Capitain-Gagnerot Vosne-Romanee ‘Aux Raviolles’ 2021
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.
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 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