Tasting Notes

The 2012 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru (Domaine du Clos Frantin) has a fragrant bouquet with impressive purity and very well-integrated oak – feminine and very Vosne in style. The palate is smooth and silky on the entry, velvety in texture with an almost obscenely succulent finish. It is seductive, although it needs to show a little more tension and grip for it not to pall in quantity. Hopefully that will develop during its maturation. There are a cluster of winemakers and negociants that huddle together on the northern section of the Beaune’s ringroad. I wonder whether there are times when Philippe Pacalet, David Croix and Thibaut Marion find themselves bumping into each other on a street corner? And perhaps Alberic Bichot too? The vast winery and surrounding gardens of Maison Albert Bichot dominate the locale, and yet this Burgundy stalwart has remained family-owned since 1831. As I have reported in the August issue, it might be true that Albert Bichot’s wines are under-valued by Burgundy connoisseurs that mistakenly rank historical negociants below that of small independent growers tending their own vines. On the contrary, many of those merchants such as Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin and Faiveley, have pulled their socks up in recent years. They are no longer content to rest upon their laurels, relying on size instead of quality to generate sales. The tasting I attended at Vinexpo that focused on their own, independent domaines such as Domaine du Clos Frantin, Domaine du Pavillon and Domaine Long-Depaquit, served as a timely reminder that Albert Bichot’s more recent releases can offer as much complexity and soul as cultish vignerons up and down the Cote d’Or. So in broaching the 2012s, it was time to cast my net wider to conduct a more comprehensive tasting with Alberic and long-serving chief winemaker, Alain Serveau. Both gentlemen have done a great deal to revive the Bichot name and should be applauded for doing so. Managing a large enterprise with such a plethora of contracted growers cannot be easy, especially given the dramatic impact of successive small harvests. If am to be honest, one could see that some of the wines at the entry level and at village cru were impacted by the challenging growing season in terms of their simplicity, denied the complexity that a more benevolent season might have bestowed. My advice in 2012 is to pick and choose wisely. While some crus seemed discombobulated by the 2012 at least at this early stage, others such as the Pommard-Chaponnieres, Vosne-Malconsorts and Latricieres-Chambertin are all beautifully crafted Pinot Noirs that I suspect will constitute great value once they see the light of day. Neil Martin