Domaine Jean Fery Pernand-Vergelesses 'Les Combottes' 2019
Pernand 'Les Combottes' lies in a heat trap above and behind the village of Pernand-Vergelesses. In a sense it is the last vineyard in the line leading off of Corton-Charlemagne, which explains why you often see this village appellation bottled as a single vineyard lieu-dit. The Domaine Jean Fery has its roots in Echevronne, just above the village of Pernand-Vergelesses, so this is, in a sense, their signature white. Floral and mineral, uniquely Pernand, there's a freshness and a purity that is fleshy and fruity but well-cut and firm.
Domaine Jean Fery
Nestled in the Hautes Cotes village of Echevronne, the Domaine Jean Fery is the master plan of Jean-Louis Fery, the latest in a wine line dating back to the mid-1800s. From 1994, with the help of Alain Meunier of the Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, the Domaine Jean Fery went bio (without actually claiming the certification) and started expanding their vineyard holdings. From the 2006 harvest, Pascal Marchand took the reins, continuing the domain's quest for quality and integrity.
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.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Pernand-Vergelesses is tucked into the junction of two valleys behind the Corton mountain which it shares with two other villages, Aloxe Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny. There also you find the prestigious grands crus of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne. Eight premiers crus vineyards are found in two distinct zones. One group is situated south of the village in the direction of Savigny les Beaune, touching on the Savigny 1er Cru and, in some cases, sharing the vineyard name. The other group is located immediately to the northeast of the village, on a hill adjacent to the Corton mountain, like a continuation of the grand cru Corton Charlemagne vines, and, not surprisingly, produce only white premier cru wines.
Produced only in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses, appellation Pernand-Vergelesses includes 8 premiers crus. The commune of Pernand-Vergelesses also produces 3 grands crus: Corton, Corton-Charlemagne and Charlemagne.
Pernand-Vergelesses Pinots should be intense ruby going towards crimson. In youth, the nose is strawberry, raspberry, and flowers. When older, it evolves typically into underbrush and spices. The mouth is unaggressive but muscular with well-melted tannins. Fleshy and robust, it is nonetheless one of the perkiest reds of the Cote de Beaune, with juicy fruit and balanced acidity.
The Chardonnays are white gold or pale yellow turning gold with age. They have a unique minerality with aromas of sweet acacia in youth and later, notes of amber, honey and spices. On the palate it is mineral, like most whites of the Corton mountain, harmonious and charming.
Most of the vineyards face east or south, with a few facing north-east, at altitudes of 250-300 meters. On the lower slopes are clayey-limestone soils mixed with chaillots (flinty residues from siliceous limestone). These soils are easily-worked and rich in potassium and phosphoric acid. Mid-slope, the pebbly limestone soils suit Pinot Noir, and at the top, the brown or yellowish marly soil favors Chardonnay.
Red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 82.31 ha (including 43.93 ha premier cru)
Whites : 53.01 ha (including 17.60 ha premier cru)
Fleshy and fruity, the reds are very seductive, and with age soft tannins go well with forceful meats like leg of lamb, feathered game, grilled pork or roiasted beef. From the cheese board, most any creamy cheese works, Mont d'Or, Vacherin, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Cîteaux.
The whites are fresh and lively. Of all the whites of the Cote, this is the first choice for sushi, which may or may not be coincidence that the local restaurant is fusion Japanese-French. The same goes for fresh-water fish in white sauce, and for seafood pasta or risotto, which its vivacity will lend depth and contrast. It also works well with cheeses of the gruyère type.
On the label, the appellations Pernand-Vergelesses and Pernand-Vergelesses 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 du Village
Creux de la Net
Ile des Vergelesses
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Clos de Bully
Es Larret et Vignes Blanches
Le Devant des Cloux
Les Plantes des Champs et Combottes
Sous le Bois de Noël et Belles Filles
Sous les Cloux