2016 1er Cru Clos des Épeneaux Domaine Comte Armand
|Sub-district||Côte de Beaune|
|Vineyard||Clos des Épeneaux|
We tasted from several barrels - new and from 2014 and it is clear that the Clos old vines can easily absorb new oak - takes it in its stride, but will have - I think - 30% new oak in the final blend. Deep dark fruit on the nose - slight graphite note. Firm strike on the palate. It is both dense and elegant, for it has a lithe energy and shape. It’s deep, but not full bodied. It’s fresh. There are notes of cocoa powder. It has grip, but swathed in satin. It’s powerful, but sophisticated on the finish. We tasted the press separately. This has a savoury depth. Thicker textured with smooth, rich tannins. Depth of black chocolate. Rather delicious and will be incorporated into the blend, giving a smooth, rich underpinning to the structure. Drinking range: 2023 - Rating: 18.8 L&S (Nov 2017)
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(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). A background whiff of wood easily allows the earthy yet quite pretty aromas of plum, violet, dark cherry and soft spice nuances to shine. The mouth feel of the slightly bigger and richer flavors is also admirably sleek while delivering excellent length on the mouth coating and well-balanced finish. This is perhaps a bit less structured than is usually the case as it should be reasonably approachable young if that’s your preference. Drinking range: 2028 - Rating: 92-94 Allen Meadows, www.Burghound.com (Apr 2018)
(I tasted the younger- and older-vine components of this wine, followed by the press wine and an approximation of the final blend, which will be bottled with about 13.5% alcohol): Sample from the younger vines (45% of the blend; vinified with 15% whole clusters): Good dark red. Slightly medicinal aromas of red cherry and licorice. Surprisingly dry and backward, with its cherry fruit complicated by pungent licorice and herb notes. Finishes rather suave if a bit tart, with lingering notes of bitter cherry and herbs. Sample from the old vines (45% of the blend; from vines 67 to 93 years of age): Bright, dark red. Distinctly darker and riper on the nose than the younger vines, offering aromas of blueberry, black raspberry and spices. A step up in volume as well, with its dark raspberry and licorice flavors complicated by a licorice note. Very firmly structured wine with a longer, more tactile finish. From the press wine (to comprise about 10% of the blend): Softer, fatter and slightly saline. Finishes a bit tart but this juice should fill in the middle of the blend. An approximation of the final blend: Healthy dark red. Slight medicinal cast to the aromas of cherry, redcurrant and menthol. By far the best and most complete of these samples, offering serious low-yield richness but also terrific definition and energy. This sample somehow displayed captivating violet and mineral notes that were not apparent in any of its components. Lovely depth and restrained sweetness here. Finishes taut and long, with saline and herbal nuances and terrific underlying structure. This reminded me of a 2010; interestingly, last year Zinetti described his young '15 as like a denser version of 2010. Rating: 92-94 Stephen Tanzer, www.vinousmedia.com (Jan 2018)
Rather lighter nose than I would have expected. Juicy and fun on the palate with (almost) hidden depths. Lots of vitality even if not that concentrated. Embryonic. Drinking range: 2028 - 2042 Rating: 16.5++ Jancis Robinson OBE MW - www.JancisRobinson.com (Jan 2018)
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 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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