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2005 Domaine Jean Monnier & Fils Pommard-Argillieres Premier Cru
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- Cellar 2 - 3 years (2012-2013)
- ABV 13%
- Closure: Cork
It’s often been said that the greatest flavour experiences in the world of wine come from Burgundy - in particular red Burgundy - as well as some of the greatest disappointments. Red Burgundy has always been about juxtaposing conflicting aromas and flavours in order to create the most ellusive of profiles: Power and persistence coupled with complexity and finesse. Combine these elements with Pinot's prized 'flavour wave' which, like a peacocks tail, slowly fans out and builds momentum until it totally engulfs the palate, and it’s no wonder that once experienced, the search for great Red Burgundy can become an obsession. It’s a pursuit that requires patience and a thick wallet. Presented with the possibility of a direct shipment (making the landed prices more attractive), we were encouraged to ‘do Burgundy’ yet again. And for once, tasting both reds and whites yielded heartening results, leading to the present offer.
For those new to Burgundy, some introductory notes on this enigmatic region are warranted. Any portrait, no matter how sketchy must consider the impact of past, the people and the peculiar terroir that moulds these wines.
Out of all the French wine regions , Burgundy is probably the most revered by wine lovers and remains the model for all terroir driven viticultures around the world. The 100 Burgundian appellations are the heritage of a long history of winemaking. Archeological findings from the 1st century AD in the lower part of Gevrey as well as the writings from Eumenius the Roman panegyrist in the early 4th century are proof of this long standing relationship with the culture of grapes. However it was under the monastic orders of the Benedictines in the 6th century AD , the Cistercians in the early middle ages as well as the powerful influence of the dukes of Burgundy, that the vineyards not only gained fame all over Europe but also the hierarchy of vineyards was established. (The influence of the latter is reflected today in many of the more traditional Burgundy labels depicting ‘coats of arms’.) Religious in their approach to labour and Aristotelian in their culture, they were able to distinguish the best sites for viticulture, revealing the “mosaic” of Burgundian terroirs better as known as “Climats”, a concept even more specific than that of terroir, in that it truly expresses the singularity of a geo-climatic entity, where the physical constraints have been ameliorated by human inventiveness. In other words, the vigneron is part of the picture and remains inseparable.
Further to this is the choice of cultivars that were chosen in the region’s history. Vignerons did not always favour Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, often for reasons related to down to earth economics. Aligote, Pinot Beurot (gris), Pinot Blanc , Sacy , Melon De Bourgogne, Gamay or even Sauvignon (like in St Bris) were also part of the equation. It was only in 1395 with the edict of Philippe Le Hardi, that Pinot Noir was finally imposed as the cultivar of choice for red wines. As for Chardonnay (which by the way is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc), it naturally imposed itself over time in vineyards due to its versatility and adaption to the different climatic conditions, from Maconnais in the south to Chablis in the north.
Surprisingly, modern scientific criteria for soil, vineyard and grape analysis have largely confirmed the early classifications of Burgundy’s sites, which were the basis for the establishment of the 100 appellations. Within these, as in other French wine regions, the pyramidal model is used as follows, with percentage of planted surfaces:
The total area in production today is 27636 Ha (approximately the size of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria), divided into five greater sub regions: Chablisien, Cotes de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais. Of these vineyards, 61% are dedicated to white wines and 31% to reds (including a small production of rose) and 8% sparkling.
As the structure above suggests, the further you climb the less wine will be available, as not only the surfaces planted are smaller, but growing conditions become more restrictive. The rarity of some crus, often coincides with a reputation for commanding extraordinary prices as in the case of the famous vineyards of the Romanee-Conti or Montrachet (opening prices can typically exceed AU$1000/ bottle). Fortunately, it‘s not always necessary to win at the casino to score value and individual wines out of the region. Many village wines and premier crus offer tremendous value, displaying an obvious step up from the regional and sub regional appellations. In the last decade we’ve repeatedly tried to include a wider Burgundy selection in our stores, sometimes outlaying thousands of dollars on samples. For the most part, we encountered wines which we simply could not put our hand on our heart and recommend to our customers. Compared to New Zealand, the US and even Australia, the value for money simply didn’t compete.
This time round the price / quality ratio is realistic, and the collection offers an excellent representation of the diversity of nuanced styles that Burgundy is capable of, many of which have being the source of inspiration for winemakers the world over. For those wine lovers already bitten by the Burgundy bug, these wines will perhaps appeal the most. However, for those contemplating setting out on their own Burgundy adventure, or just wondering what all the fuss is about, this is a great place to start.
Tasting note: Anthony Hanson, in the book 'Burgundy' states, 'Great Burgundy smells of shit. It is most surprising, but something the French recognized long ago. 'Ca sent Ca merde' and 'Ca sent purin', being common expressions on the Cote. Not always but frequently there is smell of decaying matter, vegetable or animal, about them.' This Pommard is a case in point. Tasting the wine elicited descriptors such as ‘dynamic lifter’ and ‘chicken shit’ which could be more politely termed ‘earthy’. Semi translucent dark crimson red colour with crimson mauve hue. The nose displays an earthy leather top note followed by some dark cherry, violets, spice and cedar notes. Light to medium weight and quite dry on the finish, the palate displays flavours of dark cherry, spice, cedar and some gamey earth like characters. Fine grained but dryish tannins with aftertaste of spicy dark cherry, cedar and earth. Cellar 2-3 years. A delightfully idiosyncratic and ‘rustic’ style. Alc 13%