Agnes Paquet Auxey-Duresses Blanc 'Patience No 13' 2020
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.
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.
With so many winemakers finishing their 2020 harvest before the end of August, everyone here in Burgundy expected that this hot, sunny vintage would produce atypical wines, overripe, fat and flabby. Why it did not is a mystery to this day.
In fact, 2020 Burgundy, both red and white, is being lauded by the Press and professionals alike as an exceptional vintage, brilliantly fresh, pure, elegant and focused. Yes, the wines are ripe and concentrated, but there is good acidity that more than brings things into balance. This, in fact, defines the Burgundy 2020 style: high acidity and high concentration.
So let’s look, as we do every year, at how the growing season developed, to try to get some idea of what shaped these unexpectedly energetic wines.
In a word, from start to finish, 2020 was precocious. After a mild and humid winter, the vegetative cycle started a month early under sunny skies, with bud burst in mid-April and the first Chardonnay flowers in early May. Then the weather deteriorated. Pinot Noir flowered in cool, damp conditions, and was less successful than Chardonnay, explaining the smaller Pinot crop.
From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end, the driest year since 1945. The grapes started to change color in mid-July, and harvest in August seemed likely.
Now you may think that an August harvest lets everyone get their jobs done and go home early. But remember that there is a big difference between the heat and luminosity of an August afternoon and the cooler, shorter days of September. When maturity comes galloping at you in August, you have to react quickly; a day or two can mean considerable differences in acid and sugar levels.
Indeed, there may have been more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. 2020 was in fact an easy growing season, dry, with little risk of fungal problems. The tough part was deciding when to harvest. Do you put off harvesting to try to get to phenolic maturity, or do you pick sooner to keep acid levels up and to avoid higher alcohol levels?
Many opted to pick early. And for the most part, it proved to be the right decision…though we still do not understand why!
Many 2020 wines have alcohol levels of 13%-14%, but many are higher. Delaying picking increased the potential alcohol levels by as much as a degree a week.
At the same time, good levels of phenolic maturity gave ripe, but not overripe tannins. Some call the 2020s ‘crunchy’, which is a tannin level riper than ‘green’ but less than ‘fine’.
Total acidity was generally high, but most of that was tartaric acid. Malic acid, which would normally make up a big percentage of the total acidity, was low. In fact, the wines changed very little during malolactic fermentation, as there was little malic acid to transform into lactic acid.
So, again, we have a vintage that is characterized by high acidity and concentrated fruit. Some are saying that there has never before been a vintage where ripeness and acidity combined to give such brilliant wines with great aging potential. And this is true for both red and white. Freshness, balance, moderate alcohol.
The whites are rich and ripe, but with a crystalline, almost razor-sharp edge. That little touch of lactic acid makes them complex without adding weight.
The reds might bear a resemblance to past vintages. 2005, maybe. But they made wine differently in 2005. Back then, extraction was the goal: get as much out of the ripeness as you could. Today, Pinot is not so much ‘extracted’ as ‘infused’, like tea. This gives wines that are fresher and more energetic, with no less intensity and maybe more spice.
Drink them now, both red and white. There is astounding vitality in the youthful 2020s. But stick to the regional appellations for now because this is above all a vintage for aging, again both red and white. Keep the premier and grand crus for 10-15 years; longer for the best wines. They have the balance to age, and will reveal little by little the complexity that we just get hints of today. These are wines that may shut down for a few years in a few years, that’s to be expected. But be patient; you will be overjoyed to pull 2020 Burgundy from your cellar down the line.
But even just that little touch of lactic acid made the complexity of the whites.
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