Published 17th December 2013
Let’s get one fact straight: lower quantity does not necessarily lead to higher quality, but it certainly exacerbates demand. I can confirm however, that as regards the 2012 vintage, quality is also riding high across our portfolio of growers. Aside from looking at the specifics of wines from our growers, it is interesting to consider the rising global demand for Burgundy and the prospect of another short crop in the 2013 vintage.
To say that quantity was severely affected in the Côte de Beaune in the 2012 vintage would be a gross understatement.
In Puligny, Francois Carillon’s Premier Crus lost 50-90 per cent of their yield, mainly due to damaging hailstorms in the summer season. While there may well be a benefit in terms of fruit concentration, small crops bring issues to growers beyond the purely financial. As Olivier Lamy pointed out, the small crop meant that the remaining grapes ripened quickly towards the end of harvest and less attentive growers risked allowing a drop in acidity levels. Because harvest dates varied so significantly from domaine to domaine, there are some plump, rich, low acid whites this vintage.
Olivier’s comments are spot on; his usual frankness in elaborating on the trials and tribulations of the vintage was most welcome. One recurrent word was used, technique (literally meaning ‘technical’), which sums up the demands of the taxing year. Unlike a comparatively unchallenging year – such as 2009 – 2012 really tested the growers and differentiated the experienced from the inexperienced.
According to many growers, the year was one of the most challenging on record, although now with hindsight, 2013 may rank alongside it in that respect. There was some mildew early on and cool weather at flowering led to a delayed start to the growing season. Coulure was an issue, with some grapes failing to develop, and millerandage added to this with ripeness uneven across the bunch.
The news that grabbed the headlines was the large hailstorm on 30th June, which hit the better areas of the Côte de Beaune, especially Puligny-Montrachet. Overall, these difficult conditions meant that quantity was dramatically reduced; with volumes down anywhere up to 90 per cent in the Côte de Beaune, and as much as 30% in the Côte de Nuits.
Growers were relieved to witness fine conditions in both August and September, which were generally warm and sunny. Sebastien Cathiard noted that, while quantity was down, the key turning point in terms of quality was the 10th August, from which point the overall clement conditions led to the growing expectation of good to excellent wines. Very small berries gave rise to an excellent concentration of tannins alongside the ripeness derived from the warm weather. This was coupled with good acidity. Domaine De Montille often provides a useful overview of vintage conditions given their extensive holdings up and down the Côte. They echoed many of the points we had heard elsewhere, although winemaker Brian Sieve reported that their wines were approaching the same analysis as 2009, but with a slightly lower pH level. A low pH is in line with the palate’s perception of higher acidity, and, in 2012, there is a fresher aspect to the wines despite the evident richness and substance to the fruit.
This is a fascinating combination of elements and will certainly bode well for the evolution of the wines in bottle. 2012 reds should prove notably age-worthy; they possess admirable ripeness of fruit but demonstrate that linear aspect that carries flavour long on the palate. These wines have a sense of energy, which is perhaps a word that is danger of being over-utilised this year, but the combination between fruit and acidity is a winning formula in 2012. The whites vary more as mentioned above, largely on account of harvest date. The best have good focus and drive, and an added note of concentration and persistence. Perhaps they are not as tantalisingly or overtly acid-backed as the 2010s but they offer good balance and a wealth of ripe fruit to the fore; the best will stand up to comparison with those of any recent vintage.
It is apparent that 2012 was a vintage of two halves; the first half of the year gave rise to plenty of concern and necessitated considerable work on the part of the grower, while the latter conditions were encouraging and allowed harvest to take place in largely fine conditions. In essence, the first part of the year dictates quantity, the latter quality. The relief at harvest was palpable as the only thing worse than a small crop is a small crop of low quality wines. It is an unkind twist of fate that in 2013 growers have encountered even greater difficulties and the vintage may prove to be even shorter. The result is less wine in growers’ cellars and less wine for growers to sell. Such fluctuations in production volume impact cash flow and, in reality, few growers feel in a position to take out agricultural insurance policies to protect them against such volatility.
The saving grace for growers is that demand for top-end Burgundy is not showing any signs of wavering. Prices released thus far, have edged ahead, or stepped ahead, in some instances as growers seek to balance the books. Patrick Javillier commented that, while his crop fell by 50% in 2012, he could not simply double his prices, although he will be obliged to increase them. It is a balancing act and many growers are conscious of the challenge to retain loyal clients in tricky market conditions. While the drop in volume was less exaggerated for the reds in 2012, in 2013, the reds of the Côte de Nuits suffered dramatically. With some record low harvests on the cards, prices will rise in 2012 to mitigate likely price increases in a lesser vintage next year. In summary, this is a year that has challenged growers, not just in the practical application of their skills, but also in terms of their business planning. The 2012 vintage is all about high quality, low volume and a whole load of conundrums.
Simon Larkin, MW
NB: In light of the reduced volume, and coupled with the high quality, we may be obliged to allocate sought-after stocks. In such instances we will do our best to honour previous buyers but will certainly favour those clients who buy from across our offer. In such circumstances we will look to confirm your order as soon as possible.
Domaine Patrick Javillier
There are few winemakers in Burgundy producing better regional or village wines than Patrick Javillier, who took over the domaine from his father in 1974, giving up his career as an electrical engineer. The vineyards where comprised just three hectares, of which two were village Meursault and the third was given over to the Aligoté variety. There are now ten hectares, stretched over 14 separate appellations. However, the core of Domaine Javillier will always be in Meursault, where it has six different plots of village-level vineyard. Patrick vinifies each parcel separately and then ages the wines in barrel as appropriate, before assembling the final blend or cuvée. The result is impeccable quality, with modest pricing given how highly rated his vineyards and wines are.
Domaine Patrick Javillier, Bourgogne Blanc, Cuvée Oligocène 2012
Canny Burgundy buyers have long bought this Bourgogne Blanc on the grounds of its excellent value. Tasted blind, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a good Meursault Villages AOC; indeed the vineyards straddle both Meursault and the humbler Bourgogne AOC classification. The 2012 is no exception. The nose was less open than when we tasted the 2011 from barrel, but the palate is denser and richer, backed up by firm acidity, suggesting that it will drink later than the previous vintage. Textbook citrus fruits and white flower fragrance of excellent white Côte de Beaune. Drink 2014-2016
Domaine Patrick Javillier, Meursault, Les Tillets 2012
Often mistaken for Premier Cru, this twelve hectare vineyard sits at the top of the Meursault slope, a little cooler than some beneath it but giving good structure and ageability, particularly in years such as 2012 where yields were controlled. Again, the nose was less open than the 2011 at this stage, but the palate revealed the hallmark concentration of 2012, with grapefruit, a hint of honey, and lemon acidity giving freshness and balance. The small percentage of new oak gives the wine backbone and a hint of almond complexity, all in all making this a compelling, well-rounded wine that will repay the buyer over the mid-term. Drink 2015-2020
Domaine Patrick Javillier, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2012
From the Javilliers’ 0.17 hectare vineyard on this south-facing Grand Cru site, this is a powerful, structured style for this wine, taut and with great depth of fruit to balance it. Ripe citrus and apple fruit characters are matched by lively acidity and a full, smooth-textured palate. Hazelnut and almond notes of new French oak barrels will mesh well over time. This is less explosive in aroma than some of the very rich vintages such as 2009, but shows less austerity than 2008 or 2010 making it a mid-term wine for ageing over the next 9 or 10 years. Drink 2017-2023
Domaine François Carillon
With each new year the wines of François Carillon seem to become better and better, making it even more of a pleasure to be one of his key clients. Other than naturally short vintages in 2012 and 2013, the other major concern for the domaine is growing demand, which has soared as word has got around about the ‘new’ generation, and the very high quality of Francois’ wines. On our last visit, he was juggling the hunger for volume in existing markets and a waiting list of several new clients from as far away as South Korea.
The domaine, which has been in the family for generations, most recently as Domaine Louis Carillon, is now divided between François and Jacques with the brothers having now completed three vintages under their own names. Domaine François Carillon now has 11 hectares of vineyard. Five belonged to his father; six further hectares have been gradually integrated in to the domaine from vineyards that François worked over a number of years. Since the creation of the new domaine, François continues to work with vineyard owners and hopes to increase the quantity of Domaine wine available in the future. His sites, both owned and managed, include prime Premier Cru as well as some exceptionally good value Bourgogne Blanc plots near to the Château de Puligny. François’ wines stand out for their terroir-derived definition; poise, elegance and vigour characterise all of his wines, with the naturally high quality of Puligny-Montrachet fruit allowed to shine through. We are delighted to continue working with him directly as he builds his own identity while also enhancing the already iconic status of his family’s name.
Domaine François Carillon, Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012
Considerably more powerful than the 2011 vintage, this is an expressive, full style of Chardonnay that punches well above its weight and, like Patrick Javillier’s Oligocene, raises the bar for Bourgogne Blanc due to the inherent quality of the vineyard sites. It is blended from four different parcels across Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet. A rich, fruit-forward style that fills the palate and has a lingering, ripe citrus finish, with grapefruit, melon and lemon notes. Not as taut as the 2010 but with a fuller, broader palate that means it will drink well now and in the mid-term. It is a concentrated, intense wine from a naturally low yielding vintage. Drink 2014-2017
Domaine François Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet 2012
Again, a fruit-forward style with plenty of generous citrus fruits and the extra depth, weight and complexity expected from such high quality Puligny-Montrachet. From vines with an average age of 35 years across 11 different plots on Francois’ estate, this shows notes of lime, lemon, peach and a touch of apricot intermingled with gentle hints of honey and almond from a small portion of new French oak. A different style entirely from the tauter, tighter 2010 that is currently showing so well, with a more open, generous nature that will reveal itself slightly early on and then continue into the mid-term. Drink 2015-2019
Domaine François Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Les Champs Gain 2012
Only eight barrels were made from this Premier Cru parcel high up on the slope above Les Folatières.
Distinct aroma and flavour of lemon zest give this wine a lively, refreshing character with all the succulence of the vintage. Less punchy than Francois’ other two Premier Crus, it is slightly easier to drink at an early stage, as well as a touch more restrained for those who prefer an elegant, classic style of Puligny. Crisp, well-balanced and with a long, fine-textured palate and a touch of herb and spice to add intrigue and complexity. Drink 2015-2021
Domaine François Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Les Perrières 2012
Seven barrels of Les Perrières were made from this stony-soiled vineyard in 2012, just half of the average yield. This gives even more concentration to the already powerful nature of this Premier Cru. Compared to Les Champs Gains, this has a more concentrated, intense grapefruit and lemon character, and a fuller body that will allow an extra year or two of ageing. Hints of hazelnut and spice suggest considerable potential for complexity with time. An imposingly structured acidity, despite all the rich fruit, will necessitate three or four years cellarage. Drink 2016-2022
Domaine François Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Les Combettes 2012
As with the other Premier Crus, there is only half of the usual production for Francois’ Les Combettes, a highly-respected Premier Cru just across the border from Meursault 1er Cru, Les Charmes. A big, powerful wine, which shows the vanilla and hazelnut aromas and smooth palate from high-quality French oak ageing and with considerable complexity already evident. The wine will take time to marry, but will repay the cellarer over many years. Lime zest, rich stone fruits and the refreshing acidity of great Burgundy, plus the concentration and depth of this generous vintage. Drink 2016-2022
Domaine François Carillon, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Les Clos St Jean 2012
Compared to the other parcels of his vines, this vineyard was planted relatively recently, in 2004, meaning that every year of extra age makes a considerable difference to the weight and depth of its wines. Naturally a mineral, taut style, this is offset in 2012 by the rich fruit character, with ripe apple, pear, citrus and honey. It is midway between the more restrained 2010 and the very opulent nature of the 2009. An all-rounder, for those who seek the benchmark fine acidity of good white Burgundy, and the pure fruit elegance that Francois Carillon has made his signature. This Chassagne will drink well in the mid-term. Drink 2015-2019
We have had our eye on this domaine for several years now and are delighted to receive our first allocation, particularly in a year such 2012. Domaine Méo-Camuzet is based in Vosne-Romanée, but due to some clever work by the original founder, Etienne Camuzet, it has excellent holdings across the most sought after parts of the Côte de Nuits. Its profile was heightened in the second part of the last century by the involvement of Henri Jayer, who looked after the vines and made the wines for many years. Jean-Nicholas Méo is currently at the helm, making wonderfully elegant, fragrant Pinot Noir with well-judged French oak. The fruit is farmed organically for the most part, although not dogmatically so, allowing the domaine to treat for mildew and prevent the onset of rot in years such as 2012 and 2013. The result is impeccable purity and absolute freshness which means the wines certainly earn their place in our Burgundy range.
Domaine Méo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanée 2012
Jean-Nicholas Méo has just over one hectare of Vosne-Romanée Villages. This is an extremely smart wine from a parcel of vines next to the legendary Premier Cru Cros Parantoux, made so famous by Henri Jayer. It has more structure and grip than is usually expected at Villages level partly aided by one-third being aged in new oak barrels. All of this makes it a longer ageing style but with the hallmark scent of red berries and the palate-richness of Vosne. Once again there is an elegance that we found was a defining character-trait of this domaine. Drink 2015-2019
Domaine Méo-Camuzet, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2012
Méo-Camuzet have vines right at the heart of this Grand Cru; in fact the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot used to be part of the estate until Monsieur Camuzet passed the ownership of the Chateau to the Chevaliers du Tastevin. In size, it is a very large Grand Cru for Burgundy, with 50 hectares in total, and around 80 proprietors, meaning that it is even more important to seek out the best. This wine was the highlight of our tasting, with abundant black cherry, spice, liquorice and graphite notes which already suggest huge potential for complexity in this wine. The firm tannic structure behind the concentrated yet pure fruit further point to great ageing potential. This is a beautifully-balanced, elegant wine with plenty of both the style and the substance of great Grand Cru. Drink 2018-2028
Méo-Camuzet Frère et Soeurs
The Méo family have a small négoce business where they buy grapes from neighbours, making the wines in exactly the same way as the rest of their range.
Méo-Camuzet Frère et Soeurs, Chambolle-Musigny 2012
Fairly deep red in colour with fragrant red and black berries and a typical cherry intensity on the palate, with lovely fresh acidity and a smooth, long finish. Hints of spice and clove from ageing in new barrel (approximately 30% in French oak) give complexity and bottle-ageing potential but do not detract from the over-riding elegance and fruit purity. Drink 2015-2019
Domaine Humbert Lamy
Olivier Lamy is the latest in a long line of vignerons in St. Aubin since 1640. Over the last 20 years the domaine has been transformed in his hands and those of his father Hubert. Olivier joined his father formally at the domaine in 1995 but has been firmly ensconced at the helm for some years already. He controls 17 hectares of vineyard over 18 appellations. His wines are often the finest of the entire appellation and are principally from Premier Cru vineyards with 75% of his production from Chardonnay. The quality of the red wines has also risen dramatically since Olivier’s arrival. He is a thoughtful, intelligent winemaker who has driven the quality of his white wines to very high levels indeed. One well known and respected commentator has suggested that Olivier Lamy is just about the most talented young winemaker in Burgundy. While in 2012 his yields are down between 10 and 50 per cent, he is doing everything he can to keep pricing at the sensible level that ensures his wines remain phenomenal value for the inherent quality.
Domaine Hubert Lamy, St. Aubin 1er Cru, En Remilly 2012
This 30 hectare vineyard benefits from both large size and high quality, the best combination, and particularly useful in a low-yielding vintage such as 2012. Lying to the north-east of the village at the top of the slope, on poor soils that are made even more challenging to work by the strong winds that pass but which do help build concentration of fruit, as well as keeping the crop healthy. The 2012 balances ripe citrus and floral notes with a compact, refreshing acidity. The price tag for this, as for all of Olivier’s wines is extremely modest, at around half the price of a good Meursault Premier Cru but with all the same refinement, classy barrel ageing and refined fruit character. Drink 2014-2019
Domaine Hubert Lamy, St. Aubin 1er Cru, Clos de la Chatenière 2012
A small Premier Cru vineyard of 8.5 hectares, made even smaller by this particular vintage and by old vines of approximately 50 years on average. A notoriously difficult parcel to harvest due to the precipitous nature of the slopes here, this nonetheless achieves rich citrus and honey notes, with tangerine and lemon fruit and a touch of mixed herbs. Slightly more powerful than the Clos du Meix, and built for another year or two’s ageing, this is supple and forward, but with zingy, fresh acidity to give both balance and longevity. Drink 2014-2019
Domaine Hubert Lamy, St. Aubin 1er Cru, Clos du Meix 2012
For what is a relatively rich vintage, this wine is surprisingly taut in style, again highlighting how very consistent this domaine is. The wine has forward, bright fruit, like the 2011, but with greater persistence of acidity perhaps, repaying the decision to pick earlier than some others in the appellation. An accessible wine with all the charm of the warm, sheltered vineyard of Clos du Meix, and the finesse of good white Burgundy. Less new oak than the 2011, it is characterised by precise citrus flavours and orchard fruits. Once again, exceptional value. Drink 2014-2018
Domaine Robert Sirugue
This was our best visit yet to Domaine Sirugue, where the 2012s were easily the highest quality wines that we have tasted from this family estate. Jean-Louis Sirugue’s son, Arnaud, has gradually been taking over the running of the ten hectare estate and the vinification. While a large part of the credit goes to him for the continuing steps forward, what always strikes us is that this is a concerted, co-ordinated family effort, with the full and evident support of Jean-Louis, his wife Catherine, and his sister Marie-France. The increase in quality resulting from careful sorting of the grapes and time spent in the vineyard, plus the location of the vines in the heartland of burgundy’s best red vineyards and a sensible pricing policy mean that these wines are even better value than ever.
Domaine Robert Sirugue, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, Les Petits Monts 2012
Les Petit-Monts is a Premier Cru vineyard of approximately 3.6 hectares only, making it small in size although far from small in stature. The Sirugue family own almost half of this vineyard, which lies just above the famed Grand Crus of Richebourg and La Romanée-Conti. The soil is slightly poorer than the Grand Cru sites, but the wine shows all the red fruit and floral fragrance of excellent Pinot Noir from this area. The 2012 is a touch firmer in structure than the 2011, partly due to the year in which berries were small – and thus concentrated in fruit and tannin – and partly due to the investment in high quality French oak that the family now makes, giving the wine an extra dimension and power from which the previous vintage, however appealing, did not benefit. Darker black cherry and cassis notes on the palate mean a brooding depth of fruit that will evolve into complex secondary characters over time befitting good age-worthy red Burgundy. An excellent price for a Premier Cru wine of such good pedigree. Drink 2017-2023
Domaine Robert Sirugue, Vosne-Romanée 2012
Year after year, this wine delivers intense, perfumed red berry fruits and noticeably smooth, appealing texture on the palate that make the wine so good from an early age. But this year, there was a step up in quality, with a richer fruit core that will stand the wine in good stead for slightly longer ageing than its predecessors. Most of the wine is aged in French oak barrels of up to 5 years, although a small proportion sees new French oak, giving a twist of mocha and spice to the flavours. Hints of truffle, forest floor fruits and hedgerow add interesting complexity while the vibrant, refreshing acidity ensures this is drinkable in youth but well-balanced and structured enough for the mid-term. Drink 2015-2019
Domaine Humbert Frères
Manou Humbert was on good form on our November visit, particularly so since, his 2012 reds are better than any of 2009, 2010 and 2011. This despite the fact that quantity has suffered considerably in 2012, when he and his brother Frederic lost up to 40 per cent of their yield in some vineyards. The brothers are the fourth generation of vignerons in the family, and, like their cousins the Dugat family of Domaine Dugat-Py, are very much part of the Gevrey-Chambertin establishment (Manou is always the person to turn to if we are looking for a restaurant recommendation or the insider’s viewpoint on the goings on in the Côte de Nuits). A considerable advantage that the brothers enjoy is the extent of Grand and Premier Cru vineyard that makes up their overall holding. They have several excellent Premier Crus, with the Grand Cru of Charmes-Chambertin the pinnacle of the estate. Quality is reliably great, a consequence of gentle handling of the fruit in the vineyards.
Domaine Humbert, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Poissenot 2012
If the brothers have a ‘signature’ wine, this is it. Poissenots displays the domaine’s trademark style of succulent red fruits that give a sensation of power to the wine, without compromising on the elegance of great Côte de Nuits. The 2012 is a particularly moreish example, with rich berry flavours and a touch of cherry too. The tannins are ripe and suave, giving the overall palate a very silky, flowing texture, which is matched by lively acidity and a fine, precise finish. This is the largest Premier Cru holding that the Humbert family enjoy, but in 2012, with 40 per cent loss of their crop, it is also one of the most highly sought after. Drink 2017-2025
Domaine Humbert, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Craipillot 2012
A more brooding, darker fruit character and slightly fuller body than the Poissenots this year, from a 65 year old Premier Cru vineyard just above Gevrey-Chambertin itself. Tasting the 2008 while we were visiting in November this year showed just how well this wine ages, with several more years of life left still. The 2012 has notes of cassis and clove alongside the red Pinot Noir character. One of our tasting notes reads ‘glossy, polished style’, given its well-managed, ripe tannins and immaculate fruit, meaning that it is almost as forward in youth as the 2011, although overall has firmer structure behind it to age a year or two longer. An impressive well-structured wine for mid and long-term ageing, although with an even smaller production than their usual 50 cases. Drink 2017-2025
Domaine Humbert, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, La Petite Chapelle 2012
Almost as small as the Craipillot, La Petite Chapelle is located, as the name might suggest, directly underneath the Grand Cru of Chapelle-Chambertin (and Chambertin Clos de Bèze). The wine has a mix of the redder fruits of the Poissenots and the darker fruit of Craipillot, an all-rounder perhaps, overlaid with charm and grace from fine tannins and fresh acidity. This gives it a slightly more delicate style than the gutsier Craipillot and Poissenots. An elegant wine but with the long finish from a vintage that has provided abundant berry flavour, ably supported by judicious new oak use. Drink 2016-2024
Domaine Humbert, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Estournelles St. Jacques 2012
Out of all the domaine’s Premier Crus, this is the firmest in structure and most powerful in fruit intensity, demanding greater ageing in new oak barrels, and longer time to age in the cellar. The 60 year old vineyard lies just beneath Poissenots, on the Côte St Jacques. While the 2011 was a little restrained in structure when we first tasted it, hidden by all the juicy, forward fruit of that vintage, the 2012 was an extrovert from the start, with assertive, ripe tannins and impressive bramble fruit that will age well in the mid to long term. Drink 2017-2026
Domaine Humbert, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2012
Lovely dark fruit on this wine, with hints of mocha and spices to beguile the senses and hint at the flavourful, cassis and bramble palate that follows. All aged in new oak barrels, from 50 year old vines that abut Chambertin itself; the Humberts have a large holding of this Grand Cru meaning our allocation is stable this year. This has the power and persistence of Grand Cru Burgundy and a distinctive plush, almost velvety texture that lingers long on the palate. The 2012 vintage has suited this wine well, approaching the 2009 in style in terms of the very bold fruit wrapped in taut structure that will suit long-term ageing. Drink 2017-2027
Domaine de Montille
The de Montille family descends from one of France’s most distinguished noble families and their roots in the Côte de Nuits extend back to Philip the Bold (1342-1404). The reputation of the domaine in more recent history is due to current proprietor Etienne and his lawyer father Hubert. Etienne trained as an international banker and his father was a lawyer so neither of them was dependent upon the domaine for a living. It was this financial freedom that enabled them to develop and run the domaine exactly as they wished, making wines in the style they wanted rather than what their customers might have dictated.
Today, there are nearly 16 hectares of vineyards, which include some of the finest sites in Volnay and Pommard. In 1993 the family acquired a half hectare of Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Le Cailleret, a vineyard which adjoins Le Montrachet and produces a wine of near Grand Cru quality. In 2004 a hectare of Corton and nearly half a hectare of Corton-Charlemagne were added and, as if that were not impressive enough, almost a third of a hectare in the prized top section of the Clos de Vougeot. At the same time Etienne managed to add another one and a half hectares of Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, Aux Malconsorts as well as a further half hectare of the Malconsorts vineyard which is in fact contained within the legendary vineyard of La Tâche. This latter is bottled as Cuvée Christiane in tribute to Etienne’s mother.
Etienne started experimenting with biodynamics in the Volnay 1er Cru, Les Mitans, some years ago. Now all his vineyards are cultivated in this way. Not because Etienne believes biodynamics are better but simply because he believes he will make better wine by utilising biodynamics. He is of the belief that low yields and old vines are not the complete answer; the vineyard is paramount. Some soils will support old vines and the consequent low yields whereas others will not. As always in Burgundy, it is the combination of terroir and producer.
Etienne is a believer in whole cluster fermentation, a technique he was able to utilise almost completely with the 2009 vintage and one which heightens freshness and minerality. Vinification is traditional, with a long maceration and the use of new oak never exceeding 25%. Stylistically the emphasis is on concentration and purity of fruit allied to firm structure. The focus is, above all, on longevity in order to promote and enhance complexity. Alcohol levels rarely exceed 12.5 degrees in any of the wines. This moderate level invariably leads to wines that are reticent in youth and which only begin to show their real class after a period of bottle maturation.
The white wines are made by Etienne’s sister Alix with all the care and attention to detail that Etienne devotes to the reds. Her arrival in 2004 was precipitated by the addition of the Corton-Charlemagne vines to the already important Puligny Cailleret holdings; combined these make de Montille a more recognised guardian of great white Burgundy.
Domaine de Montille, Nuits-St Georges, Aux St Juliens 2012
Situated just to the north of the village of Nuits-St Georges, the lesser known vineyard of Les St Julien has always offered an attractive fruit, a lighter more fragrant style of Nuits. In 2012 the fruit shows a touch more density than the norm and a little Vosne-style spice. Admirably pure, supple enough to be broached early; this appears to be stepping up a touch since it first entered the de Montille portfolio. Drink 2014-2020
Domaine de Montille, Nuits-St Georges 1er Cru, Les Thorey 2012
This vineyard always captures a perfumed blueberry aspect to its fruit and a wine that has grown in stature in the de Montille portfolio. Velvety in texture, with finely expressed tannins and generous, refined, admirably ripe berry fruit. Spicy notes emerge to the finish in a Nuits that shares more with Vosne than it does the more masculine wines of southerly Nuits-St Georges. Drink 2018-2024
Domaine de Montille, Beaune 1er Cru, Les Sizies 2012
This floral accented, vibrant Beaune underlines the early-drinking appeal of this vast, perplexing but underrated appellation. Juicy, plump red berry fruit, with a sweet note of ripeness – this is a very attractive vintage of Sizies with a touch more tension than we have witnessed in recent years. Drink 2014-2020
Domaine de Montille, Beaune 1er Cru, Les Grèves 2012
Grèves is a large Premier Cru and yet nonetheless is often regarded as the leading Premier Cru of Beaune. In contrast to the Sizies, this is a deeper, spicier, firmer style of Beaune, still packed with juicy, succulent fruit yet underpinned by a more evident earthy, mineral quality. This is notably vibrant with long, lingering fruit on the finish. Drink 2017-2025
Domaine de Montille, Volnay 1er Cru, Les Mitans 2012
A more masculine Volnay in many ways, the 2012 reveals vibrant dark berry, almost brooding, with an undertow of firm mineral nuances. Intense, generous and juicy, this is an impressive Volnay, with silky fine tannins and a long, flowing finish. Drink 2018-2024
Domaine de Montille, Volnay 1er Cru, Les Taillepieds 2012
The leading Volnay from the de Montille stable, the aromas highlight the 100% whole cluster approach, with a dark, markedly spicy fruit. The palate is dense, with smoky-nuanced mulberry to the fore, earthy, spicy, and mineral. An intense style with grippy, yet fine-grained tannins. A long, persistent style, with an impressive purity and impeccable sense of balance. Drink 2019-2026
Domaine de Montille, Pommard 1er Cru, Les Pézerolles 2012
A different approach to extraction was employed here, and it shows. The Pézerolles vineyard was hit by hail which reduced the crop significantly in 2012. This is a far glossier style of Pézerolles than the past few vintages. Sweet-coated berry fruits, summer fruit compote, with the proportion of oak certainly evident on this showing. There is however the substance to more than handle this. This is vibrant, mineral and perhaps a little denser than normal for this Beaune-oriented Pommard. Plenty of potential. Drink 2017-2025
Domaine de Montille, Pommard 1er Cru, Les Rugiens-Bas 2012
Rugiens is the most sought after of all Pommard vineyards, capable of producing majestic wines with terrific ageing potential. There has been a proposal put forward to elevate Rugiens to Grand Cru status, though that seems unlikely and as many commentators acknowledge it is the areas of Rugiens-Bas that is able to stake that claim. Deep in the glass, the aromas exude ripe, intense dark berry. This is an assertive style but the tannins are sleek and refined, allowing the dense black fruit to come to the fore, with all its stony, mineral nuances. A very impressive Rugiens indeed. Drink 2019-2030
Domaine de Montille, Corton Grand Cru, Clos du Roi 2012
A restrained nose leads to a tightly wound palate of deep berry fruit – vibrant, earthy and mineral. The foresty/ hedgerow fruit quality here gives rise to a savoury, smoky nuance as the fruit opens on the palate. Plenty of vigour in this vintage and plenty held in check, this has the potential to be a hugely impressive 2012, though it will demand considerable patience. Markedly mineral and taut throughout. Drink 2020-2030
Domaine de Montille, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2012
A wine that exemplifies the qualities of great Clos de Vougeot – charm, effortlessly silky, flowing, refined. There is a broad swathe of sweetly-perfumed, ripe red berry fruits on the palate, infused with subtle, stony mineral nuances. Yet what impresses most here, is the fluidity and tension, fine, silky and long with a cherry stone, lingering, mineral finish. Attractive throughout – a sublime Clos de Vougeot. Drink 2019-2028
Domaine de Montille, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, Les Malconsorts 2012
The Malconsorts vineyard has always enjoyed a fine reputation, and after the sale of some Moillard holdings a few years back, it has reached a broader audience. Always capable of rivalling wines of Grand Cru status, there is a marked exotic note to the fruit. This 2012 is packed with silky, refined dark berry fruit – with notes of Asian spice and an underlying stony mineral vein. Vibrant, intense and so refined. Plenty of vigour here and impressive potential on offer. As impressive a Malconsorts as I can recall from de Montille. Drink 2020-2028
Domaine de Montille, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, Les Malconsorts, ‘Cuvée Christiane’ 2012
This extraordinary Malconsorts emanates from a parcel to the bottom left-hand corner of La Tâche as you gaze up the slope. The intensity is stepped up in contrast to the straight Malconsorts – a bolder style, with plenty of substance and sublime refinement. The tannins are so sleek, so refined that they create a terrific textural impression. Extraordinarily smooth and intense, yet the overall impression is of an elegant regal wine. The vigour of 2012 has only lifted the impression of this outstanding wine. Drink 2020-2033
Domaine de Montille, Beaune Blanc 1er Cru, Les Aigrots 2012
This is an underrated wine that captures notes of succulent peach, yellow plum with an almondy, peach kernel touch. The more honeyed aspects of the wine are balanced beautifully by the more citrusy, grapefruit acidity that emerges to the finish. A very attractive style that will show well from shipment. Drink 2015-2019
Domaine de Montille, Meursault 1er Cru, Les Perrières 2012
A new addition to the de Montille portfolio which has come from the Chateau de Puligny holdings. A taut Meursault, very much in keeping with Alix de Montille’s preferred style. Characters of ripe grapefruit, grilled grapefruit even, with background notes of toast and smoky lees. There is plenty of tension here in this mouth-watering Perrières as well as notes of lime marmalade expressed to the finish. Drink 2017-2021
Domaine de Montille, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Le Cailleret 2012
The tension and vigour present in the other de Montille whites is not missing here. Le Cailleret certainly delivers with a rich, honeyed peach fruit, infused with wet-stone-like mineral nuances. This is a taut, mouth-watering style – linear in a way, but by no means lean. The generous, honeyed peach and citrus characters lead to a finish which reveals a grapefruit pith, grippy nature. Long, focused with good intensity, this is an impressive Puligny. Drink 2017-2023
Domaine de Montille, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2012
de Montille’s south-east facing parcel always offers a complex mélange of mineral and lively citrus. It suits the style of the domaine, always retaining tension yet flirting with richness. The nose straightaway reveals fine mineral characters, like flinty, crumbling rock. The fruit is generous – yellow plum, peach and citrus. Taut, linear, with plenty of zip, the fruit is held back by the assertive structure. Long, pure and focused, this is an impressive Corton-Charlemagne. Drink 2018-2025
Domaine Sylvian Cathiard
Sébastien Cathiard has been at the helm of this legendary Vosne estate for the last three years, having returned from winemaking abroad to take over from his father Sylvain. The style between the two is consistent enough. The wines retain their luscious yet silky, finely-woven character, although Sébastien seems gradually to be veering towards a slightly more delicate touch than his father. The estate is roughly 4 hectares in size, with excellent parcels of Villages and Crus in Vosne as well as Nuits-Saints-Georges. They also enjoy nearly 1 hectare of vines of Aux Malconsorts (15 barrels were made of this wine in 2012) considered to be Grand Cru quality by many. It is the inherent quality of fruit that shines through from this estate, mainly due to very careful sorting, and low-key intervention in the cellar. Tasting the wines is always a joy, as they show well immediately, but with backbone and power to age gracefully over time. We’re delighted that Sébastien’s 2012 crop size was similar in quantity to 2011, although he has warned that this is certainly not the case in 2013, when prices will also be affected.
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Bourgogne Rouge 2012
Medium but bright red in colour with extremely pretty cherry and raspberry fruit aromas. This wine might be humble in name, but it is a far cry from the average ‘basic’ red Burgundy. With it’s fine tannins and juicy berry flavours, plus good supporting structure, it is easily confused for a Villages wine from most other growers. A touch of spice and cassis lasts on the finish. Excellent value for drinking in the short and medium term. Drink 2014-2017
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée 2012
A forward, almost New World style of fruit, this has the expressive charm of the 2012 vintage, as well as its ripe tannin structure. It is a big, intense Vosne, a little fuller in body than the Meo-Camuzet as befits the domaine style perhaps. Similar to the Bourgogne Rouge, its quality stands above its status, and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Premier Cru from another grower. Luscious, red-fruited with a hint of spice on the succulent long finish. Drink 2015-2020
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Chambolle-Musigny 'Le Clos de L'Orme' 2012
We tasted this twice over the autumn. In September it was rather restrained, taking a while to come through. By November, the wine had opened to reveal beautiful purity of cherry fruit and precise, fine acidity that freshens and lengthens the palate. An elegant, classic red Burgundy with the underlying richness of fruit from 2012 that will drink well early on or repay up to 7 or 8 years’ cellaring. Drink 2015-2020
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 'Aux Thorey' 2012
This is bigger in structure and body than Sebastien’s Chambolle-Musigny, perhaps expectedly given it’s Premier Cru status, as well as it’s southerly aspect. It is kept in check, however, by the defined acidity that comes from a slightly higher location, towards the north of Nuits-Saint-Georges, at the top of the slopes. The domaine’s Aux Thorey tends to take time to emerge and is best after several years. Rich red and black fruits follow from the bouquet, filling the palate and giving length to the finish. Hints of spice, wild herbs and a gamier note reveal themselves on the second taste. Drink 2016-2023
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 'Aux Murgers' 2012
Similar in size to ‘Aux Thorey’ at just under 5 hectares, this Premier Cru also sits in the north of the appellation, but slightly closer to Vosne-Romanée. This may account for the particularly impressive depth of fruit and finesse of texture that we have found over the last few vintages, exaggerated in 2012 by the smaller berry size at harvest time. The result is a particularly opulent style, with ripe tannins and rich cassis flavours hinting at long-ageing. Drink 2016-2023
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 'Aux Reignots' 2012
Of all the Cathiard wines we tasted, this was the one with more a more austere, savoury character in youth. There is plenty of red Pinot Noir fruit and finesse, but alongside a fresh, almost mineral complexity and firm, dry tannins, this was the most restrained of all the line-up. The tannins need to soften (perhaps unsurprisingly so given it’s location just above La Romanée Grand Cru!) and mesh with the acidity and fruit, but will suit many a good meal in time. A wine to lay down and leave for 5 years. Drink 2016-2023
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 'En Orveaux' 2012
This Premier Cru of just under 2 hectares lies above Echézeaux Grand Cru. Despite being a relatively cold site, it always shows well early on. The 2012 displays a very silky texture and a generosity of raspberry, plum and cherry fruit that will ensure it tastes well from bottling, even if its pedigree ensures that it will last the course too. A charming, perfumed wine that has such supple tannins on the palate that the overall sensation is one of smoothness and seamlessness right to the last taste. Drink 2014-2023
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 'Les Suchots' 2012
Les Suchots is a large Premier Cru of 13 hectares. The clay soils give underlying richness to the wine, which moderate the tannins. The 2012 was quite closed at first taste, but dark fruits, cherry, herbs and even ganache come through on the palate. Plenty of fruit and substance, but not quite as dry as the Reignots nor as powerful and tannic as the Malconsorts. A good all-rounder. Drink 2016-2025
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 'Aux Malconsorts' 2012
A ‘broad-shouldered’ wine that is built to last, with its firm structure of ripe tannin, fresh acidity, and full fruit intensity. Notes of mocha and hazelnut from ageing in 100% new French oak barrels gives this added complexity to the already very broad spectrum of fruit and spice flavours. Lift and perfume is provided by fragrant cassis and herb aromas, with hints of graphite too. 2017-2028
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Romanée Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2012
This was less expressive than the Malconsorts but has just as much, if not a touch more, power on the palate, with a core of sumptuous red and black fruit, and an iron grip of tannin that will support the wine well in the long-term. The acidity is fresher than 2009, although this is still a very ripe style, with plenty of flavour intensity that will unfurl as the wine meshes together in time. Drink 2019-2030
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