Volnay Premier Cru – Clos de Chenes

Today I’ll be spending another evening with 67 Pall Mall and the inimitable Jasper Morris, expert on all things Burgundy, tasting through the wines in his “Biodynamic Burgundy” webinar. The wines to be tasted are listed below.

2017 Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Quarts, Domaine de la Soufrandière
2017 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru, Clavoillon, Domaine Leflaive
2014 Volnay, 1er Cru, Clos du Château des Ducs, Domaine Michel Lafarge
2010 Volnay, 1er Cru, Champans, Domaine des Comtes Lafon
2014 Latricières-Chambertin, Grand Cru, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet
2014 Bonnes-Mares, Grand Cru, Domaine de la Vougeraie

In Jasper’s handpicked line up from throughout Burgundy are two biodynamic wines from Volnay, from two of Burgundy and Volnay’s top producers, Michel Lafarge and Comtes Lafon. These wines, not in sample, would run you £200 and £130 a piece, so instead, and to enjoy after the webinar, I’ll be opening another biodynamic wine from what many consider the top Premier Cru in Volnay, Clos de Chenes, from Domaine Francois Buffet who also engages in, chemical-less, integrated vineyard management. This wine can be found at Berry Bros and Rudd for the more palatable price (for my wallet) of £60.

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It will be interesting to see how this Volnay from a less well known producer BUT (perhaps!) the best vineyard in Volnay (outside Santenots) stacks up against these two powerhouse producers from slightly well less regarded (these vineyards were not listed as exceptional in Jasper’s “Inside Burgundy” book) premier cru vineyards. There’s also the substantial differentiator of vintage to consider, with the 2016 scoring a 94 for red Cotes de Beaune, the 2014 a 93 and the 2010 a 91 with Wine Spectator. The lesser priced Francois Buffet has vineyard and vintage working in its favour this evening!

Anyone who is yet to attend a 67 Pall Mall webinar should seriously consider joining the zoom. You can find an archive of every single 67 Pall Mall webinar here where you can enjoy tastings and educational presentations from the world’s best wine educators and MWs to vignerons from Jasper Morris to Jane Anson, from Jorge Navascués to Jeremy Seysses.

A quick note on Volnay

Located in the Cote de Beaune with Pommard and Mersault as neighbours. Volnay is considered the most fine, mineral and ethereal of the reds from the Cote de Beaune and often compared to Chambolle Musigny on the Cote de Nuit. The steepest vineyards of the Cote de Beaune are in Volnay contributing, together with the exposure and soil, to the agile and lacy descriptors regularly attached to this wine.

Volnay has no Grand Cru vineyards, but does have 29 Premier Cru vineyards (excluding those in Volnay-Santenots which has it’s own appellation). In Volnay proper then there are several exceptional vineyards according to Morris. The finest are to the south of Volnay,  Clos de Chenes along with D963 neighbour Taillepieds, Chevret, and Caillerets noted by Jasper as exceptional. The vineyard Clos du Chateau des Ducs, which is pictured above and is in the tasting,is a monopoly of Domaine Michel Lafarge.

REVIEWS OF TONIGHTS WINES TO FOLLOW

Well, the webinar was fabulous as always however sadly my experiment did not yield the result I hoped for. Despite the better vintage and vineyard combination we’re back to the old adage that producer is key in Burgundy. Although the Buffet is a perfectly well made wine, on the nose it was lacking and on balance, though well integrated it lacked character compared to the Lafarge (stand out nose) and the Comtes Lafon (stand out palate). I would not trade one Lafarge for three Buffet’s (as the price would allow) because there was just not one exceptional element to the wine and for £200 and even for £60, I expect something memorable of which this Clos de Chenes did not deliver. Perhaps it was too young, It did open up over time but it never reached the quality and purity of fruit or length or depth of either Lafarge or Comtes Laron.

Michel Lafarge – Volnay Clos du Chateau des Ducs 2014 – Mid Garnet, moderate intensity but stunningly perfumed wine with ripe red fruit purity, strawberry, raspberry and vanilla oak come through.  Mid bodied with drying, fine grain tannins, ethereal and  very feminine but a tad austere on the finish, a touch lighter in fruit than promised on the nose – 93+ Points.

Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Volnay Champans 2010 – Deep Ruby, medium + intensity on the nose with some darker fruits on show, extracted in both colour, tannin and fruit vs the Lafarge. Stronger on the palate thanthe  Lafarge with great balance, riper, purer fruit and length. Shaded it for me – 94+ Points.

Domaine Francois Buffet – Volnay Clos de Chenes 2016 – Mid Ruby, lacking in intensity on the nose, almost closed, opened up after several hours of decanting to show some red fruit and some sweet vanilla oak. Mid bodied, as extracted as the Comtes Lafon, some deep red fruit flavours come through on the palate. Feels a touch hotter than the other two but not out of balance. 89 Points (but after a long decant).

Domaine Francois Buffet – Volnay Clos de Chenes 2016 (DAY 2) – Mid Ruby, picks up after 24 hours with moderate intensity on the nose and clear over-ripe cherry and strawberry notes, oak adds nice vanilla spice. Mid bodied, as extracted as the Comtes Lafon, deep red fruit flavours come through on the palate. The heat is now checked by the deeper fruit flavour and the finish is very good. 91 Points.

The Buffet is a good wine, its a good example of deeper style of Volnay but it’s not IMO as memorable a wine as either of the other two and that’s where the price difference comes into play. However, I kept the bottle and re-poured the next day and the Buffet was greatly improved and at £60 it’s gone from a PASS to a BUY, but don’t open for 5 years minimum. Now that’s a happy ending!

 

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