Friday, January 2, 2015

Olivier BERNSTEIN -- 2013s from Cask

Olivier BERNSTEIN (Beaune)

This was my first visit to Olivier Bernstein, and I have no prior experience with the wines from bottle. Unfortunately, when I visited, M. Bernstein had a problem with his train from Paris, so I was not able to meet him; however his cellarmaster was an informed host. 

This is a negociant operation, with Bernstein purchasing grapes from which he makes wines. (He owns the Gevrey-Champeaux and Mazis-Chambertin parcels.) Bernstein began in Burgundy with the 2007 vintage, and beginning with 2011, he established a most stylish aging cellar in central Beaune, although the grapes are vinified in Gevrey-Chambertin. Currently, eleven wines are being made: one village, three premiers crus, and seven grands crus.

2013s from Cask
The wines here are aged entirely in new oak. The barrel maker is Chassin and the wood comes from Fontainebleau and Jupie.

Harvesting began on September 29. In 2013, Bernstein generally used 50% whole clusters – the policy changes according to the vintage. The stems are collected in the vineyards. The first team cuts off the small clusters and the second team the larger ones. The smaller clusters are then used for the whole cluster fermentation. Generally, chaptalization is 0.3-0.8º.

These wines are extremely well-made. They are also rather modern in style, not of a style that appeals to me. The wines are dark, relatively extracted, and woody with a smooth, often creamy texture – admittedly, they less woody as one goes up in appellation. If one finds that the wines resemble those from Bernard Dugat-Py, it’s no surprise, as Bernstein’s cellarmaster is Dugat-Py’s nephew.

I expect to get a better view on Bernstein’s wines in a few months when I’ll have the opportunity to taste some from bottle. For the moment, given my respect for how well-made the wines are but also recognizing that the style seems not to be for me, I present my observations alone – I would not know how to formulate a score.

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin
This comes from several parcels near Clos Prieur. The vines are 40-60 years-old. The nose is very wood with good dark fruit below. The mouth is smooth with dark fruit and good structure, especially for the vintage.

2013 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru – Les Lavrottes
Here the vines are 28 years-old. The nose shows a very strong oak overlay. The mouth shows the finesse that I have found in the past for Lavrottes, despite its situation below Bonnes-Mares, with dark fruit, and a light, almost Volnay-Caillerets-like texture. The wine would be pretty, were it not so heavily-marked by the oak.

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru – Les Champeaux
The Champeaux is less woody in the nose than the Lavrottes. The mouth shows finesse with a light texture and dark fruit. This is a pretty wine, but I’m not sure that it expresses what I think of as Champeaux.

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru – Les Cazetiers
The vines here are more than 50 years-old. In both nose and mouth, the wood has been somewhat digested compared to earlier wines. The mouth shows more penetration and power than that of the Champeaux, although there still is quite a bit of finesse that combines with a creamy texture. I find more typicity of vineyard here than in the Champeaux.

2013 Charmes-Chambertin
Here the vines average 48 years. The nose is quite woody. The mouth is dark and dense with finesse, but it is almost impenetrable, nevertheless.

2013 Clos-Vougeot
The vines are in the middle of the Clos, near Echézeaux. They are about fifty years-old. 60% whole cluster in this wine. This wine is dense with some wood showing as well as the finesse of the vintage. It is very long in its dark fruit and shows good acidity.

2013 Clos de la Roche
The nose shows good minerality. The mouth is calm with none of the tension I usually associate with Clos de la Roche (but which is absent from many wines from that vineyard in 2013). The wine has good finesse, penetration, and length.

2013 Bonnes-Mares
This wine is rather southern in its situation in Bonnes-Mares and has more white than red soils. The wood is better digested here than in any of the preceding wines, and the terroir does come through more clearly, as a result. The wine is a bit dry on the finish, but has nice elegance. The vines here are 80 years-old and 80% whole clusters were used on this wine.

2013 Mazis-Chambertin
This wine is from 80+ year-old vines in the Mazis-bas part of the vineyard. It displays finesse with dark fruit, penetration, and length. There’s plenty of attractiveness to this wine, but it’s in a style I still am not understanding.

2013 Chambertin-Clos-de-Bèze
The wine shows finesse with dark fruit, purity, and length, along with wood tannins. It is an introspective wine.

2013 Chambertin
The wine is dark and dense with finesse, a silky texture, enormous length and great balance. There is finesse here.