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1996 red Burgundies; Pinot Tsunami


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Tasting notes, 1996 red Burgundy assortment

Background: Tasting group B (as I'll label it) contains importers, wholesalers, retailers, enthusiasts, of wines from Burgundy region, who are located throughout San Francisco Bay area. Meets regularly to appraise and debate these wines (usually current products; sometimes older, like this time). Members' Burgundy experience is 5-50 years (average around 25), most have experience tasting and buying in Burgundy itself, some regularly. I call it a co-operative tasting group because wine cost is shared, members rotate organizing and hosting, expenses are minimized. Format is taste-and-spit double-blind evaluation [1], impressions and rough preferences written down. Tasters' preference rankings then combine for a group ranking to structure discussion. Wines discussed, least favorite to most, then unveiled. Then we bring out food and re-visit the wines we liked, unblind and with food, using what's left in our tasting glasses and the bottles. You can extract a lot of information from a wine sample this way. Meetings occur at homes or friendly, moderately-priced restaurants accommodating this unusual format. (This group recently surfaced on the Squires wine web site re Burgundy evaluations.)

These were nine generally respected wines. Obtained from members who bought them when new on market 1999-2000 for USD $30-75. Place-names not designated premier cru (PC) are grand cru (GC). (These wines use the Pinot Noir grape, in the region that has traditionally produced most of the wines from that grape.) Wines opened and decanted an hour before tasting. 12 tasters. "T" marks when I moved from smelling to tasting each.

Red Burgundies of this vintage created high expectations with their concentration, good structure, strong tannins. I tasted some of these at the time, when first offered. Many of them entered a "closed" phase in recent years from which some are emerging (others, who can ever tell what will happen?). The strong acids, dry tannins, sometimes austere fruit today (especially from the Côte de Nuits wines) sum to a good metaphor: Cranberries.

In descending group blind preference.

1996 Mongeard-Mugneret Grands Echezeaux. (Group 1st, my 2nd blind favorite.) Color browner than most. Faint meaty aroma opens in time (flavor too -- like some others, this developed considerably in the glass for a couple of hours). T depth, coffee, orangey fruit. Hard and closed initially but it opened up.

1996 Chandon de Briailles Corton Bressandes. (Group 2nd, my 1st.) Beautiful floral berry fruit with black olives. Unusually opulent in this line-up. T concentration, sap, glycols, fruit, toast. (I thought it must be from the Côte de Beaune subregion: yes.) Opened up even more enjoyably later.

1996 Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux. (Group 3rd, my 3rd.) Brilliant deep color. Faint pickle foresmell blows off. Toast. T hard clean classic struc, strong acid, some fruit. Marginal flaw in the back, a faint moldy or Bretty hint, many people caught it. Not TCA. Triage issue? (Many grape bunches were picked over, that year.) Still, popular wine.

1996 Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny PC "Les Charmes." (Group 4th, my 5th.) Coffee and herbs. T closed, ungenerous, though finely made. Evident oak toast. Opened up later.

1996 Vincent Prunier Auxey-Duresses PC "Grands Champs." (Group 5th, my 4th.) Very faint and closed smells initially. Spicy fruit appears. T considerable fruit with still hard acid edge suggesting wine is still developing. Slight cooked smell. Beaune region I estimated, and later guessed correctly it was the Prunier. At $30 (in 2000), the "value" among these premium wines.

1996 Lamarche Echezeaux. (Here we get into wines I dumped out once food arrived.) Dark. Unusual smell, I characterized as India-ink. Wood resembling Scotch whisky. T coffee but little fruit.

1996 Maume Gevrey-Chambertin PC. Good dark color. Closed aroma. T closed, acid.

1996 Lafon Volnay-Santenots-du-Milieu PC. Very faint and closed aromas at first. T closed, hard, almost a mold hint.

1996 Thomas-Moillard Chambertin. Acidic/orange smells, toast, olive; not bad. (VA, some said.) T excellent struc with core of resolved tannin, but faded fruit. Disappointing wine from this illustrious location. A reminder once again why this group judges by the experience in the glass and not by the label.

[1] Double-blind evaluation detail. Neither tasters nor host knows which wine is which during tasting, though they may know overall population. This time I hosted. After wrapping bottles to disguise them, I gave to another (who hadn't seen the wrapping) to mark, so neither of us knew which wine had which letter marking. Because the wines had some age they all had sediment, so I first prepped them to clarify. Stood up for a couple days; uncorked and poured each into pitcher with a bright light shining through the bottle. Near end of the pour, sediment appeared. Stopped the pour then, removed remaining wine with the sediment, replaced the clear wine into clean bottle. This was shortly before pouring the tasting samples. With care, this holds back only 10-20 ml of each wine. I collected the sedimented remains in another container, capped, to settle again and maybe use -- a "house blend."

--

Pinot-Noir deluge, early reports:

One wholesaler described industry scuttlebutt: Prepare for a tidal wave of mediocre pinot-noir wines from around the world (and attendant marketing), serving new consumer interest. Precursor waves lap at the shore already. His firm is being offered wines from countries and producers new to this grape, some of them awful. (Side note: Merchants in Group B sell other PNs besides Burgundies but are longtime specialists in this grape.) Remember Merlot wines in the 1980s, he said; it will be exactly like that. (I'll remind you of Harvey Steiman's newspaper feature article, October 1981: "Merlot, the coming red wine revolution." Still have copies on file, I just glanced at one.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

chandon de brialle wines are always opulant imho

a 96 corton bressand should have been poppin!

exploding out of the glass

quite jealous

but i had an 03 corton blanc last night which was fabulous. - pure and clean but ripe and fat, huge, classy

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'Opulent' is not the word I would use for Chandon de Brailles.

Not that it's wrong; it's just that 'elegant' seems more appropriate. And not in the way of a backhanded 'compliment.'

Indeed the Corton blanc is good, though the Charlemagne is a touch better.

Edited by LOS (log)

--- Lee

Seattle

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96 was a hot year with very high yields, so producers were tempted to overcrop, leading to many soft, jammy wines. You were lucky: many of the 96 Burgundies don't last

Thanks for the comment. Though I can imagine that the upshot could be true in some broad sense, it contradicts my own experience of 1996 reds in a couple of ways. Luck isn't to be disparaged, but selective buying entered here too of course, as is often important. Wines I mention here were chosen for buying after tasting them (when new on the market) or with considerable knowledge of the producer, by experienced Burgundy fans.

I tried a few score of them when new, and bought some. Other people that I taste with did likewise. We try them occasionally, including (as above) in group tastings. (Including a large tasting a couple years ago merging multiple tasting groups; Allen Meadows attended that one.) Given all of this, with 96 reds I've tried in recent years the issue was rarely that they didn't last (in fact, surprisingly, I have a Bourgogne-Rouge, cost around $15, drinking very well, and some village wines only slightly more expensive; again, they were not random). Rather, the issue especially in denser wines has been long "closed" or hibernating intervals.

Some of them may stay comatose; who knows. (Some people are still waiting for 1988s to "come around" and it is getting to be a long wait ...)

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96 was a hot year with very high yields, so producers were tempted to overcrop, leading to many soft, jammy wines. You were lucky: many of the 96 Burgundies don't last

Thanks for the comment. Though I can imagine that the upshot could be true in some broad sense, it contradicts my own experience of 1996 reds in a couple of ways. Luck isn't to be disparaged, but selective buying entered here too of course, as is often important. Wines I mention here were chosen for buying after tasting them (when new on the market) or with considerable knowledge of the producer, by experienced Burgundy fans.

I tried a few score of them when new, and bought some. Other people that I taste with did likewise. We try them occasionally, including (as above) in group tastings. (Including a large tasting a couple years ago merging multiple tasting groups; Allen Meadows attended that one.) Given all of this, with 96 reds I've tried in recent years the issue was rarely that they didn't last (in fact, surprisingly, I have a Bourgogne-Rouge, cost around $15, drinking very well, and some village wines only slightly more expensive; again, they were not random). Rather, the issue especially in denser wines has been long "closed" or hibernating intervals.

Some of them may stay comatose; who knows. (Some people are still waiting for 1988s to "come around" and it is getting to be a long wait ...)

I have had little luck with the 96's. I have dumped more than a few down the drain after a taste or two. Some have bizarre notes and flavors and some are just plain dull.

I agree with you about the 1988's. if they haven't "come around" by now they are not going to ever. Of course someone will open one at age fifty and declare it vibrant and alive--la di da!

This is a reminder of the pain and suffering one endures with Burgundy. I just enjoyed my last 1990 La Romanee (Bouchard) and it was IMOP as good as it gets. I excitedly, started opening some of my 96's and came crashing back to earth!

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