Tasting highlights from a trip to Burgundy
Author: David Jones
We started well with appointments to taste with two of Burgundy’s most talented young winemakers: Benjamin Leroux and David Croix, who did part of his training under Ben’s tutelage. David has been manager and winemaker at the large négociant Camille Giroud since 2002, and has recently started to make wines under his own name at Domaine des Croix.
Flying Winemakers may have been in vogue in recent years, but David, rather more prosaically, has been called the Cycling Winemaker: he spends much of his time pedaling between his two cellars at Camille Giroud and Domaine des Croix, which are just down the road from each other. We began at Domaine des Croix: it was enjoyable and educational to taste through David’s range of three Beaune 1er Crus. For me, the Grѐves stood out: it has delicious dark, rich fruit and impressive depth and structure. In tasting his two superb Cortons (Les Grѐves and La Vigne Au Saint), we discovered why David is becoming especially well known for his skill with his vineyards in this Grand Cru.
Then it was off to the atmospheric, old cellars of Camille Giroud. Here, David is able to match attractive, voluptuous fruit and texture with a precise and focused expression of terroir. The range of Grands Crus offer outstanding value, however the team was also impressed by the qualities of two of David’s wines from lesser-known appellations. His Maranges 1er Cru comes from very old vines and is a serious Burgundy; the Santenay Clos Rousseau 1er Cru is a lovely wine with crisp, cherry fruit and impressive energy. My real discovery here was David’s new Volnay Santenots: the 2012 is the first vintage, and it is a beauty.
As well as being a hugely talented winemaker, Ben is also highly articulate and insightful. Since starting his own business in 2007, he has achieved a quality equal to the finest Domaines, despite not owning most of the vineyards from which he gets his fruit. Among other wines, we enjoyed his vibrant, perfumed village Puligny-Montrachet; his concentrated and complex Meursault Porusots from 80-year-old vines and his Nuits St. Georges Aux Allots, its silky sensuality perfectly expressing its location next to Vosne Romanée.
Ben recounted a particularly intriguing story about the negotiation needed to source the grapes for his Clos Vougeot Le Petit Maupertuis: the owner was initially unwilling to follow Ben’s requirements for harvest, but was eventually won round. And with what results: the 60-year-old vines, in one of the best locations within the Clos, just under Grands Echézeaux, produce just one 300-litre barrel. We tried a sample of 2013 and I cannot remember tasting a finer young Clos Vougeot.
Domaine de la Vougeraie
Pierre Vincent took over as the winemaker here in 2006. He runs the Domaine biodynamically, and we had the chance to walk in the small garden where Pierre grows the plants and herbs necessary for the various biodynamic preparations used in the vineyards.
The stacks of oak barrel staves outside the back door of the winery are further evidence of Pierre’s attention to detail: he buys and dries his own. This level of care and consideration shows in the delicate but perfectly focused style of his wines. We got to try three of my favourite of his reds from the 2013 vintage – the Gevrey-Chambertin Les Evocelles, Nuits-St Georges Les Damodes, and the pick of our tasting for me, the Clos Vougeot which filled the mouth with pure, perfumed fruit and velvety structure.
Our visit was rounded off in a most satisfying manner, as we enjoyed a taste of the very exciting recent addition to the Vougeraie collection of wines, a Batard Montrachet Grand Cru. As evidenced by the three barrels we saw in the corner of the cellar, there is not a lot of it to go round sadly, but it is well worth fighting for a case.
We concluded the day with a visit to the small Gevrey estate of Domaine Maume. There have been some recent changes of ownership and management here, so this was an interesting opportunity try the latest 2012 vintage, which includes the Grand Cru Mazis Chambertin. This is everything one would hope for from this famous Grand Cru – dense and powerful, and brimming with dark, savoury fruit. Also very impressive was the deliciously bright and elegant Gevrey-Chambertin Les Etelois. Maume is clearly a name to watch for the future.