Agnes Paquet Auxey-Duresses Rouge 2021
A good percentage of whole grape in the maceration gives this Auxey red a delicate encapsulated burst of cherry fruit. The Auxey terroir and tannic structure on display, and the ensemble is well-structured and juicy in youth.
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.
Nothing abides. Just as we Burgundy purists begrudgingly acknowledged the vitality and variety of the three previous hot-weather vintages, along came 2021, classic Burgundy with its frost, damp and low yields.
Way back when, in pre-climate-change conditions, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would struggle, year after year, to come to maturity in what was this, the northernmost spot in Europe where grapes could ripen enough to make still wine. That struggle was, in fact, the very definition of viticulture in Burgundy (chaptalization notwithstanding).
But then weather patterns started to change, not drastically, but gradually: milder winters and earlier springs; hotter summers and earlier autumns. By the time we got to 2018, then 2019 and then 2020, those mild winters were breeding grounds for mildew, the early springs were prone to killer frosts, those hot summers forced ripeness onto reticent grapes varieties, and early autumns left little time to the winemaker to sort it all out.
If this all sounds like an accident waiting to happen, hang on to your hat; it’s all perspective.
2018 was wet, wet, wet through winter and up to mid-April. Then an explosive bud-burst sent the winemakers scurrying to control the vegetation. But then it got hot, hot, south-of-Spain hot, and mildew never stood a chance. Early harvest, no health issues. Big crop. Great vintage.
2019 was wet through the winter. Early bud burst, then frost took part of the crop. A warm set up flowering, but cold weather set in, taking another part of the crop. Then it got hot and very dry. Well-tend vines and, especially, old vines did well because there was last winter’s water in the water table, and good vines can go deep for water. Hot, healthy harvest. Great really ripe vintage.
2020 was precocious. Mild wet winter. Bud burst in mid-April. From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end. Harvest started in August. Indeed, there was more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. When to pick? Overall, great vintage both white and red.
See a pattern?
And 2021…well in 2021 things returned to ‘normal’ (if such a thing is possible in Burgundy!) First came devastating frosts in the early part of April, which were followed by a cool May, leading to a damp summer with the ever-present threat of hail.
Chardonnay was more affected than Pinot Noir in that the red grapes come into leaf later. What all this means for the Burgundy harvest is that it will be a story of low yields (miniscule in places) and a late harvest.
When the older winemakers talk about what to expect this year, words such as ‘historic’ are used and comparisons are drawn with the harvest of 1970.
Some say we could be down 30% on 2020s already low yields. But it isn’t all bad news. Winemakers are nothing if not hardy, and their optimism cannot be shaken that easily. Fewer grapes on the vine means that those which have survived should have an intensity of flavor which sets them apart and may mark this harvest out as extraordinary. There may be other upsides, too: because the harvest is later, the grapes have had more ‘hang time’ which could mean good phenolic maturity.
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