At our 2011 Burgundy tasting I was discussing with Will Lyons (L&S alumnus, now Wall Street Journal wine correspondent) how it is that some producers manage to get into the ‘on allocation only, cannot be bought’ category, while others making wines which rate just as highly are overlooked. Sometimes this is just down to how long a domaine has been performing well, to the extent that some whose best years are behind them are still highly regarded in the public imagination.
Sometimes it is because famous domaines have one or two wines which are from appellations like Musigny or La Romanée which means that their names appear at the very top of the ratings lists, while other producers next door whose top wine is a Premier Cru may get a better rating for that level of wine, but are still not as sought after, even though they sell at significantly lower prices. We have some of the ‘allocation only’ producers – Anne Gros, Perrot-Minot, Dugat-Py, Mugneret-Gibourg have all ‘made it’, and all thoroughly deserve their place, but for none of them was this always the case. Meanwhile we have a big stable of other producers who may well be there soon, but who, for the moment, have brilliant wines to sell at very sensible prices.
Nicolas Rossignol is arguably one such producer. Garnering plenty of praise this year, and ratings that put him up with the very best, most of his wines are almost startlingly reasonable.
Nicolas tends to price his wines according to demand and (crucially) supply, so that yes, his Beaune Clos des Mouches is priced quite high, since he has so little of this fashionable appellation, but the 2011 BEAUNE 1er Cru Reversées Domaine Nicolas Rossignol is almost as good and a complete bargain (at £210 a case IB). His Volnay Caillerets (one of Volnays premium premiers crus) is not given away (but fantastic and worth paying for, as anyone who attended our tasting will tell you), but it is the Volnay Santenots which stands out for value:-
2011 VOLNAY 1er Cru Santenots Domaine Nicolas Rossignol £279 a case IB or £309 per case duty paid delivered – working out at £30.90 per bottle including VAT and delivery.
This is a large 2 hectare parcel, but is just as highly rated by some critics, but is offered at a price level which makes it a genuine bargain. At only £279 a case IB, this is rated 92-94 by Stephen Tanzer:“Good bright red. Musky aromas of red fruits, tobacco, cocoa powder and underbrush. Rich and full, but with no shortage of energy to the fruit-driven strawberry and raspberry flavors. Very good volume here, and plenty of medicinal reserve on the juicy, palate-staining finish. These grapes have enough tannins to vinify without their stems, noted Rossignol, who carried out two separate vinifications and told me he’d like to do four in the future, before assembling the components for bottling.”
Sarah Marsh (The Burgundy Briefing) rates it even higher:“Thicker texture, rich and full-bodied. Generous palate. Chocolaty, velvet
tannins. Full and long and sweetness on the finish. 18.5 Fine ++ From 2017”
and even Jancis rates it at 17 and calls it ‘GV’ (Good Value):“No whole bunch. Dark crimson. Rich and exciting and dancing. Great drive and
energy. Really dances, this wine. Long. GV 2017-2030”
So is Nicolas a new kid on the block? Not really, since we have actually been following him for ten years now, as he has gradually taken control of the family domaine and grown in stature as a winemaker.
In Burgundy more than anywhere else, the terroir and the family tradition build a wine signature. But following a family tradition blindly was never going to be enough for Nicolas, who decide to continue his studies in Chateauneuf du Pape (Domaine du Vieux Télegraphe), Bordeaux (Lafite Rothschild) and South Africa, which might explain the deep colour and the richness of his wines.
Now with a vineyard holding of almost 16 hectares, Nicolas makes an amazing range of wines from very diverse soils, so that a tasting with him is a fascinating exposition of this idea of terroir, and a clear demonstration of the role of the soil in the style of the wine. The domaine covers several villages as Volnay, Pommard, Beaune, Pernand Vergeless, Aloxe Corton and Savigny les Beaune. All of them available in the village and 1er cru appellation except Aloxe Corton. Nicolas can show how Volnay does indeed have ‘elegant feminine’ wines that follow the commonly held stereotype of Volnay, but he also shows with his ‘masculine’ Volnays that vineyards like Santenots and Roncerets are anything but girly wines. Equally his Pommards range from wines on fine clay on the foot of the slopes that resemble the Volnay stereotype, to wines grown on bedrock which require no help from whole bunch fermentation to be massive and structured – in the ‘Pommard’ sterotype style.
Tim Atkin MW also loved the wines: “This Beaune-based domaine keeps acquiring good vineyards and the quality of the wines is consistently high.”
Allen Meadows (Burghound) praises the “incredible range of wines from Volnay”
Nicolas himself, as reported by Sarah Marsh, says “I am looking for the truth; searching for purity and the expression of the soil.” When he came to our London tasting in January to show some of his wines at our 2011 Burgundy tasting at the Saatchi Gallery, he said “2011 it is all about freshness and energy. One of the best vintages I’ve made.”
Below are some other wines with their critics’ scores:-
Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru Les Lavières 2011 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol (case of 12 £129)
Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru Fourneaux 2011 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol (case of 12 £210)
“Rather deep crimson – unusual. Really rather rich and sumptuous. Lots of fruit and almost over the top in terms of ripe fruit. Dry finish. GV”
16.5 points, drink 2016-2025, Jancis Robinson MW “This is tight, tense and bunched. Dark bramble fruit with a slightly spicy, liquorish smoky note. Compact and more layered. A much more structural wine. Very to particularly good.”
16.5 points, Sarah Marsh MW, The Burgundy Briefing
Beaune 1er cru Clos du Roy 2011 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol (case of 12 £240)“60% whole bunch. Low and sandy for Burgundy, drains very fast. Usually gets very ripe. Big, bold and beefy. Not long on finesse but it certainly delivers. A bit wild. Dry finish.”
16 points, drink 2016-2024, Jancis Robinson MW
“Red with a pale rim. Highly aromatic, spicy nose melds redcurrant, cherry, smoke and leather, along with accents of dried flowers and orange zest. Not particularly deep but elegant in style, conveying an open, spicy, high-pH mouth feel but with enough sneaky acidity–not to mention energy from the high percentage of stems–to retain freshness. Finishes with substantial toothdusting tannins and very good spicy persistence.”
89-91 points, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
“Low and clay. Bright crimson. Lots of freshness and suppleness. Graceful and beautifully balanced. Nice firmness on the finish. Very Volnay even if not terribly concentrated.”
17 points, drink 2016-2025, Jancis Robinson MW
“Usually all destemmed but in 2011 they did 15% whole bunch. ‘My baby. A cru I love.’ 1.5 ha in total, under Champans, vines only 25 years but great personality. Very intense – nose almost of curry as well as all that lovely ripe fruit. Actually it’s quite severe. Chewy and ambitious. Definitely needs time.” 17 points, drink 2020-2032, Jancis Robinson MW “Arguably the most masculine wine in the Rossignol portfolio, with lots of oak, ripe blackberry fruit, sinewy tannins and lots of texture and grip. The wine needs time to come together in bottle.” 94 points, drink 2017-23, Tim Atkin MW
“Good bright medium red. Dark fruit aromas of blueberry and blackberry convey a menthol austerity. Tightly wound and unforthcoming, showing a lightly saline character but limited mid-palate complexity today. The strict finish features powerful, tongue-dusting tannins. This is really dominated by its structure.” 90-92 points, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
“Medium red. Redcurrant, iron and flowers on the nose. Supple and perfumed in the mouth, delivering good thickness of texture without undue weight. A juicy cranberry flavor is further lifted on the back by good mineral cut. Lovely perfumed Volnay with excellent intensity and length.” 91-93 points, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
“No whole bunch. Racy and solid in terms of depth of fruit. Really rather grand and fine. Lovely succulence. Wanted to keep delicate.” 17+ points, 2017-2027, Jancis Robinson MW “This Beaune-based domaine keeps acquiring good vineyards and the quality of the wines is consistently high. This is quite closed at the moment, but it’s very minerally and fine.” 94 points, drink 2016-22, Tim Atkin MW “The palate is fine and mineral. Millefeuille of layering. Finely textured. This has a delicacy and minerality. Wonderful fine, streamlined mineral finish. A wine of finesses. Fine++ This is my favourite. From 2016.” 18.75-19 points, Sarah Marsh MW, The Burgundy Briefing “Fragrant and delicate on the nose, there’s more stuffing behind this seductive Côte de Beaune Pinot Noir from the accomplished Nicolas Rossignol than the aromas lead you to think, with an attractive red berry fruit flavour and opulently juicy texture.” 92 points, thewinegang.com
“(from a vineyard next to Volnay Chevret, but planted on a steeper slope and on a higher percentage of limestone; just 5% vendange entier): Bright full red. Stony pungency to the aromas and flavors of redcurrant, tobacco and minerals, along with a suggestion of cotton candy. Silky and seamless in the mouth, but also boasts excellent volume and concentration. Comes across as elegant and gentle but at the same time dense and firmly structured, which sounds like Volnay to me. Finishes with substantial dusty, building tannins.” 91-94 points, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
“No whole bunch. The only one of these wines in bottle – bottled in September 2012. Very bright crimson. Great pace and refreshment. Underneath Rugiens (he shows me on his iPhone via the Jasper Morris app!). Racy and full of life. Maybe not enormous but lovely.”
17 points, drink 2016-2026, Jancis Robinson MW
“Medium red. Exotic raspberry liqueur dominates the nose and palate. A very round, supple and sweet version of Fremiers. Given shape on the back by substantial broad, dusty, fine-grained tannins. Good potential here, but today this is noteworthy more for its texture than its complexity. I would never have guessed that this wine was made entirely from whole clusters.” 89-92 points, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
Pommard 1er cru Épenots 2011 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol (case of 12 £558)“The only wine that’s still in cask. Slightly over the top – perhaps because drawn straight from cask. A bit wild and heavy. Chewy finish. For the moment it’s a bit heavy but I can see it has great potential.” 17, drink 2018-2030, Jancis Robinson MW
“Good bright red. Complex aromas of medicinal red cherry, redcurrant, minerals and underbrush. Intensely flavored, stylish and sweet, with a fine-grained texture enlivened by nicely integrated acidity. Smooth on the finish but this will need further elevage and time in bottle to integrate its disparate aromatic elements.” 91-93 points, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar