Vinous – 89-91
(from 85- and 70-year-old vines): Bright red. Aromas of redcurrant and sweet vanillin oak. Lovely intensity and sucrosite to the intense red berry and mineral flavors, with spicy oak currently in the foreground. Finishes with chewy, ripe tannins and very good grip and length.
Robert Parker – 89
The 2012 Chambolle-Musigny Clos de L’Orme comes courtesy of a 0.43-hectare plot of 50-year old vines and this vintage has been raised in two-thirds new oak. It has a very intense bouquet, the fruit seeming to override that fairly high percentage of new oak with ease. The palate is sweet and candied on the entry with sappy redcurrant and Morello fruit and fine delineation on the finish. This publication is not faultless, though we all strive to be so. But I must confess that I was flabbergasted when I searched the Wine Advocate database to find no reviews for Sylvain Cathiard’s wines since the mid-noughties. The reason is that here in the UK, Cathiard’s reputation has been ascendant for over a decade and the name is presently revered as one of the top exponents of Vosne-Romanee. The domaine was established in the 1930s when their fruit was sold to local negoce as was common back in those days. According to Clive Coates, Alfred Cathiard moved to Burgundy in 1901 and worked at Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and yes, in case you were wondering, the family is distantly related to the Cathiard’s chez Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte. Sylvain’s father Andre ran the estate from 1969 until 1985, his son becoming more involved in the latter years. He began to rent his vines from his family supplemented by fermage agreements, before taking over his father’s own vines when Andre retired in 1995. The wines during the early 1990s were a little rustic, but throughout that decade Sylvain honed his style, producing refined, intense, terroir-driven wines that used healthy percentages of quality new oak to lend them a modern sheen, not unlike say Lalou Bize-Leroy nearby. This is when I myself became acquainted with the name, courtesy of my girlfriend (now wife) who was working for one of his UK distributors, Berry Brothers & Rudd. Back in the late 1990s, you could pick up one of his premier crus for around twenty quid and that was before her staff discount. Given my relationship with the domaine, which I have visited regularly, I made sure to redress this situation with respect to the 2012s, not that their wines are easy to obtain. Sylvain and occasionally his wife Odette, was always a congenial host, a noble paysan usually attired in the same old jumper with the calloused hands of lifetime labor. The reins have been handed over to his son Sebastian who has worked in Chablis, at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Fromm in Marlborough, New Zealand, undertaking his first â€œsoloâ€ vintage at the domaine in 2011 ” always good to have a global perspective. As far as I know, the handover was not as smooth as it could be and the two endured what Clive Coates describe as â€œa difficult winterâ€ in 2010/11. But everything has now been resolved between father and son and Sebastian is fully in charge. Indeed, from our first meeting when he barely uttered a syllable, he’s fast matured into an assured young vigneron, balancing the weight of expectation with fostering his own ideas for the new chapter, his new chapter. During this time he oversaw the construction of a new winery and cellars that were completed in 2008, relieving the somewhat cramped conditions that Sylvain worked in. They have a glittering array of parcels centered around Vosne-Romanee, including choice cuts of premier crus crowned by a glorious Romanee-Saint-Vivant, whose price has rocketed in recent years (and you can see why if you are lucky enough to taste it.) Sylvain’s modus operandi has always been minimalist intervention in the vineyard (lutte raisonee), the fruit completely de-stemmed after rigorous sorting, employing around 40% new oak for the village crus, 60% and above for the premier crus and 100% for the grand crus, with no fining or filtering since 2000. In a frank exchange with Sebastian, whose candor I appreciate, I think this is a domaine that is going to head in a new direction. He spoke about using less new oak in the future, something that has been leveled by Burgundy connoisseurs in the past, who felt that less new wood would create more terroir-driven wines. I would concur with that sentiment. While I would continue using 100% new oak for the Romanee-Saint-Vivant and perhaps the Malconsorts subject to growing season, I would tweak the oak for the other premier crus that occasionally do threaten to be overwhelmed by the new oak. We also conversed about whole clusters. At the moment everything is de-stemmed and although Sebastian expressed no plans to alter that practice, I did urge him just to consider experimenting a little with one of the premier crus…just to see if the results work out. If it goes wrong, blame me. Similar to other growers, the malo-lactics were late, in particular the Malconsorts and Aux Reignots that did not finish until July. As I have mentioned, these notes are probably more relevant to those in Europe where Cathiard’s major markets are located, but readers should be aware of this top-drawer grower who I suspect will be even more revered in the future. Importers: Le Serbet Wines (Becky Wassermann Selection) and through Frederick Wildman (NY). Also several importers in the UK including OW Loeb, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Justerini & Brooks and others.