Clos Vougeot: 2008 to 1989
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
29 May 2018
The name evokes legends. And the château is a beautiful place, as you can see in the picture I took this past March, for part of a fantastic week of the Grand Jours de Bourgogne. The day was 22 March 2018, and the tasting? A vertical for media only, of vintages from a variety of estates stretching from 2008 to 1989. I also had done a similar tasting back in 2016.
According to Jasper Morris, in his excellent tome Inside Burgundy, it is uncertain when walls first enclosed the Clos Vougeot vineyard, but there is mention of a so called clausum de Vougeot in 1211 and of a grand clos de Cîteaux de Vougeot in 1228.
Monks were already making wine apparently since one century before. It was once a single vineyard, but then broke into various ownerships in its nearly 900-year history. A major date was the French Revolution, which led to the disenfranchisement of the religious owners – so typical of that turbulent period in French history. It eventually fell into single ownership until 1889, when it was sold to six owners. By 1920, there were 40 owners. Today, about 80.
So Clos Vougeot is a veritable Burgundy jewel. But with so many owners, a very good example of a wine minefield. When it was a single vineyard, many historians believe that the wine was made from grapes across the slope.
Clearly, its 50 hectares vary in terroir quality and almost everyone agrees that the middle to top slope merits grand cru status, while much of the rest is more like premier cru.
But then how can you explain why some very successful Clos Vougeots are made from vines grown closer to the bottom of the slope?
Winemaking. Indeed, some producers with “inferior” plots can outpace others with “superior” plots. As Jasper Morris experienced a few years earlier, when he tasted over 20 Vougeot wines: “The skill of the winemaker seemed to have much more impact than where the parcel of vines was located.”
The wines: In bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. And when underlined, too? A nirvana wine!
Domaine Manuel Olivier 2008 – What a nice way to start. This wine comes across very smooth and refined this 2008, with brisk and refined fresh flavors. 2008 has some fine bright notes of red fruit. 93/100
Domaine Jacques Prieur 2007 – This has some oak derived tannin and it seems indeed oak driven and hard. Going back to the 2008, above, you get superior thirst quenching elegance and drinkability. This was from the old regime at the domain, which favored quite a bit of oak… Not my style, this vintage, but the style has changed since a few years.
Maison Capitain-Gagnerot 2006 – At first a certain lactic aspect on the nose annoys. The palate initially seems hard and monolithic to me. But going back to this one after Gros Frère et Soeur, I think I prefer this one for being a bit more complete and palate enveloping. It improves in glass, but not enough to escape the initial impression. 88/100
Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur 2006 – I like the opening, quite forward and appealing with animal notes just starting to show, and I could imagine enjoying this wine with steak. While the mid palate comes across juicy, it kind of dries out a bit on the finish… 91/100
Domaine Sylvain Loichet 2005 – Lovely deep nose. Coco powder but really fine powder. The palate has excellent freshness. While it may not be as deep as the nose, it exudes verve and – coming from a magnum – has poise and freshness with ripe dark plum and black cherry aspects. Lovely. It could be just a bit longer on the finish to hit the higher notes (or scores). 94/100
Domaine R. Dubois et Fils 2005 – First bottle oxidized. The second one better, but still showing edgy tannins and the word kantig, as the Germans say, came to mind as it sounds like the wine. I am not sure that I like this, especially if you pay loads of cash for the wine. The finish is drying and there is an overall sense of rusticity.
Domaine Jean Luc Paul Aegerter 2005 – Juicy fruit aromas hold promise but the austerity detracts too much on the palate, as it seems too driven by oak derived, drying tannins. Not sure… 89/100
Albert Bichot Domaine du Clos Frantin 2005 – Not sure I can understand the austerity at this stage, as it seems to lack breadth on the mid palate, but perhaps this is just a “closing down” phase for the 2005 vintage. Certainly better than the preceding wine. 91/100
Domaine Michel Gros 2005 – Very bright fruit, nose. The palate quenches thirst, both fresh and rich – a truly fine balance here. A superb wine! Michel Gros himself was at the tasting and explained that he has plots higher up, which makes the wine a bit more airy and “easier to drink” than those wines made from vines on lower plots. Just a great wine! 95/100
Domaine Bouchard & Fils 2005 – I like the Bouchard. It has freshness and refinement, perhaps not quite as refined as the above. But the palate is oyster shell fresh, with ripe fruit, too. We sense the master hand of Philippe Prost. Bravo! I like it about as much as the above. Maybe not quite as smooth… 93/100
Domaine Gerard Raphet 2004 – I little worn out on the nose? Perhaps, but the animal aspect is finer on the palate – coming from a mag – and I could drink this with steak. The palate is rather fun, with medium density and tertiary verve. Ella Lister, tasting next to me, agrees. 92/100
Domaine Anne Gros Le Maupertui 2003 – This is quite successful: it is rather polished and refined and, of course, fruit driven, with pleasing, ripe dark fruit. For the vintage, not bad at all! 93/100
Domaine Méo Camuzet 2003 – Compared to the above, even deeper in profile and smooth. Deep dark fruit aromatics and slight toast notes. Actually shows fine sap driven fruit on the mid palate, reminding us how good Meo Camuzet is. OK, it shows perhaps just a touch drying tannin on the finish, which seems somewhat abrupt as compared to the above. But coming back to this, after de la Tour, and Méo is oh so much better. Very nice for a 2003 in any case. 92+/100
Chateau de la Tour 2003 – This is a bit lean on the palate and for a 2003, albeit it handles the solar aspects well, on the nose, especially. But I wonder why the palate is not more pleasurable. Wet stone nose is very appealing. But the palate is drying and puckering. Even somewhat underripe? This puzzles me more than most. 87/100
Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils 2002 – This is a very refined and focused wine, with depth. A bit tight and – closed in. Has red fruit, but there is a certain oak derived aspect that clasps the wine up? Not sure whether this is just tightness for its relative youth or if the tannins are just a bit hard. But it shows promise. Best to wait a few more years. 93/100
Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot 1996 – The nose is a bit odd to me. Like raw fruit. And somewhat raw tannins? Not sure. As it sits in glass, it gets better however, displaying cool blueberry fruit, but maybe the high acidity accentuates a somewhat raw aspect. Food wine galore? Sure. 93/100
Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion 1991 – Nose is lovely. Ripe raspberry aspects then yield to a baked fruit – fruit cake – aspect that is somewhat rustic. So the nose is perhaps more promsing than the palate. If you like “well worn” vintages then this may be for you, although fellow taster Ella Lister noted rusticity. For some reason, I was not as sensitive to this – until I tried the next wine … 93/100
Domaine Jean Grivot 1990 – This is rather riper on the nose, with baked cherry, clafoutis and a bit of tertiary aspects. This is quite “together” and has a fun factor lacking in the 1991, tasted just before. It gets better and better in glass, with a certain contained sumptuousness. Going back to the 1991 and it is “rusty city” by comparison, with tannins that are at least harder. I like this wine in that it is still not quite ready to drink in one sense: it could age and gain more complexity without losing its structure. So much so that I ended up drinking this, and was hoping for more of it for dinner, for example, with a Chateaubriand and Bernaise sauce. You have the coco powder of a far earlier wine but it has greater freshness, too. Just wow! 97/100
Domaine Joseph Drouhin 1989 – The Drouhin by contrast lacks the oomph and structure of the 1990 above. It also comes across a bit rustic and edgy. But its virtues include tertiary animal notes that are not tired, but rather pleasing in expression and could accompany a steak just as well, but not the prime cut of meat that the 1990 would better accompany! 92/100