Agnes Paquet Auxey-Duresses Blanc 'Patience No 11' 2018
After two low-yield vintages, the famous French skepticism was rife, and it continued through most of this growing season despite particularly positive weather conditions. 2018 saw a lovely, settled spring. Any potential frost damage was well-prepared for, but the weather stayed warm into April and placed the vines in a good position for summer. The only major concern was lack of rain. (Remember, in Burgundy, watering of vines is prohibited, so lack of rain can result in excess concentration in the fruit.) Harvest was perfectly aligned with flowering—the 100 Day Rule proving itself true—and our winemakers were relieved that the year had seemed relatively settled, though the pessimism remained due to the lack of the rain. Luckily, this turned out to be unfounded: the yield surpassed everyone’s expectations. It was, ironically, the good yield that helped prevent the whites from becoming “flabby.” Great acidity remains on these whites, giving the vintage a “brighter” feel than hot vintages prior. Alcohol may be a touch higher, though it is balanced with the structure. Riper fruit, of course, with zippy mineral notes and lingering complexity in the finish. Finally!—a vintage that produced a decent yield, and (luckily, for the rest of us) great quality, too.
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 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
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