Capitain-Gagnerot Vosne-Romanee ‘Aux Raviolles’ 2017
Here’s a classic Vosne-Romanee from the elegant single-vineyard ‘Aux Raviolles’, but definitely produced with Capitain flair and finesse. Red like a jewel, with black, black fruit and spices. This is balanced power,velvety and fresh, the classic Vosne ‘fist in a velvet glove’.
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 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
COTE DE NUITS
Lying between Flagey-Échezeaux and Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée holds the middle ground in the Côte de Nuits geographically. But in terms of reputation and fame, it is the jewel in the crown of Burgundian wine villages. With six Grands Crus, every one of them world famous, and enough quality premiers crus vineyards to lead some to say that there is not a bad parcel in the village, Vosne-Romanée is the image of the Cote de Nuits and drives the wine world’s imagination to a style of Pinot Noir that, really, only exists here. For a thousand years, the value of Vosne’s grand cru vineyards has been understood and appreciated. It’s hardly surprising that, unlike most of the rest of Burgundy’s vineyards which are parceled and shared by numerous winemakers, these noble plots have for the most part always been singly-held.
Produced in the communes of and Flagey-Échezeaux, appellation Vosne-Romanée includes 14 premiers crus and 6 grands crus.
The color red in Vosne-Romanée takes on a different meaning than it has in most other Burgundy appellations. The wines can vary from pure ruby to black tulip and are often quite intense. Or they can be a fiery red darkening to garnet. One of the rules in Pinot Noir appreciation is that, if you are looking for color, you have come to the wrong place. Vosne-Romanée may be the exception. Fruit over spice is the classic nose with strawberry and blackcurrant sitting atop cinnamon and almond. These youthful aromas evolve with age into grown-up notes of cherries in brandy, leather and fur, woodland scents and game. You expect the wine to be a velvety and refined Pinot Noir at its most elegant IT can be a little austere in its youth but the mature wine is fleshy, voluptuous.
The vines grow at altitudes of 250 to 310 meters and face east or, in some cases, slightly south of east. The plots growing the village appellation lie either at the top of the slope or at its foot on either side of the grand cru climats and in some cases reaching the same altitude. The soils are limestone mixed with clayey marls. Topsoil varies from very shallow to a meter deep.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
153.60 ha (including 56.64 ha Premier Cru)
Powerful and tannic yet voluptuous and meaty leads us to match strong flavors and fibrous textures here. Good-quality poultry, oven-roasted lamb, roasted game birds are obvious choices. But a thick cut steak will match the fullness as well. And spicy poultry preparations are surprisingly well-suited. A less obvious match. but one that works well, is flash sauté of raw foie gras. These wines will stand up to intensely-flavoured cheeses such as Époisses, Langres, Saint-Florentin, or Aisy Cendré. And every wine goes well as Cîteaux.
The commune of Vosne-Romanée produces 6 grands crus and the commune of Flagey-Échezeaux 2 grands crus. On the label, the names Vosne-Romanée and Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Au-dessus des Malconsorts
Clos des Réas
La Croix Rameau
Les Beaux Monts
Les Petits Monts
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Au-Dessus de la Rivière
Aux Champs Perdrix
La Croix Blanche
Le Pré de la Folie
Les Beaux Monts Hauts Rougeots
Porte-Feuilles ou Murailles du Clos