Jean-Jacques Girard Aloxe-Corton 2018
With this Aloxe Corton, Jean-Jacques comes roaring out of his home valley of Savigny les Beaune. Where his Savigny is floral, spicy and elegant up front, the first nose of this Aloxe Corton is powerful, animal. Then it's a mouthful of black fruit, with the elegance rolling in on the mid-palate and sticking around for the finish and the reflection. This is another register for Jean-Jacques Girard, who, you will find, has perfect pitch!
Jean-Jacque Girard's website says that his family was growing grapes in Savigny-les Beaune back in 1529. That, as the French say, is 'formidable', and would make the domain one of the oldest in Burgundy. But really what matters to us today is what happened to the domain in the past generation. In the late 90s, the original and venerable Domaine Girard-Vollot was split between Georges Girard's two sons Jean-Jacques and Phillipe. The original domain was about 38 acres. And since the split, Jean-Jacques has built his holdings back to over 40 acres, making it one of the most impressive domains in Savigny.
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.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Linking the Côte de Nuits with the Côte de Beaune, the hill of Corton signals a change in the landscape. Towards Beaune the land becomes more rounded, its sharp contours yielding to gentle valleys. Like its neighbors Ladoix-Serrigny and Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton (pronounced "Alosse") shares much with the Corton mountain on the approach to the prestigious grands crus of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne.
The appellation Aloxe Corton covers the villages of Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny, and includes 14 premiers crus vineyards. The soil is deep in most parts of these vineyards, and gives a vigorous, full-bodied Pinot Noir, robust yet refined. Tender and fruity, the village wine reaches its peak after 3 to 5 years in the cellar.
Aloxe-Corton whites are very rare. The reds are quite dark in color, their shades varying from deep ruby through to garnet. While young, the wine's aroma suggests spring flowers with red (raspberry, strawberry) and black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry). These intensify with age and evolve into more musky floral notes like jasmine, preserved and brandied fruits, nuts, plummy prune, leather, truffle, mushroom and cinnamon.
A cross section of the Corton hill reveals a classic geological picture. At altitudes of between 200 and 300 meters, the soil is reddish brown with flint and limestone debris (known as chaillots) mixed in, and is rich in potassium and phosphoric acid. The vines face due east. Wines from the northern end are more tender and fruity while those from the southern end are firmer and more complex. Pebbly soil favors supple, high-bred wines, while clay and marl breeds firmness and complexity.
Nearly all reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha)= 2.4 acres
Reds : 116,08 ha (including 37.60 ha premier cru)
Whites : 1.70 ha
The power of the Aloxe-Corton reds calls for forceful, aromatic dishes. Their opulence softens firm and fibrous meats. Their solid but distinguished tannins are a match for marbled meats and brown sauces. These great red wines go best with rib steaks, braised lamb, and roasted poultry. Spiced dishes such as couscous with meat or meat tajines also combine well with this wine, as do soft-centered cheeses such Époisses.
On the label, the appellations 'Aloxe-Corton' and 'Aloxe-Corton 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 des Maréchaudes
Clos du Chapitre
La Toppe au Vert
Les Petites Folières
The following climats are village wines from a single-vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
La Toppe Marteneau
Les Brunettes et Planchots
Les Genevrières et le Suchot
Les Petits Vercots