I think I was born with a healthy dose of cynicism somehow; I like to form my own opinions, hence the fact that we taste the wines we offer, decide to purchase based on our assessment, and write our own notes. Sometimes we concur with critics, and sometimes we don’t. Either way, we’ll give our thoughts alongside.
I recently read a fascinating article by Jancis Robinson, written back in 2018, where she talked of the disappointment of opening two bottles of Coche-Dury, one a village Meursault in 2010, one a Bourgogne Blanc in 2011. Coche-Dury is one of the most sought-after producers of white Burgundy without a shadow of a doubt – the ‘basic’ Bourgogne is a couple of hundred pounds per bottle, and the ‘basic’ Meursault is around £500 per bottle. I had the fortune to work for the agent for the domaine back in the 1990s and have had the chance to taste some rare delights from this producer. Latterly, a few generous clients have pulled out bottles to share and so I have had the chance to upgrade my knowledge of recent vintages to a very limited extent.
The Coche style has a very prominent signature – aside from the purity of the fruit and the bright acidity of the wines, there is particular set of aromas and nuances that seduce white Burgundy drinkers. It isn’t just peculiar to Coche, but it is a significant marker for their wines. To pin a few descriptors to them, I have heard tasters employ terms such as ‘struck match’ or ‘struck flint’, ‘smoky bacon fat’ , ‘toasted nut’ – to describe the smoky, toasty nuances. The origin of these characters, which seem much more prevalent today, lie in the approach to winemaking – it is a byproduct of what is known as ‘reductive winemaking’, which is an approach that seeks to exclude oxygen during ageing resulting in these ‘reduced’ sulphide notes that we try to describe. The word ‘reduction’ in winemaking is the opposite of oxidation, in that it is a chemical reaction that involves a dissociation from oxygen. To produce a wine in a reductive Burgundian style, you choose older oak for ageing as the pores of the wood are closed to oxygen, and you do not rack the wine (empty the vessel and refill), nor do you practise lees-stirring or batonnage (when the fine yeasty deposit is agitated in the barrel). It is a less interventionist style of winemaking in many respects.
Since issues concerning wines oxidising early have caused some concern with certain Burgundian estates, the general trend has certainly headed towards this style of winemaking. And it is not just Burgundians that employ these techniques; we have seen a whole host of New World producers adopt the same approach. It is a distinct stylistic decision that seeks to ape the Burgundian style. It doesn’t always work well – I think the wines need to have a good structure for it to be successful and that means a taut minerally acidity. I have tasted some disappointing, loose-knit styles that fail to convince and come across as mere caricatures. All of this preamble leads me back to Jancis’ comments and the wine in question.
After her disappointment, she shared a Dog Point Chardonnay from Marlborough, New Zealand with her guest, and both concluded it was the more exciting wine. Clearly, the comment references those specific bottles, but the discussion of Dog Point Chardonnay caught my interest. Having recently tasted the 2017, I can say that it is one of the more successful New World Chardonnays to have carried off this style with some flair. I wonder if its success relates to its lively limey backbone of acidity. Either way, this organically grown Chardonnay hits the right mark. Is it merely mimicking Burgundy? I don’t really know the answer…there are subtle differences in the fruit characters present, but there is no denying the origin of the winemaking signature. And if it is mimicking Burgundy, does it really matter? No, it doesn’t, providing it is an enjoyable wine at a fair price with plenty of character. In this instance, I concur with Jancis wholeheartedly about the style and surprising quality of Dog Point Chardonnay.
I would be interested to see how the 2017 ages…that limey note of acidity is bright and lively and could carry it as it ages over the next few years under screw cap. Did I mention it is £110 per 6 bottle case by the way? Apologies if I neglected to do so!
2017 Chardonnay, Dog Point
£110 per 6 bottle case in bond
Distinctive toasted nut, crisp bacon fat aromas add intrigue on the nose, with stone fruit and lime notes behind. The palate is lively, taut with a bright acidity carrying notes of peach and nectarine to a long, persistent finish. I admire the boldness of the style, this has surprising depth and a racy, lime infused finish, that persists even after time in a decanter, suggesting that this could gain in complexity with time in bottle, while being hugely enjoyable in its youth. (SL) Drink 2020-2025 +?
Please let us know of you interest. Stock should be available within 3 weeks.
All the best,