Last week it was great to have Edouard Labruyere head of Famille Labruyere (Domaine Jacques Prieur, Chateau Rouget, Domine Labruyere and soon to be Champagne Labruyere) in London for a series of tasting, visits and dinners. This followed on from a launch last year and another post I did with a fair few notes, mostly about the 2013’s. I am keen to state that I am writing this from a rather biased standpoint but I wanted to record what I found to be a brilliant range of wines.

The notes below are taken from three tastings of the Domaine Jacques Prieur (DJP) 2014’s and two meals – one a dinner at The Stafford Wine Cellar and the other a lunch at  67 Pall Mall.

A “nice” lunch time line-up

I made various notes from each time Edouard spoke, which is does unusually well. It was a real education. Rather than the fact that he rushes between the four regions in which he works, being a distraction, it seems to give him a fresh approach to each.

I will try to weave a few DJP details into the wines but it is fair to say that there are two key people, Edouard who took over the reins in 2008, and Nadine Gublin who has made the wines for 25 years. In those 25 years, the quality has risen markedly but it might be fair to say that since 2008 they have taken an even steeper upward curve. No Battonage, no filtration…less new oak, less (usually none) stems. The estate is now reveling in the holdings it has – “a duty not a right” Edouard says – and what holdings they are. Nine Grand Crus and fifteen 1er Crus!

2014 Reds
Beaune 1er Cru Greves – Such a tricky year here with the hail, ultimately just 17 hl/ha as a yield with the site needing 4 “harvests” – 29th June post the storm, late August, early September and then the “real” one in mid-September. There was just one pushdown and one pump over in the winemaking. The wine sees 20% new oak from 5 different coopers. There is a nice opulence to this wine on the nose but also a citrusy drive. Red fruits for sure but a little spice and a reassuringly “proper” structure.

Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Santenots – This is a walled monopole inside Volnay Santenots, at the top and north of the vineyard. Only 4 barrels were made and the wine sees 50% new oak (when you only have four barrels the choice obviously comes in increments of 25%). Whilst tasting this wine Edouard made an interesting observation, this was that of all the vineyards that were hit so hard by hail – 80%-100% destroyed – in 2012/13/14 it was those that practised Biodynamics that recovered the most, others having been literally destroyed. This wine has a real vibrancy and lovely texture…Edouard observed that it was like a Cote de Nuits Grand Cru but in Volnay…there is certainly something in that.
Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru – “The bad boy of the Domaine” was Edouard’s opening here. The DJP Clos Vougeot is in the middle of the Grand Cru, no limestone, mostly clay. This sees 20-24 months in 30% new oak (used to be 100%) and includes 20% full bunches. The wine itself is punchy and rich but fresh with a good texture, darker fruits as you would expect but not without a hint of red. Violets and vibrancy as well as structure. Very much what it should be. As an aside I have twice tasted a range of Clos Vougeot’s blind and both times it has included the DJP – Clos Vougeot 2011’s & Clos Vougeot 2013’s 

Musigny Grand Cru – And so to one of Burgundies most iconic terroirs. DJP is the 3rd largest owner of the Musigny with 0.7hectares sited at the southern end with La Combe d’Orveau above it which provides a fresh channel of air. This is very impressive and has lovely salinity (a trait I love), again darker fruit but freshness like the Clos Vougeot but another world in terms of the complexity and poise, serious for sure but not without showing its breeding…special.

2014 Whites

Beaune Blanc 1er Cru Greves – On the top of this site there is more limestone and that is where the Chardonnay is planted. DJP first made this wine in 2009. There is a lovely lushness to the wine initially but then a nice zip of citrus freshness, stones and sherbet both spring to mind and then a lovely cool finish…impressive.

Meursault Clos de Mazeray Monopole – A few of interesting things here. Firstly, this is the Domaines only non 1er Cru but this is in fact only a result of the owners not wishing to pay more tax back in 1936 when the classification was set, they elected for “village” status. Secondly being a walled Monopole they used it for all the experiments in Biodynamics as there were no outside influences to worry about or contaminate findings. The site also has 0.25ha Pinot Noir as well as the 2.75ha of Chardonnay. Moving onto the winemaking this is a wine that is now raised in oak vats, 25hl each, rather than barrels. A move I get the impression Edouard and Nadine will expand. There is open lushness to the palate and a sweetness to the tip of the tongue (this seems a trait of the wine as the 2011 shares it later). The palate is generous but in check. One to wallow in!

Meursault 1er Cr Santenots – Santenots will tend to mean red wine and be Volnay, not Meursault, you gotta love Burgundy for complications…This site was planted in 2000, young therefore in many ways but with Biodynamics it was suggested a vineyard gets to a certain level of maturity (25yrs being something of a benchmark historically) that bit earlier. This was driven and had stones and minerality on the palate, then a more generous side before a lovely lemon finish. Really rather lovely.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Combettes – Every, of the three, times I tasted this I was very impressed. I like Combettes but it does sometimes try too hard, trying to prove it is “the” Grand Cru white that isn’t. This though has all the drive of Puligny and then a little of the texture of may be Batard but certainly with a nod to the steelier Meursault. I couldn’t resist the comment that maybe it is the “Grand Cru that Meursault doesn’t have” as it borders that great village. Well, either way it is special and I most intrigued to hear Edouard say that in 2014 this saw/will see 50% barrel ageing and 50% oak vat ageing. A good way to counteract the potential over exuberance of this cru. Stunning.

Montrachet Grand Cru – Well then…having been staggered by a wine before Montrachet you wonder if the most famous white wine vineyard in the world will let you down? No chance. DJP own 0.6 hectares with one “batch” lying, more conventionally, east-west (gives structure and body) and one that is north-south (power).  This wine Edouard describes as Fort Knox on account of the observation that it is rather difficult to know how to get in! I do know where he is coming from and this is a wine rather than solely a white wine that will repay cellaring in spades but it is beautiful now as well, opulent lemon, long, weighty on the finish but not clumsily so…this is a wine to own.
Dinner in the Cellars of The Stafford…
Lunch & Dinner Wines
Meursault Clos de Mazeray Monopole Blanc 2011 – Interestingly we served this at the beginning and end of dinner and only at the end of lunch. I hate great red wines being served with only cheese when they deserve the main dish and also white does the cheese job better. I won’t repeat the Clos de Mazeray notes of above. This though, plays perfectly to the loveliness (though probably never profundity) that is 2011 white Burgundy. Easy and sweetly delicious with acidity too but never too much of anything. Lemon and honey, some stones, a dash of saline then, when warmer, a little popcorn (salt not sugar). I could drink this all night long without ever feeling the need to concentrate.

The red “meal” wines

Beaune 1er Cru Clos de la Feguine Rouge 2007 – I’ll start by saying I love 2007 reds when done well and this is in the ball park. Poise, elegance, fragrance and red fruit should be the watch words and this does that. Edouard commented that, in 2007, picking date was crucial. If too early you lost the maturity of the tannin. He also said how light extraction (and this was the lightest colour of the “meal” wines by some way) was crucial in order to avoid the green notes. The nose is gentle but confusingly pungent with herbs and oranges as well as red fruits, aromatic would be a good word, as much in common with great tea as a delicious wine. It is pretty but that seems patronising, it is a delicious wine that will hold well but I can’t think I would like it more than I do now. A good illustration of why you should find producers you like and buy each year…as the next few wines proved you need something to keep you busy and keep your hands off the gorgeous but patience deserving (demanding?) vintages.

Volnay 1er Cru Santenots 2005 – This is sited near to Volnay 1er Cru Champans and was picked quite early. It shows a certain age in its seriousness but not in its lack of freshness, it has a crunchy menthol and herbal sprightliness. There is a real power to this but never a heaviness. We had a discussion over lunch on when you would drink this and once I got passed my slightly glib comment of “it depends how you like it?” I think we settled on the fact that you would look again in 2-4 years and go from there. Lovely.

Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2009 – Edouard observed here that Corton is “the underestimated guy of Burgundy”. The site they have is east-south-east facing and he likes to pick quite early and often uses whole-bunches here, 50% in 2009. A very interesting observation was of the note of cloves you get from Corton, I like cloves! There is a lovely richness to this, decadence almost, quite glossy as it is the only wine that has shown any oak, not worryingly so as it’ll soon disappear into the wine. Opulent but very correct, becomes a little more savoury with air, some bacon and what I described as sweaty spices…oh how I would love to see where this is in 5 years.

Chambertin Grand Cru 2010 – They have, including their Clos de Beze, almost a hectare here and they make essentially two wines, one from the older vines (generally 65yrs +) and one, that often gets declassified to Gevrey-Chambertin, from the younger vines. This is an intense wine, really beautiful but also brooding. There is meat and spices and a delightfully savoury, saline edge that make note writing very hard. Completeness is probably the word to use. Edouard was interesting on the differences between ’05, ’09 & ’10 he said in  both of the former the key thing was to pick relatively early, don’t wait for too much ripeness. Whereas in the later the acidity is the key. Whichever vintages you might think you prefer they are going to be quite a trio to follow.

A really splendid few days!!