Agnes Paquet Auxey-Duresses Blanc 'Patience No 10' 2017
A very warm November and December 2016 led into a troubling, still-warm January 2017: not good for the vines, which need the temperature to drop to allow for much-needed rest and relief from bugs. It was a relief, then, when the cold snap finally arrived in February. A beautiful early spring awoke the vines, and winemakers rejoiced: life was looking good! But, such is life: again, a sudden temperature drop in mid-April meant yet another big risk to yields. This time, the preparation was better, and many bales of hay were burnt, creating a smog in order to protect the vintage. It worked, to an extent, though temperatures remained hot throughout the season. Rain was welcomed at the end of August; some say it helped ‘revitalize’ the vines where the ripening process had stalled. Harvest occurred in early September. The 2017 vintage was a small-yield with a ‘Burgundian typicity.’ Bright acidity, just-ripe complexity of fruit with a firm mineral finish. This vintage is a great model of the historical Burgundian style.
Agnes Paquet’s family has held an important parcel of vines in the appellation Auxey-Duresses since the mid-1950s. Until 2000, the family rented the land to local vignerons. It was then, when the family decided to sell the vineyard, that Agnes decided to take on the land herself and become a winemaker.
So she went back to school, became an apprentice, and slowly developed a viable domain, adding new parcels of vines and creating a wine style in her own name and image.
The Domaine Agnes Paquet today extends over 13 hectares (over 31 acres), and is considered locally as one of the locomotives and innovators of the current generation.
She has vines in Cotes de Beaune and Hautes Cotes de Beaune in appellations Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Hautes Cotes de Beaune white and red, Auxey-Duresses (today 5 ha or 40% of the total domain), Pommard, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Saint Aubin.
She is extremely attentive to the subtleties of terroir and pursues a fairly classic approach in the vineyards. Since 2004, there have been no chemical herbicides, and currently treatments are copper and sulphur-based. She has not pursued organic or bio certification, but adheres to those principles.
Manual vineyard work is primordial, and during the period when the vine is most active (May to July) the normal team doubles in number to 12.
Harvest too is manual, with triage in the vines and again on tables in the winery.
Only indigenous yeasts are allowed to lance fermentations, SO2 is kept to a minimum, and it’s rare to need to add sugar to the must.
For the whites, both fermentations take place in the barrel, and are aged between 11-18 months, depending on the vintage.
Red fermentations are in cement tanks and last 15-20 days, with a part of the harvest left whole. Aging is in barrels (15-30% new) for 10-12 months, depending on the vintage.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Auxey-Duresses (pronounced " Aussey ") stands at the entrance to a valley which runs from the Côte de Beaune into the Hautes Côtes, following the road that leads from Beaune to Autun below hump-backed hills. Together with its hamlets of Petit-Auxey and Mélin, Auxey-Duresses is one of Burgundy's oldest wine-growing districts, with Celtic and Gallo-Roman traces. It was formerly an outlying property of the abbey of Cluny, producing both grain and grape. The corn-mills have now gone but there are still ancient wine presses hidden away in locals barns.
The appellation Auxey Duresses includes 9 premiers crus produced in the village of Auxey Duresses and the hamlets of Petit-Auxey and Mélin.
The reds are generally a bright ruby color of medium intensity. The bouquet is well-balanced between rich aromas of small black fruits (blackcurant, blackberry) and floral scents. In the mouth, the attack is refined and supple, measured and sometimes meaty. When young, there may be a touch of rustic green tannin but these soon soften and the texture becomes velvety with earthy notes, as well as leather and spice.
The whites are generally a pale straw color with crystal clarity, with aromas of fresh almond and green apple, and often biscuity and smoky flinty minerality. Sprightly when young, fuller and meatier with age, with a good shot at persistence.
There is a bit of everything in this zone. Nature determines which plots suit white wines and which ones reds. On the hill of Bourdon, geologically an extension of Volnay and Monthélie, the soil is a pebbly marl-limestone mix which gives vigor to the east/south-east facing vineyard of Les Duresses. The Climat du Val, on the other hand, faces south and has very limey soil, while in La Chapelle marl predominates over limestone. And on the hill of Mélin, the fine-textured soil resembles that of nearby Meursault and Puligny, producing excellent Chardonnay.
Red wines - Pinot Noir.
White wines - Chardonnay.
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 96.45ha (including 27.55 ha premier cru)
Whites : 38.16 ha (including 2.08 ha premier cru)
Red: rich and well-moderated tannins make Auxey-Duresses an ideal for delicate or white meats. Its supple attack and its notes of red and black fruits give it a wide range. It shines when paired with cold cuts, roast pork or veal, kebabs, rabbit, pasta dishes with herbs. Grilled fish also works.
White: juicy and lively, its fruit retains fullness through a long finish and for this reason it goes well with shrimp, fish in spicy sauces, as well as cooked shellfish. It can likewise be paired with cheeses of the Gruyère family, and young but dry-textured goat's cheese.
On the label, the appellations 'Auxey-Duresses' and 'Auxey Duresses 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Bas des Duresses
Climat du Val
Clos du Val
Les Grands Champs
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
Creux de Borgey
Creux de Tillet
Derrière le Four
La Montagne du Bourdon
Le Larrey des Hoz
Le Moulin Moine
Le Pain Haut
Le Plain de Lugny
Les Grandes Vignes
Sous la Velle
Sous le Marsain