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Posts Tagged ‘Georges de Vogue’

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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Musigny is a Grand Cru vineyard and appellation situated in the commune of Chambolle-Musigny in the Côte de Nuits sector of  Burgundy.  The vineyard lies to the south of the village itself, and borders the Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot in the southeast,  the Grand Cru Échezeaux in the south, and  the Premier Cru Les Amoureuses in the northeast.  The vineyard aggregates a modest 10.86 hectares and lies on a  slope ranging from an 8% to a 14% grade, with  elevations between 260 meters and 280 meters.  The shallow brown topsoil, which averages only 20cm-30cm in depth, is comprised of limestone pebbles and red clay over a limestone base. Similar to Les Bonnes Mares, Musigny is bifurcated by a path into a northern section, Grand Musigny, and a southern section, Les Petits Musignys, which is a monopole of the Domaine Georges de Vogüé. Grand Musigny, which faces southeast, is mostly limestone with some clay. The southern section, Les Petits Musignys,  faces south and is comprised of a higher proportion of clay. Musigny produces exclusively Pinot Noir-based red Burgundy, except for a tiny parcel of  Les Petits Musignys from which Vogüé produces a precious white wine from Chardonnay, the only one in the Côte de Nuits entitled to be labelled as Grand Cru.

It is beyond dispute that Le Musigny is one of the greatest vineyards in the world. The name derives from a Gallo-Roman settlement, Musinus, which was itself likely named after a once important but now forgotten Roman. The climat was cultivated at least by the 8th century. Certainly, by the time that the Abbey of Cîteaux founded the Clos de Vougeot in 1110, the vineyard was already producing legendary wine.

Clive Coates has written that Musigny produces red wine that “can be quite simply the most delicious to be found in Burgundy…. With … its incomparable breed, depth, originality and purity on the finish, a great Musigny is heaven in a glass.”  Perhaps more poetically, the Burgundian Gaston Roupnel wrote that “Le Musigny à l’odeur d’un jardin sous la rosée, … de la rose et de la violette à aurore.”  [“Musigny has the scent of a garden in the morning dew of the rose and violet dawn.”]

Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé owns 7.12 hectares of Musigny, almost 65.6%, including the entirety of Les Petits Musignys. The Vogüé wines set the standard of excellence, although Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier (with 1.13 hectares) produces equally-inspired and distinctive Musigny. Equally superb examples of Musigny,  each with its own hallmark, come from tiny parcels owned by Domaine de la Vougeraie (.21 hectares), Domaine Leroy (.27 hectares), and Domaine Georges Roumier (.10 hectares).

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Bonnes Mares is a 15-hectare Grand Cru climat that straddles the border of Chambolle-Musigny (where 13.5 ha are located ) and Morey-St-Denis (the remaining 1.5 ha). The vineyard is situated north of the village of Chambolle-Musigny, and borders the Route des Grands Crus in the east and Clos de Tart in the north. The east-facing vineyard lies on a very gentle slope that varies only between 265 and 300 meters in elevation. Bonnes Mares is bifurcated geologically, with the northern half (the Morey side) – called terres rouges — comprised of heavier soil with a larger component of clay; and the southern half – called terres blanches — comprised of lighter soil, with a greater concentration of rocks and limestone, and containing an abundance of fossilized seashells. The wines coming from the two sections differ considerably, with terres rouges producing more robust and sturdy wines, while the terres blanches wines more delicate  and elegant.  In either case, as Clive Coates has written, the wines are hardly Chambolle-Musigny. Instead Bonnes-Mares is sui generis: wine that is fully-textured, deep, tannic and rich.

The name Bonnes-Mares likely derives from a cloistered order of Cistercian nuns (the good mothers) that lived nearby. A more charming etymology suggests that the name derives from a now-lost bas relief unearthed that portrayed a trinity of Roman goddesses of the harvest whose images protected the vineyard.

Distinguished proprietors of the vineyard include Comte Georges de Vogüé, J-F. Mugnier, Vougeraie, and Georges Roumier.

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Chambolle-Musigny

 

 Chambolle-Musigny is a wine appellation that includes some of the finest French Burgundy wine. Wine so labeled must come from vines planted in the commune of Chambolle-Musigny, which is situated in the Côte de Nuits region of the Côte-d’Or department in Burgundy in eastern France.

Chambolle-Musigny is a generally square-shaped commune lying  between Vougeot to the north and Morey-Saint-Denis to the south. The Grône River, flowing southeasterly, bisects the commune as it runs from the heights above the village through a natural valley (“combe”) toward the RN 74. Two slopes  rise from the river valley at either end of the commune. The name “Chambolle” derives from the Latin campus ebulliens, or boiling field (champ bouillant), which was apparently descriptive of the Grône when swollen and overflowing its banks into the adjoining fields after a rainstorm.

The commune does nor appear to have been settled in antiquity and first emerges in the historical records around 1110 as “Cambolla,” a vineyard area run by the ubiquitous monks of Citeaux. From the early 14th century until the early 16th century, Chambolle was a vicarage of Gilly-les-Citeaux.

The vineyards of Chambolle-Musigny occupy 180.31 ha, of which 94.69 produce village-level Chambolle. There are 61.36 ha  of premier cru Chambolle divided among 24 different climats, although only a few of these are well known. The best known is Les Amoureuses, which is essentially a Grand Cru in all but name. The best of the rest include Les Charmes, Les Fuées and Les Cras. There are 24.24 ha in Chambolle that contribute to the commune’s two Grands Crus, Musigny and Bonnes Mares. Virtually the entire production of the commune is red. Only one tiny and rare cuvée of white, Le Musigny blanc from Comte Georges de Vogüé.

Chambolle-Musigny is unique in the Côte de Nuits for the chalky composition of its soils (unlike the clay soils prevalent elsewhere). The thin, calcareous layer clings to a hard rocky soil beneath, which stresses the vines and sharply restricts their yield.  These soils are largely responsible for Chambolle-Musigny’s exceptional delicacy and finesse.  

The most respected sources of fine Chambolle-Musigny include Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, Domaine J-F. Mugnier, and Domaine Georges Roumier.

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