Malcolm Jolley gets schooled at the Bouchard Père et Fils tasting.
The venerable house of Bourchard Père et Fils came to town recently in the form of Luc Bouchard and a number of bottles of wine from the Beaune area of Burgundy. It brought some friends, in the form of Champagne from Henriot, the family company that purchased it 20 odd years ago and Chablis from Domaine William Fèvre, which is also a Henriot label. Monsieur Bouchard is the Exports Manager for these wines and he was hosted by their Ontario importer, Woodman Wines & Spirits. Also hosted by Woodman (who is – full disclosure – a Good Food Fighter), in a private room overlooking the Toronto Harbour at Canoe, was myself and a handful of wine journalists who joined a larger collection of private collectors and sommeliers whose wine lists have more bottles in the three figures than two. The wines we tasted were not cheap, and for a humble hack like me the Bouchard tasting is a rare opportunity to taste an array of top Burgundy terroirs in one go and try and learn as much as I can about these wines that my budget will only let me fleetingly taste. Also, tasting beautifully made wines is a lot of fun. It was a good bit of work.
Where to start? In Burgundy, one traditionally begins with reds and ends in whites. Floral and gentle Pinot Noirs ought to precede bigger tasting barrique vinified Chardonnays; or so goes the logic. Except, the wines at the Bouchard tasting are new: 2014 vintage. However velvety the tannins on the red may be, there would be some grip. I asked for, and then followed, the advice of one of our city’s most respected (and fun) Sommeliers, Peter Boyd. My friend Peter asked me what I was more sensitive to: acid or tannin. Easy for me to anwser: I love acid, and I am pretty sensitive to tannin, as much as I respect its place in bringing structure to wine. I determined that I would begin with the Chablis of Fèvre.
So, here’s the thing about the Woodman-Bouchard-Fèvre tasting: it’s an amazing horizontal sample of exquisitely made wines from a particular part of the world, but it also breaks your heart… slowly and painstakenly, with about every wine you taste. They’re good. They’re Platonic ideal of wine good. Or at least that’s how I felt about the Chablis. That’s my note actually: “these wines are the Platonic ideal of white wine… and I want more of them more of the time.” So does a lot of humanity, including the one with much larger wine budgets than me. Lucky them.
While the 2014 Fèvre Chablis will put you back about a hundred dollars, the Bouchard Père et Fils Grands Crus are priced in the hundreds of dollars. But of course, these matters of money are vulgar compared to the elegance of the wines that were open that day. With the first sip of the 2014 Beaune de Château Premier Cru (a conceivably affordable wine for me on a special occasion at $51 a bottle, roughly 10% of the cost of Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru at the other end of the table) I instantly regretted that note about the “Platonic ideal of white wine” over in the Chablis part of the room. These wines are also the Platonic ideal of white wines, beautifully raised in barrel so even young they are gorgeously integrated and showing bright fruit.
Among these very special wines was the 2014 Montagny Premier Cru, the 2013 Bouchard et Fils Montagny Premier Cru is in the LCBO Vintages currently (click here to find it in a LCBO store) for the bargain price of $30. It’s a great expression of Chardonnay at it’s best: fresh but complicated and a little salty with minerality.
Finally it was time for the table on which sat the reds. This was definitely “Platonic ideal” territory as well, only this time applied to the Pinot Noir grape. As exciting as were the Grands Crus (I could certainly use more Le Corton in my life), the most thrilling wine for me as one that I have only ever tasted at the Woodman-Bouchard tasting, from Bouchard’s monopole L’Enfant Jesus vineyard. The 2014 Bouchard et Fils Beaune Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus stood out among an array of really exceptional red wines. While its tannins still grip and its young and tight, its red fruits came with a hint of cranberry, that I love. I’ll dream about it until the next chance to taste.
If anyone would like to buy a case of six of any of the lovely wines I wrote about above, contact Woodman at woodmanwinesandspirits.com and please invite me over for dinner.