Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

Published May 23, 2014
Unexpectedly simple and pure delights
The Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Blanc 2004, Michel Gros, and Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Rouge 2004, Anne Gros, show that simple inexpensive wines can give great pleasure, says NK YONG
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Stark contrast: The Anne Gros Cotes de Nuits Rouge 2004, a well-made enjoyable wine of pinot noir (above); and the Conseillante 1999, which was undistinguished and disappointing. - PHOTOS: NK YONG

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I AM sure most of us know the delight that a little child feels when experiencing something which completely charms him or her - a toy, a cookie, etc? I find that the simple pure delight from a least expected wine is similar, especially when it costs pennies compared to the thousands of pounds for a Montrachet or a Chateau Latour. I came across a simple wine, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Blanc 2004, Michel Gros, last week while looking for a simple white for dinner, had not drunk one for years. Now at 10 years old, it was time to be drunk up.

Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Blanc 2004, Michel Gros

A gleaming light golden yellow, a fresh attractive light citric and floral aroma. Palate medium-bodied, nothing very complex, just a simple wine, with flavours of tangerines and assorted nuts on the palate, clean medium length finish leaving the palate delightfully refreshed. Beautiful. Quite unbelievable for a simple village white burgundy. I was expecting a simple but quite enjoyable wine, only to find pure delight. I was reminded of the Spanish explorer on seeing in the distance the Atlantic Ocean "stout Cortez, . . . Silent upon a peak in Darien".

The Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and Hautes-Cotes de Beaune are on the slopes of the rolling hills above and behind the Cotes de Nuits and Cotes de Beaune. Most of the slopes are covered by fruit orchards with some vineyards, largely of gamay and a few of pinot noir grapes. In 1961, the vineyards were conferred the appellations of Bourgogne-Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and Bourgogne-Hautes-Cotes de Beaune from the Institut national de l'origine et de la qualite (INAO). There are now many prominent growers to be found owning vineyards in the Hautes Cotes, among them being Michel Gros and his cousin Anne.

One sunny autumn Sunday morning, many years ago while visiting Burgundy, our small group took a drive through the Cotes, beginning at the northern end near the village of Chambolle Musigny and finally emerging well below Beaune. It was so beautiful, driving through the vineyards and forests, resplendent with their autumnal colours of yellow, red and brown. That is a drive thoroughly recommended!

Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Rouge 2004, Anne Gros

Drunk at dinner in Imperial Treasure Restaurant.

I have long been a fan of Anne Gros's Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits rouge and blanc. This was no exception. A transparent medium-hued brownish-red, with a very characteristic firm pinot noir aroma, of ripe berries and strawberries. A very firm pinot noir flavour on the palate, good ripeness, medium density, good concentration, nicely balanced, simple but not elegant, good clean medium finish. A very acceptable pinot noir, nothing complex or fancy, just a well-made enjoyable wine of pinot noir. At a very acceptable price.

These two wines show that in hands that are more than competent, combining understanding with competency, it is possible to produce simple and inexpensive wines that will give great pleasure. I enjoy wines such as these because I experience through them the essence of the grape varietal of the wine. Just simple pure expressions. Timely reminders!

The fact that they are inexpensive is almost irrelevant although helpful! The Anne Gros Cotes de Nuits Rouge 2004 cost 13 euros (S$22) on release.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002

Back to Bordeaux. I had not tasted this wine ever since the en primeur tasting in 2003, so it was time to see how the wine has been maturing.

Very dark red with just the suggestion of brown tints. A very Pauillac bouquet, classic cedary, lead-pencil, and blackcurrant fruit. The palate is medium-bodied, where the Latour would be very broad-shouldered. Again the pronounced cedar and blackcurrant fruit on the palate, but on the dryish side and I had the feeling that it could have done with a little more ripeness. May improve with a few more years. Somewhat of a disappointment.

Chateau Conseillante 1999

Drunk last week at dinner at home. Another disappointing wine.

Medium-dark reddish brown, more brown than red. Good, pleasant fruity nose, aromas of plums and ripe red berries. Not enough fruit, medium-bodied, on the dry side, somewhat nondescript. A third of the bottle remained the first night, and was consumed two days later. Was much better, showed more density, more ripeness, quite acceptable. Overall however, an undistinguished wine. Needs drinking up.

The contrast between the two pairs of wines could not be more stark. Inexpensive simple wines of Burgundy showed brilliantly - above all they gave great pleasure, exceeding expectations, perhaps accentuated by the knowledge that they cost pennies! In contrast the two Bordeaux, both with established pedigrees underperformed, perhaps handicapped by the poor weather conditions during the growing and ripening seasons.

I am again reminded of the advice: You have to try every wine. You do not have to finish it all!

Disclaimer: I am involved in the distribution of Michel Gros's wines