1945 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru


I LOVE HALF-BOTTLES! Phew, it feels good to come clean. I am well aware how everyone bangs on about magnums as the optimal format for maturing wine. Received wisdom is that half-bottles cannot age.

Rubbish! Go and taste a few. In my experience, countless half-bottles have been found to age marvelously, and upon reflection, why shouldn’t that be so? Assuming wine matures via micro-oxygen ingress through the cork, then surely the surface areas of 375ml and 750ml bottles are practically identical. I know that the volume of wine is greater, but frankly, it never seems to make much difference. Another benefit of half-bottles is that 375ml is often an ideal quantity to drink. I’m long past the bacchanalian days when the measure of a great evening was volume of consumption. I have always moderated my alcohol intake, and the truth is that on many “school nights” I fancy a glass of vino but a shared bottle is too much. My final defense of half-bottles is that they offer an opportunity to juxtapose related wines, which is exactly what transpired during a recent dinner in Hong Kong.

The half-bottle pair of 1945 Musigny Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru from Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé was part of an extraordinary private dinner that focused upon 1945 clarets. I did not mind the brief detour into Burgundy. Our generous host wanted to compare two bottlings of this legendary Burgundy, one bottled at the domaine and the second an “Avery of Bristol” bottling acquired at the auction of the much-missed John Avery MW. First and foremost, for all those half-bottle naysayers, after 74 years both showed extremely well, and according to a fellow guest they were as good as a 750ml bottle. They revealed no signs of fatigue, nor did they exhibit any excessive vigor that would have raised suspicions about their authenticity. The domaine bottling came with a neck label stating that the wine was bottled in August 1947 and the quantities produced, although I did not take a note at the time. It demonstrated bricking commensurate with a Burgundy of this age. It is blessed with a heavenly bouquet of astounding precision, extant red fruit laced with camphor, jasmine tea, loam and, with aeration, a splash of balsamic. The bouquet seemed to gently intensify with aeration but always remained somehow languid. The palate comes across as extremely harmonious, exuding that sense of Pinoté. I noticed some distant similarity to a mature Rioja Gran Reserva toward the finish, but if anything, with aeration it reverts back to quintessential mature Musigny, developing a discreet gamy note that I absolutely adore. This is a magnificent wine that lived up to expectations. 98/Drink 2020-2035. The Avery bottling was very similar in appearance to the domaine bottling. Likewise, the aromatic profile bore many similarities, albeit with perhaps even more precision. That sweet core of red fruit is present and correct, laced with similar tertiary and gamy characteristics. The main difference was on the palate, which was texturally slightly more honeyed by comparison and consequently shaved away a little precision on the finish. It is still a gorgeous wine, but in the end I decided that the domaine half-bottle just had the edge. 97/Drink 2020-2030.