November 8th 2016
Last Friday was our busiest day of the week, with eight visits across the Côte D’Or, the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâcon. The weather had turned distinctly chilly over the course of the week, and our eyes stung with that bone-chilling cold of the Burgundian winter as we set off for Chassagne Montrachet. The warm sunny days I had spent in the vineyards of Pommard just a month ago seemed like a distant memory.
The outstanding whites of Michel Colin-Deléger quickly warmed our cockles however. It was a visit of exhilarating enjoyment (the Chevalier is heady, enticing, subtle and powerful all at once), and a poignant one, particularly for David Roberts who has followed this man’s remarkable career for many years. We learned that 2015 will be Michel’s final vintage, having taken the final step to retirement by passing his three small remaining parcels (Chassagne 1er Cru En Remilly, Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Demoiselles, and Chevalier Grand Cru) to his two sons, Bruno and Philippe. The end of an era will be marked all the more emphatically by the fact that he has decided to uproot the Demoiselles plot, whose 80-100 year old vines have grown weary with the years. It will be left to his sons to replant and continue the story of this remarkable, and tiny, appellation – just 60 ares in total (0.6ha) of which the Colins own just 15.
We then moved onto a tasting with Michel’s son, Bruno Colin, and his astounding array of Chassagne 1ers Crus (no fewer than seven). Particular highlights were the Chenevottes, whose precision and verve was in contrast to another highpoint: La Maltroie and its amplified fruit. With still two more visits to make before lunch we hastened on to Patrick Javillier in Meursault. Patrick has made some exceptional wines in 2015: he has grasped the style and swagger of the ripe but textured character of this vintage with aplomb. The whole flight was excellent – a dextrous array of what the best parcels of Bourgogne vines can achieve in a year like 2015 (Oligocène) up to the lofty heights of Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne, with some outstanding village Meursault parcels along the way (look out for Clos du Cromin). And just to whet our appetites before lunch, a marathon tasting through Pommard and Volnay with Thomas Bouley.
Thomas loves talking about Pommard. And Volnay. He loves talking about the nuances between the two. Pommard, like Gevrey and Morey, has a valley running through it. This draws down cool air and gives the wines of these three villages what is often described as a more ‘masculine’ tone, with slightly more tannic structures and firmed bodies than their neighbours. The small appellation of Volnay, on the other hand, is entirely situated along the same côte, and like Chambolle, has a silkier, softer, more ‘feminine’ feel. He went on to recount the gradation of soil types across Pommard and Volnay with an energy and detail it is hard to comprehend.
After a quick pit stop in the Volnaysien for lunch (and bumping into some familiar faces from Comte Armand) we continued south, stopping first in Santenay. A new discovery here, and more to come on this later… The growers of Santenay had a difficult time in 2015 with hail, but they can’t believe their luck in 2016, left entirely untouched by the fierce frost which has so crippled many of the Côte d’Or’s villages. It was a pleasant surprise to see a full barrel hall – the first of the trip. As Georgie has explained in her blog, growers in the likes of Savigny for example had seen their vineyards decimated. But let’s not dwell on 2016 here…
Continuing to the Côte Chalonnaise we dropped in to see Vincent Charton in Mercurey, who makes the Goedhuis own label Bourgogne Rouge, before finally finishing up in Fuissé with the effervescent Marcel Couturier. Marcel’s Macon Loché 2015 is delightful: lemon pulp zing combined with apricot and orange blossom ripeness, with an appetizing, textured palate and smoky touch of toasty oak. We fetched up back in Beaune at 8pm, with what I must admit was genuine palate fatigue and tired eyes, but an enthusiasm for the vintage’s wines – both red and white – that has made me fall even more in love with this captivating region. I had better start saving my pocket money.