Capitain-Gagnerot Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru 'Les Moutottes' 2021
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.
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
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