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Volnay Apex: 1992-2020 Marquis D'Angerville
Volnay and its high limestone content sit in rare company with Chambolle-Musigny as one of Burgundy's most ethereal and delicate examples of Pinot Noir. While there may be no Grand Crus in the village, savvy collectors know these top Premier Crus transform and go the long haul, as nearly anything from the Côte de Nuits.
D'Angerville, as well as De Montille, is at the apex of what's been proven possible here in Volnay for decades. Pronounced structure and tightly-coiled mineral tension make these perfect wines to stash in the cellar, though they now have a more open-knit style than has been standard in the past.
D'Angerville's protocol of excluding punch-downs and relying solely on pump-overs for fermentation gives these wines a plush and soft-fruited personality that meshes brilliantly with the chalky terroir of Volnay. This combo brings enough slight austerity to make these delicious and supremely thought-provoking.
A note from Wine Advocate's William Kelley on the 2020 vintage: "The vintage that on paper was the most extreme of the 2020-2019-2018 trio has in fact delivered the most fine-boned, pretty wines of them all. Perfumed, vibrant and beautifully balanced, this is a compellingly delicate, precise portfolio that comes warmly recommended."
Gevrey-Chambertin Sleeper: Domaine Trapet
Domaine Trapet is one of Burgundy's most historically significant producers, but now, with their seventh generation at helm, it seems like they're on a roll lately. Gevrey-Chambertin wines are typically known for their powerful construction and dark earth, but Trapet's Pinot Noirs are light on their feet, still finishing with Gevrey's alluring brown spices.
The style here emphasizes aromatic clarity and refined tannins, with wild red berries saturating the palate, and a persistent mineral drive. As much as the whole-cluster approach gives way to bursting fruit on the attack, the palate is lean and chiseled. Stems range from 20% to 50% from Village to Grand Crus. In all, wherever you taste in the hierarchy of cuvées, Trapet is among the greatest producers in the Côte de Nuits. The only weakness is the exceedingly limited amount that comes to California!
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Designations be Damned: Sylvain Pataille Marsannay
Sylvain Pataille is famous for three things: Producing some of the most texturally seamless and balanced wines in the Côte de Nuits, his oenologist consulting for over 15 domaines, and having really awesome hair. My visit to the domaine was a terroir masterclass, as we tasted over 20 wines from Marsannay.
Marsannay and Pataille are a match made in heaven. Both have seemingly flown under the radar for far too long. Search through any savvy Burgundy collector's cellar, and next to the Rousseau and Dujac, you're sure to find a host of Pataille's Marsannay. This village located above Gevrey Chambertin has a complicated history, though. Mainly planted with Gamay at the time of classifications, no vineyards could receive a status higher than villages.
Today, Clos du Roy would undoubtedly be a Premier Cru, and it's a steal within the hierarchy of Burgundy's elite bottlings. There's never any shyness here, always finding that elusive mix between power, elegance, and silken tannins without overt new oak influence. Pataille's wines are fabulous from top to bottom, but Clos du Roy demands the greatest admiration.
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Quiet Confidence: 2018 Duroché Gevrey Chambertin
I didn't need validation on the quality of Domaine Duroché, but a tasting in Gevrey Chambertin with Pierre further drove the point home. Duroché's wines are models for the transparency and fine tannins that Gevrey is capable of, with an inherent structure and dark earth signature synonymous with the village.
Duroché wines have a hallmark featherweight texture and racy minerality that are impressively persistent. The Premier and Grand Crus from Duroché are exhilarating, but it's the Gevrey Chambertin lieu-dit that shouldn't be overlooked in this lineup. Le Clos is a minuscule parcel made of less than half a hectare. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed and raised in 15 to 20% new oak, without fining or filtering. It's a benchmark villages level bottling that calls to mind iconic yet understated examples from Mugnier and D'Angerville.
Pierre Duroché is the 5th generation to oversee his family's eight-hectare estate, assisting his father in 2003 and taking full control of operations in 2009. Pierre's home village is often characterized by its dark earth notes and formidable structure; this often leads winemakers to implement more new oak and push for maximum extraction and flash, but Pierre takes his cues from an entirely different playbook. Whether you're a seasoned Burgundy collector or interested in finding under-the-radar superstars, these are not to be missed!
Sub-$50 Pinot Noir Thriller
In recent years of La Paulée tastings, one domaine has particularly dominated the overachiever category, and pulling off a sub-$50 attention grabber in a room filled with the most expensive and adored wines of Burgundy is no easy feat.
The tale of magic that Didier Fornerol puts in bottle cannot be told without Burgundy legend Jean-Pierre de Smet. Fornerol worked alongside de Smet at his Domaine de l'Arlot from 1982 until 1998, then leaving to take over his own family's domaine.
De Smet and l'Arlot's famed whole cluster regimen and translucent, traditional style of Pinot Noir is on full display in Didier's 2018 Côte de Nuits-Villages. Six hectares in Corgoloin (between Ladoix and Nuits-Saint-Georges) comprise the vines of the domaine—right in the same relative zone that put l'Arlot on the map with their NSG 1er Crus Clos des Forets and Clos de l'Arlot.
Finding wines that overdeliver for their price point in Burgundy always marks a special day. Considering the pedigree here, the style closely tied to l'Arlot's golden era under Jean-Pierre de Smet, this small-production Pinot Noir deserves immediate attention.