Capitain-Gagnerot Clos Vougeot 'Quartier de Marei Haut' Grand Cru 2019
With over 120 acres planted and around 50 producers, the Clos Vougeot is the largest single grand cru (if not largest vineyard!) in Burgundy. Because of its deep roots in Burgundian tradition, the walled-in Clos has always been considered an integral whole. But of course it is not. Only certain sections actually merit Grand Cru status. So let the buyer beware! So we are pleased to tell you that the small parcel that Maison Capitain owns is in the heart of the very best zone, touching on Grands Echezeaux (on the other side of the wall!). Capitain Clos Vougeot is true Clos Vougeot.
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 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: