Juicy Details with David Larson: The Wines of Bruno Clair

I like to drink wine. I especially like to drink Burgundy. And when given the choice of a domaine to enjoy, the wines of Bruno Clair are at the very top of my list.

I previously worked for many years with the local importer/wholesaler for these wines, and had the opportunity to visit and taste at Domaine Bruno Clair many times. I will skip over the history lesson of the domaine for this post, but I recommend visiting Clair’s website at http://www.bruno-clair.com/ for detailed information on this historically significant estate. Now that the history lesson is conveniently out of the way (thank you internet), let’s talk about the wines.

My fondness for these wines is directly related to their style. There is nothing overt here; the wines are elegant and graceful with a serious, subtle, structure. No over-extracted, syrupy, inky stuff here thank you. We recently offered a selection of 2012’s from Clair, and have a few other vintages on offer at retail as well. I am going to offer a few of my tasting notes on the 2012 and 2011 vintages from my most recent visits, as well as an opinion and perhaps a factoid or two.

A (very) quick summary of these two vintages: 2012 was a very, very short crop due to adverse weather conditions throughout the growing season. What fruit that made it to the triage table was very healthy, with terrific ripeness. The wines (generally) are luscious but still show an excellent sense of terroir. 2011 was a difficult growing season as well, which resulted in an extremely early harvest. As such the wines (generally) are fresh, on the red fruit end of the spectrum (for reds) and are suitable for drinking or mid-term cellaring.

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Notes from my visit on March 11, 2014
all 2012 vintage, all samples were taken from cask

Marsannay Blanc
Notes of ripe, fleshy yellow fruits on the nose. Pleasant balancing citrusy acidity.

There is always a dollop of Pinot Blanc in this wine, which adds to its interest. This is a no brainer everyday white burg. $35!

Morey-Saint-Denis, En la Rue de Vergy Blanc
Almost tannic and packed with chalk, white fruit, and white flowers. Superb mineral notes throughout the wine.

How often do you taste white Morey? The answer should be rarely. The grapes for this stunning wine are sourced from a parcel high on the slope above Bonnes-Mares, with no top soil. This wine has terrific ageability.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, La Dominode 1er Cru
Loaded with material and minerality. Closed today, but the finish is very long.

 The vines for this wine were planted in 1902…that’s right, they are 113 years old. This is the sleeper in the Clair line-up, always consistent (ancient vines do that) and very age worthy. A great wine.

Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos du Fonteny 1er Cru
Beautiful nose, beautiful palate. Very well balanced and loaded with ‘sauvage’ red fruits. Really, really good.

This vineyard is a monopole. The soils are white clay based as opposed to the typical red of Gevrey which lend an atypical elegance to this wine.

Gevrey Chambertin Clos-St.-Jacques 1er Cru
Great purity, superb minerality, and excellent balance. All red fruits and elegance.

Clos-St.-Jacques is my desert island vineyard. In my opinion, it’s the greatest premier cru of Gevrey. Let’s have a Clair, Rousseau, Fourrier, Jadot and S. Esmonin comparative tasting shall we? Who would like to put that on? Email me.

Chambertin Clos de Bèze
A very suave block of flavor. Backward and a bit hard to read today. Loooong finish.

This wine always walks the tightrope of power and elegance. Clairs parcel runs the length of the vineyard giving a very complete example. The fact that we have 21 bottles in stock is absurd.

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Notes from my visit on March 7, 2013
all 2011 vintage, all samples were taken from cask

Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos-St.-Jacques 1er Cru
Fraises de bois nose. more backward than Cazetiers, really opens on the back palate/finish. Harmonius, ethereal wine. Powerful but not heavy with great minerality.

Exceptional – I. Would. Buy. This. See additional notes on Clos-St.-Jacques above.

Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Beautiful nose. Super pure red fruits. Creamy and mineral. Ridiculous.

This was one of the top 3 wines from the 350+ Burgundies I tasted from 2011. See additional notes on Clos de Bèze above.

Bonnes Mares
Big and chunky, loads of earthy, ‘brown’ flavors. Black cherry, brown spices. very tasty. Very long, crisp, mineral finish.

Interestingly, their plots of Bonnes Mares and Cazetiers are the same soil type. This is always a delightful beast.

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The point of this blog is to make you say “why haven’t I bought any of these wines yet?” There is no logical reason that we should have ANY of these wines still in stock. They are that good. They may not be inexpensive, but they are worth every penny-that is not something I can say about many Burgundy domaines. Buy some. You won’t regret it.

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