Some tasting notes are easier than others to compose and others just need time. You can write some on the spot and you can sit on others until such time when their clarity is revealed. I’ve said it a hundred times. Great wines write their own reviews. We are merely the conduit to bring the notes to light.
Nicholas Pearce has a terrific relationship with Nicolas Potel. Agent and Burgundy producer, négoce, man of leisure. Diplomat and ambassador extraordinaire for the wines of Burgundy; Villages, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. Pearce held a tasting back in February for Potel’s Collection Bellenum. If there is anyone in Burgundy that Nicolas does not know I can’t say but in addition to running his own Domaine de Bellene and négoce Maison Roche de Bellene, Potel has drawn on his secret resources to deliver older parcels of Burgundy from producers who somehow hid these top vineyard gems from the world.
This tasting was simply ridiculous and I can’t help wonder how the universe aligns to bring such things to fruition. Some of the wines are priced beyond recognition while others are almost too good to be true. The LCBO is now purchasing four wines; Roche De Bellene Santenay 1er Cru Beaurepaire 1998, Roche de Bellene Monthelie Villages 2005, Roche De Bellene Chambolle-Musigny Villages 2001 and Roche De Bellene Gevrey-Chambertin Villages 2001. I tasted and reviewed 13 wines that day. Here are the notes.
It’s always a gift to taste older Burgundy and righteously so from 1998. From the “Collection Bellenum” by Nicolas Potel and a nearly 20-year old bold and intact Santenay from what began as a surly vintage. Remnants of certainly once firm, gritty, rustic red fruit now cured like pinot noir gravlax meets bresaola. Carries through with a musty tone and still the acidity rages and circles the fruit wagon. Still some tannin (say, four years left) and a wisdom Santenay would not always have been able to foreshadow. Great gamey finish with Burgundian voice and vice grip tension. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017
Monthelie 2005 is the most acetic and volatile but that’s only by way of a side by side by each comparison to ’02 and 04. In many ways this shines the brightest and as the youngest it does so with the highest degree of freshness, though that is certainly not what was expected. One must realize that growing up is not yet done and this wine has simply not crossed the threshold into its older Burgundy self. It could be considered 2011 the way it speaks of red fruit and cool, elevated tones, as if no time has passed. Tannins are chalkier and offer up more limestone, red liquid ruby sensation. This Monthelie is the conundrum. Drink 2018-2027. Tasted February 2017
Monthelie 2004 is the brooding brother of the three Monthelie samples (along with ’02 and ’05), deep, rich, hematic, ferric and funky. Volatility is a major part of its character but the fruit still stands to tell an ’04 tale. Not the most ethereal of vintages as seen here but certainly full of energy and longevity. This lingers in a grippy way the others do not, so it has that going for it, which is nice. It will drink this way for five years more, at a very basic minimum. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted February 2017
Since this Monthelie is assessed in a ’02-’04-’05 mini flight, it can’t be helped but to discuss one in relation to the other two. It is noted that 2002 and 2005 share a heat-spiked affinity but it is this ’02 that carries it effortlessly and with more slow-hung and expertly seasoned cure than volatility. Burgundy as it is seen through Monthelie eyes is accomplished with utter purity, clarity and wisdom. This has ancient character in its DNA and 15 years of potential energy still coursing through its veins. So bright and at the same time indelibly dense and compressed. Beauty is in the eye of one who relishes but does not get hung up by dwelling in the past. Tremendous wine. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted February 2017
Clos des Chenes in the capable hands of Nicolas Potel ties a nice little ribbon around an oak old tree because it’s a very pretty Volnay, so floral as per the exercise and those subtle notes that make you think about fennel, graphite and the Burgundy bush equivalent of garrigue. This is extracted, rich and full of red berries (namely raspberry). It’s firm as much as the fruit requests it to be and the acidity is beautifully round. The grip in the tannin indicates many years ahead. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017
From 2002 it is Potel’s Clos des Chenes that acts the age apparent one but the threshold is far from breached or really at this 15 year stage, even reached. Nor is the fruit to tannin inversion in danger of a transgression. The floral Volnay component is reduced, layered and dipped into cherry-ripened liqueur. The tannin in this vintage runs across that impressing line from sweet to aggressive. I would have my pleasure with this Volnay over the next two or three juicy and grippy years. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017
The vineyard Les Pézerolles is widely considered the finest in Pommard and the vintage 2005 one of the decade’s best (along with 2002 and 2009). Potel’s work here is with a pinot noir still youthful but not as young as the Monthelie. This Pommard is firm and separates itself as it needs to be, with subtle hints of sanguine and bitters. This could also be assessed as quinine and savour but also of a richness that reveals some kind of chocolate menthol aroma. Not a gritty but certainly a rigid Pommard. It’s quite chewy and promising for long life to come from such a promiscuous and preferable mouthful to enjoy. Will open for full business by the end of the calendar year. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted February 2017
The vintage has been my go to, fan favourite and highest probability for cellar pulling success since purchasing some Girardin Premier Cru more than 15 years ago and exacting success each time one is opened. Nicolas Potel is both lucky and highly intelligent in his negotiating some 1999 from Gevrey-Chambertin. This here now is quite funky in its own right and that perfect example of older Burgundy walking the fine line of earth-fruit-volatility exactitude. This is a beautifully rich and red liqueur red though I can see how some would see it as showing some microbes to change the conversation. No matter though because tannin following structure is securely intact. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted February 2017
Potel finds gold in Gevrey-Chambertin with this extraordinary Petit Chapelle Premier Cru barrel. There is a level of ripeness and extraction that exceeds most of the rest in this magnificent négoce line-up and an aromatic sweetness sans apareil. Really fine and grainy tannins, more sweetness feigned and ropey fruit reigned in and fully completely surrounded. The tough partners have yet to relent. That and the whole distinction is nothing short of amazing. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted February 2017
The 2004 Monthelie actually helped in preparation to taste this ’04 Clos de la Roche and that speaks volumes about the vintage as a whole. Homogenous would be one way to say it but clarity and transparency is a good thing. The earthy twang, terroir-funk and rich liquor will collectively never be confused with 2001 and certainly not 1998. This has some serious rigid, kick-ass, dark fruit ripped by acidity and wrangled by mean and aggressive tannin. If you are a fan of powerful Grand Cru than this is yours. You’ll have to be patient though. What lady bug year? Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2017
A greater than the sum of its original parts vintage now in clear retrospection is the Clos de La Roche 2001, now having travelled to another realm, an ulterior Bungundian dimension, It is from out of the walled in Grand Cru La Roche that the purity cries, laughs and then cries again. Charity from Burgundy in utmost clarity and a minor important edge of merde. It’s simply pure, terroir-infiltrating gout de Roche squeezed from the earth and emancipated into the greater wine as a whole. The effort to acknowledge the ethereal is no effort at all. The ease of breath is touching and thankful. So pretty, firm, but really, just easy living. Like perfect parents who have raised a confident child with perfect social skills. It’s a medieval poem. You can actually drink this now. Drink 2017-2032. Tasted February 2017
Clos de La Roche 1998 may be 19 years old but you have to swirl the britches out of this Grand Cru because reduction persists in its make-up. Once you work your way over the wall a field of wildflowers and a roses bouquet lays out as far as the nose can mind’s eye. This is pure candy in its most arid, blessed and gout de terroir way. It is as charming as Burgundy can be and yet so fine of tannin, tight and duplicitously-grained in clone upon itself. One of those wines so difficult to put to words because it teaches and you can do nothing but listen. I’d still want to wait two more years, maybe more, before knowing I’ve waited long enough. Close de la Roche speaks to me but to answer with any real credibility and respect I will need to think some more. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted February 2017
From Nicolas Potel in Meursault and a highly prized, charged and anticipated Charmes Premier Cru from 2002 no less, immediately distinctive for the smoky, flinty, direct and taut inflection. It would be hard not to appreciate how the barrel has integrated to the point of absence and in effect, walked out the door. Still the fruit persists and it is the years of melting lees that act as the buoy for that fruit to shine like the gem it obviously was, and is. Citrus yes but not definable as such and acidity also melted and dripping with paraffin in advance of honey. That alternative sweetness is still a few years away. The slow evolution and more to come is one of those great impossibilites to make you smile. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted February 2017
Good to go!