Hospices de Beaune Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru Cuvee Gauvain 2017
Soft garnet and light ruby rim. Intoxicating nose of black cherry, morels, underbrush, high-toned spice notes. Plush, full-bodied. On the palate black cherry, slightly chewy with gripping tannin. A rather big Volnay.
HOSPICES DE BEAUNE
Elden Selection purchased a barrel of Volnay-Santenot ‘Cuvee Gauvin’ at the Hospices de Beaune charity wine auction in 2013. It was a dream-come-true moment for us. We have lived in Burgundy for over 30 years and the Hospices sale marks a special moment in our calendar. We take pride in our place in the world of Burgundy wine. We are cheerleaders for quality small-production domains. And it’s from these people that we learned the traditions and values that are embodied in the Hospices de Beaune’s wine production. Their vines are a legacy from the very history of Burgundy, donations from landowners for the care of the local population and the upkeep of Burgundian patrimony.
Our Volnay-Santenots has been a treasured vineyard since the earliest mentions of it in the 13th century. But if you want to find it on a map, don’t look in Volnay! The entire vineyard lies wholly in Meursault. But because Meursault is known primarily for its white wines, and the wines made in Les Santenots so closely resemble Volnay, a tradition cross-border courtesy remains.
The vineyard that makes the Cuvee Gauvin sits on two named parcels: 0.72ha in Les Plures and 0.68ha in the superb Santenots du Milieu. It is one of the prides of the Hospices de Beaune.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
COTE DE BEAUNE
The village of Volnay is perched on the slope of a hill, above the band of premier cru vines, high up in the Côte de Beaune. The hill itself is oriented slightly differently from the general run of the country so that the vines face south-east rather than east. Volnay has more than 50% of its appellation classified as premier cru. There have been some recent changes, and as of 2006, some of the premiers crus have been combined. Chanlin is now part of Pitures. Les Aussy is now in Le Roncet. Carelle sous la Chapelle and Carelles-Dessous have become Carelle-Dessous la Chapelle. And En l'Ormeau is now part of Les Mitans. The Volnay appellation is twinned with Volnay-Santenots, grown in neighboring Meursault on soils suited to the Pinot Noir grape.
Produced in the commune of Volnay for appellation 'Volnay' and in Meursault for Santenots 1er Cru, appellation Volnay includes 29 premiers crus.
Volnay admired for its delicacy, its juiciness and its bouquet, is always described (by the non-PC Burgundians, at least) as the most feminine of the Burgundy reds. Though some parcels produce tighter and more muscular Pinot Noir, most Volnay is known for finesse. Color ranges from ruby to garnet, and the nose is famously of violets, though with age you get the classic Burgundy Pinot secondary aromas of spice and undergrowth. But its precocious fruitiness makes it apt to be opened fairly young, especially in delicate vintages.
Oolitic limestone bears a resemblance to the reddish igneous rock porphyry found in the Morvan district. It is pink in color with pale green inclusions and overlain by banks of schist. At the top of the slope, this limestone predominates. Lower down we find white, chalky argovien limestone. Lower still are reddish bathonien limestone, pebbly and with iron content. The soils at the foot of the slope are deeper and more gravelly. Altitudes are in a relatively narrow band at 230-280 meters.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
White wines from Chardonnay are grown in the climat of Santenots (commune of Meursault) which are entitled to the appellations Mersault 1er Cru or Meursault-Santenots, or Meursault.
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
206.70 ha (including 117.65 ha premier cru)
Its velvety finesse combined with aromatic intensity makes Volnay a partner for sophisticated poultry dishes, roasted and glazed, which meld with the fruit and spice aromas of the wine. Better still, especially for the premiers crus, is feathered game, stewed or slowly braised, or simply roasted. The intensity of Volnay allows it to go well with many full-flavored cheeses.
On the label, the appellations Volnay and Volnay 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat. 'Santenots' is a separate climat lying within the appellation 'Volnay' and classified as premier cru.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Carelle-Dessous la Chapelle
Clos de l'Audignac
Clos de la Barre
Clos de la Bousse-d'Or
Clos de la Cave des Ducs
Clos de la Chapelle
Clos de la Rougeotte
Clos des 60 Ouvrées
Clos des Chênes
Clos des Ducs
Clos du Château des Ducs
Clos du Verseuil
Frémiets - Clos de la Rougeotte
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Les Grands Champs
Les Grands Poisots
Les Petits Gamets
Les Petits Poisots