Vintage Pairs Events

"Vintage Pairs" Blind Tasting on Wednesday 19th February 2020

1st Pair: 2016 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Meursault 1er Cru ‘Charmes’(13.5% ABV) & 1er Cru ‘Perrières’(13% ABV)
For white Burgundy Domaine Michel Bouzereau was one of my great wine discoveries of 2019. I believe this domaine is making top level Meursault and is good value for money. So, I wanted to use two of their premiers crus to help us test our skills at identifying the different expressions from ‘Les Charmes’ and ‘Les Perrières’ in the glass. The flavour profile for ‘Les Charmes’ tends to be giving with fruit and floral notes as well as nutty aromas and richness overall. By contrast ‘Les Perrières’ tends to show more tension, minerality and a structured backbone with less fruit richness dominating and more elegance and precision. 

Domaine Michel Bouzereau comprises approximately 12.5 hectares of vines primarily in Meursault but also some in Puligny-Montrachet, Beaune, Volnay and Pommard. Michel’s son, Jean-Baptiste, has been running the domaine since 1999. In terms of the vineyard practices, they don’t use any chemicals and work is done according to the lunar calendar. Jean-Baptiste does strict de-budding to reduce yields. For the winemaking, Jean-Baptiste uses indigenous yeast and the grapes are pressed slowly.

The 1er Cru vineyard, ‘Charmes’ comprises approximately 31.12 hectares which is quite large and as a result it’s very diverse. The area that Michel Bouzereau owns is in Charmes Dessus – the top part which is recognized as the best part. The soil here has lots of pebbles and limestone which results in better drainage and thus more concentration in the wines. There are vines from plantings in 1960, 1978 and 1997 in these vineyards. Approximately 25% new oak was used in the maturing of this wine. 

For the 1er Cru vineyard, ‘Perrières’, Domaine Michel Bouzereau has 20% of their ‘Perrières’ holding in the top part and 80% in the lower part. Soils here are rich in limestone and very stony, not much soil. The oldest vines in this vineyard date back to 1939, and there are also vines dating from 1956 and 2005. With this 1er Cru vineyard, it’s the lower part that’s considered the best. Clive Coates MW, The Wines of Burgundy, pg. 244. Approximately 30% new oak was used in maturing this wine.

This pair of Meursaults tasted distinctly different. ‘Les Charmes’ was flowery in expression and showed aromas of orange blossom, honeysuckle, yellow peaches and lemon and lime citrus on the palate with a medium plus body. By contrast ‘Les Perrières’ showed aromas of green apple, lime citrus, white peach and was mineral driven with tension through the palate and a medium plus body. At the end of the evening, I asked everyone to vote on their top two favourite wines of the night. The 1er Cru ‘Charmes’ received two votes for top two favourite wines of the night while the 1er Cru ‘Perrières’ received five votes for top two favourite wines of the night and was the second overall favourite wine.

2nd Pair: 2015 Domaine François Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Amoureuses’(13.5% ABV) & 2015 Domaine Amiot-Servelle Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Amoureuses’(13.5% ABV)

The aim of this pair of wines was to give us the opportunity to explore the top premier cru in Chambolle-Musigny – ‘Les Amoureuses’ - as expressed by two different producers - Domaine François Bertheau and Domaine Amiot-Servelle. In 2018, Prune Amiot-Servelle along with her brother, Antoine, came to Hong Kong and delivered a masterclass along with Allen Meadows about four of their premiers crus vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny including ‘Les Amoureuses’. During that class, Allen explained that one of the factors that makes this vineyard unique is that there is very little soil; the plots of vines practically grow on rocks. He went on to note that there is a minerality and delicacy that he very much enjoys in the wines from this vineyard.

François Bertheau took over from his father Pierre Bertheau in 2004, and the name changed to Domaine François Bertheau. It is made up of 6 hectares based in Chambolle-Musigny. In the vineyards, François’ farming practices are lutte raisonnée. 

His winemaking style is low interventionist as he wants the terroir to speak through in the wines. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed, and he uses indigenous yeast. Then vinification takes place in stainless steel vats and cement cuves for fourteen to sixteen days. The wine ages for eighteen months in oak barrels, a small percentage of which is new.

Domaine Amiot-Servelle gets its name from two Burgundy families merging. It comprises 8 hectares including six premiers crus in Chambolle-Musigny. Since 2008, the domaine has been certified organic. 

Prune, the daughter of Christian Amiot and Elisabeth Servelle, is the current winemaker; she joined in 2011 and took over from her father in 2017. She interned at Domaine Henri Gouges and Domaine de la Vougeraie and also made wine for the négociant Jaffelin. 

Since 2005, at Domaine Amiot-Servelle, they have used stainless steel vats with temperature control to ferment the wines in order to control the extraction of the grapes and to keep more sanitary conditions during the process. They do five days of cold maceration after the grapes are harvested to develop fresh aromas in the berries, and they use natural yeast. The work is done the same way for each vat because they want the terroir to show through in the wines rather than the winemaking. The use of oak barrels is 10% new oak for the Bourgogne Rouge, 20% new oak for the village level wines, 40% new oak for ‘Les Fuées’ and ‘Les Charmes’, and 50-70% new oak for ‘Derrière-la-Grange’ and ‘Les Amoureuses’. There is no fining of these wines, and they only do filtration if the vintage warrants it. In terms of the use of stems, Prune will use them if she believes it will benefit the wine. However, she believes it’s important to be cautious in using stems as they are a magnet for botrytis and can leave off flavours and aromas in your fermenters. Prune is very much focused on making sure the grapes are fully ripened and that’s what she looks for in judging the quality of the vintage.

As we began to taste these two wines, the first characteristic that stood out was the colour. The wine from François Bertheau was medium ruby in colour with the Amiot-Servelle being deep ruby in the glass. The flavours conveyed in the Bertheau were aromas of wild red berries, cranberries, tart red cherries, thyme and a minerally note; the wine was refined and delicate and lacked the richness most of us have experienced with the 2015 vintage. Most guessed 2014 for the vintage of this wine.

By contrast, the Amiot-Servelle displayed aromas of vanilla, sweet baking spices, liquorice, blueberry and blackberry fruit combined with dark raspberries leading to a full-bodied finish. This wine was intense, concentrated and showed the richness of the 2015 vintage; it seems to need more time for the new oak to integrate and the tannins to balance in with the fruit and acidity to reveal the minerality and delicacy associated with the vineyard of ‘Les Amoureuses’. The François Bertheau received three votes for top two favourite wines of the night while the Amiot-Servelle received four votes for top two favourite wines of the night.

3rd Pair: 2012 & 2007 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Annata(13.5% ABV)

With this pair, I wanted us to be able to compare two different vintages of Brunello from one producer to see if we would be able to identify the characteristics of these specific growing seasons and their impact on the resulting wines. Ferruccio Biondi Santi is the father of Brunello di Montalcino. When phylloxera and downy mildew came to Italy, many winemakers looked to make wines for drinking early, but Ferruccio wanted to make wines for long ageing, so he grafted the estate’s new vines with Sangiovese Grosso and started producing wines from 100% Sangiovese. By doing that, he was able to break free from the regulations for Chianti and created a Brunello wine of longevity.

The Annata is from vines that are between 10-25 years old, so these are younger vines than those used in the Riserva which are over 25 years old and only made in good years. However, the ageing of both wines is the same, it takes place in Slavonian oak casks and is for 36 months. 

The 2007 vintage is a good one for Brunello di Montalcino; it was warmer than its predecessor 2006, but the wines aren’t overly ripe and alcoholic. The winter and spring were cold and rainy with July and August hot and dry. Then, the harvest took place on 10 September under cold and dry conditions. The grapes were healthy and ripe with thick skins; all strong indicators that the resulting wine would be of very fine quality.

The 2012 vintage saw a hot and dry summer with drought like conditions a concern. Fortunately, melting snowfall and the wet conditions of the winter left water in the ground, so the grapes made it through. However, the berries produced in this vintage were small, so the wines are concentrated and capable of ageing. In the week leading up to the harvest in September, rain moved in and cool conditions. Harvest began on the 10th of September. Because of the heat and drought conditions, the crop was the lowest in ten years.

Again, in this flight the colour of the wines revealed information about them, and in this case it was their age difference. The 2012 showed bright ruby in the glass while the 2007 verging to more garnet. On the nose and palate the 2012 revealed notes of tart red and dark cherries with wild strawberries combined with a tomatoey acidity. The tannins were present but silky and led to a medium plus bodied finish. The 2007 showed aromas of dark cherries, fresh and dried, combined with notes of truffle and forest floor. In this wine the tannins were integrated and the wine left a lasting finish. The 2012 received no votes for top two favourite wines of the night while the 2007 received two votes for top two favourite wines of the night including one of mine.

4th Pair: 2009 & 1999 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie(12.5% ABV)

The goal in presenting this pair blind was to show two similar vintages in the Northern Rhône that are frequently compared to see if we would pick up on their similarities. In the end, a few of you identified these vintages. The challenge in this pair was nailing the producer and many went to Hermitage rather than Côte-Rôtie as the appellation.

Domaine Jamet is located a 4-kilometre drive from the village of Ampuis in the hills of Côte-Rôtie. The vines are grown on steep slopes made up of primarily schist soils. Now, Jean-Paul, his wife, Corinne, and their oldest son, Loïc, cultivate the vines and make the wine. In 1976, Jean-Paul joined his father, Joseph in making their first vintage; the domaine was founded in 1975. Their farming practices are lutte raisonnée. 

The Côte-Rôtie is a blend of grapes from twenty parcels that are vinified and aged separately. It’s 100% Syrah and 90% is whole bunch. The grapes undergo three weeks of maceration. Then, the wine is aged for twenty-two months in demi-muids with 15% in new barriques prior to blending.

Many compare the 2009 and 1999 vintage because of the high yields that both vintages experienced along with their warm growing seasons throughout the summer months. The rains during the winter of 2009 helped to provide moisture in the soil to sustain the vintage during the lack of rain felt during the summer; the vines weren’t stressed. As a result, the tannins are integrated and ripe with open and giving fruit character. The concern in 2009 was acidity and freshness in the wines

For 1999, flowering happened early and the summer was warm and mostly dry, so the wines of Côte-Rôtie can be rich and alcoholic. However, those that kept the hot tendencies of the vintage in mind made wines with silky tannins and pleasing sweet, concentrated fruit.

The 2009 displayed aromas of violets and thyme combined with blackberry and dark raspberry fruit. The tannins were medium in character but ripe and not harsh; they provided structure and balance to the fruit and intensity of concentration. This 2009 possessed a strong flavour profile, so some thought this wine was a Syrah from Cayuse.

In the 1999, the ten-year age difference between these wines came through in the aromas with old leather and some dried cherry and blackcurrant on the nose. It also showed more of the flavours I associate with Côte-Rôtie such as notes of smoked meat, saucisson, salami and white pepper. The tannins here felt a bit firmer on the palate than the 2009 and were complemented on the nose by flavours of dark cherry, cassis and black olive with the fruit more in the background at this stage with the meaty, earthy and savoury flavours dominating. All elements of the wine were in balance, and it’s drinking well now with years still ahead. The 2009 received one vote for top two favourite wines of the night while the 1999 received eight votes for top two favourite wines of the night including one of mine. The 1999 was the overall favourite wine of the night.

5th Pair: 1989 Château Rieussec Sauternes(14.5% ABV) & 1989 Château d’Yquem Sauternes(13.5% ABV)

The 1989 vintage for Sauternes is a great one. The weather conditions cultivated lots of botrytis producing wines with concentration and power. In early July a bad hailstorm hit destroying a quarter of the crop at Château d’Yquem, but as a result of the low yields the wines produced are rich in concentration. Châteaux Rieussec and d’Yquem are considered among the best producers of the vintage, so I chose these two wines for our final pair to provide insights on the 1989 vintage in Sauternes. 

In 1984, Domaines Barons de Rothschild(Lafite) acquired Château Rieussec. When the owners of Lafite took over, two practices they instituted right away to increase the quality of the Sauternes was meticulous sorting of the grapes and fermenting in barrels. Then, in 1989, the owners constructed a new cellar, so they could extend the ageing period in barrels.

The vineyard of Château Rieussec is one of the largest in Sauternes and Barsac and adjoins Château d'Yquem. It’s made up of gravelly, sandy and clay soils. Generally, the blend for Rieussec is 90% Semillon, 7% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle.

The winemaking is traditional in approach with fermentation taking place in barrel and then maturing for 16 to 26 months in oak, 50 to 55% of which is new. On average, Rieussec produces about 6,000 cases per year.

Château d'Yquem dates back to 1593 with there already being evidence of winemaking at the estate at that time. In 1711, the château was built and the vineyards we know today were planted. Like Rieussec, d’Yquem is a large estate planted to 113 hectares of vines of which only about one hundred hectares produces wine per year. The soil is made up of clay subsoil with smooth, flat pebbles and coarse gravel on top. This soil structure with the clay subsoil helps to retain water while the stony top layer helps retain heat. These vineyards are planted with 75% Sémillon and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. In 2019, d’Yquem became organic in their farming practices and since then have been converting to biodynamic viticulture.

For the winemaking, the vinification takes place in 100% new French oak barrels. Then, to retain high sugar levels, prior to 2011 they would reduce the temperature to stop fermentation. Now, they use sulphur to control the fermentation process. The length of aging of the wines has also changed. Prior to 2000, the wine was matured in 100% new French oak barrels for an average of 36 months. Now, that length of time is 30 months. On average they produce about 10,000 cases per year. 

The Rieussec showed aromas of burnt sugar, honeyed fruit, dried apricots, tropical fruits and sweet spices; it was full-bodied and concentrated with flavour. Then, the d’Yquem conveyed notes of crème brûlée, baked peaches in pastry, and mandarin citrus. The flavours in the d’Yquem were more melded and balanced with the acidity and citrus notes offering lift to the richer flavours. It also offered a creamier texture. The Rieussec received one vote for top two favourite wines of the night, and the d’Yquem received two votes for top two favourite wines of the night. This flight was one of the favourites of the group but most had already used up their votes by this point.

The big discovery during this session of “Vintage Pairs” was Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie as most are more familiar with the wines of E. Guigal. We enjoyed this style where the oak is less present and the terroir is able to come through. Another discovery was the Meursaults from Domaine Michel Bouzereau; most were happy to find you can drink well-made Meursault in a similar style to the salinity and mineral notes found in Roulot without spending those prices. The pair of ‘Les Amoureuses’ offered the biggest challenge and point of discussion in the night as the contrasting winemaking styles really came through and made it difficult to uncover the vineyard and vintage. Some marvelled over the pure Sangiovese, old school style Brunello from Biondi-Santi, and how different in a good way these wines are from some of their more modern style counterparts. The final flight was the treat of the evening highlighting how special Sauternes is; most thought the vintage was much younger, revealing how well these wines age and continue to keep their youthful attributes. 

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View our past Vintage Pairs wine selection

Vintage Wine Bottle size Score
2016 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Meursault 1er Cru ‘Charmes’ 750ml BH92
2016 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Meursault 1er Cru ‘Perrières’ 750ml BH93
2015 Domaine François Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Amoureuses’ 750ml BH91-93
2015 Domaine Amiot-Servelle Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Amoureuses’ 750ml BH93
2012 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Annata 750ml WA90
2007 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Annata 750ml WA94
2009 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 750ml WA96
1999 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 750ml WA97
1989 Château Rieussec Sauternes 750ml WA92
1989 Château d’Yquem Sauternes 750ml WA97

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