Julien Cruchandeau Hautes Cotes de Nuits 'Valencons' 2018
This single vineyard wine comes from a steep slope with not much limestone and clay soil. So expect a bigger structure than the Cabottes. 10% new wood, and another 10% of older barrels. Fresh open, soft black cherry fruit, earthy and mineral. The result of some whole cluster maceration. Earth, juicy, chocolaty, great volume. Exuberant!
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.
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.
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.