Côte de Nuits PART 1

While it all ended well enough, it was not all plain sailing in the Côte de Nuits. The wet winter followed by a mild damp spring did give problems with mildew, especially to growers working organically – as Yves Confuron said, losses of crop at this stage, and again from the heat at the end, means that yields can be quite low – and the concentration in Yves' own wines is all part of this. Like in the Côte de Beaune, trying to decide when to pick to have optimum phenolic ripeness meant having to accept high potential alcohols, but the inclusion of ripe, properly lignified stems has given back an elegance that might having otherwise been missing on some terroirs.

There are great long-lived wines, and there are wines that will be forward and flattering if drunk quite young, but most do have substantial concentration and tannins which, while very ripe and emollient, will help the wines to age. It's worth paying particular attention to the Hautes Côtes, and to the simple Bourgognes, as it is these vineyards that benefit disproportionately from the extra ripeness of a very sunny year.

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Domaine de la Douaix

Mark and Gilles Moustie are Belgians, huge fans of wine and in particular Burgundy. The family rented a gite for many years in the Hautes Côtes village of Arcenant, straight up the hill to the west of Nuits Saint Georges, and gently graduated from buying wines at domaines up and down the Côte to wanting to make the wine themselves. Eventually they bought some vines and a house with cellars, and set to.

Most of their wines are from vines they own, but they do make a little wine from bought-in fruit to supplement what is still a tiny domaine. It is his Gilles who is hands-on on a daily basis and is really running the domaine now with ever-growing confidence and the wines seem to improve year on year. He is now working organically across the domaine.

The extra ripeness of 2018 has been particularly beneficial in these relatively cool terroirs, and the results are impressive. Gilles told us that they'd made a good volume of wine, and that there had been just enough rain, and little to do in the way of treatments as the vines remained healthy through the season. He has extended the élevage, and is now keeping all his wines in wood for two winters: " I really like how the wines stabilise in the last six months."

2018 HAUTES CÔTES DE NUITS Clos des Fervelots Domaine de la Douaix

2018 HAUTES CÔTES DE NUITS Clos des Fervelots Domaine de la Douaix

Nice vivid colour, a good rich nose of bright dark fruit, and the palate too is vivid and beautifully defined. "a bit more fresh fruit and a bit less tannic grip - it's normally the other way round"Nice vivid colour, a good rich nose of bright dark fruit, and the palate too is vivid and beautifully defined. "a bit more fresh fruit and a bit less tannic grip - it's normally the other way round" says Gilles. Drinking range: 2022 - L&S(Nov 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 12

In Bond

2018 CÔTE DE NUITS VILLAGES Terres Nobles Domaine de la Douaix

2018 CÔTE DE NUITS VILLAGES Terres Nobles Domaine de la Douaix

One third new wood. Ripe and rich, not quite the vivid brightness of the Hautes Côtes, but there's a greater sweet black fruit depth, as you'd expect - needs more time in barrel - the oak is a littleOne third new wood. Ripe and rich, not quite the vivid brightness of the Hautes Côtes, but there's a greater sweet black fruit depth, as you'd expect - needs more time in barrel - the oak is a little disassociated for now.L&S(Nov 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 12

In Bond

2018 CÔTE DE NUITS VILLAGES Vieilles Vignes Domaine de la Douaix

2018 CÔTE DE NUITS VILLAGES Vieilles Vignes Domaine de la Douaix

Even denser and darker than the Terres Nobles, with some of the rigid tannins of Nuits, lots of 'bottom' - and lots of ageing capacity.Even denser and darker than the Terres Nobles, with some of the rigid tannins of Nuits, lots of 'bottom' - and lots of ageing capacity.L&S(Nov 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 12

In Bond

2018 NUITS SAINT GEORGES Domaine de la Douaix

2018 NUITS SAINT GEORGES Domaine de la Douaix

This surprises after the Côtes de Nuits Villages, as it is so much more elegant - lovely ripeness with a point of sweetness in the robust fruit - sappy and altogether delicious.This surprises after the Côtes de Nuits Villages, as it is so much more elegant - lovely ripeness with a point of sweetness in the robust fruit - sappy and altogether delicious.L&S(Nov 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 12

In Bond

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. Philippe's father Jean-Louis died suddenly just before the 2019 harvest and Philippe was clearly still in some shock about it when we came to taste in last October. The 2018s are once again lovely wines which, while richer than some years still have have a lightness of tread and great purity and length, with more or less structure and weight depending on whether they are from clay or more rock-dominated soils. Philippe called it a 'very rich vintage', and said the wines were a little 'on their reserve' in the autumn. 'They need the patination of élevage', he finished.

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. In 2018 he started to pick on the 31st August.


Domaine Stéphane Magnien

Stéphane's is a small domaine, a mere 4.5 hectares, with one full hectare of that in regional wine - Passetoutgrains and Bourgogne - but it is blessed with two Grands Crus and also a long history of not messing with nature. No pesticides have ever been used on this land, and the plants are nearly all the old 'Pinot tordu' - twisted Pinot with its gnarly stems which are less vigorous than the modern clones and said by many to make wines with more finesse.

Stéphane chaptalizes only to extend fermentations - these are wines which his father Jean-Paul used to describe as 'sage en alcool' - from 12 to 13% - the old vines do not make much alcohol. Wood use is also discreet, never exceeding 20% new wood on the Grands Crus, 15% on the Premiers Crus and on the village appellations, 10% new wood for one year only, then all into older barrels.

Stéphane says that he aims to make wines with more richness than his father's, 'but not black angular wines which have less relief. Wines which leave your mouth clean and clear, refreshed and revived and, above all, wanting another glass'. He destems 100%, gives the grapes a six-day maceration, then a classical fermentation with just two pigeages, and a little remontage (pumping over) at the end.

Stéphane described 2018 as 'miraculous', because good in volume and concentration even coming after the good harvest of 2017 - a rich, even opulent vintage, picked in six days from the 4th to the 10th September.

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 2018 Virgile picked from the 5th to the 14th September (for the reds). The potential alcohols went up 1.5% in the week, he reported, mostly by concentration from the berries drying up rather than extra ripening. Fermentations were long and slow, with very little pigeage. The wines are then aged for 13 months in barrel, with about 30% new wood. It was a generous harvest - he made 48hl.ha on the Morey Vieilles Vignes even after doing a vendange verte. 'For me the key to the vintage was whole bunches and very light extraction' We repeat what we said last year: this domaine is in our view one to follow very closely as the prices have not yet caught up with the growing quality.


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, opinionated and laconical as ever, dismisses those who make pale wines by 'infusion' and says that failing to get the whole bunches properly ripe - and using all the bunch - is failing to get everything the terroir can offer. The wines he makes are dark, richly concentrated, and often hard to taste in their development, but experience shows that they age brilliantly. He is sure that, if anyone could remember, the 1947s when young would have tasted like these young 2018s. He says that the vintage was exceptionally hot, with a hot wind from the north, so very concentated berries, and the result is a Rhonish profile - which seems logical to him. Flavours of black cherry and dark chocolate coming from the sucrosity of the ripe tannins. "I say the opposite of everyone else - a wine can be rich and durable - rich and balanced." He mentions the 2003s, which were wines we discussed along similar lines at the time and which frightened some buyers. We agreed that although the acidity was on the low side, there was plenty of tannin and the wines would age on the tannin rather than the acidity - and opening 2003s now proves this point, as his are still fresh and youthful. But the 2003s were always less well-balanced than the 2018s - the drought of the year resulted in tannins that remained dry, and while they may soften more with time, some will remain. The 2018s, by contrast, have tannins ripened to perfect sweetness and the resulting liqueur-like wines are in an extraordinary balance and will age unbelievably. Like the 1947s?


Domaine Faiveley

As we tasted with winemaker Jerome Flous he was keen to point out that this is a far more serious vintage than it may first appear. Yes there was a hot summer, but that is not the only story - these wines have great intensity too and are full of promise for the medium to long-term - despite the apparent up-front richness.

2018 is his 12th vintage at the helm of Faiveley and there is a reassuring confidence about him - these certainly all look very accomplished wines in the vintage. It has not been straightforward in 2018 - tricky climatic challenges aside. A stop-start fermentation in the cellar lead to some difficult, wild elements in the young juice. The lees were potentially quite ‘dangerous’ he says. So he racked all the 1er and Grand Cru wines very early to preserve clean and fresh fruit. He intends to give all the reds two winters in the cellar as they need a long élévage to ‘finish off’. He’ll start the bottling in March 2020.

Tasting them we were struck by quite how measured and tightly-wrapped they seem for now. Smart and sophisticated on the whole with good restrained power and intensity, impressive drive for 2018.

As is so often the way here each wine really has a sense of place and knows its spot on the pecking order. There are some real delights for drinkers.


Domaine Joseph Drouhin

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, still driven by the same passions that inspired the founder - and it remains one of the most well-respected names in Burgundy, staying true to their motto of 'natual elegance'. The domaine is all cultivated with an organic and biodynamic approach.

Véronique Drouhin took us through the 2018 vintage and how she and her brothers managed it - always with the help of star chief winemaker Jérôme Faure Brac. A mild rainy winter after the hot dry summer of 2017. A cool spring, a bit of frost, and then in mid April fast growth in warm weather "the vines exploded into growth". It was warm and dry until July - warmer and dryer than usual "good news for Philippe" (Véronique's brother, in charge of the vineyards) - no mildew, no botrytis - they are all organic, so this was especially good as these are hard to treat. Harvest was early, starting on the 29th August, and finishing mostly by the 7th-9th, except for Chablis and Maconnais.

As Véronique put it "sugars were not low", so they had to decide whether to wait for phenolic maturity or not. They decided to wait. "But you cannot pick 80 hectares in one day, so decisions had to be made".

The whites were picked in perfect conditions. Careful management of the lees and almost no batonnage except to help the fermentations along. "I did not think that the wines would keep so much freshness - I think Jérôme did a great job", Véronique summed-up.

In the reds they used a lot of whole clusters - even in wines like the Beaune premiers crus, which is not something they normally do. Between 25% and 65% depending on the cuvée. They were easy to vinify - colour came easily, but they did not want to extract too much or make them too big "they have very good ageing potential, but they have charm too.. you have to respect the vintage, but..." The wines range from 12.5 to 14.3% Alc. (reds and whites), and all the Grands Crus are over 13.5%.


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. Impressive wines again here in 2018.