And allow me to end with the biggest surprise of the day. Pierre's Marsannay 'Sampagny' proves the adage that to understand Marsannay you need to know the vineyards. There is such diversity in the soil types in Marsannay. But here, in this single-vineyard 'Sampagny' you get a delicate cover to a magnificently complex wine, graceful and yet full of energy and tension. A great example of what Marsannay can be.
DOMAINE PIERRE NAIGEON
The Domaine Naigeon, though old by even Burgundy standards, remained fairly small until the present generation. Shortly after 1945 Pierre Naigeon gave his name to the domain that is now managed by his grandson, also named Pierre. Until 2005 the domain consisted of two hectares of two grands crus, Charmes-Chambertin and Bonnes-Mares! In 2006, Domaine Pierre Naigeon dramatically increased its size with the addition of 9 hectares of vineyards in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits and Gevrey Chambertin area.
It was at this stage that Elden Wine first met and presented Pierre Naigeon’s wines, being one of the first in the US to do so.
The Domaine is now more than 11.5 hectares (almost 28 acres), with 50 different plots in the Côte de Nuits. The vines of Domaine Pierre Naigeon average 50 years of age. This is considered quite remarkable in Burgundy, and ensures consistently low yielding vines producing high quality wines.
Aside from the domain-owned vineyards, Pierre Naigeon also sources high quality fruit from various parts of Burgundy including many of the most prestigious appellations of the Côte de Nuits and Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune. An impressive range of wines is produced including 3 Grands Crus, 6 Premiers Crus and 8 Villages. The Domain now produces more than 25 different single vineyard wines.
The wines are vinified and bottled separately, following traditional practices, without fining and filtration, to keep the pure expression of the terroir.
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
Mazys Chambertin Grand Cru
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Cazetiers »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Lavaux Saint Jacques »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Fontenys »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Perrières »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Cherbaudes »
Fixin Premier Cru « Les Hervelets »
Gevrey Chambertin « En Vosne »
Gevrey Chambertin « Echezeaux »
Gevrey Chambertin « Les Crais »
Gevrey Chambertin « Les Corvées »
Morey Saint Denis « Les Herbuottes »
Fixin « Les Herbues »
Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits
Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Bourgogne Pinot Noir « Les Maladières »
Bourgogne Passetoutgrain « La Riotte »
Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru « Les Embrazées »
Puligny Montrachet « Les Reuchaux »
Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits
Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire Chardonnay & Pinot Beurot
So that the grapes are picked at the optimum stage of ripeness, particular care is given to vineyard work throughout the year.
Manual pruning, using the "Guyot" method (cane pruning), takes place in March and early April. Minimal use of organic fertilizer combined with older vine age, naturally limits grape yield. The weed population is limited by cultivating the soil, which eliminates the use of chemical herbicides. Only organic products are used to protect the vines against insects. These beliefs and practices are enforced to ensure a sustainable philosophy, producing natural wines and protecting the environment for future generations.
Specific attention is paid to crop yields, with the use of shoot thinning, bunch thinning and ‘green harvest’ if required. It is considered optimal that the vines carry five to six bunches prior to harvest.
Since the 2002 harvest, Domaine Pierre Naigeon has been using flat bins (similar to those used in Burgundy's most famous domain situated in Vosne-Romanée). The grape pickers simply place the grapes in these cases without first putting them in a basket as is done traditionally. Each shallow case can contain only one layer of grapes thus avoiding crushing, hence juice oxidation. Care is taken to ensure the cases are never placed on the ground before reaching the sorting table, limiting contamination. Moreover, the cases are latticed to allow damaged fruit, rainwater or dew to drain off. Only rigorously selected, undamaged fruit is vinified in the vats.
The vinification takes place in two phases; a 5 to 10 day cold maceration period (12 to 15°C) followed by an alcoholic fermentation, by the natural grape yeasts. This second phase lasts around two weeks under controlled temperatures.
Once the fermentation is completed, the wine is put into oak barrels in the cellar. The proportion of new oak varies according to the year and appellation. The pressing of fermented skins is carried out using a pneumatic press, which ensures gentle extraction of desirable tannins to ensure the structure associated with great Burgundy.
During the maturation in oak barrels the wine is racked once after the malolactic fermentation. This involves the malic acid being converted to lactic acid, decreasing total acidity and resulting in a more balanced wine.
Barrel ageing lasts between 12 and 22 months. Once a week each barrel is topped (ouillage) to preserve the freshness and prevent oxidation of the wine.
Wine is tasted and assessed regularly during barrel maturation and is bottled according to moon phases. The bottling is done traditionally, without fining or filtration, directly from each cask with a "two-nosed goat", a stainless steel tap with two openings. Corks are inserted with a hand-operated corking machine. Only two barrels a day (600 bottles) are bottled.
White wine fermentations are natural, without the addition of cultured yeasts. The whites are raised on the lees for between 12 and 15 months in 20-30% new oak, with regular batonnage (stirring of the lees). Red wine fermentations are natural, without the addition of cultured yeasts, in thero-regulated tanks. 15-20 days vatting time. They are then raised 15 and 18 months in 30% new oak.
BURGUNDY 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
COTES DE NUITS
Marsannay is the only appellation Village which produces wines from all three colors. Their typicity is that of the Côte de Nuits, and their style resemble that of their neighboring appellations Fixin and Gevrey-Chambertin.
The Marsannay reds have intense coloration and a bouquet which smoothly blends red fruits (black cherry, strawberry) and black (blackcurrant, blueberry). In the mouth, the attack is powerful and generous shading into a long and meaty finish.
The whites run through the entire gamut of citrus aromas and white flowers (hawthorn, acacia). The mouth is frequently full and rounded, introducing a fine and persistent minerality. Both reds and whites are delicious while still young but, given time, will more fully reflect the typicity of their terroir.
As for the Marsannay rosés, their tender fruitiness recalls vine-grown peaches and gooseberry and in the mouth they are characteristically full, fresh, and enticing.
Regarded as the “Golden Gate to the Côte de Nuits”, the appellation MARSANNAY covers the communes of Chenôve, Marsannay-la-Côte and Couchey. There is evidence of vineyards here, as is the case of the rest of the Côte, as early as the 7th century and the prestige of this vine-growing region is long-established. The Abbey of Bèze, the Bishop of Autun, the Dukes of Bourgogne, and many others have owned vines here and the wines found their way to the tables of Louis XIV and Louis XVl. As late as the 19th century, some Climats enjoyed a classification equivalent to today’s Grands Crus.
The vines extend from North to South along the best parts of the hill-slope and the ground at its foot at heights of 255 to 390 meters above sea-level. Exposures range from due east to south. The soils, derived from mid-Jurassic strata, are very diverse in their composition.
Producing communes: Marsannay-la-Côte, Couchey, Chenôve.?
The name of the appellation may be followed by the name of the Climat looking forward to classifing the Climats in Premier Cru.
Area under production*:
• Reds: 181 ha
• Whites: 40 ha
• Rosés: 20 ha