As Burgundy is the backbone of our selections, you can imagine the #1 question I receive is on recommendations for under-the-radar and younger producers making waves. There are very few names I put in the same category as Thomas Bouley of Volnay. And concerning one of the Côte de Beaune's legendary vineyards, Bouley's example is the first place I turn.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 & 2017 Jean-Marc Bouley Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes.
2019's October tasting with Thomas Bouley was followed by dinner with a Côte de Nuits producer where the question was posed about favorite under-radar-producers. When I mentioned where I had just finished tasting, the group around the table concurred, as all have been lucky enough to taste these incredibly concentrated and elegant Pinot Noirs from the Côte de Beaune village most associated with finesse. The famed "Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove" descriptor is reserved for these best Volnay sites and only most capable stewards.
Clos des Chênes comes from just a 0.43-hectare parcel of vines planted in 1951 and 1971 near the vineyard's upper portion. Grapes are mostly de-stemmed, fermentation takes place in concrete, and élevage is in 20% new French oak barrels.
Family succession in Burgundy can lead a domaine in many directions. The stewardship of Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley by Thomas starting in 2012 has proven to be a tremendous success. Thomas joined in 2002 to work alongside his father, and throughout that time, the domaine's popularity steadily grew.
Why does Bouley's work stand out from a region filled with young talent? The top wines walk that high-wire balance between sappy, concentrated fruit and deft incorporation of new wood – it's this marriage that really sounded the fireworks upon initially tasting. Perhaps the biggest change since Thomas took over in 2012 has been the stark fine-ness to the wines. It's impossible to miss. Out of his range, Clos des Chênes really captures this quality the very most.
"Readers who have not tasted these wines yet owe it to themselves to do so, as Clerget has all the passion, talent and skill to be one of the next generation of superstar vignerons in Burgundy."- Stephen Tanzer, Vinous, January 2018
Thibaud Clerget's debut release of the 2015 Volnay 1er Cru Monopole Clos du Verseuil was, without question, the single most exhilarating new Burgundy find of the last three vintages.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 3rd release from the talented Thibaud Clerget, the 2017 Volnay 1er Cru Monopole Clos du Verseuil, complete with a steep discount on vertical 3-packs with 2016 & 2015.
Much of what draws me into Burgundy is the history of the delineated parcels and the family domaines who've tended them for generations. Careful study over hundreds of years have keyed vignerons into where good terroir becomes great, and that line is often very fine.
It's unlikely to find a young vigneron's initial vintages met with such warm reception. And even rarer is the fact that the pinnacle of Clerget's Volnay lineup comes from a monopole Premier Cru vineyard that's relatively unknown by name, but in terms of real estate it's the secret crown jewel of the village.
I'm too young to remember when Mugnier took Maréchale back from Faiveley and produced his first vintage, or when Dujac released the inaugural Malconsorts. But, I will always remember where I was the day I sat down and tasted the first release from Thibaud Clerget. The chatter surrounding the reborn Domaine Yvon Clerget has been steadily increasing over the two vintages. And the story of how this rebirth came to fruition is one destined for a Burgundy silver screen.
The Clerget family has been producing wines in Volnay for 28 generations. (Yes, that's a very different sort of family winemaking history). In 2009, Yvon Clerget chose to retire and wanted to hand the reigns off to his son, Thibaud. Although passionate and extremely knowledgeable about wine and the terroir of the domaine, Thibaud had a mature perspective. He knew in order to reach the heights he'd envisioned for the domaine the best course would be to work for other Burgundy elites. So, father and son decided all the fruit from the domaine would be sold off during this phase from 2009 to 2014.
Thibaud worked with the greatest terroir in Burgundy while at Hudelot-Noellat and Henri Boillot, intensely studying vineyard management and vinification practices. He also traveled to work with Pinot Noir-focused wineries in Oregon and New Zealand. In 2015 he returned to produce his first vintage at his home domaine in Volnay. Of his entire Côte de Beaune lineup it's the monopole vineyard (owned exclusively by Clerget) that had me twisting arms to get every possible bottle from the minuscule production of this secret site.
Clos du Verseuil is the .6 hectare monopole that Thibaud Clerget will be celebrated for as the next several decades unfold, of this I'm sure. Situated in between fabled 1ers, Taillepieds & Clos de la Bousse d'Or, this site is all about that thrilling combination of power, elegance, and underlying tension. The same attributes that have placed D'Angerville and Lafarge's Volnay monopoles into the cellars of every serious Burgundy collector. There's no way to mince words, this bottling is Volnay at its best. And today pricing is far below where this will rise.
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. Looking at the duo of D'Angerville and De Montille we're at the apex of what's proven possible here over many decades. While there may be no Grand Crus in the village, savvy collectors know these top Premier Crus transform and go the long haul as well as nearly anything from the Côte de Nuits.
Pronounced structure and tightly-coiled mineral tension make D'Angerville and De Montille perfect domaines to stash in the cellar, yet each has a more open-knit style than has been standard in the past. Today's list covers 2016 through 1985.
D'Angerville's protocol on excluding punchdowns and relying solely on pumpovers for fermentation give 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 both delicious and supremely thought-provoking.
De Montille has always been associated with whole cluster ferments, and, in turn, that elevated exotic spice component and stemmy crunch had made these famous for their fortress-like persona of the Hubert de Montille era. As son Etienne has taken over, these past decades have been moving to round their structure out a bit and provide an earlier drinking window. The style here is not a huge shift from one generation to the next as much as it is simply keen on allowing wines to offer more joy and expression in the early-going.
The highlight through eight days in Burgundy in July 2018 was undoubtedly visiting for the first time with Frédéric Lafarge in Volnay. The village is synonymous with grace and delicacy, but ardent collectors know in the traditional realm they can be among the most long-lived in Burgundy. The wines of Domaine Michel Lafarge are models for this tightrope act of finesse and tension, and they are among my favorites for this reason precisely.
Today, I'm happy to offer a deep lineup from Domaine Michel Lafarge, highlighted by one of the regions's greatest value Pinot Noir, the Bourgogne Rouge from 2015 & 2014.
The Bourgogne Rouge is sourced from one hectare of 41-52 yr-old vines in the lieu dit, Petit Pré. Within the context of this most humble Burgundy appellation, Lafarge's example is the stuff I simply dream to drink on a nightly basis. It's highlighted by a purity and ethereal lift that's almost never realized at this level in Burgundy.
Domaine Michel Lafarge was founded in the early 1800's, and today is managed by Michel, with his son Frédéric, and granddaughter Clothilde. The trio has seen dramatic trends sweep through Burgundy in their time. During the 1950's, vignerons started incorporating chemicals in the vineyard, but Lafarge never considered it. In the mid to late 80's when the practice of elevated extraction was rampant this domaine continued their own path founded on transparency. And then in 1995, Lafarge was one of the very first to begin biodynamic practices in the vineyard.
Tradition can mean so many things in Burgundy, but the use of hand-destemming and reliance on nearly all older barrels for aging places the domaine in a very specific position.
It may be unfair to jump in categorizing Volnay as feminine and ethereal, leading one to believe the wines lack the rigid structure required for serious aging. Michel Lafarge touched on this really eloquently in his terrific interview with Levi Dalton on I'll Drink to That! Wine Podcast:
"It's difficult to achieve the silkiness in tannins, but in Volnay it's unacceptable to have hardness. It's the silkiness of the tannins that define the overriding definition of Volnay."
Domaine Lafarge holds vineyards primarily in Volnay, with plots in Pommard, Beaune, and Meursault. All wines have a regal frame met with the translucent qualities that put terroir firmly in the crosshairs. Volnay may not have Grand Cru vineyards, but if given the opportunity to drink any Côte de Beaune reds, my first choice is always Volnay.
Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées comes from multiple parcels in the middle of Volnay adjacent to Premier Cru vineyards. 1.25 hectares of 50-yr-old vines. Aged in 7% new wood.
Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Aigrots comes from a 0.88 hectare parcel of vines planted as far back as 1949. Soil here is limestone and clay, but with a mix of gravel and red clay.
Beaune 1er Cru Grèves comes from a 0.38 hectare parcel of vines planted in 1951 on light gravel soils over limestone.
Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets comes from a 0.28 hectare parcel planted in 1957 on red and brown clay soils over limestone. Aged in 15% new wood.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole) comes from a 0.57 hectare parcel planted as far back as 1946 on deep brown clay soils over limestone. This vineyard is owned exclusively by Lafarge and located next to their home garden. Aged in neutral oak.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes comes from a 0.9 hectare parcel planted as far back as 1951 on shallow red clay soils over limestone on the lower portion of the vineyard.
Today, I'm happy to offer the second release of the highly anticipated 2017 white and 2016 Red Burgundy vintages from Pierre Yves Colin-Morey. Pernand Vergelesses, Santenay, Vosne Romanée, as well as a very small allocation of wines from Caroline Morey.
The vintage as a whole is reminiscent of the 2014 whites. If there's an edge to the 2017's it's in their superb balance and harmony at this early stage. All indications from these early bottlings, as well as my experience tasting in barrel, point to a white Burgundy vintage that is destined for greatness.
It will be very exciting to follow the Puligny, Chassagne, and Meursault cuvées arriving later this year, but for now, there's no doubt this second release will bring pleasure right out of the gate!