Marchand-Tawse Volnay 1er Cru 'Les Fremiets' 2016
Rich purple, this 1er cru Fremiets delivers an intensity of ripe deep cherry and dark raspberry fruit. This supple intensity continues through on the palate and there remains a nice acidity to maintain an excellent balance through to a fine clean long 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!
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 BEAUNE
The village of Volnay is perched on the slope of a hill, above the band of premier cru vines, high up in the Côte de Beaune. The hill itself is oriented slightly differently from the general run of the country so that the vines face south-east rather than east. Volnay has more than 50% of its appellation classified as premier cru. There have been some recent changes, and as of 2006, some of the premiers crus have been combined. Chanlin is now part of Pitures. Les Aussy is now in Le Roncet. Carelle sous la Chapelle and Carelles-Dessous have become Carelle-Dessous la Chapelle. And En l'Ormeau is now part of Les Mitans. The Volnay appellation is twinned with Volnay-Santenots, grown in neighboring Meursault on soils suited to the Pinot Noir grape.
Produced in the commune of Volnay for appellation 'Volnay' and in Meursault for Santenots 1er Cru, appellation Volnay includes 29 premiers crus.
Volnay admired for its delicacy, its juiciness and its bouquet, is always described (by the non-PC Burgundians, at least) as the most feminine of the Burgundy reds. Though some parcels produce tighter and more muscular Pinot Noir, most Volnay is known for finesse. Color ranges from ruby to garnet, and the nose is famously of violets, though with age you get the classic Burgundy Pinot secondary aromas of spice and undergrowth. But its precocious fruitiness makes it apt to be opened fairly young, especially in delicate vintages.
Oolitic limestone bears a resemblance to the reddish igneous rock porphyry found in the Morvan district. It is pink in color with pale green inclusions and overlain by banks of schist. At the top of the slope, this limestone predominates. Lower down we find white, chalky argovien limestone. Lower still are reddish bathonien limestone, pebbly and with iron content. The soils at the foot of the slope are deeper and more gravelly. Altitudes are in a relatively narrow band at 230-280 meters.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
White wines from Chardonnay are grown in the climat of Santenots (commune of Meursault) which are entitled to the appellations Mersault 1er Cru or Meursault-Santenots, or Meursault.
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
206.70 ha (including 117.65 ha premier cru)
Its velvety finesse combined with aromatic intensity makes Volnay a partner for sophisticated poultry dishes, roasted and glazed, which meld with the fruit and spice aromas of the wine. Better still, especially for the premiers crus, is feathered game, stewed or slowly braised, or simply roasted. The intensity of Volnay allows it to go well with many full-flavored cheeses.
On the label, the appellations Volnay and Volnay 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat. 'Santenots' is a separate climat lying within the appellation 'Volnay' and classified as premier cru.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Carelle-Dessous la Chapelle
Clos de l'Audignac
Clos de la Barre
Clos de la Bousse-d'Or
Clos de la Cave des Ducs
Clos de la Chapelle
Clos de la Rougeotte
Clos des 60 Ouvrées
Clos des Chênes
Clos des Ducs
Clos du Château des Ducs
Clos du Verseuil
Frémiets - Clos de la Rougeotte
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Les Grands Champs
Les Grands Poisots
Les Petits Gamets
Les Petits Poisots