A few years back I came across winehog.org. It’s creator, Steen Öhman, had picked up on something I had written for my then employers (I still wake up angry, BTW) about a bottle (well, two, actually) of 1929 Musigny that I had drunk with Bernard Repolt, Nice Guy Eddie and a bunch of other guys, in the remarkable surroundings of Remoissenet HQ.
Now: I’ll be honest. I don’t really read much of what other people write about wine anymore or, rather, I don’t read reviews, largely because so many of them are tosh. At best, scores and reviews are subjective. At their worst they are unqualified, political, incorrect and self-serving on the part of the author. So some new bloke writing about Burgundy is like a new brand of paint as far as I’m concerned. But your man Steen goes deep, mostly with maps like this:
If you are going to go deep then Burgundy is a good destination. Most people say that Burgundy is all about grower, but there is much more to it than that. An alternative view, maybe, is that Burgundy is all about where it is from. That it’s all about vineyard. This is where Steen has me hooked. If there is a corner of any given vineyard that tastes slightly different from the rest of the appellation because a dog relieved itself there a couple of centuries ago, then Steen is probably the man who will know and, more importantly, who will illustrate. Burgundy, you see, is all about soil, about land, about terroir. The vineyard versus grower thing is a bit like Formula One: the best car always wins, and the best cars will in turn attract the best drivers. My point is that it begins with the soil.
I thank Steen for his answers, and also for his maps, which are, quite simply, the business.
What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?
My introduction to fine wine was Bordeaux and the first years of my wine interests were spend using my limited funds tasting good claret mainly from the 1980s. It was great fun but I was not seduced or enchanted by a single bottle until I enjoyed an ethereal example of Chateau Palmer 1978 back in 1990. A good friend and fellow student brought this bottle from his small collection – and to this day I can almost recall the explosion of aromas that cascaded from the bottle and filled my small student quarters. The room was filled with the most complex matured claret notes .. it was a revelation to be honest. My destiny was set, stuck in a large format bottle it seems, whereas my friend got pinned in university as a professor. Today I rarely have the same out of the body experience and delight even when opening much better wines than the 1978 Palmer.
What was the first wine/bottle that took you closer to your maker?
One of the few disadvantages of tasting a lot of good bottles is that it takes more and more to impress and to make one go into orbit in utter delight and exaltation – it could otherwise create a Pink Floyd-ish moment!
For me quality is very important – but a wines ability to thrill, delight and offer hedonistic pleasure is what separates the hogs from the pigs so to speak.
I have therefore chosen a wine that gave me one of the greatest hedonistic experiences I have had during my travelling in Burgundy. The scene was Lameloise in Chagny and the year was 1999: back in the days when these wines were affordable, paid for in French Franc and, importantly, possible to find. A large dinner with plenty of good wines – and a good friend insisted that we should taste one more bottle of Jayer … the Henri Jayer Cros Parantoux 1988. To me the bouquet of this wine stand out as perhaps the most beautiful I have encountered – maturing back then, with cool and transparent red fruit and an explosion of spices. Not a dense and voluptuous wine – cool fruit, fine acidity and tannins – classic – and not what some or even I would call the perfect wine. I have been on the quest to find and repeat this experience ever since – as the rather cool effortless lightness, and display of terroir and complexity really is what have come to value in a Burgundy.
What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year? – OK, the past twelve months.
I have tasted a lot of wines this year – but the barrel samples tasted in Burgundy are merely, albeit often strong, indications of the finalised and bottled wine – and do not in my world qualify as candidates for this selection of three bottles.
Secondly, enjoying fully mature wines represents the pinnacle of wine experiences in my view. My choice is therefore a Domaine Dujac Clos St. Denis 1976 I had the privilege to taste in the summer of 2016. A true delight and almost surreal for the vintage with the bouquet and palate reminding me more of the 1978 vintage with its orange notes. In my view a perfect example offering delicate and complex red fruit, sous-bois and the filigree feeling of minerality from this fine terroir. Clos St Denis is in my view a slightly overlooked and very refined grand cru one that seems to do tremendously well in hot years like 1976 and 2015.
This is my selection of three memorable bottles – and sadly I missed a fourth question to find the space to mention a Mosel wine. I really adore the old-school Mosel Rieslings from the years before global warming elevated the sweetness. But since I’m only allowed to mention three wines I will conclude by saluting Wilhelm Haag: a truly great personality, winemaker and ambassador for the Mosel region. #1491 – thanks Wilhelm.
I thank Steen for his answers, and suggest you take a look at Winehog.