Situated above the ‘Grands Epenots’, ‘En Largilliers’ is a relatively unknown premier cru. It sits between ‘Charmots’ and Pezerolles’, and just below ‘Noizons’, so it has pedigree! As its name implies, it has a high content of clay, meaning that produces deep, tight, earthy wines. Here it is showing juicy, dense blackcurrant fruit, good solid acidity and the linear tightness you would expect in its youth. Rose petals and violets, black pepper and spice. This one is worth your cellar space.
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 BEAUNE
Pommard lies between Beaune and Volnay where the Côte de Beaune makes a slight turn towards the Morvan. After Beaune, it is one of the larger vineyards. There are no grands crus, though there is a perennial debate about which of the best vineyards should be promoted. As in many of the best wine villages, the appellation is split by a combe with the village lying in the mouth of the valley. So here in Pommard, we speak of the north (Beaune) side vineyards and the south (Volnay) side vineyards. And that goes someway to explaining Pommard styles. But Pommard has a quirk: its best vineyards are not necessarily all situated on slopes. In fact many are in the flatland north of the village.
Produced only in the commune of Pommard, appellation Pommard includes 28 premiers crus.
Pommard has a reputation, forged in the 19th century, of being a massive beast of a wine. But look where it sits, between the south of Beaune and Volnay. Time, terroir and oenology have combined to show us a much more subtle Pommard, a wine that is richer and at the same time more elegant than its caricature. It can be deeply colored, and its berry fruit can be supported by cherry pit and plum. And yes it can develop wild aromas and chocolaty textures, but it will never be a tannic giant, but rather a full and gutsy, mouthwateringly rich, fruit-filled nugget.
On the lower slopes and flat ground, the soil is ancient alluvium. Mid-slope, the clay-limestone soils are well drained thanks to the inclusion of rock debris. Higher still are jurassic oxfordian marls, brown calcic soils, and brown limestone soils. In places, the soil is red with iron. Exposures are south or east, and altitudes range between 250 to 330 meters.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
321.69 ha (including 122.31 ha Premier Cru)
Pommard's density is perhaps its most important feature when combining with food. Most will tell you that because it is so massive, it should be served with game. And is some cases this is correct. But you will find that braised and stewed meat and poultry work well, and the finesse of the wine can accent the rusticity of a simple stew. It is a natural partner for flavorful cheeses Époisses, Langres and Soumaintrain, but also Comté.
On the label, the appellations 'Pommard' and 'Pommard 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de la Commaraine
Clos de Verger
Clos des Epeneaux
Le Clos Micot
Les Combes Dessus
Les Croix Noires
Les Grands Epenots
Les Petits Epenots
Les Rugiens Bas
Les Rugiens Hauts
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, know as a lieu-dit:
La Croix Blanche
La Croix PlanetLa Levrière
La Plante aux Chèvres
Le Bas des Saussilles
Les Combes Dessous
Les LambotsLes Noizons
Les Petits Noizons
Rue au Porc