Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pierre-Yves Colin Morey 2009

This must be the most drawn-out Burgundy report ever. Since the last report on Didier and Genevieve’s wines about four weeks ago, we’ve had the IMF bail-out, a Budget, the country skidding to a halt, and X-Factor winner and now the country running out of water….not bad for four weeks!

But back in the recent mists of time, Miro, Samo, Sinead and I were trundling towards Chassagne Montrachet. Prior to departing Ireland I had contacted a couple of new producers about visits to taste with a view to working with them. Unfortunately DRC said no (in fairness, Aubert de Villaine was away), but Pierre-Yves and I had exchanged emails and an appointment had been set. I had come across his name a number of times and the feedback was always universally positive. It was shaping up to be a good tasting.

The first thing to remember is that there are lots of Colins around Chassagne and nearby St. Aubin. Pierre-Yves is the son of the well known Marc Colin and his wife, Caroline, is the daughter of the local Chassagne Producer, Jean-Marc Morey. Pierre-Yves worked with his father from 2001 to 2005 – having previously done stints with other producers including Chalk Hill (California), Wolf Blass (Australia), Vacheron (Sancerre) & Ferraton in the Rhone Valley. However in 2005 he wanted more flexibility to start implementing his own ideas about viticulture and vinification and his father split the Domaine into four equal parts. Pierre-Yves acquired 4 hectares of various vineyards and 2006 was his first truly independent vintage under the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey label.

Since then his star has risen rapidly. Although friendships don’t necessarily guarantee good wines, being able to call on Jean-Francois Coche Dury certainly isn’t a hindrance and Roulot is a pretty good role model to follow! Today he produces between 60,000 and 70,000 bottles annually and supplements his own vineyard holdings by buying in about 30% of his annual production in grapes – paying top prices for top quality material. He doesn’t differentiate between the two in terms of labelling – all are given the same careful elevage – and many of the different cuvees are only made in tiny quantities – for example only around 60 cases of Meursault Perrieres each year. The range is extensive – from a delicious St. Aubin “le Blanc” all the way to Corton-Charlemagne and both Batard and Chevalier-Montrachet. A nice cellar to spend a bit of time in!

Of course, we started by calling to the wrong address – it was a Colin, but not the right one! With the sleepy hamlet of Chassagne watching us four stragglers wandering around in the rain, we made our way to the correct address where Pierre-Yves welcomed us. The first bit of good news is that he has excellent English – so I could take a break from my translation duties and I could give full attention to the wines. And they certainly deserved attention.

From the very first taste of the 2009 St. Aubin les Creaux it was clear that this was going to be a great tasting. The common theme among all the wines was that of freshness combined with a wonderful precision. And the acidity? Well, for the first time this trip, the acidities seemed in perfect balance with the fruit. This set off an interesting discussion about the differences between “ripe” acidity and “unripe” acidity. Interestingly, Pierre-Yves tends to harvest a little earlier than others – and according to him, some others would say that this leads to an elevated sense of acidity in his wines. Certainly not to us – and that was the paradox – a slightly earlier harvest for purer, fresher fruit with good sugars produced a much more elegant wine than one with later harvested grapes at higher sugars that had then possibly been compromised by a different producer having to acidify. The St. Aubin les Combes was a little more precise and defined than the Creaux with nice minerality. It is on the Chassagne side of St. Aubin and certainly exhibits similar characteristics. Making our way through the St. Aubin 1er Crus of Chattenieres (very flinty, smoky and richer on the palate) and Remilly (on Puligny side and quite closed and reserved) we came across the St. Aubin 1er Cru of Champlots. Also on the Puligny side, this had amazing minerality intertwined with ripe, intense citrus fruits and that holy grail of natural “ripe” acidity.

In fact, all of the wines were outstanding examples of balanced and harmonious wines. It’s easy to make a “flashy” wine, but these were the opposite and therefore tended to catch us unawares with their elegant intensity and pure fruits. In the vineyards there is no stripping away of excess foliage during the growing season and no green harvest. It’s all down to the work put in at pruning in early Spring – only 4-5 buds per speron giving low (but not too low) yields that the vine can mature and ripen effectively without undue stress. All the St. Aubins are bottled after one year to maximise freshness, and the Premier and Grand Crus after 18 months. In recent years, Pierre-Yves has become a convert to the larger 350 litre barrels – the larger capacity reduces the overall wine-to-oak ratio and only 25% of them are new. Again, this subtlety is fully reflected in the purity of the wines. He does no battonage (stirring the juice whilst on its lees) – another “technique” that manifests itself in very precise wines.

We enjoyed a stunning (and relatively speaking “lowly”) Village Chassagne-Montrachet from the lieu-dit “Ancienierres” – lots of ripe lime fruits from 85 year old vines, and wonderfully balanced acidity on the finish. The Chassagne “Caillerets” was richer and more creamy – and will need more time to evolve. The Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres continued the theme with slightly denser fruit structure typical of Meursault and amazing length. Finally the Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru provided all sorts of wonderful contradictions as often a Grand Cru does – reserved on the nose, but searing intensity and rich complexity on the palate rounded (and quite literally “rounded”) out with the, by now familiar, ripe acids!

All in all, a hugely impressive range of barrel samples and a very reassuring tasting in the context of concerns about the general ripeness of the 2009 vintage for the whites. We have been lucky enough to secure an allocation of the 2009’s and will be offering them in our Burgundy 2009 Pre-Arrival offer next February.

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