My Column

    We are sorry to inform Clive's friends that he died on 26th July 2022 in hospital in Lyon. He was 80 and had been in poor health for some time. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him and we are keenly aware of the influence he had on so many wine lovers around the world. We are sure that he would have wanted anyone who wished to remember him to open a bottle of something nice and raise a glass in his memory.

    The family of Clive Coates




    MONTRACHET by DOMAINE RAMONET / It is the spring of 1978.  A small man, 72 years of age and very much a peasant, with an old stained pullover, baggy trousers and the inevitable casquette on his head, arrives at a lawyer's office in Beaune.  

    He is about to buy 25 ares and 90 centiares - enough to make about four and half barrels - of Le Montrachet, the finest white wine vineyard in the world.  The vendors are the Milan and Mathey-Blanchet families: gentle people.  Pierre Ramonet is a man of the soil.  Apart from the occasional meal at some of his clients - Lameloise, Alan Chapel, Troisgros, Bocuse - he never ventures outside Chassagne-Montrachet.  He hates the telephone.  He rarely writes a letter.  Such paper-work that needs to be done is achieved by Mother Ramonet, née Lucie Prudhon, whom you will never see dressed otherwise than in black, as befits old ladies throughout France, in an old school exercise book which she keeps in a drawer in her kitchen.


    There is the question of payment.  "Ah, yes," says Ramonet.  He fishes in one pocket for a thick wad of notes, in another for a second, in the back of his trousers for a third, and so on.  The stacks of money pile up on the attorney's desk.  He has never seen such an amount of espèces in his life.  "I think you'll find it all there," says Ramonet, uncomfortable in the formal surroundings of the lawyers' office.  And he leaves, anxious to return to the familiarity of his cellar and his vines.


    "Père" Ramonet was more than a character.  He was, to use the old cliché - but it is true in this instance - a legend in his own lifetime.  More or less from scratch, by dint of sheer hard work and a genius for wine, he built up one of the finest white wine domaines in Burgundy.  Today the name of Ramonet is synonymous with top Chardonnay.  The allocations for bottles are fought over, for every collector considers it his or her right to own some.  They sell at auction for astronomical sums whenever they appear.  On the rare occasions, as in January 1995 at the Montrachet restaurant in New York, when someone puts on a special vertical tasting and dinner, the tickets - and they are not cheap - are over-subscribed ten times.  Ramonet in white is the equivalent of Henri Jayer or the DRC in red.


    Pierre Ramonet died in 1994 at the age of 88.  He is much missed.  But his echo lives on, and the wines, in the able hands of his grandsons Noël (born 1962) and Jean-Claude (b. 1967) since the 1984 vintage, (mais sous ses ordres, stoutly avers Noël), continue his reputation.  They are very fine.  More importantly, they are also very individual.  A Ramonet wine is a Ramonet wine before it is a Chassagne, or a Bienvenue, or a Bâtard....or a Montrachet.

    The original Ramonets came from the Bresse on the other side of the river Saône from Chalon.  A branch settled in Beaune in the 19th century, where they were millers.  The mill failed, and one of them, Claude, moved to Chassagne, where he became a tâcheron - a vineyard worker who is paid by the amount of land he tends rather than by the day as a direct employee - for Colonel Vuillard, owner of the Château de Maltroye.


    This second Claude had three children; a daughter who married Georges Bachelet (from whence comes today's Bachelet-Ramonet domaine) and two sons, Pierre, born in 1906 and Claude (b. 1914).  This Claude never married, and died in 1977.  Pierre married Lucie Prudhon, daughter of the Duc de Magenta's chef de culture at the Domaine de l'Abbaye de Morgeot.  (For a time the wine was sold as Domaine Ramonet-Prudhon).  They had a single child, their son André (b. 1934), father of Noël and Jean-Claude.  André has never enjoyed good health and for some time has been more or less of an invalid.  He has never had total responsibility for the Ramonet domaine.

    Pierre Ramonet left school at the age of 8 to help his father in the vineyard.  His first vineyard purchase was in Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Ruchottes, early in the 1930s.  Exhibiting at the Beaune wine fair in 1938, he found himself being addressed by Raymond Baudoin, one of the founders of the Revue des Vins de France, and adviser to many of the nation's top restaurants.  Baudoin had obviously encountered something disagreeable at a neighbouring stand.  "Have you got anything to take the taste away," he asked.  And was given some Ruchottes 1934.  "Excellent!" pronounced Baudoin.  "Do you have any for sale?  Can I take away a couple of bottles?"  Six months later he arrived in Chassagne with Frank Schoonmaker, one of the first Americans to seize the opportunity provided by the abolition of prohibition.  Schoonmaker took 200 cases of both red and white - though the Ramonets did not get paid until after the war!

    Baudoin was of similar assistance in getting the Ramonet wine onto the lists of the top restaurants in France: Taillevent in Paris, Point in Vienne, the Côte D'Or in Avallon - and this encouraged the opening up of a market for vente directe.  And of course, after the war, and his settlement of the bill for the 1934s, Schoonmaker continued as the major export customer.


    Slowly but surely the Ramonet domaine began to expand.  They now possess vines in 7 Chassagnepremiers crus (Ruchottes, Morgeots, Caillerets, Clos-de-la-Boudriotte, Clos-Saint-Jean, Chaumées and Vergers) and most of these were acquired in the 1940s and 1950s.  In 1955, two adjoining parcels, one in Bâtard (45 a), one in Bienvenues (56 a), were obtained from Henri Coquet.

    More recently the domaine has expanded into Saint-Aubin (Les Charmois) and into Puligny-Montrachet (Champ-Canet and village wine in Enseignières and Nosroyes: the best village appellation vineyards, says Noël Ramonet) and some Boudriottes white has been bought, while they have lost one hectare of Morgeot to another branch of the family.  The total now exploited is 17 hectares.

    An even more recent development, dating from 1998, is the exchange with the Domaine Jean Chartron of Bâtard-Montrachet must for Chevalier-Montrachet must.  In this small way, therefore, the Ramonet brothers are merchants.


    In theory Noël is responsible in the cellar and his brother Jean-Claude in the vineyard.  But in fact it seems to be a joint effort.  Neither has had technical training, and so if you ask why they do this, or not do that, you will be unlikely to receive a coherent answer.  The approach is empirical and instinctive.  But it seems to work.

    The Chardonnays are pruned to the Guyot system, the Pinots Noirs cordon trained.  In the vineyard the yields are kept low, the average age of the vines maintained high, with no repiquageafter a certain time.  This means that, as has happened in Le Montrachet, whole parcels eventually have to be ripped up.  The produce of the younger vines can then be vinified apart, and down-graded.  This is the case today with half of the Montrachet.

    The red wines, village Chassagne, Clos-Saint-Jean, Clos-de-la-Boudriotte and Morgeots, are partially destemmed, usually 50 percent, cold soaked for a few days, vinified in cement vats - there is a resistance to stainless steel here - macerated for 10 days, and matured using one-third new oak for a year, being both fined and lightly filtered.


    There is a very noisy cooling unit for temperature control in the cellar.  Above ground what looks like an ugly garage-type hangar stands over an extensive underground cellar hewn out of the rock.  But the Ramonets express no interest in being able to cool down or warm up the wine in order to facilitate the malo-lactic.  "We like to let nature take its course."

    Unusually the Ramonets do not allow the gross lees to settle out before the fermentation of the white wine begins.  "There are elements in the gross lees which are good," maintains Noël.  Perhaps as a result of this, the wines are bâtonné-ed much less than elsewhere: only once a month for four months.  Why?  Because they fear that these gross lees would taint the wine.  Fermentations are begun in tank, continued in wood - overall about one-third new - at 20-25°C, and the finished wine kept on the lees as long as possible before the first racking.  A second racking takes place after a year or 15 months.  The white wines, like the reds, are both fined and lightly filtered.

    The cellar, both upstairs and downstairs, is not the neatest, most orderly cellar you have ever been into.  Odd bits of machinery, adaptors for pipes, and boxes of this or that lie all over the place.  You feel they have never had a tidy-up or thrown anything out.  As you squeeze between a beaten-up truck and a redundant pumping machine to get below to sample the wines you find that the staircase is used as a cupboard for yet more accumulation of bits and pieces.  It is like an ironmonger's nightmare.


    But all this seems fitting when you meet Noël Ramonet.  The man is in his early 40s, stocky, usually unshaven, in a dirty old T-shirt and jeans, with piercing blue eyes, a loud voice, and pre-emptory way of expressing himself.  Finesse, order and method, and reflection are alien.  Energy, passion and forthrightness is his manner.  But when you listen, you realise that this is truly a chip off the old block.  He reveres his grandfather.  But he has his own full understanding of hismétier.  (He has also got one of the most magnificent - and eclectic - private cellars I have ever seen.  All bought; none exchanged).

    "Moins fins mais plus profonds," he will agree with you, when you sample the Chassagne, Morgeots white after the Saint-Aubin, Charmois.  And the Boudriottes is more mineral, less fat and heavy, because this is on the semi-coteaux, while the Morgeots is in the plain.  The Chaumées, despite being young vines, and the Vergers, show more finesse.  They are properly on the slope.  And the Caillerets and the Ruchottes are best of all.  "Where the soils are really well drained, as here," explains Noël, "you will always have much less problem with botrytis."  This is the heartland of Chassagne white.


    Why is there such a sharp contrast between the Bienvenues - composed, accessible, discreet - and the Bâtard - closed, powerful, masculine?  After all the vines are adjacent, and the same age.  Noël shrugs.  You feel he knows the answer.  But he can't articulate it.  And is his Bâtard his most consistently successful wine, better even than the Montrachet, which can be totally brilliant, but over the 17 years since the Ramonets have produced it, certainly not always?  Is this a question you even dare ask?

    I find the Ramonet reds refreshingly direct.  They are full, ample and plump, nicely concentrated but nicely succulent at the same time.  Chassagne reds will never be great, and can be over-extracted.  But the Ramonets get theirs right.

    The whites, on the other hand, are exceptional.  They are distinctive, full-bodied and long-lasting.  They are rich and masculine, firm and concentrated.  They can be magnificent.

    And they can also be flawed.  This is a result of risks being taken.  But often the flaws are by no means disagreeable; they lend individuality; they give character; they add an element of dimension.  For me, a great wine often does have often something just a little bit "wrong" about it.  And a squeaky-clean "perfect" wine is very rarely as interesting.



    Le Montrachet, 2005From 2022

    This is still very closed and youthful. Marvelous energy and power. Very, very concentrated nose. Full body. Very, very rich and almost solid on the palate at present. Real depth and dimension here. Potentially excellent.

    Le Montrachet, 2004Now-2025 plus

    Flowery but youthful – indeed a bit ungainlyat first – on the nose. Medium to medium-full body. On the palate really classy. Lovely racy fresh fruit. Now just about ready. No lack of energy here. Very long at the end. Very lovely.

    Le Montrachet, 2002From 2019

    Nutty, fat, and very, very concentrated on the nose. Still very, very closed. Similar on the palate. Immense concentration and depth. Excellent fruit. Still a baby. This is very classy and very profound. Potentially a great wine. Even better than the 2005.

    Le Montrachet, 2001Now-2030

    Lovely ripe, profound nose. Unexpected depth here. A little evolution on the palate. But lots of energy and class. Marvelously balanced fruit. Brilliant for the vintage. Bags of life head of it. 

    Le Montrachet, 1999Now-2030 

    Very ripe and concentrated and profound on the nose. Splendidly, concentrated, rich, ripe fruit. Great depth. Still very young. At the end – for this bottle evolved quite fast in the glass – the wine is quite soft, showing lovely fruit. Now just aboiut à point. Very fine.

    Le Montrachet, 1998Now-2020

    Crisp, composed and flowery, but no great weight on the nose. Accessible and delightful if not greatly serious. Still very youthful on the palate though. Graceful, very fresh. A lovely wine. Just about ready. 

    Le Montrachet, 1997Now-2020

    Some development on the colour. But the nose is still very fresh. Full, crisp, steely and youthful. Fullish body. Now à point. Better grip than the 1998 but less ample. This is very classy and very lovely.

    Le Montrachet, 1996Now-2020 plus

    Very fresh colour. Lovely, flowery, honeysuckle nose. Most seductive and quite delightful. Fullish body. Ripe, round. A point. Richer than the 2007. More depth. More vigour. Very fine. 

    Le Montrachet, 1995Now-2020 plus

    Some development on the colour, yet not over-aged on the nose. Full bodied. Round and ripe. Fresh, concentrated on the palate, yet just a littgle rigid. But it improved in the glass. Lovely but not brilliant.

    Le Montrachet, 1994Drink soon

    Quite a developed colour. Full and fresh, if somewhat spicy and showing some age on the palate. Not the greatest of concentration, depth or dimension. A bit dull. But that is the vintage.

    Le Montrachet, 1993Now-2019

    Lovely fresh nose. Full body, rich and now mellow on the palate. Pure and clean. Ample and ripe and rich and fully ready. No undue austerity. Complex and classy and individual. Fine quality. But is the Bâtard better still?

    Le Montrachet, 1991Now-2017

    Impressive, youthful colour. Ample, fresh nose. Fullish body. Ripe. Very vigorous. Very lively still. Lots of fruit. Really surprisingly ample and elegant., classy, vigorous and ripe. Delicious. No hurry to drink.

    Le Montrachet, 1990Drink soon

    Just a little golden on the colour. Ample, round, ripe nose. Fullish on the palate. Slightly rigid. Good grip. But not the grace and depth of the 1991. Fine qualitgy fruit nevertheless.

    Le Montrachet, 1985Drink soon

    Just a little development here on the colour. But the nose has become a ittle vegetal. Fullish body. Somewhat rigid on the palate. Concentrated and very good acidity, but a bit four square. Was better five years ago. But other bottles may be holding up better than this;

    Le Montrachet, 1983Now to 2020

    Fresh if mature colour. Ample, very ripe – almost over-ripe – nose. Very complex. Great depth and complexity. Full body. Splendidy fresh, succulent, balanced , energetic and multi-dimensional. Individual and really great. These two 1983s are magnificent!



    Domaine Ponsot -  Clos de la Roche, Vieilles Vignes and its Morey-Saint-Denis, Clos des Monts Luisants

    Up on the slopes above Clos de la Roche lies a one hectare vineyard that produces a wine which is truly unique: a premier cru blanc exclusively produced from the Aligoté grape. Elsewhere in Burgundy only generic wines can be made from the Aligoté, and such is the fashion for Chardonnay that this poor, unfashionable grape variety is increasingly confined to lesser vineyards, the flat lands on the 'wrong' side of the main road (which would probably be better suited to potatoes and beets) and hidden corners further up where the micro-climate and the aspect are not of the first order. Only in Bouzeron in the Côte Chalonnaise is the Aligoté taken seriously and planted in the full sun and on well-drained rocky soils. Here we have a delicious wine, if one at its best drunk soon after bottling. What comes out of the Clos des Monts Luisants, however, is altogether different. A bottle with all the same depth, interest, class and aging potential of the best of the Chardonnays of Meursault and Puligny-Montachet.


    The Ponsot family hails originally from Saint-Romain. In 1872, one of their line, a lawyer in Dijon, bought a domaine in Morey-Saint-Denis on behalf of his son, William. William died childless in 1926, but not before his god-child and nephew Hippolyte had been roped in to learn the metier and prepare himself for the succession. Hippolyte's grandson, Laurent, born in 1954, has been in charge of Domaine Ponsot since 1983.

    It was William Ponsot who created today's Clos des Monts Luisants. The vineyard, which begins some 20 metres below the tree line, is their monopoly. Back in the 19th century Aligoté was widespread, planted alongside the Chardonnay in places as exalted as Corton-Charlemagne. But after the phylloxera epidemic and the economic depression which followed it growers increasingly filled up their white wine vineyards exclusively with Chardonnay. It ripened better and the wine fetched more money. William Ponsot had different ideas. He would persevere with Aligoté, and so in 1911 the one hectare of Clos de Monts Luisants was replanted with this variety.

    Some time later, in the late 1930s, his successor Hippolyte decided to add some 'Pinot Gouges' to the vineyard. This is mutated Pinot Noir, found by Henri Gouges in his vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges, and reproduced by him in the premier cru Les Perrières. Gouges allowed Ponsot to take cuttings for his own use, and so for a time 15 percent or so of the encépagement in the Clos des Monts Luisants came from this rare and original mutation. (As anyone who has tasted the Gouges wine will tell you, it bears absolutely no resemblance to Chardonnay).

    Some time later the grape mix changed again: in the early 1950s Laurent's father Jean-Marie added some 20 percent Chardonnay. So for a time the wine was made out of all three varieties, with the Aligoté making up around 60 perecnt of the total. In 1992 the old Pinot Gouges were ripped up, and following the 2004 harvest, after Laurent had done various tests, he abandoned the Chardonnay. From 2005, therefore, we have a 100 perecent Aligoté wine once again, and still from the original 1911 stocks.


    How is the wine made? Firstly production is severely limited. The yield averages less than 30 hl/ha. The fruit is collected in wicker hods, the fruit later being transferred to plastic trays. The grapes are not de-stemmed, and pressed in an old vertical press (today most perfectionists consider that vertical presses are better than horizontal ones). After settling out in bulk the must is transformed into wine in old wooden barrels, without any deliberate cooling, so temperatures can rise to 30° or so, and rarely undergoes malo-lactic fermenation. It is then hardly interfered with – no fining, for instance - until bottling, which takes place after 22 months. Throughout the process the sulphur level is kept to the barest minimum. If any wines could be considered to be made without the use of sulphur, they are those of Laurent Ponsot.


    Does it keep? The answer is a strong yes, and even in vintages where nature has been less than kind. In the best years 20 years is a minimum: the 1989 is still an infant.


    And what dose it taste like? Well, it is not honeyed in the sense of a Meursault. Neither is it peachy in the sense of a Puligny. And of couse it is not oaky. The wine is very fresh, though except in the very lean vintages with no undue acidity. It is flowery, and the fruit flavours are understated and very subtle. Now having sampled the more recent pure Aligoté wines and compared then with what was made before, I agree with Laurent that 100 perecent Aligoté makes the best wine. There is a brilliant complexity and delicacy about today's Clos des Monts Luisants. It is delicious and it really is unique. And yet is is not prohibitively expensive. Ponsot does not sell wines direct to private consumers. But the wine can be picked up at the shop in Morey-Saint-Denis for around 45 euros TTC.




    The following vintages of Clos de la Roche, Vieilles Vignes were sampled at a Wine Weekend at the Hotel Wilden Mann, Lucerne, Switzerland, in November, 2011.

    The average harvest in the Clos de la Roche, Vieilles Vignes is 26 he/hl.


    2009 From 2020

    (As a result of hail damage Ponsot produced 35 percent less than in 2008) Good colour. Some development. Rich, full, succulent, classy nose. Lovely fruit. Full bodied, rich and vigorous on the palate. Very well-balanced. Lots of depth and energy. Still needs time, but surprisingly accessible already. Ripe finish. Great class. Very long. Very fine. 


    2008 From 2020

    Good colour. Still youthful. Good intensity and grip on the nose. Medium-full body. Quite pronouced acidity. But fresh and ripe. Lots of vigour and lots of dilmension. A splendid wine for food. But it needs keeping. The tannins are as ripe as those of 2009 but the expression of them is a little more austere.


    2007 From 2014

    Medium colour. Quite developed now. Soft nose. Plump but somewhat lightweight. Medium body. Nice and fresh. Attractive, ripe and succulent on the palate. Good energy, and positive at the end. Needs a year or two. Most enjoyable.


    2006 From 2014

    Medium colour. Developed. Also soft, but slightly more grip and intensity. Very seductive. There is an illusion of oak here which is very curious. And this soft aromatic ood flaviur is continued on the palate. Medium weight. Charming and balanced. A bit more to it than the 2007, but similar.



    Not presented. Currently the wine is hard as nails and not showing very well.


    2004 From 2017

    Medium to medium-full colour. Just a touch of the vegetal on the nose. Less ripe than the 2006 and 2007 but more substantial. Yet no lack of fruit and charm. Medium to medium-full body. A lot more interest, succulence and vigour than most 2004s. Good positive follow through. Still a bit of tannin to resolve. Fine for the vintage.


    2003 From 2017

    From magnum. Full colour. Still immature. This is still youthful on the nose. Chocolaty and not a bit Rhônish. Full body. Rich, sweet, spicy, very good acidity. The second magnum was even fresher and more delicious than the first.


    2002  From 2021

    Medium colour. Looks fully mature, and there is a little mature spice on the nose, which is of medium weight. Reticent at first. Medium-full body. Still a bit adolescent. Some tannin. More energy and power than seemed at first. Very good grip and very good class. Long and very promising but it needs ten years to get to its best. Very fine.


    2001 Now – 2021 plus

    Medium to medium-full colour. Fresh, classy, medium weight nose. Good positive fruit. Soft, round, spicy, ripe, fresh and balanced. Medium body. Plenty of depth here. A great success. Just about ready.


    2000 Now – 2020

    Medium, mature colour. Soft, sweet, opulent and approachable. Medium body. Plenty of depth if not quite the energy of the 2001. Remarkably good for the vintage and plenty of life ahead of it.


    1999 From 2017

    Very good colour. Rich, full, abundant, lush and energetic on the nose. This is very delicious. Fullish body. A ripe mocha nose which is always encouraging. Fullish body. Still some tannin to rexolve. Real harmony, class and grip. Will still improve.


    1998 Now – 2021 plus

    Good fresh, medium-full colour. The nose is a little lean at first, but the wine opened up and gained charm in the glass. Medium-full body. A little reserved, but concentrated, pure, stylish and well-balanced. Lovely finish. Plenty of life.





    My Today

    All of the tasting notes of the wine critic mentioned above in tastingbook, comes from press releases from wine importers and vineyards, or directly from the critic and can also be found on the critic’s own website, which can be easily accessed by clicking on the link above.




    My Yesterday

    An Interview with Clive Coates

    Q. Clive, you were a wine merchant for twenty years, before becoming a full-time wine writer. How did you get started?

    My first ambition was to be a chef. So I enrolled at the Westminster Hotel School in Vincent Square, London.

    But I soon found out that cooking commercially was quite a different thing from cooking for one's friends. It was hot in the kitchen. One was always under pressure. It was noisy. One was on one's feet all day. It is a hard life. Moreover, not that there aren't other jobs like it, one was working when others were playing. Not good for the social life.

    And then there was the fact that I was a fussy eater. Most chefs are omnivores: they will eat and enjoy more or less everything. Even then I was picky. I didn't like bloody red meat. I didn't like offal. I didn't like oysters - not that I ever saw an oyster at Hotel School.

    And I was not interested in being a hotel manager. Luckily there were a number of wine trade stalwarts who came by a couple of times a term to give us a lecture on wine. I was already very interested in wine. Every weekend I would buy a decent bottle which my flatmate and our respective girlfriends would drink – I like to think at least reasonably seriously – before going off to the inevitable party. I still have my notes, somewhere.

    This was for me, I decided. Fortunately I did very well in the final exams and won a travelling scholarship which enabled me to make a brief whistle-stop journey round the vineyards of France before becoming a stagier (intern) with Calvet in Bordeaux. I remained with Calvet for five months, during which I became more and more convinced that this was the metier for me, and also discovered, from the reaction from the professionals on the spot to what I said about the wines we were offered to sample, that I had a certain talent for the product.

    I came back to London, wrote round to a few companies saying 'bright young man seeks job' and was appointed a trainee manager with Hedges and Butler, at the time one of the half dozen fine wine merchants in West End of London. A few years later I joined the Wine Society, the best move I ever made. While I was there I passed the Master of Wine examination. It was then that I began to be sent abroad to buy wine. That's where you really begin to learn a bit about it.


    Q. Clive, you are known as being somewhat of a specialist in the lesser wines of France.

    Twenty or thirrty years ago: yes. Now I'm rather out of date. But I did pioneer a bit where others had not yet ventured. On my trips abroad, as well as obviously not leaving a decent church or whatever unvisited, I also used to poke my nose into the lesser A.C.s and V.D.Q.S.s. The best introduction, to Cahors or whatever, was to go to the local one-star restaurant and see whose wines they had on their list. In 1971, to take Cahors as an example, the price of one bottle of champagne would buy you all the Cahors, in bottle or in halves, that they had on the entire wine list. So these investigations didn't have to cost the earth. One took one's notes, shared the bottles with the proprietor and his friends at the end of the meal, listened to the gossip about all the wine-makers in question, and then sallied forth the next morning to visit the best.

    Finding good value in the backwoods of France fascinated me. I enjoyed the challenge. And I was the first to import several into the English market. Cahors, perhaps not. Bellet, yes for the first time since Gerald Asher in the late 1960s – a wine merchant before his time who over-reached himself. Bugey, the Côte Roannaise, the wines of Orléans. Yes, I was the first. And I listed four Bandols in the days when few others had any at all.


    Q. But Clive, you first began writing about Bordeaux.

    This all started in 1966 or so. I changed jobs, sold an apartment in London and bought a house in Berkshire. After I had installed central heating, re-fitted the kitchen and so on, I found myself with a surplus of around £1000. I wrote round for wine merchants' lists and bought one or two or three bottles of all the classed growth clarets (or equivalent) in the best years that I could get my hands on. The vintages stretched between 1959 and 1945. This was before the days of sales en primeur. Merchants matured their stock before selling it.

    My £1000 bought me about 1000 bottles of wine. Over the next few years I would open, twice a week, three bottles at a time: three vintages of Cos d'Estournel, or three Léovilles of the same vintage and so on. I kept the 1959s to the end: I had about 40 different wines. I got together with a group of friends who could fill in the gaps. We assembled a comprehensive tasting. This I wrote up and sent off to a wine magazine. To my surprise they published it. I've been wtiting about wine ever since.

    I also found myself with about nine vintages of Durcu-Beaucaillou, a wine I have always adored: the quintessence of the elegance that is Bordeaux. I wrote to the late Jean-Eugène Borie, and reveived the most generous of replies within the week. Come and stay at Beaucaillou. I have several old books you can consult to flesh out the history. We can open any vintages you wish to taste. And so on. Naturally I embarked for Saint-Julien as soon as I could, and wrote up a château profile, as I called it. Others soon followed.

    In those days vertical tastings of the type I was able to do in Bordeaux were rare. Michael Broadbent was being invited to prestigious first growth tastings in the USA, but no one covered the rest. Indeed in many cases I found the proprietors themselves had never participated in a serious vertical tasting of their wines. And at that time they had the library stock, which sadly they do not possess any more, for they have been inundated with requests for old vintages from all and sundry ever since, and there are wine weekends going on all over the place.

    Over the years, increasingly in the 1970s, I visited and wrote up château after château. I must have covered at least 150, some, as time went on, three or four times. I have always collected old books on wine, and it this that helped me in my research into the château background and the personalities of its previous owners.


    Q. And Burgundy?

    It may seem curious, but when I lauched The Vine in 1984, the wine area I knew least about was mainstream Burgundy, i.e. the Côte d'Or. As a wine buyer I had need of large quantities, and this precluded buying from the domaines. I also prefered to cherry pick the vintages. So, though I had visited the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Leflaive, Gouges and so on, and in somecases done business, the Côte d'Or was largely unknown territory. I must also underline the fact that large scale domaine-bottling was only just starting in the early 1980s. In those days there were hardly a handful of estates in each commune which bottled a serious percentage of their production. Now, of course, just about everyone with a piece of grand cru or some serious premier cru bottles it all on the spot. Once again I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I could follow the evolution of today's Burgundy from the beginning.

    Which I am still doing.






    My Tomorrow

    BURGUNDY 2018 Vintage

    All smiles in Burgundy !  The harvest, which began early, around the 20th of August, finished about a month later.  

    After a very wet start to the year – it seemed as if it had rained eery day in the first three months of 2018 – the summer of 2018 was very dry, very warm and very sunny. This pattern started in June and continues even into the first days of October. There have been few interruptions for rain and thankfully no hail, so the crop is large as well as of high quality; indeed the season could hardly have been better. This applies all across the region, from Chablis to the Mâconnais. After a number of vintages when the growers have only had a modicum of wine to sell, 2018 offers the comforting plenty all agriculturalists seek.

    But if you are anticipating a relaxation of prices I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. The Burgundians know their wine is very good (as well as unique) and they are charging accordingly. You don't have to be a millionaire to drink Richebourg, but it does help.

    September 1st 2018

    While the last week has been a little cooler, August has produced even better weather than July, with day after day of sunny blue skies, hardly a drop of rain, and temperatures which have been warm, if not hot. It has continued to be relatively cool at night, which, as I have said before, helps keeep the acidities at healthy levels. And we have been spared any hail damage.

    The vintage is now nigh - - they started on the 23rd August at Lafon - and barring a last minute disaster, looks like being a very good one. The weather forecast looks promising. And there is also plenty of wine.

    August 2018

    July has been a splendid month, with day after day of warm, indeed hot, sunny weather, interrupted only very occasionally by a little rain. No hail storms - at least so far. Everything looks a little brown. But we have had no hose-pipe bans, at least so far, in France. Nights have been cool, which is good for maintaining acidities. The vineyards look very promising.

    July 2018

    June has been neither one thing, nor the other. There have been days of sun, when temperatures reached 25°, and cloudy days, rainy at times, when temperatures struggled to broach 20°. Thankfully we have not had the hail that has attacked parts of Champagne and Bordeaux. Towards the end of the month there was a week of really nice hot weather, the first of the year. 

    The flowering has taken place satisfactorily and a good sized crop will be ready for harvesting in the first week of September.

    Meanwhile the best of the 2016s have been bottled, and very agreeably they taste too. The 2017s are finishing their malos, and, in the Côte de Nuits at least, look like a worthy successor.

    So we have reached July, yet another keep-your-fingers-crossed period. More next month.

    June 2018

    May has seen a combination of sunny mornings, clouding away in the afternoon, grey mornings followed by warm blue skies later, and the occasional day when it has been cool and rainy throughout. Temperatures have been reasonable but never very hot, but there have been no frosts or hail, and with the chardonnays now in flower a fairly abundant crop is set to mature right at the beginning of September, afew days earlier than the current average.

    1st May 2018

    It may not be exactly true to say that it rained every day for the first three months of the year, but it certainly seemed like it. The Coates cellar cannot have been the only one in Burgundy to have had a pool of water lying on the ground between Christmas and the end of March. Wet it might have been but it was rarely very cold. There were only a couple of snow showers, and these were not very serious. Once into April the weather perked up. There were a number of quite warm days, one or two registering temperatures in the high 20s. So far there has been no frost damage. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    Meanwhile the 2017s are en plein malo. The red wine vintage is attractive if perhaps not serious, particularly in the Côte de Beaune where volumes have been a little inflated. The wines of the Côte de Nuits, on the other hand, are more impressive. The whites are even better: the best vintage since 2014.



    The Burgundy 2016 Vintage

    October 1st 2016 / Now that the harvest is under way – it began un the Côte dOr in the last few days of September – it is now clear where the frost damage at the end of April has been at its worst. Chambolle has been badly hit, as have Clos de Vougeot and the two Echézeaux, Savigny has been affected, but not the hill of Corton, and the crop is much reduced in Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Meursault. Elsewhere, in many communes, such as Morey Saint-Denis, the harvest will be no worse than a small average.

    As far as a second generation is concerned, this is elusive. One grower was heard joking to his team: by all means come back and help me pick, but not until the 18th of November.

    On the first of September the potential for the 2016 crop was looking high, but the vineyards needed a little rain. Happily this is exactly what ensued. September was characterized by a day or so of intermittent drizzle followed by several days of warm sunshine. It remained cool overnight, an advantage as this discouraged any threat of rot. Growers had earmarked Monday 26 September as the day the harvest would commence. Many, as it happened, advanced their start date into the previous week. The weather continued very pleasant right up until Saturday October 1st, and as I write this we are getting the first bout of proper rain for many weeks. To all extents and purposes the harvest will be finished by the end of this week: and for the time being, the forecasts are unthreatening.

    So it looks like a good if not very good vintage; better in red than in white, as in 2015. The pity is that, for the fifth vintage out of six, there is so little of it.


    September 1st 2016

    The 2016 summer has continued to keep holiday-makers happy. With the exception of a few days in the first week, the weather has been largely hot, if not very hot, dry, and abundantly sunny. Threats of oidium and mildew (see last month) have been kept to a minimum. Thankfully there have been no thunderstorms. It is as if nature has been conspiring to make up for the miserable weather in April and May. Moreover, despite the heat during the day, temperatures have descended at night, thus helping preserve the acidities.

    But let us not count our chickens before they have hatched. The quality of the 2016 harvest depends on the weather from now on; not on how warm or how cold it has been in July and August. It is now we need the fine weather – a bit of rain won't do any harm – right until the last grapes have been gathered at the end of the month. We know it is destined to be a very small harvest. Good? Keep your fingers crossed.


    August 1st 2016

    Following three woeful months the weather in July has been on the whole very pleasant; largely dry, mostly warm, and occasionally nice and hot. There has been the odd thunderstorm, but any lightening has more worried the dog at Château Coates than caused any damage in the vineyards.

    There are two points of concern, however. The mildew this season has been worse and more widespread than for many years, with serious and persistent attacks from Chablis to the Mâconnais. And ripening is uneven. All this points to a harvest which will not start until the 20th September, and may be long and drawn out.


    July 1st 2016

    At the start, the weather in June continued the rather unprepossessing pattern we have experienced since April: rather too much rain, hardly enough sun, and an absence of real warmth. But finally, at the time of the equinox, which was also a full moon, there were a few days of real, proper heat. Those with swimming pools rushed out to take advantage. Since then, if not nearly as hot, life has been pleasant, and the forecast for the first ten days of July is promising. The flowering has been protracted, but there has been, thankfully, no further damage to the vines. A small crop, in many cases tiny, is expected to be ready around the 20th of September.


    June 1st 2016

    To add insult to injury – following the frosts at the end of April – May has been exceedingly unpromising. Normally we can expect at least one week of sunny, warm weather. This year the temperatures have struggled to exceed 20° C, and only for a brief afternoon on the 28th did it reach 25°. (And then there was thunder, lightning and torrential rain in the early evening.) It has also been depressingly wet, with storms when it wan't just drizzling, and some hail, though this seems to have confined itself to Chablis and the Beaujolais. Given the early start to the season, we are still on track for a flowering at the normal time, that is around the 10th of June. But it would be nice to have some blue sky.


    May 1st 2016

    More bad news from Burgundy, I'm afraid. After several years of hail damage – 2015 being a welcome exception – we have now had frost. After a very mild winter; the warmest since 2010 – April was distinctly cold, and on the night of 26/27 April temperatures descended to zero. This was enough to freeze off the just-emerged buds, and not only on the lower slopes, but further up. Losses are serious. It will remain to be seen what percentage of a normal crop will eventually result. But hopes are low. Inevitably prices of the 2015 will rise further, and they were already high. More worryingly, in the longer term, will be the effect yet another small crop will have on the smaller, less financially secure domaines.





    The 2014 Burgundy Vintage / After three very small harvests what Burgundy urgently needs in 2014 is quantity. These days vintages seriously deficient in quality are, thankfully, very rare. With modern methods such as triage (sorting through of the fruit on arrival at the winery) what we find are rich, concentrated, full-bodied vintages for the long term, on the one hand, or lighter, but frequently equally fragrant, balanced and elegant wines for drinking sooner, on the other. Look back over the last decade. Even in 2004, on which I shall report more fully in a few weeks after my regular 10 Year On tasting, there are plenty of agreeable wines, and this vintage is regarded as the worst of the decade.




    So far – but keep your fingers firmly crossed – 2014 promises at least reasonable volume. There was no winter to speak of, and February, March and most of April were mild, sunny and largely dry. This encouraged an early development of the vine. It even looked at one stage as if we could anticipate a harvest in the last days of August. The last six weeks, however, have been cool and quite wet - we needed a bit of rain – and this has retarded the vine's progress. There are no flowers as yet. At this stage we can expect picking to start in mid-September. Let's just hope that the Burgundy vineyard escapes the storm and hail damage that ravaged the crops of 2011, 2012 and 2013.


    We urgently need, I said on September 1st, an Indian Summer.

    That has been exactly what we have had, for which a thousand thanks. With the exception of two over-night storms and one morning of drizzle, the sun has shone almost without exception throughout the month. It has not been hot, by any means, but it has been warm enough, and as I have pointed out several times in these pages, it is sunshine rather than heat which ripens fruit. Moreover, the quite chilly temperatures during the night have helped preserve acidities.

    So we have had a harvest which has been one of the healthiest of recent years, and while short in quantity from Santenay down to Meursault, elsewhere volumes are quite correct, if not reasonably plentiful.

    Picking began in the Mâconnais and the Beaujolais on Monday 8th September, by the end of this week in the Côte de Beaune and the Côte Chalonnaise, and in the Côte de Nuits and Chablis on Monday 15th. All was finished, apart from some vineyards in the Hautes Côtes, by Friday 26th.

    We have not had such splendid harvest weather for many years. This will ensure high quality (fragrant, classy and succulent are words already being used) across the board, up and down the hierarchy and well as consistently from south to north geographically (apart from those vineyards ravaged by the hail at the end of June). 'Best I've seen since 2009,' said one grower. The last time we had a fine '4' year, incidentally, was 1964: 50 years ago. So one was due.

    September 2014

    The more 2014 advances, the more depressing it gets. As I have written, June was fine until the terrible storm at the end of the month. July was not too bad. Some hot days alternating with the wet and windy. But August temperatures have struggled to reach 20° C, while it has continued to rain if not every day, at least in most of them. It is the cold which worries me. The fruit will eventually ripen – this is the progress of Nature. But in an absence of heat there will be no concentration; tannins will remain green, and the wines will lack generosity. And the risk of rot will be high.

    We need, ungently, an Indian Summer. Keep your fingers crossed.

    August 1st 2014

    The weather in July has been mixed. Warm, even hot, sunny periods have alternated with the cool and cloudy. Rainfall has been high, and even when it was fine there were frequent echoes of thunder in the distance. Thankfully, however, these have not translated to any further hail damage; though there are reports of fruit being scorched by the hot sun where the end of June hail damage led to a lack of leaf protection over the fruit. Additionally, both oïdium and mildew have threatened. It has not been an easy summer. Now it is holiday time, but such is the fragile state of the vines, most vacances will be petit rather than grand: a token respite only.

    We know already that 2014 will be a short crop, though larger in the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune. Whether the quality will be high or only medium will depend on the weather over the next six weeks.

    July 1st, 2014

    I was just about to type: 'so far, so good', for the weather in June has been splendid, when in the early evening of Saturday 28th June a severe thunderstorm ravaged Volnay, Pommard and Meursault – the usual communes, recent history would suggest. There is lesser damage, but damage nonetheless, in the Côte de Nuits in Vosne and Chambolle. The full extent of all this will not be exactly clear for a week or so. But it certainly seems worse in the Côte d'Or than further south.

    Prior to this the vines flowered swiftly, evenly and quite precociously in the first week of June and until this last week-end escaped any subsequent battering by wind, rain or hail.

    The June weather has been largely dry and warm, and sometimes quite hot – I define hot as 30° and above, and there were at least a dozen days as high as this - reducing to a minimum any danger of coulure or mildew. Until this last week-end, therefore, following the satisfyingly abundant sortie, it was looking as if we might well have the quantity the wine economy is desperately in need of. Now, of course, we shall have to wait and see.

    Currently projections suggest that the harvest should begin on September 8th (which is a Monday).

    June 1st 2014

    Meanwhile, what of 2013? The malo-lactic fermentations have been very slow to take place. Indeed there some, as I write, which have not even yet begun. So for even the experienced taster assessing the 2013s is as yet a bit of a mug's game. The wines appear to have decent volume and attractive, nicely pure fruit. Perhaps the whites, for once, are better than the reds. But it is best to wait until the autumn and taste the wines then.



    Clive Coates MW was an award-winning wine writer and long-standing member of the Circle. Author of several books on the wines of France, he also published The Vine from 1984 until 2005. Before his wine writing career, Clive worked for 20 years as a professional wine merchant in the UK. When he retired, he moved to southern Burgundy. He passed away on 26th July in Lyon. 


    ‘Cleeve Co-atts’ was a name synonymous with authority for a generation or two of French vignerons and a legion of wine students everywhere. So much so that he managed to persuade the Bordeaux first growths to come to London to present vertical tastings of their wines to MWs and MW students in the 1990s (he’d passed the MW exams in 1971), as well as getting most of France’s finest producers to line up extensive tastings for him alone.

    For wine students and professionals, he provided assiduously researched, highly regarded tomes on Claret (1982), Wines of France (1990), Grands Vins: The finest châteaux of Bordeaux and their wines (1995), Côte d’Or: A celebration of the great wines of Burgundy (1997),  An Encyclopaedia of the Wines and Domaines of France (2000), The Wines of Bordeaux (2004), The Great Wines of France (2005) and The Wines of Burgundy (2008).

    He also wrote and published 241 issues of The Vine, a handsome print publication that he founded in 1984 and handed over to Sarah Marsh MW in 2005. In an interview on his website he confesses that when he started The Vine, the French wine region he knew least well was Burgundy. This changed.

    I knew Clive best in his Malmaison days, which coincided with my journey towards the Master of Wine qualification, and I remember in particular his catchphrase ‘as it were’, said in his slightly sibilant bass. He was generous with his knowledge (and preferences) and loved teaching others, especially women whom he encouraged on their way into the wine trade. Liz Morcom MW and, briefly, Joanna Simon both worked with him at Malmaison. Rosemary George MW recalls that in 1979, when she and the late Aileen Trew MW doubled the number of female MWs, Clive took them out to a celebratory lunch at the Charing Cross Hotel (one of the BTH portfolio), poured them champagne, and warned that passing the MW was just the start of their learning process.

    – Jancis Robinson MW



    Clive Coates MW (Master of Wine) was one of the world's leading wine authorities. Coates' lifetime of distinguished activity in the field has been recognised by the French government, which awarded him the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole, and he's also been honoured with a "Rame d'Honneur" by Le Verre et L'Assiette, the Ruffino/Cyril Ray Memorial Prize for his writings on Italian wine, and the title of "Wine Writer of the Year" for 1998/1999 in the Champagne Lanson awards.

    Coates published THE VINE, his independent fine wine magazine, for 241 issues from 1984 to 2005. Keenly read by oenophiles the world over, THE VINE received numerous awards, including a special commendation for its "considerable contribution to the knowledge and understanding of wine from the Wine Guild of Great Britain. In addition to his work with THE VINE, Coates has written for nearly all the world's foremost wine publications, and enjoys a reputation as an accomplished and engaging speaker among audiences throughout Europe and the USA.


    Coates' books are widely considered the classic works on their respective subjects. They include: CLARET (1982), WINES OF FRANCE (1990), GRANDS VINS, The Finest Châteaux of Bordeaux and Their Wines (1995), and CÔTE D'OR, A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy (1997), which won the André Simon Award (UK), the Champagne Veuve Clicquot prize (USA) and the James Beard Award (USA) for the best wine book of the year. CÔTE D'OR also won the annual Prix des Arts et des Lettres awarded by the Burgundian Confrérie du Tastevin, the first time a book on wine and a non-Burgundian has been so honoured for 30 years. Since then he has published AN ENCYCLOPAEDIA TOTHE WINES AND DOMAINES OF FRANCE (2000); THE WINES OF BORDEAUX (2004) and THE GREAT WINES OF FRANCE (2005).

    The long-awaited sequel to Côte d'Or, THE WINES OF BURGUNDY, was published world-wide by the University of California Press in April 2008.

    Prior to his career as an author, Coates spent twenty years as a professional wine merchant, during which he served as Executive Director of the wines division of British Transport Hotels and established the legendary Malmaison Wine Club.

    Now semi-retired, Clive lives in southern Burgundy with his dogs and occasionally conducts wine lovers round the region.

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    Pro Me

    Clive Coates And The Malmaison Wine Club

    This is an excerpt from THE GRAND CENTRAL HOTEL, by Jill Scott, and published by Waverley Books in February 2012. Reproduced with their kind permission.

    The Malmaison's (the Grand Central Hotel's restaurant) reputation for excellence extended further than its fine food. There was also the Malmaison Wine Club which sold the British Transport Hotels' wine by mail order to discerning customers all over the country. Exactly how, and when, the club originated is unclear but its potential for development was apparent to Clive Coates, one of the world's leading wine authorities, who joined British Transport Hotels (BTH) in 1975 as Executive Director, Wines and spirits.

    The Wine Club, named after the Central Hotel's restaurant, originally catered in the main for directors of BTH and British Railways, who could buy a fine Bordeaux at virtually cost price - a nice little perk! After discovering that there was an interest in buying other BTH wines for home consumption and finding a file with the names of some 12,000 or so hotel customers Clive dedicated some time to promoting the Malmaison Wine Club. The wine club had its own pink wine labels designed by up-and-coming designer Amanda Tatham.

    Clive had worked for the Wine Society for six years so he knew how to sell by mail order and how to write up a wine so it seemed irresistible. The Club got great press coverage and within three years was turning over £1 million a year and had a mailing list of 10,000. To be a member all you had to do was place an order every year.

    A number of hotels in the BTH group helped the Club to grow. There were about 30 hotels at this time and holding wine week-ends and wine-making dinners was a great way for them to attract more customers.

    After the BTH hotels began to be sold off, the Club started to flounder and within five years it had been closed down for good.


    Digital Me

    Is There Such A Thing As A Philosophy Of Wine?

    Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine is the title of a series of essays edited by Barry C. Smith which was published last year by the Oxford University Press. Randy Sheahan has already reviewed it in these pages, and as I largely agree with him that it is a load of pretentious rubbish, and not very elegantly or comprehensibly expressed at that, I shall not bore you any more with it.


    But it set me thinking. Is there, or should there be, a philosophy of wine? I'm no philosopher, but, as it happens, one of my brothers is. I'm just a humble hack who used to be a humble wine-merchant. Do I need a philosophy? If, as this book might suggest, philosophers can't write about wine. Should I, as a wine writer, be concerning myself with wine philosophy? The more I thought about it, the more I realised there was no such thing. I could waffle on about taste (but it would be better if a qualified E.N.T. surgeon did: he or she would know vastly more about taste-buds than I). I could hold forth about the effects on the nervous system of alcohol (again better a professional: all I would be doing is generalising from the particular). I could even stray into the more airy-fairy fields of the 'enobling' quality of great bottles. But that would probably be pompous nonsense.


    And yet, if not a 'philosophy', there is, lurking in the background, something which more prosaically but more honestly I will call the imperatives which govern how I go about my business of being a wine-writer. Call them guiding principles if you like. Or a modus vivendi. They can be summarised as follows: Love, Belief, Celebration and Transmission.


    Love really means passion. A fascination with the historical background, the inexorability of terroir, the inevitable economic constraints, and the personalities and philosophies of the people responsible. In short an attempt to understand and explain to the reader the relationship between land, grape variety and wine-maker. It hardly needs to be said that all this arises from a deep love of wine and its constant complexity and variety. What could be more exciting than a new vintage to assess every year?


    Belief boils down to self-belief; a confidence that after more than 40 years at the rock face one has begun to understand something. That with this experience one can differentiate nor only between the good and the elegant and the bad and the coarse; but one can separate the sincere from the false; the pretentious, the superficial and the manipulated from the honest, the pure and the true. From this should come a determination not to accept second best (there is nothing elitist about this!); not to succumb to fashion; and to have the courage to point out that from time to time the emperor is not wearing any clothes.


    Celebrate! Go out and spread the gospel! From the least to the greatest, wine is, or should be, the most delicious and food-friendly beverage of all as well as a great aperitif and digestif. It doesn't have to cost a bomb. One doesn't have to wallow in wall-to-wall Petrus. Those who only drink first growths because it is beneath their dignity to drink anything else – and perhaps are also some of those who consume only diet Coke between Monday and Friday – are idiots, and should be lined up and shot. So, go forth and enthuse the public. Be entertaining while you are about it. There is nothing more turning off than being boring. Persuade people to be adventurous, to drink wine more regularly, and to have the courage of their own convictions.


    Transmission is a duty. When Anthony Barton thanked his uncle Roland from having bestowed responsibility for Langoa and Léoville on him, Roland immediately pointed out that Anthony only had the properties in trust for the next generation. Those of us who know a little about wine have inevitably been taught by others, and it is our duty to pass this knowledge and experience on to the next generation. We are today's mentors. So we must be generous with our time and old bottles. We must be patient. In this case we do suffer fools gladly. Sadly there are those out there who will never get it. But it is immensly rewarding to come acoss a young man or woman – and it doesn't matter if they are professional or amateut - who you realise, instincively almost, do have the 'knack' with wine. These people should be encouraged fifty times over.

    But, enough of this, I hear you say. And, yes, you are right. Go and cook a nice meal, open a bottle of good wine. And enjoy it. That's what au fond it's all about.


    1985 Red Burgundy - The 1985 vintage represents a watershed in the vinous history of Burgundy.

    Prior to this date, by and large, growers made wine, merchants bought it, assembled several parcels, where appropriate, and sold it. Subsequently, more and more domaines started to mature, bottle and market the wines themselves. Meanwhile many merchants had seized the opportunity to increase their own estates, so that, particularly at the top end, they were more or less self-sufficient. Back in the 1970s, and earlier, there were barely a couple of dozen growers or so – one thinks of Rousseau, Dujac, the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Gouges, Lafarge and Leflaive - who did not sell in bulk. Many of today's super-stars only bottled a token quantity, and were unknown even to the most perspicacious merchant or journalist.


    The emergence of these new domaines transformed Burgundy. Within a very short space of time almost everyone who had grand cru and many who had good premier cru was bottling as much as they could themselves. There was the question of cash-flow of course. If you sold to a merchant you were paid in full by the time of the subsequent vintage. If you sold in bottle you did not receive the money until some two and a half years later, after bottling 18 months after the harvest and eventual shipping in the winter after that. So one could not, unless otherwise financed, move from selling in bulk to selling in bottle over-night. I remember the late, lamented Philippe Engel explaining to me that the transformation chez lui had taken ten years.


    The process was encouraged by the locals on the spot. Burgundy is a generous wine region. Most growers are on very good terms with their neighbours and only too happy to help out if there is a problem. Naturally, the very best have a queue of potential buyers waiting to step in if one of the regular customers falls by the way-side. What could be more natural for the much-solicited important domaine proprietor than to recommend a hitherto unknown young neighbour who was looking for business. If he or she was a cousin or an in-law so much the better.

    Moreover, quality was improving, and by leaps and bounds. The best growers had been to the Viti in Beaune and subsequently to the University at Dijon. Many went off to do a stage in California or Australia, or somewhere else in France. Tasting each others' wines with your neighbours became common-place. Firstly the fact of selling your wine under your own label compelled you not to cut corners, which you might have been tempted to do if you were merely selling off in bulk. Tasting your wine alongside those of your friends and reading a critique of it in some wine review would soon teach you if you were producing top quality or not. Secondly techniques of viticulture and viniculture had become more and more sophisticated. There was a return to ploughing and the elimination of herbicides and pesticides. There was rather more consideration to the size of the crop. And lastly the introduction of the sorting table: the greatest contribution to the rise of quality of all. Today everyone has aa sorting table. The first I saw was a the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti when I was making a video in 1987. Finally, after a disappointing run of vintages in the 1970s and early 1980s, 1985 ushered in a series of high quality years which has continued to this day. Burgundy has not had a bad vintage since 1984. Thirty years.


    The consequence of all this is that it is increasingly difficult for everyone, not just the outside journalist, to keep pace. Every year there are new domaines, worthy of investigation, and waiting to be discovered. In 1985 I visited some six domaines in Gevry, four in Morey and Chambolle and perhaps eight in Vosne. Today I'd have to visit 25 in Gevrey, and so on. A marathon I no longer have the energy for. I am very lucky to have been on the spot at the time and to have lived through what was an exciting time in Burgundy. Now, with some relief, I am more or less retired.


    But back to 1985. The 1985 growing season began with a bout of really savage frost. Fears were raised, particularly in Chablis, that the crop would be negligible as a result. Happily these proved groundless (in fact Chablis produced more in 1985 than in 1984). There was nevertheless some damage, and in Gevrey and other villages of the Côte d'Or as well as in Chablis, ensuring that in some cases several premiers crus would eventually have to be vinified together as there was not enough potential wine for them to be attended to separately.

    Following the cold winter the spring and early summer passed without mishap. The flowering was a little late, but on those vines not affected by the frost a perfectly satisfactory crop of flowers set into fruit. May, June and july were avearge, but then from the beginning of August a perfect  fin de saison set in. August and September were almost entirely dry, and if the earlier month was only averagely warm, the latter month was really quite hot. This transformed the vintage from something uneven, behind-hand and unpromising to something ripe, uniform, healthy and concentrated. 


    The collection of the fruit began in the last week of September. It was an easy harvest: no rain, no vinification problems, and no lack, it seemed, of either bunches of fruit or juice. At the Domaine Armand Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin 25 pickers were employed for six days. In 1986 it would requite 50 for 12. Despite the fears at the beginning of the year, the size of the crop turned out quite substantial: 220,000 hectolitres in the Côte d'Or (excluding generics); similar to 1983, less than the prolific 1982, but much more than the short 1984.

    Tasting the 1985s during the course of 1986 was a pleasurable and not too exhausting experience. The wines had good colour, there was plenty of volume without any aggressive tannins, and engaging fruit, finely balanced by the acidity. I enjoyed myself.

    But as my tasting sessions continued one doubt started to nag at the back of my mind. Were the wines too easy? Was there enough backbone to ensure that they would last? It was obvious that in some cases there had been an excess crop. And as a result these wines lacked concentration. But these were rarities. It was the overall picture which raised the question of how well the 1985s would hold up.

    However, as time went on, and I sampled the 1985s in bottle – at three years old and at my ten year on tasting, particularly - it became clear that the majority of the best 1985s, especially at premier, let alone at grand cru level, were equal to the demand that they should last. One professional colleague, prior to the ten year on stint, said that in his view the worst had cracked up already and the best were by no means ready. This was indeed the case, but the more forward examples, village wines for the most part, were delicious nevertheless.

    Today the vintage is thirty years old. It would be unfair to demand that they had all held up. But on the basis on the tasting whose notes follow, a surprising number still show a lot of vigour. And, moreover, the quality is very high. I would not suggest you looking for these wines at auction, for in most cases one has no idea how they have been stored. But should you be fortunate to still have some bottles – or if you have generous and well-endowed friends – you are in for a treat.


    The following wines were sampled at a Wine Workshop in Manhattan in March 2015. 

    Pommard, Clos Platière, Domaine Prince Florent de MérodeNow-2020

    Medium colour. No undue age.The nose is ripe, sturdy and quite classy for a vineyard which is not a premier cru. Fullish body. Succulent, good volume and quite concentrated. Vigorous at the end. Very good.


    Pommard, Pezerolles, Domaine de MontilleNow-2020 plus

    Full, youthful colour. Rich, spicy and concentrated on the nose. Some evidence of the stems. Fullish body. Ripe and meaty. Lots of class. This is a lovely vigorous example which will last well. Fine.


    Echézeaux, Domaine de la Romanée-ContiNow-2020 plus

    Fullish, fresh colour. Rich, ripe, fresh, complex, DRC nose. This is impressive for an Echézeaux. Full body. Complex. Very youthful. Concentrated and balanced and delicious. A lovely wine with plenty of life ahead of it.


    Grands-Echézeaux, Domaine du Clos Frantin (Albert Bichot)Drink soon

    Medium-full colour. Good vigour. A rich, fullish, quite concentrated, meaty wine on the nose. Fullish on the palate. A touch astringent at he end. Good fruit but a little four-square. It lacks real flair. Good at best. 


    Clos de Vougeot, Domaine Joseph DrouhinNow-2020

    Medium to medium-full colour. Good vigour. Classy nose. Discreet, elegant and harmonious. Lots of dimension. Medium-full body. Balanced, long and complex. Delicious. Very fine.


    Clos de Vougeot, Domaine Mongeard-MugneretNow-2020

    Medium to medium-full colour. No undue age. Rich and vigorous but at the same time rather clumsy on the nose. Medium to medium-full body. Ripe. A little sweet. Finishes better than it starts. But essentially not of grand cru quality. Good at best.


    Clos de Vougeot, Domaine du Château de la TourDrink Up

    Medium colour. No undue age. Quite ripe but rather weak on the nose. Quite developed. Light and feeble on the palate. Quite decent fruit but no depth. A poor result. This is the sort of wine which gave Guy Accad such a bad name.


    Romanée-Saint-Vivantn Domaine de la Romanée-ContiNow-2020 plus

    Good vigorous colour. Lovely nose. Quite different from their Echézeaux. The stems are not evident. Rarified, flowery, complex and subtle. Medium full body. Very lovely fruit. Long, lingering finish. This is excellent.


    Bonnes-Mares, Domaine Georges RoumierNow-2020 plus

    Good vigorous colour. Rich, full, concentrated nose. Lots of wine here. Lots of depth. Full body. Very vigorous. Still very youthful. This is a profound, very classy wine with a splendid finish. Excellent.


    Clos de la Roche, Domaine Georges LignierDrink soon

    Medium to medium-full colour. The nose is reasonably full, but it lacks class and depth. Medium to meium-full body. Ripe and soft, but still fresh and with decent balance. Good but lacks flair.


    Charmes-Chambertin, Maison LeroyNow-2020 plus

    Fullish coour. Still youthful. Rich, classy, full and concentrated on the nose. Very promising. Fully ready on the palate. Fullish body. Mellow, sweet and succulent. More advanced on the palate than on the nose. Very fine indeed.


    Chambertin, Domaine Joseph DrouhinNow-2020 plus

    Fine, full, vigorous colour. Quietly concentrated, discreet and very classy on the nose. Full body. Lots of energy. Very fine almost chocolaty fruit on the palate. Very good grip. Lots of finess. Very long, very lovely and almost as good as the Rousseau. My second favorite.


    Chambertin, Domaine Armand RousseauNow-2020 plus

    Very full, youthful colour. Excellent nose. Very concentrated. Marvelous fruit. Very fresh. Full body. Very vigorous. Ample, rich and backward. Lovely finish. Excellent. Generally agreed as the wine of the tasting.




Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  11 Wines  from  8 Producers 

Domaine Armand Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos Des Ruchottes, 1990 /The firm of Thomas-Bassot used to own just over two hectares of Ruchottes-Chambertin. The family sold this when they wound up the company after the death of the heir apparent in a car crash in 1976 and the buyers were Dr. Georges Mugneret of Vosne-Romanée, a M. Bonnefond of Rouen, who set up a share-cropping arrangement with Christophe Roumier of Chambolle-Musogny, and Charles Rousseau, who acquired just over a full hectare, making him the largest owner in this steep, much fragmented vineyard. Rousseau has the exclusivity of the Clos des Ruchottes.

Ruchottes lies above Mazis, in leaner, cooler soil, and the wine can be correspondingly a little austere. This, however, from the celebrated and warm 1990 vintage, is splendidly lush and generous. Even at 25 years there is not a trace of age about it. A very fine wine.

9d 21h ago

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  10 Wines  from  9 Producers 

Chambolle-Musigny, Les Amoureuses, 1999 Comte Georges de Vogué / Given that the Domaine de Vogué owns over 7 hectares of the 10.65 extent of Le Musigny and 56 ares of the 5 hectares Les Amoureuses, not to mention 2.7 hextares of Bonnes Mares, we are among one of the greatest domaines in the Côtes d'Or. Since the mid-1980s this estate has hardly put a foot wrong. Here in 1999 we are  at the very highest Burgundy can achieve.

This is a very lovely wine. Full, rich, powerful, yet with the usual Chambolle delicacy and spectacular concentration of fruit. It apears to be only just ready, but seemingly there is a lifetime ahead of it. Brilliant!

8m 21d ago

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a wine moment

“Richebourg 1999 by Domaine Jean Grivot: This is a great wine. Full. Rich. Concentrated. Marvelous fruit. Silky smooth, and profound and multi-dimensional. Very lovely indeed. Still youthful. It will last for ages.”

2y 3m ago

 Le Pin  has updated producer and wine information

2y 10m ago

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  14 Wines  from  3 Producers 

Graham's Vintage Port 1970 / 20 points /Fulllish colour, just about mature. Full, firm nose. Still undeveloped. Still a bit closed. The complete wine. Fullish, just about ready. Real depth. Excellent depth. Excellent complex fruit. Delicious.

2y 11m ago

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  41 Wines  from  23 Producers 

Montrachet, 2002 Domaine Des Comtes Lafon.
Montrachet, please notice. No Le, as the plot is on the Chassagne side. Here was a wine which took its time to come out of the glass. At first I was a little underwhelmed, but after ten minutes or so, the richness, concentration, and indeed a succulence almost like a red wine, began to appear. We have something which is quite oaky, still quite youthful, full bodied and very classy indeed: the depth unmistakably of a grand cru. Quite splendid!

3y 3m ago

Cheval Blanc 1959, Château Cheval Blanc
Château Latour 1945, Château Latour
Château Latour 1928, Château Latour
Château Latour 1961, Château Latour
d'Yquem 1928, Château d'Yquem
d'Yquem 1962, Château d'Yquem
d'Yquem 1945, Château d'Yquem
d'Yquem 1947, Château d'Yquem
Lafite-Rothschild 1945, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1934, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Château Margaux 1934, Château Margaux
Château Margaux 1961, Château Margaux
Château Haut-Brion Blanc 1989, Château Haut-Brion
Château Haut-Brion Blanc 1990, Château Haut-Brion
Château Haut-Brion 1945, Château Haut-Brion
Château Haut-Brion Blanc 1985, Château Haut-Brion
Château Ausone 1959, Château Ausone
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1928, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1961, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1934, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Chassagne-Montrachet "Boudriottes" 2005, Domaine Ramonet
Château Palmer 1959, Château Palmer
Château Palmer 1928, Château Palmer
Château Palmer 1961, Château Palmer
Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 1990, Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1928, Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Léoville-Las Cases 1928, Château Léoville-Las Cases
Montrose 1928, Château Montrose
Musigny 1990, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé
Château Calon Ségur 1934, Château Calon-Ségur
Château Coutet 1962, Château Coutet
Château Coutet 1947, Château Coutet
Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 1928, Château Pichon-Longueville Baron
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 1989, Domaine de Chevalier
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 1986, Domaine de Chevalier
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 1990, Domaine de Chevalier
Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion Blanc 1990, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion
Château Guiraud 1962, Château Guiraud
Château Climens 1947, Château Climens
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chines 1999, Domaine Michel Lafarge

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  5 Wines  from  4 Producers 

Richebourg 1999 Domaine Méo Camuzet / The Méo Camuzet domaine holds adjoining land in Vosne-Romanée, Les Brulées,  Richebourg and Vosne-Romanée, Cros Parentoux, going up the hill. This is the grandest of the three. Full bodied, still very vigorous, with a certain amount of residual tannin, and rich, sturdy and profound. It develops splendidly in the glass to provide a wine of real dimension and class. A very fine bottle. 

3y 6m ago

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a wine moment

“One of Arnoux's best wines is his Suchots: old vines in the very best part of this premier cru. This is full, concentrated, rich and creamily succulent. Lovely balancing acidity shows the fresh harmony of this vintage, which is getting better and better as is evolves. Splendid follow through. A lovely wine which you can still keep for ages..”

4y 5m ago

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  77 Wines  from  46 Producers 

Le Montrachet, Domaine des Comtes Lafon 2009 / Quite a lot of new wood masks the flavour and character of the wine on the nose. Plus there is a bit of reduction. I don't find the grip, depth and class I am expecting in Le Montrachet. The follow through is a bit weak. No better than very good today.

5y 13d ago

Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Ruchottes" 2009, Domaine Ramonet
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Champs-Gain 2009, Domaine Michel Niellon
Puligny-Montrachet Sous le Puits 2009, Olivier Merlin
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2009, Joseph Drouhin
Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot 1er Cru 2009, Joseph Drouhin
Clos-Des-Mouches Blanc 2009, Joseph Drouhin
Meursault Perrières 2009, Bouchard Père & Fils
Meursault Genevrières 2009, Bouchard Père & Fils
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon 2009, Domaine Leflaive
Puligny-Montrachet Pucelles 2009, Domaine Leflaive
Puligny-Montrachet Clos de la Garenne Duc de Magenta 2009, Louis Jadot
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2009, Louis Jadot
Chassagne-Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeots, 2009, Louis Jadot
Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale 2009, Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier
Morey-Saint-Denis Les Monts Luisants 2009, Domaine Dujac
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets 2009, Domaine Blain-Gagnard
Meursault Les Rougeots 2009, Coche Dury
Puligny Montrachet Les Enseigneres 2009, Coche Dury
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine Joseph Faiveley
Meursault les Gouttes d'Or 2009, Domaine des Comtes Lafon
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine des Comtes Lafon
Meursault Genevrières 2009, Domaine des Comtes Lafon
Meursault Perrières 2009, Domaine des Comtes Lafon
Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru La Garenne 2009, Domaine Étienne Sauzet
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Petits Clos, 2009, Maison Camille Giroud
Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres 2009, Domaine Guy Roulot
Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots 2009, Domaine Guy Roulot
Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières 2009, Domaine Vincent Dancer
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Petits Clos 2009, Domaine Vincent Dancer
Meursault Premier Cru Les Genevrières 2009, Domaine Antoine Jobard
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine Antoine Jobard
Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots 2009, Domaine Antoine Jobard
Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches 2009, Domaine Chanson
Meursault 1er cru Santenots 2009, Domaine Marquis d'Angerville
Meursault Les Cras 2009, Henri Boillot
Puligny-Montrachet Clos de la Mouchère 2009, Henri Boillot
Meursault Charmes Domaine de Pavillon 2009, Albert Bichot
Meursault Poruzots 2009, Benjamin Leroux
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Embazées 2009, Benjamin Leroux
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Petits Clos 2009, Benjamin Leroux
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Grandes Ruchottes 2009, Domaine Bernard Moreau
Chassagne-Montrachet La Maltroie 2009, Domaine Bernard Moreau
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Morgeots 2009, Domaine Bernard Moreau
Puligny-Montrachet La Truffière 2009, J.M. Boillot
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 2009, J.M. Boillot
Meursault Perrières 2009, Domaine Pierre Yves Colin-Morey
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2009, Domaine Pierre Yves Colin-Morey
Chassagne-Montrachet Clos Saint-Jean 2009, Domaine Baron Thénard
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes, 2009, Domaine Philippe Colin
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2009, Domaine Paul Pernot
Puligny-Montrachet Clos de la Garenne 2009, Domaine Paul Pernot
Meursault Blagny La Piece Sous le Boi 2009, Domaine Paul Pernot
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2009, Domaine Bachelet-Monnot
Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts 2009, Domaine Bachelet-Monnot
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets 2009, Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard
Puligny-Montrachet Les Chalumeaux 2009, Maison Roche de Bellene
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes 2009, Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard
Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Premier Cru 2009, Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Boudriottes 2009, Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes 2009, Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine Michel Bouzereau et Fils
Meursault Genevrières 2009, Domaine Michel Bouzereau et Fils
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine François Mikulski
Meursault Poruzots 2009, Domaine François Mikulski
Meursault Genevrières 2009, Domaine François Mikulski
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Blanchots Dessus 2009, Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet
Puligny-Montrachet Sous les Puits 2009, Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Macharelles 2009, Maison J.Y. Devevey
Chassagne-Montrachet La Grande Montagne 2009, Domaine Paul Pillot
Meursault Blagny La Jeunelotte 2009, Domaine Martelet de Cherisy
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine Buisson-Charles
Meursault Charmes 2009, Domaine Coche-Bizouard
Meursault Genevrières 2009, Domaine Rémi Jobard
Meursault, Goutte d'Or 2009, Domaine Arnaud Ente
Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts 2009, Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet
Meursault Perrières 2009, Domaine Albert Grivault
Chassagne-Montrachet Les Baudines 2009, Domaine Vincent & Sophie Morey
Domaine Chanson, Burgundy, France
Domaine Martelet de Cherisy, Burgundy, France
Joseph Drouhin, Burgundy, France
Domaine Coche-Bizouard, Burgundy, France
Olivier Merlin, Burgundy, France
Domaine Vincent & Sophie Morey, Burgundy, France
Domaine Antoine Jobard, Burgundy, France
Bouchard Père & Fils, Burgundy, France
Domaine Leflaive, Burgundy, France
Louis Jadot, Burgundy, France
Domaine Michel Bouzereau et Fils , Burgundy, France
Domaine Buisson-Charles, Burgundy, France
Domaine François Mikulski, Bourgogne, France
Maison J.Y. Devevey, Burgundy, France
Maison Roche de Bellene, Burgundy, France
Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Burgundy, France
Domaine Bernard Moreau, Burgundy, France
Domaine Paul Pernot, Burgundy, France
Domaine Michel Niellon, Burgundy, France
Domaine Arnaud Ente, Burgundy, France
Domaine Rémi Jobard, Burgundy, France
Domaine Ramonet, Burgundy, France
Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet, Burgundy, France
Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard , Burgundy, France
Domaine Vincent Dancer, Burgundy, France
Domaine Baron Thénard, Burgundy, France
Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Burgundy, France
Coche Dury, Burgundy, France
Domaine Albert Grivault, Burgundy, France
Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet, Burgundy, France
Domaine Bachelet-Monnot, Burgundy, France
Domaine Pierre Yves Colin-Morey, Burgundy, France
Domaine Guy Roulot, Burgundy, France
Domaine Philippe Colin, Burgundy, France
Domaine Paul Pillot, Burgundy, France
Benjamin Leroux, Bourgogne, France
Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Burgundy, France
Domaine Blain-Gagnard, Burgundy, France
Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Burgundy, France
Albert Bichot, Bourgogne, France
Domaine Dujac, Burgundy, France
J.M. Boillot, Burgundy, France
Maison Camille Giroud, Burgundy, France
Domaine Étienne Sauzet, Burgundy, France
Henri Boillot, Burgundy, France
Domaine Joseph Faiveley, Burgundy, France

Clive Coates / MW, Wine Writer (France)  had a tasting of  10 Wines  from  9 Producers 

Meo Camuzet Richebourg 1999 / This is a full-bodied, vigorous, concentrated and quite oaky wine; still very youthful. Splendid fruit, almost sweet, with very good grip and a very long finish. There is a lot of wine here, and it is of very fine qualty. It will still keep for ages.

5y 4m ago

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