Domaine Michel Arcelain Pommard 'Clos Beaudier' 2012
The Arcelain Pommard 'Clos Beaudier' is a tiny production, a single-vineyard cuvee that Michel always sets apart from his other Pommards, almost as if it were a premier cru (and I think he sees it that way!). The greatest fault in the 2010s is that they are so charming so early; they risk being drunk up before they really have a chance to show what all the fuss is about. Translucent ruby, earthy bright, pure and powerful, with elegant notes of orange and spice, and complex length. This is a wine to buy by the case: drink a bottle a year over the next 12 years and watch a real Burgundy unfold.
Michel and Mado Arcelain have been working their domain in Pommard together since they were married in 1963. The domain is made up of parcels of vines inherited from both sides of the family and over a number of generations, as well as vineyards purchased by them over the years. These vineyards (with the exception of a small parcel planted in Chardonnay) are all Pinot Noir of the highest quality, known as Pinot Fin. The selection of quality vines was primordial for the domain, and they have been cultivated like a garden since 1949.
BURGUNDY 2012 VINTAGE
What a surprise! To say today that the 2012 harvest produced, not just a good Burgundy vintage but an exceptional one, beggars belief.
Here in Burgundy it is often said that June makes the quantity and September makes the quality. And 2012 was a classic example. But because 2012 was such a lousy growing season, and because the wine is just so good, folks are trying to understand why and how that can be.
Here’s how we saw it. It all started well before the sap started to rise in the vines. February was frigid. We had two consecutive weeks where the temperature did not rise above freezing. Our producers tell us that this polar period may have had an important effect on what was to come, notably the poor flowering later in June.Then March was just about all the springtime we had. In fact it was more like summer than summer was. And with those warm dry sunny days, the vines leapt into action. The sap rose and the buds burst well before the end of the month. Everyone was talking about an August harvest! It was, considering what was to come, a glorious time.
Then April brought radical change. A four month period of gloomy cold and wet set in. It rained one day in three until July. And during this time a series of hailstorms shattered the vineyards, especially in the south. The vines flowered in early June, but this was slow and drawn out over the course of the month. Because of this, a lot of the flowering failed. Every incident, it seemed, reduced the potential yield of the crop. Many producers reported as much as 50% crop loss. Some, in the areas worst hit by hail, were almost wiped out.
Then it got warm and the threat of rot turned to reality. Mildew and oidium were rampant. Producers later said that if you were late with copper sulfate treatments in 2012 it was fatal. Then it got hot. And grapes literally grilled on the vine in August, scorched by the heat.
The locals are saying that every month claimed its part of the crop. So the first thing to remember about 2012 is that it is a small harvest, and a very small harvest in certain zones. But what happened next saved the day for what remained on the vine.
Mid-August was hot and sunny, and this continued until well in to of September. The well-watered vines fed what grapes remained, and sugar levels shot up dramatically. It felt like a time of healing. The crop was made up of small clusters of grapes with very thick skins, with lots of space between the berries to allow them to expand and to let air circulate.
So with a healthy albeit small crop on the vines, and what appeared to be stable weather conditions, the producers felt safe that they could wait for ideal maturity. And when harvest began in the latter half of September, the grapes were in good condition. Which is just as well, because halfway through it started to rain and got cold. The worry again was rot. But the thick-skinned grapes were resistant, and the cool temperature kept botrytis at bay.
Those cool final days had another advantage. The fruit was brought to the winery at an ideal temperature to allow a few days of cool maceration before fermentations started, slowly and gently. So from the very start, these wines have shown brilliant color and delicate aromas.
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 Petits Noizons
Rue au Porc