Will Hargrove of Corney & Barrow kindly invited me to a vertical tasting of Clos de Tart. 2013 back to 1996, with only the 1998 missing. Will is one of the wine trade’s true gentlemen, by which I mean he is of good and courteous conduct, rather than implying that he sports a silly beard and a load of 1950s style tattoos. Will is also a company man: Corney & Barrow agency wines will always get an extra point or three from Will, which is fair dos, and occasionally amusing.
This sort of tasting is right up my street. There is only one way to judge wine properly from an academic point of view, and that is to do it comparatively. It is easier to be objective when you are comparing wine “a” to wine “b” to wine “c”.
Clos de Tart is at the left hand end, as you look up the slope, of the Morey St Denis grand crus, with the Clos des Lambrays on its right. On its left, on the Chambolle side, is Bonnes Mares. And, in the same way that salesmen will tell you that the Clos St Jacques in Gevrey or Les Amoureuses in Chambolle really should be grand, rather than merely premier cru, the more cynical Burgophile might suggest that all three of Clos des Lambrays, Clos de Tart and Bonnes Mares, shouldn’t really make the cut. This was a chance to find out, though to be honest I’m still undecided.
Core to the tasting was Sylvain Pitiot. Recently retired, these were his vintages of Clos de Tart. I have tasted with Mr Pitiot at the domaine, and it was a joy. He is a cerebral, almost schoolmasterly man, and our tasting – almost ten years ago – sticks in my mind as one of the best tasting experiences that I have enjoyed.
Burgundy’s vineyards are ranked by soil: ownership is too complex to do it by “brand”, though the flaw in this method is illustrated by the previously mentioned Clos St Jacques. Take Mr Rousseau out of the equation and CSJ is very much a premier, rather than grand, cru. And for the most part the appellations are correct. There is a depth, a shine, an energy to grand cru Burgundy that shows in the wines. It comes up in my notes from time to time; an affirmation of the order. In this tasting it only came up followed by a question mark.
But, with at least half of the wines, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something more to come, some unrealised potential. Will Jacques Devauges – Mr Pitiot’s replacement – get more out of the vines? Or – and this is what I really think – is this a vineyard whose wines need time? The older wines were delicious. The younger wines which were, technically, better should blossom. And maybe they’ll have that grand cru notch to them when they do.
Anyway, the notes. The wines were shown old to young. I can’t help – I really can’t – my contrarian nature and went the other way. I may have missed something as a result: perhaps a gentle crescendo in the quality, and there is a clear notch up in the technical quality of the wines from 2008 on. On the flip side I maybe saw something that those in the queue may have missed, and if you go against the flow you don’t have to queue.
2013 Clos de Tart
Sweet and very attractive slightly childish Chambolle fruit on the nose. Tasty. Sweet. Spice and weight and more savoury in the mouth. A touch austere. Rather good. Saline finish. Very 2013 in style (and I like the best 2013s) though stricter than most.
2012 Clos de Tart
Immediately more weight on the nose. The chunk of the vintage is here. Some energetic fruit . There is weight here and this is a little foursquare. Needs time. Serious. Charpenté. Lots of structure, though it’s outside, rather than underneath, the fruit. One for the cellar.
2011 Clos de Tart
Lighter, loose-knit, and immediately delicate, rather than thin, on the nose. That 2011 “pinch” on the nose, which follows in the mouth. I may have got this vintage wrong (I rated it from barrel) and I think Bill may have had it right (ladybirds).
2010 Clos de Tart
Something here on the nose. It’s not easy to penetrate but there is some quality hiding here. Not jumping out of the glass. But all here. Some purity. Crystalline. And still a great deal of structure and that foursquare character. This will need time. Good.
2009 Clos de Tart
Punchy nose. Ripe. And the best yet in the mouth though this isn’t fat, and there is a hole in the middle of the ripeness, like a Brie that looks ripe but is firm in the middle. A funny stage? Certainly the best yet. Still that austerity. This is serious juice and, again, one for the cellar. Potentially very good.
2008 Clos de Tart
The first hint of some development here. Very attractive, if only because this is the first wine that is even close to open. I want to drink it. Developed in the mouth too – just at the turn from fruit to farmyard – some lift, yet still that structure, that austerity, which is almost claret-liken yet without the weight. Good.
2007 Clos de Tart
I wasn’t convinced by this bottle though others disagreed. A touch of dirt to it – not unattractive but a bit farmyard-like and this followed in the mouth. Jury out.
2006 Clos de Tart
Sweet and pure nose. Pure cherry lift. But, if my memory serves me correctly, I rated Morey as being a success in a year that is sort of lost on the vintage charts: maybe my brain is doing some predictive-tasting. I still wonder what is underneath the polish. This is good but not as good as it should be.
2005 Clos de Tart
From magnum. This has some punch to it though is not totally focussed on the nose. Very, very promising. There is something here. Easily the best wine in the room at this stage. Depth, length. This is very good, and hints at its grand cru status. And goes on and on. Very, very good.
2004 Clos de Tart
My notes on the last tasting I did of the 2004 vintage can be seen HERE. 2004 Clos de Tart was much better than I thought it would be but the bar is subterranean.
Some sweetness here, more than I expected. All here. Though there is a touch of cardboard on the nose. Much better than I expected, though not great.
2003 Clos de Tart
Some heat here on the nose. Some spirit. Some mint, some licorice? Very funky in the mouth, and all over the shop. Weird. Unidentifiable.
2002 Clos de Tart
Restrained nose: that soft, cushioned 2002 character. Muted, in that the soft, or half-blow, pedal is being pressed. But there is something here and it’s beautiful in the mouth. Good, and almost ready to go. Still a hint of austerity. Good wine.
2001 Clos de Tart
Very “genuine” on the nose: you know what you are getting, and it’s good. In the mouth thisis classic, proper, old-fashioned Burgundy. This is rather good, and I could drink an awful lot of it. Still that grand cru question mark at the back of my mind but this is very good.
2000 Clos de Tart
This is more open than the 2001 and ready to go. And inviting, and I want to drink it. “A point”. Proper wine. Mature. Sweet and silky. To drink now it’s this or the 2001 and this is the silkier, the easier wine. Long. Open. Very good.
1999 Clos de Tart
These are now starting to show a little on the nose. This is open, and real wine. This has meat, weight, and a sense of place. It’s not singing; does it need more time? The wine merchants’ excuse… but may well be true. Good.
1997 Clos de Tart
Open and inviting again. And a sense of typicité. And rather lovely in the mouth. Very Morey, and very good. One for the table.
1996 Clos de Tart
Something here. Open and mature. Depth. There is an intricacy to this that could easily be overlooked. Excellent in the mouth. Really lovely. Some punch, some lift. All here. Excellent.
If I were to score these then the best three or so wines would be 95 or so. The 2005 might touch 96. The weaker wines are in the high 80s. Having read my notes again, and reflected a bit, I am convinced that the vineyard, or maybe Mr Pitiot’s style, is one that needs time to show its best.
Mr Hargrove’s three bottles is HERE. Thank you again, Sir.