Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Les Chaumees 2004, Jean-Noel Gagnard

Cracking on with the premier cru project, we drank this white Chassagne earlier in the week.

We didn't decant it, but poured it straight from the bottle. It had had about two hours in the fridge. It was a pale, classic-looking colour and on the nose quite rich, nutty and buttery. On the palate, again quite full and my notes say "tasty", while G detected lemon wax and commented on how dry it was on the finish, which had exceptional length. We felt it was ready to go and wouldn't benefit from further cellaring. Overall, this was polished, very classic white burgundy, but somehow it just didn't blow us away so we gave it an 8. As time went on, it rose in our estimation and ended up a a high 8, but nevertheless still an 8.

Three things give me cause for concern here.

1. Afterwards, I checked how much it had cost. £39 - ouch! We had felt it was a £30 bottle. Needless to say, it came from the Wine Society, not renowned for their competitive pricing as demonstrated in the previous post.

2. Clive Coates (aka the Bible) gives this domaine a star, signifying good things.

3. Typing it up on the pc spreadsheet just now, I see that we had a different Chassagne from the same domaine back in March 2008 for similar money and gave it a 10! Argh! You will recall that 10 is "heavenly choirs singing, sell your granny to get some more" on the scale whereas 8 is merely "very nice drop, thanks" or words to that effect.

What went wrong? We've controlled for producer, but the variables of vineyard, vintage and decanting all remain.

Vineyard. Looking at a map of Chassagne, I can see that Les Chaumees is at the far northern end and is relatively high up the slope. The other Chassagne we had, En Cailleret, is in the middle of the premier cru vineyards and not quite as high up the slope. So it's quite likely that En Cailleret is a slightly better vineyard, based on the Yves Darviot principle that the best place to be is halfway up the slope.

Vintage. It's always difficult to sum up vintages but neither 2001 nor 2004 is regarded as a great vintage for white burgundy. I've just checked a vintage chart which gives 2001 a 7 and 2004 an 8, which would suggest that Les Chaumees should have been better than the En Cailleret, but these vintage charts are only broad generalisations. A related point is that we drank the 2001 in March 2008 when it would have been 6.5 years old, while we drank the 2004 in 2010 when it was only 6 years old. Not much difference there.

Decanting. I think this is where we got it wrong on this occasion. Reading my notes on the En Cailleret, I recorded that "We started drinking after it had been decanted for about 20 min. It kept getting better and by 90 min was incredible." The fact that Les Chaumees also noticeably improved as time went on also indicates that it would have benefited from at least an hour in the decanter. Damn it.

The question now is whether to stump up the readies to buy another bottle to check... perhaps I'll wait until another vintage comes up. In the meantime, I shall be watching out for this domaine, and I shall be remembering to decant everything in future!

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