My annual tasting dinner – Burgundy & Pinot Noir

My annual wine-tasting dinner is a bit of an institution now. Each summer I invite a bunch of my wine-loving fiends from around Scotland for a serious tasting, followed by a less than serious dinner. It is a great opportunity for me to raid my cellar for a selection of fine wines I want to try. The tasting this year featured 15 Burgundies and Pinots Noir, which were served blind at the tasting. The wines were paired, mostly on vintage, over eight flights (one flight contained Williams Selyem’s 1999 Pinot Noir, a last-minute addition).


At the end of the tasting guests were asked to give a single vote for most enjoyable wine. Thier verdict was a split decision, with Louis Latour’s Corton Grand Cru 1993 and Pousse d’Or’s Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Bousse d’Or 1983 sharing the honours. A close second came two wines: the Costa de Oro Californian Pinot Noir 1998 and the Williams Selyem 1999 – a clean sweep for California in the runners-up spot.Another Californian, Beaulieu Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve 1996, picked up two votes, with a single vote going to Seifried Estate Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Collection 2001 from New Zealand and Domaine de L’Arlot’s Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos des Forets 1990.

xThe crowd gathers in the garden before the tasting commences (right). Here we enjoyed two white Spätburgunders (Pinot Noir) from Schloss Vollrads in the Rheingau. Also, as a freshener before dinner there were a couple of bottles of Nyetimber’s deliciously mature and toasty 1993 cuvée. Dinner featured a classic Gaspacho, followed by roast duck with potatoes dauphinoise, braised red cabbage and a red wine jus. After cheese, we finished with a dark and white chocolate terrine. To finish off the evening, Villa Maria Noble Riesling, Château Suiduraut Sauternes 1990 and Warre’s 1977 Port were consumed, but I was enjoying myself too much to take notes.

The wines

Red Burgundy and Pinot Noir, Flight One

Seifried Estate (Nelson New Zealand) Pinot Noir 2001
Clean, rather vinous nose with crisp cherry fruit and some minerality. Dense, silky palate with firm cherry fruit and tight-grained quality to the tannins. Powerful and quite dense, but not a lot of charm. Very good.

Seifried Estate (Nelson NZ) Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Collection 2001
A selection of the best barrels. Much more vanillin oak that is sweet and custardy. More plush on the nose, with rich berry fruit. Some really nice quality fruit on the palate; lots of chewy, dense cherry and chocolate backed up by zippy acidity. Fine focus into a long finish. Very good indeed/excellent.

Flight Two

Costa de Oro (Santa Maria Valley California) Pinot Noir 1998
This wine was a gift from winemaker Gary Burke, when he showed me around Au Bon Climat winery in Santa Barbara a few years ago. It was Gary’s own project within the winery, and I think this was his first release. It has a lovely Burgundian, slightly damp undergrowthy element on the nose, vegetal, with notes of leaves and mushroom. There’s plenty of toasty oak in the background, and lots of fine, incense-like aromatics. Lovely fruit on the palate, with some gorgeous silky berry quality and a long, nicely balanced finish. One of my favourites on the night. Excellent.

Patriarche Père et Fils (Burgundy) Chambolle Musigny 1999
Slightly dank, dirty quality on the nose, though not giving much at present. Quite a step up on the palate, with pleasant fruit but a touch weedy and not totally clean. Good.

Flight Three

Beaulieu Vineyards (Carneros California) Pinot Noir Reserve 1996
Lovely ripe nose here, of nicely integrated spicy oak, incense and sweet, if rather jammy raspberry fruit. Fine, silky mouthfeel, with plenty of confiture plum and strawberry fruit. Notes of clove and woodsmoke suppport the fruit into the finish, with ripe tannins and lowish, but adequate acidity. A seductive style, and very good indeed.

Domaine Rapet (Burgundy) Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roi 1996
Nicely rounded, glossy fruit on the nose. Hints of vegetal, autumn leaves, but pretty one-dimensional. Some sweet fruit evident on the palate, but this is a little dull, with angular acidity in the finish. Moderate/good.

Flight Four

Williams Selyem (California) Pinot Noir 1999
Lovely nose here, gorgeous sweetness of fruit and a fine, cedary, exotic character with anise and clove. On the palate a breadth of sweet cherry fruit washes over the tongue, with some earthy notes and balancing acidity freshening the picture. Ripe tannins and a touch of vanilla bolster the long finish. Excellent, and aromatically the star of the night perhaps.

Flight Five

Domaine René Engel (Burgundy) Vosne-Romanée 1994
A little bit dank on the nose, with silage and barnyard aromas. A little lean on the palate, with some good Burgundy character, but just not quite held together by sufficient fruit. Moderate.

Domaine Tollot-Beaut (Burgundy) Chorey-Lès-Beaune 1994
Again, another slightly dank nose – really quite similar, though with some fudgy oak. Quite soft and earthy on the palate, with a fine sweet fruit note at its core, and hints of demerara sugar. Good acidity, and ends up being very good indeed.

Flight Six

Domaine Louis Latour (Burgundy) Corton Grand Cru 1993
Gorgeous nose of fine, sweet, soft and earthy aromatics and gentle, autumnal berry fruit. On the palate it is soft and yeilding, with a good fleshy mouthfeel and silky texture. It has great poise and elegance, yet depths of fruit leading into a long finish, where a burst of acidity pushes through and feshens the finish beautifully. Excellent.

Domaine Chandon de Briailles (Burgundy) Corton Grand Cru Les Bressandes 1993
Slightly higher, lifted nose and more aromatic with ripe berries, incense and mint; almost a little acetone in character, but very attractive. Very pure, medium-weight silky fruit on the palate and very good length. Not quite the complexity of the Latour, but lovely. Very good indeed.

Flight Seven

Domaine de L’Arlot (Burgundy) Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos des Fôrets 1990
Really dank, vegetal, quite barnyardy nose, with a suggestion of vomit (sorry!). Sweetness of ripe cherry fruit emerges. The palate has a lot of sweet, dark fruit with more cherry and crisp raspberry flavours, and a tugging earthiness beneath. Good length, and in the end this works Burgundy magic and finishes sweet and pure. Very good indeed/excellent.

Domaine de L’Arlot (Burgundy) Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de L’Arlot 1989
Cleaner, sweeter and silkier on the nose, with hints of old roses. Full-textured palate of ripe berry fruit, demerara sugar and cherry acidity. A nice wine, drinking well, but perhaps not much further to go. Very good indeed.

Flight Eight

La Pousse d’Or (Burgundy) Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets “Clos des 60 Ouvrées” 1986
Seems quite youthful, and there is a lovely brackeny quality with soft autumn berry fruits and a little tobacco. Lovely rounded palate, with a soft lushness of red fruit and little hints of tea and smoke. Very, very fine and very good indeed/excellent.

La Pousse d’Or (Burgundy) Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Bousse d’Or 1983
Gorgeous nose here, which is soft and yeilding with brown sugar, violet, and sweet, silky black fruit. There’s a little fudge-like quality too. On the palate it really has delicious fruit, with a long, pure core of berries and quite deep, blackcurranty notes. Lovely balance here, with sweet tannins and good acidity. Excellent.

I failed to write up the 2002 event, a 1982-themed dinner where highlights included Pichon-Lalande, Léoville-Poyferré and Yquem 1982, but read the reports from the 1999-2001 dinners in the archives.