2010 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse
 
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Domaine Andre Bonhomme Frayed Lapels, Designer Suits, and the Sommelier's Wink

In 1983, with the dollar soaring, we booked a table for two at Taillevent in Paris. If M. Vrinat's 3-star Michelin palace was one of the five best restaurants in the world, his wine list had no competition. When the sommelier handed us the tome that featured dozens of vintages of Petrus, Latour and Romanee-Conti, we felt like kids in a candy shop.

At the time, Burgundy was our passion, so we went right to the Bourgogne Blancs. Every great name from Puligny to Meursault was well represented, with vintages dating back to the mid-1960s.

We were conspicuously underdressed for the occasion. In a room full of crisply pressed designer suits, our blue and beige sport coats with their embarrassingly frayed lapels stood out. The sommelier gave us the once-over, eyeballed the page we were perusing, and didn't miss a beat.

At the bottom of the white Burgundy list, below the Ramonets, Leflaives, Ampeaus, Niellons and Roulots, was a single entry from the Macon. The name was Bonhomme. The vintage? The sensational 1978.

Ten minutes later, our new sommelier returned. He popped the cork, tasted from his silver cup, then poured the golden-hued 1978 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse into oversized crystal. As we swirled and smelled, he leaned forward and winked. Then, he whispered, "It's really Meursault at one-third the price!"

Over the last thirty years, we've made the drive from Puligny Montrachet to Vire twenty-two times. Two months ago, we returned. The sign hanging above the whitewashed outer wall stoically displays the name of the most revered winemaker the Maconnais has ever known. In the courtyard, the parakeets still chirp in their cages. Since Andre took ill, his daughter Jacqueline, and her husband, Eric Palthey, oversee the vineyards and finances. In the cellar, it's the couple's son, Aurelien (Andre's grandson) who couldn't help but smile when we said that the just-released 2010 Vire-Clesse may well outshine Taillevent's 1978.

Then began a familiar ritual. On each visit to chez Bonhomme, tastings commence with the current vintage, then hurtle back two or three decades -- concluding with strikingly youthful wines from the 1950s. In warm, larger crop vintages, these Chardonnays are rich and forward, though still sufficiently vibrant to age for a decade. In fine, leaner harvests, the wines are more wound up and mineral, often requiring 5-10 years to come into their own.

But in truly historic vintages -- 1959, 1964, 1969, 1978, 1985, 1995 and 2005 -- these are some of the most thrilling, age-worthy white Burgundies of our careers. As Stephen Tanzer was first to point out, 2010 was just such a vintage.

Tanzer called the 2010 white Burgundy harvest "spectacular for its rare combination of sheer density and concentration of material and bright, harmonious acidity accented by minerality." Beneath the whitewashed courtyard of chez Bonhomme, Aurelien Palthey would leave his grandfather grinning ear-to-ear.

Brilliant pale-golden to the rim with piercing aromas of apple, bitter honey, anise and ripe pear, the attack is stunning, rich, finely layered, mineral and plush. But like all the great vintages from decades past, it's the Bonhomme's bracing wet-stone finish that keeps all in check, arguing for two to three decades of cellar slumber.



Tasting Notes

2010 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse
"Brilliant pale-golden to the rim with piercing aromas of apple, bitter honey, anise and ripe pear, the attack is stunning, rich, finely layered, mineral and honeysuckle plush. But like all the great vintages from decades past, it's the Bonhomme's bracing wet stone finish that keeps all in check, arguing for two to three decades of cellar slumber. This is an extraordinary white Burgundy, and one of the most stunning bargains of the last decade."
-- WineAccess Travel Log


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    • This is a Pre-Arrival Offer: Weather permitting, wine will begin shipping upon arrival, in November, 2013.

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