As dinners go this was an absolute gem; a Burgundian estate with only three owners in over twelve centuries and a great London restaurant, The Square. Domaine Bonneau du Martray is one of only two estates in Burgundy to make only Grand Cru wines, (Domaine de la Romanée Conti being the other) and under the ownership and guidance of Jean-Charles le Bault de la Moriniere it is on a rise from an already heady height.
We started the evening with Delamotte NV from Magnum which went down as well as always. The first of the wines for dinner were Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008 and 2006 with Terrine of Doversole and Smoked Eel with a Vinaigrette of Oysters, Lemon Oil and Chives. Jean-Charles described the 2008 as a “vertical” wine with a stoniness that is becoming more and more evident in the wines as the estate moves nearer to 100% biodynamic practises. I love this 2008, there was a dash of “struck match” about the initial nose then a beautiful youthful, energetic texture. This wine has a long future ahead of it and is just so classically Corton-Charlemagne. The 2006, by contrast, is an “easier” wine, a little more round (not spheric, that is 2009, according to Jean-Charles) but with a less nervous edge. Everything is in balance. I have had some disappointing white 2006s; this is far from them.
From two younger vintages we moved to Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2002, it was commented that it was a successful vintage all over Burgundy; reds, whites, north and south. There was increased texture and weight but still an elegance that went brilliantly with the Steamed Turbot with Buttered Iceberg Lettuce, Creamed Potato and Crab. If I owned the 2002, sadly I don’t, I would be just starting to drink it from now but in no rush. My favourite geeky fact about Corton-Charlemagne is that it is currently the most northerly white Burgundian Grand Cru in circulation (I see Chablis as a separate region for the sake of this exercise). Can you name the Grand Cru not currently sold as such that is further north?
From whites we now moved to reds and the Corton Grand Cru 2003 and Corton Grand Cru 2002 in Magnum. The holding of Pinot Noir that Domaine Bonneau du Martray has is technically speaking on the Chardonnay side of the vineyard but this worked very much to their advantage in the “freaky” heat wave vintage of 2003. The vintage was very early and where many wines in Burgundy really struggled not to be negatively affected by the extreme heat, the cooler spot on the Corton hill made for a wine of great texture and fruit but not at the expense of freshness and elegance. Sadly only half the usual amount could be made but this is a wine for those who are sceptical about 2003. The Corton 2002 is more typical of the site and as mentioned above it was a fine year. Especially from magnum this wine is still a “youngster”. There are layers to be revealed and arguably it was the most reserved, classily so, wine of the evening. Both wines worked very well with the delicious Venison Wellington with Quince Purée, Baked Celeriac and Creamed Cabbage.
And so sadly it was time for the last wine of the night – Corton Grand Cru, Magnum 1992. This wine, possibly more than any other, showed the greatness of this Domaine. The wine was not made by Jean-Charles, though he will have been there for harvest time. There will have been stems included in the maceration and a very short fermentation, both things changed now, but the wine had a delicate elegance and a finesse that only great terroir would produce from a less than exciting vintage for the reds.
I was asked for my “wine of the night” a few times and much as I always try to dodge this questions, it’s not a competition after all, I admitted the best surprise was the Corton 2003 and the wine I would be most excited to own would be the supremely classy Corton-Charlemagne 2008. The Square really looked after us well, effortless service and great food that went wonderfully with the wines without overshadowing them.