Capitain-Gagnerot Ladoix 1er Cru 'Les Grechons et Foutrieres' 2021
The Capitain Ladoix 1er Cru Grechons is very much an insider's wine. It's sold almost exclusively in the region (or to those who know Capitain well). Year upon year we have tasted the new Grechons at the same time that we taste the latest Capitain Corton Charlemagne, often standing in the freezing cold when the barrels have been taken outside to cold-precipitate the tartaric acids. The number of times we have mistaken the Grechons for the Charlemagne cannot be just chance! There is a similarity in the minerality, with that Corton Mountain limestone smokiness unlain with honey and white flowers.
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
Coming south from Dijon, Ladoix is the first village of the Cote de Beaune. En route you will have left the Cote de Nuits at Nuits St. Georges and traversed a zone of commercial quarries. Ladoix shares with Aloxe-Corton and Pernand-Vergelesses the famous wines of the Corton mountain. But it also has a northern zone of vestigial Cotes de Nuits soil. The vineyards grow both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, seemingly randomly, but really they are planted mostly according to the complexity of the soils as the hillside heads up into the vines of Aloxe-Corton.
Produced in the commune of Ladoix-Serrigny, the appellation Ladoix includes 11 premiers crus.
Ladoix red is often the color of cassis (or blackcurrant), bright garnet with deeper tints. But if you are looking for deep color, you have come to the wrong place. Ladoix is a finesse wine, long on little red woodland fruit and the first hints of Cote de Nuits cherry. It is deceptively tender and supple, but should have a depth that comes from its location rather than extraction. It can be voluminous without being dense.
Ladoix white is golden straw colored and should smell of flowers and have notes of ripe autumn fruit, plum and apple, pear and fig. They are bright on the palate, often very juicy, but show the firmness of good structure. Their minerality in not unlike the famous neighbor further up the slope, Corton-Charlemagne
The soils of the upper slopes are pebbly and red, iron-rich olite with a high limestone content and a good bit of marl. These soils suit white wines. Mid-slope, reddish-brown calcareous soils with abundant limestone debris produce full-bodied and flamboyant red wines. Clayey soils at the foot of the slopes take away some of their finesse, but add oomph. Exposures are mainly east or south-east to south. with altitudes at 230 to 325 meters
Reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area :
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 73.86 ha (including 15.96 ha premier cru)
Whites : 20.14 ha (including 8.73 ha premier cru)
'Silky' is a word often used to describe red Ladoix. Soft tannins and roundness texture go well with cured ham and delicate meats like rabbit or boiled beef. There is a fleshiness that will smooth out the spices in a curry of lamb or poultry. It goes well with mild cheeses such as Vacherin, Reblochon or Cîteaux.
Ladoix white at its fullest, suits the salty iodine flavors of shellfish and cooked seafood. Blue cheeses work, as do firmer aged goat cheeses and grainy gruyère.
On the label, the appellations 'Ladoix' and 'Ladoix 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru.