The whole month of September our local wine shop Vin Vino Wine is treating wino aficionados to verticals of the greatest European wine producers. On Saturday, they featured Robert Chevillon's 2002 through 2007 bottlings of the "Les Vaucrains" vineyard in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy. The village of Nuits-Saint-Georges in Cote de Nuits is known for producing hearty, musculine red wines. Nuits-Saint-Georges does not have any grand cru vineyards, and thus it's not as well regarded as Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee, or Gevrey-Chambertin. Nevertheless, its most prestigious vineyards of Les Saint Georges, Les Vaucrains, and Les Cailles give birth to world-class wines in the hands of great producers. For years, the top two Nuits-Saint-Georges producers have been Robert Chevillon and Henri Gouges. So being able to taste through a vertical of one of Chevillon's top vineyards is a rare opportunity.
Burgundy is loved for producing wines of terroir - meaning the place where the grapes are grown and the wine is made shines through the juice in the bottle. Neither Chevillon nor Gouge do much to mask the terroir, so the quality of a good vineyard is reflected in the wine. But even more so than the vineyard, in Burgundy the vintage affects the final product. Burgundy experts debate what is more important in the quality of wine - producer, vineyard, or vintage. In Burgundy, I think the vintage is probably the most important. (What do you think?)
As a generalization, 2002 was an excellent vintage, 2003 - poor and overripe, 2004 - greenish, 2005 - outstanding across the board, and long-aging, 2006 - ok vintage with some aromatic, charming and approachable wines, 2007 - light, acidic, mediocre, with some good wines, 2008 - so-so (I haven't tasted many 2008 reds yet), 2009 - I hear it promises to be outstanding.
Not suprisingly, the best wine in the line-up, in my opinion, was the 2002 - velvety on the palate, with beautiful fruit starting to show signs of maturity and hints of chocolate. The wine clearly reflected the excellent 2002 vintage. The 2005 was the second best, with energy, minerals, and great balance, which is the hallmark of the 2005 vintage, but in my view, a bit lighter on the palate and somewhat below my expectations from the 2005 vintage. (BTW, a recently tasted village-level Nuits-Saint-Georges from Chevillon that costs about half as much was very tasty). I wasn't impressed by any of the others, especially considering the price tags.
Bottomline - in Burgundy, it is important to know vineyards, producers, and vintages, and frankly, it's a lot of fun. Usually it's a safe bet to pick wines from a producer you like in a good vintage. But for serious purchases, I believe wines must be tasted before purchase decisions are made.