Red Bigger Bottles


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Domaine Rémi Jobard

Rémi has 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 2020, says Rémi, there was a phenomenon of concentration by the lack of water, so that while there are some aromas of a hot vintage, the acidity stayed well. He started picking on the 27th August with a small team, and then the full team got going on the 1st of September. The wines remain citrussy and bright - and very concentrated in every aspect. Alcohols are in the range 13-14%.

We are again very excited about Rémi's two red wines this year, both of which are excellent.

2020 VOLNAY 1er Cru Santenots Domaine Rémi Jobard

2020 VOLNAY 1er Cru Santenots Domaine Rémi Jobard

80% whole bunch fermentation, The sheer minerality in this means that it is not yet as showy on the nose as it was in 2019, but otherwise it's a very similar style, with a bright but not all that80% whole bunch fermentation, The sheer minerality in this means that it is not yet as showy on the nose as it was in 2019, but otherwise it's a very similar style, with a bright but not all that dark colour, a slow mover in the glass, viscous. Bright and intensely juicy, it seems still half-formed, but really amazingly impressive.L&S (Nov 2021)

Magnums, wood case of 3

In Bond

Domaine Nicolas Rossignol

With good-sized harvests from 2017 and 2018, it was good to see Nico's cellar full, but the 2019 and 2020 vintages are rather smaller. Still, for now the smile is still in place. Now in its fourth year, he could not be happier with his new winery. A fantastic bespoke build 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 his 2020s to either his 2019s or his 2018s. He is about 50% down in terms of juice - and what he has is rich and intense. This is another vintage that pushes him to a more extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to restraint. 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 fourth vintage in it) has brought greater elegance'. In 2020 that full phenolic ripeness took a while to get to a point, particularly with the skins, where he was happy to harvest. These are wines with no astringency - but great power and intensity. He says - 'if the 2018s were Syrah-like in stature, the 2019s are more Grenache and the 2020s have the structure more akin to Carignan and Mourvèdre.' They are certainly big wines that reflect the vintage and retain that wonderful balancing acidity and fresh tannins - built for a long and promising future.

Nico is keen to let us know in advance that he regards this very much as primeur pricing, and says that once on the 'deliverable' price list will be 30-40% more expensive, so this really is the moment to get stuck in.

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 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.

Once again, all the wines here are a triumph in 2020, with a cleverly highlighted lift and elegance keeping the ripe density of the vintage lithe and poised.

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.

There's no question that Yves' 2020s will be controversial, and there will be some critics who just won't be able to get their heads round them. Certainly if you are looking for pale ruby wines which 'pinote', this is not where you will find them - nor at Confuron-Cotetidot either. Yves has stuck to waiting for physiological ripeness, and has made, as he describes them 'des vins Baroque'. The 2020s all have extraordinary levels of richness and density, with a surprising freshness brought by the character of the tannins which were not as ripe as a vintage like 2018 or 2019, and which he says would be awful if associated with a 'classic' vintage, but with the 2020s they provide a freshness which the relatively low acidity does not. It's a different kind of balance, and much closer to wines from the Rhone valley both in aroma and structure, so you need to find a different way to understand them. If you do get to taste these wines at this stage, please bear in mind that unlike some growers (including DRC) whose wines are currently (November 2021) being prepared for bottling, all of Yves wines are only at the half-way stage of their élevage, and the finished wines will be in a different place when they are being prepared for bottling after the 2022 harvest. This was amply illustrated by a taste of the 2018 Grand Clos des Epenots 2018, which as predicted is shaping up to be a grandiose wine with extraordinary density and richness, and now aromatically 'in place'. See also all the notes on Domaine Confuron Cotetidot, as all of this applies to both domaines.

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 own 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 are taking them onwards and upwards year after year.

In 2020 they had their earliest ever harvest, starting on the 19th of August. This followed a seven week spell where not a single drop of rain fell and a late frost on the first of April. Because of an unfortunately timed cold damp spell on 23rd of March the flowering of the later Pinot was badly affected. It was therefore their Reds that were really hit this year in terms of volume - tragically they have harvested almost just half the yield they got with the Whites.

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. The surprise this year was to find Thierry joined by his daughter Lise who has done her vinicultural training and is now working at the domaine.

Domaine Christian Clerget

A domaine of 6 hectares, with 8 appellations, run by Christian, Isabelle and their daughter Justine 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, 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.

2020, Justine told us, was in some ways more like 2017 than 2018 or 2019 - lots of sun but not the same heat.

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 2020 Virgile started on the 28th of August and picked at between 12.8 and 13.9%. He did not want to leave it too late, having felt that he might have done in 2018. 'I think its a great vintage for long ageing', he says. He did not need to do much - a 'soft' vinification, not intervening but letting the wine make itself. The wines, as Jasper Morris wrote in a tweet after his tasting here, are 'thrilling'.

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.

'An exceptional vintage', says Yves. 'Not ripe but concentrated - like dried tomatoes.' They need extensive élevage to sort them out, but time in barrel will do that. But it is an extraordinary vintage, in which the fruit is supported not by acidity but by the tannins. As he says, the tannins are not elegant, but the carry the wine and bring freshness and balance. The vigour from the tannins is great in the concentration of 2020, but would be awful if alongside a vintage of more normal density. As for the 2020s from the other domaine that Yves manages, de Courcel on Pommard, these are exceptional, 'baroque' wines which some critics will struggle to understand, especially if they taste them alongside early-picked and infused wines which are ready for bottling already - as opposed to these which have another year in barrel to go. Yves defends his decision to pick when fully ripe - 'you miss the differentiation between vintages' if you don't - making 'cut-and-paste' wines which are the same every year. These wines are not heavy, but concentrated and rich. As Yves says 'if you pay for a seat at the opera, you don't want to hear a variety singer'.

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 own 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 are taking them onwards and upwards year after year.

In 2020 they had their earliest ever harvest, starting on the 19th of August. This followed a seven week spell where not a single drop of rain fell and a late frost on the first of April. Because of an unfortunately timed cold damp spell on 23rd of March the flowering of the later Pinot was badly affected. It was therefore their Reds that were really hit this year in terms of volume - tragically they have harvested almost just half the yield they got with the Whites.

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 des Lambrays

The 'Clos' consists of 8.66 hectares of land enclosed by a wall in which there is the original milestone marking its founding in 1365, confirmed in the records of the Abbaye de Citeaux (those monks knew where to place a vineyard). The Clos owes much of its current fame to the nineteenth and twentieth century proprietors who reconstituted it after the fragmentation of ownership which followed the French revolution. Despite always having been considered a Grand Cru site, the Clos was in fact classified Premier Cru in the original 1936 appellations contrôlées. The Rodier family which owned it from the 1930s fought to regain its Grand cru status, with eventual success only in 1981, when it became the last of the thirty-three Grands Crus of Burgundy, although by then it had passed to the Saier family. Recently under the benign ownership of the Günther Freund and his family, who gave a very free hand to régisseur Thierry Brouin, who had been employed by their predecessor Rolland Pelletier de Chambure, the quality of the wines here has pushed up again. In 2014 it was bought by the LVMH group.

It has been all rather quick change here as Jacques Devauge has taken over here after a short interregnum under Boris Champy. The legacy of Thierry Brouin can still be felt, Jacques describing him as having been 'clairvoyant' in his approach to the domaine, which has set it up well to deal with challenges of warmer vintages. Jacques seems set to take this estate onward - 'every domaine has to challenge itself to do better', he says. 2019 marks the second year being fully organic - if all goes well they will be certified after another two.

Our visit in autumn 2020 was partly to see the huge hole in the ground where the main vinification cellar used to be (prefaced by a little gentle grumbling at our earlier visit to Christophe Perrot-Minot, whose reserve cellar backs onto the site and had experienced some damp). Jacques Devauge is wasting no time in establishing the change of regime here and while respectful of what Thierry Brouin achieved, clearly feels there is much to do. From 2019 the vinifications are by parcel, and the different cuvées are laid out in barrel in the cellar as they come from the hill, which is a fun visual aid to the tasting. The changes have already made for one of the most impressive vintages here for a long time and the future looks very bright.