Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Frederick Wildman 2012 Burgundy Barrel Tasting

Temperatures rose quickly in the tent at the Hotel Vitale’s Americano Restaurant last month, and not just because of the unseasonably warm San Francisco weather. Women were swooning over the charming, dapper and very flirtatious Monsieur Patrick Leflaive, of Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. Members of the wine trade were invited by importer Frederick Wildman to taste barrel samples of the not yet released 2012 wines from Burgundy, France.

Together, brothers Patrick and Olivier produce thousands of cases of high quality red and white Burgundy each year. Their chalky, powerful 2012 Leflaive Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru $155 was stunning, while the more moderately priced and silky 2012 Leflaive Rully Les Cloux 1er Cru $32 is a terrific pick for Somms to price under $100 on their wine lists. Martin Sinkoff, Wildman’s Director of Marketing, said, “the market for Burgundy is strong world-wide. That, and low yields in 2011, 2012, and 2013 means that there is price pressure on this vintage.”

Etienne Sauzet, who normally produces ten barrels of Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er Cru $120, will only produce two in 2012. (Note: Etienne Sauzet wines are imported by Vineyard Brands). Jancis Robinson MW called the 2012 vintage “one of the most challenging in recent memory, with frost, hail, storms, rain, sunburn, mildew, and in some cases, rot.” “In 2012 we had hail, frost, and too much rain. On July 3rd, a 20-minute hail storm did major damage. We lost 50% of the crop. In Volnay and Pommard, up to 80% of the crops were lost” said Monsieur Leflaive. “Whites did better. We are pleased, almost.”

Thankfully a warm and sunny summer saved the day, concentrating the remaining fruit and helping it to ripen. Folks shopping for 2012’s need to remember to shop selectively. Whites from the Cote de Beaune offered a rich, creamy mouthfeel if not so much minerality, and Cote de Nuit reds are showing a glossy, silky texture as well. The wines are not as balanced as usual, but offer immediate drinking pleasure. Antoine Vincent of Chateau Fuisse and J. J. Vincent Selections, whose 2012 “J. J.” Bourgogne Blanc $18 was a notable value, said, “the difficulty is always in the vineyard. We had 30% less this year but it had nice concentration. We want balance and power, so we stopped malolactic conversion early to preserve freshness.” The 2012 Chateau Fuisse Pouilly-Fuisse “Marie Antoinette” $24 was another stunning value, and had a gorgeous smoky minerality.

Domaine Armand Rousseau showed four wines from their old vine parcels in Chambertin, a taut, earthy Gevrey-Chambertin, an elegant, silky and perfumed Gevrey-Chambertin “Lavaut St. Jacques” 1er Cru, the Ruchottes-Chambertin “Le Clos des Ruchottes” Grand Cru Monopole, and the Chambertin Grand Cru. The stunning Grand Crus were showing just a hint of what they would become in the decades ahead. Pricing was not yet available, which was probably a good thing.

Stephane Aviron’s Beaujolais-Villages and cru Beaujolais wines, including the gorgeous, dark-berried and smoky 2012 Morgon “Cote du Py” Vielles Vignes $24 commented, “2012 was a correct vintage with a lot of rain, mildew, and a late harvest, so not very good to make a great wine, and they will have a shorter life span.” Why is vintage so important in Burgundy? Does the producer matter more than the appellation/quality level?

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.