Olivier Bernstein   
A new star in Burgundy?


One of a new breed of micronegociant, Olivier Bernstein began making wines in Burgundy in 2007. He focuses on making tiny quantities of wine from premier and grand cru vineyards.

He has a musical background: his father founded a music publishing house. But Olivier established his own career in what his website describes as ‘international management’, only to leave this for the lure of making wine.

His first foray into winemaking was in Tautavel in the Roussillon, in 2002, when he purchased 8 hectares of vines. But Burgundy was in his blood—he was inspired by a short spell working with the late Henri Jayer, and five years later was to take the plunge and start out in his favourite region.

Actually buying vines is pretty much out of the question for newcomers, but it is possible to buy grapes and wines. It is not easy sourcing quality grapes from the great vineyards of Burgundy, but they can be had if you are prepared to pay enough and if you know the right people. Bernstein’s business model is clearly to aim at the very top, and he manages the vineyard blocks he purchases from, and then makes the wine in a non-interventionist way, although new barrels are used for all (although the élévage is relatively short).

33 barrels were made in 2007; in 2008 this was upped to 50.

I tasted through these wines from Bernstein’s inaugural vintage, and I have to say that I wasn’t as impressed as I should have been. Almost everything is right: the packaging, the story, the vineyard sources. But the wines didn’t charm or thrill in the way that great Burgundy can, with the exception of the Charmes Chambertin. I’d have loved to have liked these wines more, and it would certainly be more comfortable for me if I could (everyone else seems to have heaped effusive, almost reverent praise on them, and they have sold out).

The wines are available from Berry Bros & Rudd, and prices given are per six-pack, in bond.

Olivier Bernstein Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2007
Very distinctive, almost minty nose, which is nutty and toasty with a hint of minerality. The palate is fresh and dense with a slightly minty iodine-like quality. Very unusual. 89/100 (£312)

Olivier Bernstein Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Lavrottes 2007
Lovely aromatic nose: cherries, herbs, hint of mint. The palate is fresh and pure with lovely cherry fruit bolstered by some minty notes. 89/100 (£276)

Olivier Bernstein Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux 2007
Sweet herby cherry fruit nose is pure and sleek. The palate has some herbal, spicy complexity to the well structured yet pure cherry fruit. 91/100 (£312)  

Olivier Bernstein Vosné Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots 2007
Sweet, spicy vanilla oak on the nose as well as some pure red berry and cherry fruit. Dense, spicy, structured palate with lovely fresh, pure cherry fruit. Finishes spicy. 91/100 (£350)

Olivier Bernstein Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2007
This is very stylish. Focused, sweet pure red berry/cherry fruit nose with some spicy, complex herby notes. The palate has ripeness, sweet pure cherry fruit and lovely depth and structure, with sophisticated oak playing a supporting role. 93/100 (540)

Olivier Bernstein Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2007
Taut, spicy, herbal nose with some roasted oak notes. The palate shows dense, quite pretty pure dark cherry fruit with a savoury edge and a minty finish. 91/100 (£594)

Olivier Bernstein Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2007
Slight baked roasted dark cherry fruit nose. The palate is concentrated, dense and savoury with slightly bitter plummy fruit. Structured and firm with a bitter finish. 89/100 (£660)

See also:

Domaine de la Romanee Conti's latest releases
Visiting Burgundy (series)

Wines tasted 10/09  
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