by Juel Mahoney
After getting lost around the Rock of Solutre in Macon, which is a poor effort as we have all been there before, we arrived at Domaine Robert-Denogent with Jean-Jacques holding a handkerchief. Had he been crying? Was he upset we were late? Or was it a few tears over the tiny harvest he has just put into barrel? No, just a cold – thankfully. Although the 2012 vintage has been a “catastrophe,” he said. This was a story that was echoed from Maconnais to the Cote des Beaune.
The 2011 vintage was also small, smaller than 2010, but also delicious due to strict selection of grapes. Robert-Denogent is the cream of P0uilly-Fuisse and the top wine, Cuvée Claude Denogent, is an example of how great this undervalued appellation can be. It is all very well having a lush wine but it has to be focused and pulled together. The Cuvée Claude Denogent had opulent tastes of honey and pineapple but with an excellent structure of acidity and minerality from its 90 year old vines planted on limestone soils.
After driving through the thrashing rain when we first arrived, the sun came out as we drove up to Volnay to visit the Bouley family. The autumn colours of the vineyards speak very much of the flavours in their wines: red forest fruits, ceps and violets. Sitting around the family table tasting their excellent, pure Volnay, we again heard volumes are down 70 per cent in 2012 than in a normal vintage (Pommard, in particular, has suffered).
Didier Chevillon at Domaine Dupont-Tisserandot in Gevrey Chambertin told us his volumes are down, but the situation is not quite as critical in the Cote de Nuits as it is further south. The 2011 wines we tasted seemed all the more precious and we poured every last drop of the 1er Cru Petit Chapelle back into the barrel rather than wasting it. This vineyard is a tiny plot just to the north-east of Charmes-Chambertin that produces powerful, structured wines. Didier racks them straight into the barrel and in the process avoids the need for sulphur.
After a day of mouthwatering 2011s, our palates were finally rewarded with one or two older wines. We finished the evening at one of our favourite Beaune restaurants, Ma Cuisine with snails, cote de veau, a spectacular Epoisses and a few bottles of red burgundy. The wine selection here is excellent but many of the older vintages are long gone; drunk by the myriad of wine lovers who flock here from around the world. Today, they included Veronique Sanders from Bordeaux’s Chateau Haut-Bailly who was sitting at the next table to us, and who was astounded by the mystique and atmosphere of the Burgundy cellars.
One big question from the first day. This is the third year now where the volumes are low and the quality is high. How much longer can this go on before the money runs out for some producers and the prices begin go through the roof?
More on Burgundy 2011: