Recently I attended a wonderful tasting of fine Louis Jadot Burgundy wines from the 2008 vintage. They were young and need to develop a little, although some were drinking surprisingly well already – but it is so unusual to try such a wide range of famous wines from a single producer and a single year that I think it is well worth telling you about the experience.
Like the preceding 2007 vintage, 2008 was a difficult year with a wet spring and quite a cold, wet summer making ripeness pretty tricky to achieve. In the end it came down to care in the vineyard and very rigorous selection of the grapes used.
Louis Jadot is one of the truly great Burgundy houses and celebrated its 150th anniversary as a producer last year. In good part their great reputation has been built up over the last 30 years or so by the towering personality of their chief winemaker; Jacques Lardière. In a vintage like 2008 the skill of a winemaker like him really shows in the finished wines.
I have been involved with Louis Jadot, in many various ways, for well over 20 years now and I am very fond of the house and the people who work in it. They produce a huge range of wines – something like 200 in any given vintage – and never turn out wines that are less than reliable, which is no mean feat in Burgundy where reliability is a major issue for the consumer. I have had to taste some truly lamentable Burgundies in my time, wines that have left me supremely unimpressed and astonished by the price tags that they command. This was especially true in my trip to Burgundy last year and the experience reinforced my admiration for Louis Jadot and their wines.
Of course Louis Jadot is much more than a negociant, it directly controls 150 hectares of vineyards in Burgundy, 70 of these are in the Côte d’Or and consist of:
Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot – vineyards belonging to the Jadot family.
Domaine Louis Jadot – vineyards belonging to the company.
Domaine Gagey – vineyards belonging to the Gagey family, Pierre-Henry Gagey, like his father before him, is the president of Maison Louis Jadot.
Domaine du Duc de Magenta – vineyards controlled by Louis Jadot, but owned by the descendants of Marshall MacMahon, the Duc de Magenta.
Even the lower rungs of their range, like their Bourgogne Blanc and their Mâcon-Villages are good and reliable examples of Burgundy – and very enjoyable wines too – whilst further up the scale they produce some truly great Burgundies. I still remember how thrilling I found their Chambertin Clos de Bèze 1985 when I tasted it in 1987, from that moment on I have found the idea of Burgundy seductive and enticing.
Louis Jadot provide that very rare thing in Burgundy, a reliable producer whose wines will always deliver pleasure and this tasting was a fascinating treat.
These are some of the wines that really stood out for me, they are all from the Côte d’Or:
I think it fair to say that the whites were easier to asses than the reds at this stage. Acidity and minerality was more to the fore than the richness we normally associate with Chardonnay and white Burgundy, that will need time to develop
Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes
Domaine Louis Jadot
Many of the whites that came before this were very pleasant, but this was a real leap in quality and finesse.
The nose was enticingly fragrant with nutty notes and green fruit.
Lovely weight in the mouth with clean, pure acidity and a stream of minerality with succulent green plums on the finish.
Very nice now, but it will be great when the richness really develops – 88 points.
Again the nose was enticing with more depth, richer peachy fruit notes with floral nuances and delicate toasty oak spice in the background.
Lovely concentration and texture on the palate with good, clean underlying acidity. The palate is concentrated with lots going on, perhaps the oak needs time to bed down a bit – 88 points.
Opulent nose with rich fruit and delicate oak notes.
The palate has generous fruit and a pure minerality balancing the rich oak, giving elegance. Overall the minerality really shines through.
Nicely integrated and balanced wine, the oak somewhat dominates the long finish at the present, but time will sort that out – 89 points.
Slightly dumb nose with just background notes of impressions of aromas rather than fully formed characters.
Again the texture is lovely and succulent with elegant underlying acidity and minerality with well integrated oak.
A fine wine with a very subtle character – 90 points.
One of the most famous Jadot wines and it really shows why it has such a great reputation.
The colour is rich and concentrated, as is the nose.
The palate is sumptuous and rounded with lovely balancing acidity. A thrilling stream of minerality gives the finesse and elegance that provides a lovely finish – 92 points.
This was the first of the Grand Crus and the difference really showed in the levels of concentration.
The palate was very concentrated, rich and creamy and fat with ripe orchard fruit, toasy oak with nutty oily/creamy nutty nuances and thrilling underlying acidity making it balanced and really lovely.
The hallmark was power and richness and you can tell it will get better and better – 92 points.
The concentration really shows on the nose with rich figgy notes.
A wonderfully flavoursome wine with ripe fruit, balanced, superbly integrated oak and the acidity and minerality give an intriguing nervy character.
The finish was incredibly long with lovely balance and very elegant, although it has plenty of body too – 94 points
Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru Les Demoiselles
Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot
The Jadot family have owned half of this great vineyard since 1913; it had actually been among the very first vineyards the family purchased back in 1794, but had passed out of their hands by the 1880’s.
An amazingly concentrated wine with great intensity, integration and elegance.
The palate has lovely intense green fruit together with richer, softer peach-like notes giving a succulent structure mingling with stony minerality and clean acidity making it elegant and balanced – 92 points.
As a group these were more difficult to get to grips with than the whites, as in the main their complexity has yet to develop. Some were so concentrated that the rich fruit makes them enjoyable even in youth, but all these reds needs time to show their true worth. They were all so subtly varied, so a really good illustration of how reliant Pinot Noir is on the terroir and conditions in which it grows.
Beaune Clos des Ursules
Beaune 1er Cru Vignes Franches
Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot
The Clos des Ursules once belonged the convent of Saint-Ursule when the wall separating it from the rest of Les Vignes Franches was built. In 1826 it was the first vineyard that Louis Henry Denis Jadot bought and it has remained a Jadot family ‘Monopole’ ever since and is one of their most famous vineyards.
The nose was rich, opulent and fragrant with ripe cherry, raspberry and savoury, earthy notes.
The palate was supple and full flavoured with a lovely weight and concentration and underlying elegant acidity.
The tannins were quite firm, but only really apparent on the finish – 91 points.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes
The nose is rich and classy with smoky oak nuance and a cocktail of fragrant black cherry and red cherry.
The palate was silky and opulent with lovely concentration, the oak needs taming, but that will happen with time.
Fresh acidity makes the long finish quite elegant and balanced – 90 points.
This can be summed up by one word – elegant.
The nose was savoury and fragrant with a rich red cherry character.
The palate was quite delicate with a lovely red fruit character, fresh acidity and supple tannins, very elegant and fine – 92 points.
Rich aromas with red cherry and underlying deeper black cherry notes.
The palate was quite opulent, rounded and supple with generous fruit and a fleshy texture.
The finish is slightly slightly hard at the moment with chalky tannins – 90 points.
The most savoury nose so far with earthy, mushroom aromas. Nice concentration on the palate with clean mineral notes, light raspberry, rich red cherry with good acid balance.
The finish is somewhat bitter at the moment, but time should sort that out – 92 points.
An enticing mineral and smoky wine with rich, velvety and mineral aromas.
The palate was smooth with juicy ripe fruit and smoky oak notes supported by earthy notes leading to a supple finish with ripe, supple tannins on the long finish – 91 points.
A wonderfully supple wine with a fragrant mineral earthy and savoury nose.
The palate offers rich fruit backed by high acidity and some lovely weight in the mouth with a creamy quality from the ripe cherry and raspberry fruit.
The oak is well integrated and the tannins are supple – 92 points.
The nose was powerful and savoury with seaweed-like aromas.
The palate was equally rich with a sweet and sour character going on with rich fruit vieing with earthy notes supported by tangy acidity, chalky tannins and a smack of minerality.
The finish was long, but quite hard at the moment – 92 points.
This is a very rich and opulent Burgundy with supple, round, ripe fruit and firm chalky tannins throughout the wine, not just on the finish.
It is well knit, juicy and succulent, but the firm tannins do somewhat dominate at present – 92 points.
Perhaps the most overtly fruity so far with an enormous nose of lifted rich black cherry and seaweed/umami notes.
The palate has a lovely supple texture, fresh acidity, ripe tannins, lovely cherry fruit and great concentration.
The tannins are smooth and plush on the long finish – 94 points.
Smooth and smoky with a nervy acidity and a seam of minerality, this is the lightest of the Grand Crus, but is very full flavoured with a long finish.
The tannins are very smooth and rounded – 92 points.
These scores are provisional and may go up or down as the wines mature and develop.
So, it was a fascinating line up of wines that showed far better than the vintage’s reputation would have you believe. It was also reassuring that my hopes and expectations were met, by which I mean that the Grand Cru wines were more powerful, or more apparently fine, than the 1er Crus, which were in turn more concentrated, or elegant, than the village wines – which is exactly how these vineyards became so famous in the first place.
In the interests of full disclosure I must be clear that I do some work for Louis Jadot from time to time. However everything stated in this article is my genuine, unsolicited opinion.
Louis Jadot wines are available in the UK through Hatch Mansfield Agencies.