2012: Bouchard kicks ass. Older vintages, too.

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles

17 January 2015

Bouchard Père & Fils is the largest estate in Burgundy’s famous Côte d’Or. At least since 2003, I have been a regular taster of wines made by Bouchard and appreciate winemaking director Philippe Prost’s aim towards elegance and finesse as an overall style. Indeed, even in hot vintages like 2003 the wines can convey much poise and verve.

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With Bouchard winemaking director Philippe Prost, French wine critic Bernard Burtschy and wine buyer Santa Zamuele

At a November 2014 dinner tasting at the gorgeous Chateau de Beaune headquarters – a formal royal fortress built in the 15th century – guests appreciated an exceptionally bright yet concentrated and thoroughly youthful Chevalier Montrachet La Cabotte. An example of a white wine from that torrid vintage that is doing very well.

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Vibrant and opulent: a superb wine that merits a Montrachet

And so said such well-known French wine critics present at the dinner, Bernard Burtschy and Michel Bettane. “It is a very misunderstood vintage,” Burtschy remarked at my table. Later, Bettane took a mic and made more detailed remarks to the assembled diners about how Bouchard took the right steps to combine acidity with opulence.

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Sampling 2012 from bottle

As we begin 2015, many thanks to owners Henriot, as they regularly send me samples of Bouchard wines from the most recent vintage available in bottle to share with fellow winelovers and connoisseurs in Washington D.C. This year, on 14 January, our group included a mix of trade representatives – including sommeliers and wine merchants David and Maria Denton, wine tour organiser Annette Schiller, Ben Giliberti of Calvert Woodley and Tim O’Rourke of Weygandt; wine bloggers like Christian Schiller and active wine forum writers such as Howard Cooper, who has been my Burgundy guru for several years now, and Kevin Shin, who is a member of the Grand Jury Europeen. And some of Washington D.C.’s most avid (and enthusiastic) wine buyers including Chris Bublitz, who shares my passion in particular for Bordeaux, and Ken Barr among others.

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Quite happy with the tasting, and a fine dinner at Ripple in Washington D.C.: Ben Giliberti of Calvert Woodley at left, with wine enthusiast Chris Bublitz

What to make of 2012?

As you can read in this fine summary of the harvest by Burgundy expert Clive Coates, the vintage was “made” from mid July onwards, as poor weather up to the summer limited potential crop yields so that while overall quality in 2012 is very good, it is not a copious vintage.

The focus among most critics seems to be on the reds, and based on my still limited experience tasting whites from 2012, I have noticed that some can be flabby, as if coming from a warmer than average vintage. Tim O’Rourke, who sells wine and has tasted many white 2012s, concurs and remarked that 2012 is not particularly successful for whites. And yet, among the three whites that we sampled from Bouchard, only one showed that bit of fat. The second one was very good and the third excellent. So, although white 2012s from Burgundy overall may lack the verve of, say, 2008 or 2010, we had a rather good experience with the three Bouchard whites that we tried.

As for the 6 Bouchard reds that we tried from 2012, they seemed to resemble more the opulence of the 2009s and less than the balance and tension of the 2010s. The 2012s do not seem to have as much structure and foreboding tannin of the 2005s, albeit with one notable exception…

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Sampling older vintages too, over dinner

In any case, 2012 is touted at least as a very, very good red vintage, and I would not disagree, based on our tasting. Fellow taster Kevin Shin remarked that the ripeness levels approached the maximum before reaching over-ripe levels, so overall, quite a friendly vintage for some of the reds, including for example the Bouchard Pere & Fils Greves Vignes de L’Enfant Jesus 2012 that was “very welcoming.” A very welcoming Jesus :-).

Another example was a very ripe and friendly Gevrey Chambertin village level wine. But not all the red 2012s we tried were as accessible so young. Tasted next to the Jesus was the Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvee Carnot, and one taster – I think it was Ben Giliberti – made the remark that it almost had the structure of a Bordeaux. All in all, however, these young reds exuded tannin as expected yet they seemed to be, at least aromatically, “open for business” if not on the palate.

Many thanks to fellow participants at our 14 January dinner at Ripple Restaurant, fast becoming the wine haunt for DC based winos, for bringing older vintages. Thanks to Tim for bringing three bottles of Champagne to start things off. Kevin Shin brought the wine of the night, the Chambertin Clos de Beze 2006.

Pricing… 

Sadly Bouchard is not immune to the ever sky-scraping prices of fine Burgundy. Certainly not all appellations and producers have gone up as high, but many of them have reached prices that worry the Burgundy negoce, a sentiment that was expressed by many at the press conference held in November 2014 for the Hospices de Beaune. When I was at Calvert Woodley one day last week, for example, owner Michael Sands remarked that “in such a short time, we have seen village level wines sell for prices that premiers crus had but two years ago.” I noticed that Calvert Woodley is selling the Bouchard Meursault Les Clous (a lieu dit but not a premier cru) for $62. That wine could be found for about $40 a couple of years ago…

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Champagne start. 2008? Don’t touch me yet!

Bubbles 

  • NV J.L. Vergnon Champagne Rosémotion Extra Brut Grand Cru – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    An excellent non vintage rose bubbly made with nearly 90% Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Noir. Strawberry flavors but softly expressed with fine petillance and a smooth palate texture, almost creamy. Dry and medium in its flavor intensity. An excellent grower’s rose at about $60 retail. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 J.L. Vergnon Champagne Confidence Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru – France, Champagne
    Enjoyed just after the rose, this costs more – at about $100 per bottle – but also has more intensity and substance. 2008 has lots of acidity and this is no exception. As Tim O’Rourke, who kindly supplied the Champagne this evening, noted: far too early to enjoy. Indeed, but a nice window into the vintage. Red and green apple flavors on the palate, high acidity – almost searing for the moment – with juiciness however. If you try now, get some oysters, scallops or shrimp. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Nicolas Maillart Champagne 1er Cru, Les Francs de Pieds Vieille Vignes – France, Champagne
    I am not sure about this particular bottle as it seemed just a bit musky on the nose. Far better on the palate, with – again – that high 2008 acidity that was more pronounced here as the previous wine, made from Chardonnay, conveyed a smoother palate.

Bouchard 2012 Whites 

  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Clos St. Landry – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    May deserve a higher number for lovers of butterscotch. Here we have a white that conforms to the image of the vintage for white wines: lacking a bit of acidity. Nevertheless, there is dry extract and structure on the mid palate so that it certainly does not come across as flabby. Has some nice red apple along with aforementioned butterscotch flavors. I prefer more energy in my white Burgundy.(88 pts.)
  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault Les Clous – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    This has potential, with plenty of energy and grip, high acidity yet the flavor intensity is merely middling at this youthful stage. After the dinner, Ripple manager Danny Fisher and I revisited what was left in the bottle and it had opened up a bit, with Danny loving the purity and stony flavors. As much as I like this village level lieu dit, prices have gone up… (89 pts.)
  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Here we have a rather gorgeous wine. Floral – acacia – and light spice aromatics and flavors with excellent acidity to give it lift. There are also pleasing dill/herbal aspects, subtly expressed, with ripe pear. Full bodied but contoured, with lift on a long finish. An outstanding premier cru. (94 pts.)

Bouchard 2012 Reds 

  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
    When I opened this the morning of the dinner date, I found it rather tight, so I just left the bottle open the whole day. By the time it was open for dinner, about 10 hours later, the fruit was almost sweet with fine structure on the mid palate leading to a medium length finish. It mirrors the very ripe quality of the 2012 vintage, and coming from grapes that Bouchard purchases, an very well made wine. Sadly, prices have been heading north, here, too so about $50 retail. Village level Burgs like this one have reached prices that only two years ago were for premiers crus. (89 pts.)
  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Aloxe-Corton – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Aloxe-Corton
    Another negociant based wine, that is Bouchard makes it from grapes it purchases from growers. Not as successful as the Gevrey Chambertin, as it has more of a rustic feel. Nevertheless, as Ben Giliberti of Calvert Woodley commented over dinner: “This would go well with a steak on a grill” and I agree! It just lacks the refinement of the Gevrey Chambertin, and is to me the weakest of all the 2012s we tried this evening. (87 pts.)
  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Clos de la Mousse – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    Shows depth and medium plus flavor intensity as well as finesse and elegance. An excellent Beaune red! (92 pts.)
  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Marconnets – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    As much as I liked this wine, it was overshadowed by the Clos de la Mousse. Still, a very tasty red, showing structure for longer term aging as well. (90 pts.)
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This is what the aftermath of a tasting dinner should look like! With Ken Barr with Marjorie Bublitz conferring.

  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    Delicious and almost lush in its ripe Pinot expression. No, this is not New World in any way, but very ripe and fresh at the same time. While it is not quite as fresh as, say, the 2010, it comes closer to the 2009 in style. There is much dry extract and concentration so plenty of aging potential but so delicious even now! Ripe black cherry flavors with spice. Full bodied and a long finish. (93 pts.)
  • 2012 Bouchard Père et Fils Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
    I liked this wine as much as the Jesus in 2012, but for different reasons. The nose is so enveloping, with pronounced violet cherry and spicy aromas. The palate is tighter however, and some tasters at the dinner remarked that this wine was the most “Bordeaux-like Burgundy”. Indeed, it could be also said to be “more Pommard than Volnay” but with plenty of elegance on the nose. A medium plus body, medium plus flavor intensity – all “medium plus” but in the sense that it really needs a few more years in bottle to sing. (93 pts.)

Bouchard Reds: Older vintages 

  • 2009 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Beaune du Château – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    While some tasters remarked that the ripeness made the wine seem like it “could be from anywhere” I reveled in drinking it. The terroir(s) – as it is made from multiple premier cru vineyards – will show through with time as there is enough concentration and body for at least mid-term aging. (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Beaune du Château – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    As this wine was directly compared with its 2009 counterpart, it was evident that the 2005 has more structure and – in the end – interest for the savvy consumer. At nearly 10 years old since bottling, I would give this wine more aging potential than its younger sibling. It tastes better now too, with more nuance and subtle flavor. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    “It’s just ****ed up,” remarked Tim O’Rourke of Weygandt wines in Washington D.C. There was something odd about the bottle, overly metallic. Some noted possible heat damage. Indeed, I recall hosting a Bouchard horizontal of 2006 a few years back with some of the same tasters as this evening, and the Jesus was just fine. NR (flawed)
  • 2005 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    Recalling how the 2012 tasted earlier in the dinner, this 2005 has more structure and will likely have a longer life. It exudes pronounced dark fruit and cherry and burgeoning tertiary aromatics, and yet the palate seems more youthful, starting out rather tight. The mid palate however is juicy and meaty even, with richness and a long finish. Excellent! (93 pts.)
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Wine of the night! Thanks to Kevin Shin for bringing this grand cru.

  • 2006 Bouchard Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
    Perfumed aromatics, very complex, sweet spice, dark fruits, black cherry, savory followed through on the expansive palate that is thoroughly full bodied, yet layered and again complex in pronounced flavors, that include some emerging tertiary aspects with the primary fruit. Smooth texture and echoing finish. WOTN. (95 pts.)

Just a great evening with fellow #winelovers!

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