Domaine Jean Fery Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru 'Les Vergelesses' 2016
Yes, we admit, it can be complicated! There is this Jean Fery RED Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru 'Les Vergelesses', but the domain also makes both a red and a white Savigny-les Beaune 1er Cru both called 'Les Vergelesses' as well. To make things even more complicated, the Pernand 'Vergelesses' and the two Savigny 'Vergelesses' touch another Pernand premier cru called 'Ile des Vergelesses'! Sorry! We do our best to keep it all simple and clear. In addition to being the most complicated corner of the Savigny valley, it's also the most interesting. The vines are east-facing, low on the iron-rich slopes. This premier cru Vergelesses is charming and veloute, with freshness in the black fruit aromas. This wine is accessible fairly young. We start to enjoy them at about 3 years.
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 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
Remember, this was a tough one for Burgundy. For some producers, it was the fourth consecutive year that their vineyards were damaged and their yields were low. There had not been a ‘normal’ crop since 2009, so their cellars were empty. And when we talk of 50% crop loss, that’s an average across the region. Some areas had zero crop.
So when we get excited about the quality of the 2016s, we need a little restraint as well. Not everyone did the meticulous vineyard work that was necessary to get through the horrible start. As always, if you want to find the best wines, you need to know the best producers. Another important consideration in a low-yield vintage is the shortage of grapes, which means that the big negociant houses can have trouble sourcing fruit. Be careful with negociant wines in 2016. Buy from tried-and-true producers.
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