2012 1er Cru Clos des Épeneaux Domaine Comte Armand


Normally vinified as four cuvées, this year Ben made just two. The first is from compacted rock - just 30cm of soil then limestone 'flagstones'. The wine too is compact and densely tannic, dusty tannins, which give volume and a thick mouthfeel. The second cuvée comes from the deeper soil, and is silkier, more colourful and flamboyant. Together the nose is (astonishingly) more harmonious. The structural cuvée brings a freshness and lift to the richer one, and on the palate the volume has drive, pulling out the length.L&S (Jan 2014)

* This is a pre-shipment/primeur offer. All orders are accepted under the TERMS of this offer which differ from the terms of the rest of the site.

(the 5+ ha Clos is composed of approximately 80% Petits Epenots and 20% Grands Epenots; the vine ages run from 18 to 75+ years of age; this will be bottled only in magnum). An exceptionally fresh and relatively elegant nose features notes of various red berries, earth and a discreet spiciness. There is a beguiling mouth feel to the medium-bodied, concentrated and powerful flavors that are shaped by very firm yet ripe tannins on the palate coating finish that is sneaky long. Note that the suggested initial drinking window is based on magnum format. 2030+ Rating: 91-94 Allen Meadows, www.Burghound.com (Apr 2014)

In most vintages, there are three distinct cuvees that make up the final blend for the flagship Pommard Clos des Epeneaux, but in 2012 there are just two. The first cuvee, from the top of the vineyard, is intensely tannic and structured. Floral notes lead to dark red cherries and crushed rocks in a wine that is all about crystalline purity and delineation. The second cuvee, from the bottom of the hill, presents more depth and volume. A representation of the final blend is striking. Sadly, the entire production will be bottled only in magnums, of which there will be just 4,000 to go around, versus the normal production of about 22,000 bottles. Readers who can find the 2012 should not hesitate, as it is shaping up to be one of the wines of the vintage. 2022-2042 Rating: 94-96 Antonio Galloni, www.vinous.com (Feb 2014)

I tasted this wine on three occasions (including from barrel) this year and it’s one of the best releases I’ve ever tasted from the domaine. Benjamin Leroux has crafted a very fine Pommard, especially in the circumstances. It’s a very refined wine, with perfume, crunchy red fruits and medium weight tannins all pulling in the same direction. 2019-29 Rating: 96 Tim Atkin MW, www.timatkin.com (Jan 2014)

(I tasted two components, the first from compact bedrock and the second from fractured rock, mostly at the top of the holding, then an approximation of the final blend; there is no longer a young-vines cuvee and no more Pommard 1er Cru bottling as the youngest vines here are now 27 years old; 12 hectoliters per hectare, or one-third of a normal crop): Bright, full red. Sexy, complex nose melds raspberry, redcurrant, iron and a soupcon of chocolate. Hugely rich and mouthfilling, with red fruit flavors complicated by wild herbs and salty minerality and nicely framed by harmonious acidity. In a very ripe style but with plenty of serious tannins for support. Finishes with extraordinary palate-coating solidity Rating: 93-95 Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar (Jan 2014)

Now for the main attraction that dominates Domaine Comte Armand: the 2012 Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux. There is no second wine (usually labelled village or premier cru) from this monopole this year and due to diminished quantities the final blend welcomed its younger vines that in any case have now reached a respectable 25 year of age. I tasted two cuvees according to geological profile: the lower reaches of fragmented rock high in iron oxide that tend to give tannic wines and the higher reaches of shallower soil and a proliferation of smaller cracks that tends to give more mineral-driven, elegant wine. The first cuvee from ferrous soils has a very refined bouquet with crystalline dark cherry and cassis fruit that come loaded with minerals, yet it is not a powerful bouquet, rather one that creeps up on you by stealth – seduction by the back door. The palate has a chalky, assertive, grippy entry with splendid weight and breadth. It does not fan out towards the finish like the 2009 or 2010, but stays very linear and focused, leaving a residue of minerals in its wake. You can sense the power, but Benjamin has this cuvee on a tight leash. The second, from fragmented rock, has a slightly more open nose and red fruit. It is sweeter and more feminine with a lithe finish. The blend of the two is very harmonious, the light blend tempering the more boisterous cuvee from the upper reaches, the elegance enhanced by the combination of the two. This will be fascinating once bottled. Readers should note that for the first time, the Clos des Epeneaux will be bottled in magnums only. Rating: 94-96 Neal Martin, www.vinous.com (Jan 2014)

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 (it 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 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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