent with a whiff of incense; supermodel-slim entry which becomes a little softer on the mid-palate, short finish. 54% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir and the rest a varietal I wasn't quick enough to note. 50% 2010, 50% 2008 juice. Monsieur Aubry insists that Meunier needs time to express itself, so if you have any of this, don't worry about keeping it. On this showing 88P(?)
White - Sparkling
2008 L. Aubry Fils Champagne Le Nombre d'Or Campanae Veteres Vites Brut France, Champagne
90 points
The nose isn't giving a lot away this afternoon, perhaps some kiwi fruit(?) This may however be retrospective observation, as there is no mistaking the palate, which starts with yellow grapefruit on the entry, (crescendo to mid-palate) before finishing with acidic green kiwi juice. A blend of PN, PM, Chard, Pinot Gris(!), Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, all individually vinified before the assemblage. M. Aubry describes the 2008 vintage as appearing "discreet" right now, and this wine as "delicate". I would say "pure" and "subtle" and just plain "closed". It certainly has fine potential, but I think it is best to cellar it for about 3-5 years before trying again. 90P(?)
White - Sparkling
2008 L. Aubry Fils Champagne Ivoire et Ebene France, Champagne
90 points
Another very subtle wine, which needed coaxing and time in the glass to show its colours. These are, however, lovely (in a restrained way). Pear, yellow fruits on the nose (M. Aubry says: "Reine Claude plums") and a very distant blackberry-like extract on the mid-palate. Very clean finish, perhaps a little vanilla. 65% Chard, 30% PM, 5% PN. Again, great potential, try again in 3-5 years. 90P(+?)
White - Sparkling
2008 L. Aubry Fils Champagne Le Nombre d'Or Sablé Blanc des Blancs Brut Campanae Veteres Vites France, Champagne
One of the most extraordinary fine wines I have ever tasted. The scent is reminiscent of a superlative Chateau Chalon (but without any of the mustiness or mould sometimes present in Vins Jaune!) with hints of Camembert rind(!) and plenty of yeast. Also a smelly tropical fruit I remember eating but cannot remember the name of, and not-quite fresh armpit sweat. And that's before you even take a sip of this wild, wild, down-and-dirty wine. This would be an amazing challenge for a sommelier's food/wine-pairing exam. Every bit as startling as the finest wines we were surprised by in the Jura. 30% Arbanne(!), the rest Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Petit Meslier. M. Aubry suggests decanting this carefully 3 hours before serving and although I have always thought that decanting Champagne was a ridiculous idea, in this case he is probably right...
Rosé - Sparkling
N.V. L. Aubry Fils Champagne Brut Rosé France, Champagne
89 points
After the white-knuckle ride of the other Aubry wines tasted this afternoon, my amateur palate was showing fatigue. None the less this lovely rosé showed an abundance of red fruits, especially raspberry and a generous palate. A sign of the exquisite vinification may be the absence of grippy tannins on the finish (which I personally find an unpleasant challenge in rosé Champagne). 45% Chardonnay(!), 40% PN, 5% PM. 89P(+)

Flight 4 - Various restaurant meals (6 notes)

The two Champagnes don't really fit in the main section above; the Beaumont was fine but neither really part of my narrative nor of our exploration of the work of individual producers. The Baradon-Michaudet might perhaps be considered in some way representative of old-style winemaking by a small independent family concern which sells principally to its Bed and Breakfast guests on the basis of mutual affection rather than conoisseurship.

White - Sparkling
N.V. Beaumont des Crayères Champagne Brut Grande Réserve France, Champagne
89 points
From 37,5cl in a restaurant. We liked this warm, ripe (or at least well dosaged) NV, appreciated its Pinot backbone and gentle Chardonnay lift. Not a great wine, but a well-chosen house Marque for a provincial French restaurant, a notch above the basic standard of Moet & Co. 88P
White - Sparkling
N.V. Baradon-Michaudet Champagne Premier Cru Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
83 points
From 37,5cl. Acceptable dryish fizz which could have come from practically anywhere (although it has a good mousse and could therefore conceivably pass for a poorly stored sample of Moet NV from a weak batch). Slightly mouldy scent, nondescript entry (probably mainly Chardonnay with a bit of Pinot Meunier?), powerful acidity dominates the mid-palate, short but pleasantly winey finish. 82-83P
White
2010 Domaine Courbis St. Joseph Blanc Les Royes France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
90 points
From 75cl, P+P in a restaurant. Excellent on opening, even better 90 minutes later. Initially light, slightly astringent entry; defined muscular mineral mid-palate with some very classy honey extract; long, layered mineral finish. Fattened up considerably over the course of the evening and developed more of the citrus peel notes I'd been hoping for. Wonderful now, should only improve over the next 4-5 years. 90-91P
Red
2010 Domaine Laurent Gauthier Morgon Côte du Py Vieilles Vignes France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon
87 points
From 75cl, P+P in a restaurant. Cornucopia of very ripe redcurrant (imagine chewing on the pips —that's exactly the the tanninic presence) and other summer fruits. Ripe, smooth, open for business: Just what I hope for in a cru Beaujolais, perhaps a touch light for a young Morgon from a great year like 2010. Little if any oak, 12,5%alc., au point now, will keep a couple of years. 86-87P
Red
2011 Delas Frères St. Joseph Les Challeys France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
88 points
From 75cl, P+P in a bistro in Jura, where it was listed on the menu just as "St. Joseph 75cl, €28." Once again, a fine French wine in France served long before I would have considered pulling it from the cellar. But this bright young Syrah was surprisingly attractive, with up-front raspberry fruit, excellent concentration and light but still grippy tannins (of course... how many months can this have been in the bottle before it was cradle-snatched?) It diesn't taste like it saw any oak at all. Not easy for me to judge its potential this evening. 87(-89?)
Red
2012 Domaine de Montine Coteaux du Tricastin Gourmandise France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Coteaux du Tricastin
87 points
Fresh, bright and primary, this super-clean GSM blend has evidently seen no oak and won't make old bones. But it is lovely and supple in its youth, without the squeakiness (and of course without the tannic grip) which can get in the way of simple pleasure in young Rhônes at this very modest (<7 EUR) price level. An unexpectedly inspired pairing with Monkfish tails with rice, cream sauce and some white truffle oil. 87P

Closing

We were received with politeness and occasional genuine warmth almost everywhere despite the stress these weather conditions must be causing to everybody in the wine business in France. It was very noticeable that the winemakers themselves were putting a brave face on things, whereas the middlemen, especially restauranteurs and hoteliers, tended to complain vocally and uniformly about the weather (but also about the economic downturn, Monsieur Hollande and what they described as the over-taxation of the French middle class).

Without residual school French and some intensive wine-relevant vocabulary study in advance, most of these visits (not to mention the friendly social encounters en route) would have been either impossible or much less enjoyable. I know this is a truism, but for whatever reasons, even well-educated French people are very reluctant to admit they can communicate in another language...

Our conclusion was that this is an excellent time for amateurs de vin like us to visit France and stock up on fine wine made by independent producers. The cellar door prices seemed extremely reasonable, and the winemakers evidently pleased to be able to sell directly to the consumer (rather than to an agent or a hospitality professional usung the economic downturn as an excuse to increase their resale margin by bidding their suppliers' prices down).

I have posted hotel and restaurant notes on Trip Advisor.

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