November 6th 2017
I arrived late on Wednesday night to join David, Johnny, Tom and Jamie for an intense two days of tasting. With seven visits to work through on Thursday our palates had their work cut out. We began at Domaine Alain Michelot in Nuits St Georges. This relatively new addition to our portfolio offers a wide range of Nuits Premiers Crus as well as a clutch of other appellations across the southern Côte de Nuits. The estate has a long history in the village, and an array of old parcels. The winemaking is traditional and patient, and the jovial Elodie Michelot took us through the barrels with a great commentary on all the gossip in Nuits and the wider region. As with so many growers, frost had impacted yields in 2016. Highlights included Nuits St Georges 1ers Crus Champs Perdrix and Vaucrains.
Visit two was to the fabled Domaine des Lambrays. It is no secret the domaine has struggled to find the ideal successor to Thierry Brouin who is finally stepping into retirement, so we were delighted to meet the newly appointed regisseur, Boris Champy, who joined in 2017. He accompanied us and Thierry to taste the magnificent 2016s, which are as beautiful a swan song to Thierry’s long and inspiring tenure at the estate as you could ever hope for. Morey St Denis was one of the few villages across the region not to be touched by the April frost. And so, along with immaculate vineyard management, the domaine was able to escape the twin demons of 2016 – frost and mildew. As a result, the estate has pleasingly full cellars, and exceptional quality to boot. The Morey St Denis village cuvée has gorgeously expressive juicy fruit, bursting with red berries, whilst the Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru has aromatic intensity and mellifluous tannins giving it huge appeal. Despite its early slot in my tasting diary, this polls as one of the best wines I tasted in the two days.
Sadly Domaine d’Eugénie’s cellars in Vosne Romanée were not as replete. But adversity had given way to innovative handling, and Michel Mallard’s decision to hand de-stem his Echezeaux (taking 30 people 3 mornings) has produced a magnificent wine with a wide attack and pure length. Indeed, despite the small volume, Michel rates his 2016s above his 2015s, liking what he described as the ‘sappy and condensed’ character of the vintage over the more concentrated 2015s. This was a theme that we found repeated across the region – the best examples in 2016 have produced wines with a great ‘pinosity’, possessing the energy, finesse and red-fruited pleasure of classical Pinot Noir.
We had time to squeeze in one last visit before lunch, with the talented Arnaud Mortet at Domaine Denis Mortet in Gevrey Chambertin. This tasting was a masterclass in magnificent northern Côtes de Nuits cuvées. Unlike some other domaines, here is a cellar of 2016s that impressed across all levels and all appellations. It’s hard to pick highlights when there were no weak points, but wines that were utterly enchanting included Fixin (an appellation to watch), Gevrey Chambertin 1ers Crus Champeaux and Lavaux St Jacques, and Grands Crus Mazis Chambertin and Le Chambertin. This final wine was faultless, and sits at the very top of my tastings. Impeccable!
After a rapid lunch in Gevrey we darkened the door of Domaine Armand Rousseau – one of the Côte de Nuits’s most famous addresses. Reputations in this region are hard earned, and there is no greater justification for such plaudits than the 2016s chez Rousseau. The quality here is of epic proportions. Cyrielle Rousseau took us through an enchanting barrel tasting where the sweet intensity of high calibre Pinot Noir shone through the dark shadow of reduced yields. These wines are layered, textured, precise, and displaying wonderful finesse, driven by the fresh tension of the 2016 vintage.
Onwards to Domaine Hudelot Noëllat in Vougeot where Charles van Canneyt was on flying form, buoyed by the recent birth of his first child. A comprehensive tasting through thirteen cuvées saw highlights emerge including Vougeot Les Petits Vougeots, Vosne Romanée 1ers Crus Les Beaumonts and Suchots, and Richebourg Grand Cru.
Our final visit was to Domaine Geantet Pansiot in Gevrey Chambertin. This is flashy Pinot Noir that Tom aptly summed up as having ‘razzmatazz.’ A combination of old vines (plenty of centenaries in their vineyards), fruit concentration and generous new oak make for a hedonistic style of Burgundy. If Geantet is your thing, snap up the 2016s, they are bubbling with life and enjoyment.
Friday morning’s first appointment was at Domaine Ponsot in Morey St Denis. This was the team’s first visit to the domaine since Laurent’s departure, and we met with newly appointed regisseur, Alexandre Abel, and Laurent’s sister, Rose Marie Ponsot. The discussion over the tasting table was fascinating, and we learned of how Alexandre’s installation has seen a seamless continuation of this famous domaine’s atypical style. He explained the three governing principles of the domaine: 1) late picking (which insures good maturity); 2) 100% de-stemming and crushing for the reds (which gives structure, acidity, and balance); and 3) ageing in old barrels (which insures freshness, fruit, and purity). The domaine will continue to hold these three doctrines close to heart as they move into their new chapter, at the same time as bringing small touches of innovation and ingenuity. The domaine “is not a museum” after all, quipped Alexandre. Rose Marie added the most important thing is to respect the grapes. The future looks bright.
With various planes and trains to catch, it was left to just David and me to continue on to taste with Nicolas Potel at Domaine de Bellene in Beaune. Goedhuis has a long and rich history with Nicolas, and his dynamism and talent as a vigneron, winemaker, négociant and éleveur have seen his business evolve over the years, rolling with the punches each vintage throws. The catastrophic frost of 2016 spurred him to source contracts for grapes so that he could expand his range of négociant wines to supplement losses in the domaine vineyards. 45 wines later, it was clear Nicolas had risen to the challenges of 2016, and there were some very good wines in the wide and diverse portfolio. Particular highlights included Nuits St Georges Vieilles Vignes, Volnay 1er Cru Mitans, Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques, Grands Crus Le Chambertin and Bonnes Mares.
My final visit with David was to Jean Philippe Fichet in Meursault. This has got to be the best organised cellar in the Côte de Beaune. And Jean Philippe’s attention to detail in the cellar is a good indication of his handling of fruit, and goes some way to explaining the precise and distinct character found in his wines that each possess their own unique timbre. This has been my only white tasting so far, so it is hard to draw conclusions about how these wines sit in the wider landscape of White Burgundy from 2016. But as a stand-alone they are something to smile about. The Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes has a tight intensity; the village Meursault a nutty, salty length; the Meursault Chavlières shows a sophisticated interplay between oak spice and fruit; and the Meursault Le Tesson was brimming with intense nuts, grilled bread, and white peach. Despite crushing losses from the frost (he lost 50% of his village Meursault), Jean Philippe remains optimistic, upbeat, and convivial, and his wines taste full of joy.
I finished my day by dropping in at Comte Armand to check up on the 2016s and 2017s. I am, of course, totally biased, so I will leave it to next week’s bloggers to detail the full range they will taste on Wednesday. Their 2016s are superb, if sadly oh so scarce.