Friday, November 14, 2014

A 2011 Red Chassagne to Embarrass Them All

I've always heaped praise on the 2011 vintage in Burgundy. If there's a vintage I know well enough in Burgundy it's 2011. I was there helping out during harvest. I walked the vines of Richebourg, Romanee-St.-Vivant, La Tache, Musigny, Chambertin, and Morey-St.-Denis, chewing their berries as I passed by just before they were harvested. The fruit was juicy and ripe, and mostly healthy, with desirable millerandage. I returned to Burgundy the following year, getting a chance to taste and smell the wines from barrel for the first time. Last year I was in Burgundy again, just when the wines were getting ready to be bottled. Finally, since the start of this year and through last week, I've been tasting countless 2011 Burgundies from bottle.

2011 red and white Burgundies are gorgeous. It's an easy vintage to like because there's good energy and balance in the wines. I love tasting them, especially if the producer got it right. Despite the intensity of flavors and the structure, the wines have a delicacy that can easily be marred by heavy extraction and too much oak. The ones I like best allow the purity to express itself. If the wine has too much extraction and too much oak, there's a good chance the producer is covering up for a mistake.

One of my favorite reds from 2011 is Michel Niellon's red Chassagne-Montrachet from the premier cru vineyard of Clos St. Jean. In fact, I love Chassagne reds and whites in this vintage. Michel Niellon, of course, makes one of the most wonderful Chevalier-Montrachets. But if you've never had a great Chassagne red, well, you have to try his. I tasted Niellon's red along with 2011s from Roumier, Grivot, and Courcel and it still stood out. I love the combination of fruit and structure, there is a depth to this.

Chassagne is not supposed to produce red Burgundies of this quality. So the price for this Niellon is much lower than equivalent premiers crus from the typical red wine vineyards of the Cote. But I can tell you, this would embarrass most of them.

Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jean Rouge, Domaine Michel Niellon 2011 $58.00 (order here)

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