Mature White Burgundy from the Belgian Master

Saturday, 11th February 2017 by Thomas Parker

It’s not often that you sit down ahead of a night focused on drinking old white Burgundy excited, rather than apprehensive, about opening the wines. It’s even rarer that you come away with a broad smile on your face, with the wines having exceeded all expectation in quality and consistency. Premox – premature oxidation – still plagues white Burgundy to the extent that opening 10 wines from almost any producer from the early 1990s through to the mid-2000s would result in a number of bottles best for making sauces or pouring down the drain. However, on this night, all 10 were in perfect condition without a hint of this fault across the board. What’s more, these wines are some of the best-value offerings in Burgundy, with the prices of many wines from the region now out of reach or overpriced for many buyers.

Jean-Marie Guffens, originally from Belgium, has been making white Burgundy since 1980. Domaine Guffens-Heynen is focused on vineyard holdings in Macon, Saint Veran and Pouilly Fuisse and these wines are consistently the best that we taste from these regions. In 1990 he created Maison Verget, his negociant business, which offers a range of wines from Chablis, through the Cote de Beaune and down into the Maconnais. They are some of the best value wines to be found anywhere in the world, Jean-Marie weaving winemaking magic through a mixture of steel, concrete, small and large oak, and taking several passes to pick each vineyard to give wines with the perfect balance of acidity, ripeness and richness.

Over the course of a magnificent dinner at Trinity Upstairs thanks to chef and owner Adam Byatt, we tasted our way through the wines below in a rare opportunity to see how these wines, usually drunk in their youth, were standing up.

A trio of Maconnais wines that all perform far above their humble appelations. 

Saint Veran Terres Noires 2002, Verget

Bright lemon-gold in colour, this now has a rich butter and cream nose with a little roasted nut and lemon curd. Broad but chalky in texture, this is mature with a light lemon glaze, broad citrus and honeyed peach finish. 90

Meursault Les Poruzots 1995, Verget

A deep burnished gold in colour, marmalade, orange rind and toasted citrus leap from the glass with a light mushroom character that hints at a touch of botrytis in the wine. Pithy, phenolic texture with a light toast and honeyed orange fruits flesh out through to a creamy, nutty finish. 92

Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 1995, Verget

Bright lemon in the glass, this is immediately the brightest, most youthful wine of the night so far. Taut with lemon curd, mineral tension, and flecks of smoke and cream. With time in the glass and bottle through the night this only increased in complexity, with lightly honeyed citrus and pale stone fruits, floral acacia and more creamy, buttery notes. An incredibly complex nose. The palate still held wonderful acid-fruit tension with a lightly chalky texture carrying lemons and light peach notes with just a hint of underlying smoke and honey. Lifted by the acidity, the finish of acacia and lemon blossom was both lifted and long. Supremely impressive. 96+

Delicious Poruzots and stunning Valmur

Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseigneres 1996, Verget

Bright gold in the glass with pure, rich lemon curd on the nose. The palate is rounded with flavours of mandarin and a fresh, waxy texture. Fresh and pure with a lifted, refreshing acidity on the finish. 91

Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseigneres 1995, Verget

A deep and mature colour, the nose and palate here were rich and evolved with marmalade and blood orange. The palate had notes of tarte tatin and a creamy breadth, but lacked the persistency of other wines on the night. 87

Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseigneres 1992, Verget

Mid-gold in colour and immediately aromatic with honey, pineapple and mango on the nose, there was an exotic, evolved richness here. With more time in the glass a level of minerality reigned in the broader fruit notes bringing citrus and cream through. The palate was broad, honeyed, nutty and even showed hints of petrol or gun smoke. Evolving all the time, there was stunning complexity here from the evolution but a lifted, juicy fruit core that still lingered with the nuts and honey on a long finish. 96

Four year apart but the 1992 showing more youth and power than 1996 on this occasion

Macon Pierreclos En Chavigne 1990, Guffens-Heynen

Mid-deep gold colour, with a rich butterscotch, smoke and honeyed pineapple nose. The palate is broad, tertiary and creamy with a caramelised fruit character and hints of toffee and smoke. Fresh acidity keeps the finish lifted and fresh but this is certainly fully mature. 92

Pouilly Fuissé Clos des Petits-Croux 1999, Guffens-Heynen

Bright and quite a pale lemon colour, the nose is taut, mineral and steely with lemons and peaches coaxed from the glass after a few minutes. With time and air the full spectrum of classic oaked Chardonnay aromas are revealed. Peaches and cream, a little toasty, smokiness and a slight honey character. However, this is still young, fresh and mineral. The palate manages significant mid-palate weight and creaminess of texture while at the same time keeping acid tension and floral lift. Focused, fresh, and spicy through to a long finish, this is a magnificent Pouilly Fuisse. 94+

Puilly-Fuissé at its best - both 2005 and 2006 showing great character and youthfullness.

Pouilly Fuissé 25ème Vendange 2005, Guffens-Heynen

Bright lemon colour with a spicy nose of sweet vanilla, lemon, peach and mango. The palate has concentrated flavours of lemon meringue pie, lifted by vanilla and sweet smoke from the oak and a touch of honeyed development. There is real weight of fruit and depth of concentration that continues through to a long, intense finish which is given a savoury edge by the refreshing acidity. 94

Pouilly Fuissé 1er Jus des Hauts des Vignes 2006, Guffens-Heynen

Mid-lemon in colour with a smoky, toasty, ripe stone fruit nose. The palate is refreshing and vibrant with lemons through to exotic pineapple, framed by clean and refreshing acidity and driven by a mineral yet creamy weight. The smokiness lingers on a long finish, supported by the fresh fruit core. 94

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