Capitain-Gagnerot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2016
Corton is the only Grand Cru red in the Cote de Beaune. But it covers a lot of the Corton hillside, and hence there are many different faces to Corton. With mid-slope position and due east exposure, this Corton Grandes Lolieres Grand Cru is the last Corton vineyard before Ladoix, and sits just outside the Capitain's back door. The vines date from 1950, and give wines that are solidly framed with a potential for long aging. Rich, balanced, powerful and elegant, these are all traits you expect in a well-made grand cru. Curiously, the Corton Grandes Lolieres is contiguous to both the Capitain Ladoix 1er Cru ‘Bois Roussot’ and their Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru ‘Les Moutottes. So here is a chance to taste 3 appellations from the same producer from vineyards that share a common border! Burgundy can be beautiful that way.
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.
BURGUNDY 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
Remember, this was a tough one for Burgundy. For some producers, it was the fourth consecutive year that their vineyards were damaged and their yields were low. There had not been a ‘normal’ crop since 2009, so their cellars were empty. And when we talk of 50% crop loss, that’s an average across the region. Some areas had zero crop.
So when we get excited about the quality of the 2016s, we need a little restraint as well. Not everyone did the meticulous vineyard work that was necessary to get through the horrible start. As always, if you want to find the best wines, you need to know the best producers. Another important consideration in a low-yield vintage is the shortage of grapes, which means that the big negociant houses can have trouble sourcing fruit. Be careful with negociant wines in 2016. Buy from tried-and-true producers.
COTE DE NUITS
Say ‘Vougeot’ and everyone immediately thinks ‘Clos de Vougeot, Vougeot’s most famous vineyard. But this little village of the Côte de Nuits has other fine vineyards as well. The name itself derives from that of the little river Vouge which runs through. The abbey of Cîteaux established these vineyards in the 12th century and, through centuries of free labor, laid the foundations of their reputation and an over-all understanding of the diversity of the Burgundian terroir. One of Vougeot’s particularities is that, unusually for the Côte de Nuits, there is a relatively important production of white wines from Chardonnay.
Produced in the commune of Vougeot, the appellation Vougeot includes 4 premiers crus. The commune of Vougeot also produces a grand cru appellation, Clos de Vougeot
Red Vougeot has much in common with its illustrious neighbors, Clos de Vougeot, Musigny, and Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses). Its color should be crimson and purple in youth, deep and luminous. It develops youthful aromas of violets, black cherry and blackcurrant. When older, it goes to underbrush and truffle over animal notes. The attack is pretty straightforward, and should show acidity and tannin balanced with alcohol.
White Vougeot is often limpid white gold. The initial bouquet is often floral, acacia, often with hints of exotic fruits. A touch of minerality is often a surprise. In the older wines, aromas range from spice cake to fleshy fruits like quince and fig. There is that underlying richness which often found in these rare Côte de Nuits Chardonnays.
The vines grow at altitudes between 240 and 280 meters. Those on the upper slopes occupy shallow brown limestone soils. The soils on the lower slopes are limestone, fine-textured marl, and clay. These plots lie very close to the northern part of the Clos de Vougeot, and in some spots are separated only by the wall.
Red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds: 12.00 ha (including 9.45 ha premier cru)
Whites : 3.87 ha (including 3.04 ha premier cru)
Reds tend to be sturdy, but not without a certain delicacy that comes across as length and finish. For this reason, it pairs well with dishes equally intense in flavor. Meat dishes are best roasted or braised, tender and melting. Roast fowl, roast lamb, or game birds. Game, braised or stewed, will prove a worthy partner. As for cheeses, medium flavored, soft-centered cheeses like Reblochon or Vacherin will make a good match.
The richness and delicacy of Vougeot whites make them a match for crustaceans such as lobster or crawfish, fish (either baked or in cream sauce), good quality poultry, and sweetbreads.
On the label, the names Vougeot and Vougeot 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, called a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de la Perrière
Le Clos Blanc
Les Petits Vougeots
The following climat is a village wine from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit: