A peaky Pinot and a rather flatty Fizz

There is current and weird phenomena going on. I hear, and I can see confusion, trouble and a certain amount of high level and rather (maybe) unnecessary anxiety going on around and about, and this is just in the wine world that both you and I inhabit, let alone the other greater world out there. So I will stick to the wine theme for now, if you can forgive me of course, as this is of what we do here. But the general sense of, feeling overwhelmed is undeniable in all quarters of life these days. My palate has changed recently so much beyond recognition, and maybe naturally so it should have done over the years as I am sure yours may have also changed.

Circumstances of life, we could say. And now to add to this weird phenomena we are also being bombarded, daily and monthly with not only new styles of wine, but also offers of wine that sometimes just don’t make much sense anymore. (Unless of course you were born after 2000) Some of the offers are just repeats from the week, month or six months before, and very very boring all of it, and not really offers either just sales garb. The volume of the offers that come into the office here are quite incredible. if I had the time to read them all I simply would not have enough time in the day for anything else important that needs doing, especially to enjoy a glass or two of good wine, which is paramount. Hence, I try my best to filter the dross from the wine merchant’s offers that I actually do know from over the years and that have been tried and tested, from the ones that I do not know. Question? Have we finally peaked? Peak Wine! Over wined ourselves in the wine world? or is this just the beginning? I know that today most wine has never been better to drink, or more healthy, and that it is a great time in history to drink almost anything and from all four corners of the world. Does it really matter any more if a wine receives a 90 or 95 point score, needless to mention the 100 pointer (my goodness they can be so disappointing can’t they? Gran Enemigo 2013 Cabernet Franc for example). Natural wines?(that used to be called Orange wine). ‘En Primeur’ has sure as hell finally buried itself, and not without still giving a tremendous go and a self-bashing over the head at the same time. There is just so much wine out there, and good wine that one can pick up quite easily, and of course at a proper sensible price. But am I really going to live long enough to taste and drink the essential ones that I have earmarked in this rather evidently, short lifetime that we have at our disposal? My dear organs are certainly working at peak level from usage. My poor old liver, and thanks mainly to the high alcohol levels that we constantly come across now. And sugars! Uy the poor old haemoglobin. I do not drink Grappa or Cognac anymore, and I am obviously not an alcoholic. I am purely a good olde ‘wine drinker’, and there lies the difference already. I cannot really imagine a life without a good wine, or good food, good music (incl. opera of course), books and good people to share it all with. The noise and confusion that rains down on us on a daily basis does nothing to help this, or anything else for that matter. So what’s the conclusion? HELP! any ideas out there, are most welcome.

I remember once a Burgundian grower saying,’We don’t make Chardonnay or Pinot Noir here, we only make Burgundy!’ Well last week, a friend placed a ‘blind’ glass of red wine in front of me and said ”what do you think”?. (I always love these vinous games) Well, I reckoned on the nose it was a ‘Pais’ (you know that Chilean bush grape from the southern part of Los Andes) and yet in the mouth it could have been a good Bojo-laise (come on Boris! Tignanello?), or even something from a good stable in the Rhone. So, when all the jokes and banter where over, of course at my expense, the bottle was revealed. It was infact a 2009 Echezeaux from Francois Lamarche (Burgundy for those of you more confused than I am at this stage). On hindsight of course it was made of PN but yet it had other elements to it, but I just would not have gone for a Burgundy. (I did find out later that the bottle had been opened the day before, but still, we are professionals here and should have known better). Changing tack completely now, the following day I had the chance to drink some of the now famous English ‘Cristal’ sparkler, Nyetimber’s ‘cuvee expensivo’ that goes by the name of ‘Tillington”. It was the 2013 vintage. Named after the Sussex village where you will find it tucked away there the 2.something hectares of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. I laid down ninety-nine quid on the counter the other day at BB&R for this one, and had it beautifully chilled across the road by our friends at 67 PM. The cork popped out as it should have done, tho’ gently and yet the sparkle just did not happen, and I do mean here the actual fizz. It was totally flat! To make amends with my guests, poor sods (family actually), they (@ 67 PM) opened another bottle for us, this time Nyetimber’s 2009 Blanc de Blancs from my own stock bin. We could easily have drunk 2 bottles of 2009 Blanc de Blancs for the one bottle of the flat Tillington. The 2009 B de B was a lovely bottle, super stuff as it always was, dry peaches and cream, it ticked all the correct boxes for our celebratery lunch. Feeling, as one does now and then, a little dash of disappointment when these things occur, I decided the following day to go for another hopefullly fizzy Tilly-willy 2013. Again, nicely chilled. On this occasion I decided to pop the cork myself, and off it went. Like an old vintage Champagne. And this time there was indeed a little more fizz in this bottle, but just a little only. The bubbles seemed to disappear in the glass (we chose to use champagne flutes, I do not like to use them at all anymore, as you know I being a Zalto freak, but we used them to effect) so quickly that we ended up once again with a white wine, albeit this time with a touch of ‘petillance’, that I cannot really call mousse, but no bubbles again to show at all. I have not got to the bottom of this yet, and to be honest with you I have already lost interest, but I do have a feeling that on bottling the wine the amount of psi (or whatever they want to call it) used after the remuage was so low, it just about had the strength to push out the cork when teased, but there was nothing left for the ‘spumante’ side of things. To the other extreme I do remember once opening the first vintage of that now famous Dorset sparkler, Bride Valley. I will never forget it, as the cork not only shot out at the first twist, but the lady guest seated in front of me was absolutely drenched in the stuff. It was a hot evening in BA, and she was wearing a light summer dress, so I could only say ”why don’t you take it off my dear and we’ll dry it on the balcony for you”. She giggled. When I asked the owner of Bride Valley what he thought about the excessive fizz, he came clean and said that actually on the first bottling there was indeed an error, as they had overdone the psi (or whatever it’s called). Trial and error! What was left of the half bottle of Bride Valley that evening was still very bubbly for us to drink and enjoy, really quite superb. So just in case you still have interest?

I can deliver within England (incl.tax/delivery) the following fizz:

2013 Bride Valley Blanc de Blancs @ £49.50 a bottle
2013 Nyetimber Tillington Estate @ £99.00 a bottle
2009 Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs @ £49.95 a bottle

Minimum order would of course would be for six bottles (1 sealed case*)

now moving on…

Domaine Arnoux - Echezeaux Grand CruWhat a very splendid evening indeed was had with Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, or should is say with their excellent representative, Mauro. Who tirelessly works away in the vineyards and has the balls to explain in a charming and clear manner exactly what they are doing now at the Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux. As he was able to share the size of their holdings in Burgundy I have marked the hectarage down after the name of the wine for you.

He shared with us over the three and half to four hours, that Charles Lachaux who is just 29 years of age, and now has the responsibility of running the family domaine  (previously known as Robert Arnoux), with 14 hectares of vines spread across some of Burgundy’s top sites. On a chilly August Thursday evening I met him down here to taste through the 2017s, followed by an older vintage of Domiane Robert Arnoux.

Marou tells us that Lachaux has been combatting trunk diseases by using a pruning technique called Guyot Poussard. This is an old technique that respects the sap flow of the vine. He has also been doing curettage, cutting out dead wood from affected vines using a small chain saw. The result is no more Esca (one of the main trunk diseases), better yields and healthy vines. But it takes time: for his Suchots plot of half a hectare it took 36 days (he worked alone apparently), and for his one-third hectare holding in Romanee St Vivant it took 20 days. But for old vines in famous vineyards, it’s worth the effort.

They don’t have organic or biodynamic certification, although 95% of the products he sprays are organic. For the last four years they have been using some plant-derived sprays that aren’t yet certified at all. Charles, the boss, is convinced that the future is going to involve moving beyond biodynamics, and that it isn’t good to be reliant on copper (permitted and pretty essential in biodynamic farming where downy mildew is a risk). Also, the problem with biodynamics to him is that it considers what you spray but not how you work. (Well, when I went to BD college is was actually the other way around, but then again that was 30 years ago now)

They have vineyards in 15 appellations. And they are looking for the most nuances possible, the differences between the wines and letting the appellations speak for themselves.

One of the threats for Burgundy is because of the extreme value of the vineyards, the succession process will mean family members who want to stay in the vineyard won’t be able to buy out other family members who don’t. As a result, domains will have to be sold. This is already starting, for example with Pinault’s purchase of Rene Engel. In a few years they will become like Bordeaux. ‘You lose a bit of the Burgundian spirit; you lose a bit of the soul.’ he says!

They have been replanting a portion of the Aux Regniots vineyard that was previously occupied by an almond tree. This patch has been replanted at an incredibly high density of 25,000 plants per hectare, with each vine on a wooden stake.

They also use a lot of whole cluster in the winemaking. Most of the village wines are 70% whole cluster, and beyond this everything is pretty much 100%. For the whole cluster they put the grapes into the vat (the size will vary by the plot). After this, fermentation starts, and there’s no recipe for how this is managed: it is judged by taste. Usually, the wine is pressed off after 10-11 days, so there’s no cold pre-soak or post-ferment maceration. The winemaker is not keen on new oak, and uses 10% in the village wines, rising to a maximum of 30% in the Grand Crus. Now here is what Mauro bought with him for us to taste.

What a great evening it was:

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Chambolle-Musigny 2017 (1.62ha) – Supple and fine with nice elegance. Pure and fine-grained with lovely raspberry and red cherry fruit. Has a fine grippiness to it. This is very pretty and focused.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Corvées Pagets 2017 (0.55ha) – Detailed, spicy red fruits nose. The palate is concentrated and fresh with fine raspberries and cherries. It’s quite fleshy with nice structure and an easy elegance. Ripe, pure and refined.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Clos de Vougeot 2017 (0.45ha) – Very fresh and linear with red cherry and plum fruit. Juicy and nicely tart. Fresh, detailed and with nice focus.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru 2017 (0.53ha)  – So perfumed with a fine, floral nose and hints of sappy green. Has a firm, expressive red fruit palate with a linear drive. Fine with real purity and concentration. Thrilling wine.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Echezeaux Grand Cru 2017  (0.80ha) – Very silky but also nicely defined with smooth, pure, concentrated red fruits and refined texture. So pretty.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots 2017 (0.43ha) – Very perfumed and open with a green stemmy edge and some sweet, elegant fruit, as well as a touch of beetroot. Fleshy, ripe and structured with silky fruit. The green stemminess is quite strong but I suspect this will integrate with time.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Reignots 2017 (0.20ha) – Lovely potential here. Very pretty and pure with sweet blck cherry and red cherry fruit. Has flesh and purity, and is fine and expressive. Good weight and nice acidity, too.

Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2017 (0.35ha) – This has purity and freshness with a green edge to the structured red cherry and plum fruit. Grippy and nicely structured with good freshness. Pretty yet also serious.

Domaine Robert Arnoux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots 2005 (0.43ha) – What a treat to finish the evening with this one. The wine is pure, intense and stylish, an excellent combination of the vigneron’s style and the hyper-elegance of the vineyard.

A wee final note, and mini-rant of course. The poor old Grouse (leading on from the previous Un-Glorious bloggy from before). I have just read (end of August 2019) that the dam Labour party of Great Britain thinks that Grouse shooting should cease so that the moors can be ‘rewilded’. Are they really as thick as they come across to me. Grouse are wild birds which, unlike Pheasants and Partridges, cannot be bred in captivity on any large scale. If the moors were rewilded, their chief wild feature, unique to the British Isles, would vanish entirely  Why don’t you bloody people leave the beautiful, unique British countryside alone once and for all. I remember back in the 1990’s it was a time when the Labour party (I will not call them Socialists as they are not) had it in for the Fox. Or should I say pro-Fox. Then they had a problem with shooting wildfowl (ducks and the like) with steel and not lead cartridges (less poisonous according to them), and now the attention is on the Grouse. The last time the dam Labour party authorised young British soldiers to go to fight somebody else’s war, I left the country and never returned. It would appear that they are more concerned with little birds, Foxes and our other four legged friends than they are with the two legged human being of all sizes and ages, and colours. What a shame. Let’s get back to the Coalface you Blairy-blighters you.