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Inside Bordeaux
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·Barton defends Bordeaux pricing
·A tale of two Bordeaux
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·California versus Bordeaux
·Vintage of the century? Already?
·Vintage Bordeaux: Oz Clarke on the red route
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·Some of the best wines in the Medoc
·Great Sauternes May Be Great Bargain of Bordeaux

Colmar. Nice city.


Colmar. Nice city.

Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.


Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.


Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru d'Alsace.Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru d'Alsace.
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Burgundy 2004 a fine classic vintage

Burgundy 2004 a fine classic vintage
Burgundy and meReporting on a great vintage is a piece of cake. The vintage speaks for itself, and the press have already preempted what you want to say. All one needs to add are some tasting notes and appropriate echoing comments.
Reporting on a vintage about which both lay and wine press have been disparaging is considerably more difficult.

Recommending a great vintage is no sweat. Recommending a less than great vintage imposes a greater responsibility.

2004 was such a vintage - coming after 2002 and 2003 and immediately succeeded by 2005, it was already fated to be overshadowed and neglected. Add to that the bad weather reports and the wine market has already made up its mind. As Christophe Roumier (Domaine George & Christophe Roumier) commented when I visited him in June: '2004 received a bad report because of the bad weather conditions. Writers wrote about 2004 before wine was made!'

Which illustrates another point. Wine lovers who for various reasons are unable to taste barrel samples of the latest vintage have to depend on lay and wine press reports for guidance on the wines to look for and to buy. That is common sense - use the experts. But that raises several questions: (1) who are the experts; (2) who are the experts you can trust; and (3) what are the personal preferences of each expert? Repeated scrutiny of a writer's tasting notes will reveal where he comes from!

The earliest pointer to the quality of a vintage is the weather during the growing season. 2004 was very early on relegated to second rank by the reports of bad weather conditions. ('Very challenging,' one grower said.) Flowering was late, and it rained in summer. There were problems with diseases - oidium, mildew, and botrytis. Hailstorms in August added to the misery of the vintners, and general pessimism reigned.

Fortunately from late August through September the weather turned. From then on through September there were warm days with high levels of luminosity, cool north winds (always a great help), very little rain and cool nights. This saved the vintage. Those who picked as late as possible made the best wines as their fruit then had sufficient ripeness and correct levels of phenolic ripeness, always very important, even more so than straight ripeness and sugar levels.

The wines

Allen Meadows (of web page Burghound fame) gave a very simple succinct message, echoed with varying emphasis by other highly respected writers: 'Variable, uneven quality, but generally very fine vintage that offers exceptional transparency.' How does this translate in interpreting and understanding the wines?

My tastings of the 2004s were spread out over three sessions - May and November 2005 and June 2006.

I liked the vintage - I liked its purity of fruit, its transparency and delicacy, and its terroir typicity. Contrary to general reporting, there was plenty of ripe to very ripe fruit and richness. There was good balancing of acidity and minerality, and an overall impression of elegance and complexity. My initial overall opinion after the first session (May 2005) was that it was a very fine classic vintage, eschewing power and muscle in favour of breed and great style.

Subsequent sessions in November 2005 and the wrap-up session in June 2006 confirmed this initial opinion. Mind you, in June 2006 the 2004s had competition from the 2005s, which made it an intriguing and fascinating comparative tasting. The 2005s with their undoubtedly greater richness and power, against the more minerally classic 2004s. I felt that after 20 years I was finally beginning to understand and thereby to recognise what Burgundy is really all about - transparency, purity, subtlety, elegance and finesse. It was Francois Mitjaville (Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf) who taught me that power does not have to be muscular and powerful. 'Power of flavour, balance and harmony.'

The overall variability of the vintage has been strongly emphasised in other reports. I am unable to attest to this, perhaps because my visits were limited to those at the highest level - Domaines Romanee Conti, Comte de Vogue, J F Mugnier, Comtes Lafon, Bonneau du Martray, Dujac, Leflaive, Ponsot, Armand Rousseau, Faiveley, Jadot, Drouhin, Michel Gros, Anne Gros, A F Gros, Georges Roumier, Etienne Montille, and Robert Arnoux. Which illustrates the most important factor to consider when buying the 2004s and indeed any wine: Follow the winemaker/grower. In Burgundy, more so than in any other wine region, this is paramount.

Some interesting winemakers' comments on the 2004:

Etienne Montille (Domaine Montille and Chateau de Puligny Montrachet): 'Lovely simple wines with purity and freshness.'

Frederic Mugnier (J F Mugnier): 'More vibrancy and exciting when young; and more approachable.'

Francois Millet (Comte De Vogue): 'Emphasised the minerality of 2004s. The August cold preserved the acidity and September saved the vintage.'

Jean-Charles le Bault de la Moriniere (Bonneau du Martray): 'Some cuvees needed a few batonnages to restore more minerality and freshness.'

Anne-Claude Leflaive (Domaine Leflaive): 'Very high acidity of 2004 like the 2001.'

Jacque Seysses (Dujac): 'Lovely vintage, like 2001 but not as good, a Burgundy for connoisseurs.'

Aubrey de Villaine (DRC): '2004 is elegant, transparent and pure.'

Paschal Lachaux (Robert Arnoux): '2004 has more true pinot character, more typicity.'

Charles Rousseau (Domaine Armand Rousseau): '2004 is very elegant, fruity, but not for long keeping. Good but not great, good acidity and structure, more typicity.'

Christophe Roumier (Georges Roumier): 'Liked very much the acidity of 2004, but tannins less ripe.'

One final note about Burgundy 2004. The best wines are lovely, they will be ready earlier than 2002, 2003, and 2005. They will also be more readily available as the whole world is not going to make a beeline for them as they did with the 2002 and 2003, and most importantly, they will be less expensive.

N K Yong - August 18, 2006 ; The Business Times
Posted on Tuesday, November 21 @ 19:36:02 MST by pierre
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Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.
Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.

Colmar. Nice city.
Colmar. Nice city.


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