Posts Tagged ‘Burgundy’

Denis Bachelet is one of those singular winemakers in Burgundy whose skills are most often spoken of in hushed, respectful tones and whose wines have achieved iconic status .  His Gevrey-Chambertin  and Charmes-Chambertin are so rarely seen on the market that the oft-heard comparisons to unicorns are only half in jest.

This status is palpably incongruous for a man who is himself soft-spoken, gracious and invariably polite.  A portion of his cult-like renown may be due to the scarcity of wines produced by such a diminutive estate:  at 4.28 hectares, it is only about one-third the size of Domaine Armand Rousseau, Bachelet’s co-regent of Gevrey.  But the greater reason for the Bachelet prominence is the incomparable quality of his wine.  As Clive Coates has written: “The Denis Bachelet style produces wines of intensity, great elegance, and subtlety, feminine in the best sense. They are concentrated, harmonious, pure and understated.”

The teenage Denis Bachelet must have been both a quick learner and an intuitive winemaker.  Born in 1963, he produced his first vintage in 1981, a notoriously difficult and largely uncelebrated year  in Burgundy, and drew rave reviews for his efforts. Taking full charge in 1983, Bachelet  quickly rocketed to stardom where he has remained.

As befits a great domaine, there is a solid base in superb vineyards, which are well-situated, prudently farmed, and are comprised of remarkably old vines: all together  4.28 hectares.   Bachelet’s  signature wines, the Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin (.43 ha.) and the Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corbeaux (.42 ha.), both come from vines dating back to 1907-1917. The lieux-dit  Les Evocelles, acquired in 2011, consists of 17 ares of vines planted between  1961 and 1969. The villages-level Gevrey-Chambertin (1.43 ha.) comes from vineyards planted between 1932 and 1937, and situated in lieux-dits En Dérée, Sylvie, Les Jeunes Rois, La Burie and La Justice. The Côte-de-Nuits villages (1.04 ha.) vines mostly dates back to 1952, but also include a 9 are parcel in the  lieux-dit Créole in Brochon, which was planted in the early 1900’s.  Remarkably, even Bachelet’s Bougogne Rouge (.61 ha.) and his Aligoté (.19 ha.) are old vine, being planted, respectively, in 1977 and 1987.

Bachelet follows the precepts of lutte raisonée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist. Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced management of the vineyard, with primary focus on the microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée  will occasionally permit limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed.  The yields are, of course, naturally low due to the advanced age of the vines. In addition, there is green harvesting if any vines appear to be overly productive.  At harvest,  there is strict triage in the vineyards following by a scrupulous sorting again in the cuverie.

IMG_0745Bachelet adheres to a noninterventionsist philosophy in his winemaking, choosing to allow the vintage to express itself through the Pinot Noir. Accordingly, he eschews modernist techniques and takes a decidedly traditional approach to winemaking. After meticulous triage on a vibrating sorting table, the grapes are completely de-stemmed, lightly crushed, and then cold macerated in cement vats at 15°C. for 5 or 6 days.  Natural yeasts then ferment the must for up to two weeks, with the temperature regulated below 32°C.  Bachelet generally punches down once or twice daily, but only rarely pumps over. After fermentation, and pressing (pneumatic press), the juice is placed into stainless tanks to settle out the gross lees for up to a week, racked into barrels and  then cooled to 13°C. The intent of this cooling is to delay malolactic fermentation for as long as possible, as late as the following August, thereby maintaining high levels of CO₂ and preserving freshness.

The oak regimen is light, with generally only 25% new oak for the villages Gevrey and up to 35% for the Premier and Grand Crus. The tonnellerie Meyrieux crafts the barrels, using  Allier oak for the Charmes-Chambertin and Vosges for the villages and Premer Cru. After a total of 15-18 months, the wine is hand bottled without filtration.

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It is entirely appropriate that the rooster is the symbol at once of France and of the Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, so inextricably are the two bound together in history and tradition. The Domaine de Vogüé is one of the few iconic wine properties in France, with a transcendent reputation for quality that intrigues every epicure who has ever popped a cork or sniffed the bouquet of pedigreed Pinot Noir from Burgundy.          

The roots of the Vogüé family in Chambolle reach back to 1450, and to a long line of aristocrats who have since served as faithful stewards of some of the  finest vineyards in the world. The modern history of the Domaine commenced just after the Second War with the revival of the French economy and the vineyards in Burgundy. Presiding over the Domaine during this period was the larger-than-life, Hemmingway-esque Comte Georges de Vogüé, who    

Comte Georges


personally led the renaissance with charm, passion and resolute skill.  Today the pipette has passed to the Count’s granddaughters, Claire de Causans and Marie de Ladoucette, who have ably directed the affairs of the Domaine through their continued confidence in estate manager Jean-Luc Pépin, winemaker Francois Millet, and vineyard manager Eric Bourgogne.      

Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, from its base in Chambolle-Musigny,  is currently  comprised of 12.52 hectares of some of the finest vineyards in the Côte d’Or, including 7.12 hectares (almost 70%) of the Grand Cru Musigny  , 2.6 hectares of the Grand Cru Bonnes Mares, a .60 hectare parcel of Premier Cru Les Amoureuses;   and a parcel each of Premiers Crus Les Fuées and  Les Baudes, together aggregating .34 hectares;  and a 1.8 hecatre parcel of the villages-level lieu-dit Les Porlottes.       

The Domaine owns  7.2 hectares of the Grand Cru Musigny  including the entirety of the Les Petits Musignys climat  of  which .66 hectares are planted in chardonnay. This wine is entitled to the status Grand Cru Musigny Blanc, which would make it the only white Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits. At present, however, mostly due to the youth of the vines, the Domaine has elected to bottle this wine (about 150 cases per year)  only as Bougogne blanc.  For similar reasons, the Domaine chooses to declassify approximately 2.8 hectares of vines (those younger than  25 years)  within Musigny,  and to bottle this wine (approximately 600 cases per year) as Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru.  This leaves 3.66 hectares of vines in Musigny, averaging 40 years, that create the Domaine’s iconic Musigny, Vieilles Vignes. Only about 900 cases are made annually.  The parcel of Bonnes Mares owned by the Domaine is situated entirely in the Chambolle portion of the climat, close to the village itself. At 2.7 hectares, it is the largest single parcel of the climat and amounts to almost 20% of the entirety. The vines were planted in 1970 and yield only about 500 cases a year.   The small parcel (.60 hectares) of the Domaine’s Les Amoureuses is located in the uphill, easternmost section of the climat,  separated from Musigny only by a small. The vines here were planted in 1970 and yield about 165 cases per year.  The Domaine’s villages-level Chambolle-Musigny, of which about 400 bottles are produced each vintage, derives mainly from a 1.8 hectare plot in the climat of Les Porlottes. Situated near the wooded area to the west of the village, the rocky, limestone soil in Les Porlottes contains vines planted in 1975. The Domaine’s  .34 hectares of Premiers Crus  Les Baudes (planted in 1955) and Les Fuées (planted in 1964) are declassified and included within the villages-level cuvée.      

It is axiomatic to the Burgundian commitment to terroir that vineyard management is the most crucial element in making wine expressive of the vineyard and vintage.  Vineyard manager Eric Bourgogne, who succeeded Gérard Gaudeau in 1996, is a practitioner of  lutte raisonnée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist.  Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced viticultural management with primary focus on microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée  will occasionally permit limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed, and when chemicals are viewed as less harmful to the soil than alternative biodynamic treatments.   As a practical matter, lutte raisonnée  can be distinguished  from biodynamie in that the former implies the application of treatments only as a necessary response and the use of chemicals as a less harmful alternative; whereas biodynamie implements treatments systematically as prevention and employs biodynamic remedies like sulphur and copper that many vignerons believe are more harmful to the vineyard than chemical alternatives.   Lutte raisonnée , in the judgment of its practitioners, thus results in less intervention and a flexible approach that elevates the long term health of the vineyard above organic and biodynamic orthodoxy.     

Eric Bourgogne eschews chemical fertilizer, instead  applying small amounts of compost made at the Domaine.  Another tool that Eric Bourgogne employs in his vineyards is the seeding of the vineyard with insect pheromones in order to disrupt the mating activities of vineyard pest. This confusion sexuelle serves in lieu of insecticides and pesticides, which are shunned. The Domaine also controls predation by promoting competition among insects, believing that a natural balance of insects assures better prospects for vineyard health.  Bourgogne also interplants grass between rows and allows it and concomitant weeds to grow during autumn and winter. The objective is to resist soil erosion and to challenge the vines. Horse plowing is employed in the spring as a means of avoiding the soil compaction caused by mechanical tractors.      

It sometimes appears that winemaking requires simultaneously the technical skills of a proficient chemist and the artistic vision of a poet. If this be true, then Francois Millet is perfectly suited to the task, for his technical decisions    

Winemaker Francois Millet


are as deliberately reasoned as they are informed by his intuitive connection to the ethereal.   Fine winemakers today invariably and wisely refuse to follow formulaic winemaking, and insist on preserving a  wide latitude of options depending on conditions.  Francois Millet, however, elevates this flexible attitude to a higher plane of reality. He varies his winemaking based on vintage, vineyard and also by parcel and will seamlessly change direction if his finely honed nose so persuades him.    

There remain, nonetheless, certain inclinations and preferences that may suggest Millet’s normative instincts. Destemming is favored, although the percentage will vary between 30% and 100% depending on vintage and parcel. The objective of retaining stems is to achieve an overall balance of tannins, according to Millet, and so he will vary the proportion of stems depending, for example, on the appellation, the quality of natural grape tannins in the vintage, and the soil of the particular parcel.      

Generally, Millet favors a short period of natural pre-fermentation maceration. Fermentation temperatures are regulated to remain below 32°-33°C, although the length of the cuvaison, which can vary between two weeks and a month, varies depending on the vintage and the parcel. There is then, importantly, a period of post-fermentation maceration, after which the free-run wine is racked off.  The remaining pulp is gently then pressed and segregated until careful evaluation confirms that the time is appropriate to add the press wine.      

Not surprisingly, the Domaine maintains an adaptable policy toward new oak, generally using between 40% and 70% new oak depending on conditions. At present, Millet has decided that Allier oak is the most suitable for his barrels and so uses that exclusively. Obviously, the period of élevage varies according to the rate of the wine’s development, but generally the wines are bottled after between 18 and 20 months months’ aging. Fining, with egg whites or gelatin, may occasionally be used but filtration is employed only rarely.

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Meursault, Les Genevrières  is a 16.48 hectare Premier Cru climat in Meursault. The vineyard  is itself comprised of four contiguous sub-climats and lies in the southern section of the commune of Meursault, just north of Les Charmes. The vineyard faces east from an altitude varying between 240 and 280 meters, and enjoys a soil with a higher proportion of clay than most other limestone-based Premiers Crus in Meursault. The name Genevrières derives from the supposed presence there, generations ago, of juniper bushes. (Tasters who claim to detect the faint tang of juniper berries in  Genevrières should seek professional counseling.) By reputation, the Genevrières climat is considered qualitatively second only to Perrières, although many thoughtful gourmands, as well as several notable winemakers, Dominique Lafon and François Mikulski included, express a culinary preference for Les Genevrières. Without doubt, Les Genevrières is paradigmatically Meursault: lime blossom, honey and hazelnut.  The wines are noticeably less steely than Les Perrières, but more exotically spiced, rounder and with greater finesse.

            Among the most exemplary parcels of  Les Genevrières are the two parcels (planted  in 1948 and 1993) of Domaine Franςois Mikulski, aggregating .5 hectares and situated in Genevrières-Dessus;  and the  two parcels belonging to Domaine des Comtes Lafon, totaling .55 hectares. The Lafon parcels are similarly located in Genevrières-Dessus, almost adjacent to Les Perrieres, and face east from slopes with a 15% gradient. The older and larger Lafon parcel was planted in 1946 and is about .37 ha; the younger parcel, at around .18 ha, was planted in 1993.

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One of the most durable images of the Burgundian is the laconic peasant, face deeply etched and hands callused by years of exposure to the elements, beret akimbo, and a Gauloise à la Bogart. His education has been assimilated from generations of winemakers, and his worldview has remained congruent with the medieval Duchy of Burgundy. As compelling and charming as this iconic image may be, the reality is often strikingly different.    

The Domaine de l’Arlot, which is financed and controlled by the international financial services company AXA, stands as testimony that world class Burgundy does not invariably require the  

Domaine de l'Arlot

enduring stewardship of a single family, toiling in the vineyards and cuverie with techniques passed on from father to son. A well-advised and skillfully-led corporation can in fact bring in a professional overseer and produce superb Pinot Noir that faithfully manifests its terroir.    

The Domaine surrounds a château constructed in the 17th century from hewn Premeaux limestone. With adjoining vineyards and gardens, the château was  acquired and restored by Jean-Charles Viénot in the late 17th Century. His son François Viénot erected a surrounding stone wall, adopted the name of the l’Arlot stream, and the Clos de l’Arlot  was born. Maison Jules Belin, one of Burgundy’s most prominent 19th century négotiants, acquired the property in 1891, at which time it also bought the Clos-des-Forêts and the Clos de Chapeau. The Maison’s fortunes declined through the twentieth century and the estate fell gradually into disrepair.    

In 1987, the able head of AXA, Claude Bebéar, learned that Clos de l’Arlot and surrounding vineyards were available, and he moved quickly to acquire them. To spearhead the operation of the properties, newly baptized as the Domaine de l’Arlot,   Bebéar selected Jean-Pierre de Smet.    

De Smet was English-born and raised in Nice. Trained as an accountant, he set off as a young man for New Caledonia where he ran a business and    

Founding Winemaker, Jean-Pierre de Smet

 indulged his love for sailing. On a whim which was to change his life, Jean-Pierre spent 1977 in Burgundy with his friend Jacques Seysses at Domaine Dujac. He thereafter trained at the University of Dijon and continued assisting Seysses at Dujac for nearly a decade until, in 1987, the call came from another friend, Claude Bebéar.    

The estate acquired from Maison Belin consisted of 13 hectares, 7.1 hectares of the monopole Premier Cru Clos des Forêts-Saint-Georges, all planted in Pinot Noir; 4 hectares of the monopole Premier Cru Clos de l’Arlot, planted half with Pinot Noir and less than half with Chardonnay (the remaining fraction is planted with Pinot Beurot); and 1.8 hectares of Côte-de-Nuits Villages, Clos du Chapeau. AXA and De Smet have since added a couple of other small parcels, 25 ares of Grand Cru Romanée-St-Vivant and 85 ares of Premier Cru Vosne-Romanée, Les Suchots.    

Jean-Pierre subsequently brought in Lise Judet as co-gerante and Oliver Leriche as his technical director to supervise the making of the wine. The new regime transformed the viticulture from prevailing commercial practices to a more organic approach. They ceased using herbicides in favor of manual ploughing, and replaced insecticides with natural treatments. At present, viticulture is completely organic with a strong biodynamic orientation.    

Yields of the Pinot Noir are kept low, with a yield of 35 hl/ha on average, through a system of severe pruning as well as by using only compost to fertilize. At harvest, the grapes are handpicked into small baskets and then rigorously sorted in the vineyards to remove any imperfect bunches. The whole bunches are then rushed to the cuverie where, after another triage and little or no de-stemming, the bunches are vatted and allowed to cool gently.  The free run juice is allowed to begin fermenting with the resultant carbon dioxide retarding oxidation of the whole grapes, which themselves macerate slowly for 2-3 days before natural fermentation begins. According to    

Olivier Leriche

Leriche, this process breaks down the grapes, and helps extract a maximum of color, complexity and aroma. Fermentation temperatures are naturally maintained below 32° C.    

The cuvaison lasts between two and three weeks. This wine is then racked and some press wine may be added if needed for structure. After a one day débourbage, the wine is moved into oak casks (40% new for the Premier Cru), where it undergoes malo and rests on its lees in a cool cellar for 15-18 months. Generally, the wine is racked only twice before it is lightly fined (with egg whites) and bottled without filtration.    

The white wine, which comes from a section of the Clos de l’Arlot, is made mostly from old vine Chardonnay but also includes some rare Pinot Beurot. White wine in the Côte de Nuits is unusual, even more so when it comes from a Premier Cru vineyard. As with the Pinot Noir, the white grapes are fermented in whole clusters. After pressing, the must is cooled and, following débourbage, is racked into a tank (to retard oxidation) until fermentation begins. It is then placed into 25% new oak where it rests for about a year. Before bottling, it is lightly fined and filtered.

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Pommard is a wine appellation that produces excellent red Burgundy. Wine so labeled must come from Pinot Noir vines planted in the commune of Pommard situated in the Côte-de-Beaune region of the Cote d’Or department of Burgundy in eastern France.    

South of Beaune are found the two communes, Pommard and Volnay, whose wines (apart from the Grands Crus of Corton) comprise the finest red wines of the Côte-de-Beaune.  The name Pommard, by tradition, derives from Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees and orchards, to whom early Gauls dedicated a temple on the site. This is the same goddess Pomona who    

The goddess Pomona

appears in full golden mufti on the Great Seal of the City of Los Angeles and whose bare pulchritude is captured by a demure statue now situate in the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.    

The commune of Pommard lies immediately adjacent to Beaune, and begins at the point where the Route forks into the Autun Road (RN 73) and the RN 74. Pommard is generally square-shaped with a center band, running more or less north-south, containing the 24 Premier Cru parcels totalling 125.19 hectares,  and 211.63 hectares of village-level Pommard. Total production averages around 13,532 hectoliters of wine per year, entirely red. There are presently no Grands Crus although Rugiens-Bas is expected to be promoted and Clos des Epeneaux would also be deserving.    

The prime vineyards in Pommard are generally thought to be located either on the Beaune side, where are found Les Pézerolles and Les Epenots; or to the south of the village, notably Rugiens-Bas. Interestingly, these two sections produce wines of distinct contrast. The stonier, better-drained soils of Les Pézerolles and Les Epenots produced finer, more delicate wines, whereas the iron-rich, clay soil of Rugiens-Bas produces more powerful and richer wines.    


The vineyards of Pommard generally face south and southeast. The soil is somewhat varied in the commune, although there prevails generally a subsoil base Argovian limestone with an admixture of ferrous clay and marl. The thinner and rockier soils are found, not surprisingly, on the slopes above the city toward Beaune; and these give way to increasingly ferrous clay soils as the slope continues downward toward Volnay. Only in the area above the Epenots wall, along the Autun Road, is there much calcareous debris and pebbles.    

Among the finest producers of Pommard are Domaine de Montille and Comte Armand (Clos des Epeneaux).

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Gevrey-Chambertin is a wine appellation that includes some of the finest and best-known French Burgundy wine. Wine so labeled must come from vines planted in the commune of Gevrey-Chambertin (or the adjoining commune of Brochon with which it is viticulturally joined) situated in the Côte de Nuits region of the Côte-d’Or department in Burgundy in eastern France

Gevrey-Chambertin produces some of the world’s most famous Pinot Noir-based wines. The best examples of Gevrey-Chambertin are rich, deeply-colored and sumptuous. Above all, according to Jancis Robinson, they are “complete” wines. Laying claim to the sobriquet, “King of Wines. Wine of Kings,” Gevrey-Chambertin, according to the poet Gaston Roupnel,  expresses “All that great Burgundy can be.”   Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest (532 hectares; about 2 square miles) commune in the Côte-de-Nuits. It lies just north of Morey-St-Denis along the Beaune-Dijon Highway (RN 74), 31 km from Beaune and  14 km from Dijon. The appellation comprises not only the commune of Gevrey-Chambertin but also 11 climats in neighboring Brochon.  Unusually for Burgundy, there are classified vineyards on both sides of the highway.  All wine from Gevrey-Chambertin is red, derived entirely from Pinot Noir.   

 In 630 A.D., the Duke of Amalgaine donated a 14 hectare vineyard to the Abbey of Bèze, which was (avant-garde) one of the only cloistered orders to house both monks and nuns. The area was recorded in Roman records as “Gabriacus”, Romano-Gallic argot for goat, possibly after an epithet hurled at some of the randier monks by the Abbotess of Bèze. Perhaps because of its libertine ways, the Abbey of Bèze and its vineyards came under the authority, first, of the Benedictines at Cluny and later the Trappists of Cîteaux.   

  As to the name Chambertin, by which name the best wines have long been called, a highly dubious but oft-repeated local legend teaches that a peasant named Bertin planted some vines nearby in a champ (field), conjoining his name and christening the vineyard Champ de Bertin, or Chambertin.  Since the entire wine-producing area was under the firm control of rich and powerful monasteries, who profited handsomely from sales of wine, and since peasants by definition didn’t own land anyway, the most one can do is to smile tolerantly. In 1847, King Louis Philippe, by royal decree, changed the town name from Gevrey to Gevrey-Chambertin.  

Napoleon was particularly partial to the wines of Chambertin and, according to another problematic tradition, drank little else from the signature bottles emblazoned with an “N”. Napoleon even laid in a good stock for his ill-fated journey to Moscow, and then suffered the double indignity of losing the war and having his bottles “liberated” by marauding Cossacks.  

               Gevrey-Chambertin includes 9 grands crus totaling 87.06 hectares: Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Chapelle-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyères-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin and Ruchottes-Chambertin. These vineyards are situated south of the village on a slope with eastern exposure and an altitude of 260-320 meters. The soil is a mixture of clay and gravel, and white marl over a base of limestone.  


               There are 26 premiers crus occupying 85.53 hectares, most notably Le Clos St-Jacques, Lavaux St-Jacques, La Combe aux Moines. Half of the premiers crus are sited around the perimeter of the grands crus.  The other half, generally thought to be better on account of their calcareous clay soils, are found on a steep, southeast-facing slope to the north. The remaining 359.89 hectares, of which 50.59 lie in the adjoining commune of Brochon, produce the village wines of Gevrey-Chambertin. The flatter lands, which abut the highway, show higher concentrations of clay.  

               The finest producers of Gevrey-Chambertin include Armand Rousseau, Denis Bachelet, and the Domaine de la Vougeraie.

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               Volnay is a wine appellation that produces some of the finest red Burgundy .  Wine so labeled must come from vines planted in the commune of Volnay (or a portion of the adjoining commune of Meursault) situated in the Côte de Beaune region of the Côte d’Or department of Burgundy in eastern France.

           Volnay is perhaps the most architecturally aesthetic village in Burgundy. Bordered by Pommard on the northeast, and Meursault to the south, the commune of Volnay lies near the midpoint of the Côte de Beaune. The name Volnay, according to Clive Coates, derives from a Celtic or early Gallic water deity, Volen. The village itself is built around a Romanesque church in the location selected by Hugues IV, Duke of Burgundy. Remnants of the hunting lodge used by the Dukes can be found a short distance from the village. The caves of Domaine Lafarge, which date from the 13th Century, are believed to have been appropriated by the Dukes and incorporated into the Château de Volnay, which was destroyed by fire in 1749.

            Volnay vineyards cover more than 213 ha. on southeasterly-exposed slopes, of which about 115 ha. are occupied by 26 premiers crus, and about 98 ha. are in village level vineyards. In addition, there are six premier cru parcels, totalling 21 ha.,  located at the northern extremity of Meursault, but entitled to Volnay appellation. Only red wines are permitted and there are no grands crus.

            Volnay is unique in that its best vineyards lie below the town (toward RN 74) and not above it, as all other communes of the Cote d’Or. The premier cru vineyards lie at mid-slope, below the town, while the lesser village vineyards are either on higher, more exposed hills above the town, or on lower and flatter terrain nearer RN 74.

            Some of the best vineyard sites are generally thought to be those immediately adjacent to the town of Volnay: Clos des Ducs, Bousse d’Or, Le Village (which includes several monopoles including Bousse d’Or and Clos du Chateau des Ducs)  Carelle-sous-la-Chapelle and Taillepieds. This soil is hard marl with a high percentage of limestone. Another prime cluster of premier cru vineyards is found south of the village toward Meursault: Champans and Caillerets among them. Here the slopes are steeper, with more eroded soils exposing Bathonian limestone, and creating stonier soils. Another distinct section lies northeast of the village toward Pommard. Here the stony soils are predominantly friable schiste. Immediately above the Autun Road (RN 73) is another soil type, the pure limestone of Clos des Chênes. The final major section is the grouping of premier cru vineyards within Meursault, notably the Premier Cru Santenots-du-Milieu. Here the soils exhibit more limestone, but offer a variety of topography and soil type.

            Volnay has long been celebrated for its elegance and grace. Characterized by seductively fragrant bouquets, the wines display intense but delicate pinot noir flavors. Volnay is often and justifiably described as  “feminine” on account of its charm and refinement.

            The “Big Three” domaines producing fine Volnay are generally conceded to be Michel LafargeDomaine de Montille and Marquis d’Angerville.

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            Vosne-Romanée is a French wine appellation that produces some of the finest red Burgundy . Wine so labeled must come from vines planted in the commune of Vosne-Romanée (or the adjoining commune of Flagey-Echézeaux with which it is viticulturally joined) situated in the Côte de Nuits region of the Côte-d’Or department in Burgundy in eastern France.

Just as Burgundy supplies the benchmark against which all other Pinot Noir is judged, so does the commune of Vosne-Romanée manifest the apotheosis of Burgundy. While there are of course great vineyards found in other communes (one need only mention Musigny to make this point), Vosne-Romanée consistently provide the greatest proportion of the finest red Burgundy.

            According to tradition, local Gauls drafted by Caesar into the Roman army were later rewarded with the grant of vineyards in the area, known accordingly as “Romanée”. The village of Vosne, known as early as 639 A.D. as “Vaona,” was apparently derived from a latin word for forest. By the 9th century, much of Vosne belonged to a Cluniac priory named in honor of St. Vivant. By the 13th century, however, the vineyards came to be controlled by the Abbot of Cîteaux. In fact, the last Abbot of Cîteaux died in Vosne in 1797.

            The twinned communes of Vosne-Romanée and Flagey-Echézeaux are located east of the Route National (“RN”) 74, between Vougeot to the north and Nuits-Saint-Georges to the south. Out of a total 0f 230.06 hectares of vines in both communes, there are 74.68 hectares of Grands Crus: La Romanée-Conti (1.82 hectares), La Romanée (.85 hectare), La Tâche (6.10 hectares), Grands Echézeaux (9.14 hectares), La Grande Rue (1.65 hectares), Romanée St-Vivant (9.44 hectares) , Richebourg (8 hectares) , and Echézeaux (37.69 hectares).  There are also  56.61 of Premier Cru vineyards, including Les Beaux Monts (11.39 hectares), Aux Brûlées (4.53 hectares), Les Chaumes (6.46 hectares), Clos des Réas (2.12 hectares), La Croix Rameau (.60 hectare) Cros Parentoux (1.01 hectares), Au dessus des Malconsorts (1.08 hectares), Les Gaudichots (1.03 hectares),  Aux Malconsorts (5.86 hectares) , En Orveaux (1.79 hectares), Les Petits Monts (3.67 hectares),  Aux Reignots ((1.62 hectares), Les Rouges (2.62 hectares), and Les Suchots  (13.08 hectares).   There are also 98.77 hectares of village-level Vosne-Romanée

            The village-level vineyards are mainly found east of the town along the Route Nationale, although there are also a few uphill on the western boundary of the commune. The grands crus and premiers crus are situated in a central belt extending the length of the commune, west of the village. The soil is comprised mostly of clay-limestone mixture over a limestone base; the surface is covered with loose pebbles and decomposed limestone.  The exposition is east and southeast, at an elevation of between 220m and 340m.

            There are many fine producers in the appellation, but the most celebrated and expensive continues to be the historic Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Although high  reputations are also still enjoyed by Domaines Leroy, Meo-Camuzet, and Jean Grivot, the consensus of critics today (Clive Coates, Allen Meadows, John Gilman, Jancis Robinson) seems to accord highest praise to Comte Liger-Belair and Sylvain Cathiard. Other noteworthy vignerons include Anne Gros and Gerard Mugneret.

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The careers that young children envision for themselves often more closely reflect their cultural milieu than any noteworthy aptitude. Once upon a time in America’s innocence, nearly every eight-year old boy (regardless of hand-eye coordination) dreamed of playing major league baseball. By the 1960’s, with the Space Race in full throttle, the prevailing boyhood ambition – even for those who got queasy in elevators — was to be an astronaut.  What, then, does it say about a community when an eight-year old aristocrat, scion of a celebrated French military family, announces to his father that he plans to become a winemaker?      

Unlike millions of baseball players and astronauts manqués, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair completed the path to his youthful dream. Fortunately for the worldwide community of wine lovers, Louis-Michel possessed at once the artistic talent, scientific ability, and intellectual determination to realize his ambition. The consensus of wine critics is that he today, from his base in Vosne-Romanée,  produces some of finest expressions of Pinot Noir.      

Gen. Louis Liger-Belair

In pursuit of his dream, Louis-Michel benefited from the patrimony of the Château de Vosne-Romanée, and adjoining vineyards, which descended from his lineal forbearer and Napoleonic general, Louis Liger-Belair. In fact, by mid-nineteenth century, the Liger-Belair vineyards comprised over 60 hectares, including the entirety of La Romanée, La Tâche, and La Grande Rue;  the preponderence of Malconsorts;  one-third of Clos de Vougeot, significant holdings of Chambertin, Richebourg and Echezaux, as well as parcels of Les Chaumes, Les Reignots, Les Brulées, Les Suchots ; Les Saint Georges and Les Vaucrains. Nevertheless, his ancestors had merely been the patron, presiding over Domaine. Louis-Michel would become the first of his family actually to serve as viticulturalist and winemaker.      

When Louis-Michel had first announced his career goal to his father Henri, a distinguished general officer, the astonished general had preconditioned his paternal consent on prior completion of engineering studies. In addition, Henri called upon his good friend, the legendary Henri Jayer, to tutor Louis-Michel in some of the arts of winemaking.     

Domaine Liger-Belair is presently composed of twelve appellations, comprising 5.53 hectares,  situated in the communes of Vosne-Romanée, Flagey-Echézeaux, and Nuits-St-Georges. These include the monopole Grand Cru La Romanée (.84 ha.), and a parcel of Grand Cru Echézeaux (.6 ha.); a most impressive lineup of Vosne-Romanée, Premiers Crus — Aux Reignots (.75 ha), Les Suchots (.22 ha) ,  Aux Brûlees (.12 ha) ,  Les Petits Monts (.13 ha), Les Chaumes (.12 ha); 3 parcels of village-level Vosne-Romanée, totaling 2.26 hectares, including the monopole lieu-dit Clos du Château  (.83 ha.) , the lieu-dit La Colombière (.78 ha.), and a third village-leval parcel of .65 hectares ; together with two parcels of Nuits-St-Georges, the one a parcel of Premier Cru Les Cras  (.37 ha.) and the other a parcel of the lieu-dit Les Lavières (.13 ha.).     

Winemaker Louis-Michel Liger-Belair

 Louis-Michel is an adherent of lutte raisonnée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist. Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced management of the vineyard, with primary focus on the microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée allow for the  possibility of limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed.     

A regimen of organic farming and minimal intervention is rigorously followed at the Domaine In order to promote the microbiological life of the soil, herbicides are banned and the soil is turned with a horse-drawn plough. The rationale is that a horse has a much lesser impact on the soil than would a tractor. The hooves compact the soil intermittently and randomly whereas a tractor is continuous and invariable in its tracks.    

When full ripeness has reached, the Domaine harvests the grapes as quickly as possible to assure freshness and vibrancy. In order to avoid crushing the bunches, the grapes are placed into small (14 kilo) perforated cases and rushed to the winery.      

Once the grapes make it to the sorting table at the cuverie, the work is essentially complete. To adopt a musical metaphor of the kind much favored by Louis-Michel, once the grapes are placed on the sorting table, the score is final and complete. It remains to the instrumentalist only to interpret faithfully (and artistically) the music that has been written.      

The grapes are entirely destemmed and conveyed uncrushed to the fermenting vat by belt. Once in the vat, the grapes are cooled to a fifteen degrees C°; at which temperature they remain for about a week. Fermentation then begins naturally with indigenous yeasts.      

Fermentation typically lasts 10-12 days, during which time the carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of fermentations, carries solids to the surface where they combine with the skins to form a “cap”. Inasmuch as many subtle flavors as well as color compounds are found in this cap, Louis-Michel coaxes these qualities out of the cap through pigéage (pushing the floating cap back down into the fermenting wine) and remontage (pulling the wine from the bottom of the vat and pumping over the cap).      

The grapes are then lightly pressed. The free run juice and the press wine are blended and left in vats for about ten days to settle the lees. The suspended solids fall to the bottom of the vats, and the clarified wine is a transferred by gravity into new oak barrels. After malolactic fermentation and aging for 12-15 months, the wine is racked into tank where it rests for an additional 2-3 months. The wine is bottled by gravity without pumping, and without fining or filtration.

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