Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tasting Bitouzet-Prieur

Franck Bitouzet.JPG

I must apologize to Mr. François Bitouzet for my poor shot of him in the photo above. Nevertheless, I was lucky to get one shot before my camera’s battery died. I want people to see how young and confident he looks.

François and I met last Tuesday at the store. He immediately impressed me. Just twenty-five years of age and already in charge of his family’s domaine, which is based in Volnay, but with good holdings in Meursault, as well. In fact, François lives in Meursaul near Dominique Lafon's house. François mentioned that this is his first trip to the US. His father, Vincent, who recently ceded winemaking to his son, had never been to the US at all, despite sending their wines to the US for the past thirty years.

Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur makes a splendid range of Volnays and Meursaults that are not, for the most part, in the vin de garde style—I mean this in the best sense. Sure, the Meursault-Perrieres made here needs time, like fifteen years minimum on a great year. At a get-together dinner last summer, Neal Rosenthal, the domaine’s US importer, opened a magnum of the 1996 Meursault-Perrieres. The wine was still tight, with maybe another decade to go before blossoming.

Yet, the domaine’s other wines are usually ready to drink within a few years from release. The style is relaxed, not so forceful, but lively and gorgeously balanced. Take the 2004 Meursault Les Corbins that François poured—a joy to bask in its youthful fragrance, freshness, delicacy, and openness.

François ages the wine in barrel on its fine less for 12 months, then racks and ages it for another 6 months before racking another time and bottling. The oak regimen is 25% new, 25% one year, 25% two year, and 25% mix of older barrels.

I love the freshness and purity of his wines in their youth, which resonate even in the pair of 2003s we tasted: the Meursault Clos du Cromin and the Volnay village from a parcel below Champans.

With age, the delicacy and freshness remain, but the wine takes on a more meaty flavor like in the very lovely, beautifully concentrated 2001 Volnay les Aussy 1er Cru (2001 is proving to be such a fine vintage) and in the more fragile 2000 Volnay Pitures 1er Cru, from a parcel next to Pommard and near Clos des Ducs.

Aging Burgundy can be overvalued. François showed me that young is great. I see little reason to tamper any further with the deliciousness of the young wines we tasted. Before we parted, François quoted me one of his father’s favorite sayings: “better to live with memory rather than regrets.”


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