Wine Legend: Comte de Vogüé, Musigny 1990

Why it made the Decanter hall of fame…

Comte de Vogüé Musigny 1990

Wine Legend: Comte de Vogüé, Musigny 1990, Burgundy, France

Number of bottles produced 15,000

Composition 100% Pinot Noir

Yield 35hl/ha

Alcohol content 13.6%

Release price 311 francs (£39.25 at today’s price)

Current price £714-£790 a bottle

A legend because…

990 capped a trio of fine vintages in Burgundy, and this wine was widely recognised to have been one of the year’s greatest successes, showing a remarkable intensity and purity of fruit. Perfumed and delicate, silky yet imposing, it has always showed a tranquil opulence and perfect poise, as well as extraordinary length. It’s the quintessence of great red Burgundy. The quality of the wine struck tasters forcibly because the 1980s had been a dull patch for the estate, and the 1990 showed it was once again realising the potential of what many consider to be the finest vineyard in all of Burgundy.

Looking back

The magnificent de Vogüé estate, in the hands of the same family since 1450, had been in the doldrums for much of the 1970s and 1980s. The owner, Comte Georges de Vogüé, who died in 1987, had been an absentee landlord for the half-century that the property was in his hands. By the late 1980s it was being run by his daughter, the Baronne de Ladoucette, and her son-in-law, the Comte de Causans, but he died soon after taking up his post.

In the late 1980s there were drastic changes, thanks to a new team. By 1986 a new winemaker had arrived on the scene: François Millet. He was fully aware that the potential of the estate’s great sites was not being realised, and set in place a series of improvements, working closely with the estate manager Jean-Luc Pépin and vineyard manager Eric Bourgogne. Thus only vines over 25 years old were selected for the Musigny, with grapes from younger vines bottled as premier cru Chambolle. The spurt in the wines’ quality provided ample evidence of Millet’s ability, but he was notoriously uncommunicative about his winemaking approach, merely stating that he adapted the vinification and ageing to the nature of each vintage.

The vintage

Like 1989, this was a splendid and very warm year in Burgundy, but in 1990 the flowering was less even than the year before, which reduced the crop. With hindsight it can be claimed that this gave the grapes an additional concentration of flavour. The hot, dry summer thickened the skins, concentrating the juice even further, and giving a good dose of tannin to support the unctuous fruit.

The terroir

The Musigny vineyard is a wonderful, 11ha (hectare) grand cru site, lying just above and to the north of the Château du Clos Vougeot. It is less easy is to define precisely why the Musigny vineyard regularly produces the most exquisite of all grand cru Burgundies. The site slopes gently, its thin topsoil containing a good deal of clay as well as small stones, and there are subtle variations from plot to plot. But excellent terroir on the mid-slopes of the Côte de Nuits is not rare, and yet Musigny is undoubtedly exceptional, if not unique. One Musigny proprietor, Frédéric Mugnier, suggests its character may derive from the even distribution of water in the subsoil. But even he admitted this was just speculation. With more than 7ha in Musigny, de Vogüé owns the lion’€™s share.

The wine

Low yields and old vines are the prerequisite for the de Vogüé Musigny. Harvesting is not especially late, as the team is opposed to any hint of overripeness. Millet favours a lapse of time before fermentation, which takes place with indigenous yeasts in wooden vats, but he sets down no rules. He is no fan of unbridled new oak, and the proportion used in the grand cru wine is generally around one-third.

The reaction

Because of their relative scarcity and the absence of an en primeur market, the top wines of Burgundy don’t generate the same crop of reviews as those of Bordeaux. So published comments of this wine are thin on the ground. Clive Coates MW found nothing to fault: ‘Brilliant nose! Super-concentrated. Very good oak integration. Great intensity. Multi-dimensional. Essence of raspberry… One of the wines of the vintage.’€™ When he tasted it again in 2009, he preferred it to the also highly rated 1993 vintage, adding that he would like to retaste it in five years’€™ time. Some critics have labelled the 1990 ‘Bordeauxesque’€™, to which Millet replies: ‘€˜Only those who tasted from barrel know the true potential of this wine.’

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Wine and charcuterie pairing

With salt, fat and spice, there are plenty of flavours to consider when finding a wine to go with your charcuterie board. We get the experts’ advice…

wine and charcuterie
What wines go best with charcuterie?

Wine and charcuterie pairing

Regional and style matches

‘The first rule for me, is to go for regional matches whenever possible,’ said Yuri Gualeni, restaurant and wine manager at Tratra wine bar and restaurant in London. ‘If I know where the charcuterie is made, then I’ll know a wine.’

‘As with most pairing, we would always look to match lighter flavoured meats to lighter wines,’ said Sean Cannon, managing director of British charcuterie company Cannon & Cannon and Nape wine bar in London.

The 10 rules of food and wine pairing

Watch out for salt and fat

Given the high salt content in cured meats, freshness is key when picking a wine. Salt in food softens the acidity in wine, so choose higher acidity styles.

‘Acidity works well to refresh the palate, as fat and salt together are quite dominant factors in tasting,’ said Cannon.

Acidity also helps to cut through the often fatty cuts used for charcuterie.

‘Fat goes well with acid and citrus. A decent vintage Champagne and smoked lardo are great bedfellows,’ said Cannon.

Gualeni agrees ‘Fatty meats need bubbles and acidity.’

wine and charcuterie

Petit bride saucisson at Tratra. Credit: Tratra London Instagram

Other flavours to consider

‘Think about if it’s very meaty or something more subtle,’ said Gualeni. ‘Whether it’s cured, spiced or herbed too.’

‘German salami, for example,tends to be a bit spicy, so go for something juicy and light bodied, like a Beaujolais.’

You could also match the spiciness with a spicy wine, said Cannon.

‘Highly aromatic meats such as a fennel salami will often pair well with spicy reds such as Northern Italian young red wines.’

What to avoid

‘Nothing like a very grassy Sauvignon Blanc with salami or sauccison,’ said Gualeni.

‘And nothing with too much structure or complexity; Napa Cabernet Sauvignon would be too difficult. It would clash, and you wouldn’t enjoy either of the two.’

Cannon agrees ‘I am yet to find a good match in charcuterie for Bordeaux blends. I think the tannin, wood and darker leathery flavours struggle to be matched by the delicate flavours of charcuterie.’

wine and charcuterie

Mixed platter at Nape London. Credit:

All-rounder wines

‘If you’ve got a whole selection of different styles on your charcuterie board, an Anjou or a light Loire red is a good all-rounder. Also Lambrusco – it’s light, fruity, bubbles,’ said Gualeni.

‘And if you’ve got cheese as well, go for an Italian Amarone or Valpolicella.’

More food and wine pairing:

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