Vosne Romanée and Nuits St. Georges: Six Wines from Domaine Fabrice Vigot and Domaine Bertrand Marchard de Gramont

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I recently attended a Burgundy seminar courtesy of importer That’s Life which looked at three wines from Nuits St. Georges and three wines from Vosne Romanée from two smaller but respected producers.

The Domaines

Vigot began in 1990 and owns plots in both Vosne and Nuits St. Georges. The domaine practices effectively organic farming, though it is not certified. Chemicals have not been used since 1993 and treatments are restricted to copper sulfate.

Machard de Gramont is a very recent domaine, being run by Axelle Machard de Gramont, who took over the domaine from her father in 2004. It was really with this take-over that quality shot up to much higher levels of excitement. Axelle has converted all the domaine’s vineyards to organic and has reduced the use of new barrique, now using old neutral wood. Fermentation is indigenous and the domaine is converting to biodynamic.

Nuits St. Georges

Nuits St. Georges is known for wines that are less finessed and somewhat more rustic than the other famous villages of the Cote de Nuits. Personally I find this simplistic as top domaines such as Robert Chevillon, Domane D’Arlot, Thibeau Liger-Belair, and Henri Gouges make consistently outstanding wines. Frederic Mugnier makes a superbly elegant wine from his Clos Marechal vineyard that bucks all expectations for the village.

With those caveats in mind, the Nuits style is said to derive from its soils – in particular the Comblanchien limestone which is the hardest type of limestone in Burgundy (it was once quarried by the Romans). This is said to contribute to the edges of the wines. Where clay is present in vineyards the wines tend to be more elegant.

The village has 41 premier crus over 800 hectares but no grand crus. The top premier cru is Les Saint Georges, which in my estimation makes wines that in many cases ought to be considered Grand Cru in quality.

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Domaine Fabrice Vigot Nuits St. Georges Vielles Vignes 2013: This wine was tart, very high in acid and “crunchy”, which is basically a silly word for acids that pucker and water the mouth. The finish was long and the wine elegant, but it does not have the fruit or structure to stand up to food with big flavours. Its charm lies in its transparency and its tart rhubarb and strawberry aromatics, which are highly reflective of the vintage. Very Good to Very Good+. $71 hospitality + tax.

I was most impressed with the two wines from Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont. Their “Les Terrasse des Vallerots” Nuits St. Georges 2011 is from a vineyard replanted by the domaine in 2001. It was dominated by cassis aromas, offered softer tannins than the 2013 and had an earthier underbelly. It felt somewhat lacking in depth and concentration, again likely due to the vintage. Very Good to Very Good+. $68 hospitality + tax.

The real standout was the Machard de Gramont “Aux Allots” Nuits St. Georges 2011, which was quite ripe and dense with cherry and spices and a touch of orange. It had beautiful structure and length with power and elegance. The vineyard is planted with 80+ year old vines and is located on a flatter part of the slope of the escarpment that defines the Cote de Nuits and is not far from Vosne Romanée. Excellent. $75 hospitality + tax.

Vosne Romanée

Vosne Romanée, what Allen Meadows calls the “Pearl of the Cote”, is unarguably one of the greatest denominations in the world of wine. It is home to the most famous Grand Crus belonging to DRC along with many others, with 75 hectares of grand cru vineyards (half of its planted acreage). Combined with the 57 hecatares of premier cru, most of which are very good, some of which are truly great, and it is hard to argue Vosne is a titan.

Vosne is known for crinoidal limestone, which is more porous than the limestone in NSG. Vosne also has considerable cakey clay, mostly in the plains. On the mid-slope (where the grand-crus lie) the mix is crinoidal limestone and scree as the topsoil. The village captures greater protection from the “Graben” escarpment that defines the Cote than other villages, which is also said to contribute to the characteristics of the village. Vosne is known for meaty, muscular and perfumed wines. The wines are often expressive and soft up front, with strong tannic structure to finish, which of course contributes to the wines’ longevity.

Another important factor in Burgundy today is climate change. Critics consider this to be a golden age for Burgundy with a string of consistent vintages and much greater expressiveness than ever before. There is, of course, concern that this golden age will pass as climate change continues and the region may cross a line from which it cannot recover.

The Vosnes all showed the power and quality of the village, and were consistently more concentrated than the Nuits St. Georges.

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The Domaine Fabrice Vigot Vosne Romanée Vielles Vignes 2013 was classic Vosne with a rich, blackberry and kirsch nose. Dense fruit and higher volume than all the NSG except the Aux Allots. There was also a mild leafy pepper note, which other tasters called “parsley” – meant to designate a pleasantly green aroma. The vines in the three plots that make up this wine are 35-40 years’ old. Very Good+ to Excellent. $76 hospitality + tax.

The Domaine Fabrice Vigot Vosne Romanée “Les Chalandins” 2011 brought the quality up a notch with denser fruit and significant iron notes alongside rip cherry, spice and sandalwood. The structure of the tannin on the back end was pleasant and gave the wine purpose and focus. This is quite impressive for a village level climat. Excellent. $85 hospitality + tax

The Domaine Fabrice Vigot Vosne Romanée “Les Damaudes” 2011 was my favourite wine of the tasting. The wine offers more fruit and less iron and mineral than the Les Chalandins. It is extremely expressive, supple, and broad. More than any other of the Vosnes this offers the classic soft entry and intensely tannic finish for which Vosne is famous. Excellent to Excellent+. $93 hospitality + tax.

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