My annual October pilgrimage to Burgundy is the highpoint of my wine diary. This year, for the first time ever, I decided to break with tradition and just tackle the white wines on this trip, leaving the reds until the New Year. Rumours of tight, focussed, high acid, mineral-driven wines made this decision for me. Word on the street was that 2007 was a mediocre vintage, but as very few UK journalists seem to bother to go to Burgundy for any length of time these days, I was not listening to any unfounded prophesies of doom and gloom. It is also far better to get down there in person than to wait to pass judgement in London in January (as the majority of the trade seems to lazily do), when the samples are often ‘flat’ and uneven. Memories of the 2004 vintage are still strong in my mind and even stronger on my palate (as I drank a lot of 2004 whites on this trip and they looked delicious). This was, of course, another vintage that the commentators missed. I nicknamed 2004 ‘l’année du nez’ in my annual report on account of its aromatic purity – I am delighted that this assessment is now bearing fruit. It is a shame that a vintage is praised or damned solely on the quality of its red wines. I will not do this in this article. I will simply let you know just how good the 2007 vintage is for white wines. So with just the one grape variety to enjoy and only really half the mileage to cover I set off in very high spirits.
Chablis was the first stop and after a run of pretty good, if a little warm vintages, 2007 was set to be a true classic. Something that one shouldn’t afraid of in Chablis is high acidity and the vast majority of the wines are sensational, if very tight by modern standards. Vincent Dauvissat could hardly control his excitement as he showed me his wines. He pointed out that you cannot ‘make’ Chablis like this without having a dreary summer and then a burst of good weather in late August before harvest. That is not to say that you would ever wish for the level of worry that the 2007s caused these hardworking Burgundians, but it was, in every respect, a ‘miraculous’ ending to a vintage that looked like it was heading for disaster. Benoît Droin came up with the most memorable quote of the tour. Talking about his beautiful Grand Cru wines he said, ‘they are like big cars, accelerating and braking at the same time’. This image is spot on in my opinion and while a lot of growers talked about the similarity of their 2007 wines to the (‘missed’) 2004s, it is a much better vintage in every respect, with more fruit and much finer acidity. Now that 2005s and 2006s, with their lush, precocious fruit flavours have all but sold out, we can finally concentrate on a vintage that defines both the Chardonnay grape variety, its exact positioning in Burgundy and its superiority over every other Chardonnay made in the world.
The positive mood continued in the heart of the Côte d’Or. While the weather was indeed dull and damp for most of the summer and hail hurt a corner of Montrachet and a decent sector of Chassagne-Montrachet and St Aubin, it was again the fine weather at the end of August and beginning of September that saved the day. Eric Remy, at Domaine Leflaive, condensed the character of the vintage into just one well-chosen word, ‘distinguished’. He is right and Jean-Marc Roulot went one stage further saying that it is a true ‘terroir vintage’. Each and every wine tastes of exactly where the grapes were grown. These are very truthful wines with nowhere to hide on account of their flavours being laid bare by the exposure that high acid forces on a wine. You can spot heavy-handed oak a mile off. You can sense vine age, cropping levels and all manner of interesting details that so often are covered up with juicy, pulpy fruit. We have all become so used to Chardonnays that flatter and charm from day one, it is almost shocking to taste the raspingly refreshing 2007s and you inevitably find yourself craving more of these devastatingly attractive and chiselled wines. It was funny that some Domaines seemed to apologised for the tartness of their wines, when I was in raptures about the exactness of the flavours and definitive identifiable ‘post code’ of each and every wine. ‘Classic’ is a word that is serially misused in the wine world, but it is one word that sums up this year neatly. ‘Enigmatic’ was another word used, this time by Jean-Charles le Bault de la Morinière at Bonneau du Martray, and he always chooses his words with great accuracy.
I am certain that 2007 is a great white vintage and one that will keep well and continue to excite the keen drinker. I am also convinced that it is a classic.
Thirty Best Wines (with scores out of twenty, merchant and one-liner)
1 Chablis, Premier Cru Vaillons, Vincent Dauvissat 18/20 Domaine Direct
Dauvissat’s ’07 portfolio is precise and finely crafted and Vaillons has a little more structure and vinosity than his other 1er Crus. Stylish, intense and vital this is a very impressive wine.
2 Chablis, Grand Cru Les Clos, Vincent Dauvissat 18.5/20 Domaine Direct
Stunning length, power and grace mark this as one of the wines of the vintage in Chablis. Classic is every way this is a wine that will develop beautifully over a more than a decade.
3 Chablis, Premier Cru Côte de Léchet, Laurent Tribut 17.5/20 Domaine Direct
A more forward style of Chablis, showing just how pretty and floral Chablis can be in its youth, despite the obvious energy and quality of the vintage. Already opening up and looking desperately alluring.
4 Chablis, Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre, Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin 18/20 Domaine Direct
A phenomenal line up of wines at Droin, with consistently high scores, mark this as one of the most important Domaines in the region. With a touch of earthy flintiness and tight-grained oak underpinning the stellar citrus fruit this is a heroic wine and a great value one, too.
5 Chablis, Grand Cru Grenouille, Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin 18.5/20 Domaine Direct
Round, rich, deep and flamboyant, this is a classic Grenouille and one of the finest I have ever tasted. The staggeringly fresh acidity draws the finish out to extraordinary dimensions.
6 Chablis, Grand Cru Clos, Fabien & Christian Moreau 18.5/20 Gunson Fine Wines
Harvested three times, this is one of the most complex offerings ever from Moreau and it is built with incredible attention to detail. With masses of energy and a delicious raw acid lick on the finish, this is a mighty wine with a great future ahead of it.
7 Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, Bonneau du Martray 18.5/20 Corney & Barrow
Incredible aromatics and extraordinary minerality mark this as a dramatic and nerve-tingling Corton. The control exerted in the glass is gripping and this marshals the exuberance and evocative floral, brioche and citrus notes beautifully. A totally classic, ‘collector’s only’ CCBdM.
8 Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru Les Referts, Louis Carillon 18.5/20 Goedhuis & Co.
Jacques Carillon continues to fine tune his neat portfolio of wines and this vintage shows the grace and depth of fruit that he manages to coax out of his vines. Referts is the finest of his wines in 2007 and it is a relentless assault, albeit in a whispering, hypnotic way, of sensational hazelnut and lime blossom fruit on your senses.
9 Saint-Aubin, Premier Cru En Remilly, Marc Colin 17.5/20 Goedhuis & Co.
The quality and value afforded by the Saint-Aubins of Marc Colin is unmissable. His son Joseph took me through the wines and the entire range looked accurate, finely-tuned and incredibly fresh. With lower alcohol levels and pronounced acidity they are exquisite with En Remilly being the star of the lower priced wines.
10 Bâtard-Montrachet, Grand Cru, Marc Colin 19/20 Goedhuis & Co.
Colin’s Bâtard is the antithesis of many, with its spice, density and power sitting back, letting the ethereal soul of the wine massage your palate without ever becoming heavy-handed. This considered approach is welcome after seeing so many bludgeoning styles and it is another marker that this Domaine is heading, seemingly laser-guided, towards a new era of much finer and more beautiful wines.
11 Saint-Aubin, Premier Cru Les Charmois, Bruno Colin 17.5/20 Gunson Fine Wines, Lay & Wheeler, Genesis
Saint-Aubin must be the best value village in the 2007 vintage because all of the top wines exude the sort of style and complexity only usually associated with Puligny and Chassagne. Bruno’s Charmois is a joy with seemingly trademark lushness cut in two by death-defying acidity which runs an icy finger up and down your spine. This is superb and very sensitive winemaking.
12 Chassagne-Montrachet, Premier Cru La Boudriotte, Bruno Colin 18.5/20 Gunson Fine Wines, Lay & Wheeler, Genesis
Pear, crunchy apple, green pineapple skin and waxy honey crowd the nose and then the power of the fruit and white-knuckle acidity both rush in like a whirlwind. This is a high drama wine and one that leaves you feeling quite exhausted. There is every element of Grand Cru tension and depth here.
13 Meursault, Premier Cru Perrières, Henri Germain 18.5/20 Domaine Direct
Discreet Jean-François Germain studiously fashions some of the most delicious of all white Burgundies and Perrières is the top wine. There is considerable depth of fruit here, and power, too, but it is the way it all zooms back into line as the acidity looms on the back of the palate. There is an almost ‘air lock’ nature about how all of the mesmerising nuances zip back to a full stop on the palate some minutes after you take a sip. Exhilarating stuff.
14 Bourgogne Blanc, Cuvée Oligocène, Patrick Javillier 17/20 Corney & Barrow
Oligocène has discovered elegance and fine detail for the first time ever in 2007. Normally a more robust and often fairly oaky wine, there is great length and finesse here and the inevitable potential to age will prove that this is one of the finest BBs of the vintage.
15 Meursault, Tête de Murger, Patrick Javillier 18/20 Corney & Barrow
This combination of fruit from Casse-Tête and Murgers is always Patrick’s more thrilling wine and in 2007 he has the necessary acidity and minerality to augment the bold fruit flavours and give this wine every element that it desires to achieve perfect balance. Don’t touch it for five years and then you will not be able to keep your hands off it!
16 Meursault, Clos de la Barre, des Comtes Lafon 18.5/20 Domaine Direct
I often find this wine a little too forceful and butch on the palate, but in 2007 the balance in Clos de la Barre is utterly mesmerising. There is a fitness and litheness to this 2007 that really suits the terrific fruit and it is the acidity (again) that is the key. An essential wine to find in 2007.
17 Meursault, Premier Cru Perrières, des Comtes Lafon 20/20 Domaine Direct
This was the only perfect score that I handed out this year and it came as a complete surprise (they often do). My tasting note is ridiculously superlative drenched so I won’t repeat it, suffice to say that every single molecule of Perrières if perfect in every way. I remember being literally struck dumb when I tasted this wine – this never happens!
18 Meursault, Tessons, Roulot 18.5/20 Domaine Direct
Jean-Marc Roulot is a perceptive winemaker and he is secretly very pleased with his 2007s. Once again the attraction here is the counterpoint between the richness and definition of fruit and the staggeringly, lip-licking acidity. Often the more exuberant wines in 2007 have done well because of their obvious, taut acid element and firm, intriguing minerality. Tessons manages to nail this balance of ingredients perfectly.
19 Meursault, Premier Cru Perrières, Roulot 19/20 Domaine Direct
‘A terroir year’ says J-M proudly, as he cranks up the volume of his Tessons in all respects and delivers its big brother, the exceptional Perrières. With more structure comes more minerality and extraordinary focus. This is one of the most incredible wines that this enigmatic Domaine has made in a decade.
20 Meursault, Narvaux, Vincent Bouzereau 17.5/20 Gunson Fine Wines
The incredible nature of the 2007 vintage has, in the right hands, yielded wines that are inexpensive and ‘off the clock’ in quality terms, too. The Domaines with a strong viticultural bent have faired well and Vincent’s stunning Narvaux is a sensational and mightily rewarding wine for around the £20 mark.
21 Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru Pucelles, Leflaive 19/20 Corney & Barrow
Eric Remy has masterfully engineered some statuesque ‘07s and the entire range of Domaine Leflaive wine is a joy. Pucelles is my pick of the 1er Crus on account of its stony minerality and socking acidity, which manages somehow to keep the simply awesome fruit in check. This is a wine which expands relentlessly on the palate as the seconds tick by and it never really seems to stop.
22 Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Grand Cru, Leflaive 19/20 Corney & Barrow
All of Leflaive’s Grand Crus score 19s this year, so which is the one to highlight. There is no question that ’07 Bienvenues is a wondrous wine and it is the most beautiful and gentle, too. The composure and grace masks a steely core of fruit and acidity which will propel this wine forwards for twenty years. It is a ground-breaking expression of this vineyard and I adore it.
23 Chassagne-Montrachet, Premier Cru Les Dents de Chien, Thomas Morey 18.5/20 Domaine Direct
The young Thomas has taken over from father Bernard and he has started off his solo career with a beautiful vintage. He picked fairly late and the fruit purity and complexity of his broad portfolio shows that he has a complete understanding of this legacy. Only two barrels were made of this insanely complex wine and it is as captivating as its neighbour Montrachet in every respect.
24 Bourgogne Blanc, Etienne Sauzet 17.5/20 Domaine Direct
The most chiselled and handsome of BBs, Gérard Boudot has shown complete understanding of the vintage conditions and assembled his entire portfolio of wines with deftness and accuracy. Hold this wine for two years and then drink a BB that will destroy all but the finest of ‘village’ Pulignys.
25 Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru Les Combettes, Etienne Sauzet 19/20 Domaine Direct
With so many 1er Crus to choose from I have plumped for the most ‘Grand Cru’ in flavour of them and a wine that is simply heroic in every way. This, however, does not mean that it is a big wine, because it is the intensity and layers of fruit which make this an unmissable purchase and not its weight or brawn – stunning.
26 Montrachet, Grand Cru, Etienne Sauzet 19.5/20 Domaine Direct
Sitting between Sauzet’s Bâtard and Chevalier in its shape and size, this is one of the most closed and concentrated of wines, but it already shows impeccable balance and an amazing acid line which points to a very long life. Dissecting this wine on the palate takes an age and every time you think that you’ve captured the full set of flavours and aromas it reveals another full set.
27 Chassagne-Montrachet, Premier Cru Caillerets, Colin-Morey 18/20 Vine Trail
Pierre-Yves make wine with flair and daring. Like a fashion designer he encourages his creations to perform on the catwalk and they all show intense and accurate fruit flavours and incredible length. Caillerets is my pick of his Chassagnes with its bold notes and firm backbone of brilliant acidity.
28 Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru Folatières, Colin-Morey 18.5/20 Vine Trail
With pear, apple, pain grillé and even rock melon notes on the nose and palate, this is a very exuberant and racy Puligny, and one that shows more texture and succulence than many. The immediacy of the fruit hides a steely core of minerality which will protect this wine’s balance for a decade.
29 St-Aubin, Premier Cru Clos de la Chatenière, Hubert & Olivier Lamy 18/20 Domaine Direct
Lamy is a St-Aubin specialist and this means that his phone will ring off the hook in 2007, because 2007 is a classic vintage for these mineral-driven wines. Chatenière has an exotic core of fruit and yet the trademark taut acidity is proudly on display on its long, nervy finish. A keeper, this is a stunning wine with the ability to evolve gracefully for ten years.
30 Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru Truffière, Jean-Marc Boillot 19/20 Goedhuis & Co.
This is one of the tightest and most introverted wines on this list and it shows the incredible energy and minerality of this very special vineyard. J-M has made amazing 2007s and his ‘village’ Puligny is a beauty, but when you step up to his unbelievable 1er Crus there is no looking back.