This is Pinot Noir in a style all its own, with delicate cherry fruit and brooding minerality. This single vineyard 'Veaupessiot' sits on a point over looking the river valley with perfect exposition. Gabin and Felix Richoux holds back their wines until they feel they have developed enough.
THIERRY RICHOUX IRANCY
On slopes above the Yonne river valley, 15 km from Chablis, a handful of winemakers are cultivating a reputation for red Burgundy at the northernmost limit of possibility. While Chablis, of course, is famous and white, Irancy has always been red and has always lived in the shadow of a bigger Burgundy. But Thierry Richoux, and his father Jean-Claude before him produce wines that will make you do a double take.
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.
Irancy, in the Grand Auxerrois district of the department of Yonne, stands on the right bank of the Yonne some fifteen kilometers south of Auxerre and south-west of Chablis. It is typical of the wine-growing villages of the district, though one of the few to specialize in red wine only.. It was raised to the status of a village appellation, which it shares with the neighboring villages of Cravant and Vincelottes, in 1999.
On the label, the appellation Irancy may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat (named plot) from which the wine comes may appear immediately beneath the word Irancy in letters no larger than half the size.
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard known as a lieu-dit:
Côte du Moutier
Irancy is a red wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. But winemakers may choose to include in its composition up to 10% of César, a traditional grape of this district. Rich in tannins, lively in color, César gives the wine more color and tannic structure than Pinot Noir alone. Cesar alone is dark crimson, whereas pure-Pinot Irancy tends to be a more delicate ruby. It is uncanny how this wine has aromas of the same cherry variety that is grown in the hills in and among the vines. Sometimes floral or peppery, Irancy at its best is marked by well-defined structure and good acid balance For all their finesse, these can be wines slow to open, as tannins melt into a velvety roundness.
The hill-slopes form a bowl surrounding the beginnings of a plateau below where the river Yonne cuts through. The slopes are for the most part composed of Kimmeridgian marls with an mixture of brown limestone soils. Here Pinot Noir flourishes at altitudes of 130-150 metres. Exposures vary, mostly southerly or south-westerly. Some climats have long been recognized as being of particularly interesting.
Reds only - Pinot Noir and César
The César grape, of which there are some 5 hectares in the Irancy appellation, is said to have been brought here by the Roman. It is a vigorous variety which produces largish bunches of black grapes. On its own it makes a deep colored wine with red-fruit aromas and fairly rustic tannins.
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Irancy can be either solid or lacy (pretty much depending on the presence or absence of the Cesar grape), so matching them with food is a case-by-case decision. More tannic young Irancy would match grilled, even barbecued meats. While the more delicate versions are excellent with charcuterie: pâtés, terrines and saucisson. The cheese board could include almost any of the regional cheeses: Coulommiers, Brie de Meaux, Chaource, Langres, Époisses, Soumaintrain.