Posted by: jmbwineblog | February 9, 2011

The Dreaded Barrel Samples came to town…

So, we interrupt this transmission of Pebbles Charity Events, in order to bring you some news of wines that have to say the least, caused a bit of a stir this past January. Those wines, were a large collection of barrel samples from the recently released 2009 Burgundy vintage.

As such, I spent the best part of a week tasting a large number of samples, some of which were repeats, some of which I cared little for, but in the end, a wine consultant has to go and taste these wines. It is part of the job, and it is a tough one at that. Finished mature wines are more enjoyable and easier to understand than these uncouth fetuses that are proverbially thrust upon us poor winos once every year. Having said that, I can hear you all saying,
“hold on there son, you just got to sample roughly 1000 wines in a week for FREE! What is there to complain about!”


Well, for a start there are a number of things. Let me list them for you off the top of my head.
1) tasting 1000 samples of wines, some of which are not completely finished wines (uncouth acidity, harsh tannin, alcohol, fruit and in many a case and in particular a realistic proposition with Burgundy En Primeur, unfinished malolactic fermentations), is not an easy thing. One’s palate can become jaded very quickly.
2) some of these tastings are open to the public as well, and it can be a bit of a bum fight with many a person clogging the room, and having a good old drink over scarce samples.
3) some of the halls are not exactly suitable for tasting such fragile and fickle beings such as barrel samples of wine, and temperature not least from body heat and sitting in these rooms for hours on end can be a real problem with gushing quality.
4) there are few bottles and they have to go around a lot of people. It is not as if you get a good swig and can really make an informed judgement in the way that one can when leisurely having a sample bottle over dinner.
5) one has to rush around London to get to all the different tastings…

So you ask the time old questions… “Why do it?”, well for a start I work in the trade and my living has to be made someone. I have to find a way of buying all those bottles that I enjoy in my free time, (to put it crudely), and because although not always enjoyable, it is an excellent way of getting to see how the vintage and certain regions may have performed in a particular vintage, and this post is my thoughts on this particular vintage.

2009 Burgundy Tastings, January 2011


I won’t go into details of the vintage and how the weather shaped the grapes and subsequently the wines as this will simply become tedious and boring. Not just for all of you to read, but all of me to type (and that would make your reading pleasure even more boring! We wouldn’t want that now would we!). What one can safely say is that due to the generally good weather in a similar vein to 2009 Bordeaux, Rhone and Loire, there was a lot of hype surrounding this Burgundy vintage and there was much expected of it. To put it bluntly it was a HOT vintage and as one can see with 2003 across Europe, this can have its pitfalls as well.

As such, one can say that unlike 2005 in the region and much like 2009 in Bordeaux, there are inconsistencies, and one does have to tread carefully. Once again, this is not a vintage to get caught up in all the hype and the dog fighting for allocations of the top wines such as the Grand Crus and the more sought after Premier Crus. This is not to say that they are bad wines and that once mature they won’t be worth the money, but simply that you will be able to gain a serious amount of pleasure from the lesser/generic wines of the region as they are admirable. They will give pleasure and this is due to heat of the vintage allowing lesser grapes to ripen nicely. Thus at this stage, it is hard to advocate buying the bigger wines. To my mind, it is also thus not a classic Burgundy vintage, just a vintage that shows terroir nicely and that will be pleasant to drink.

In Conclusion they are not wines that excite or make the hairs on your neck stand up in excitement. They are simply nice, well made wines and thus one would be best served to buy the lesser wines in 2009 and back fill and buy leftover 1er and Grand Crus from the exciting, beguiling, frisky, fresh 2008 vintage, where the steps up between the different quality levels is far more pronounced and being cheaper, thus worth fighting for the better wines.

Red or White?

A difficult question…

… On face value and across the board, one would be best served buying reds, a select few whites, and staying well clear of Chablis. However, with all things Burgundian, it is not that simple. The vintage was hot and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do not take kindly to too much heat. They like cooler, wetter climes and this may be one of the reasons why Burgundy is generally considered a mine-field when on wishes to purchase these wines. The heat is not kind to these grapes and they do not enjoy overly hot years.

To put it bluntly, this is a vintage where one should buy the wines from those producers who usually make highly structured and what at times can seem like astringent, acidity and verging on green wines. In a vintage like this, one should purchase wines from those who pick their wines early.

Who do I think has done well and done badly?

On the whole, I think that for a general overview, the following villages have performed well on the whole, but I will temper this later on:

Nuits St Georges

This list is still however putting things very simply. At the end of the day, this is Burgundy and its pitfalls are more evident than at any time that I have tasted these samples. So I will now go into more depth about who I think has done well and why.

going in deeper!

As I’ve already pointed out that those wines where the grapes were picked early and kept their freshness had better balance and structure, and will likely age well, along the lines of the best 2002s and 2005s, but with some wonderful mineral/vineyard characters that were not so prevalent in 2005, but more like 2002 in the better sights where top quality wines have been produced. For the whites, it is more producer specific and within the producers I found that different producers have done better with some sights than others. Again it is those producers who pick early and maintain a lively freshness who have performed well. For the reds, whilst those producers who pick early have done well across the various different wines they produced, and done well in areas where others are too ripe or have strong alcohol levels.

There are three vineyard plots that I think have produced excellent wines across the board, even from those producers who make wines in a style that is not particularly suited to this particular vintage, because they look for a rounder, riper style of wine. The first vineyard that I feel has done particularly well is Clos Prieur, a village level vineyard in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin. The two wines from this vineyard that to me really stood out, were those produced by, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet and Domaine Dupont-Tisserandot. Both were delicate, expressive finely balanced, and certainly showing very well… They should age beautifully in and understated way. However, even from producers who make riper wines their Clos Prieurs are up there as some of the best wines. This is certainly true for the otherwise disappointing Drouhin-Laroze (bar another 1er Cru) and the highly talented Marc Roy’s winemaker Alexandrine Roy who made some lovely wines, but compared to her stupendous 08s, these are just a bit ripe but still enjoyable.

The second Vineyard that I believe has done fantastically well, and even seems to have outshone some of it’s neighbors in what has to be one of the most consistent and appealing villages this vintage is Les Vaucrains a premier Cru that sits alongside Les St Georges and Les Pruliers as the triumvirate of Nuits St Georges Vineyards that one could argue should be promoted to Grand Cru status. The wines from Nuits as a whole are deep, structured, rustic but with appealing fruit. So what makes Les Vaucrains special this year? Firstly, everyone who has these vines, made a stunning wine, with Henri Gouges and Robert Chevillon being at the top of that tree. That is not to say that the other vineyards and producers haven’t done well, but just to say that these are amazing compositions amongst a group of great wines from the village. Domaine de l’Arlot have also made some lovely wines, and again their Clos de la Porrets St Georges is along with that of Henri Gouges really super, but it just doesn’t quite hit the heights of Les Vaucrains. For value, certainly look out for L’Arlots wine made from young vines from Clos de la Porrets St Georges!

Finally, my vineyard of choice is Les Pezerolles, a premier Cru vineyard from Pommard. Whilst Pommard and Volnay have produced some absolutely brilliant wines across the board, whether they be made by Marquis d’Angerville, Domaine de Courcel or Domaine de Montille who make my favorite wines generally, it was the subtle elegance of Domaine de Montille’s Pommard 1er Cru Pezerolles which got my heart racing. A combination of this vineyard and de Montille’s winemaking style means that you get pretty fruit, balance and a delicate elegance that is lacking throughout much of this vintage. Not a wine to be missed out on here.

This is not to say that there aren’t a whole host of wines that are not worth tacking the punt on, and that other vineyards or producers should be ignored. But these are the ones who struct a tune with me… Let me put it this way, there are pretty attractive wines across the board, and it is a vintage that lots of people will enjoy. And it would be too long to go into any serious length about individual producers and other vineyards, but for specific appellations, you could buy anything from those vineyards above, and you won’t be disappointed. So below, you will find a list of wines to look out for. Be they white or red!!

Wines to look out for

Anything from Nuits St Georges produced by Henri Gouges, Robert Chevillon and Domaine de l’Arlot in fact anything from Nuits will do you proud.
Marquis D’Angerville, Volnay 1er Cru Champans & Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs
Simon Bize, Savigny les Beaunes 1er Cru Vergelesses Rouge
Darviot Perrin, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Bondues Rouge
Faiveley, Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru, Hospices de Beaune produced Clos de la Roche, Cuvee Georges Kritter
Fontaine Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers Blanc, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets Blanc, & Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes & Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cherbaudes
Domaine de Montille, Pommard 1er Cru Pezerolles & Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru although all their wines including the Chateau de Puligny wines are all really super.
Maison Rocche de Bellene, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru but all their wines represent superb value.
Domaine Sigaut, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Noirots & 1er Cru Fuees
Domaine Taupenot Merme, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru La Combe d’Orveau
Anything from Patrick Javillier as he has toned down the oak!
Marc Roy’s red wine in particular Clos Prieur.
Anything from Thibault Liger Belair if you want pretty approachable wines that don’t break the bank, and are a great introduction to Burgundian Pinot Noir.
Domaine Des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru Monopole
The red wines of Tupinier-Bautista
Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot, Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots
Domaine Bruno Clavelier, Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts Vieilles Vignes, Vosne Romanee ‘La Combe Brûlée,& Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Corbeaux Vieilles Vignes
Anything from Ghislaine Barthod & Mugneret-Gibourg
Anything from Hudelot-Noellat & Francois Lamarche
Any of Frederic Esmonin’s 1er Cru wines
Anything from Patrice Rion or Daniel Rion in particular the Bons Batans Bourgogne Rouge from Patrice.
Meo-Camuzet’s Bourgogne Rouge & Fixin 1er Cru
Domaine de la Vougeraie, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru
any white wine from Domaine Saumaize-Michelin with particular note made of their four different single vineyard Pouilly-Fuisses.
Jean-Jacques Girard’s red wines from the Cotes de Beaune
Rossignol-Trapet’s Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos Prieur & Grand Cru Chambertin
Dupont-Tisserandot’s Gevrey-Chambertin ‘Clos Prieur’ & Grand Cru Mazis Chambertin
Drouhin-Laroze, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Craipillot
Beaunes and Grand Crus from Bouchard Pere et Fils

So there you have it… Those are my thoughts and suggestions based on the barrel samples that I tasted! One does however have to remember that these are unfinished samples and you may wish to wait until these are bottled and delivered before you purchase or make more informed judgements. This is certainly. Difficult vintage due to the hype and many of these wines may have sold out and need to be purchased on the secondary market, but that may lead to not having to fight for allocations…

Regardless for more information, do not hesitate to contact

Happy Drinking



  1. I’ve not had the opportunity to taste the roll call of illustrious producers you’ve listed but I did visit Jean Jacques Girard and thought the wines were very pure with lovely Pinot expression. I thought Daniel Rion’s wines were good also, if a little difficult to taste. A-F Gros grands crus were the best I tasted and her Richebourg was exceptional.

    • You are lucky to have been down… I hardly ever go anywhere other than Piemonte and Japanese vineyards these days. I would have loved to taste from barrel rather than after the samples had clunked around in a truck before being opened in dusty old rooms.

      I have dust allergies and asthma so could really feel the dusted lingering in the air at some venues… It wouldn’t cost much to get a professional clean a few days before the tastings. But like Piemontese tannins, once you have your nose covered in dust, you only pick out the flavours underneath… So not a pointless effort in the end.

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