Marchand-Tawse Vosne Romanee 1er Cru 'Les Petits Monts' 2016
Deep color. A deep nose too with whole clusters dark fruit Fills the mouth with fruit and concentration. Fresh and complex. Very impressive.
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 NUITS
Lying between Flagey-Échezeaux and Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée holds the middle ground in the Côte de Nuits geographically. But in terms of reputation and fame, it is the jewel in the crown of Burgundian wine villages. With six Grands Crus, every one of them world famous, and enough quality premiers crus vineyards to lead some to say that there is not a bad parcel in the village, Vosne-Romanée is the image of the Cote de Nuits and drives the wine world’s imagination to a style of Pinot Noir that, really, only exists here. For a thousand years, the value of Vosne’s grand cru vineyards has been understood and appreciated. It’s hardly surprising that, unlike most of the rest of Burgundy’s vineyards which are parceled and shared by numerous winemakers, these noble plots have for the most part always been singly-held.
Produced in the communes of and Flagey-Échezeaux, appellation Vosne-Romanée includes 14 premiers crus and 6 grands crus.
The color red in Vosne-Romanée takes on a different meaning than it has in most other Burgundy appellations. The wines can vary from pure ruby to black tulip and are often quite intense. Or they can be a fiery red darkening to garnet. One of the rules in Pinot Noir appreciation is that, if you are looking for color, you have come to the wrong place. Vosne-Romanée may be the exception. Fruit over spice is the classic nose with strawberry and blackcurrant sitting atop cinnamon and almond. These youthful aromas evolve with age into grown-up notes of cherries in brandy, leather and fur, woodland scents and game. You expect the wine to be a velvety and refined Pinot Noir at its most elegant IT can be a little austere in its youth but the mature wine is fleshy, voluptuous.
The vines grow at altitudes of 250 to 310 meters and face east or, in some cases, slightly south of east. The plots growing the village appellation lie either at the top of the slope or at its foot on either side of the grand cru climats and in some cases reaching the same altitude. The soils are limestone mixed with clayey marls. Topsoil varies from very shallow to a meter deep.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
153.60 ha (including 56.64 ha Premier Cru)
Powerful and tannic yet voluptuous and meaty leads us to match strong flavors and fibrous textures here. Good-quality poultry, oven-roasted lamb, roasted game birds are obvious choices. But a thick cut steak will match the fullness as well. And spicy poultry preparations are surprisingly well-suited. A less obvious match. but one that works well, is flash sauté of raw foie gras. These wines will stand up to intensely-flavoured cheeses such as Époisses, Langres, Saint-Florentin, or Aisy Cendré. And every wine goes well as Cîteaux.
The commune of Vosne-Romanée produces 6 grands crus and the commune of Flagey-Échezeaux 2 grands crus. On the label, the names Vosne-Romanée and Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Au-dessus des Malconsorts
Clos des Réas
La Croix Rameau
Les Beaux Monts
Les Petits Monts
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Au-Dessus de la Rivière
Aux Champs Perdrix
La Croix Blanche
Le Pré de la Folie
Les Beaux Monts Hauts Rougeots
Porte-Feuilles ou Murailles du Clos