On each of my visits to Burgundy I try to schedule appointments with domaines or houses that I have not previously visited. On one day of my most recent trip there were three such estates on my itinerary: Nicolas Rossignol in Volnay, Etienne Sauzet in Puligny-Montrachet and Domaine de Courcel in Pommard.
Nicolas Rossignol, 33, is an example of the new generation of winemakers in Burgundy. Since 1997, when he became the fifth generation to exploit his family’s holdings, his work in both the vineyard and cellar has evolved.
Today, Rossignol harvests roughly 25 acres of grapes, including some he leases. Each vinification is adapted to the vintage and since 2003 he abandoned any prefermentation cold maceration of the grapes. In addition to a selection in the vineyard during picking, the grapes pass over a vibration table to shake out any dried berries and then a selection table to eliminate any substandard fruit.
Stems may be retained for the fermenting vat, depending on the terroir, to add freshness, and there is only one racking, though Rossignol pointed out that this long élévage in barrel requires settling the wine after pressing to eliminate the gross lees. “With racking, you lose fruit, roundness, structure and color,” he explained.
“I’m really happy with ’06. For the moment it is more pleasant than ’05,” he said with a big smile. “For a few wines like the Volnay Chevret and Volnay-Santenots, it is very close [in quality] to ’05.”
Indeed, the Chevret, from 40- and 60-year-old vines, was aromatic, floral and spicy, starting out fresh, then finishing firm, with a long, sweet aftertaste (88–91). The Santenots showed some animal notes and blackberry flavor matched to a rich, powerful structure. It’s complex, building on the palate to a long finish (90–93).
I also liked Rossignol’s Volnay Ronceret, a solid, backward red, which began opulently before the tannins emerged. Blackberry and black currant flavors prevailed (89–92). The Pernand-Vergelesses Les Fichots, a premier cru, proved how exciting good wines from this appellation are. Violet and blackberry flavors are married to a firm, elegant structure (88–91).
At Etienne Sauzet, Gérard Boudot made a fine range of white Burgundies in 2006. These were among the purest, balanced and most transparent in terms of revealing terroir
“It’s an excellent year, with a little botrytis just before the harvest that gives roundness, but with good acidity, very good balance,” he said of 2006. There are both domaine and négociant wines at chez Sauzet. The 2006 Bourgogne and village-level whites were bottled; the premiers and grands crus were assembled in tank for bottling in late February and early March.
The Puligny-Montrachet, from seven parcels spread out around the appellation, was fresh and focused, with a rapierlike structure and long floral- and lime-inflected aftertaste. The Puligny-Montrachet Champ Gain was a step up: rich, yet very fine, showing lemon, stone, flower and yellow plum notes (89–92). From lower on the slope, the Les Perrières, from a mix of clay and limestone soils, was also rich and smoky, dishing up peach and mineral flavors with lovely cut from its spine of acidity (90–93).
Nicolas Rossignol has 10 vintages under his belt in Burgundy.
Higher up lies Puligny-Montrachet La Truffière. The vines here are more than 60 years old, rendering a superb white, clean and featuring mineral, citrus and herb note with a super finish (91–94). The Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes, from vines 56 years old, showed even more substance, with richness and plenty of detail. Concentrated citrus, orchard fruits and a hint of flowers were persistent and very long. A serious white (92–95).
Among the grands crus, the seductive Chevalier-Montrachet offered floral aromas and a creamy texture that carried the pastry, vanilla cream and mineral flavors seamlessly across the palate. It’s a discreet, yet intense and distinguished white (93–96). Richness and concentration mark the Montrachet, though it is also graceful and focused, with more grandeur than the Chevalier. It displayed delicious apricot, peach and mineral notes followed by terrific length (94–97).
At Domaine de Courcel, I met with owner Gilles de Courcel and winemaker Yves Confuron. The vineyards consist of 22 acres in Pommard, with vines in both Les Grands Epenots and Les Rugiens, two of the commune’s best terroirs.
Confuron, who joined Courcel in 1996, has adjusted the vineyard work to drive the roots deeper and changed the vinification to whole cluster. He calls 2006 a “more classic, more Burgundian” vintage because there was a more typical harvest the last week of September and first week of October.
“The 2006s have pure aromas, very fresh and pure flavors that are more red fruit than black fruit and fresher than 2005,” he commented. “2005 is a great year, but richer.”
The Pommard Les Vaumuriens comes from white soil and was elegant, chalky, firm and long (87–90). The Pommard Les Croix Noires revealed bright cherry and red currant falvors, with firm tannins and a long finish (88–91). The Les Fremiers, adjacent to Les Croix Noires to the south exhibited more richness, a cherry note and dense tannins (88–91).
Le Grand Clos des Epenots, wholly owned by Courcel, and with 60-year-old vines, was big, rich and fleshy, with tannins dominating the finish. This will need a few years to soften (89–92). The Pommard Les Rugiens showed the darkest fruit of the range, with muscular structure, mouthcoating tannins and intense iron and mineral flavors, all very long and complex (89–92).
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions