Arriving at Domaine Leroy at Vosne Romanee is always and exciting moment, and by the same token there’s always a sense of wonder in terms of what the visit will bring. Sometimes it’s a tasting of Maison wines. Sometimes a mix of domaine and Maison, sometimes domaine wines from barrel…or bottle. Sometimes Madame Bize herself is present – if not Frederic Roemer presides. If neither are available there’s no visit. Simple as that. Visits can range from ‘just’ a tasting, to a tasting and ‘tour’ , to all of the above plus lunch. Today it’s all of that plus more…a visit to ‘home’ – Domaine d’Auvenay. This morning both Lalou and Frederic are there to greet Bengt and I and and both are in outstanding form. Lalou is increasingly something of a mythical figure, rarely sighted, never around apparently. Well today, she’s very much alive. As ferocious an intellect as ever, today I notice for the first time perhaps that she has a great sense of humor as well. And she was mountain climbing (her other great passion) last Friday! The visit is a delight from start to finish.
At lunch she’s quick as a flash that she didn’t pay over market value in a recent purchase for Domaine d’Auvenay of a couple of parcels in Batard Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet Eseigneres. ” There were many other bidders” she protests. She also suggests that there are many ‘wine snobs’ who miss out on many of the superb ‘Maison’ wines, in the belief that it is only the Domaine wines that are great. And says that the 2010 Chambertin (from domaine, and hyped as possibly the greatest domaine wine yet) may only just be the equal of the greatest Maison wines. If the 1972 Romanee Saint Vivant that we have over lunch is anything to go by, in all of its ethereal , youthful profoundness , she may well be right. In fact, you get the impression she usually is.
Todays tasting at Vosne Romanes is a look at the 2011s from barrel. As always It’s 100% new oak, all Francois Freres barrels ( Lalou says they ‘almost’ know exactly what she wants – there that sense of humor!) and all whole bunches used. The immediate good news is that after the dire production levels of the 2010 harvest, 2011 is back to ‘normal’. Yields ran at 24 hl/ha, similar to vintages like 96, 99 and 09′ though stylistically she likens in most to 1996 in so far as it’s levels of fruit purity and intensity. After tasting through the whole lineup you’ll find no argument from me on this.
Tasting notes to follow!
Andre Ostertag is a man who very much walks his own path. A constant student of wine he, like many of the producers we’ve met on this trip is not one to rest on his laurels. To stand still is to go backwards, someone said at one of the visits, and Andre is a great case in point. Our tasting today is a mix of mostly 2010 and 2011 vintages. 2011 in Alsace was reminiscent of 2007, with very early flowering finishing by the end of May. A cold wet summer followed by dry winter and spring. Picking started late September.
2010 one of the coldest vintage for a long time. An average temperature 9.9 compared with 11.6 in 2011. That’s a pretty huge difference! A very small crop followed. Andre says its a vintage a bit like 1996, with a lot of extraction, great concentration and long aging potential.
All Pinots ( Blanc, Gris) have been made in barrel since early 80s. This point has always raised some conjecture, in regard to the Ostertag wines, but put simply Andre feels, quite rightly, that these varieties have ‘very
tiny primary aromas, so secondary components need to arrive by wood. That is to say wood for aging, breathing, lees contact…not for oak flavour. There is no batonage.
2011 Pinot Blanc
50% each Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois this was bottled just at the end of Mau. Dry fleshy textural, soft balanced, Andre calls it GRAS – all about texture and weight. Like our current stocks, the 2010, this is great example of what Pinot Blanc can be handled sensibly.
With the Riesling wines the subject of Malolactic comes up, as Andre doesnt go looking for it, but doesn’t stop it if it does arrive. Sometimes the effect is more successful than others I feel, and out of curiosity I wonder if sometimes the wines would be different or even better without it. Sometimes!
2010 Riesling ‘Clos Mathis’ – from Granite soils, the only Riesling from Granite in the lineup. This is quite limey, clear and full, with rounded flavours, some nice minerality and poise.
2010 Riesling Fronholz – from Quartz soils
Nice crisp acid here , fine but generous, zesty, salty character typical of Fronholz regardless of variety. Some citrussy fruits. This is perhaps emerging as my favourite of the RIESLINGS, with great definition and drive.
2010 Riesling Heissenberg – sandstone and granite soils.
Really intense stones and earth, dense and concentrated.
A more showy, confident wine, open, exhuberant, fragrant. Lovely zesty orange citrus palate notes.
2010 Riesling Muenchberg
Very open from the red earth volcanic soils.
Creamier nutty characters, full flavored, supple, some earthy notes. Caramel notes that showed in Sydney. Here’s where I wonder about the malo. Certainly takes the wine in an interesting textural direction, which makes it a super wine for a wide range of food matches, but does it lose just a little bit if zip un the process?
2010 Zellberg Pinot Gris – from limestone soils, a South East facing site next to Muenchberg. This is a barrel sample, not fully dry, will be bottled in September. Full, opulent, great depth, mineral drive balance already. Very nice wine.
2010 Fronholz Pinot Gris
Here, like Achleiten vineyard in the Wachau, the vineyard impact is stronger than the grape. This has good acid drive, minerals, tightness, some savoury notes.
2010 Fronholz Muscat ottonel
More delicate than Muscat d’Alsace.
Restrained pot pourri fragrant,nice balance. Soft wine.
2011 Vignoble d’E Gewürztraminer . Does not look like it’s 35grams.
Quite earthy spicy nose, with unusual parsnip aromatic, concentrated nose, quite powerful, low alcohol, 12.5, no heat burn, natural residual sugar. Andre strives to reduce rather than expand on the aromatics on aromatris of Gewürztraminer, and looks at it ‘through the eyes of Riesling’. Now there’s an idea. In my view this is the best version to date and I look forward to landing some in Australia.
2009 Fronholz VT Gewürztraminer , at 90+ grams residual
Vanilla custard openness to the wine, not so much Gewurz character, more of the vineyard, again! Quite salty finish. Very powerful at the same time.
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