We had such good fun tasting the Champagne from Jacques Selosse, and it seemed that Champagne is something we rarely taste blind, so I decided to include another Champagne pair in this round of “Vintage Pairs”. However, this time I wanted us to be able to focus on different styles, so I chose 2004 Philipponnat Champagne ‘Clos de Goisses’ and 2004 Moët & Chandon – Champagne Dom Pérignon’ to compare.
The Philipponnat ‘Clos des Goisses’, is a walled vineyard of 5.5 hectares on a 45 degree incline. It’s the warmest terroir in the region with chalky soils and facing south, receiving sunlight from sunrise to sunset with no shade.
The 2004 ‘Clos des Goisses’ is a blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. Harvest took place on the 28th September. The wine is partially vinified in wooden barrels (50%), and there is no malolactic fermentation. Then, the wine is aged for approximately ten years in their cellar. It receives very low dosage at just 4.25g/litre.
The 2004 harvest at Dom Pérignon began on the 24th of September, and the blend was 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay. Since 1990, the Chef de Cave has been Richard Geoffroy, and this year Vincent Chaperon, who has worked with Mr. Geoffroy for thirteen harvests, took over.
This pair of Bâtard-Montrachets offered a greater challenge for the group. In the end, someone did guess the wines as being Bâtard-Montrachet, but the producer and vintage were difficult with some guessing the vintage at 2008 or 2014. We opened both of these wines at 4 p.m. and put them in a decanter to breathe for an hour. Then, we poured them back in the bottle, and they were served at 6:35 p.m. just prior to the start of the tasting.
Domaine Bachelet-Monnot was founded in 2005 by brothers Marc and Alex Bachelet. The wine is made from just over twenty hectares of vineyards that are a mix of family owned vines and long-term leased vineyards. Their grandfather was a vigneron and created Domaine Bernard Bachelet et Fils in Chassagne-Montrachet. Their father also made wine at this domaine. In the vineyards, no herbicides are used. For the winemaking, they use approximately 25% new oak with 50% new oak for the grands crus and red Maranges. Marc and Alex age the wine for twelve months before racking it and putting it into tank for another six to eight months of aging on its lees before bottling. For the Bâtard-Montrachet, they only make three barrels or 75 cases. This Chardonnay comes from a third of an acre (0.13 hectares) of vines that were planted in 1997.
Château de la Maltroye is located in Chassagne-Montrachet. Jean-Pierre Cornut revitalized this estate when he took over from his father in 1995 installing high tech equipment to control the temperature of the wines during production as well as changing the training method of the vines to reduce yields and promote concentration and quality. The white wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and is kept on its lees in cask. It sees twelve months of ageing in 100% new oak barrels before light filtration and bottling. The Bâtard comes from a small parcel that was planted in 1937, and only two barrels are made each vintage.
This pair allowed us to compare two different expressions of Bâtard from the 2016 vintage. The Domaine Bachelet-Monnot Bâtard was vibrant and lively with aromas of lemon and lime citrus, green and golden delicious apple and crunchy orchard fruits with a hint of savoury herbs like sage. It was medium plus in body. And for me, the wine had quite a bit of minerality for Bâtard. This wine received one vote for favourite wine of the night.
The Château de la Matroye Bâtard was a deeper lemon colour, so more medium lemon as opposed to the light lemon colour of the Bachelet-Monnot and showed aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg with bosc pear, ripe apple and toasty notes with lemon citrus flavours. The texture was rounder and more akin to what I associate with Bâtard. This wine received five votes for favourite wine of the night.
Over the past five years, Château Magdelaine has become one of my favourite wines from Bordeaux. It’s a shame that I only discovered the wine after they stopped making it in 2011. Thus, I wanted us to have the opportunity to try these two wines that are twenty years apart. This pair was the most challenging of the night as most people were not familiar with this estate.
Since 1952, Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix has been the owner of Château Magdelaine. In fact, it was the first estate they purchased. The Moueix family decided to stop production with the 2011 vintage and use the grapes here as part of Bélair-Monange, another estate they own in St.-Émilion. The size of Château Magdelaine is just under eleven hectares and the blend it 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The estate is located on the limestone plateau and hillsides around the walled town of St.-Émilion. One of the most noted properties located in the area known as the “Côtes” is Château Ausone. The chalky, limestone soils of the area here create a wine with lively acidity. Wine writer, John Gilman, describes Château Magdelaine “as very similarly structured to the top red Burgundies of Domaine Joseph Drouhin, which can often hide their inherent depth and intensity when young behind beautiful structures.” A View From the Cellar, “Château Magdelaine Another Lost Classic in St.-Émilion”. He further explains in this article that a percentage of stems are used during the fermentation which help with the wine’s longevity and likely make it a wine that is austere in its youth and needs time.
In this pair many thought the 2009 Château Magdelaine was from the New World. The 2009 conveyed the ripeness of the vintage and what many might characterize as a style shift that we saw happening in Bordeaux with the 2000 vintage. We started finding wines from Bordeaux being more approachable in their youth. The 2009 Château Magdelaine showed aromas of vanilla, liquorice, ripe cassis, blackberries and blueberries, and the tannins were silky and integrated (the bottle was double decanted at 4 p.m. and poured at 6:30 p.m.). It was intense and concentrated being full-bodied with a long length. It received five votes for favourite wine of the night.
The 1989 was one of my favourite wines of the night. It showed aromas of old leather, dried and fresh red and dark cherries, cassis, thyme and conveyed a minerally quality. The tannins were fine-grained and balanced the fruit and acidity providing a sturdy structure and lasting finish. This wine was classic claret in the glass and offered a sharp contrast to the ripeness and power of the 2009 (The 1989 was opened and double decanted at 5 p.m. and poured at 6:30 p.m.). It received three votes for favourite wine of the night.
Dunn Vineyards is likely my favourite Cabernet Sauvignon producer from California. I’ve seen it mistaken for Bordeaux when tasted blind, so I thought it would be fun to see how we would fair with this pair. And, on Thursday we all thought these two wines from Dunn were from the Old World.
Randy Dunn started out working for Charlie Wagner as the first oenologist at Caymus and later went on to create Dunn in 1979. He has always put farming first in his winemaking, and he put Howell Mountain on the map, even ensuring that it be recognized as a sub-AVA in Napa. The Cabernets from Dunn require lots of ageing, so in that respect I suppose they remind me a bit of Bordeaux. Howell Mountain is unique in Napa as the area is still sunny when the fog rolls in and cooler during the day too. The result is Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that are smaller producing a deeper-coloured wine with higher tannins. In general, the wines from Howell Mountain are massive and ageworthy, and the wines of Dunn also exhibit this quality as we saw on Thursday night.
The 1990 vintage in Napa saw heavy rains in the spring that reduced the crop 20-30%. Then, June and July saw a warm summer that continued through the fall. The drought like conditions and low yield produced Cabernet that is intense and rich with high tannins.
Then, the 1996 vintage saw an unusually warm winter with lots of rain followed by a normal spring. In May cool weather combined with rain showers caused issues during flowering and fruit set. These conditions resulted in berry shatter and a reduced crop. Summer was warm with several heat spikes that ripened the grapes quickly. A cooling trend came in September allowing the grape flavours to catch up to the sugar levels. The wines produced in Howell Mountain were some of the best of the vintage, and 1996 turned out better than expected upon its release. The 1996 vintage was a smaller harvest and provides a bit cooler expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with livelier acidity, more restraint and medium tannins.
The 1996 Dunn Howell Mountain showed aromas of red and dark cherries, cassis, tobacco and eucalyptus, and a little brett. The tannins were medium leading through to medium plus body. It received seven votes for favourite wine of the night.
The 1990 exhibited notes of old leather, fresh and dried dark cherries, cassis, and dried tobacco notes. Even though both the 1990 and 1996 were double decanted at 5 p.m. and poured at 6:30 p.m. the tannins of the 1990 were still medium in character. I was surprised by their intensity reflecting the conditions of mother nature in the vintage. This wine received six votes for favourite wine of the night.
Finally, we moved to the Northern Rhône, and more specifically to Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné who are most famous for their Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ which we featured at a dinner at Amuse Bouche in late January. The first wine in this pair is a wine they make in Crozes-Hermitage, and the vineyard is called Domaine de Thalabert. It’s the first vineyard that was purchased by Paul Jaboulet in 1834 and is the oldest vineyard in the appellation. The vines are 60-80 years old. These vines grow on pebbly terraces, and these pebbles store heat during the day that they release at night. The wine is aged in French oak barrels, 20% of which are new.
Hermitage ‘La Maison Bleue’ comes from the Rocoules section of the Hermitage Hill. The soil here has a higher percentage of silica as opposed to Bessards and Le Méal that have poorer granite and limestone soils. The Bessards and Le Méal vineyards are the primary sources for Hermitage ‘La Chappelle’. By contrast this wine offers a softer, more approachable expression of Hermitage. The wine is made from 40-60+ year old vines. It’s aged in French oak barrels, 20% of which are new.
Several people right away guessed this pair as being from the Northern Rhône and from 2015. The tougher challenge here was uncovering the AOC, wine name and producer. The Crozes-Hermitage ‘Domaine Thalabert’ showed aromas of violets, black olive, and brambly flavours of blackberries, dark raspberries, and other wild berries. The tannins were still quite present and showed the youthfulness of the wine leading through to a medium plus body. It received one vote for favourite wine of the night.
The Hermitage ‘La Maison Bleue’ displayed aromas of white pepper, liquorice, dark raspberry, dark cherry and blackberry. The tannins were medium plus with a full-bodied finish. It’s an intense and concentrated wine that will benefit from more time in the cellar. The wine received one vote for favourite wine of the night.
Thank you to everyone who came out and joined me on Thursday for another round of Vintage Pairs. I hope you enjoyed the wines and took away a bit of learning. I look forward to seeing you at the next one that will take place in June. Stay tuned for the email launch in the next few weeks.