2008 Jomain Freres Monthelie 1er Cru Les Duresses Hospices de Beaune Cuvee Lebelin

Year: 2008
Appellation: Cote de Beaune
Country: France
Red Wine
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It’s not easy to find good quality Premier Cru red Burgundy for under $50 (let alone $34.95), so I was most pleased when I came across these two Burgundy winners a short while ago.

The Hospice de Beaunes (Hospital of Beaune) origin dates back to the 15th century and now consists of dozens of Cuvee’s: a Cuvee being a particular batch of wine from land donated to this Catholic charity hospital by various individuals and baring the name of the donor. For example the Monthelie is from a parcel in the Les Deresses vineyard in Monthelie donated by a Madame Lebelin (and hence the Cuvee Lebelin). All the Hospice wines are made by the Hospice winery and sold in barrel to various Burgundy wine firms that finish and bottle the wine and in the instance of these two Cuvees that firm is Jomain Freres of Puligny-Montrachet.

MONTHELIE 1er Cru – The vineyards and township of Monthelie are adjacent and at a higher elevation then its more famous neighbors of Volnay and Meursault. The Duress vineyard is on the highest elevation in this township and covers some 16.6 acres of which 2.2 belong to the Hospice. I agree with the Hospice description of this wine when they state that it has a, “Bright, ruby-purple of medium depth, the nose showing lively, cherry and raspberry fruitiness. On the palate, this is medium-bodied, with good fruit intensity, and some grip – but the tannins are balanced, promising fine evolution, in the medium term.”

PERNAND-VERGELESSES 1er CRU – The commune of Pernand-Vergelesses is only a few dozen yards from the Grand Cru vineyards of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne. There are five vineyards in Pernand classified as Premier Cru and this particular one comes from a 1.5-acre parcel in the 44.6-acre Les Basses Vergelesses vineyard. As you might expect from an area so near to Corton, the Pernand-Vergelesses is a slightly richer and more intense wine then the Monthelie. Before it was politically incorrect, you would describe it as more “masculine” then the more delicate and elegant, “feminine” Monthelie.

Both wines display classic Pinot Noir character and will even gain with another two to three years aging and keep well until the early 2020’s.

RATING: Monthelie 91/92 Pernand-Vergelesses 92/93 PRICE: $34.95

WHERE: Los Angeles Wine Co. (Martins Guide to Wine Bargains)

Winery Notes:
Bright, ruby-purple of medium depth, the nose showing lively, cherry and raspberry fruitiness. On the palate, this is medium-bodied, with good fruit intensity, and some grip – but the tannins are balanced, promising fine evolution, in the medium term.

Additional Information:
The Character of the Red Wines
We do not have a strong impression of powerful structure or dense tannins in these wines, such as would give the potential for a very long life, while they reach maturity. The vintage resembles 2007, in the sense that the wines may not need very long tending (élevage). It may be sensible to bottle some after 15 or 18 months barrel-ageing. The natural acidity levels are higher than usual, but given the good level of grape maturity, the acidity is balanced by fruitiness, and it will keep the wines fresh, as they age.

Are they like the 1996s, one may wonder, which had bright fruit, and also fresh acidities ? Not really, for there was no sorting in 1996, and consequently these 2008s are riper. Or the 2001s ? The 2008s seem to have rounder tannins, with more flesh. “Today, we only put ripe grapes in the vats,” says Roland Masse, “we take the best, and ripest grapes, and work with those.”

These 2008 red wines show real consistency of clean, healthy, attractive fruitiness, such as we saw in 2007. Prior to malo-lactic fermentations, it is impossible to know their final acidity balances – will they be mild, or remain lively ? The wines appear harmoniously structured, with a classic, cool-climate, lively red Burgundy fruitiness. There are examples which will mature relatively early – where fruit and finesse are to the fore. There are others where ample structure, densely-textured fruitiness and refreshing, complex aftertastes promise decades of fine complexities, as they mature.

Is 2008 a Red Wine Vintage, or a White Wine Vintage?
There is no doubting the quality, balance and potential of the whites. Production, however, was severely reduced – to half a normal crop, for some Cuvées – so rarity may keep prices firm. For the chance to combine great value with lovely quality, we recommend the 2008 reds. This is a Burgundy-lover’s vintage, and we urge you to place bids not just judiciously, but expansively. These wines will be impressively delicious when youthful, and many will surprise us with their ability to age well, developing intriguing complexities, smoothness and harmony.