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Domaine Fernand & Laurent Pillot

The origins of the Pillot family in Chassagne can be traced back to the eighteenth century, when they seem to have been coopers more than vignerons. In the nineteenth century they abandoned barrel-making in favour of enlarging the property in Chassagne. Fernand and Laurent, who is the fourth generation, added to it again in 1992, and then in 2001 Laurent's wife Marie-Anne inherited half of her family's property, the Pommard domaine of Pothier-Rieusset, and Laurent and his father bought the other half. The domaine now stands at 14.5 hectares of vines across almost the whole length of the Côte de Beaune from Santenay to Beaune.

The Domaine is worked according to organic principles and are ploughed – no chemical weedkillers are used. They have also been members of the Dephy-ECO-phyto group, which works to reduce the number of treatments using copper sulphate, since 2012.

Laurent has always managed to pack in a lot alongside his running of the vineyard. He has his own plane which he flies to all corners of France, used keep and hunts hawks, and conducts the Chassagne brass band as well as dabbling in Mayoral duties - on top of being a father of three, Anaïs, Adrien and Eugène. They are all mad about the alps and disappear up the mountains at regular intervals.

Laurent's eldest son Adrien has been travelling the world making wine all over the place for the last few years having completed his training in Beaune. Bringing back lessons learnt in Australia, South Africa and California (and from a stint at Lea & Sandeman), During harvest Adrien is now the one in the winery while Laurent takes charge of the picking team. The wines have long been L&S favourites in both red and white - they represent excellent value, and they age very well too, despite being attractive young. The whites are precise and pure, and not lacking for body and generosity, while the reds are velvety and juicy, beautifully balanced even if drunk young on their expressive Pinot fruit. The domaine was rightfully heralded in Decanter Magazine as 'an address that deserves to be better-known'. Great value and real pleasure across their range.

The Pillots 2019 harvest was not that bad in white, they said, down 15%, but the reds are down 30%. In general they are happy with the balance in the wines because it was very hot, but the acidities are still good. We discussed Adrien's wish to do a longer élevage for the whites, but the problem that if you take the wines out of barrel that means keeping them in vats with floating tops, and they are not mad about the practicality of that. For now most are bottled after a year, but the Vide Bourse and Grandes Ruchottes will stay in barrel until the spring. They use little SO2 to begin with, gradually stabilising the levels once the wines are back in tank, and still finishing with low levels. They like ripe grapes: 'there's a kind of fashion to be the first to pick in Burgundy - they want to keep the freshness but all they get is acidity and tannin'. For the reds, they don't do massive extraction - 3 pigeages only in the middle of the fermentation, but they do a lot of pump-overs.

2019 POMMARD 1er Cru Rugiens Domaine Fernand & Laurent Pillot

2019 POMMARD 1er Cru Rugiens Domaine Fernand & Laurent Pillot

The Pillots have 3 parcels , with about half in Rugiens Haut and half in Rugiens bas, but as they are replanting half of the parcel in 'bas', so the proportion of 'haut' is higher. Rich and ample,The Pillots have 3 parcels , with about half in Rugiens Haut and half in Rugiens bas, but as they are replanting half of the parcel in 'bas', so the proportion of 'haut' is higher. Rich and ample, this is a big, solid Pommard which still has juice and savour - and even an open approachability. All the same it's probably needs at least five years. Drinking range: 2025 - 2035L&S (Oct 2020)

Magnums, case of 6

In Bond

Domaine Rémi Jobard

Rémi has been been making small qualitative changes ever since he took over here. The entire vineyard is cordon-pruned, so yields are naturally limited. There has been no use of fertiliser since 1994, and the vineyard is grassed-over to encourage the vine roots to go deep. The domaine has been certified organic from 2008. He says that the two most important things are the absence of weedkiller (and thus the necessity to plough, which cuts any surface roots and makes the vine go deeper) and not adding any fertiliser which again makes the roots go deeper to find nutrients.

Rémi has two vast presses, to enable him to press very slowly over six hours, and this has resulted in a big jump in finesse. The élevage now lasts nearly fifteen months, so as to allow the wines to develop slowly and to avoid fining. As a result these are wines which take a moment to show, but which reward the patient with complexity and great depth of flavour.

Rémi made a move from traditional barrels to foudres made of a mix of French, Austrian and Slavonian oak, constructed by Austrian cooper Stockinger, and having added a new one (or two) each year, there's barely a normal barrel left. He likes the way the wines develop in these large volumes, in which the 'oaking' effect is minimised.

In 2019, says Rémi, the grapes were concentrated as much by evaporation as by the direct effect of the sun. If is was not for this concentration, they might have picked at 12.5% by maturity alone, but the hot wind from the south had a drying effect. This means that unlike some hot years, there are no exotic or tropical fruit flavours, but the wines remain citrussy and bright - and very concentrated in every aspect. There's always some little plan to make improvements here, and this year it's a big one, as Rémi has taken on a new cellar which he says has space for 240 barrels, as the building of the Stockinger foudres had left little room to work on the old one. There is no room to build more, and he'd like to be able to keep the wines in bulk for even longer, believing that it can further improve the finesse and elegance.

We are very excited about Rémi's two red wines this year, both of which are excellent, the Volnay Santenots being one of the vintage's coup de cœurs.


Domaine Nicolas Rossignol

With good-sized harvests from 2017 and 2018, it's good to see Nico's cellar full, but the the 2019 vintage is rather smaller. Still, for now it's all smiles. Now in its third year, he could not be happier with his new winery. A fantastic bespoke build, admittedly in a ZI (Zone industrielle) on the outskirts of Beaune, which he recognises is not ideal for the folklore aspect, but it is a perfect tool for the job, and does have a good view of all 'his' bits of the Côte - from the roof.

Nico immediately said that he much prefers 2019 to 2018 - 'the power and richness of 2018 with the energy of the 2017s'. For the 2018s he bottled between February and June 2020, depending on each cuvee, but he thinks the 2019s will need longer élevage, and so has racked them mid-way through and some will go back into barrel for extended ageing. Nico is very much a winemaker who likes full phenolic maturity, and determines harvest dates by eating grapes from each plot. This gives him the body and density which he likes - these are not weedy wines - at the same time remarking that 'I think the new cellar (this is the third vintage in it) has brought greater elegance'.

Domaine Comte Armand

A domaine totalling nine hectares, of which the most important part is a magnificent five hectare monopole of the Pommard Premier Cru Clos des Epeneaux, which was put together by Nicolas Marey in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (along with the DRC Romanée Saint Vivant 'Marey-Monge'). These vineyards were all sold, except for the Clos (now been enclosed by a wall), which came to Jean-François Armand as a dowry when he married Nicolas' daughter in 1826. The Volnay vineyards were added in 1994, followed by parcels in Auxey Duresses.

The current Comte Armand is a lawyer living in Paris, but very supportive of the régisseurs who have looked after this domaine for the thirty years or so that L&S have been buying here. The 1980 vintage, made by one of the many Rossignols of Volnay who was in charge at the time, was for us a great introduction to the possibilities of the great Clos des Epeneaux vineyard. Then came the era of Pascal Marchand, a young Quebecois who came to do a harvest with Domaine Bruno Clair and just never left. He began a period of radical restructuring and the introduction of organic and then biodynamic farming, while making very dark, dense and long-lived wines. Benjamin Leroux, hugely respected amongst growers who approach things from an organic or biodynamic point of view, then took over, and refined this approach and changed the way the parcels of vines are divided up for harvesting, paying less attention to just the age of the vines, and more to the underlying soil types. Claude Bourguignon was employed to provide a full geological survey of the Clos as the basis for this. Under Benjamin the wines of the Clos gained in finesse and precision, while still having the depth and richness expected of a great Pommard.

Both Pascal and Benjamin were keen to expand beyond the confines of the Clos, and the Domaine also has vines in Volnay, and, a particular enthusiasm of both Pascal and Benjamin, in Auxey Duresses, where they are convinced of the great potential of some of this village's undervalued and neglected terroirs. Paul Zinetti, who had worked with Ben for four years, took over in 2014.

The vineyard is cultivated organically (ECOCERT certified) and biodynamically. The grapes are entirely de-stemmed, but left intact, for a five to eight-day cold maceration before the fermentation, which lasts five to ten days, and then the wine remains in the fermenters for between three and fifteen days, depending on the vintage. In most years, the total time with skin contact will be around four weeks, which is longer than most. The wines will then be aged in barrel for between eighteen and twenty-four months, with new wood limited to 30% for the wine from the old vines of the Clos, down to none at all for the village wines.

Paul said from the outset that he wanted to make to make a less tannic wine in the Clos, and one which is more about aromatic length. In this he is continuing the route that Ben was following, but perhaps taking it even further.

All the wines here are a triumph in 2019, with a transparent elegance allied to the ripe density of the vintage.

Domaine de Courcel

One of the great domaines of Pommard, with a 400 year history in the same family. The domaine produces a small amount of Bourgogne Chardonnay, a completely over-performing Bourgogne Rouge, a village Pommard (Vaumuriens, 1.44 ha), but the biggest part of the domaine consists of four great Premier Cru expressions of the terroir of Pommard, Fremiers (0.79 ha), Croix Noires (0.58 ha), Grand Clos des Epenots (4.89 ha) and Rugiens (1.07 ha). These represent a very different style to the Clos des Épeneaux of Comte Armand, for example. Yves Confuron, the régisseur, describes the difference between the two top wines by saying that the Grand Clos is 'terreux' while the Rugiens is 'aérien'.

The aim is to limit yields to around 25hl/ha, to attain optimum ripeness. The vines are ploughed, and pruned carefully to suit each one, then de-budded in spring and green-harvested in August to keep the fruit load balanced. Following Yves' usual practice the harvest is late and the vatting is long - usually around a month, with a cold maceration leading into a cool fermentation, and a long post-fermentation soak under the protection of the carbon dioxide given off by the fermentation. The wines are developed in barrel over 21 to 23 months, with a third of the barrels being replaced each year. After racking they are bottled without fining or filtration.

The domaine produces wines with astonishing depth and density that still retain the freshness, just like Yves' own wines at Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot. They are classic vins de garde and patience is advised - and will be amply rewarded.

This year, after tasting at Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot with Yves in the morning we has lunch with him there (always a highlight of our autumn visits). We tasted 1996 Gevrey 'village', which was in a very good place, supple and complex with a warm glow of maturity, and 2008 Suchots, which was gorgeous if still tannic, but which worked very well with food. Yves banged his drum for his style of winemaking, the late picking for him being the key - the whole bunches have to go in, and to do that the stalks must be dried - fully turned to wood and not green, and pips must be nutty and ripe and not green, and then, he says, you can extract all that the terroir can give you via the vines. For him, picking early is to miss this, and 'infusion' winemaking with little extraction is missing the point. He illustrates this when he brings the cheese, a wonderful aged Comté and some Brillat-Savarin, with, scattered around, some little silver-wrapped triangles of 'La Vache qui Rit', and asks which we want. Later, in the cellar at de Courcel, he makes the point again when we are tasting the Croix Noires. This is only half-way through it's élevage because it needs two years in barrel to civilise its altogether uncommon density. "It's a choice, you can have this, or you can have La Vache qui Rit", and both may have their place at different moments, but if you want all that something can give you, sometimes you have to go about it in a slower, longer-term way. For him, 2019 is a great vintage in Pommard - its a terroir which suits hot years, like 1999 and 2005.

Domaine Faiveley

The Faiveley family are the largest vineyard owners in Burgundy, owning around 120ha, spread across the Côtes de Nuits, Beaune and Chalonnaise and encompassing everything from generic Bourgogne up to the grandest of Grand Crus. Their holdings supply the grapes for 5 out of every 6 bottles made by Faiveley, the balance being bought in from carefully selected contract growers.

Faiveley has been more and more impressive in recent years, and the combination of winemaker Jerome Flous and an entirely new winery can only build on that.


Domaine Huguenot

The Huguenots can trace their history in Marsannay and working in the vines back to 1789. Currently the domaine is run by Philippe. His father Jean-Louis expanded the domaine from five to twenty-two hectares (twelve in Marsannay, six in Fixin, and four in Gevrey) before handing over the reins. Philippe took the bold step of taking all twenty-two hectares into organic production (the conversion was completed in 2010), but immensely sadly he was forced to do a single non-organic treatment in 2016, because of the terrible conditions, so he was back to square one - three years to re-qualify for the organic label - but this should be in place for 2020. Philippe was initially unsure if he would try for the certification again - but for all that is not planning to change the way he works - it is, he assures us, better for him and the environment and and his workers as well as for quality, and the domaine will continue along organic lines. The 2019s are once again lovely wines with more or less structure and weight depending on whether they are from clay or more rock-dominated soils. The yields were down 25-30% - 35-40hl/ha depending on the soil. The vines on clay suffered less from the drought and the yields there were better. Harvested between the 16th and 25th September. There's been a lot of work done here on the winery, with new double-skinned vats for better temperature control and more space to work. Philippe is using around 20-25% new wood on his Premiers Crus and 50% on the Grand Cru.

Domaine Thierry Mortet

The domaine dates back to 1992, when Domaine Charles Mortet was split between Thierry and his brother Denis, and Thierry set up on his own with just 4 hectares of vines. Today he has 7.3 ha, of which 6 are red and 1.3 white. Only 4.36 hectares are Gevrey or Chambolle, the rest being a small parcel of Marsannay Blanc and regionals - Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, Aligoté and Passetoutgrain.

Thierry continues to be praised in the French press without ever quite seeming to crack the influential American journalists. It may be simply because he is a bit short of fancy appellations - one little cuvée of Grand Cru would no doubt do his reputation a lot of good - but might also put his prices up, and these remain very modest.

In the vineyard, Thierry has been certified organic since 2007, but really this was just an official stamp on what had been the practices of the domaine since the beginning, and he is working towards biodynamic certification. In the cellar, the grapes are entirely de-stemmed, and given four or five days of cold maceration are followed by the fermentation, with just a touch of cooling to keep the temperature around 31-33C (below 35, at least), and two pigeages a day. The total time in vat can be as little as 17 days. The wines then go into barrel, all second use or older for the Bourgogne, with 30% new wood on the Gevrey, and 50% on the Clos Prieur, for a period of around sixteen months.

Thierry's wines are fine and precise, tangy and long, never massive, but not insubstantial all the same. Thierry describes the 2019s as 'not as powerful as 2018, but fresher... frank and pure, virile'.

Domaine Christian Clerget

A domaine of 6 hectares, with 8 appellations, run by Christian and Isabelle Clerget from their house in the northern end of the little village of Vougeot, which is really in the commune of Chambolle. They have been organic (certified) since 2017, their daughter Justine having insisted on it when she joined them, but it sounds as though she was pushing at an open door, because Christian is entirely committed to this approach and clearly believes that good wine starts with the vines.

At harvest the grapes are picked into small cases for the short trip to the winery which really is right in the middle of their holdings. They adapt to the vintage conditions, so that they did 2 pigeages in total in 2019, whereas in 2017, they did one a day throughout the fermentation. In 2018 they did some whole bunch fermentation, but reverted to their normal complete destemming in 2019. At the end of the alcoholic fermentation Christian decants into tank, allows the wine to settle for ten days, then puts the wines into barrel where they stay without racking until bottling. They are using about 30% new wood on the villages and 40% on the Chambolle Charmes and the Échézeaux, and the wines say in barrel for a long élevage of 18-20 months.

Domaine Lignier-Michelot

A domaine of 11 hectares, 25% regionals, 50% Villages, 20% Premiers crus and 5% Grands Crus. Virgile Lignier worked at the domaine with his father Maurice from 1988, beginning to bottle some of the wine from 1992 (it had previously been sold to the négoce), taking over in 2000, which was the vintage when he first bottled all the domaine's production.

In the vineyard Virgile made significant changes, stopping the use of herbicides, and beginning to plough instead. Green harvesting to limits yields followed, along with greater attention to grape selection. The domaine works organically except in extremis.

The wines have a lovely combination of enough body and richness, combined with a lively clarity of expression. The old vines village cuvées are seriously good, and great value too. Going up the scale each site seems to speak very clearly of its source and there is a brightness and energy along with full, seamless fruit.

In 2019, Virgile told us, he is down 15% in volume, but that 2020 is 25-30% down. '2019 is an excellent vintage - it's very fine and elegant and pure' he said at the outset, and then when we got to the Grands Crus in the tasting, he said 'everything is at a super level, but the Grands Crus are way out ahead - the mark of a truly great vintage'.

Domaine J. Confuron Cotetidot

Vignerons since the seventeenth century, the Confuron family has always selected and propagated vines to ensure that their plant material produces the highest quality, and they even have a clone of Pinot named after them - 'Pinot Confuron'.

The domaine has several Grands Cru vineyards as well as two hectares of the great Vosne Romanée Premier Cru 'Les Suchots'. There are around 12 hectares in all. The vines have never seen chemical weedkillers, and are ploughed and managed organically.

The Confurons have always used whole-bunch fermentation, picking very late, which really is a necessity if the stems are to be properly ripe and not give green flavours to the wine. A bit like the Thévenets with their whites in the Maconnais, they pick so much later that they can seem to have different vintages to everyone else. Yves thinks that 2007 was their great vintage of the first decade of this millennium, and he'd probably be the only grower in the Cote de Nuits who would say that. Yves also makes the wines at Domaine de Courcel in Pommard, in the same way.

Yves told us he very much likes the 2019s - 'like 2007 and 2017', it's good all over'. The big difference as he saw it between these two hot years, 2018 and 2019, is that 2018 followed a very wet winter, so that when the heat came in the summer, the vines were able to find water and just went on making sugar. In 2019, this was not the case and the vines shut down because of the lack of water, so that the alcohols stayed lower despite the heat. The cooler wind in September helped preserve freshness, so that the expression of the two vintages is completely different, and the alcohols significantly lower. He described it as a vintage with beautiful tannins, and we'd certainly second that here, and thinks that the wines are still quite reserved and hopes to pick up more spicy notes in the second year of élevage.

Domaine Faiveley

The Faiveley family are the largest vineyard owners in Burgundy, owning around 120ha, spread across the Côtes de Nuits, Beaune and Chalonnaise and encompassing everything from generic Bourgogne up to the grandest of Grand Crus. Their holdings supply the grapes for 5 out of every 6 bottles made by Faiveley, the balance being bought in from carefully selected contract growers.

Faiveley has been more and more impressive in recent years, and the combination of winemaker Jerome Flous and an entirely new winery can only build on that.


Domaine Joseph Drouhin

Joseph Drouhin, founded in 1880 and still family owned, are one of the most well-respected names in Burgundy, especially through their flagship wine, the iconic Clos des Mouches.

A huge part of the Drouhin production comes from their own domaine fruit (78 hectares), and much of the rest comes from contracts such as that with the Marquis de Laguiche, who shook hands with the grandfather of the current generation, agreeing to let him manage his vineyards which included an important part of Le Montrachet; this collaboration endures. Today, the fourth generation is at the helm

Small refinements continue to be made here. The presses have been changed - a reversion to basket pressing for the reds, and for whites the presses are open - along with a number of other growers they are following the trend to think that slight oxidation of the juice before fermentation is not a problem and may add complexity as well as avoiding later problems of premature oxidation in bottle.

For the reds there has been the introduction of selective whole-bunch fermentation in the Côte de Nuits wines. The house style remains one that 'emphasises the natural elegance of great Burgundies' as they describe it. The domaine is all cultivated with an organic and biodynamic approach.


Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs

The lack of the word 'domaine' in the name signals that this is a négociant wine from Thibault Liger-Belair. Thibault buys the grapes he picks having tended the vines with his own team, so that the wines are domaine wines in all but name.

Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair

The steady progression of this domaine has been fascinating to watch as Thibault gradually refines his approach to each parcel of vines with the help of cellar-master Eric. Viticulture is biodynamic (since 2005), yields low but not ludicrously low, everything is pragmatic, so that he should be doing just what is necessary and no more. He uses 40-50% new wood maximum, with wood chosen and aged by him, and barrels made with almost no toasting.

The wines are bright, pure, focused, aromatic and elegant without lacking anything in the way of stuffing. The range of wines produced from rented vines or from bought grapes, sold under the separate 'Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs' label, seems to grow with each vintage and the new cellar which Thibault moved to in 2016 is already stacked in the aisles. To each parcel the team brings great experience and there is a coherence across the range, so that the whole enterprise can be regarded as one. The result in 2019 is more impressive than ever, with fantastic wines through the whole depth of the range.


Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg

Sisters Marie-Christine and Marie Andrée have been firmly in control of this exceptional domaine since their mother Jacqueline retired in 2009. With one a pharmacist and the other an oenologist, the domaine was always going to be in safe hands as far as the wine-making was concerned. In 2017 Marie-Christine 's daughter Lucie joined the domaine, and in 2019 the sisters celebrated their 30th vintage - and Marion and Fanny, daughters of Marie-Andrée also joined the team.

These are top-flight Burgundies with that elusive balance of enough concentration allied with delicacy of expression and the capability of ageing well.

At our tasting this year Marie-Andrée said that they were beginning to become resigned to yields never getting over 30hl.ha again if the summers are to remain so hot. As it is they are allowing the fermentations to reach 38C rather than a limit around 36C, so that the wines finish their sugars. Since 2016 they have put a small amount of whole bunches in some of the cuvées, more as a way to have sufficient volume in the vats than because they like the effect.


Domaine Christophe Perrot-Minot

Christophe is now the fourth generation of his family producing wine on the estate after his great grandfather Amédée Merme devoted himself to the management and production of wine over 130 years ago. The estate has gone from strength to strength – always keeping the highest standards. Integrated viticulture has been practiced for many years now which has been adapted especially for the terroir. No herbicide or chemical fertilizer is used, instead, Christophe prefers to 'stand back and listen to this terroir, only intervening when necessary or when the weather requires it, never systematically.' This is one of the star domaines of the whole of Burgundy.

Christophe described 2019 as 'very sunny, with lots of drought - very small quantities and lots of concentration through evaporation'. This has meant concentrated wines with some high alcohols, but he picked early and the highest he has is in the Clos de Bèze which he picked at 13.7%. He remarked that there were lots of dried berries which had to be removed at the sorting.