Tomas Clancy reviews Domaine Michel Bouzereau, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy 2016 and Warre’s Otima, 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal
One of the consistent Holy Grail elements in the world of wine is finding a wine from next door to a great producer that sells for a fraction of that famous neighbour. This kind of happy discovery mainly occurs in Europe where a combination of petty officials, historical feuds and centuries of deeply random boundary marking can split an ancient village in half.
Domaine Michel Bouzereau, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy 2016 €35
Available : Searsons Wine Merchants and at Independent Off Licences and Wine Shops nationwide
Well that is the story here. The vineyards of Domaine Michel Bouzereau are located across the landscape of two of wines most alluring and beautiful villages, Puligny and Meursault. The honey coloured stone walls that run along the roads and divide up many of the vineyards are made into more formal cut stone houses, each one apparently a small winery. The villages are compact and surrounded by slopes and vines, no one wants to build on or give up the centuries old jewels of the vineyards themselves.
Even the graveyard is located in a very tight and unappealing spot. The Bouzereau family have many plots and vineyards that have been designated over the centuries as either appellation Puligny-Montrachet or Meursault, but several parcels of land, around four hectares are located within the vilages of Puligny and Meursault but not designated as within the legal appellation of either village.
This is where wine lovers pounce. The grapes from each plot are made into a simple AC Bourgogne each year by the family and unless you know, this could be from poor flat, overworked vineyards on the flat parts of the Cote D’Or or throughout the legal overly wide Burgundy zone. Some Burgundies labelled like this can be dreadful watery nonsense. This wine by contrast offers Meursault like charm and complexity at a fraction of the full appellation wines. It is not cheap, rather it is a huge bargain over such wines and a secret to enjoying the nutty, hazelnut and honeyed wash with touches of toasted brioche and a fine, precise, cutting finish. Delicious.
Warre’s Otima, 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal €27
Available: Martins Off Licence, Fairview and Independent Off Licences and Wine Shops nationwide
Without Irishman Arthur Wellesley we might not today in Portugal’s Douro Valley have a wine and Port wine business as we known it. Wellesley played a vital part in advancing Douro wines by firstly with his military hat on, defeating the French Napoleonic Army who had invaded and were occupying vast portions of Portugal including Porto, the capital of the Douro. Driving out the French Wellesley reinforced the power and safety of the great Port Houses who made wine in this unique region.
Secondly, Wellesley popularised the drinking of Port wines from the Douro and kept close contacts with many of the Port houses especially Warre’s where William Warre had been one of Wellesley’s officers during the War.
Wellesley is better known to us of course as the Dublin born, Duke of Wellington and many Irish links still persist today across the Douro.
The unique Port wine is the Douro’s greatest creation. It begins life on the death defyingly steep slopes of the winding Douro River, one which has carved mile high canyons through Portugal’s remote high interior. Many of the vineyards or Quintas in the high Douro are almost unreachable by road or rail and for centuries the only way to gain access to these vineyards was by river.
The red wines made from local indigenous grapes like Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, as here, are fermented into wine but with a portion of the sweet juice left to ferment, a spirit such as Brandy or Cognac is poured into the fermenting wine. This kills the yeast and stops the fermentation leaving a sweet and strong wine of around 20% alcohol. This is then shipped down river to Porto where it is aged. If it is to become vintage Port it will be poured quickly into bottles and stored for decades.
If we wish to create a Tawny Port however the wine is poured into small oak barrels and left to the intervention of oak and oyygen in the best examples for 10, 20 or more years. The result is that the wine is etched of its deep purple colour and a mahogany amber delight emerges as here and shown off so beautifully in this clear, almost test tube like bottle.
The flavours of cinnamon, Christmas cake, spice, toasted nut, light fig and hints of caramel over a clean, lifting bright fruity finish here are startling and served chilled with cold hard slices of cheese like Comte or Very Mature Cheddar, it is one of the world’s underappreciated delights.