I've written already about my experiences as a first timer at the Hospices du Beaune in November, the events known as Les Trois Glorieuses and in particular the incredibly orgy of wine drinking that is La Paulee de Meursault. For seven or eight hours (the longest lunch you may ever have) more incredible wine is opened up than any sane human being really knows what to do with.
I admit to being completely charmed by the event. I've never attended such a raucous, convivial party of wine lovers, where such great wine flowed so freely. Strangers share their most precious bottles, sometimes based only on the fact that someone's eyes lit up when they caught a glimpse of whatever dusty bottle might be in hand.
The contrast between La Paulee and the kinds of organized "offline" tasting events that collectors and members of various wine communities organize couldn't be more stark. This is not a 100-point wine dinner, where everyone brings a top scoring wine and the evening has an undercurrent of competition and ego stroking for those who bring the most expensive bottles. The atmosphere at La Paulee can't escape being described as anything other than gleeful, and its historical role as the party that followed the hard work of the harvest persists in the delight and camaraderie that everyone brings to the event.
I tasted an awful lot of wine over the course of the weekend, and jotted a lot of little notes down in my book, the highlights of which I share with you mostly for your entertainment value. And of course, as an advertisement for the fact that if you enjoy the wines of Burgundy, this event must be on your bucket list before you die.
So here are some of the highlights from the wines I tasted at one of the greatest parties on Earth. The only thing missing is a single wine that was so tremendous, it will merit its own review later in the week.
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2005 Domaine Ramonet Bienvenue Batard-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of the purest of clover honey and candied lemon rind. In the mouth it materializes like some fantasy draped in satin, squirming over the tongue in a way that is nearly obscene in its slippery silkiness. Flavors of honey, sweet jasmine, wet stones and lemon juice swirl and pop like fireworks in slow motion across the palate. Impeccable balance with fantastic acidity, and a long floral finish make this a nearly irresistible wine. Utterly sexy and devastatingly delicious. Cost: $295. Click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2005 Domaine Francois Jobard "Genevrieres" Meursault 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells heavenly, with a wonderful mouthwatering combination of piney, lemon, saline, and stony aromas that beg you to take a sip. In the mouth the wine explodes with lemon electricity and a wonderful tug of war between piney citrus flavors and more vanilla and floral flavors, all shot through with a wonderful salinity. Incredibly quaffable, with impeccable balance and a very long finish. Cost: $100. Click to buy.
2003 Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, Bordeaux
Medium yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied orange peel, honey, and the nectar of white flowers. In the mouth the wine betrays the source of the cliché "liquid sunshine" as it hangs heavy and languorous on the tongue, with flavors of orange peel, clover honey, jasmine and gardenia, and a finish of marmalade that lingers for minutes. Less acidity than normal, thanks to the brutally hot year, make this wine a sweet-tooth's paradise. While I don't fall into that camp myself, it's hard to deny the gorgeousness of it. Cost: $245. Click to buy.
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2008 Joseph Drouhin "Clos de Mouches" Blanc Beaune 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully nose of white flowers and green apple aromas. In the mouth the wine offers a great deal of delicate complexity, with flavors of wet slate, apple, white flowers, a touch of butter, and a wonderful saline quality. Great acidity, wonderful balance, and a long airy finish. Cost: $96. Click to buy.
2007 Domaine Roulot "Les Luchets" Meursault, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light gold in color, this wine has a nose of perfectly toasted sourdough bread and candied lemon peel. In the mouth it has a wonderful delicacy, with lacy flavors of bright, wet stone, white flowers, and lemon essence that is pure and juicy. Excellent acidity and wonderful clarity. Yum. Cost: $100. Click to buy.
2001 Domaine Mestre-Michelot "Genevrieres" Meursault 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of wonderfully piney lemon rind and wet stones. In the mouth it offers fantastically bright lemon flavors mixed with pine sap and wet stones, and that wonderfully saline quality that makes it nearly impossible to spit out. Bright, juicy acidity keeps the wine lingering through a long finish. Delicious.
1999 Domain Henri Germain "Charmes" Meursault 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of stony, floral aromas. In the mouth the wine has a remarkable lean, rocky quality to it, with lemon rind, wet stones and a fantastically floral finish that goes on for a long time. This is a wine that rewards quiet contemplation.
1979 Domaine Boyer-Martenot "Charmes" Meursault 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey roasted nuts and wet stones. In the mouth the flavors are lightly honeyed, and bounce between lemon and a stony rainwater quality that is quite charming. Wonderfully crisp and alive and tasty.
2000 Vincent Girardin Batard Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of wonderfully floral, sweet aromas like you might catch on the breeze on a tropical isle. In the mouth the wine explodes with bright lemon and a fantastically crystalline quality that makes it quite compelling, as if you were tasting lemon flavored quartz. The finish is long and tinged with that wonderful floral scent. Deliciously balanced. Cost: $250. Click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2007 Jean Michel Garnoux "Les Gouttes d'Or" Meursault 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of lime zest, wet stones, and honey. In the mouth the wine is quite impeccably balanced between flavors of honey and bright lemon and more austere notes of wet stone, lime zest, and rainwater. Long finish. Excellent.
1976 J. Pillot, Burgundy Aligote, Burgundy
Bright medium gold in color, this wine has a remarkable nose of wood smoke, parchment, and history. In the mouth it offers flavors of honey, roasted nuts, parchment, and lemon oil amidst still lingering acidity and a fantastically long finish. To borrow an expression, the most remarkable thing about this wine is that it is here at all. No one in their right mind would consider aging a simple Aligote for 35 years, but here it is in all its glory, still alive and kicking. Fantastic.
2007 Domaine Boyer-Martenot "Perriers" Meursault 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Pale green-gold in the glass, this wine smells of delicate floral and wet stone aromas. In the mouth it offers lemon, floral, and bright steely mineral tones that linger through a long finish. Great acidity. Delicious. Cost: $90 Click to buy.
2003 Domaine Pillot "Grandes Ruchottes" Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of jasmine, orange blossom, and vanilla. In the mouth it offers bright lemony citrus flavors, with the distinct vanilla sweetness of oak, all laid over a foundation of stony minerality. Quite tasty, though the oak has a stronger presence than one would like. Decent acidity for a year that was so hot.
1947 Domaine Coffinere de Verget Batard Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light amber in color, this curiousity of a wine smells of old parchment, marzipan, and dried lemon peel. In the mouth it offers tart dried lemon rind and surprisingly stony minerality, with flavors of wet leaves and grapefruit pith on the finish. Somewhat austere and airy, the wine is no less remarkable, nor delicious for its strange combination of flavors. Still kicking after 63 years, and a wine I would readily drink without hesitation. Excellent. This is, to date, the oldest white Burgundy I've had the pleasure of tasting.
1969 Domaine Fillot, Sauternes, Bordeaux
Medium to dark amber in color, this wine has a wonderful nose of burnt orange peel and autumn leaves aromas. In the mouth a heavy, silky texture delivers flavors of orange peel, coffee-with-milk, caramel, and vanilla all linger together in a very long finish.
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
1973 Jean Macle, Chateau-Chalon, Jura
Pale orange in color, this wine smells of orange oil, turpentine, and nut skin. In the mouth the wine offers shifting and changing flavors of dried leaves, orange peel, sultanas, petrol, and straw. The finish has a light vanilla quality to it. Decent acidity.
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
1988 Domaine Jean Raphet et Fils Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Light to medium ruby in color, with hints of orange at the rim, this wine all but leaps out of the glass to plant a ravishing kiss upon your lips, in the startled aftermath of which you will smell raspberry, smoked meats, and wet forest floor. Once in your mouth, however, the wine is a hairsbreadth from miraculous, slipping silky through your mouth and snaring your every ounce of attention by revealing flavors of raspberry, forest floor, and red apple skin. The finish simply sings with cedar aromas and a deep wet earthiness that could easily be you lying in a dark forest after a summer rain. Perfect balance, wonderful seamlessness. OMFG. Tasted out of magnum.
2001 A. Rousseau "Clos St. Jacques" Gevrey-Chambertin, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Light garnet in the glass, this wine has a heavenly nose of sweet raspberry and mixed herb aromas that give way to faint floral notes over time. In the mouth the wine has an unbelievable texture, which brings to mind the slipperyness of mercury while at the same time offering the tactile equivalent of the sexiest thing you can imagine in a silk camisole. Mindblowingly bright and juicy raspberry flavors course across the palate with fantastically juicy and sweet floral flavors mixing into the unrestrained expression of fruit. The faintest of tannins are barely perceptible in the background, along with a mineral earthiness that adds complexity without taking the focus of the unbridled juiciness of the main event. The finish is minutes long. Utterly outstanding. Cost: $250. Click to buy.
1990 Domaine Grivot Richebourg Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Pale garnet in color, this wine is an example of what makes great Burgundy so magical. So pale in the glass, you'd never expect to stick your nose in and get a waft of such exciting spicy red berry fruit and the delicate scent of dried pine needles crunching underfoot and the faintest scent of blossoms on the breeze. But there you are, with your nose in the glass, your mouth watering and waiting for what comes next. And what comes next is, vulgar as it may seem, best described as liquid sex -- a fusion of texture and flavor that is frankly breathtaking. Crystalline red apple skin, exotic spices, and floral flavors entwine languorously with deeper resonant and sinewy wet earth scents (yes, they are so delicate they are hard pressed to be described as flavors). And all this slides across the palate like a river of liquid silk. Shoot me now. Cost: $1045. Click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2008 Domaine Forey Echezeaux Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a nose of stunningly dark raspberry aromas that have a remarkable crystalline quality to them. In the mouth the wine offers a phenomenally soft velvet glove of tannins that firmly grasps flavors of raspberry red velvet cake, forest floor, and green herbs. Wonderfully balanced, and powerful in its expression, this wine needs several years to smooth itself into what will doubtless be a truly remarkable mature aspect.
2001 Domaine Rodolphe Demougeot Pommard, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Medium garnet in color and showing none of its age, this wine smells of sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth it explodes with dark raspberry and mulberry flavors which are held in a bright crystalline suspension that vibrates with energy. Incredibly silky, fine grained tannins caress the edges of the mouth while the fruit goes bonkers on the mid palate and leaves an intense wet, cold stone minerality to linger for minutes in the finish. Fantastic.
1965 Domaine Albert Bichot Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Pale ruby with orange highlights at the rim, this wine has a wonderful nose of spicy leather and raspberry aromas. In the mouth it offers beautifully delicate red apple skin, leather, and cedar flavors hung in a lacy skein across the palate. The wine has a weightlessness to it that is quite compelling, lingering with airy cedar aromatics in a long finish. Perfectly balanced, with wonderful texture and poise.
2007 Frederic Mugnier "Clos de Marechale" Rouge Nuits-Saint-George 1er Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, cedar, and wonderful floral notes that leap out of the glass at you, grab you by the ears and pull you in for a sip. Once in the mouth, the wine doesn't disappoint in its insistence, with fantastically smooth, satiny raspberry fruit that electrifies the palate even as it is being caressed on the edges by velvety, supple tannins. Thanks to great acidity, the wine has a really amazing brightness that lingers for a long time in the finish. Cost: $60. Click to buy.
1993 Vaudoisey-Creusefond Pommard-Epenots 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of red apple skin and leather along with dried herbs and exotic incense. In the mouth the wine is beautifully silky, and very nicely balanced. Excellent acidity and faint powdery tannins support a beautiful core of red apple skin and raspberry fruit mixed with river mud and dried herbs which linger in the finish. Beautifully earthy and gorgeous.
2000 Jacques Prieur "Clos des Santenots" Volnay 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of wonderfully gamey smoked meats and ripe red apples. In the mouth the wine has an incredible finesse, with flavors of red apple skin and raspberry cloaked in lightly leathery tannins. Fantastic acidity drives the wine through a very long finish that incorporates unusual hints of cocoa powder. Quite unique and beautifully put together.
2006 Domaine Groffiere Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Medium garnet in color, this wine has an unbelievable nose that reminds me of walking through the deep silent pine forests in the mountains near where I grew up. Gorgeous spruce, pine duff, and dark loamy earth aromas mix with a wonderfully pure raspberry aroma that seems to wasp on the breeze. In the mouth the wine has a beautiful caramelized brown sugar, raspberry, quality that wraps around deeper notes of wet earth and that wonderful forest floor note. Excellent acidity and faint tannins persist in the finish along with spicier notes. Stunning. Cost: $200. Click to buy.
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2003 Vincent Girardin "Santenots" Volnay 1er Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of cherry, raspberry and wonderful green herb aromas. In the mouth the wine has a remarkable sweet aromatic quality that is perceived almost at the same moment as the fantastic silky texture on the palate. Then the flavors of sweet cherry, raspberry, and forest floor kick in, along with lightly tacky tannins. The forest floor notes are matched with aromatic cedar as the wine finishes very long. Balanced and with great acidity for such a hot year. Excellent. Cost: $60. Click to buy.
1990 La Pousse d'Or "Les Caillerets" Volnay 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light garnet in the glass and showing none of its 20 years in color, this wine smells of red apple skin and tart raspberry fruit. In the mouth tart and juicy flavors of red apple skin, raspberry, and green herbs mix together on the back of velvet tannins. The wine conveys a sense of brightness, thanks to excellent acidity. Cost: $250. Click to buy.
2005 Christophe Pichon "La Comtesse en Côte Blonde", Cote-Rotie, Rhone
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of deep rich cassis fruit and a hint of dark earth. In the mouth the wine is equally deep, with velvety tannins that flirt at the edges of the mouth around a core of cassis, black cherry, and woodsmoke. The smokiness lingers in the finish. Great acidity and nice balance in a powerful wine.
1993 Domaine Comte Armand "Clos les Epenots" Pommard, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
A medium cloudy garnet color in the glass, this wine smells of wonderfully fresh cherry fruit. In the mouth the wine offers what the nose suggested: ripe cherry fruit with hints of orange oil, cedar, and raspberry. Suede-like tannins envelop the wine and nice acidity keeps the fruit juicy and bouncy. Tasted out of magnum. Cost: $345. Click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2007 Domaine Groffier "Les Amoureuses" Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a wonderful nose of forest floor and faint berry aromas. In the mouth tart raspberry, cherry, and cedar flavors mix with an undercurrent of wet stone and pine duff. Nice balance, great acidity. Cost: $150. Click to buy.
2007 Domaine Boyer-Martenot Pommard, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy
Light garnet in color, this wine has a nose of raspberry and black cherry aromas. In the mouth the wine offers raspberry, cherry, and forest floor flavors atop a wonderful smooth body with great acidity. The finish has a rich, wet dirt quality.
2004 Mas de Daumas Gassac "Mas de Daumas de Gassac", Vin de Pays de l'Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of leather, prunes, and dark dried cherries. In the mouth flavors of leather, cherry, wet dirt and woodsmoke join smooth grained tannins in the finish. Cost: $50. Click to buy.
2000 Paul Jaboulet Aîné "La Chapelle", Hermitage, Rhone
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis, leather, and dark black cherry. In the mouth, the wine offers flavors of leather, cherry, and cassis, along with cedar notes that linger in the finish. Fine grained tannins add structure and muscle to this wine. Cost: $120. Click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
1971 Boissys & Delaygue "Reserve", Hermitage, Rhone
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of smoked meats and dried cherries. In the mouth dried cherry, incense, and a spicy leather quality mix with somewhat drying, faint tannins. Somewhat over the hill.
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