I write this on Tuesday morning early with just one of the EIGHTEEN possible Burgundy 2004 tastings in London in prospect over the next week under my belt. I promised that although I won't be able to publish my complete notes before early next month, I would try to publish a few pointers as I go along.
This is a delightful wine and an entirely new beast. Burglundy watchers will know that the vast 10-ha Clos de la Maréchale Premier Cru vineyard in Nuits St Georges at last reverted to Fred Mugnier in time for the 2004 vintage after decades of being run by the family firm Faiveley for decades. For a long time this suited the Mugniers who worked in then more respectable professions in Paris but ex-engineer and pilot Fred Mugnier couldn't wait to get his hands on this extensive jewel to add to his 4 hectares of vineyards round the village of Chambolle-Musigny where the family is based in the atmospheric Château de Chambolle.
Fred M told me just after the 2004 harvest that the vineyard had been farmed impeccably by the Faiveleys, "almost too well – the vines were kept almost too neat – they need to find their level of vigour again in the old-fashioned way so that they make the best fruit rather than look their best. Vines may need to suffer a bit – even have a certain level of disease". He was very fortunate in that Nuits was one of the most favoured villages in the difficult 2004 growing season and pronounced himself "a bit relieved with 2004 and how it went for Clos de la Maréchale".
Since he had lots of time to prepare, he was able to build a vast new cuverie and assemble a team to handle this dramatic increase in grapes. The quantity of wine produced in the Clos de la Maréchale has allowed him to a) experiment with various different ways of vinifying and ageing and b) declassify the fruit of the younger vines or slightly less successful lots into a straight Nuits St Georges. Le-voilà: Les Fourches.
The Nuits St Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Maréchale 2004 bottling is very fine, very pure in the Mugnier style with a pretty nose and beautiful balance, but it's not cheap. The UK importers are Berry Bros and Justerini & Brooks at £330 a case in bond, Genesis £297, Haynes Hanson & Clark £325, OW Loeb at £325, and Howard Ripley £330 a case (both the last two merchants are offering a price of £295 if two are ordered). According to winesearcher.com it is being offered from $744 a case as a future in the US.
I thought the Nuits St Georges, Clos des Fourches 2004 was better value, especially if you buy from OW Loeb at £195 or Howard Ripley who is offering it at £176 a case, as opposed to £186 at Genesis, £198 at Haynes Hanson & Clark, £200 at J&B and £210 at Berrys. It has a beautifully convincingly Nuits nose that could only be pure, heart of Côte d'Or stuff, is very solid and bone dry and rather trumped the straight Nuits from that master winemaker, Pascal Lachaux of Robert Arnoux, tasted immediately before it. No compromises with a very interesting undertow. It clearly is from land classified as a Premier Cru an dhas been vinified with great attention to detail.
In the US alas it is not such a bargain at $516 a case and if I were paying in dollars I'd be inclined to go for the Maréchale, but the best price for either wine seems to be from France.
11 jan Mugnier bottled samples of his two new Nuits some months ago
and it is this lot of wine that is currently being shown en primeur. I have come across a worrying incidence of cork taint in these samples but he assures me that the cork supplier used will not be used for the final bottlings which will reach the consumer.