Reviewed by William Kelley | 27th April 2018 | The Wine Advocate
Rating: 96+ Points
The fabulous 2015 Musigny Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru is a stunning wine in the making, wafting from the glass with a deep and pure bouquet of red cherry, raspberry, summer fruit compote, orange rind and rose petal. On the palate, the wine is ample, multidimensional and layered, with incredible depth and inherent reserve at the core, excellent concentration, vibrant flavors, and a long, intense finish. Above all, however, this Musigny is defined by its depth and sense of completeness. This will demand and reward patience.
The philosophical François Millet recapitulated the history of the 2015 vintage, which he describes as “a sublime year” which remains resolutely “terroir driven” despite its ripeness and concentration. It was a trying season, he reminded me, with a dry summer alleviated by rain—but not too much rain—at the critical moment in August. “It was quite stressful, because at the beginning we didn’t know that it would have a happy ending,” he reflected. It was also a year of abundant structure, where “it was not necessary to push.” The ensuing range of wines is very fine, including a Bonnes Mares which ranks high among recent vintages, and a beautiful Musigny Vieilles Vignes which I suspect will evolve at a glacial pace.
With vineyard holdings to die for in Musigny and Bonnes-Mares, those in charge at Comte Georges de Vogüé do not wear their responsibility lightly. Stephen Brook meets a team of perfectionists, who refuse to make wine by numbers…
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé at a glance
Founded1450, by Jean Moisson
OwnersComtesse Claire de Causans and Marie de Ladoucette
Estate12.5ha, of which 7.2ha are in Musigny, 2.7ha in Bonnes-Mares, 0.56ha in Chambolle Amoureuses, 0.27ha in other Chambolle premiers crus, and 1.8ha in Chambolle Village
TerroirThin topsoils over limestone
Average vine age41 years in Musigny Vieilles Vignes
Production40,000- 45,000 bottles
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé profile
Every estate in Burgundy yearns to have grands crus parcels in its portfolio. Some are quite richly endowed: Rousseau, Damoy, Trapet and Rossignol- Trapet (all in Gevrey-Chambertin); Clos de Tart and Clos des Lambrays (Morey-St-Denis); as well as Bonneau du Martray and Louis Latour (both in Corton). Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is unique in that it possesses nothing but grands crus.
Almost as spectacular is the parcel of Musigny owned by Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé – 7.2 hectares (ha), amounting to 70% of the entire grand cru. Given that many Burgundy aficionados consider Musigny to be the finest vineyard of them all, that’s a holding to die for. In addition, the estate is the largest owner within another grand cru, Bonnes-Mares.
Unlike many estates in Burgundy, de Vogüé has ancient architectural and viticultural origins, tracing its beginnings to the 15th century with ownership passing through 20 generations to the present proprietors. In 1925 it was inherited by Comte Georges de Vogüé, who ran the domaine for 52 years, and is now owned by his granddaughters, Claire de Causans and Marie de Ladoucette.
The estate went through a bad patch from the 1960s until the mid-1980s. The count was absent much of the time and entrusted the property to an estate manager, who allowed quality to slide. Then, in 1986, François Millet was hired as technical director, and 10 years later the aptly named Eric Bourgogne was taken on as vineyard manager – both of them are still in place.
The turnaround was swift, and the 1990 Musigny was one of the great vines of that vintage, distilling, as do all great vintages from this site, exquisite perfume, silky textures, intensity of flavour, discreet but pronounced tannins and incredible persistence. Millet has always adopted a perfectionist’s approach, thus he considers the 1.8ha of vines under 25 years old to be unworthy of inclusion in the Musigny bottling; their production is bottled as Chambolle Premier Cru.
‘Why 25 years?’ says Millet, anticipating the question. ‘Because that’s how long it takes for the vines to express the greatness of the terroir. Young vines remain young vines, however fine the grapes may be. They’re like a gifted teenager, brilliant, but lacking in experience. It’s a question of complexity. The Chambolle Premier Cru is like Musigny in short trousers.’
About half the Musigny vines are cordon-trained, which means that yields are low, bunches are small and production is more regular than in parcels where Guyot-training is the norm. Bourgogne finds he rarely needs to green-harvest the cordon-trained vines, but that procedure is sometimes necessary on the rest, so yields range from 25 to 30hl/ha. The farming is not fully organic, but it certainly comes close. No fertilisers are used and the vineyards are ploughed, but Bourgogne admits that when absolutely necessary he will use sprays to combat diseases such as mildew. ‘We do the minimum, as we need to be humble in the face of nature and terroir. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work hard to maximise quality,’ he says. One peculiarity of de Vogüé’s holdings in Musigny is that 0.6ha, in two sectors, are planted with Chardonnay.
These parcels, in the southern part of Musigny, are grown on eroded limestone. However, the last vintage of Musigny Blanc was in 1993 because half the vines were replanted in 1986, and the remainder in 1997. Millet decided that the vines were too young to produce Musigny, a view he maintains, and the wines were released instead as a rather pricey Bourgogne Blanc. ‘I’m not sure when we’ll resume production – it depends very much on how the wines taste. I think we need to wait, as with the Pinot, for 25 years. I see no reason to treat the varieties differently,’ he says. When production of Musigny Blanc starts again, possibly in 2017, it’s unlikely that more than 2,500 bottles will be released.
The parcel of Bonnes-Mares is on reddish soils in the southeast sector of the grand cru. The oldest vines date back to 1945, while the oldest surviving vines in Musigny are from 1954. ‘The subsoil varies in depth,’ explains Bourgogne, ‘and certain parcels have very little indeed. The soil is quite stoney and well drained, if less so than Musigny.’
First lady of Chambolle
For Millet, Musigny has higher acidity and more tannin than Bonnes-Mares. ‘Bonnes-Mares is wilder, with ample richness, but also with a prominent tannic structure,’ he says. ‘For me, it’s the antithesis of Musigny, which is more classic. Remember that Bonnes-Mares is a vineyard that continues into Morey-St-Denis on the same band as Clos de Tart and Chambertin. It’s a brother of Chambertin. It’s very direct and comes straight at you. It’s more electric than Amoureuses, like a thunderstorm that’s about to break.’
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé also owns 0.56ha of Chambolle- Musigny’s Amoureuses vineyard, a premier cru situated just below Musigny and regarded by many as of grand cru quality. For 10 years Bourgogne has used horses to plough Amoureuses to protect the vines, which were planted in 1964 and 1974. Their parcels are on stoney topsoils over oolitic limestone. Millet characterises the wine: ‘It’s the first lady of Chambolle, but not frivolous.’ Or, to extend his metaphor, it’s like Musigny’s little sister, always refined, yet never lacking backbone.
Millet is fond of waxing poetical – I once heard him refer to a wine’s ‘pureté d’innocence’ – but obtaining information from him on how the wines are made is like pulling teeth. I’ve been questioning him about this for more than 20 years, and he delights in a certain vagueness. The grapes are usually destemmed, and Millet prefers to ferment with natural yeasts, though he isn’t dogmatic about it.
He likes a slow start to the fermentation but doesn’t use a drastic cold soak to reduce temperatures, as he is loath at this stage to add too much sulphur dioxide. This reticence is essentially a reflection of Millet’s unwillingness to make wine by formula. ‘We have to adapt the winemaking to the terroir and the vintage conditions,’ he says.
‘With Bonnes-Mares I need a conversation, as it’s a wine with structure and energy. Musigny is more consistent than the other wines. It has cassis aromas, plenty of spice, a mineral quality. It’s a patriarch.’ Fermentation takes place in wooden vats, with regular punching down of the cap, and he’s happy for temperatures to rise to 33˚C.
No more than one-third new oak is used for the grands crus. ‘Too much new oak can obscure the differences between the wines, but I respect the choice of others. There’s nothing systematic here, and we need to show respect for these extraordinary crus.’
These are magnificent and long-lived wines, and those unable to afford the Musigny Vieilles Vignes need not shirk from contemplating a purchase of Bonnes-Mares or Amoureuses instead. Yet despite the estate’s consistent quality since 1990, its wines surely remain less well known than they deserve. They seem to find their way into the hands of a faithful clientele, and perhaps that is why some importers don’t find it necessary to show the wines to the press, focusing instead on well-heeled private customers.
That’s perfectly defensible, but it does prevent the wines from being talked about. Recent vintages seem to be as brilliant as the 1990s lot. ‘I find great clarity in the 2010s,’ Millet says. ‘The 2011s are more ample and generous.’
There are unlikely to be dramatic changes at this ancient estate in the immediate future. Commercial director Jean-Luc Pépin admits they would expand, if the right vineyards were offered, but I suspect they would need to be of exceptional quality. De Vogüé already owns parcels of Chambolle premiers crus Baudes and Fuées, but they are blended with the wines from Chambolle Village. With most of its vines in two grands crus and Chambolle’s top premier cru, there is no clear need for the estate to diversify.
by William Kelley | 1st August 2018 | The Wine Advocate | Interim End of July 2018
This article offers a brief preview of the Côte d’Or’s 2017 vintage. The purpose is simply to acquaint readers with the year’s salient characteristics and to offer a first glimpse of these as yet unformed wines. While the 2017s have come together rapidly in barrel, all these wines will have developed considerably by the time they’re bottled. They will be tasted again from barrel after the harvest and then from bottle a year later. So, the notes that accompany this article are intended simply to give readers an insight into the wines’ evolution—and into how they are assessed.
Since almost all of the 2017s that I’ve tasted at this stage are red, I’ll confine some provisional generalizations to red Burgundy. This was a large harvest—in many appellations, the largest in over a decade. In Pinot Noir, acidities are comparatively low, with several growers reporting the highest pHs since the 2006 vintage. The wines are typically supple and charming, without the concentration of 2015 or 2016, but with plenty of expressive fruit and flesh. In style, different producers suggest different analogies. At this early stage, these two strike me as particularly persuasive: think of 2017 as a riper, more generous version of the 2007 vintage, or think of it as a cleaner and somewhat more concentrated version of the 2000 vintage.
A Summary of the 2017 Vintage
When frosts threatened in April, growers determined not to relive the heartbreak of 2016 banded together, burning bales of straw to ward off the cold. Hot weather followed hard on the heels of the April chills, in some instances disrupting flowering. The summer’s heat sometimes stressed the vines, shriveling berries and retarding physiological ripening. Hail on the 10th of July, its impact largely confined to Morey-Saint-Denis, damaged grapes. Then, in late August, much needed rain brought relief, helping vines to bring their fruit to fuller maturity.
By late August and early September, harvesting had begun. Arnaud Ente in Meursault, generally one of the first to pick, started on August 25, and by September 1 the Chardonnay vintage was well under way in the Côte de Beaune. With rain forecast at the end of the week, the first reds were picked around the same time, with Charles Lachaux of Domaine Arnoux-Lachoux in Vosne-Romanée and François Millet of Chambolle-Musigny’s Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé both beginning on September 2. Others chose to wait, with Sebastien Cathiard only beginning two weeks later and the Domaine Ponsot finally getting underway on September 19. As ever, deciding when to harvest was a delicate matter: rain did indeed transpire on September 9, continuing on and off for the following week.
Along the Côte d’Or, the crop was plentiful and generally healthy. Vines touched by frost the year before tended to give especially generous, sometimes excessive, yields: rumors of fully 100 hectoliters per hectare in places, well in excess of the appellation limits, should give pause. Skins were comparatively thick, thanks to the summer heat, and generally well-developed, but seeds and stems were more unevenly ripe. Sugars, diluted by rain, were seldom especially high, and many producers needed to chaptalize.