A savory (Umami) Charm
Recently, I bought a few bottles of Domaine Humbert Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2018 for a private party. It was my first time buying it, without really knowing either the Domaine or this specific wine from them.
I was both really intrigued and interested to taste this wine, as it is rare to find a "Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru" at such a "reasonable" price, roughly HKD1,300 (Euros 150), compared to other burgundy producers and négociants selling this “Grand Cru” between HKD3000-9000 (Euros 350-1000) a bottle.
These huge differences in prices, typical of Burgundy, will always remain a mystery to me… (*)
So, how good can it be at this price? Surely not that bad as it received an aggregated critic score of 95/100. And a 95-pointer "Grand Cru" from Burgundy at roughly HKD 1,300 a bottle is a great bargain (in my book).
So, I popped it up to figure it out.
Domaine Humbert Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2018
Average Market Price HKD 1,300 (Euros 150)
Attractive medium deep garnet color. The nose seemed slightly off at first. Like a whiff of an earthy mixture of dirt and sulfur. Difficult to say if it was a terroir-oriented smell or just remains of the "élevage" method (yet Humbert Freres are neither bio nor organic, nor natural🤔). A colleague even thought it was cork, but no, it was not.
After a few swirls and a few minutes in the glass, the weird smell disappeared to make room for some plumy, blackcurrant, dark cherry, and ripe strawberry aromas with earthy and mineral nuances, and smoky notes.
At first, the palate seemed tight, somewhat austere, and rather light, again showing a lot of dark ripe fruits and earthiness, a touch rustic, yet fresh and balanced, and overall, pleasant.
After 40 minutes, it revealed a different profile with riper and juicier dark fruits, more opulence and fullness in the attack and the mid-palate, with a certain elegance, good acidity, focus, and balance, as well as more amplitude, structure, and texture in the mid-palate, leading toward a nice lingering finish, with earthy, savory (umami) and salty nuances, and that omnipresent smoky note. A nice and well-crafted wine I must say.
Yet, on a more personal note...
Although I liked its ripeness, fulness, savory edges, and earthiness, and despite its overall complexity, ampleness, and texture, I wish (or let's say that I was expecting) it had more concentration, volume, and especially more depth to offer in the finish, as I still found it rather up-front for my taste.
Some of you might say that this wine is "full, ripe, elegant and refined", and I will agree in some ways, even if I usually think that using this specific wording (elegant and refined) is, unfortunately, often used (by many) as a good excuse when a wine lack concentration. Yet, I think it is offering a lot up-front and in the mid-palate but somehow seems to thin out in the back end (maybe it is just me).
You know, in the same way, some people use the wording "classic style" or "traditional style" for wines that are often edgy, hard, rustic, thin, too acidic, and/or too tannic (e.g., in Bordeaux in lesser vintages).
However, this is not the case here as the fruit is rather ripe and full, and the mouthfeel is generous and ample as I mentioned above. I like the wine a lot. Yet, from past experiences of other "Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru" drank on many occasions these past 12 years (and since the beginning of my career 31 years ago), to my taste, it is still missing a "je ne sais quoi" (as we say in French).
I felt that it left me hanging in the finish. I was wondering if it will develop a little more with time (after a few hours of opening), but no, it did not. And, as we say in French, "je suis resté sur ma faim" meaning that it did not totally quench my thirst nor my expectation, even if, after all, it remains a very good, interesting, and enjoyable wine to taste and drink.
It is a wine with a certain savory (umami) charm. 😁👍🍷🍷🍷
NB: Burgundy Prices...
(*) What really justifies the huge differences of x2 x4 or even x8 in prices for wines coming from the same vineyard?
More, especially knowing that “Charmes Chambertin” is one of the largest "Grand Cru", with a surface of about 30 hectares of vines, and more than 60+ different Domaines and négociants producing it.
So, what really plays into it to justify such differences? Notoriety? Reputation? Name? Historic? Tradition? Culture? Seniority? Cellar management and élevage? Vineyard management? All the above probably... (sigh)
I mean if you divide 30 hectares by more than 60+ producers (Domaines and Negociants together), that's less than 1/2 hectare per producer.
So, if, Burgundy encompasses about 30,000 hectares, and produces an average of about 200 million bottles, it roughly means, hypothetically speaking, an average of 6666 bottles per hectare (and 3333 bottles per 1/2 hectare).
So, if, still hypothetically speaking, each of the 60+ producers of Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru produces roughly 3330 bottles from the same vineyard, with "roughly" the same terroir, same geographic and topographic location, same exposure, climate and micro-climate, and same or similar environmental influences, then the only things left are the "savoir-faire" (knowledge, competences, and skills) and the methods applied to the few rows of vines they are tending, then the vinification methods and aging processes they use, which, I admit, can be drastically different and have huge differences in cost, ok, but still...
As per Wine-Searcher, the most expensive Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru is made by Jacky Truchot and sells for about HKD38,280 (average), while the cheapest is Laroze de Drouhin LD, who sells it for HKD946 (average), that's roughly x40 times less expensive... 40 times.... (sigh)
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