Domaine Alain Vignot Bourgogne Cote Saint-Jacques Rouge 'Les Ronces' 2019
This single-vineyard Pinot Noir comes from the best parcel on the Cote Saint-Jacques, giving Les Ronces a structure worth laying down. Surprising depth for a wine from the northernmost part of Burgundy.
Domaine Alain Vignot
Bourgogne Cote Saint Jacques
Don’t be surprised if you have not heard of the appellation Bourgogne Cote Saint Jacques.
There is very little of it, and there are very few producers. Alain Vignot essentially invented the appellation in 1975 after years of proving the worth of the distinct terroir of the hillside at Joigny, above the river Yonne in the furthest-northwest part of Burgundy.
We came across Alain Vignot’s wine, essentially his iconic Cote Saint Jacques Vin Gris, in our early days aboard our peniche-hotel Le Papillon. We often moored on the Yonne in the towns of Joigny and Auxerre, and Vignot wines were as local as you could get!
We were always deeply impressed by his Vin Gris, by the expression of Pinot Gris produced on the steep flint and limestone slopes overlooking the Yonne River valley. It’s a wine unique in Burgundy. And it was the only wine produced on the Cote Saint Jacques for much of the region’s history, dating back to phylloxera.
Then in 1980, Alain Vignot replanted Pinot Noir. And in 1992 Chardonnay reappeared. Alain Vignot became not only the locomotive of an appellation that he all but created, he became the benchmark of what these wines could be.
From fewer than 4 acres in 1970, he developed a domain that today extends over 29 acres. Work and perseverance. Risks, both commercial and professional. This is the profile of a visionary.
Domaine Vignot wines are a perfect fit with Elden Selections’ ethic: a great winemaker working in a lesser-known appellation, and producing Burgundy worthy of the region’s reputation and accolades.
BURGUNDY 2019 VINTAGE
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 balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
BOURGOGNE COTE D’OR
REGIONAL APPELLATION OF BURGUNDY
In 2017, the producers of the Regional appellation "Bourgogne", located in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, obtained the additional mention "BOURGOGNE CÔTE D'OR", which thus becomes a Bourgogne with additional Geographical Denomination.
This name is reserved for red and white still wines produced within the 40 villages in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits.
We welcomed this development as it strengthens our philosophy of what “Regional’ Burgundy wine should be. This strengthens our philosophy that simple Bourgogne has the potential to better express specific terroir and vintage.
With other producers, regional wines can be produced by blending wines sourced from across the region, the quality and specificity of this appellation can be questionable. On the other hand, with Elden producers, many Bourgogne wines are produced within a single commune and some even from a single vineyard.
So, the addition of this new AOC is good as it adds more specificity to the terroir. As with all Burgundy wine, you need to know its pedigree and who made it.
The appellation Bourgogne Côte d’Or is restricted to wines grown within the defined limits of the appellation:
Côte d’Or 91 communes