The grand cru Clos-de-Vougeot is an interesting vineyard for several reasons. It dates back to the 12th Century when Cistercian monks made wine here and borders the Grands Echezeaux in the west and the Petits-Musigny in the north-west. Already the monks knew that the great parts for making wine in this vineyard are in the upper part and down to the middle section where the slope flattens out. This better soil have a thin, poor top layer of calcareous clay and gravel on top of a bed of limestone that is very well-drained. The monks only used to do simple, house wines from the lower parts closer to the famous road RN74. However, a few producers e.g. Leroy, Jacques Prieur, Jadot and Grivot manages to do really good wines from these lesser parts of the vineyard.
It is the largest grand cru in Burgundy and its dilemma is its inconsistency in terms of expression and also certainly in quality. Today over 80 producers owns parcels in this 50 ha large vineyard and all of them do not produce good wines. Hence, it did not help customers at all, when the French Ministry of Agriculture (INAO) did not recognise the smaller sections (the French call them lieu-dit) inside this vineyard, but granting it all grand cru classé in 1937. Clearly a mistake. Anyway, these inner vineyards of the Clos-de-Vougeot are: Petit et Grand Maupertuis, Maret-Haut et Bas, Planté-l’Abbé, Garenne, Musigny-Chioures, Dix-Journaux, Quatorze-Journaux, Montiottes-Hautes et Basses and Baudes-Saint-Martin. Many producers refer to these anyway, but few print them on the label. There is a map here.
2009 may not be a classic vintage, but it is a really good one that is fat, fleshy, rich and forwardly packed with fruit. It may not have a long life ahead, but it is approachable with an relatively early drinking window and the French characterises it as sexy. Some says it is a lesser version of the great, big and high acidic 2005 and others mean it resembles the other vintages that end with a 9. It is probably going to shut down very soon, so therefore we decided to see how it is doing five years on.
|The contenders this time in Clos-de-Vougeot|
Now after this history lesson let’s enjoy the wines..
Domaine Jean Grivot
The owner, Etienne Grivot, is obviously inspired by the icon Henri Jayer (he is not lonely in this view) and employs a few days cold soak, organic ploughing and extremely low controlled yields in the vineyard as well as hard pruning in the winter and the nowadays very common green harvesting in late Spring/Summer. They own a quite large homogeneous parcel in the lieu-diet Quatorze Journaux which is situated in lower and almost flat part of the Clos-de-Vougeot, boarding the famous road RN74. Vines are about 40 years old here. Etienne uses 70% new, medium toasted oak for this grand crus. We followed this wine beyond seven hours of decanting, since it certainly needs time to really open up.
The colour is dark, but translucently crimson-red purple middle with very light pink, red-purple and transparent edges.
A strange and quite unpleasant nose of solvent and sulfa lurks from the glass after decanting. After another two hours, suddenly there is a complex primary scent of wood glue, dried plum, black fruit jam, lingon berry, tiny notes of exotic spices and secondary notes of intense, lovely inner perfumes, some smoke, tobacco, ginger, clove, distinct nutmeg and somewhat burnt, vibrant minerals. After more than four hours later, the deep and very seductive perfumes are overly intensified and now includes peon roses, lilies as the dry plum/blackberry jam and the exotic spices are definitely more prominent as the tobacco, solvent notes as well as minerals all take big steps back. A very delicate, quite seductive and incredibly intense nose indeed with territorial characteristics, whose only backside is overly toasted oak.
The taste offers very pure, ripe and cool red fruit. The palate goes on with distinct anise, fennel, ginger, iron, gravel, minerals, pomegranate and dry blood orange. The acidity is energetic and fresh wrapping balsamic oils, lingonberry juice and nice bitter grape-peel. Texture is velvety already and overly polished. Tannins are relatively chewy, but now a little harsh, maybe underripe and covered by oak contributions and in this youth really rasps the tongue. Fine balance. Concentration is not more than ok, body is medium and it could be longer if it had more grip. Here adding some ripe stems would have done the trick I think, but again that is not the school of Henri Jayer that aims for purity.
It is very intensely perfumed and seductive wine with a very delicate nose. The fruit is pure and ripe, but a too polished wine for my taste. Moreover, I lack a consistent envelope and grip that would have carried it all the way to a more persistent finish. This in addition to the toasted oak notes puts the total score down a little. Open in 2018.
The nose is quite expansive, but also a bit volatile and changes during the tasting. I find dark and dry fruit, notes of solvent, tobacco, plum, sand, perfume and also toasted oak in the background.
In the mouth the wine starts off quite deep and expressive but then finishes very slim and almost a bit diluted, which is unfortunate. There are quite ripe red berries, cherries, meat and iron. Tannins are very much present and sandy but not dominant.
I am a bit undecided about this wine. It is elegant and expressive, but unfortunately it lacks the stamina to reach all the way to the finish line.
Stefano Z (Guest):
Dark colour for a pinot.
The typical Grivot-style on the nose that is revealed by the toasted barrels, lingonberry acid and sulphur.
Fine spices, red fruit, brioche, some lilies and super-intensive scent. Notes of burnt under vegetation. The red fruit is more plum and cherries than strawberry in here.
Very good tannin structure. Distinct but fine tannins. A well structured wine with expressive minerals, medium body and a fine balance between acidity and fruit. The alcohol stays in the background. Somewhat meaty behind the spicy fruit. Good length.
Domaine Anne Gros
The owner Anne Gros that inherited her father Francois Gros’ vineyards have been a true rising star in Burgundy for a while now. She took over the estate in 1988 and put her own name on the labels in 1995. When we visited Anne two years ago, we learned that vinification is traditional and somewhat simple, straight forward. Note-worthy is that Anne employs cement vats for fermentation, uses 20% ripe stems and press wine for structure and raises her grand crus in as much as 80% new, lightly toasted Allier wood for 16 months, but she is remarkably skillful with integrating wood. Anne labels the lieu-dit, the Grand Maupertui, on her bottles and it is situated in the upper left part of the Clos-de-Vougeot. Her parcel is about 50 years old in average, but the oldest vines were planted in 1905. We followed this wine even after seven hours of decanting, since it too really needs its time to open up.
The colour is dark, but translucent crimson-red purple middle with pink, red-purple and transparent edges.
After one hour, there is distinct nutmeg, cinnamon, Asian spices, jam, dense ginger and sulphur. After another two hours, the SO2 has disappeared and now red fruit emerges from the glass. After more than four hours, the fruit is clean, ripe and lean more to the dark side. In addition, distinct mint as well as some fresh red flowers lingers on the nose. Incredibly detailed, beautifully fresh nose with grace and complexity.
The taste offers fantastically fresh, dense and ripe fruit; prominent wild strawberry, but also plum and blueberry jam. Moreover, the palate offers ginger, cinnamon, eucalyptus, pastry notes and Asian spices. Concentration is great and there is obviously more structure in this wine compared to Grivot and with very nice grip from the stem and press wine addition and still it is very pure as well as offering a consistent and quite persistent finish. Acidity is energetic and wraps balsamic oils and herbs. Texture is velvety and the youthful tannins rips the tongue still, but even though a little dry still of good quality. The oak tannins here are a little dry, but remarkably well integrated at this stage. Great balance and precision.
This is a really pure, complex and elegant wine. In addition its, already a very balanced wine too, with a broad-spanning nose as well as offering a lot of depth. The only remarks are just a little excessive sweetness and somewhat dry tannins now, but overall a really great effort indeed. Open in 2019.
The nose offers deep pinot noir notes and opens up surprisingly fast but then continues to evolve with time. We get pure red berries which are somewhat sweet, some under vegetation in the beginning, floral notes and as the wine gets more air we are met with more clove, eucalyptus and herbal notes.
The taste has medium to high acidity which is fresh and gives energy to the wine. For a pinot noir it is quite full bodied and is dominated by cherries, raspberries and other red fruit. Also here we get more herbal notes and eucalyptus as the wine evolved in the glass. There is a tannic structure to the wine which adds some backbone.
I would prefer less of the herbal notes and eucalyptus, but otherwise this is what I expect from a great Clos Vougeot. A wine which has complexity and structure but also elegance and energy.
Stefano Z (Guest):
Colour is clean and clear. Light ruby red.
Pure fruit with elegant use of sulphur on the nose. Red fruit dominated by strawberries. In addition, roses, flowers, cinnamon stick, bark, tiny notes of mint and eucalyptus and some medicinal notes. Here too, somewhat burned undervegetation appears that leans towards curry powder.
Unusually elegant style and complexity for this site. Quite good acidity that offers backbone and freshness. Good balance and fine tannins. Good length. The aftertaste offers strawberries, cherries and raspberries as well as some spices that resembles Vosne-Romanée.
We didn’t share the same opinion about the Grivot, but everybody agreed that the winner this time on technical knock-out is after just a few rounds, Anne Gros. It is the most balanced, purest and well integrated wine that celebrates its site when it is at its best and with really good grip too.