Julien Cruchandeau Aligote 'Le Village' 2019
From 50 year old vines in the hills above Nuits St Georges, this Aligote is fresh and spicy with green apple acidity. Bright, crisp almost crunchy fruit and a deep, floral lingering finish carried out long by the limestone minerality.
Julien Cruchandeau started making wine in 2003, and was one of the pioneers of Bouzeron. He has since moved up into the hills above Nuits St Georges to pursue what has become an incredibly dynamic career, marking him as one of the great winemakers of his generation.
Julien champions the lesser-known appellations. And has taken on the Aligote grape as a badge of honor. So it was really no coincidence that he chose Bouzeron as his starting point. Appellation Bouzeron (as opposed to every other Burgundy appellation, bar one), chose Aligote over Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, as the appellation's grape. It was a radical move, spearheaded by an elder statesman of Burgundy wine, Aubert De Villaine of Domaine Romanée-Conti, meant to give Aligote the respect and reputation it deserves. And now, 20 years on, we are seeing the results, not only in some truly magnificent Bouzerons, but also in the quality of Bourgogne Aligote in general.
In 2009 when he moved his winery from Bouzeron to Chaux, a tiny village in the Hautes Cotes up behind Nuits St George. Here he took on another underdog, appellation Hautes Côtes de Nuits. In retrospect, it was a prescient move. The buzz phrase in Burgundy these days, especially after several recent years of drought, is the 'quality is moving up the hill'. In other words, the perfect Burgundian growing conditions are at a higher altitude these days than they were a decade ago.
The back story is fascinating. Julien worked in the early 2000s for a domain in Bouzeron, so he learned the subtleties of the grape from many of the Burgundian masters. And of course he crossed paths with Aubert De Villaine who has a domain in Bouzeron and whose crusade to promote Aligote was gaining ground. The Domaine De Villaine's Aligote vineyards are planted in what are known as 'massale selection' vines. As opposed to 'clones', massale selection vines are produced with wood taken from old vineyards that were planted in the days before clonal planting. This preserves the variations of the older vines which were selected for their superior quality production. Vineyards planted in massale selection have significant varietal variation, which adds depth and dimension to the resulting wine.
So when Julien bought his first vineyards in Bouzeron, he wanted to plant the best quality plants he could get his hands on. So he turned to Aubert De Villaine, who, wanting to further promote Bouzeron and help the younger producers, offered Julien vines from his massale selection. To this day, Julien's Bouzeron is called 'Massale', and is one of the shining stars of the appellation.
Flush with the success of his Bouzeron 'Massale', Julien took on a substantial parcel of Aligote when he set up in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits in 2009. His Hautes Cotes Aligote is from a large single vineyard named 'Le Village' and is model of what Bourgogne Aligote can be.
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
Village appellation of wines from the Aligoté grape of Côte Chalonnaise, in Saône-et Loire. One of the five appellations of Côte Chalonnaise, and the closest to Côte-d'Or. Created by the appellation decree of February 17, 1998, this Village appellation replaces the former regional appellation Bourgogne aligoté Bouzeron.
Communes of production: Bouzeron and Chassey-le-Camp.Area in production
Area in production 59.98 ha
White wines exclusively, grape variety Aligoté.
Aligoté (6% of the Burgundy grape variety) is a very old plant in Burgundy. This vigorous white grape carries grapes a little bigger and more numerous than those of Chardonnay. The grape variety Aligoté comes from a cross between the Pinot Noir and the Gouais (Gallic grape variety), which has disappeared today. Aligoté grown in Bouzeron is called ‘dore’ : when the grapes ripen under the effect of the sun, their skin finer than the traditional Aligoté produced on the rest of Burgundy, takes a golden hue and especially allows a balance in the ripening between alcohol and acid.
Bouzeron has a pale gold color, slightly green, which can go towards pale straw. The nose evokes acacia and other white flowers. Flinty mineral aromas and lemony acidity are its classic bouquet. A touch of honey, sometimes. On the palate, it’s round and robust.
Recognized in 1997 as a village appellation, the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée Bouzeron honors the grape variety that has made its name: Aligoté. It is particularly successful in Burgundy. In Côte Chalonnaise, north of the Saône-et-Loire, separated from Santenay by the valley of the Dheune, this hill village is very close to Rully and Chassagne-Montrachet.
Bouzeron, AOC Village, is exclusively grown on hillsides on soils composed of limestone-dominated white marl, which makes it possible to better control the yields and to propose its particular terroir. The low hills are used to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, whose wines are marketed under the AOC "Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise". Aligoté grows bestat altitudes between 270 and 350 meters above sea level. The upper part rests on white marl (Oxfordian, first floor of the Upper Jurassic). These hills also bear the bathonian, brown and marly limestones. Soils are usually thin and steep. Exposure: East and Southeast.