My happy explorations of New World pinot noir had a splendid Old World riposte on my last evening in London, spent at the flat of a couple of English friends (well, one is actually Italian). After my last posting I was accused by a friend here of name-dropping, so I shall identify only the wines, before telling of the wonderful thing that happened to one of them. That’s name-dropping in itself, perhaps, but it’s a pleasure to me to just write down the names of these wines.
We started a long, long evening with the champagne of a small grower, Jérôme Prévost. Not a grand wine, but very characterful – and unusual in that it was made entirely from pinot meunière, and with no dosage at all. Then, with langoustines, we had a beautiful Meursault – François Jobard Poruzots 2002. Much later, after the reds which accompanied the homely pasta, we turned to madeira: only the second wine I’ve ever had from my birth year –1954 was a pretty dreadful vintage throughout Europe, but this Cossart Malmsey was most beguiling and delicious, if not quite as refined and focused as old vintage madeira can be at its best. It kept us going to 3.30 in the morning, by which time the bottle was as nearly finished as I was.
But the evening’s highlight was the two bottles of red burgundy from the comparatively modest (and now maturing) 2000 vintage. Both from the Clos de la Roche vineyard, a grand cru of Morey-St-Denis. One was from Domaine Armand Rousseau, the other was the Domaine Ponsot Vieilles Vignes. I’m happy to say I didn’t take notes, so I won’t bore you with detailed and fanciful descriptions.
The first point was that terroir spoke in fairly muted tones here, except in terms of sheer quality; the flavour profiles were pretty dissimilar, especially at first, with the Rousseau being the more obviously charming and lovely, while the Ponsot had an almost grubby element to it – for two of us this was certainly not a fault, and just added interest and characterful complexity, but our Italian companion didn’t much like it. As to structure, I’d been exulting that week in the quality of tannins I found in some of the pinots from New Zealand and Oregon: silkily unobtrusive but informing the wine firmly and exultantly, in brilliant co-operation with acidity. Here, in these fine, older burgundies it was the same, but taken just that bit further in terms of integrated harmony, with no question of a fruit simplicity. (I recalled a tasting of Louis Jadot Premier Cru burgundies, mostly 1998 and 1999, that I’d participated in a week or two before in Cape Town, where the tannins were much more powerful, even aggressive and hard by comparison. To such wines, I prefer this style of supple, acid-driven pinot, with reclusive tannin.)
We lingered over these two wines for an hour or more, with great pleasure. Towards the end of the bottles, quite suddenly it seemed, the Ponsot lost any trace of that slightly “dirty” element. The fruit powered forward in delicately muscular purity, while the harmony remained – was just that bit more complex, perhaps. It was not quite a miracle, this transformation, but surely no-one tasting the Ponsot just after pouring and then an hour later would have thought them the same wine, even if “both” wines were very fine. But always, to experience in this way wine as a triumphantly living thing is a great moment, and a privilege.