Part I -- 30 premier crus and grand crus

On Wednesday, February 28, 2007, I hosted a tasting and premature oxidation check of 28 high-end premier cru and grand cru white burgunies from the 1999 vintage at Campanile Restaurant in Los Angeles. I have added notes on two additional 1999 Meursault Perrieres tasted by most of this same group on January 30, 2007 which we chose not to retaste again.

This idea was sparked almost two years ago as a result of the multiple reports about premature oxidation of white burgundies, which has spawned this Board's longest-running and highest rated thread. See http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=162). As we did a year ago, we comprehensively tasted the top wines from each appellation (except Corton and Montrachet which will be in Part II of the tasting to be held tomorrow night) from the 1999 vintage in a "working session" tasting in an attempt to get a sense of how widespread the premature oxidation problem is, which wines should be avoided, and how good the vintage really is or isn't.

Thirteen tasters attended, plus Campanile's sommelier Jay Perrin, whose service and orchestration of the event was impeccable. The other thirteen attendees, most of whom also attended the 1996 tasting, were: Jeff Balash, Howard Camhi, Joel Deutsch, Howard Horwitz, Wesley Jennison, Gordon Lee, Ron Movich, Brian O'Toole, David Schachter, David Shiverick, Paul Wasserman, Michael Zadikian and myself (Don Cornwell).

The wines were divided into flights based on their appellations. All of the wines were served blind. The participants knew the wines to be included in each flight, but Jay Perrin and I were the only ones who who had a list with the order of serving (which even I couldn't remember without looking at my list.) The order of the wines was disclosed upon the completion of each flight except that we waited to disclose the identities of the nine Chevaliers in the final two flights until all of the wines had been consumed.

We deliberately chose most of the top-rated wines from the various appellations (the top Montrachets and Corton Charlemagnes will be tasted tomorrow night, March 5th, in Part II of the tasting at Water Grill Restaurant. Look for a separate posting of those tasting notes and results in a few days.) We made no effort to avoid controversial wines. Rather, I deliberately made sure we included most of the top-rated wines which have had multiple reports of oxidation in the past just to see for ourselves (e.g. Sauzet Batard and Combottes, Jouard Batard, Montille Puligny Caillerets, etc.)

As you'll see below, there were a number of oxidized wines --at least 8 of the 31 wines tasted over the two nights were at least partially oxidized by our consensus, or 26%. There was one additional wine (Montille Caillerets) as to which we were roughly evenly divided as to whether or not it was partially oxidized, and if that wine is added to the list, it was 9 of 31 at least partially oxidized, or 29%. This total is considerably higher than the five of twenty-eight or 18% we reported as oxidized from the 1996 tasting. Many of the usual suspects (e.g. Sauzet (2), Colin-Deleger (1), Jouard (1) and possibly the Montille) were at least partially oxidized.

As for the overall quality of the 1999 vintage, I would have to say that it was very impressive and the top of the vintage seemed just as impressive as the 1996's. Most of the wines are quite enjoyable already and while some will continue to improve with aging, there doesn't seem to be a lot of point to wait much longer.

At the end of the evening, I asked each of the attendees to write down their top five wines of the evening and to list their favorite premier cru. Although not all of our tasters gave me their written lists, I have tabulated the votes received and have listed the votes each wine received and listed the group's preferences based on this voting process.

Campanile's sommelier, Jay Perrin, and chef, Mark Peel, did an incredible job with the menu and matching wines to the flights. It was easily the best meal I've ever had at Campanile and I've had a number of extraordinary meals there over the years. People seemed particularly dazzled with the scallops course and the pheasant.

Flight one: Chassagne Montrachet
Tray Passed hors d‘oeuvre

99 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Ruchottes
Light yellow gold color; pear and lemon oil aromas with some toasty components; some modest cereal tones marring the pear-green apple fruit; not a great Ruchottes. By consensus this was partially oxidized. (No votes). 87-Oxidized

99 F&L Pillot Chassagne Montrachet Vide Bourse
Very light yellow gold color; citrus and green apple aromas, more primary than the first wine; concentrated, apple tart flavors; decent apple-pear pastry finish (No votes) 90

Flight two: Meursault
Lightly poached scallops with mussels and a cream sauce

99 Boyer-Martenot Meursault Perrieres
Light yellow gold color; some sulphites, citrus and minerally aromas; bright, fresh lime fruit and very minerally; very youthful wine; extremely long citrus and minerals finish. (No votes). 93

99 Matrot Meursault Perrieres
Light gold color; rich green apple and citrus aromas with some minerals; on the palate this had good minerality and citrus fruit but also some slightly advanced, toasty-cereal grain components; fairly long mineral laden finish. By consensus this was partially oxidized. A couple of tasters also thought this wine might be very slightly corked. A bottle shared by many of us at another tasting on January 30, 2007 had no oxidation and rated a 92 score. (No votes) 90-oxidized

99 Pierre Morey Meursault Perrieres
The first oxidized bottle of Pierre Morey I have encountered. This had a deep gold color with lots of browning; fully oxidized sherry aromatics; completely oxidized and quite unpleasant on the palate. By consensus this was fully oxidized (No votes) DQ-oxidized

99 Lafon Meursault Charmes
Light to medium yellow gold color; aromas of citrus, a little smoke and lots of minerals; rich, beautiful lemon-lime and very minerally flavors; the finish of citrus and minerals seems to come in layers. For the second year in a row, my friend Paul Wasserman insisted that this had to be Meursault Perrrieres. (Group 8th Place: 0/0/1/0/3-6 pts.) 95

[The following two wines were tasted by the bulk of this same group of tasters on January 30, 2007. I include the notes here to provide a more comprehensive review of the Meursaults.]

1999 Roulot Meursault Perrieres
Bright yellow color; lemon and mineral aromas; incredibly concentrated lemon crème and mineral flavors; very bright and tight; awesomely long minerally finish. 95

1999 Lafon Meursault Perrieres
A color between light and medium gold; light white flowers aromas with lemon and some obvious oak in the background (slighty intrusive to me); creamy lemon custard flavors with a lot of minerality; quite long yet the acid peaks out from behind the concentrated flavors; the finish shows the acid and loads of minerality. It suddenly hits me that this wine is still immature and a long way to go yet. Despite the oak, this is an amazing bottle. 95

Flight three: Puligny-Montrachet
Steamed turbot with caramelized shallots and a bitter almond butter

99 Colin-Deleger Puligny Demoiselles
Very dark gold color with lots of browning; a wine you only had to look at to know it was completely oxidized; heavy cereal aromas and sherry flavors. By consensus this was fully oxidized. (No votes). DQ-oxidized

99 Lafon Puligny Champs Gain
Light yellow gold color; lemon-lime aromas with some hints of honeysuckle; rich, lemon-lime fruit flavors with very good acidity; tight, lemon-lime and minerals finish. (Group 11th Place: 0/0/1/0/1-3 pts.) 94

99 Boyer-Martenot Puligny Caillerets
Light to medium yellow gold color; white flowers aromas and some pears; rich, pear and citrus flavors, a bit more fat and weight than the others; rich pear pastry and minerals finish. I thought this was very impressive. (No votes). 94

99 Montille Puligny Caillerets
Light mostly white gold color; white flowers and lemon-lime aromas; similar lemon-lime flavors, bright acid and some minerality in the finish but not a lot of fruit. This bottle was controversial. Just under half of the group thought this showed some signs of partial oxidation. The rest of us, me included, disagreed. (However, this bottling has been recently reported to be intermittently oxidized.) (No votes). 90-advanced

99 Sauzet Puligny Combettes
Light to medium yellow gold color; fairly overt cereal-sherry and toasty aromas over some citrus; on the palate the wine seemed quite rough and angular. I didn’t care for this at all. By consensus this was partially oxidized. (No votes) 84-oxidized

99 Leflaive Puligny Pucelles
Light yellow color; at first this exhibited some slightly skunky aromas which happily blew off – eventually it revealed lemon-lime and obvious honeysuckle (Pucelles?); some lemon crème pie flavors here—quite rich, long rich lemon crème finish. (Group 11th Place: 0/0/0/0/1-1 pt.) 93

Flight Four: Batard, Bienvenues and Criots-Batard Montrachet
Roasted black cod, crisp wild mushrooms and brown butter

99 Jouard Batard
Fairly developed, medium-full gold color; some white flowers aromas and a good bit of toast; rich, almost honeyed flavors with some minerality; very sweet honeyed finish. By consensus this was partially oxidized. (No votes). 85-oxidized

99 Sauzet Batard
Dark gold color; completely oxidized and corked too. By consensus this was fully oxidized and corked. (No votes). DQ-oxidized and corked

99 Leflaive Bienvenues-Batard
Light to medium yellow gold color; citrus and honeysuckle aromas – it’s got to be BBM; rich, powerful, almost fat Batard-like pear and apple pastry flavors but the honeysuckle says this is BBM; long sweet pear finish. (Group 9th Place: 0/0/0/2/1-5 pts.) 93

99 Lamy Criots-Batard
Very light yellow color; white flower aromas; creamy, lemon-lime and very, very minerally flavors with lots of intensity; very long minerally finish with some underlying citrus too. My favorite wine of the night. (Group 2d Place (tied): 3/1/1/2/0-26 pts.) 96

99 Fontaine-Gagnard Batard
Medium yellow gold color; lemon-lime, white flowers but some toasty notes on the aromas; some rich pear-pastry flavors but the finish initially had some very sweet, almost caramel tones. By consensus, this was partially oxidized; however, as Michael Zadikian properly noted as we were into the next flight, by that point the toasty aromatic indicators of oxidation just weren’t detectable anymore. Michael also reports that another bottle opened the following day was excellent. (No votes) 91-0xidized

99 Leflaive Batard
Light yellow color; white flower and lemon-lime aromas; rich, pear pastry and super minerally flavors; more minerally than normal for Batard; long lemon crème and minerally finish. (Group 7th Place: 0/0/1/2/0-7 pts.) 94

99 Ramonet Batard
Light to medium yellow gold color; lemon-lime and spearmint aromas; bright lemon crème flavors with an amazing amount of minerality, even more than the preceding wine; if it wasn’t in a group of Batards I’d say this was Chevalier; very long lemon crème and minerally finish. My fifth place wine. (Group 10th Place: 0/0/1/0/1-4 pts.) 95

Flight Five: Chevalier Montrachet(Group A)
Roasted pheasant, celery root purée, watercress and pear salad

99 Colin-Deleger Chevalier
Bright yellow color; white flowers, fresh lime and citrus zest aromas; some bright green apple flavors with some richness with a lot of minerality; long lime and minerals finish. (Group 2nd Place (tied): 1/3/2/1/0-26 pts.) 95

99 Latour Chevalier Demoiselles
Light yellow gold color; white flower aromas, quite perfumed; the flavors were initially subdued, but they opened up in the glass a bit. Some subtle bosc pear flavors with a fatness that is more like Batard than Chevalier. There is some minerality on the mid-palate, but notably less than in the other wines in this flight. The finish, while minerally, showed some alcohol. (No votes) 92

99 Jadot Chevalier Demoiselles
Light yellow-gold color; white flowers and lemon blossoms aromas; very minerally with some underlying citrus flavors; very long, elegant, lemon crème and minerals finish. Excellent wine. My fourth place wine. (Group 5th Place: 0/2/0/1/2-12 pts.) 95

99 Georges Deleger Chevalier
Light to medium yellow gold color; white flowers, fresh lime and almost kiwi fruit tones (tell-tale sign for Georges Deleger); sweet bright green apple flavors with hints of citrus and lots of minerality in layers; simultaneously rich fruit and yet great elegance; extremely minerally finish. Wow. My second favorite wine. (Group 4th Place: 1/2/2/1/1-22 pts.) 96

Flight six: Chevalier Montrachet (Croup B)
Roast quail stuffed with foie gras and walnuts on a citrus relish

99 Niellon Chevalier
Light to medium yellow gold color; white flowers and citrus aromas; some sweet citrus flavors with lots of minerality; super elegant, long mineral laden finish. (Group 6th Place: 1/0/0/2/0)-9 pts.) 94

99 Ch. de Puligny Montrachet Chevalier
Medium yellow gold color; white flowers, citrus and some faintly toasty notes; fairly rich mid-palate for Chevalier, but a lot of minerality and a very nice citrus fruit and mineral finish. This one kind of grew on me a bit. One taster raised the question of whether this might be slightly corked, but there was no consensus that it was. (No votes). 92-advanced

99 Bouchard Chevalier Cabottes
Light to medium yellow-gold color; white flowers aromas, lime blossoms and some definite toasty oak; medium weight, citrus and pear flavors, not that much minerality on the mid-palate but a long elegant finish. The oak was off-putting for me. Tried on two previous occasions – the first time, it showed similarly and was rated the same; the second time it was excellent, seemed not to be oaky, and rated 94. (No votes) 91

99 Leflaive Chevalier
Light yellow color; white flowers aromas; bright, green apple and minerally, wet stone flavors; very long, very minerally finish. Impressive. My third place wine of the night. (Group 1st Place: 5/3/2/0/1)-44 pts.) 95

99 Sauzet Chevalier
Light to medium yellow gold color; white flowers and lime aromas; very bright and tight lemony flavors, very minerally mid-palate, but the finish, while elegant, trails off and lacks the minerality of the best Chevys tonight. (No votes) 93

Dessert
Pear Tart Tatin

89 Rieussec
Salmon/antique bronze colored wine; forward, nectarine and apricot and pear pastry aromas; rich apricot and orange liqueur flavors with some maple syrup like richness and decent balancing acidity; nice long finish. 92

Some Postscript information on Part I of the 1999 vintage assessment:

Favorite 1ers of the night: (1) Lafon Meursault Charmes (6 votes); (2) Leflaive Puligny Pucelles (3 votes); (3) Lafon Puligny Montrachet Champs Gain (2 votes).

Corked wines=1 or 2 of 31 3% to 6% (the Matrot MP was possibly slightly corked)
Oxidized=8/31 26%
Advanced=2/31 6%
Total Oxidized + Advanced= 32%
The oxidation rate of 26% is considerably higher than the 18% rate for the 1996s one year ago. Moreover, these wines were tasted at 7.5 years of age whereas we tasted the 1996s at ten years of age. Half of the offenders come from the usual list of premature oxidation suspects: Sauzet (2); Colin-Deleger (1) and Jouard (1). The 99 Ramonet Ruchottes suggests Ramonet is continuing to have oxidation issues after 1996, despite my hope to the contrary. The other three oxidized wines came from unexpected sources: Matrot (one of two bottles of MP were oxidized), Pierre Morey and Fontaine-Gagnard.

Part II--14 more wines - "Mostly Montrachet"

On Monday, March 5th, 2007, I hosted Part II of the tasting and oxidation check of the high-end 1999 White Burgundies. The tasting was held at Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles. A total of ten tasters were present to taste a total of ten 1999 Montachets and three 1999 Corton Charlemagnes: Jeff Balash, Joel Deutsch, Brian Devine, Wes Jennison, Ron Movich, Brian O’Toole, Bill Shea, Alan Weinberg and Michael Zadikian and me (Don Cornwell).

The wines tasted on this occassion were the Montrachets and the Cortons. Although the attendees knew the wines to be served in each flight, the wines were served blind. We revealed the wines at the end of each flight.

As you might expect, given that this tasting was limited to seven and a half year old Montrachet and the best Cortons, the percentage rate of wines suffering from partial oxidation or worse was less than for Part I of the tasting. In this instance only one of the thirteen wines was clearly partly oxidized (Lafon Montrachet--ouch!!), or 7.7% of the wines. But many of us were suspicious about the high degree of toast in the aromas and flavors of the Sauzet Montrachet, though we didn't feel confident to judge it suffering from premature oxidation.

Unfortunately, the food at Water Grill, which is normally stellar, was very uneven on this evening.

Appetizer Flight:
Canape Reception

1999 Philiponat Grands Blancs Champagne (2 bottles)
Very light yellow color; aromas of lemon and lemon zest and a slightly floral tone; lots of fine bubbles; very bright, citrus and minerals flavors; very attractive but youthful champagne. Should improve with a year or two of additional age. 90

Flight One-Montrachet (all wines hereafter served blind):
Amuse Bouche (Hand harvested Divers Scallop Crudo with Meyer Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla Oil)

1999 Drouhin Montrachet
Brilliant, yellow gold color with a tinge of green; some lemon-lime and white flowers aromas with a tinge of what I would describe as green sappy aromas; on the palate, this was elegant, modest lemon-lime flavors with some acidity; lacks the intensity or power of a top Montrachet –reminds me of a decent Puligny 1er; modest lime and minerals in the finish with some slightly bitter elements. Some tasters liked this much more than I did. Group 7th Place: (0/0/1/1/0-9pts). 91

1999 Gagnard-Delagrange Montrachet
Medium yellow color; subtle white flowers aromas; some lemon-lime and minerals flavors; more obvious fat and richness on the palate here – grand cru weight which wasn’t obvious in the first wine; decent acidity; the very minerally finish has lots of grip and breadth. (No votes.) 93

1999 Chateau de Puligny Montrachet Montrachet
Medium yellow gold color; some oak, white flowers and some richness on the palate; pear-apple mid-palate with a lot of richness—clearly more developed than the other wines in this flight but not at all oxidized; rich, almost viscous, pear-apple finish. Group 8th Place: (0/0/0/1/0-2 pts). 93

Flight Two-Montrachet:
Confit Sea Trout with Sweet Pea Puree, Crème Fraiche, Smoked Trout Roe, Poached Quail Egg and Dill

1999 Sauzet Montrachet
Light to medium yellow gold color; aromas of white flowers and citrus but also some moderate toasty components; bright, citrussy fruit and very minerally – the minerality reminds me of Chevalier; tight minerally finish but again some of the toasty notes in the finish are a cause for potential concern. Several of us agreed that while we couldn’t definitively say that this wine was showing signs of premature oxidation, it was certainly close enough or doubtful enough that this wine deserves to be carefully monitored. (No votes.) 91?-
Advanced

1999 Henri Boillot Montrachet (from Magnum)
Light yellow color; some white flowers and sweet pear aromas; lemon-lime flavors that have some length on the palate and lots of minerals; very good minerally and pear finish. My favorite wine of the second flight. Group 5th place: (0/1/1/1/2-11 pts.) 94

1999 Jadot Montrachet
Medium yellow gold color; aromas of toasty oak initially jump out at you; with extended airing the oakiness seemed to dissipate somewhat and a fresh lime character emerged; some fresh lime and vanilla (oak); except for the oak, some Chevalier character on the palate. (No votes.) 92

Flight Three-Montrachet:
European White Asparagus, Alverta President Caviar, Tarragon and Sauce Bearnaise

1999 Girardin Montrachet
Light yellow color; light floral and citrus aromas; bright lemon-lime and some modest minerality on the palate; very long and very nice finish, sweet lime candy and a lot of minerality that really lingers on the palate. (N.B. Very well made and not at all oaky despite Girardin’s reputation for oaky 1999 whites.) (No votes.) 93

1999 Henri Boillot Montrachet (from Magnum)-Part II
See the notes above.

Flight Four-Montrachet:
New Zealand John Dory with Warm Potato, Apple and Hickory-Smoked Bacon Salad and Lemon Crème-FraicheSavoy Cabbage

1999 Ramonet Montrachet
Lemon yellow color; some citrus and spearmint aromas (Ramonet?); very youthful, fresh lime and meyer lemon flavors with incredible mineral structure; super long minerally finish. Clearly has more upside. My second favorite wine of the night. Group 1st place (tied): (2/6/1/0/1-38 pts.) 96+

1999 Lafon Montrachet
Medium yellow gold color; some obvious toasted cereal grain aromas over some citrus; very toasty, again cereal-like flavors mixed with lemon-lime. We all agreed that this is clearly partially oxidized and nearly fully so. (N.B. What a bummer that my first oxidized Lafon also turns out to be the only Lafon Montrachet I’ve ever had.) (No votes.) 84-oxidized

1999 Bouchard Montrachet
Very light yellow color; white flowers and lime aromas; lots of intensity here – fresh lime and lots of minerality in layers; the finish had some citrus, intense minerality and it was unbelievably long. To me, clearly the best wine of the night and maybe the best Montrachet I’ve ever had. Still has years to go. Group 1st place (tied): (5/0/3/2/0-38 pts.) 97

Flight Five-Corton Charlemagne:
Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Butternut Squash Soup, Browned Butter Pine Nuts and Aged Balsamic

1999 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne
Medium yellow-gold color; some pear and citrus aromas; bright, pear, lemon oil and very minerally flavors; the finish was also very bright and had a very structured minerality to it. (N.B. This was a bonus wine brought to add another Corton to the final flight. While I had hoped it would hold its own against the two big guns, this far exceeded my expectations and apparently most of the others as well.) My fifth place wine of the evening. Group 4th place: (1/1/1/1/3-17 pts.) 94

1999 Leroy Corton Charlemagne
Medium yellow-gold color; rich pear and lime aromas; bright, powerful pear fruit with subtle but persistent minerality; very long sweet pear and minerally finish. Clearly more development is possible here. Group 6th place(0/0/1/2/3-10 pts.) 95+

1999 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne
Medium yellow-gold color; somewhat oaky, lemon, pear and almost tropical fruit tones; lemon cream pie flavors with minerals; the finish has intensely concentrated minerals and lemon candy. By narrow margin, my third favorite wine of the night. Group 3d place: (2/2/2/2/1-29 pts.) 96

Dessert Course
Warm Almond Cake with Yogurt-Sumac Sorbet, Chestnut Honey, Marcona Almonds and Coffee-Date Puree

1990 Suduiraut (from 375 ml bottles)
Deep bronze color; aromas of dried fruit and some nutty character; flavors of dates, maple syrup and some nutty character; relatively low acidity makes this a little ponderous on the palate. 90

Postscript statistics and comments:
Corked: 0/13 (0%)
Oxidized: 1/13 (8%)
Advanced: 1/13 (8%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced: 2/13 (15%)

Cumulative statistics for nights one and two:

Corked: 1 or 2 of 44 (2% to 4%)
Oxidized: 9/44 (20%)
Advanced: 3/44 (7%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced = 12/44 (27%)

[20% is the highest figure for oxidized wines we have measured from 1996 through 2005.]
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Don Cornwell