Domaine de Courcel

France, Burgundy

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 (2020, tasting the 2019s), with Yves in the morning we has lunch with him there. 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

(Charles Lea, November 2020) L&S  (Nov 2020)

On the 2018s and vintage styles: "In 2018, like in Vosne, he picked the grapes at full phenolic ripeness and the wines are, as he decribes them, plus Rhodaniens que Bourguignons (comparing them to wines from the Northern Rhône). Yves says that it is hard to know what the 1947s were like at the time, as no one can remember, but that he'd wager that they were like this. He compared the 2018s to the last very hot vintage, 2003; the difference, he says, is that in 2003 the lack of water caused both blocage de maturité, when the vines shut down for lack of water, and also the grapes shrivelled as they dried in the unrelenting sun. 2018, he says, is different - there was in most places enough water stored in the ground, and the ripeness is more developed - and so are the wines, which for him are very complete and so well-balanced that they will age for decades." (Charles Lea, November 2019) L&S  (Nov 2019)