Before national lockdowns and travel restrictions tightened, our Head of Fine Wine Lukasz Kolodziejczyk managed to spend a few weeks in Burgundy last year and is one of a small group of professionals to have firsthand and on field experience of the vintage. Over the coming weeks we will be releasing producer spotlights and highlights from Lukasz’s trip to the Cote d’Or. This is the fifth profile of our Burgundy spotlight series featuring Olivier Bernstein.
Olivier Bernstein - Burgundy 2019 En Primeur Producer Profile
Since his first vintage in 2007, Oliver Bernstein has been winning the plaudits of leading Burgundy critics such as Allen Meadows and Jancis Robinson. His wines, nearly exclusively grand cru but with some premier cru sites, are becoming some of the most sought-after in the Cote de Nuits as collectors are now starting to appreciate the extraordinary quality as the wines enter their optimum drinking windows.
“His has been the most meteoric rise I have witnessed in the region” - Jancis Robinson
Having studied oenology in Beaune, Olivier started his apprenticeship with a harvest at Domaine Rouget, where in 2002 he got to meet the late Henri Jayer. He moved to Roussillion soon after to establish his own domaine, Mas de la Deveze, before returning to Burgundy to create his own negociant business. He is part of a growing breed of micro-négociants; talented young winemakers who don’t own their own vineyards due to increasingly prohibitive land prices, but instead buy in grapes from a network of growers in prime locations. Unlike the traditional negociant system in Burgundy where buyers have little influence in the vineyard, micro-négociants and particularly Bernstein manage the whole process from the vineyard until bottling. They tend to focus on tiny quantities; often a barrel or two and mostly in grand or premier cru vineyards. Olivier has set the bar high and his wines now easily compete with the top domaines of Burgundy.
“(Micro-négociants) are still every bit as passionate about squeezing terroir, or a sense of place, into a bottle as those who run the best small domaines. One could call them the new terroir merchants.” - Jancis Robinson
The 2019 vintage:
“Mystery & Admiration” is how Olivier Bernstein described the 2019 vintage, the hottest vintage he has ever encountered with three heatwaves and temperatures near 30 degrees centigrade during harvest.
Despite the heat, Olivier believes the 2019s are the best he and his right-hand man since 2007, Richard Séguin, have ever made. He puts this down to the fact that they only grow old vines (60+ years), which are extremely deep rooted. He believes that their intense work and good choices during the harvest will mean that his 2019 wines will bring a new, more concentrated style that is “ripe, rich and yet fine and balanced.”
Since we published our original article on Olivier Bernstein in December, critics scores have confirmed the expectations of a strong vintage. The Mazis-Chambertin grand cru found its way into Jaspar Morris’s (Inside Burgundy) top scoring reds with a 97 point rating. Jancis Robinson also had some favourable opinions. Her top three Olivier Bernstein wines of the 2019s were as follows:
Olivier Bernstein, Grand Cru 2019 Chambertin
Score 18.5, Drinking date 2032 - 2052
“Very dark crimson. Heady and intense. Very rich and magnificent. Truly a noble, ambitious wine even if not the subtlest. With lift and majesty. Some sweetness but not excessively so. Just still a little dry/bitter on the finish but the Bernstein style is evident, uncompromising and ambitious.”
Olivier Bernstein, Grand Cru 2019 Clos de la Roche
Score 18, Drinking date 2029 - 2048
“Cask sample. Really rather majestic on the nose. Lots of richness and drama. Slightly hot end. Big and bold within quite a marked corset.”
Olivier Bernstein, Grand Cru 2019 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze
Score 18, Drinking date 2032 - 2050
“Serious savour and earthiness on the nose here – much less rich than the other stablemates tasted so far. Very sweet on the palate though with great impact and tightness – though some dryness on the end. These are wines very much built to last.”
Cult Wines’ opinion:
Lukasz was also able to taste Olivier Bernstein’s line-up late last year and came away impressed:
“The Olivier Bernstein 2019 vintage is the most exciting since I started visiting in 2015. The wines are as ripe, luxurious and as plush as the 2018 vintage. However, they have more freshness, similar to that found in 2015 and 2016, with fruit expression reminiscent of the slick 2017 vintage. The alcohol level is moderate at 13% to 13.5%, which I feel is ideal. This means that despite their ripeness, they still feel zingy and invigorating. The wines are lightly extracted and used 80% whole bunches, adding a lovely floral dimension.”
Below are Lukas'z tasting notes from the new wines:
Charmes- Chambertin, Grand Cru 2019
(Mazoyères-Chambertin portion, 45-year-old vines)
Pure with raspberries, red currant, gravel and spiced cherries seasoned with toasted oak and crushed flowers. The palate is tense, structured and lean with a spicy ending featuring plenty of vigour and freshness.
Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2019
Lifted and floral with blueberries and red berries seasoned by red pepper and minerals. Ample wine with a supple, layered palate delivering intensity with silky, fine tannins and a long, refreshingly pleasant finish.
Clos de la Roche, Grand Cru 2019
(Clos de la Roche lieux-dits)
Bright ruby with wild cherries and spiced blueberries, dry flowers, toasted vanilla and freshly turned earth. The intense and precise palate mirrors the aromatics, delivering long, mineral-lead savoury notes and spicy red berry-fruited ending.
Bonnes-Mares, Grand Cru 2019
(Blend of Terre Rouge and Terre Blanche terroir)
The wine starts with blueberries and candied cherries followed by dark soil minerals and gravel with a hint of toasted oak and peppery spiciness. Fantastic, supple but firm palate has lots of spiced red berries with crushed flowers and savoury mineral spiciness.
Mazis-Chambertin, Grand Cru 2019
(0.25 hectare plot of vines in Mazis-Haut planted 83 years ago)
Red currant, black plum and dark cherry, flower, fresh herbs, gravel and coal-like minerals. The palate is broad and dense with silky tannins finishing with blue and red berries infused with fresh flowers and minerals.
Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 2019
Ripe and expressive blue and red berries, red pepper with citrus zest, rose and wet soil. Pure, bright and energetic palate with a tense, focus linear flavour delivery. There is a great relationship between tangy acidity/alcohol and tannins as the wine delivers uniform and long, weightless, invigorating finish.
Chambertin, Grand Cru 2019
Black and red cherry with toasted oak, crushed rocks and violets. As expected, pure lean and long with lightness and the fresh core of minerals and fruit. Fruit seems to be darker in comparison to Bèze and the wine has a firmer core. Clearly, these two wines beg for a side-by-side comparison, ideally with 10-15 years of age.