Capitain-Gagnerot Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru 'Les Moutottes' 2019
This vineyard has belonged to the Capitain family for generations. The vines are 68 years old (in 2014), planted in classic Aloxe-Corton oxforian limestone making 'Les Moutottes' structured, muscular and dense, with great black fruit and overall charm. Elegance and power, that describes Aloxe-Corton in general, but 'Les Moutottes' has something more. It has that Capitain finesse that is like a signature. All Capitain reds see only 10% new oak, the better to conserve their fruit and diverse terroirs. We say it again, Capitain-Gagnerot is our benchmark Pinot.
Anybody who has followed us since our start in early 1996 knows the Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Ladoix-Serrigny. We have seen three generation now. Roger Capitain was our first mentor in Burgundy, and we learned our craft leaning against a wine barrel, soaking up his wisdom and discussing his inimitable wines. His sons Patrice and Michel, and now Patrice's son Pierre Francois (the whole family, really), carry on a tradition that is most easily described as a style. There is no mistaking a Capitain wine. Once you know it, you can pick one out just in the bouquet. It's a purity. And it's our benchmark in Burgundy.
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving
COTE DE BEAUNE
Linking the Côte de Nuits with the Côte de Beaune, the hill of Corton signals a change in the landscape. Towards Beaune the land becomes more rounded, its sharp contours yielding to gentle valleys. Like its neighbors Ladoix-Serrigny and Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton (pronounced "Alosse") shares much with the Corton mountain on the approach to the prestigious grands crus of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne.
The appellation Aloxe Corton covers the villages of Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny, and includes 14 premiers crus vineyards. The soil is deep in most parts of these vineyards, and gives a vigorous, full-bodied Pinot Noir, robust yet refined. Tender and fruity, the village wine reaches its peak after 3 to 5 years in the cellar.
Aloxe-Corton whites are very rare. The reds are quite dark in color, their shades varying from deep ruby through to garnet. While young, the wine's aroma suggests spring flowers with red (raspberry, strawberry) and black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry). These intensify with age and evolve into more musky floral notes like jasmine, preserved and brandied fruits, nuts, plummy prune, leather, truffle, mushroom and cinnamon.
A cross section of the Corton hill reveals a classic geological picture. At altitudes of between 200 and 300 meters, the soil is reddish brown with flint and limestone debris (known as chaillots) mixed in, and is rich in potassium and phosphoric acid. The vines face due east. Wines from the northern end are more tender and fruity while those from the southern end are firmer and more complex. Pebbly soil favors supple, high-bred wines, while clay and marl breeds firmness and complexity.
Nearly all reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha)= 2.4 acres
Reds : 116,08 ha (including 37.60 ha premier cru)
Whites : 1.70 ha
The power of the Aloxe-Corton reds calls for forceful, aromatic dishes. Their opulence softens firm and fibrous meats. Their solid but distinguished tannins are a match for marbled meats and brown sauces. These great red wines go best with rib steaks, braised lamb, and roasted poultry. Spiced dishes such as couscous with meat or meat tajines also combine well with this wine, as do soft-centered cheeses such Époisses.
On the label, the appellations 'Aloxe-Corton' and 'Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos des Maréchaudes
Clos du Chapitre
La Toppe au Vert
Les Petites Folières
The following climats are village wines from a single-vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
La Toppe Marteneau
Les Brunettes et Planchots
Les Genevrières et le Suchot
Les Petits Vercots