2009 1er Cru Clos des Épeneaux Domaine Comte Armand

Grapes Pinot Noir
Colour Red
Origin France, Burgundy
District Côte d'Or
Sub-district Côte de Beaune
Village Pommard
Classification 1er Cru
ABV 13.5%
Vineyard Clos des Épeneaux

As usual this was tasted in sevaral lots. The fifty year-old vines in the top of the Clos gave a wine that has rich, dense fruit and dusky, dusty flavours. Earth and humus. A real sense of place too. Sunny with woody tannins. The part which is Grands Epenots, with thirty-five year-old vines is softer, it has taken the oak rather differently. Very round and suave and opulent. Still tannic on the finish. The fifty-five year old vines in the bottom of the Clos, on a more degraded limestone soil make something altogether more lush, deep colour, opulent and heady dark aromatics, seamless velevet, richly vinous - and very long. Seen altogether, the oakiness of the first cuvée, is rounded by the opulence of the last, and the length seems re-doubled. A very tannic and forceful, masculine wine. L&S (Dec 2010)

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The red fruited mix that dominates the nose feels ripe and sweet. Rich fruit fleshes out the mid palate all very mulberry and bramble driven. The back palate has some acidity that freshens and lifts the fruit. 2013-18 Rating: 92 Derek Smedley MW, www.dereksmedleymw.co.uk(Dec 2013)

The 2009 Pommard Clos des Epeneaux is flat-out beautiful. Layers of racy, exotic fruit caress the palate as the wine opens up in the glass. The 2009 is quite typical of the year, yet possesses fabulous overall harmony. Although exuberant today, the Clos des Epeneaux will deliver tons of pleasure for many years. Rating: 94 Antonio Galloni, www.vinous.com(Nov 2013)

Ripe, dark red cherry fruit on the aroma. It is succulent and full and velvety. A generous and sumptuous palate with plenty of rich, thick and ripe tannins. It is juicy and powerful and flexes toned muscle. A full and luscious, long finish. This is heady stuff. Rating: 19.25 Sarah Marsh MW, The Burgundy Briefing(Jan 2012)

(the vine ages in this 5+ ha vineyard run from 18 to 75+ years of age. The 2009 Clos des Epeneaux is segregated into several different cuvées based on vineyard location and will then be blended in varying proportions. The tasting note that follows is based upon a sample that should reasonably resemble the final blend). This is also very fresh and bright with pure aromas of ripe red currant, warm earth, violets and subtle spice hints that are in keeping with the energetic, intense and admirably rich full-bodied flavors that envelope the palate with velvety sap on the beautifully balanced and impressively persistent finish. I very much like the sense of underlying tension because despite this being a big wine with plenty of concentration, the balance is impeccable and there is absolutely nothing ponderous about this complete effort that is well-structured but not so much so that it is in the “buy and forget” category. In short, buy it. 2021+ Rating: 92-95 Allen Meadows, www.Burghound.com(May 2011)

Robust cherry nose. Rich, plump, and full-bodied, fleshy and generous, chewy and spicy yet not too extracted. Long. Drink 2015-2028. Rating: ****17.5 Stephen Brook, Decanter.com(Feb 2011)

Good bright medium red. Fresh red berries, licorice and truffle on the nose, complicated by tobacco and iron. Dense, lush and packed with fruit; really showcases the richness of a sunny year without turning heavy. Deep, saline, seamless wine, with a thick, soil-driven finish. Finishes with surprising verve. Very impressive. Rating: 93 Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar(Jan 2011)

Much tighter than the Fremiets. Very concentrated. Very ambitious and chewy. For the moment this is too ambitious to tackle. Not as stunning as the 2005 but a very worthwhile effort. Great persistence. 2017-2027 Rating: 17.5 Jancis Robinson MW OBE - www.JancisRobinson.com(Jan 2011)

We tried different parcels: “These barrels are not reducing,” remarks Ben, “so they I can leave it for now; like in 2002.” The sample of the 50 year old vines has juicy, floral intensity on the nose; a full palate with notes of chocolate. It is taut with a hint of black and racy on to the finish. Spicy and tight with a high light of orange zest. It is energetic and the terroir speaks. The second sample came from the lower part from 55 year old vines: This had more milk chocolate. Creamier and more expansive. It spreads itself slowly and broadly across the palate and then collects on the finish. This is assured and powerful and long. This is the blend: This shows the aroma of the higher part. Followed by the fruity attack of the higher part, as well and then the slow sensation of expanding across the palate from the lower parcel of vines. There is dark, bitter chocolate intensity and black pepper and spice. It is powerful and tense on the excellent woven and complex finish. Fine towards very fine. From 2018Sarah Marsh MW, The Burgundy Briefing(Jan 2011)

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 has nailed his colours to the mast by saying he wants 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.

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