Marchand-Tawse Chambolle Musigny 2020
The wines of Chambolle-Musigny are situated somewhere between the strength of Bonnes-Mares and the finesse of Musigny. With these two great Grand Cru, and a couple dozen excellent 1er Cru vineyards, in the tiniest of villages, Chambolle is a focal point of what makes Burgundy Burgundy. We talk of silk and lace, feminine (the un-PC French always say). This village wine is an assemblage two parcels from the lower slopes 'Les Sordes' and 'Les Chardannes', and gives you that juicy black cherry black currant fruit, smoky and fine. And then the intensity starts to climb, slowly at first, then vigorously through to an energetic finish.
The collaboration of Pascal Marchand with another Canadian, Moray Tawse of the Tawse Winery in Niagara, one of Canada's most recognized wineries, gave birth to the new Maison Marchand-Tawse in 2011. And at last Pascal Marchand has all the pieces of the puzzle lined up. This promises to be an extraordinary adventure!
With so many winemakers finishing their 2020 harvest before the end of August, everyone here in Burgundy expected that this hot, sunny vintage would produce atypical wines, overripe, fat and flabby. Why it did not is a mystery to this day.
In fact, 2020 Burgundy, both red and white, is being lauded by the Press and professionals alike as an exceptional vintage, brilliantly fresh, pure, elegant and focused. Yes, the wines are ripe and concentrated, but there is good acidity that more than brings things into balance. This, in fact, defines the Burgundy 2020 style: high acidity and high concentration.
So let’s look, as we do every year, at how the growing season developed, to try to get some idea of what shaped these unexpectedly energetic wines.
In a word, from start to finish, 2020 was precocious. After a mild and humid winter, the vegetative cycle started a month early under sunny skies, with bud burst in mid-April and the first Chardonnay flowers in early May. Then the weather deteriorated. Pinot Noir flowered in cool, damp conditions, and was less successful than Chardonnay, explaining the smaller Pinot crop.
From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end, the driest year since 1945. The grapes started to change color in mid-July, and harvest in August seemed likely.
Now you may think that an August harvest lets everyone get their jobs done and go home early. But remember that there is a big difference between the heat and luminosity of an August afternoon and the cooler, shorter days of September. When maturity comes galloping at you in August, you have to react quickly; a day or two can mean considerable differences in acid and sugar levels.
Indeed, there may have been more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. 2020 was in fact an easy growing season, dry, with little risk of fungal problems. The tough part was deciding when to harvest. Do you put off harvesting to try to get to phenolic maturity, or do you pick sooner to keep acid levels up and to avoid higher alcohol levels?
Many opted to pick early. And for the most part, it proved to be the right decision…though we still do not understand why!
Many 2020 wines have alcohol levels of 13%-14%, but many are higher. Delaying picking increased the potential alcohol levels by as much as a degree a week.
At the same time, good levels of phenolic maturity gave ripe, but not overripe tannins. Some call the 2020s ‘crunchy’, which is a tannin level riper than ‘green’ but less than ‘fine’.
Total acidity was generally high, but most of that was tartaric acid. Malic acid, which would normally make up a big percentage of the total acidity, was low. In fact, the wines changed very little during malolactic fermentation, as there was little malic acid to transform into lactic acid.
So, again, we have a vintage that is characterized by high acidity and concentrated fruit. Some are saying that there has never before been a vintage where ripeness and acidity combined to give such brilliant wines with great aging potential. And this is true for both red and white. Freshness, balance, moderate alcohol.
The whites are rich and ripe, but with a crystalline, almost razor-sharp edge. That little touch of lactic acid makes them complex without adding weight.
The reds might bear a resemblance to past vintages. 2005, maybe. But they made wine differently in 2005. Back then, extraction was the goal: get as much out of the ripeness as you could. Today, Pinot is not so much ‘extracted’ as ‘infused’, like tea. This gives wines that are fresher and more energetic, with no less intensity and maybe more spice.
Drink them now, both red and white. There is astounding vitality in the youthful 2020s. But stick to the regional appellations for now because this is above all a vintage for aging, again both red and white. Keep the premier and grand crus for 10-15 years; longer for the best wines. They have the balance to age, and will reveal little by little the complexity that we just get hints of today. These are wines that may shut down for a few years in a few years, that’s to be expected. But be patient; you will be overjoyed to pull 2020 Burgundy from your cellar down the line.
But even just that little touch of lactic acid made the complexity of the whites.
COTES DE NUITS
Chambolle-Musigny is a tiny village, and is likely to remain so. Expansion would mean encroaching on some of the best vineyard land in the world. With two superb Grands Crus, Bonnes Mares (which links Chambolle to Morey-Saint-Denis), and Musigny, which overlooks the Clos de Vougeot, the village also has several prestigious premier cru, notably among them Les Amoureuses. Its AOC dates from September 1936, making it one of the first French vineyards to be designated.
Produced in the commune of Chambolle-Musigny, the appellation Chambolle-Musigny includes 24 premiers crus as well as two Grands Crus: Musigny and Bonnes Mares.
Chambolle-Musigny is Pinot Noir par excellence, and is often regarded as the most elegant wine of the Côte de Nuits. Its intensity is subtle. It tends to be bright ruby and may darken a little over time. Its violet bouquet is one of the most easily recognizable in Burgundy. With aging it tends towards spiced ripe fruits and truffle, underbrush and animal notes. Rich and complex, it is silky and lacy on the one hand, and solid and structured on the other.
The slope faces east at altitudes of 250-300 meters with only a shallow covering of soil overlying the parent rock, but fissures in the hard Jurassic limestone allow the roots to seek dig deep into the complex sub-soil. Gravel in the valley bottom ensures good drainage.
Red wines exclusively - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
152.23 ha (including 56.23 ha premier cru)
With a personality that is both powerful and delicate, the wines of Chambolle call for sophisticated cuisine. Feathered game in sauce, roasted lamb or a free-range capon. Roast veal's subtle texture would work too. Cheeses should be mild : Brillat-Savarin, Reblochon, Cîteaux, Vacherin, Brie de Meaux or Chaource.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Aux Beaux Bruns
Derrière la Grange
La Combe d'Orveau
Les Feusselottes (ou « Les Feusselotes »)
Les Hauts Doix
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard known as a lieu-dit:
Derrière le Four
La Combe d'Orveau
Les Bas Doix
Les Clos de l'Orme
Les Creux Baissants
Les Mal Carrées
Les Pas de Chat