“Would you like to taste something else, something older maybe?”.
Depending on your location, the time of day and a few other factors, the emotional effect of these words range from the memory of: “another 200 lines, Fowler”, at worse, to: “would you like a brief glimpse of Heaven, Joss?” at best. Tasting trips are hard work, and if you’ve done more than a hundred cask samples in a day then what is often most in mind is a cold lager, not another wine. At some properties, the “sadly we’re already 15 minutes late for our next appointment…” just rolls off the tongue. At others, the older bottles are the reason we’re here: not just at the domaine, but here: on the planet, breathing the air. It’s what we’ve been waiting for.
These words chez Michel Lafarge are at the latter end of the scale. For two reasons. Mr Lafarge doesn’t faff about in either his winemaking or what he opens. He’s knocking eighty: all about him are children. And, knocking eighty, he knows what he’s doing.
On our last visit to Mister Lafarge, in November last year, we tasted his range of 08s, which are proper, grown up wines. If you like proper Burgundy, Burgundy that rewards a decade in the cellar, these are the wines for you. His 08s are excellent across the board, and he remains the only grower I can think of who makes a decent Passetoutgrains. Get up as far as his Clos des Chenes, and you’re right at the top of the tree.
Tasting over, the magic words come: “Voulez vous deguster quelque chose un peu plus vieux?” (or thereabouts). Oh yeah. We kick off with 1996 Volnay, Vendanges Selectionees. At thirteen years old this is just starting to open up. I had a bottle a couple of years back which I thought spot on, but time ticks slower in the cellar here: the bottle hasn’t moved more than twenty yards since it was filled. Impressive. But just an amouse bouche as the real one comes soon: 1976 Volnay, Clos des Chenes. Five years younger than me but in much better nick, and a better seducer I’d say too.
What did it taste like? Well. Top end mature Burgundy. Or, if you’re a bit better, want more detail, it tasted like thirty-year old Burgundy from the Cote de Beaune from someone who knew what they were doing. Sublime, rich, silky, with a mouth-coating elegance of ripe, meaty, “animal” maturity that just, well, I find it hard to describe.
It’s almost sexual, but not in the way Big Bob might describe a sexy fruitbomb of young Pomerol: there’s much more to it than bouncy flesh. If a young Charmes-Chambertin from Roumier (I’m specifically thinking the 2008) is Kiera Knightley (actually it’s a bit more fleshy) then this is Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. This is for grown ups. And, just thinking about it I’m already in my red Alfa on the way to the hotel.