Capitain-Gagnerot Corton 'Les Grandes Lolieres' Grand Cru 2018
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 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
COTE DE BEAUNE
The Corton mountain lies in the midst of a cluster of wine-growing villages (Ladoix-Serrigny, Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune) with, to the north, the southern end of the Côte de Nuits where vineyards mingle with stone quarries (comblanchien limestone). The vineyards lie at heights of 250-330 meters and form a kind of amphitheater not found elsewhere in the Côte. The Corton mountain produces white Corton-Charlemagne and (mainly) red Corton.
The appellation Grand Cru Corton covers the villages of Aloxe-Corton, Ladoix-Serrigny, Pernand-Vergelesses, and includes 25 Grand Cru climats. The extensive area covered by this Grand Cru and the large number of different climats it contains explain the observable differences in character among the wines grown here.
The rare whites (grown mainly in the climats of Vergennes and Languettes) have a keeping potential of 4-10 years. They tend to be pale gold in color with green highlights. The nose is often flinty mineral and baked apple spices. Elegant and highly-bred, supple and round, this unusual Chardonnay has much in common with Corton-Charlemagne, if slightly fatter, perhaps due to a soil more suited to red.
The Corton reds are often intense crimson, darkening towards magenta. Their aromatic expression in youth should be fruit forward and floral, with notes of blueberry and kirsch cherry, evolving towards underbrush, leather, fur, pepper and liquorice with age. On the palate Cortons are notably powerful and muscular. Firm, frank and fat, they require time (4-12 years) to reach maturity.
Exposure is south-east and south-west (unusual in the Côte). The hillside offers a text-book cut-away illustration of the local geology. The oxfordian Jurassic limestone lying between Ladoix and Meursault is younger here than elsewhere along the Côte. At mid-slope the gradient is gentle and the soil reddish and pebbly, derived from brown limestone and rich deposits of marl with a high potassium content. Pinot Noir is king on most parts of the slope. Chardonnay (which gives us the Corton-Charlemagne) almost invariably occupies the top reaches.
Mainly red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 90.25 ha
Whites : 4.53 ha
Red Corton, solid and opulent, is complex and mouth-filling in a way that is both sensual and structured. Strong soft-centred cheeses are often served. But, without question, its closest companions are meats that match its power and intensity. Roast or grilled beef, or any and all game (furred or feathered) roasted, braised or in sauce. The rare white Corton should be saved for a special occasion but in general is a natural match for shellfish, fish, poultry and goat's cheese.
On the label, the words 'Grand Cru' must appear immediately below the name of the appellation in characters of identical size, and red wines only may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard classified as a Grand Cru climat.
The Grand Cru climats are:
Le Clos du Roi
Le Meix Lallemand
Le Rognet et Corton
Les Chaumes et la Voierosse
Les Grandes Lolières