Two Superb Wines from Domaines with Something, and Nothing, to Prove

The Gros Family is iconic in the commune of Vosne-Romanee.  When the renown Jean Gros (Bernard’s father) retired in 1995, four separate domaines sprung off from various family members. Anne Gros (Bernard’s cousin), is certainly the most coveted by collectors, but there is also the highly regarded A.F. Gros (Bernard’s sister.) Then there is Michel Gros, (his Brother) who traded all of  his Richebourg to gain a monopole of the premier cru Clos de Reas – a vineyard  synonymous with his father’s legendary name. Lastly, there was Bernard.

For many years, Domaine Gros Frere et Soeur (Bernard Gros) was considered the less serious producer of the family, making ripe, voluptuous wines that were based on fruit  -in virtually every vintage- rather than shooting for finesse.  Perhaps there was too much influence by the now discredited Guy Accad, but in the mid-ninties these were certainly opulent Pinot Noirs, in terms of Burgundy.

Vosne-Romanée, célèbre petit village vinicole ...
Vosne-Romanée AOC. The village of Flagey-Echezeaux pop. 500 is pictured. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past few vintages however, Bernard’s wines have repeatedly shown the kind of restraint and complexity one expects from a serious Burgundy house.   This Gros Frere Vosne Premier Cru is source largely from Bernard’s plot of younger vines in Echezeaux, and has the remarkable depth and physiological ripeness, but is not over-ripe or excessively heavy.  Considering that Gros Frere wines trades at a third or half the price of similar quality Burgundies, they are one of Burgundy’s the relative values.

2010 Gros Frere et Soeur, Vosne-Romanee, Premier Cru $79.99

This was sensational; clearly showing its high percentage of fruit from the younger vines from Gros Frere’s Echezeaux parcel.   Deep berry fruit, with warm spices, smoky meat, grilled fennel bulb, and plum. The same flavors play across the palate, with excellent palate impression, fruit, and a dried stems element, dark loamy earth.This is rich, sultry and satisfying. A superb bottle of red Burgundy.

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Since 1975, Vincent Mongeard has worked in the vineyards and cellar of his family estate, Mongeard-Mugneret, in Vosne-Romanee. He farms 33 hectares (81.5 acres) from 35 different vineyards. His vines are quite old, averaging 45 years in age. In the past, the domaine had been accused of using too much oak, but has pulled back on use of oak over the past decade. Since 1998, Vincent began sourcing his own wood, and having the barrels made for him to his own specifications.  Still the specter of suspicion lingers, with the oak police continually, and critically, examining the amount oak being used by Mongeard.

 ” Still the specter of suspicion lingers, with the oak police continually, and critically, examining the amount of oak being used by Mongeard”

1999 Mongeard Mugneret Grands-Echézeaux
1999 Mongeard Mugneret Grands-Echézeaux bottling (Photo credit: testastretta-999)

Vincent’s wines have become more refined as well. Where they had been routinely characterized with faint praise as sturdy, darkly colored, and concentrated, none of those descriptions can be used here. This quote by Robert Parker is routinely used on the web (even by it’s importer Vineyard Brands) : “the style of winemaking seems to extract rich, supple, concentrated fruit from the grapes…” But Parker stopped reviewing Burgundy in the mid-nineties, after he was sued for libel in 1994 by the firm of Joseph Faiveley, and found himself unwelcome in many cellars. So you have to ask yourself, how valid is this quote after almost 20 years? On many occasions  it is sited that Vincent only uses stems on his top two or three bottlings.  I definitely noted stem notes in the Nuits-Les Plateaux I tasted.  Things change over time. Good winemakers don’t make wine by a recipe.  When will we actually judge the wine in the glass rather than being influenced by these overly repeated characterizations?

This is the wine I tasted.

 2010 Mongeard-Mugneret Nuits-St-Georges, Les Plateaux $49.99

Beautiful, if one of the least Nuits-like wines I’ve tasted. In fact the vineyard is very close to Vosne Romanee, and tastes quite a bit like one. It was effortless, whereas many Nuits can seem to try too hard, are too dark, are too rough around the edges, are too tannic for their acids. Light to medium in weight and completely translucent. Warm aromas of cedar-wood, cherry, cranberries, flowers, cinnamon, dust, and twigs. In the mouth, it is light but mouth-filling, lovely, soft and very, very long, with its flavors  of faint cherry, dusky cranberries, and dried twigs resonating on and on.  An outstanding value in fine red Burgundy.


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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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