This was a fascinating tasting of 38 Clos Vougeots from 2011 totally blind with no set order. Having helped get hold of the wines from Chateau de la Tour I got an invite from Joss and Camilla at Fine & Rare wines to what was essentially a  press tasting. I found it both difficult and very interesting as blind tastings so often are.

So what was I looking for from Clos Vougeot? Well, Pinot in a masculine yet elegant way, uncompromising but stopping short of hard would be roughly where I would come at things.

The vintage? A good choice because it is not an overtly tannic vintage. It is also good to assess wines in bottle, young without being too recently bottled. It is as fair as you can be.

The wines – all scored out of 20 are below – the notes are as written at the time and before knowing the producers:

Pierre Andre
Pretty nose, clean nice fruit, good palate if a little “skinny”, not lush but honest. 17

Sylvain Loichet
Rich, smokey, oaky, some “burn”, serious, the palate is still lush but drier in the end. A keeper. 17.5

Lucien Le Moine
Pepper, spice, a little nervous “greenness” in a good way. Pencil lead, skins used a lot?  Serious but balanced, rich, long. 17-18

Louis Max
Muted but somehow perfumed, elegant, taut may be a little simple.  Red fruit a little bit of orange. 16.5-17

Bertrand Ambroise
Darker fruit, a little spice and a herbal edge, a little mint, has a depth to it, palate a little closed a shade dry. 16-17

Higher octane, a little riper, more density but also a little simpler at the stage, more extraction, good fruit and balance. Good acidity. Not really my style but good. 17.5-18

Olivier Bernstein
Almost bacon fat, richness and reduction, masculine wine.  Serious, a little dry and may be lacking in elegant fruit, deep. Hard to decide on a score at this very early stage. 16.5-17.5 (+?)

Oranges and almost unripe red fruits.  Pretty nose but not very Clos Vougeot and certainly not Grand Cru, has a dryness, hollow, very dry in the end. Would love to see other peoples notes. 14

Chateau de la Tour
Rich, a little gamey smoke, bold (decadent), has good fruit. Ageworthy and generous. Nice! Good wine. 18-19 
(small note here, I know Francois and his wines and it is interesting – and possibly says a fair bit that I preferred this to the next cuvee “Up” at this stage. See Vielles Vignes later.)

Clos Frantin (Albert Bichot)
Smokey and a little slutty, very open.  More dryness and tension on palate.  Fruit a little muted but a good if oaked finish.  Good length. 17-18

Jean-Jacques Confuron
Open red fruits, very pretty without being simple, impressive. Then a lovely attack before some more savoury elements.  Some grip, elegant and good, balanced.  18-19

Mid red-black fruit character then a little polish.  Lush but then quite dry.  Good fruit. Slightly glossy. Overly safe winemaking? Decent if a shade dry. 16.5

High and intense, slightly oaked but in a good way.  Texture is very good not goey but intense, quite bold tannins.  This is good. 18

Very muted, dark fruit if anything.  Nice sweet attack then closed again. Very hard to score, either closed or quite serious? 17 (?)

Elegant but with a savoury edge, quite uncompromising, pure though, nice palate, silky but not limp. Good, serious, long.  18.5+(?)

Tangerine rind and light red fruit, crunchy not very Clos Vougeot.  Far better palate but still a little red for CV. 16

Denis Mortet
Light, fresher on the elegant end of the scale, good.  Good red fruit but not distinctive and a shade easy, still nice. 17

Muted but what is there is quite lush, lovely, lots of fruit, very pure, little or no oak showing quite extrovert on the palate which is so different (in volume) from the nose. 18

Jacques Prieur
Quite subdued, a zest of banana skin, then cream, a little “wacky” but I think this is just character. Some spice before a good tannic finish, would love to re-visit in time. 17-17.5 (+?)

A little “dairy”, then with air this is impressive, open fruit, red with orange, nice. Nice, easy, pretty. 16.5-17+

Darker almost cherry fruit and a slight whiff of polish.  Then palate whilst modern and a shade dry has good fruit to it. OK but a little safe? 16.5-17

Domaine d’Eugenie
Open, a subdued smokiness in the background, then a nice palate with everything in place but may be a shade subdued in fruit. OK. 16.5-17

Purity and a little polish, quite modern, quite open, a little silk, nice, grip a little greater than some. Good balance ultimately. 17-17.5

A shade vegetal if not offensively so then some nice fruit, a little pencil lead, and quite firm but this is nice to see, this is very Clos Vougeot. 17+

Anne Gros
Almost tropical, exotic fruit but not red/black.  Palate is redder and quite modern. Quite extracted.  Sturdy but masculine, quite bold. Not really my style but I can see a lot of character. Very possibly one to watch. 16.5-17

Gros Frère et Sœur
A nose of tinned tuna and capers but not offensively so. Then quite medicinal, almost root beer. Too much for me. Would love to taste in 2-3 years when some of these more wacky characters have mellowed. 14 (??)

Michel Gros
Quite high toned, delicious but not very Burgundian.  A little spicy with blacker fruits, can’t decide what I feel on this. Then quite gamey, a little dry also. May well be an uncompromising heavy style that needs time? 16

Redder fruits and an almost wet meat (good steak) aroma, more elegant, lots of pure red fruit, not that serious but good.  Long.  17

Gérard Raphet
Quite simple. Good red fruit and acidity, nice in mouth, quite intense and long. 17+

Henri Rebourseau
Brooding black fruit power but with lift, bold, rich, grown-up. More serious than charming. Very good Clos Vougeot. Bold structure. 18

Oak is too overt here, fruits seems good but is drowned out. Sweetness to the palate, may appeal to many people, ripe, full, sweet and bold, it is balanced on the palate but the nose must meld into the wine. Worth a re-visit. 16-17.5

Maison Roche de Bellene
Almost a light nose, certainly compared to the colour.  Then the palate is light but not lacking in lushness. A little hard to make out. 16.5

Smokey and a little reduced, neither of which are too much. Palate has a sweet attack then works well, I like this, elegant despite the oak which I feel will disappear onto the wine. 18

Domaine de la Vougeraie
Slightly sweaty nose, then dark fruit in turn, palate has sweetness but then dryness.  OK but not exciting at this stage. Good length. 17-17.5

Henri de Villamont
Mid red/black fruit, quite old fashioned. Palate has more, is not stunning but is very solid, this is good if not exciting. All the parts are there. 17

Bright, black cherry, quite glycerol, good though, a little dry but proper. Nice. 17

Chateau de Santenay
A shade muted but good, complex nose.  A little dry but with nice fruit that is long if not bold. Quite elegant. 17

Chateau de la Tour Vieilles Vignes
A little oak but well integrated nose, quite enchanting nose, quite bold tannins but actually just a big wine so this balances, good with a shade of dryness at the finish. 17-18

The conclusion: Well there are clearly some surprises and it goes to show how hard it can be to taste blind, in terms of pure tasting I found the third quarter the hardest as you’re getting a little fatigued but the end is not yet in sight. I was quietly impressed. I think I would have expected a few more high points but I certainly expected more low ones too. In the opening of this I said I expected Clos Vougeot to learn towards masculine and uncompromising…you can’t then necessarily expect things to taste well at this tender age when those are viewed as positive attributes…you don’t expect Cornas at 3 years to be charming (if that ever happens anyway) for the same reasons. All I can say is that I will actively seek out some of these wines to try in the future, and not just those at the top end of the scores.

Many thanks to Joss and Camilla.