Today was my last day of tasting burgundies in London. Palate fatigue is creeping in and those biting Pinot Noir tannins have left a residue that’s going to take time to get rid of. (Incidentally, oolong tea seems to be a good antidote).
My last tasting was at Lea & Sandeman. It’s a really good shop offering, among others, an excellent selection of Italian wines (not obvious in the UK). Their Burgundy buying in 2009 has been very sound. I’ve enjoyed the affordable Mercurey Vieilles Vignes from François Raquillet as well as a couple of serious Pouilly-Fuissés from Daniel Barraud. The more ambitious whites from Henri Boillot and reds from Domaine Perrot-Minot were also impressive.
Interestingly, these estates are not only available at Lea & Sandeman. If there’s one criticism to have about this Burgundy tasting week in London, it’s the repetitiveness. Clos des Lambrays seems to be offered by every single wine merchant in the UK. I’ve tasted Jean Grivot wines at five tastings this week; Ghislaine Barthod, at seven out of eleven (Goedhuis, Justerini & Brooks, Berry Bros., Bibendum, Flint, Howard Ripley, Lay & Wheeler).
Don’t get me wrong – I love Ghislaine Barthod, and it’s great to see so much endorsement given to her truly elegant, refined Chambolles. But browsing through the offers of London merchants, they’re so repetitive you get the impression nobody’s ready to step out of the box. There are exceptions such as the dense, concentrated wines of Gilles Jourdan (a Corney & Barrow agency) or Colin-Déleger (I’ve praised them here) exclusive to Goedhuis in the UK. (And it seems easier to get something original from peripheral zones such as Pouilly-Fuissé). But on the whole, even such a competitive market as London seems relatively shallow and it would be refreshing to see more explorative buying from such people as Lea & Sandeman.
Paradoxically, my very top wines of today’s tasting were those shared with other merchants: Anne Gros’ fantastically precise Vosne-Romanée Les Barreaux, Thibault Liger-Belair’s brooding, sensual Richebourg, and Confuron-Cotetidot’s Charmes-Chambertin, a miracle of silky-mineral balance. (I preferred it today to the Vosne Suchots, my top wine of Tuesday). These are all great wines that sum up what is great about red burgundy: finesse, depth, sensuality, depth and a sense of place. I only wish I could afford them. I’m rounding off my day with Dark Star Winter Solstice – an idiosyncratic English with plenty of character.
I’m staying in London at my own expense. I’m provided free entry to the tastings as a journalist.