In Burgundy, the period between the end of the alcoholic fermentation and bottling is called élevage, literally “raising,” as in raising children. Those engaged in buying grapes, must or wine and maturing and bottling it in their cellars are known as a négociant-éleveur.
Dominique Laurent is a négociant-éleveur based in Nuits-St.-Georges, where he has two cellars, one for the Côte de Beaune reds and one for the Côte de Nuits. He seeks barrels of old-vine cuvées that have been vinified in a traditional manner. That means either short, straightforward fermentations without a lot of extraction or manipulation, or longer, whole-cluster fermentations, which include the stems of the grapes. “I like to work very small, with old vines,” he says.
His Beaune Premier Cru, what he calls “the reference de maison,” is rich, round and silky, with an intense cherry note and a long finish. This is in contrast to the laser-structured Beaune Grèves, which sports a beam of pure cherry flavor.
The Volnay Clos des Chênes is a mix of very old vines and a 5-year-old parcel. It’s transparent and silky, offering violet and red fruit notes. The Pommard Epenots, from vines planted in 1900, is a more serious, brooding example, very intense and long.
Moving to the Côte de Nuits cellar, Laurent draws a sample from a barrel of Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes, from a new source in 2005. Very pure and harmonious, it evokes cherry and violet notes, great balance and lingers on the palate. A Vosne-Romanée Beaux Monts, from 70- to 80-year-old vines, is rich, dense and long, exhibiting a concentrated blackberry flavor.
Among the grands crus, the Clos St.-Denis is a fleshy, seductive red, full of exotic spice aromas and flavors. The Grands-Echézeaux shows tremendous complexity, with black currant, violet and chocolate notes, mouthcoating tannins and great length. The vines were planted in 1926. But the star for me today is the aromatic and silky Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. A sweet core of cherry, berry and mineral flavors supported by a firm structure. The finish lasts and lasts.
Danapat Promphan — Bangkok, Thailand — February 11, 2007 11:57am ET
Alex Bernardo — Millbrae, CA — February 12, 2007 10:31pm ET
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