Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Wandering Palate Travels to House Caroline PARENT

On an overcast day with a mild drizzle on and off I set out to meet my host for the morning. What was meant to be an early start turned out to be one with delays thanks to a last minute train cancellation. Did I say that I am in France?

Getting down at the Beaune station, I tread hurriedly on the road leading to the house of Caroline Parent, a 14th generation member of the renowned family of winemakers that boasts of names such as Domaine A.F Gros-Parent & Francois Parent in the family tree. What awaited me on my arrival was a warm welcome by a lady with a slender built and a friendly smile.
Caroline talks about her wines
A big fan of Patricia Cornwell, Caroline kept up with the family tradition and started making her own wines since the last couple of years. She explained the history about the family business and how its name evolved. Starting as Gros-Renaudot, the domaine later changed name to Louis Gros and eventually with the implications of the inheritance law in France, it was called Jean Gros. The well-renowned domaine AF Gros that her mother currently runs was formed in 1988 upon the decision of Anne-Francoise’s parents to let go certain parcels of land.

After a brief chat, she takes me around for a small tour of the winemaking facility. Devoid of any activity, the facility was spick and span since the harvest had taken place a few weeks ago (I visited the domaine in October). Big fermentation tanks, steel tanks nicely tucked in at the mezzanine level, the pneumatic press machine in one corner-the premises had the sense of orderliness that one would expect from a top quality domaine. A small flight of stairs and we descend into the cellar for the ultimate part of this visit-the tasting. With a total of 8 wines tasted, I’ve put down my notes at the end of this post. Please scroll down to read these if it interests you.

Caroline pours her domaine's wine 
Caroline was kind enough to have led us through the entire course of tasting while explaining the philosophy and winemaking behind each wine. What was also interesting to note was the depiction of sculptor Deville Chabrolle’s work for different labels; each resonating with the characteristics of the wine in the bottle. An impressive way to combine two art forms-winemaking and sculpture!

To sum up my day, it’s another of those satisfying times when a wine lover marvels being in one of the world’s most mystifying and charming wine regions. Do I need to reiterate that I am in France? J

The wines were from 3 different domaines and each has been indicated using parentheses:
1. Vosne Romanée Aux Réas 2010 (AF Gros)
Clean, powerful red fruit aromas with soft tannins, pleasant acidity and a longish finish make this a well structured wine that is well rounded. It’ll be about 3-4 years when this really begins to show its true colours.

2. Chambolle Musigny 2010 (Caroline PARENT)
Blended from 5 different parcels of land, this was a wine with the aromas of violets and red fruits well evident. Again a well structured wine on the palate with somewhat grippy tannins (but pleasant) and a good overall acidity. The wine at this point is again young for its true potential to be fully apparent.

3. Pommard Les Pézerolles 2010 (AF Gros)
Intense, developed aromas of black fruits and liquorice. On the palate, the structure was somewhat bold with dusty tannins and can easily be kept in the cellar for 4-5 years before one drinks it.

4. Richebourg Grand Cru 2010 (AF Gros)
Grown on just 8 hectares of land, there’s always reason to be excited about a Grand Cru wine such as Richebourg.
A complex nose with earthy aromas in addition to those of animal and spice,this certainly had a powerful bouquet.
It is on the palate that the characteristic Burgundy finesse enters. A full bodied wine with soft tannins and acidity in a great harmony, the palate is velvety and full of red fruits. If these characteristics persist, I don’t mind having this wine early even with its given ageing potential.

5. Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2010 (François PARENT)
The use of all new oak I guess is well suited for a big wine such as this and the same was evident on the nose with intense red fruit aromas. A wine of this stature when tasted from the barrel shouldn’t be ideally subjected to a verdict. But with its tannic,complex structure, it is certainly promising.

Of the last 3 wines tried, 2 belonged to the 2007 vintage and one from 2009. As Burgundy enthusiasts would already know, many of the 2009 red wines would be well drinkable in their youth while 2008 was a more classical year with good ageing potential. In that regard, my personal observations about the 2010 somewhat hint at the fact that it’ll be a similar vintage to 2008. Only time shall tell how these wines finally evolve. Also,2007 might not be considered the greatest vintage but this is where the winemaking expertise comes in, as was evident the wines I tried.

6. Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits 2009 (Caroline PARENT)
Developed cranberry and cassis notes on the nose followed by black cherries on the palate with tannins being somewhat dusty. A pleasant everyday drinking wine with a good finish.

7. Vosne Romanée Aux Réas 2007 (AF Gros)
This has got to be one of most aromatically complex wines in the flight (also because it’s not as young as others) with cinnamon, white flowers, candy and vanilla. An equally pleasing wine on the palate with soft tannins,a great balance between acidity and alcohol and sweet liquorice like notes. Well rounded with a medium to long finish.

8. Pommard Les Pézerolles 2007 (AF Gros)
And finally another fuller bodied Pommard with a good balance and a structure that can benefit more with some more ageing to reach its prime.