Auction preview: Hospices de Beaune 2019 barrel tasting notes November 13th, 2019

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We are gearing up for action for the 2019 Hospices de Beaune auction – number 159 in all – which takes place in Beaune this Sunday. Feel free to buy a barrel or two, or just enjoy my tasting notes on the 50 different cuvées of this superlative 2019 vintage.

There are 589 barrels on offer this year, unfortunately nearly 30% less than in 2018, with 471 barrels of red wine (631 last year), and 118 barrels of white (197 last year) so the decline is more severe in whites where the yield of juice from the grapes was especially low. However the total is slightly ahead of each of the hail and frost hit vintages between 2012 and 2016.

50 different cuvees are being offered once again, 33 red and 17 white. These tasting notes were compiled in early November.

THE RED WINES

2019 is a superbly concentrated vintage for red wines, having enjoyed a fine warm summer which ripened the grapes so well but with volumes a little down against the average. A key factor however is that despite the sugar levels and the concentration of fruit flavours, acidity also remained high, so we have red wines full of energy and drive.

AUXEY-DURESSES – MONTHELIE- PERNAND – SANTENAY – SAVIGNY

These cuvées offer both affordability and accessibility: any of them will start to be ready to drink after about 5 years in bottle, yet will age safely for as long again. The four wines in one year old barrels were also vinified without sulphur, though this was added for protection when the wines went into barrel.

Auxey Duresses, 1er Cru les Duresses, Cuvée Boillot (5 barrels)

Lodged in one year old barrels. A dark colour leads on to a firm, dark-fruited nose with livelier notes on the palate. Spices, a little bit of mocha, dark fruit, firm tannins as the name suggests, but they will fall nicely into place during the barrel maturation.

Monthelie Les Duresses, Cuvée Lebelin (9 barrels)

Lodged in one year old barrels. An attractive fresh crimson purple colour leads to an elegant ripe raspberry nose. Please note that this cuvee, declared as village, is in fact predominantly made from 1er Cru vineyards. Brilliantly juicy behind, with the thoroughly beneficial fresh acidity at the back.

Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru Les Vergelesses, Cuvée Rameau-Lamarosse (7 barrels)

Lodged in one year old barrels. There’s no question about depth of colour this year. The Pernand offers a fine deep purple with a blacker centre. An evocative nose with a deep summer pudding bouquet featuring blackcurrant and blackberry. With this richness and ripeness of fruit flavours it is good to have a brisk acidity behind, which the Cuvée Rameau-Lamarosse is certainly providing.

Santenay, Cuvée Christine Friedberg (4 barrels)

Lodged in one year old barrels, the 2019 Santenay offers a rich dense youthful purple colour with plump, dense fruit on the nose. This is always one of the last vineyards to be picked. There are some attractive chocolate notes here, before the fresher red fruits bring up the finish.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Arthur Girard (17 barrels)

Glowing crimson purple, fresh and delicious lively deep red fruit on the nose, there is no suggestion of over maturity here, reflecting Ludivine Griveau’s common sense in choosing her picking dates. This is beautifully concentrated on the palate with some lively bright cherry notes alongside the fresh raspberry, yet with a concentration which is exceptionally rare at this level. The barrel is adding a slight but attractive toasty note which will marry well with the fruit.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Fouquerand (16 barrels)

A wealth of deep rich fruit, with attractive red berry notes, nothing black here. The density of fruit is evident from the first sniff, with an excellent attack at the front of the palate. The finish shows a pleasing harmony between fruit and acidity with only the lightest of tannins.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, 1er Cru Les Vergelesses, Cuvée Forneret (23 barrels)

In common with all the cuvées which come from a single terroir, this wine is matured in François Frères barrels. Whilst the colour is no deeper than its Savigny siblings, there is an impressive aromatic complexity, followed by a smoothness of fruit and very good oak integration on the palate. This is agreeably ripe with a little less acidity, so should come round earlier than the Cuvée Arthur Girard for example.

BEAUNE 1ER CRU

It is no surprise that the Hospices de Beaune is well provided in wines from Beaune itself: 10 different 1er cru cuvées delivering all the nuances of style that Beaune can offer. The tatsing notes below will indicate the varying styles from one cuvée to another. Cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron and Cuvée Rousseau Deslandes might suit those seeking a wine which will be accessible earlier, whereas Cuvée Floquet or Cuvée Nicolas Rolin are for the long term.

Beaune, 1er Cru Les Montrevenots, Cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron (7 barrels)

A fine bright crimson colour heralds an attractive wine, even more so when the glass is brought to the nose. This is wonderfully elegant in its perfume, yet so full of fruit. It was certainly picked at optimum ripeness. The balance between the fruit and the structure is particularly well judged this year. The sunny conditions have benefitted a vineyard site which can miss out in cooler years.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Hugues & Louis Bétault (12 barrels)

A brisk bright youthful purple leads the way. This has a tighter bouquet than the Cuvée Cyrot Chaudron with a substantial fruit weight waiting in reserve. Raspberry, red and black-currant are all present, with a smoothly ripe finish, balanced by a little acidity. A Beaune for the medium term.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Brunet (11 barrels)

A gorgeous glowing purple colour heralds a wine of significant concentration. The first bouquet suggests that there is going to be a huge amount to follow, and indeed this proves to be a dense and compact wine. The fruit, on the cusp of red and black, is in complete harmony throughout, flowing through to a beautifully poised finish, with just the right acidity.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Maurice Drouhin (19 barrels)

A fine bright and even colour across the glass. The bouquet begins discreetly, translated on the palate as a sense of refinement with a classy delicacy of flavour alongside the evident ripeness of fruit. A long and pure finish rounds out this refined wine. The Cuvée Maurice Drouhin is particularly stylish this year.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Rousseau-Deslandes (15 barrels)

A brisk crimson-red colour with deep red fruit on the nose. A slight touch of fresh cherries and raisins. Full of fruit at the front of the palate, with a silky touch as the more elegant side of the wine which comes from La Mignotte takes over towards the finish.

Beaune, 1er Cru Les Grèves, Cuvée Floquet (8 barrels)

A full bright dense red-purple colour, the Cuvée Floquet shows its intensity from first sniff. It is never the most flamboyant cuvée but as usual it shows its class in the mid-palate intensity, and a deep red fruit which continues to build through to an excellent finish, where the fruit dominates the structure. One for the medium to long term.

Beaune, 1er Cru Clos des Avaux (14 barrels)

The stone gateway that heralds this vineyard has had to be re-sited as enthusiastic but careless tourists kept crashing in to it! The wine attracts attention too: its full purple colour glows beautifully, and the bouquet demonstrates a wine which will have much more to offer in due course. Indeed there is an explosion of ripe raspberry fruit on the palate, balanced by a fine grain of tannin and perfectly judged acidity.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Dames Hospitalières (27 barrels)

With a bright medium deep colour and an elegant pure fruited nose, this is a very graceful cuvée which epitomises what Beaune is all about. Nothing flashy here, just a marvellous sense of harmony and a strikingly long finish. The mix of the Bressandes, Mignotte and especially Theurons vineyards contributes to its graceful character. These grapes showed beautiful fruit flavours throughout the vinification process, notes Ludivine.

It will make a worthy opener to the sale.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Guigone de Salins (24 barrels)

A fine bright crimson colour, this cuvee offers an immediately enticing fresh red fruit nose, with floral notes. The fruit is racy on the palate, with a crunchy texture, absolutely in harmony all the way through to the finish which shows an excellent combination of fine-grained tannins and balanced acidity, while the stylish fruit remains to the fore. Dancing qualities throughout! A cuvée which has the capacity to age very well yet is accessible in good time.

Beaune, 1er Cru, Cuvée Nicolas Rolin (24 barrels)

The founder of the Hospices de Beaune has a cuvée worthy of his name. Deep in colour, what initially strikes on the nose is the plumpness of the fruit, which subsequently surges across the palate with some spicier notes. This is a weighty, mouth-filling Beaune which will repay keeping. It is usually the longest lived of the Beaune cuvées.

 

VOLNAY & POMMARD

These two appellations area often paired but they are certainly not identical twins. Volnay typically offers wines of great elegance, but those from Les Santenots have rather more structure. Pommard on the other hand is likely to be more robust – except for the consistent, underlying elegance to be found from the Epenots vineyard. Ripe warm years such as 2018 and 2019 have been very kind to Pommard.

 

Volnay 1er Cru, Cuvée Blondeau (22 barrels)

Here there is a solid powerful crimson colour and a concentrated nose to match. This has more power than the Cuvée Muteau, altogether a richer and deeper fruit, with attractive ripe raspberry notes and a long classy finish. The quality and concentration are understandable given that over two-thirds of this cuvée comes from the excellent Champans and Taillepieds vineyards,

Volnay 1er Cru, Cuvée Général Muteau (17 barrels)

A fine even purple colour with a graceful yet intense nose, the oak showing a slight lactic touch today which soon starts to integrate with the ripeness of the grapes, just adding a touch of cream. Indeed it does harmonise in the glass which retains a lively fruit that rapidly outweighs the barrel. The finish has a pleasing light red fruit touch which really lingers.

Volnay 1er Cru Les Santenots, Cuvée Jéhan de Massol (14 barrels)

Dense purple black in colour. The bouquet is initially a little more reserved than for the Cuvée Gauvin but the fruit on the palate is classically refined yet really intense. The red fruit has one or two darker berry notes alongside but the overall sensation is of a fine fresh wine of great intensity across the palate, while retaining its Volnay origins.

Volnay 1er Cru Les Santenots, Cuvée Gauvain (14 barrels)

Intensely rich purple in colour, this is clearly a concentrated cuvée, alas partly concentrated by a reduction in volume after the cold start to the year. The fruit is redolent of summer pudding with blackcurrant, redcurrant and raspberry too. There is a pure ripe core to this wine with the start of a velvet texture which will build during the barrel ageing. Note the exceptionally long finish.

Pommard, Cuvée Billardet (12 barrels)

A dense, even purple colour. The bouquet delivers fresh red fruit and a sense of energy. This is a cuvée which shows the hillside aspect of Pommard more than the heavy tannins of the lower ground, thanks to the fruit from the Les Noizons, supported also by grapes from 1er Cru Les Arvelets. It is beautifully balanced across the palate and finishes very well.

Pommard, Cuvée Suzanne Chaudron (18 barrels)

A slightly denser purple with some muscle to the fruit. This is a typically powerful dense Pommard with some tannins, ripe however, to bring up the finish. In fact it could be a textbook example, ideal for lovers of a classical Pommard. There is a pleasing weight of dark berry fruit returning at the back behind the well ripened tannins.

Pommard, Cuvée Raymond Cyrot (23 barrels)

A lively fresh bright purple colour. The fruit is suavely ripe, with a crunchy mineral character at the back, a little bit of dry tannin too. This still has the aromatics of fermenting grapes, it is the most backward of the Pommards, but will absolutely deliver the austere and robust qualities of the appellation.

Pommard 1er Cru, Cuvée Dames de la Charité (22 barrels)

Full dense purple. Here there are several layers of fruit on the nose, an impressive weaving of multiple red fruits with just an occasional dark berry note. This is a cuvée in total harmony on the palate, again the fruit appearing in nuanced waves, and with sublime persistence freshened up by just the right acidity. It is a special treat to enjoy a Pommard which contains both of the villages top vineyards, Rugiens and Epenots.

Pommard, 1er Cru Les Epenots, Cuvée Dom Goblet (11 barrels)

A bright clear mid crimson. The nose is a little stricter than for the Cuvée Dames de la Charité, and indeed this wine follows a different shape. There is less immediate volume of fruit on show, but an exceptional intensity based around a steely backbone. The ripeness of the fruit has been perfectly judged, and there is a fine balancing acidity. This cuvée of Epenots always shows the highest class.

 

THE GRANDS CRUS

All of these wines are designed for the long term and will easily survive into the adulthood of children lucky enough to be born in 2019. There are three cuvées of Corton and three Grands Crus from the Côte de Nuits on offer. Of the former Charlotte Dumay may be approachable earlier than the others but will certainly still have the necessary staying power.

In choosing between the Echezeaux, Clos de la Roche and Mazis-Chambertin, much is down to personal taste. All three are up to their respective marks in 2019.

 

Corton, Grand Cru, Cuvée Charlotte Dumay (20 barrels)

One of the densest colours in the cellar followed by a super saturation of concentrated ripe fruit on the nose, beautifully poised between red and black fruits. The palate offers a little bit of spice too, a wine in harmony with its barrel. Gorgeously pure liquid raspberry notes bring up the finish. This is a very complete wine in 2019. It usually is thanks to the pairing of the more muscular Renardes vineyard with the graceful Bressandes.

Corton, Grand Cru, Cuvée Docteur Peste (20 barrels)

A very intense purple colour kicks off this powerful cuvée. Immediately apparent on the nose are some fresh blackberry notes. The fruit on the palate is absolutely mouth-filling with some tarry notes at the back, all kept sufficiently lively by the natural acidity of the vintage. This is very backward at the moment, a firm deep clay-based Corton for the long term.

Corton Clos du Roi, Grand Cru, Cuvée Baronne du Baÿ (7 barrels)

Beginning with its rich, powerful black-purple colour, the Clos du Roi displays its majesty. This is an impressively complete wine, whether speaking of the luxurious but beautifully controlled fruit of the bouquet, or its energetic drive across the palate, with a delicious cool, fresh feeling at the back and above all great persistence. A brilliant wine in 2019!

Echezeaux Grand Cru, Cuvée Jean-Luc Bissey (5 barrels)

A regal purple colour as one would expect from this grand cru. The bouquet is very discreet, scarcely showing at this early stage. There is however an extraordinary wealth of fruit, black cherries at the front, dark raspberries through the middle and some fresher red fruit to finish. Still an infant, but very promising.

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Cuvée Cyrot Chaudron (4 barrels)

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Cuvée Georges Kritter (3 barrels)

The Hospices are fortunate to have made the same volume in 2019 as 2018 from this excellent terroir. One single wine is made but sold under two cuvée names to reflect different benefactors. In common with the other grands crus, this has an exceptional density of colour. Ludivine finds a cool graphite quality here every year early in the maturation, though it blends in totally later on. There is also a juicy ripe black cherry quality to the fruit which fills the middle of the palate, and good length behind. It is very sensual at the finish, just needing the extra time to marry.

Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru, Cuvée Madeleine Collignon (17 barrels)

Another fine imperial purple colour. As always this cuvée combines majesty and a wonderful sense of equilibrium. The fruit does not appear in an explosion but seeps gracefully yet generously across the palate. The ripeness has been perfectly judged. I saw these grapes rolling across the sorting table – there was nothing to do, they were in perfect condition, and we can see that in the resulting wine which finishes on a beautiful fruit/acid (and gentle tannin) balance.

THE PRESIDENTS’ BARREL

The Pièce des Presidents is being raised in a special 36 air-dried barrel from the La Grange tonnellerie where every barrel is made entirely by hand, including carving out the dowels. This year the barrel has been selected from Corton Bressandes, Grand Cru. It is the only barrel which will carry the Corton Bressandes label for the Hospices de Beaune in 2019. The colour is an immensely rich deep purple, while the powerful deep dark fruit on the nose speaks also of a noble terroir. On the palate the additional grace of Bressandes, as concentrated as the best cuvées from this famous hillside but without the tougher tannins, shines through.

At the time of tasting it was only just going into its barrel, so we can be sure that the wood will bring an extra dimension of harmony.

 

WHITE WINES

The white wines are matured in barrels from the Tonnellerie Damy. All wines are being matured in new 228 litre barrels this year, as is the custom, with the following exceptions among the white wines: Beaune Blanc is in new 456 litre barrels (from François Frères), the Pouilly-Fuissé and Chablis 1er Cru in one year old 228 litre barrels. Please note that bidding for wines in 456l barrels is still per 228 litres, which corresponds to the volumes quoted.

 

2019 is a vintage apart for the white wines: the sunshine summer has given us ultra-concentrated wines which are mostly between 13.5 and 14% alcohol, but uniquely in such a circumstance, the pH has remained low and acidities high so that the wines retain a scintillating natural freshness alongside their undoubted concentration. These will make superb wines for long term keeping.

 

Pouilly-Fuissé, Cuvée Françoise Poisard (26 barrels)

Clear bright colour. The nose is already perfectly harmonious and absolutely reflects the character of the south with fresh pears and summer grass, mouth-filling but in no way over powerful, and refreshed by the little point of acidity at the back. Very stylish and accessible early.

St-Romain, Cuvée Joseph Menault (14 barrels)

A fine pale primrose colour. This is very backward, still with primary fermentation aromas, but so full of energy. There is surprising volume to this, fresh apple, a bit of oak already showing. A touch of grapefruit and fresh apricot – something of everything here but it will need time to settle into its true colours – but what a pleasure to have so much character in an inexpensive wine.

Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet, Cuvée Jean-Marc Brocard (2 barrels)

Tasted just after lees stirring, so the wine is cloudy. The lovely grapefruit notes offer a valuable freshness to the undoubted weight of fruit here, while at the finish the more classic Chablis notes arrive, a clean pure white fruit with marine edges. Very persistent.

Puligny-Montrachet, Cuvée Bernard Clerc (1 barrel)

Tasted just after lees stirring. The fruit is beautifully elegant, with spring blossom and fresh apples, also some just ripe pears in the mix. The texture is impressive and the acidity just right to match the fruit weight. This also shows the class of the 2019 vintage with its admirable persistence.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Montrevenots, Cuvée Suzanne & Raymond (12 barrels)

This cuvée had not gone to barrel at the time of tasting and is still cloudy, with a  little bit of a sparkle on the palate. Fresh pear and apple notes predominate, with good vibrancy up front, less strict behind. A Generous style of predominantly white fruit and lower acidity.

MEURSAULT

Have the citizens of Meursault been more generous than the other villages? For whatever original reason, the Hospices de Beaune is delighted to be able to offer 7 different cuvées from this most authentic of white wine villages. The tasting notes will show where the balance between elegance and opulence lies from one wine to another.

Meursault, Cuvée Loppin (16 barrels)

Clean, clear pale yellow with a firm apple fruit showing on the nose. There is powerful structure here, this is a well-muscled Meursault, with more pears than apples on the palate and a solid finish. It continues however to grow in the glass and will benefit from further barrel ageing.

Meursault Cuvée Goureau (8 barrels)

Clear light yellow colour, with classy fruit immediately apparent on the nose. This has excellent structure and impressive detail, with waves of ripe fruit swaying across the palate and fine intensity at the back. The flavours linger beautifully at the end. A pity there is not more of this excellent cuvée!

Meursault 1er Cru Porusots, Cuvée Jéhan Humblot (15 barrels)

A fine pale yellow with light green tints. There is immediate elegance to the nose along with a sensation of sun-ripened fruit which absolutely fills the mouth. Ripe pears a little bit of orange blossom, altogether a sun filled wine balanced by just the right acidity to finish.

Meursault 1er Cru Charmes, Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay (16 barrels)

A fine pale lemon colour, the delicious bouquet offers a little note of lychees, alongside the classic deep white fruit, more pears than apples. A little youthful bitterness suggests its excellent potential for keeping, while ripe lemon zest notes infuse the finish. Promising!

Meursault 1er Cru Charmes, Cuvée Albert Grivault (12 barrels)

A pretty light lemon colour, the bouquet is more backward than for the Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay. Very pure white fruit at first on the nose, with a little citrus in the background. This is quite restrained, though the fruit is attractively ripe, and shows a good sense of refinement at the back of the palate.

Meursault 1er Cru Genevrières, Cuvée Baudot (26 barrels)

Clear pale colour. This has a fresh and engaging nose, very typical of the vineyard. It is fine-boned rather than muscular, with pleasing elegance and a fine tracing of detailed fruit. A little passion fruit enhances the aromatics without suggesting any excess of ripeness.

Meursault 1er Cru Genevrières, Cuvée Philippe Le Bon (15 barrels)

This is a wine with an unmistakeable, bold presence. A fine pale primrose colour, the bouquet shows significantly more depth of flavour than the elegant Baudot. The wine does indeed have a massive presence across the palate, and will support very well its new oak. A wine in ideal harmony, between fruit and lively acidity.

 

THE GRANDS CRUS

There are four whites in the Corton family and one fabulous cuvée of Bâtard-Montrachet. The Cortons are all rather low in volume this year but are all exceptionally concentrated and with the perfect balance for long ageing.

Corton Blanc, Grand Cru, Cuvée Docteur Peste (3 barrels)

Fresh pale colour with a light green tint. These are still very primary aromas, along with some spring flowers. Then quite steely on the palate with a white fruit intensity that augurs well. There is excellent length of flavour too, a cuvée which is coming into its own as the vines age.

Corton-Vergennes, Grand Cru, Cuvée Paul Chanson (3 barrels)

A fine primrose colour, offering even more depth than the Corton Blanc.  Look out for the predominantly white fruit on the palate, with some yellow plums alongside, an excellent weight of fruit, and a genuine sense of sunshine. This Corton is very racy however on the palate, and delivers impressive length too.

Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, Cuvée Le Roi Soleil (3 barrels)

The colour is light, bright and clear while the bouquet, although ultra-concentrated, offers more refinement than sometimes for this cuvée. A little fresh orange, ripe citrus throughout and a commendable sense of energy. Actually the finish is really very long indeed.

Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, Cuvée Francois de Salins (4 barrels)

Brilliant pure lemon and lime in colour, with a racily enticing nose, floral, concentrated but brilliantly balanced too. With only 4 barrels this will not be cheap, and the wine absolutely deserves not to be. It is completely harmonious from start to finish, with the classic sparkling stony quality of fine Corton-Charlemagne. Exceptionally persistent too. Bravo!

Bâtard-Montrachet, Grand Cru, Cuvée Dames de Flandres (3 barrels)

Clear bright pale primrose colour. Oddly enough this is the one cuvée which has gone through its malolactic fermentation. There is an agreeable touch of lemon balm here. Enticing, with an excellent sense of balance. With time an attractive light peach perfume emerges. Bâtard-Montrachet relishes these sunnier vintages and feels entirely at home with 14% alcohol. Not soft but certainly well padded, with a fine powerful structure at the finish as it needs. Sumptuous!

 

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