First off I should confess and set the scene. Tasting is subjective, and I was in an horrifically bad mood when I tasted these. A couple of the whites that we tasted first and, more importantly, the company in which I tasted lifted the black clouds but, in the same way that crap weather can mute cask samples, crap moods will affect your senses. Or at least they do mine. Black dog barking.
2004 red Burgundy (I’ve written up the whites but red goes first). Why are so many of the wines just so, well, nasty? Maybe my mood was appropriate. Maybe I was method tasting; really getting into my role. Possible. I’m generally a fan, or at least on the same side, as the rubbish vintage. The rubbish vintages (a) tend to separate the men from the boys and (b) throw up some very pleasing surprises. Rubbish vintages also tend to magnify the influences of terroir which, if you ask me, is what this whole thing is about. But not with these bottles or, at least, not in this mood.
I tasted a load of 2004 clarets in February courtesy of my friend Mr B. And whilst these were for the most part disappointing, none were truly bad. None were aggressively poor. What was disappointing was the whole “average” nature of the wines. There was no excitement. And bottles of wine that cost more than twenty, fifty or a hundred pounds a bottle should be exciting. But many were proficient and many gave a bit of pleasure. Nearly all were competent.
Back to 2004 red Burgundy and not only is there very little excitement, the character of the wines reminds me of the very worst parts of my own. These are negative, nasty wines. They’re in a bad mood. With a few exceptions, they have the black dogs about them.
2004 Charmes-Chambertin, Bachelet
Proper colour. Crunchy green Pinot nose. Pure and clean. A hint of green bite to it? And a dry austerity, but this is very good. Am I imagining a bit of pinch? This is good, proper wine and I want to swallow it. And it’s getting better and the rest of the group rates it.
2004 Charmes-Chambertin, Rousseau
More here but there is a hint of something dirty. A bit muddy. Indeed that sort of mud on your shoe that you’re not quite sure about. And a bit more in the mouth. Some gloss. A polished turd. Not for me.
2004 Charmes-Chambertin, Serafin
More chunk here and it seems cleaner. Some gloss. And this tastes of wine, of Gevrey. And some mocha. Maybe lacks a little depth and it is a bit short but there is some pleasure here.
2004 Charmes-Chambertin, Dujac
More pointed here. Some savoury lift. Some spice. Noticeably cooler than the rest. I like the savoury edge. Stems. And long. The most interesting so far for me. Some fruit here but the pinch, the green, catches up and overtakes.
2004 Griotte-Chambertin, Ponsot
Not much here on the nose. Almost lost in the glass. Instant coffee. Initially rich and glossy in the mouth though what is underneath isn’t quite right. A bit chunky. Broad. Loose knit and the coffee comes back. And paint-like acidity underneath. A very sharp chair with some ill-fitting cushions. Paint. No.
2004 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru, Clos St Jacques, Rousseau
More poise here. More focus. Slightly sandy in character. And the pinch again. But a step up in the mouth. Some gloss. Some clean sweetness. And then savoury, dry and clean. Decent wine. Carries the vintage like a leg iron.
2004 Clos Vougeot, Hudelot-Noellat
A bit of sweet barrel on the nose. A touch of gloss. Clean. A touch gamey, notes one of the old boys. And this continues in the mouth until the acidity bounces in like an unloved relative. And the acidity has a character to it that I can’t quite place. Aggressive. Then getting better, then not. No. These are hard work. None of these wines are smiling.
2004 Clos Vougeot, Thibault Liger-Belair (if any of these are going to smile it should be this one)
Bready nose. Frazzles. Big. Bouncy. Weight. And this follows in the mouth. “Like walking into the back of a butcher’s shop”. Lacks breadth. Weird.
2004 Clos de la Roche VV, Ponsot
Dry and slightly sandy nose. And some crunchy mocha in the mouth and slightly wonky then the acidity kicks in. Like an empty silk package: glossy on the outside but nothing inside. Bovril. Nothing here. Cheap coffee and Bovril. Beats the Griotte.
2004 Bonnes Mares, de Vogue
Clean and pure on the nose. Cool and restrained. Pea soup says the other old boy. Falls away in the mouth. A little thin. The nose has promise then, whilst there is nothing wrong with this, there’s not a great deal here. One of the better wines of the evening but this is relative.
2004 Musigny, de Vogue
More depth here on the nose. A touch of gloss. A hint of toffee ripeness. And in the mouth this again has balance and is inoffensive if a tiny bit worked. Not a great deal of depth though there is some pleasure here.
2004 Echezeaux, Grivot
Clean and there is a hint of character here. Pure. And, aside from a slightly bitter edge, this is complete. Poised. A little angular. One of the best of the evening.
2004 Echezeaux, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti
Clean and some weight here. A touch of mint? Some polish to this. And in the mouth this is a class apart. Maybe lacks a tad of weight and length but this is Grand Vin, and the only one of the evening. And goes on and on and the grand cru depth shows. Persists. Jammy weight; sweet. Lovely. GV.
The food was good if a little on the slow side. And I repeat: how can anyone who lives or has lived in London eat pigeon?
Company: excellent. A bunch of chaps that can taste. And yes: football requires more skill than rugby, which is essentially a game for toffs.
My mood: lifted by a couple of the whites, and more so by the company, the clouds came back nonetheless. Not one of these wines comes in at less than £100 per bottle. Some £250 or so. The DRC £500. This sort of money can just about get you a week in the sunshine. It can easily get you a good night out. My point being is that wine at this sort of price should be an experience. It should stick: that lunch by the beach, that sort of thing. A couple of wines aside, tasting this lot was like getting a parking ticket.
Particular thanks go to Mr Measured for hosting and to Mr Duvault-Blochet for the DRC. The latter’s notes and summary will make for interesting comparison.