A stroll through the wine section of your local supermarket or wine retailer will show shelves with almost equal space given to new and old world wines, to Italian and French, Chilean and South African. This is unrecognisable from 20 years ago, when the French dominated fine wine drinking in the UK and top of the wine regions was Burgundy, with legendary names like Latour and Chablis. So, for wine-buyers, why bother with Burgundy these days? The wine is generally more expensive than the rest and there is always a niggling worry that the region has been left behind by wine producers who change their styles to entertain and delight the palette. A perfect opportunity arose to answer that question in the annual trade tasting for the Burgundy region, held at Lords Cricket Ground. What do the makers have to offer a buying public spoiled by head-spinning choice?
Among the many wines presented at Terroirs et Signatures do Bourgogne were two from Domaine Berthelemot: the Domaine Berthelemot Monthelie 2007 and the Domaine Berthelemot Beaune 1er Cru – Clos des Mouches. I’m including my notes on these remarkable wines here. I can not, of course, encourage you to go out and buy them but, if you were to do so, I believe you would not be disappointed.
Domaine Berthelemot Monthelie 2007
Back in the early 90s Robert Parker flagged the tiny AOC of Monthelie near Beaune as being a potential source of excellent Burgundy at budget prices, and Brigitte Berthelemot has set out to demonstrate the accuracy of his forecast.
The 2007 Monthelie has a little way to mature before it shows its full potential, which is impressive because it is delicious and exciting already. The tannins are softening to yield up the mulberry and quince fruit within, so that even before you take a sip you’re thinking of Christmas cake. The aroma holds dark, sticky, fruity tones with a hint of the grown-up bitterness absent from normal fruitcake, but tempered by a hint of marzipan icing.
In the mouth, all that remains of that sugar coating is a hint of almonds. The tannins, still very much in evidence and drying out the palate, are subtle, gentle and lack the sharp edge that often characterizes an immature pinot noir. The flavour opens out on the tongue to offer something that walks the fine line between complexity and austerity that the French call ‘correct’.
This is a wine for opening from later on this year, and over the next two or three years – it has already shed much of its original cherry colour and is beginning to look like the fine wine it is, with a more formal russet.
Domaine Berthelemot Beaune 1er Cru – Clos des Mouches
The Clos des Mouches (The Enclosure of the Flies) is – slightly dodgy sounding name in translation notwithstanding – one of the most highly prized climats in the Beaune AOC, with examples fetching scary prices. Domaine Berthelemot acquired a share in, what is a very small plot of land on the southern edge of the AOC (next to the Pommard district), relatively recently when acclaimed veteran winemaker Yves Darviot retired. Brigitte Berthelemot began producing this and other Burgundies in her brand-new winery in nearby Meursault. This is the result.
Still a little young, this Clos des Mouches is subtle and well balanced with berry fruits and only a touch of the iron-rich pinot noir ‘bloodieness’. Drinking young Burgundy – even very good young Burgundy (and this is very good) – can be hard work; a week’s professional tasting on the Cote d’Or can leave you feeling distinctly tired of the taste. Not so here, this is a sophisticated and delicious wine with a great future ahead of it.
The compact and economic character of this wine sets it above more entry level Burgundies even to the untutored palate. Gentle on the tongue, it nevertheless has a punch and challenge to it worthy of the price tag.