Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

2005 has been rated an exceptional year in Burgundy,  so much so that Jancis Robinson has reviewed no less than 1300 + of them on her website.  All are agreed that the year may rank with 1978 in Burgundy,  as the vintage of a generation.  Accordingly demand for the wines has been high,  with those from highly rated producers in some cases being rationed.

In this setting,  the New Zealand release of the 2005 Drouhin reds has been eagerly awaited.  Drouhin is one of the most famous Burgundy producers,  especially in Europe,  where the understated and highly fragrant winestyles are appreciated by a population of wine enthusiasts not (yet ?) measuring wine quality by size.  In particular,  Drouhin's 2005 le Musigny has been rated as one of the top wines of the vintage.  The scarcity of this wine may be gauged by the fact that Wine Direct,  the New Zealand agents,  were allocated only 12 bottles for all New Zealand.

Wine Direct decided that the only public tasting of the Drouhin range imported into New Zealand would be at Regional Wines,  Wellington.  This is a consequence of the quality of the wine programme Raymond Chan leads at that firm,  and also perhaps because Wellington is seen as the New Zealand (city) centre of pinot appreciation.  Witness the Pinot Noir 2007 programme.

Notwithstanding that reputation,  however,  Regional Wines was not swamped with applicants to attend this tasting.  This is extraordinary,  when Wellington adjoins the Wairarapa,  one of the prime pinot noir viticultural districts in New Zealand.  Yet only two winemakers (both from the same firm) made the trip over the hill to attend this unique event.  Astonishing.  Here was the opportunity to assess a representative cross-section of pinot noirs from one of the greatest pinot producers in Burgundy,  in a year the quality of which might be experienced only once or twice in a lifetime.  It could be said,  tendentiously,  that this tasting offered all one needed to know about pinot noir.  In that sense,  it is beyond price (which was in fact $200).  So,  in ignoring this special opportunity,  do all the other Wairarapa pinot noir producers really think they know all there is to know about this fickle grape?  Or does this extraordinary lack of interest merely indicate that in New Zealand,  an easily-led public not often provided with rigorous wine evaluation can be conned into buying any kind of pinot noir – that all pinot noir is easily sold?  It is an interesting and sad question,  considering the entry price approximates half a case only of reasonably good local pinot.  For pinot noir,  it is much,  much,  much too early to be sitting on our laurels.

As to the wines themselves,  I will mostly let the notes do the talking.  But it is worth saying once again,  that for quality pinot noir,  depth of colour is often inversely correlated with total wine quality and achievement.  This oft-repeated fact has yet to substantially enter the New Zealand pinot noir judging or producer consciousness,  sadly.  Thus many of our wines,  some highly rated,  continue to reflect characters which are unsubtle in terms of international perceptions of pinot noir style.  Some are almost confuseable with merlot.

Viticulturally,  Drouhin is noted for his vineyards being farmed on organic principles,  and for the dense planting ratios,  in parts approaching 12 500 vines per ha – a spacing of less than 1 x 1 metres.  In 2005,  Allen Meadows reports the vintage was so good,  that virtually all the Drouhin wines were made with 10 – 15% stems,  and some crus have up to 50%.  This would add to the florality of the wines.  In reminiscing about earlier vintages,  Meadows found the Drouhin winemakers making analogies to the 1961 vintage.  

These Drouhin pinots were presented in geographically-related flights,  all decanted and completely blind.  In total they reflected the majesty of pinot noir at its finest,  subtlest,  and most beautiful.  These 2005 Drouhins provided a quality of pinot experience completely outclassing recent (lesser vintage) offerings of the Domaine de la Romanee Conti in Wellington,  for example – a factor worth weighing up,  for those who thought this tasting too expensive.


2005  Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches
2005  Drouhin Beaune-Greves
2005  Drouhin Bonnes-Mares
2005  Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin
2005  Drouhin Clos de Vougeot
2005  Drouhin Echezeaux
2005  Drouhin Grands-Echezeaux
  2005  Drouhin Griotte-Chambertin
2005  Drouhin le Chambertin
2005  Drouhin les Amoureuses
2005  Drouhin les Musigny
2005  Drouhin Savigny-les-Beaune
2005  Drouhin Volnay-Clos des Chenes

2005  Drouhin les Musigny   19 ½  ()
Chambolle-Musigny Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $487   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  the meaning of the name lost in legend;  upslope from Clos de Vougeot and les Amoureuses;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  cuvaison up to 20 days;  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak up to 100% new;  for many the subtlest yet finest of the grands crus;  www.drouhin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  one of the lightest,  and clearly oak-influenced.  And thus we come to the 2005 Drouhin les  Musigny (I'm writing these from least to greatest),  already a wine of fable for the 2005 vintage.  Thankfully,  the wines were presented rigorously blind,  yet on being asked to speak to the final flight,  there was no doubt in my mind that the middle wine was the best – whatever it was.  The quality of the floral component on this pinot defies description,  there being every sweet red and brown flower one can think of,  and dark roses and violets too.  In mouth,  the fruit unfolds magically,  layer upon layer of dark cherry,  perfect acid balance,  velvet texture,  just everything great pinot noir should be.  It is not as oaky as the Chambertin,  but it seems richer and more intensely flavoured than even the Amoureuses.  Possibly the acid balance is a little soft for the longest haul,  but this is exquisite burgundy,  the floral qualities suffusing the entire palate.  Perhaps this wine will develop the mythical peacock's tail.  All the overseas excitement about this wine seems totally true.  Those who taste it are privileged.  Local pinot winemakers who turned down the opportunity to do so were unwise.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin le Chambertin   19  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $414   [ cork;  the cork is branded Clos de Beze,  so a point of interest as to which Chambertin this is – Chambertin Clos de Beze immediately adjoins,  both being at the top of the slope);  hand-picked @ c. 1.8 t/ac;  fermentation in wooden cuves,  up to 18 days cuvaison;  MLF and up to 24  months in French oak 100% new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  above halfway,  close to the Amoureuses,  absolutely classic for the variety.  Bouquet is different on this wine,  the first impression being a similar glacé red cherry note to the Bonnes-Mares,  but with a ratio of new oak which is the boldest in the set.  More closely examined,  the floral component is red rose and boronia,  the fruit is cherry through and through,  red grading to black,  the volume of pure fruit delightful.  In mouth,  this is a bigger wine than those around it,  but the weight of the fruit component compared with (say) the Amoureuses is masked by the oak.  This really does need time to unfold,  for it is almost tannic now.  Exciting wine,  to cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin les Amoureuses   19  ()
Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $303   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  les Amoureuses – the lovers;  a premier cru now rated and priced as a grand cru,  adjoining les Musigny downslope;  this vineyard contains some of Drouhin's oldest clones of pinot noir;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  cuvaison up to 22 days;  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak up to 100% new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  about halfway in depth,  lovely.  As always,  one greets these wonderfully evocative vineyard names with great anticipation.  This wine lives up to that promise fully,  showing beautifully fragrant clear florals including roses,  boronia and violets,  plus fragrant red fruits,  and red and black cherry.  Again there is this elegant potentially cedary oak the 2005 Drouhins display.  Palate takes the wine a step further,  the florals suffused right through the flavour,  the depth of varietal character enchanting,  the whole just beautiful all through.  This wine speaks with wonderful authority,  both of pinot noir the variety,  and a great vintage in Burgundy.  Cellar 5 – 25 + years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Bonnes-Mares   18 ½ +  ()
Chambolle-Musigny Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $377   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  name from legend;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak up to 100% new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  one of the lightest wines.  Freshly opened,  this wine shows a superficial glacé red cherry character.  With air, it deepens to rose red florals,  and red and black cherries,  with lovely intensity and varietal character.  Palate has that crunchy cherry quality of rich fruit,  not as oaky as the Chambertin family,  the pure pinot fruit persisting well,  and delightfully counterpointed by very high quality oak.  This is beautiful pinot,  accessible early.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin   18 ½ +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $192   [ cork;  adjoins le Chambertin,  downslope;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak up to 100% new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  about in the middle.  Bouquet is intriguing and distinctive on this wine,  combining florals with red and black cherries,  plus a highly fragrant essential oil reminiscent of New Zealand lemonwood blossom (Pittosporum).  Palate is gorgeous,  clear red fruits,  some black,  a succulence bespeaking good dry extract,  all full of flavour and satisfaction – clearly richer than the Griotte yet supremely subtle.  This is what pinot is about.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Grands-Echezeaux   18 ½  ()
Flagey-Echezeaux Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $340   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  adjoins Clos de Vougeot,  upslope;  no detail on website,  but presumably comparable with other grands crus;  www.drouhin.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a little above midway in depth,  clearly oak-influenced.  Freshly poured,  this wine was darkly floral,  a little withdrawn,  with clear black cherry fruit.  With air it expanded into a deep dark yet still understated wine,  perhaps the most tannic and skinsy of the set,  with some dark plum too – very marcy.  To the extent Drouhin reds could ever be 'heavy',  this one tends that way (that is not a euphemism for being reductive).  Palate richness for these dark fruits is excellent.  In five years time it will justify its score – at the moment it is little anticipatory.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Clos de Vougeot   18 +  ()
Flagey-Echezeaux Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $277   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  plots within the famous walled ex-monastery vineyard,  now divided between c. 80 owners and the label therefore variable;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak up to 100% new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  about in the middle for weight,  quite oak-influenced.  The quality of the wines jumped at this point.  In particular the all-important floral component of the pinot bouquet deepened,  this wine adding boronia complexity to roses and total charm.  The berry component is not lacking either,  with red cherry,  some blackboy,  and suggestions of black cherry.  Though not as oaky as the Gevreys,  palate is more oaky than expected from the bouquet,  and not quite as rich as the bouquet suggests.  The nett impression is classic pinot noir,  youthful as yet,  a very good Clos Vougeot.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Echezeaux   18  ()
Flagey-Echezeaux Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $229   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  upslope from Clos de Vougeot;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak;  www.drouhin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the wines.  This is the kind of pinot that all too easily escapes notice,  if tasters proceed immediately to a mouthful,  without teasing out the wonderful floral complexities of the bouquet.  The quality of this bouquet is intensely floral,  yet light and aethereal,  Musigny-like.  Roses dominate,  but the full spectrum from buddleia to boronia is there,  exquisite.  Palate is not quite so good,  not the palate weight of the Grands-Echezeaux,  red fruits more than black,  not as complex as the Clos Vougeot,  yet as rich – just.  People for whom florals are waffle will not rate this wine as highly as I do (this is a contradiction in terms,  for pinot noir,  but there are such people).  The Grands-Echezeaux is certainly much richer.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Griotte-Chambertin   17 ½  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $303   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  griotte – a variety of cherry;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  MLF and up to 18 months in French oak up to 100% new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the same weight as the Mouches,  but much more oak-influenced,  and therefore looking older.  Bouquet too is oak-influenced,  to give a classic aromatic Gevrey-Chambertin style,  very fragrant,  with both roses and red fruits.  Palate firms up the red fruits,  with high-quality potentially cedary oak,  the flavours long in the mouth,  even though this is the lightest of the Gevreys.  This is good if slightly oaky pinot noir,  to cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Volnay-Clos des Chenes   17 +  ()
Volnay Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $111   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  chene – formerly oak forest;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves;  up to 24 months in French oak some new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Full pinot noir ruby,  clearly the deepest wine in the Drouhin set,  but still much lighter than many New Zealand examples of the grape.  Initially opened,  this wine is brooding,  nearly softly reductive,  with the thought of toasty barrel char.  Below are black fruits.  With some air and swirling,  it opens up to the darkest spectrum of pinot noir characters in the set.  Since the slight reduction does not impact on the palate at all,  there is no worry about it,  and it can be expected to marry away on bouquet.  Flavours are black cherry and bottled black plums,  surprisingly rich,  tending dark for zingy pinot noir expression,  just the thought of merlot arising.  It seems richer and more tannic than the Greves,  in fact a little out of style for Drouhin,  and interesting therefore.  As with all these 05s,  acid balance is excellent for cellaring,  5 – 15 + years.  It will score higher in 5 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Beaune-Greves   17  ()
Beaune Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $85   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine;  greves probably denotes the coarse gravels in the subsoil;  hand-picked,  fermentation in wooden cuves;  up to 24 months in French oak some new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Full pinot noir ruby,  clearly much deeper than the Clos des Mouches,  the second deepest.  Freshly opened,  the bouquet has a most unusual note in the floral component,  a hint of mandarin zest (+ve).  With this are warm and quite dark florals,  and both red and black cherries,  all smelling appreciably riper than the Mouches.  Palate continues the red and black fruits,  the acid balance much softer than the Mouches,  and the tannins rounder and riper.  The quality of cherry on the aftertaste is delightful.  The oak might be older than for the Mouches,  but this 2005 Greves is a friendlier Beaune,  in my view.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe longer.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches   16 ½ +  ()
Beaune Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $131   [ cork;  a Drouhin domaine wine,  though mouches typically denotes flies,  on this site it takes the earlier meaning of honey-bees;  Clos des Mouches occupies a special place in the Drouhin affections.  It is noteworthy for producing chardonnay as much as pinot noir;  hand-picked,  some stem retention depending on the vintage,  cuvaison c. 18 days;  15 – 18 months in French oak some new;  www.drouhin.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  absolutely in the middle for depth.  Bouquet shares some features with the Savigny-les-Beaune,  being clearly red fruits,  red currants grading into red cherries,  no black.  There is a great improvement in the depth of the floral component,  however,  which is much more serious and beautiful,  roses,  not buddleia.  Palate is much richer than the Savigny,  but like it is fresh on acid,  and black fruits do not register.  Coupled with more new oak than some premier cru labels in the Drouhin range,  the whole impression is just a little shrill,  for such a highly regarded year.  This vintage of Clos des Mouches has had fulsome reviews overseas,  but in terms of physiological maturity,  this bottle does not justify them.  Perhaps there are two bottlings ?  So an interesting question there.  Richness is good though,  and it will cellar well,  5 – 15 years.  GK 12/07

2005  Drouhin Savigny-les-Beaune   15 ½  ()
Savigny-les-Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $50   [ cork;  a village wine;  www.drouhin.com ]
Full pinot noir ruby,  one of the deeper.  Bouquet is voluminous,  in an intriguing cool-climate style laden with pale red fruits such as red currants,  light florals such as buddleia,  and a hint of white pepper as in under-ripe syrah.  Palate firms the wine up,  literally,  the fruit less promising than hoped,  even in 2005 the flavour showing the clear stalks and elevated acid so characteristic of village Savigny-les-Beaune.  This label is very much a primer in Drouhin's (or anybody's) burgundy range.  It highlights the kind of characters much North Island pinot used to show,  and we don't need.  Unless Wine Direct see a need to carry this label as a bread and butter wine,  to improve access to the rarer wines (in the sense that chez Guigal,  selling a good volume of the Cotes du Rhone improves access to the grands crus),  the need for this label in New Zealand is dubious.  I would rather see them access some good Drouhin beaujolais,  which our market does need.  For the Savigny,  cellar 3 – 8 years,  for it is quite rich,  in its style.  GK 12/07