Pinot Noir’s Grand Stage: Burgundy’s Clos de Vougeot

Four vintages from Château de la Tour and Louis Jadot illustrate the grand cru's timeless sense of place
Pinot Noir’s Grand Stage: Burgundy’s Clos de Vougeot
From left: Château de la Tour proprietor François Labet, Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson and Louis Jadot president Pierre-Henry Gagey (Deepix Studio)
Oct 23, 2017

“Clos de Vougeot has a special place in Burgundy wine culture,” said Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson of the 125-acre Côte de Nuits grand cru vineyard planted by Cistercian monks beginning in the 12th century. Today, parceled among more than 80 owners, Clos de Vougeot offers many iterations of Pinot Noir that can vary widely in style. At Friday morning’s red Burgundy seminar at the New York Wine Experience, attendees were treated to four vintages from two of the vineyard’s top producers, Château de la Tour and Louis Jadot.

“Today we’re going to address two questions,” Sanderson said. “Is there a unifying terroir that defines Clos de Vougeot? And how does this translate into the wines?”

Clos de Vougeot “is a great heritage and a great responsibility,” began Château de la Tour proprietor François Labet, who noted that he had a lot in common with Louis Jadot president Pierre-Henry Gagey, including “a fantastic respect for soil, which gives us what we have in our glass.”

“We are all heirs of the monks,” said Gagey. “And we follow their values. Clos Vougeot, 900 years ago, was planted to produce wines of quality, with the idea of top quality. With the idea of humility. With the idea of simplicity. The idea of purity. And these values are so important for Burgundy, because these are the values that we want to translate to our children.”

First in the glass was the Château de la Tour Clos Vougeot Vielles Vignes 2014 (94 points, $350), made from vines planted in 1910. “The older the vine is, the less it will produce, and the less it produces, the more concentration [the grapes] will have,” said Labet. “My goal is to be as respectful as possible with the grapes, and winemaking is something that will supplement the fruit. … not too much extraction, a lot of finesse, 180 degrees of different, exquisite flavors, softness, roundness and elegance.”

“I think we see here beautiful fruit,” said Sanderson. “The ’14 vintage is very pure, yet with good structure. There’s an elegance and a freshness to it, but also integrated tannins that will allow it to age.”

“Burgundy sometimes can be difficult to understand,” said Gagey, “but if you understand Clos Vougeot, you understand Burgundy. … And I have to tell you something: No one knows Clos Vougeot better than François. He has more Clos Vougeot in his blood than anybody else in Burgundy!”

Next up was the Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot 2011 (90, $190), from an early, low-yielding vintage saved by beautiful September weather. “We just start to see here the development of different layers of flavor, with a little bit of spice,” said Sanderson. “There’s some tension, some tautness.”

“Pinot Noir produces exquisitely delicate wines, full of emotion,” said Labet of the Château de la Tour Clos Vougeot Vielles Vignes 2010. “I wish I could make 2010 every year. 2010 is a benchmark vintage.”

Sanderson agreed, calling the wine not only a standard-bearer for the vintage, but also for the vineyard. “We’re really starting to see the perfume, of not just the grape, but the perfume of the place. And for me, what makes these wines grands crus is the length on the palate.”

The tasting concluded with a special wine for Gagey, the Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot 2009 (96, $130), a vintage that marked the 150th anniversary of the house. “2009 is a beautiful vintage—pure, ripe, perfect … maybe a little too easy. You have to be an idiot to produce an average wine in 2009. God was with us.”

Having sold the audience on the merits of Clos de Vougeot, Gagey concluded with a piece of advice: “When you buy Clos Vougeot, never buy one bottle. You buy six bottles, at least! And when I say six, I mean 12! And you put them in your cellar. And I should not have to tell you that if you don’t have a cellar, change your house, because the cellar is the most important place in the house!”

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