Burgundy trip, July 2014
Our recent 'Best Burgundy Specialist' award in the Sunday Business Post prompted us to re-think our list from this region. Recent small harvests due to frost, hail storms and general capricious weather combined to a growing demand for the wines of Burgundy Worldwide has added real challenge and pressure on pricing and availability. (See John Wilson's article in the Irish Times on Saturday 2nd August 2014) Yes, we were happy with our offering, mixing renowed names like Vincent Girardin, Olivier Leflaive, Ghislaine Barthod and Bruno Clair with brilliant, less-known (at least internationally) and great value estates such as Jean-Claude Regnaudot in Dezize-les-Maranges. But I hadn't visited in depth what is after all my home-region for a while and my brother Hubert, who has recently joined La Pousse d'Or in Volnay as Chef de Culture, constantly reminded me of 'the myriads of young winegrowers who have taken the reins of their family Domaine in recent past'. These growers are producing seriously good wines and they are still on the affordable side (for Burgundy..). With this in mind, I embarked on a 8-day trip, the first part of which involved visiting estates, the second, catching up with my family. My brother and guide on this trip, Hubert Rossignol. Currently Chef de Culture in La Pousse d'Or in Volnay, Hubert has been working in vineyards since 1982. His CV is quite impressive to say the least: Joseph Roty, Gevrey-Chambertin; Robert Groffier, Morey-Saint-Denis; Barthod-Noellat (now Ghislaine Barthod), Chambolle-Musigny; Vincent Girardin, Santenay then Meursault and La Pousse d'Or. Domaine Parigot, Meloisey The first port of call was Domaine Parigot in Meloisey, just above Pommard. Alexandre Parigot trained with Hubert at Domaine Vincent Girardin, while he was studying in Beaune so there was no ice to break when we arrived. The tasting was excellent, the Parigots grow vines on 6 different communes (villages) - Meloisey, Beaune, Chassagne, Pommard, Savigny, Meursault. Adept of lutte raisonnée, Alexandre spends most of his time in the vineyards where he learns to understand the need and potential of each of his plots of vines. The style is for limpid, precise and generously fruited Burgundies; out of the 2 dozen wines tasted, we selected the following ones: W 2012 Meursault ‘le Limozin’ R 2012 Hautes-Cotes de Beaune ‘ Clos de la Perriere’ R 2011 Beaune 1er Cru ‘les Grèves’ R 2011 Pommard ‘les Vignots’ (wines will be available shortly) Domaine Bachey-Legros, Santenay We then moved on to a favorite of Hubert, an estate often referred to 'as producing the best reds in Santenay', Domaine Bachey-Legros where brothers Samuel and Lenaic have joined their mother Christiane. The 19-ha vineyards are superbly located around Santenay - Clos des Hâtes, les Charmes, Clos Rousseau, la Comme etc.. - furthermore 80% of the vines are either old or very old. They also own vines in Maranges and Chassagne-Montrachet. Manual harvest, keen observation and attention to the vineyard needs, rigorous selection (tri) at harvest time and subtle use of new oak, the 2 brothers are absolutely meticulous in bringing in the best grapes possible in their different cuvées. Quite frankly, we could have selected any wines tasted there, but reason must prevail and our short selection is as follow (but this list will definitely be growing soon): R 2012 Santenay ‘Clos des Hâtes’ V.V R 2012 Santenay 1er Cru ‘Clos Rousseau’ V.V R 2012 Santenay 1er Cru ‘Clos Rousseau’ les Fourneaux V.V (wines will be available shortly) Domaine Larue, Saint-Aubin The third estate we visited was Domaine Larue in Saint-Aubin. In a time where the wines of neighbours Puligny and Chassagne are reaching eye-watering price levels, the village of Saint-Aubin with its rocky, limestone laden soils and great exposure seems like the obvious choice for sourcing mineral, racy white Burgundies. Brothers Didier and Denis Larue (recently joined by Denis's son Bruno) run this 15-ha family Domaine, with vineyards located in the best premier crus Saint-Aubin but also in Puligny and Chassagne. The wines are unapologetically mineral, dry, tensed and precise, like true great white Burgundies. They seem to have serious ageing potential but deliver immense pleasure at an early age too. Not much availability in this estate (like in most visited) but Didier, who was just back from a holiday in Ireland, which he truly enjoyed, was delighted to find an importer there, he gave us a small allocation of the following: (again, expect more wines from this estate in the years to come) W 2012 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru ‘Murgers des dents de chien’ W 2011 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘la Garenne’ (wines will be available shortly) Maison Ambroise, Prémeaux-Prissey Following a tip from Arnaud Legat, Sommelier at One Pico Restaurant in Dublin, I went to visit this long established, small négociant house, who operates on 21 hectares of their own vineyards and purchase grapes from another 3. They own vines in Premeaux, Nuits-St-Georges, Ladoix, Meursault, the hill of Corton, Vosne-Romanée (and some Echezeaux!), Gevrey-Chambertin, Vougeot, Beaune and as far as Saint-Romain! As always with similarly parcelled estates in Burgundy, logistic is key. Bertrand Ambroise was recently joined by his son Francois and daughter Ludivine, they have just received their organic certification (2013). Ludivine explained the move to organic viticulture is one of true belief as she lost her grand-father due to illness caused by chemicals used in the fields. Harvested manually, neither filtered nor fined, the wines are classic and expressive with distinct terroir-influenced personalities. W 2012 Bourgogne Aligoté W 2012 Ladoix 1er Cru ‘ les Gréchons’ R 2010 Cotes de Nuits Villages R 2010 Nuits-St-Georges ‘Haut Pruliers’ (wines will be available shortly) Philippe Milan, Chassey-le-Camp Trying to locate the tiny hamlet of Valotte near Chassey-le-Camp (roughly equal distance between Santenay and Rully) was some kind of a challenge. Karl-Philippe is in his mid-twenties and is taking progressively over the 11.5-ha family estate. The Milans have acquired a very good reputation over the years and sell about 80% of their wines locally, newly-arrived Karl would love to develop the export a bit more. Vineyards are in the villages of Santenay, Maranges, Mercurey, Rully with small holdings in Pommard, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. The style is for articulate, fruit-driven wines with excellent freshness and dare I say drinkability. We selected three wines: W 2012 Rully R 2012 Rully R 2012 Mercurey (wines will be available shortly) Henri et Gilles Buisson, Saint-Romain Last but not least was to visit the marvelous estate of the Buisson brothers in Saint-Romain. I discovered their wines at Vinisud, Montpellier back in February (at the Mediterrannean wine show, of all places...) and we brought in a first shipment very shortly after, such was the immediate love I felt for these wines. Frédérick (oenologist) and his brother Franck (commercial) are the eighth generation of Buisson vignerons at this estate. Their grandfather Henri began bottling his own production as early as 1947 when Saint Romain achieved its own AOC status. In the 1970s, his son and the boy’s father, Gilles began farming using an organic approach, and in 2009 the estate became Ecocert certified. The philosophy is one of hard work in the vineyard, indigenous yeast fermentations only and a low intervention approach in order to maximise the terroir-expression and to produce balanced wines that have the capacity to age well. The brothers also produce a white and a red Saint-Romain with zero sulphur added, both wines are pure, clean and expressive and represent beautifully the terroirs of Saint-Romain. Our selection (wines are currently available) W 2012 Saint-Romain ’Sous la Velle’ W 2011 Meursault ‘les Chevalieres’ R 2011 Bourgogne R 2010 Saint-Romain ‘Sous Roche’ R 2011 Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru ‘Les Ecusseaux’ Time to say good-bye to Hubert and Burgundy!