Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Stump the Somm" at DRC bottle tasting (Burgundy, France)

We had been down in the DRC barrel cellars for a while so the light seemed especially bright when we re-emerged from our temporary subterranean domicile. Our struggles to adjust to the light did not in any way diminish our high. We had just completed tasting-through the 2013 lineup from barrel and were ready to go talk about it over lunch. But wait. Not yet. Bernard said something and then began walking off into the distance. Peter said that we needed to follow him as the tasting was to continue at the estate's bottle storage facility which was housed in another building a little ways away. This was a welcome, though unanticipated, development. A crowner. A topper. Found money.

We followed Bernard down a few narrow streets for about 250 yards to our eventual destination. We entered through large wooden doors and then immediately stepped down into the obligatory cellar. Except this one was populated by dark, unlabeled bottles set into alcoves, with each alcove identified by the wine contained therein and the number of bottles in the stock.

We rolled by a number of these alcoves until we arrived at a dimly lit room -- which was also the terminal point of the cellar -- furnished with a solitary table positioned centrally and adorned with two candles on stands. Bernard laid his (now) straw basket on the table and disappeared. After a short while he re-appeared with three .375 ml unlabeled bottles which he placed on the table beside the straw basket. We were going to be blind-tasting the wines contained in these bottles and providing our conclusions as to the labels and vintages. We were okay with this. We had two "Somms" in our group.

As he was pouring the first wine, Bernard mentioned that it was from a great vintage where both the quantity and quality of the harvested grapes were high. The wine showed some stemminess along with floral notes and spice. Great complexity and a lengthy finish. Youthful. This wine was revealed to be a 1999 Grand Échézeaux and I do not recall anyone hitting that on the button.

The second bottle, according to Bernard, was from an exceptional vintage. It had a reductive nose which soon gave way to a savory complexity. Ron noted ripe fruit, elegance, and power. This wine had some age on it. Revealed to be the 1990 Grand Échézeaux and my notes do not indicate anyone jumping up and down because they nailed it.

The third bottle had apple-pear notes, a rich oiliness, honey, brown butter, hazelnut, almonds, caramel and a stemminess. I thought the acid level was low. This wine turned out to be a "ringer." It was a 2007 Bâtard-Montrachet, a wine of which the estate only produces 300 bottles for family consumption. Ron felt that it was the best Bâtard that he had ever had. I know that no one got this one right.

Bernard was having such a great time that he brought a fourth bottle to the table. While pouring, he described the wine as the product of a difficult vintage. It had a watery-gold color with a broad, pale rim. On the nose, molasses, brown sugar, caramel, a nuttiness, dates, figs, and mushrooms. Ron thought it had, additionally, tangerine and orange-rind notes. Balanced on the palate. This was a unique wine for both Ron and me. Raj thought that it was a 1977 Montrachet and provided the reasons for his conclusions. It was  a 1977 Montrachet. I was doubly impressed: first by the wine and then by Raj's recall.

Now Bernard had created a monster. We kept saying things like "encore" but he did not get the message. He began trudging purposefully towards the exit. We followed grudgingly. It was over. Now we could go to lunch and talk about our great experiences.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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