Marchand-Tawse Nuits St Georges 2016
This village Nuits St Georges is an assemblage of three parcels, 'Les Allots' and 'Aux Lavieres' on the northern side of town nearer to Vosne-Romanee; and 'Les Maladieres' on the south side of town. The wine is ruby and bright with the fresh berry of youth, but with a structure that shows Pascal Marchand's judicious use of oak with light, sweet toast. Charming now, but will age beautifully.
BURGUNDY 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
Remember, this was a tough one for Burgundy. For some producers, it was the fourth consecutive year that their vineyards were damaged and their yields were low. There had not been a ‘normal’ crop since 2009, so their cellars were empty. And when we talk of 50% crop loss, that’s an average across the region. Some areas had zero crop.
So when we get excited about the quality of the 2016s, we need a little restraint as well. Not everyone did the meticulous vineyard work that was necessary to get through the horrible start. As always, if you want to find the best wines, you need to know the best producers. Another important consideration in a low-yield vintage is the shortage of grapes, which means that the big negociant houses can have trouble sourcing fruit. Be careful with negociant wines in 2016. Buy from tried-and-true producers.
COTE DE NUITS
Nuits-Saint-Georges gives its name to the Cotes de Nuits, the northernmost part of the Cote d'Or and a rival to Beaune as a center of the business of wine in Burgundy. It is a lively wine sitting on either side of the base of the beautiful Vallerots combe and the Meuzin river. Its patron saint, Georges, gives his name to the most famous vineyard of the appellation, which in turn became part of the hyphenated town name in the 19th century. The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Burgundy's most famous wine-brotherhood, was founded here in 1934.
Produced in the communes of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Premeaux-Prissey, appellation Nuits-Saint Georges includes 41 premiers crus.
The appellation Nuits-Saint Georges is really two distinct zones, divided by the town itself on either side of the Meuzin valley. The northern part extends as far as the border of Vosne-Romanée, and the southern section lies partly in Nuits-Saint-Georges and partly in the commune of Premeaux. The wines from the vineyards of Premeaux are considered to be lighter than the rest in the southern section. The richest and most highly prized of the vineyards to the south of town are the premiers crus that come up to the village (including 'Les Saint Georges' itself) To the north, the premiers crus lie in a band that stretches to the borders with Vosne-Romanee, and show a lot of the finesse associated with the wines of Vosne. Color should be brilliant crimson with a bouquet of roses and liquorice. You get that Cotes de Nuits black cherry in youth with strawberry and blackcurrant in the mix, and the usual Pinot Noir secondary aromas with age. The southern wines are more muscular and full-bodied, while the wines on the Vosne side show more restraint and elegance. There are some rare whites which reputedly are dense, floral, biscuity and honeyed.
The soils in the northern sector derive from pebbly alluvium washed down from the slopes above, or, in the low-lying parts, silty deposits from the river Meuzin. In the southern sector the alluvia at the base of the slope originate in the combe of Vallerots where there are deep marly-limestone soils, while at the top of the slope, the rock is almost at the surface. Exposures are mostly to the east or south-east.
Almost all red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 299.03 ha (including 141.62 ha Premier Cru)
Whites : 7.30 ha (including 4.30 ha Premier Cru)
Powerful and structures, this is the wine that gives the Côte de Nuits its reputation as full-bodied and sturdy. It goes with any full flavored meat. Game, especially, is often mentioned with mature wines from Nuits. Locals will serve it with river fish in red wine sauces. Soft-centered cheeses in the style of Époisses, Langres or Soumaintrain are the classic combo.
On the label, the appellations 'Nuits-Saint Georges' and 'Nuits-Saint Georges 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Aux Champs Perdrix
Clos de la Maréchale
Clos des Argillières
Clos des Corvées
Clos des Corvées Pagets
Clos des Forêts Saint-Georges
Clos des Grandes Vignes
Clos des Porrets-Saint-Georges
En la Perrière Noblot
Les Hauts Pruliers
Les Terres Blanches
Rue de Chaux
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
Au Bas de Combe
Aux Croix Rouges
Aux Pertuis Maréchaux
En la Perrière Noblot
La Petite Charmotte
Le Coteau des Bois
Les Hauts Poirets
Les Hauts Pruliers
Plantes au Baron