Another early morning and finally a glimpse of some brighter weather, to start us on our day. First up the most famous address in Corton Charlemagne: Bonneau du Martray. This estate has been under new leadership for the last three years and is the largest single owner of vines within Corton Charlemagne. Despite only producing two wines there is a lot that goes on at this Domaine to make it such a unique estate. They own 15 plots of Chardonnay all in prime locations of Le Charlemagne and En Charlemagne. These plots are on 9 different types of soil and 3 different exposures, meaning lots of blending takes place in the winery before they hit on the final perfect blend. We had a fantastic tasting exploring the unique individual plots. The hill of Corton used to be a glacier and when it melted, it left behind many ranges of soils and minerals which make each plot produce very different wines. We tasted three samples coming from three different sites on the hill, which will contribute to the final blend.
Top Plot: cooler site as it sees less sun and sits on very shallow soils, with lots of limestone, very close to the bedrock. This displayed lots of acidity with fabulous tension and vibrancy. Lots of mineral salinity. He explained how much the warmer vintage had helped this site giving the plot a wonderful volume and texture.
Middle Plot: a mix of silt, marl, clay and limestone. This plot has lots of fruit layers and a gorgeous texture. It coats the mouth and is extremely expressive. You get a seam of limestone minerals and salinity, it is also broader and has more flavour with great length and freshness. This was fabulous.
Bottom Plot: the soil is richer clay with seams of iron. It also gets lots of warmth from the sun. You see more fleshiness and opulence here, but still with great freshness and lift. The wine has lovely body and a silky creaminess.
We then went on to taste the final blend of all three plots, it was amazing to see how they married together. Lots of fresh and fleshy yellow stone fruits, apricots, fresh honeysuckle with hints of smoke. It possesses such brightness and clarity. The pallet has a silky creaminess and fabulous salty minerality, so fresh and long on the finish. You know with time, given its power and concentration, it will grow into a sensational wine. Most wine makers in Corton Charlemagne only have one plot to make their wine. Bonneau du Martray’s Corton Charlemagne, is unique, with its 15 plots each displaying their own unique characteristics, making one outstanding wine.
A beautiful drive back to Beaune through the golden vines and a bit of blue sky and on to Louis Jadot. This is an impressive domaine. It really has the wow factor especially when you walk into its cathedral like vat room and wander through the maze of barrels displaying the names of some of the most famous vineyards in the Côte d’Or. In total they make about 200 different wines every year! Everything about it is on an impressive scale for Burgundy.
We tasted 27 wines here: 13 whites and 14 reds from a huge array of appellations and from village to Grand Crus. Jadot really has it all and it gave us a great insight to the vintage. For the whites, it was very clear to see, and also the opinion of Sigfried Pic at Jadot, that the large crop in 2018 saved the vintage, as it stopped the warmth resulting in excessively broad, heavy wines. Sigfried went on to tell us that because it was big the levels of freshness, acidity, aromatic freshness in the grapes combined with perfect phenolic ripeness, and have produced some delicious and beautiful wines that deliver the individual vineyard characteristics. They certainly have made some exceptional wines. For the reds in 2018 Sigfried said that the vintage has produced very fleshy wines with a lot of tannins and fruitiness. He said it was a fantastic vintage, and that the wines across the range display lots of concentration with silky tannins, so you don’t feel heat impact of the vintage. The tannins are covered by fruitiness and flesh. In 2018 there is so much fruit concentration. The vines never struggled, warmth and rain all at the right time giving lovely healthy grapes.
The next estate, Chandon de Brailles, has to be one of the most beautiful domaines in Burgundy. I have never tasted here and was very much looking forward to it. We were met by Claude de Nicolay, the wine maker. She explained they have been fully biodynamic now for the past 15 years and believe that by protecting their terroir, with organic farming, they can make exceptional wines. 2018 is a great example of this. She thinks it is a really well balanced and beautiful vintage and she is rightly very excited about her range. In 2018 they had very healthy yields and exceptional acidity. The grapes were in brilliant condition which lent itself to whole bunch pressing, which is a big feature in all the wines in 2018; the 1er Cru containing 80% and the Grand Cru 100%. The tannins stayed beautifully ripe and sweet, with a lovely sandy texture, the best coming from the old vines. They have natural low alcohol from, 12.5 for the 1er Cru to 13 in Grand Cru and are incredibly harmonious. They picked late here, due to their location being a little bit cooler and they picked early in the morning to ensure fresh cool fruit. Claude said that this was the key ingredient for all her wines and gave them their individual site expression and beautiful pure and aromatic Pinot fruit character. By picking cool fruit (some growers brought in warm gapes due to the heat and had to cool down in the winery) she was able to retain great freshness, aromas and acidity. This is also the third vintage using a vertical press, which she feels adds to the silkiness on the finish. All the wines are very seductive and will be approachable young. If you are looking for cracking value and exceptional quality this domaine has it. The whole range was so pretty, aromatic and elegant. I loved the sweetness and uber fine tannins which echoed through the whole range. The whites are also delicious with wonderful fruits and vibrancy. These are certainly wines with great personality. Some stand outs are Savigny-lès-Beaune Lavières 1er Cru and her three Grand Crus, of which the Clos du Roi blew me away!
After a great lunch at L’Agastache we headed to one of the most famous white wine estates in Burgundy: Domaine Leflaive, now under the leadership of Brice de La Morandière. They picked at the end of August here, with a very healthy crop, retaining freshness and acidity. The whole range was exemplary, with a tension, freshness, and vibrancy that belies the warmth of the vintage.
Then on to an estate we first brought back in the late 1980s: Domaine Antoine Jobard. They have been making top rate Meursault for 50 years in a very understated way. He uses minimal oak and does not like new oak, saying it masks the terroir and characteristics of the individual vineyards. Antoine started working with his father in 1998 and his first vintage alone was 2005. His style is different to that of his father, and his wines are more approachable in their youth. He told us 2018 was a unique vintage as they had lots of quantity. They had a great growing season, the weather for the vintage producing big juice filled berries, despite the warmth of the summer they had rain at the right time which filled the berries. They also had great flavour, concentration and high quality. Usually when you have big quantities the quality is very low, but this is not the case in 2018. Antoine compares this vintage to 1982, with similar quantities and style. His father, who still helps and advises, told him that it was a very similar vintage in terms of the weather and quality. Antoine feels 2018 is a very friendly vintage. It’s approachable, with lots of freshness, acidity and lovely silky fruit. He is very pleased with the level of quality and so were we. He has a brilliant set of wines that are going to give so much pleasure in their youth. Antoine is a fantastic wine maker. This is a winery that is on great form and very much one to invest in now, you will be greatly rewarded. Bravo!
On to Pommard and our last visit of the day, Domaine Yvon Clerget. The family has owned vineyards and made wine in and around Pommard and Volnay since 1268 and young Thibaud Clerget is the 28th generation. His first vintage was in 2015 and we think he is a highly talented young wine-maker. They had good yields in 2018 from all vineyards, particularly from the monopole vineyard of Volnay 1er Cru Clos de Verseuil. His vineyards contain lots of old vines that produce wines with a high level of concentration and fruitiness. All of his wines were very harmonious with great energy and great power. He is certainly a young winemaker to watch.