I had some of my most memorable grand cru aged Burgundy wines on a recent visit to the illustrious Cote d’Or. Many wine lovers can appreciate that drinking grand cru aged Burgundy is something you can never recover from. When Acker Merrall & Condit invited me to join them at the table for a Clos de Tart wine pairing dinner in New York City, I was delighted and overjoyed. To taste a Clos de Tart vertical going back four decades is a privilege and honor for any wine enthusiast.
Clos de Tart is one of the most prestigious grand cru wne estate in the village of Morey-Saint-Denis. The vineyards are nestled in between the grand crus of Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny. It is one of only six grand crus that is a monopole, owned by one family. It also has the distinction of being one of the oldest wine producer in the world and most notably has had only three owners since its beginning. The vineyards first records date back to 1141 when it was founded by Cistercian nuns, the Bernardines de Tart. Clos de Tart has survived a turbulent history with the Dukes of Burgundy, the French Revolution and the imposition of the Napoleonic Code. Through it all, only three owners have owned this property over a 900 year span. In 1791 the Marey-Monge family took over. Then in 1932 it was sold to the Mommessin family. Quite spectacular to have only three owners over a span of nine centuries.
The terroir is what makes the wines of Burgundy so profound and is the only place in the world where Pinot Noirs command the most extravagant prices. Clos de Tart boasts complex soils rich in limestone and clay. The vines have the rare distinction of being planted north to south, providing the best aspect and sun exposure. The oldest vines are 100 years old dating back to 1918, the average age of vines at Clos de Tart is 60 years. The vines are farmed organically with minimal intervention.
Clos de Tart recently has come into a golden age of sorts. Having been slightly underwhelming in the early 1900’s, Clos de Tart has come to the forefront with the arrival of the hyper-meticulous Sylvain Pitiot in 1996. The vineyards are picked separately and vinified apart in stainless steel tanks in a new cuvérie designed by Sylvain Pitiot in 1999. Harvest is the latest in the region, as Sylvain likes to ensure full phenolic ripeness. Grapes are destemmed, although there are experiments with various percentages of stems included. There are six unique sites, and each site is vinified separately in 100% new French oak for 18 months. The final blend is put together just before bottling. The blending of several sites is unique to Clos de Tart as most vineyards in Burgundy bottle each site separately.
The vertical Clos de Tart tasting was held at Tocqueville in New York City. The wines were eloquently paired with French inspired dishes. We toasted the evening with an exceptional bubbly, Champagne Frederic Savart l’Ouverture. The Champagne is made with 100% Pinot Noir and was the perfect way to kickoff our Pinot fest of Clos de Tart. Dinner was a five course culinary delight paired with 14 vintages of Clos de Tart; 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1990, 1985, and 1978. The tasting was extremely special as each wine represented the ancient history and terroir of this exclusive estate . Tasting the wines was like walking into a time machine, it left me reminiscing and wondering as to where I was in 2010, 2005, 2002, 1996, 1985, and 1978.
The first flight of 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2006 was paired with a delicate puree of spring pea soup. These wines are from the Pitiot era, and were modern in style with more wood involved. Pitiot also pushes the ripeness, and thus more fruit. The wines were powerful and concentrated versus the more rustic style of the older vintages.
With the second flight of wines we had ramps and forest mushroom risotto, paired with the wines of 2005, 2002. 2001, and 2000. As we progress in time, the terroir is more clearly exhibited in the wines. The 2005 was an exceptional wine with fresh acidity and an abundance of fruit, one of my favorites of the night. The 2002 exhibited immense depth and complexity with bright cherry and floral notes. There was the classic Clos de Tart funky, gamey, barnyard characteristic on the 2002 where the terroir was clearly evident. The third flight included 1999, 1998, 1996, and 1990, which was paired with sea trout with braised leeks. The wines were more rustic in nature and displayed earthy undertones with an intense minerality. The 1996 had aromas of dried fruit and earthy undertones. The tannins on the 1996 were silky smooth.
The 1985 and 1978 vintages was paired with a classic smoked duck breast with caramelized endive. The 1985 was ethereal and I could clearly see why this was the vintage of the decade for Clos de Tart. The wine was at peak maturity with gamey, meaty undertones and earthy characteristics. It was complex, intense and rustic in style. The 1978 was expressive and vibrant, quite surprising for a 40 year old wine. There was a sensational bouquet of floral, spice and fruit that leaped out of the glass. Simply stunning on the palate, displaying classic notes of a mature Pinot Noir. There was a subtle presence of raspberries, strawberries, cloves, mushrooms, truffles and an earthiness reminiscent of a forest after the rain. Simply a divine wine that has aged with elegance.
The wines of Clos de Tart evoke, purity, elegance and finesse, that only patience can deliver. By the end of the evening, having tasted through four decades of Clos de Tart, I began to understand and appreciate all the fuss, hype, and glory of this legendary producer. The wines were consistent, well made, exceptional wines. As the night progressed I could hear the wines singing through the glass, humming the tunes of each distinct vintage. Through the texture, taste and aromas, the wines reflected the unique characteristics of its terroir, exhibiting earthy aromas and distinct minerality in every glass. It was interesting to see the dichotomy in the wines, the wines of the Pitiot era were more modern and fruit intensive, where the older vintages were more rustic and earthy in style.
This elegant and most memorable wine pairing dinner was part of Acker Merrall & Condit’s wine workshop experiences. The dinners are orchestrated by their expert and professional staff. It was an absolute privilege to experience the finest wines in the world through the eyes and palates of the industry’s most respected wine professionals.
The wine pairing experiences at Acker Merrall & Condit are a great escape and perfect evening out. Each dinner and tasting is an indulgent, educational experience; perfect to honor or create a special occasion. Every Wine Workshop event casts the spotlight on specific producers, regions, or vintages of the very best wines with custom paired menus at New York City’s top restaurants. Click here to see the calendar of their exclusive upcoming events.
Acker Merrall & Condit is America’s oldest fine wine merchant and the world’s largest fine and rare wine auction house. With affiliates in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo, the company holds more than fifteen live auctions each year, with online auctions held each month. Three generations of the Kapon family have been dedicated to bringing the best of the vine from their family business to global customers in the world’s most discerning markets.
John Kapon is Chairman of Acker Merrall & Condit, he is the third generation of his family to lead Acker Merrall & Condit. Kapon has brought a uniquely passionate and personal approach to an industry often viewed as conservative, formal and exclusionary. Under his direction, Acker Merrall has delivered a direct, approachable experience for wine auctions.
Be sure to stop into Acker Merrall & Condit, located in a beautiful brownstone on the upper west side of Manhattan, or visit them on line for more information on their wine dinner experiences at https://www.ackerwines.com