At the invitation of BlackBeard’s, some of Cayman’s top wine industry professionals gathered at Luca Restaurant for a special barrel tasting of 12 Premiere Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy wines from the 2010 Vintage of Maison Louis Jadot.
For Cayman Islands wine lovers, barrel tastings on Island are special and a barrel tasting of a dozen Premiere Cru and Grand Cru wines from Maison Louis Jadot is extra special.
That’s exactly what a dozen or so of Cayman’s top wine industry professionals enjoyed when
BlackBeard’s brought Larry Nocera of Kobrand Corporation to lead a tasting of the Louis Jadot wines.
“I love all wines,” said Nocera, “but I have a particular affinity with Burgundy.”
Burgundy is a relatively small region in eastern France that produces some of the world’s best wines, named for particular town or place where the grapes are grown. Understanding Burgundy for those on the North American side of that Atlantic Ocean can be a challenge because the wines are named after where they are produced, not the grapes that produced them. Many people are surprised to learn the famous white Chablis is named after a town in Burgundy and is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay grapes.
While the names of the places can get confusing, the grapes in white Burgundy or red Burgundy should not be.
“Burgundy wine is somewhat simplistic in that they are made from only two grapes,” Nocera said. “They are either 100 per cent Chardonnay, or 100 per cent Pinot Noir.”
Where things can start to get tricky is that the hills and valleys of Burgundy region contain widely varying soil conditions and micro-climates – the main elements of terroir – which produce widely different wines from place to place.
“There are differences in terrior from one vineyard to the next,” Nocera said.
The French believe grapes distinguish wine and terrior distinguishes grapes.
“There is no word for wine-maker in French,” Nocera said. “The French believe the production of wine has more to do with soil and climate and when they make wine, they want the sense of the place to come through.”
Many wine experts were worried about the challenging 2010 Burgundy vintage at first.
The winter was long and cold and caused a later bud-burst than usual, and then flowering was disrupted by heat and rain.
As a result, Nocera said that the crop was uneven.
“Half of the berries were large and half of the berries were small,” he said, adding that on the bright side, many of the berries didn’t produce seeds, which can cause wines to be more tannic.
In the end, even though yield was down, especially compared to the prolific harvest of 2009, the wines are showing great promise that they will be good, if not very good.
“They are much more classic wines than from 2009,” said Nocera, referring to the fruit-driven style and higher alcohol levels created by 2009’s warm growing season, compared to the higher acidity and elegance of the 2010 vintage.
In the end, the 2010 vintage is seen as one of the best in years, especially for white Burgundy. However, because the yield were so low, there might not be a lot of the 2010 vintage of Burgundy available, especially red.
At the time of the tasting, the 2010 vintage hadn’t even been bottled yet. Wine was taken out of the barrels and put in small, 375 ml bottles with synthetic corks and then shipped to the United States in limited quantities for tastings. Kobrand decided to host one of those tastings with its distributor in Cayman, Cayman Distributors/BlackBeard’s.
The white wines
Between the Burgundy vineyards it owns and those on which it has long-term contracts, Maison Louis Jadot has more than 528 acres of vineyards. Wines made in Burgundy are generally named for the place the grapes are grown, and Maison Louis Jadot produced more than 100 different wines in 2010, including 19 Grand Crus.
Most Burgundy wines are classified by the French government under a system called Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. In that system, Grand Cru is the highest classification, followed by Premiere Cru, then the Villages appellations and then regional appellations. The barrel tasting at Luca consisted of 10 Premiere Cru wines and two Grand Cru wines.
With 12 glasses poured in front of them, the participants of the tasting – who were all seated at a long table – first tried the six white wines.
The first wine tasted came from the commune Pernand Vergelesses and was thus named that. The Premiere Cru come from grapes grown in a limestone soil in a walled vineyard within a vineyard called Clos de la Croix de Pierre that is solely owned by Maison Louis Jadot.
“It has lively acidity, which is treasured in Burgundy,” Nocera said.
Beaune Grèves, from the Côte de Beaune area of Burgundy, was tasted next. The word Grèves signifies a sandy soil type with small stones and the result was a wine that was more expressive than the previous one, with more minerality and flavours of almond and lemon.
Meursault ‘Charmes’ Premier Cru was next tasted. Meursault comes from a part of the Côte de Beaune known as the Côte des Blancs because its predominance of fine white wines.
“This is a classic Meursault,” Nocera said as he tasted the wine. “In my mind, we’ve gone up a notch [in quality].”
The next two wines came from the regions directly south of Meursault – Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet – with “La Garenne” and its more fruit-driven style from the former and “Morgeot” with its more mineral-driven style from the latter.
The final white wine, Bâtard-Montrachet, lived up to its Grand Cru standing. A full-bodied, powerful wine with acidity up front and a fruit finish, this is a white wine that will continue to get better for many years.
Nocera said Grand Crus really shouldn’t be drunk before 10 years and that many can be kept 20 to 30 years.
“It’s really a shame we drink [Grand Crus] too young,” he said. “We have this idea that white wine needs to be drunk, but that’s not the case with Burgundy.”
The red wines
Moving on to the red Burgundy, the first five of six were Premiere Crus.
Pinot Noir grapes are finicky and to thrive they need particular climate and soil conditions – the kind found in Burgundy.
Unlike New World Pinot Noir, which tend to be more fruit-forward, red Burgundy is known for its elegance, high acidity and complexity of flavours.
“Burgundy often has a light colour, but it doesn’t mean it won’t have a strong and rich flavour,” Nocera said.
The first red took the tasters back to Pernand Vergelesses and the Clos de la Croix de Pierre, from where the first white wine tasted came, a reminder that some places in Burgundy grow both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes virtually side-by-side.
Next tried was one of Nocera’s favourites: Beaune “Clos des Couchereaux”.
“In my opinion, this is the best value on the list,” he said. “It always comes in at lower prices and it’s always a very good wine.”
Moving up the quality ladder, the Pommard “Rugiens” was tasted.
“It has a soft, sexy, beautiful nose,” said Nocera of the Pommard, noting that it had riper fruit flavours than the first two reds.
The final two Premiere Crus tasted were Nuit-Saint-Georges “Les Boudots” and Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Saint Jacques”, the latter recognised as one of the region’s great vineyards.
French red Burgundy wines really need time to develop and the better the quality, the more time they need. Neither of the last two Premiere Crus or the Grand Cru, Chapelle Chambertin were anywhere near their potential, and early vintage tastings are only supposed to give the drinker an idea of the wine’s structure, flavours and body.
While the jury is still out on how good the 2010 red Burgundy vintage will be, Nocera was confident that with some aging, it would be known as a vintages that produced a more classic style Burgundy in a time when warmer summers in France were producing more fruit-forward wines.