And expensive, but we can dream, can’t we?
When I was in New York two weeks ago, I was invited to a tasting that debuted the splendid 2005 vintage for Faiveley, the venerable Burgundy house — founded in 1825 and still in the same family — with enviable holdings in Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards up and down the Cote d’Or. The selection of new wines was select indeed: Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2005; Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru ’05; Nuits-Saint-George “Les Saint-Georges Premier Cru ’05; Gevrey-Chamberton “Clos de Beze” Grand Cru ’05; Chambolle-Musigny “La Combe d’Orveau” Premier Cru ’05; and Corton “Clos de Cortons Faiveley” Grand Cru Monopole ’05. I won’t reveal the prices or availability yet.
The event took place in the new and elegant Gordon Ramsey restaurant in the London hotel and featured exquisite hors d’oeuvres and a horde of well-dressed people clamoring for, jostling for and even demanding sips of wine. Well, they were great sips.
We wet our whistles with a glass of Faiveley’s white Mercurey “Clos Rochette” Monopole 2004 — “monopole” means a rare instance in Burgundy when a house owns an entire vineyard — a tremendously clean and fresh chardonnay, very earthy and bracingly minerally, like drinking liquid limestone electrified by vibrant acid, with delicious roasted lemon and lemon curd flavors nestled in a texture that was taut yet almost talc-like. A lovely wine that costs about $24 a bottle. While you’re saving your pennies for the following wines or trying to float a loan, you would be happy knowing you had scored a coup with this bargain. 600 cases imported. (The importer is Wilson-Daniels in Napa Ca.)
OK, here are six Big Guns.
*Domaine Faiveley Chablis “Les Clos” Grand Cru 2005. 100% chardonnay. Exquisite and serious, the epitome of a Grand Cru Chablis in its unerring precision and boundless expansiveness. The acid cuts like a knife honed on the wine’s own limestone and quartz outcroppings, yet the texture takes the opposite approach toward creamy lushness that knows exactly when to exert its spareness and elegance. Roasted lemon and lemon curd flavors are infused with orange and lime peel, dried baking spice and a profound earthy element, all of these qualities drawn out through a long, sleek finish. One of the best Chablis I have ever tasted. Exceptional. About $88. 150 six-bottle cases imported.
*Domaine Faiveley Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2005. 100% chardonnay. A brilliant wine, amazingly complex, with awe-inspiring detail and dimension. The bouquet offers toasted hazelnuts, spiced and roasted lemon, jasmine and honeysuckle, limestone and a whiff of grapefruit. The size and weight are spectacular, yet the wine never feels lead-footed or obvious, possessing inherent limpidity, an elevating crispness and acidity. The wine is, however, very dry, very earthy, almost tannic. Try from 2010 to 2015 or ’18. Exceptional. About — one blushes — $273 a bottle, of which 50 six-bottle cases were imported.
*Domaine Faiveley Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Saint-Georges” Premier Cru 2005. 100% pinot noir. This delivers penetrating aromas of crushed raspberry, black cherry and cranberry permeated by exotic spice, potpourri and clean, damp earth. I mean, it’s all sandalwood and lavender, violets and plum dust, finely-milled tannins (and lots of ‘em), polished oak and minerals. It would be almost pretty if it weren’t so brooding. Try from 2010 or ’12 to 2015 or ’16. Or tonight with a grilled veal chop, plenty of rosemary. Excellent. About $146, with 30 six-bottle cases imported to the United States.
*Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos de Beze” Grand Cru 2005. 100% pinot noir. The seductive bouquet of ripe and dried black cherry, raspberry and currant is buoyed by violets and lavender and anchored in an earthy character that’s almost mossy and musky (meaning that this is good and desirable). It’s very dry and large-framed in the mouth, with deep foundations of earth and minerals, new leather, dense oak and slightly austere tannins. Try from 2010 or ’12 to 2015 to ’18. Excellent, and a pinot noir of immense character and dignity. About — giving one pause — $350 a bottle, of which 130 six-bottle cases were imported.
*Domaine Faiveley Chambolle-Musigny “La Combes d’Orveau” Premier Cru 2005. 100% pinot noir. Have mercy, this wine is huge! Not just huge but reticent, not just reticent but brooding, without, thank goodness lapsing into truculence, being saved by glimmers of deep, dark black fruit flavors, exotic spice and a mineral quality that’s almost scintillating. Obviously made for the long-haul, this should be given from 2010 or ’14 through 2015 to ’20. Excellent. About $176 a bottle, of which 30 six-bottle cases were imported.
*Domaine Faively Corton “Clos des Cortons Faiveley” Grand Cru Monopole 2005. 100% pinot noir. My first notes are “tremendous — HUGE — god, what a nose!” I guess that sort of tells you everything you need to know, except that for a wine of such amazing heft and substance and power, it remains remarkably light on its feet, with a delicacy of dried and fresh roses and violets, like lace on a midnight black velvet dress, and intense and concentrated black fruit scents and flavors. The tannins, though, are broad, scrunchy, austere. A monument that requires some polishing from 2010 or ’12 to 2015 or ’18. Excellent. About $195 a bottle, of which 200 six-bottle cases were imported.
So, why mention these wines except that, as with Everest, they’re there?
Well, that’s one reason, of course. The other is to allow readers who, like myself, mainly concern themselves with everyday drinking wines, the opportunity to expand their awareness of the possibilities of wine even vicariously, the way we look at expensive watches or automobiles or rare books. The Faiveley wines reviewed here, rare and costly, will end up on the wine lists of high-ticket restaurants and in the cellars of a few collectors. So be it. They still represent the epitome of what the world’s ancient heritage of wine-making — and Burgundy’s — is all about: authenticity, integrity, eloquence.
Faiveley does offer far less expensive wines than these Premier and Grand Cru wines, which represent a fraction of the house’s production. In addition to the Mercurey Clos Rochette Monopole 2004 mentioned above, look for the white Faiveley Montagny “Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet” 2004, about $21, the red Mercurey “Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet” 2004, about $21, and, always a reliable label, Faiveley’s appealing “Georges Faiveley” Bourgogne Chardonnay 2004, about $17.