News From Burgundy
Clos De Tart
On October 31st it was announced that the Groupe Francois Pinault's wine subsidiary Artemis has bought Burgundy's largest monopoly grand cru at 7.53 hectares from the Mommessin family. The price is said to be 250 million euros. This is only the third time since the middle ages that the domaine has changed hands, Mommessin having been proprietors since 1932.
This monumental price underlines the huge current inflation in the value of good Burgundian land. How can anyone except for millionaires afford to be a vigneron these days?
Laurent Ponsot no longer has anything to do with the family domaine, his sisters having decided to do everything themselves. What experience they have, not having been hitherto visible to any merchant or journalist who has visited the estate recently, is unclear.
It is more than a pity, it is a tragedy, that one of the Côte d'Or's most talented wine makers is excluded from producing arguably the best example of Clos de la Roche.
In the meanwhile, happily for him, the merchant arrangements Laurent has built up – in, for instance, Clos de Vougeot and Corton-Bressandes - were personal to him. He now makes these wines in a cellar in Gilly, round the corner from where he lives.
This latest development is just a further indication of a family feud that has been smoldering chez Ponsot for a generation or more. Laurent has been married to Claude for twenty years or more, but not once has she been received into the family home up on the hill above Morey-Saint-Denis Nor were they allowed to sit in the family pew on the occasion of Jean-Marie Ponsot's funeral.
Laurent Ponsot Leaves Family Domaine
In a surprise, and as yet, not entirely clear move, it has been announced that Laurent Ponsot, who is 60, is retiring from the family domaine, based in Morey-Saint-Denis. He is setting up a merchant's business together with his son Clément. Some of the wines he formerly offered will remain in Morey, others , négociant wines the domaine has up to now produced, he will take with him. He retains 25 percent of Domaine Ponsot.
Who will take over at Morey-Saint-Denis has not been divulged. Nor its future. Is it now for sale?
Domaine Bonneau Du Martray Sold
The 11 hectare Domaine Bonneau du Martray in Pernand-Vergelesses, producers of what many would consider Burgundy's best Corton-Charlemagne, has sold a controlling interest in the estate to the billionaire Stan Kroenke, proprietor, inter alia, of Napa Valley's Screaming Eagle and the Arsenal Football Club.
Formerly in ecclesiastical ownership, the domaine last changed hands in the early years following the French Revolution, when it was acquired by the Vèry family, ancestors of today's man at the helm., Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Morinière. Jean-Charles himself took over in January 1994, since when the estate has increasingly been run on bio-dynamic lines.
NO D.R.C. MONTRACHET, 2016
⁃ nor Lafon, Leflaive and others, either
The southern flank of Montrachet – even more than the northern, Puligny, side - was frosted on April 27th to such an extent that growers feared that there would not be one single bunch to harvest.
As things turned out, there were one or two survivors, but nevertheless a number of proptrietors decided to pool their resources: the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Amiot, Conte Lafon, Fleurot-Larose, Mamy-Pillot, Leflaive and Petitjean. The bunches that were picked were vinified in common by Leflaive, and the wine, all 600 bottles of it, will eventually be sold at auction for charity.
David Croix, wine-maker at his own Domaine des Croix, and manager at Ets. Camille Giroud in Beaune, is to give up the latter position to join Jean-Marc Roulot in Meursault.
It is with much sadness that I report the death of Charles Rousseau of Gevrey-Chambertin's Domaine Armand Rousseau, at the age of 93. Charles took over as long ago as 1959, following the death of his father in a car accident, and was largely responsible for the stunning reputation of the estate today. Under his guidance he considerably enlarged the size and scope of the domaine, so that it now comprises well over 20 hectares, up from 6.5 when he took over. And this lies principally in grands crus: Chambertin itself, Clos de Bèze, Mazis, Ruchottes and Charmes, as well as Clos de la Roche in neighbouring Morey-Saint-Denis. Not to mention the brilliant premier cruClos Saint-Jacques.
Charles was, as well as being one of the doyens of Burgundy, one of nature's gentlemen. Small, ebullient and shrewd, he was generous with his time and his willingness to impart information. He had the refreshing ability to be dispassionate about the quality of both his own and his neighbours' wines. His own wines were regularly quite superb.
He is succeeded by his son Eric, who has been responsible at the domaine for many years now. My sympathy goes to him and to the other members of the Rousseau family.
Faiveley have increased their – miniscule – holding of Le Musigny by buying the 0.1 hectare holding of the Dufouleur family. The parcel – it actually measures 98 square metres - lies next to that of the Domaine Georges Roumier at the northern end of the climat. This will be added to the 0.03 ha parcel they already own, and will increase their production from hardly a quarter of a barrel to perhaps one and a half in a good vintage.
The Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, based at the Château de Vosne-Romanée, and exclusive owners of La Romanée, has entered into a ten-year leasing arrangement for 0.7 hectares of Clos de Vougeot. This parcel, like the rest of the domaine, will be converted to bio-dynamic viticulture. The first vintage is 2015.
Côte Chalonnaise Map
Sylvain Pithiot, who with his late father-in-law Pierre Poupon, was responsible for the two Côte d'Or Wine Maps we are all familiar with, has now produced a map of the Côte Chalonnaise.
It measures 1.00m x 0.40m and will cost around $20. It will be available in November.
Hubert de Montille 1930-2014
I regret to announce the death at the age of 84 of one of the renowned personalities of Burgundy. Hubert de Montille had a dual life: one as the owner of a 17 hectare domaine in Volnay, and the other – which subsidised the former – as a leading advocate in Dijon. He made his first vintage in 1947, his uncle suddenly unable to take charge. Some years later, having miscalculated the dose, he – as at the outset he feared – seriously under-chaptalised one wine in a rather weak vintage. When it turned out to be the best of the bunch, he forswore the time-honoured two degree formula, resulting in wines which may have lacked a little richness, but made up for this in purity and finesse, and also in the potential to age. Magnums particularly in poor vintages such as 1980 and 1984 stood out among their peers at my 10 Year On Tasting.
He was not an easy man. Highly intelligent, that went without saying. But impatient, belligerent and uncompromising. But he made very good wine.
He is succeeded by his son Etienne and daughter Alix.
Splendid review of My Favorite Burgundies by Bruce Anderson, The Spectator, 16th August 2014
'Like most hospital patients, I have resorted to escapist literature. Unfortunately, my copy of Jasper Morris's book on Burgundy is many miles away, but a friend brought me the latest edition of Clive Coates. One might have thought that it would be a dangerous present for somebody in my condition. How many pages of Clive could one read - how many lines - before succumbing to an overwhelming thirst? The antibiotics carried me through.
To his task, Clive brings joie de vivre reinforced by decades of experience and a conscientiousness worthy of St. Thomas's Hospital. The result is a magnificent combination of history, science, personalities, anecdotes and judgments. This is his homage to Burgundy. It is a worthy one.'
Maison Corton André, part of a group which includes the merchants La Reine Pedauque and an estate of some 150 hectares, has been acquired by Bejot Vines et Terroirs, based in Meursault, whose CEO is Vincent Sauvestre.
Hitherto, the quality produced by the Corton André group has left much to be desired, while at the top levels those at Bejot were rather better. We trust this is a trend which will continue.
It is rumoured that Bejot will sell off the Château and seven hectares of Corton to Messrs Frey in Champagne to help fund this purchase. Frey own, inter alia, Paul Jaboulet in Tain-l'Hermitage and Château La Lagune in the Médoc.
It has just been announced that Maison Georges Faiveley of Nuits Saint Georges has bought the well known and highly regarded Chablis domaine of Billaud Simon. This has been occasioned by the retirement of Bernard Simon who has run the estate with his nephew Samuel for some years. The 20 hectare domaine owns vines in the grands crus of Blanchots, Les Clos, Preuses and Vaudesir, and the premiers crus of Fourchame, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre and Vaillons.
The sale is announced of the Clos des Lambrays, the (to all extents and purposes) Grand Crumonopoly in Morey-Saint Denis to LMVH. The Clos measures 8.66 ha and has been managed by Thierry Brouin since 1979. The previous proprietor was Madame Gunther Freund, whose husband passed away in 2010. Brouin will continue as the man in charge on the spot.
Hospices De Beaune
At the annual auction, on Sunday November 17th, the amount of wine offered was some 15 percent down on that of 2012, itself a short vintage. Much of the Hospices' domaine lay right in the path of the summer hailstorm which devastated the Côte de Beaune.
Prices, as expected – for even the Côte de Beaune wines are deemed to be better than average, thanks to a fine July and August – have risen. Indeed a new overall record of 5765000 Euros (27 percent more than in 2012, the previous peak) has been established.
We will see these rises reflected, not only in the general price levels for the 2013s, but in those for the 2012s, currently being discussed by the growers and their clients. These 2012s will be on offer in January.
Patrick Bize R.I.P.
It is with great sadness that I report the death of Patrick Bize of Savigny-Lès-Beaune's Domaine Simon Bize. Patrick died following a heart attack while driving his car. Thankfully no one else was involved. He died on Sunday October 20th.
Patrick was 61. He had been in charge of the estate, one of the first in the commune to adopt for domaine-bottling, since the early 1980s. Quality was high then – I remember a splendid bottle of Vergelesses 1971 – but was to rise even higher under Patrick's command. 'Old vines and low yields are what is important,' he said to me once. 'Otherwise there are no rules. We do what the vine demands.'
He was a gentle man, with a shrewd sense of humour. He was also a gastonaut. Many a time, when my base in Burgundy was at Bouilland, we would travel up to the Côte d'Or in Saulieu to have a three-star meal. We did the same in Paris.
He leaves his wife Chisa and two children. And an able team in the cellar.
Domaine Clos de la Chapelle, Volnay
An American businessman, Mark M. O'Connell, is the proprietor of the Domaine Clos de la Chapelle in Volnay. He acquired this barely three hectare estate in March 2011 thanks to his friendship with Pierre Meurgey and Dimitri Bazas of Maison Champy. Champy look after the vineyards – now biodynamically – and make the wine.
The pearl in the domaine is the monopoly after which the estate takes its name: the Clos de la Chapelle. The half a hectare plot forms an east-west rectangle immediately to the south of the Bousse d'Or vineyard. Further downslope, just underneath the chapel, there are vines in La Chapelle. Upslope, marching with Clos des Ducs, are very old vines in Pommard, Les Chanlins. In Beaune there are further vines in Les Teurons. These are all premiers crus.
Since the takeover, from a member of the ubiquitous Boillot family, yields have been reduced – the aim now being 35 he/ha rather than 45 under the previous regime – the fruit is destemmed but not crushed, and given a week-long cold soaking. The wine is bottled after a year.
The new team took over the 2010s, which of course they had not vinified. These are very good. The 2011s are more sophisticated, though not as firm. This was the worst spot to be in 2012. Thanks to the hail the yield in Beaune was 18 he/ha, in Pommard 9 and in Volnay a pitiful 6. The wines, however are very good. I was particularly struck by the Pommard.
Dominique Lafon and Olivier Merlin have jointly bought the 2.5 hectare Château de Quarts in Chaintré (appellation Pouilly-Fuissé) from the Walet family. Merlin had been buying most of the crop for his mercharnts business for some years. The wine, from the 2012 vintage, will now be sold under the Château de Quarts label. Merlin will henceforth be responsible for the vineyard as well as the wine. Thr château itself is vast. Merlin and Lafon are now seeking a tenant who will transform it into an hotel.
Hospices de Beaune
It was only to be expected that, in view of what is generally agreed to be a very fine, if short, vintage, that prices should rise. And so they did. The grand total, at 5.9 million euros, exceeded all previous records, beating both 2009, a fine vintage, and 2000, a rather poor one, but both rather larger in volume; so 2012 has significantly depassed all previous vintages in terms of value by cask. The volume sold was 518 barrels, a fall on 2011 (765) of 32 percent, and roughly parallel to the sort of deficit we are being told at the wine-makers' doors. Red wines have risen in price faster than whites, and the more prestigious grands crus by more than humble village Côte de Beaunes, as you might expect with the growing interest in Burgundy from the far east. One can only anticipate, with dismay, this pattern being reflected in price levels elsewhere, and for the 2011s, which are being discussed as I write, as well as the 2012s in a year's time.
One nouveauté: the third of the Hospices' cuvées from the Côte de Nuits: Echézeaux, Jean-Luc Bissey. Six casks of the 2012 vintage were sold. The surface area measures 43 ares. It lies in the Echézeaux du Dessus, and was donated to the Hospices by one of three Bissey brothers when the family holding in the climat was divided on the father's retirement.
The 7 hectare Château Corton-André/Maison Reine Pedauque, which belongs to the Groupe Ballande, owners inter alia of Château Prieuré-Lichine in Margaux, has acquired the 4 hectare domaine of Michel Pont of the Château de Savigny. There are vines in Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Monthelie, Auxey-Duresses and Savigny-Lès-Beaune. The vines have been leased to Corton-André since 2009. Corton-André lost its lease to what are now the vines of the Château d'Audhuy in 2003.
Neither Corton-André nor the former Domaine du Château de Savigny have made wine to conjure the imagination in the past. Let us trust that this will now change for the better.
The Clos des Grandes Vignes is unique in Burgundy in being the only premier cru on the 'wrong' i.e. east side of the main Beaune-Dijon road, the N74. It has been a monopoly for as long as history relates. The vineyard measures 2.21 ha and lies opposite the Clos Saint-Marc in Prémeaux. At the side of it is a further 1.62 ha of village Nuits-Saint-Georges vineyard, called simply Les Grandes Vignes. Formerly the property of the Domaine Thomas-Moillard, then acquired by Etienne de Montille and promptly sold off to the Château de Puligny-Montrachet, which de Montille now owns, it has now been sold on again. The buyer is the Domaine du Vicomte Liger-Belair.
This brings the Liger-Belair domaine up to 10.5 hectares. The vineyard of Clos des Grandes Vignes, part of which needs replanting and part of which (50 ares) is now Chardonnay, is farmed bio-dynamically.
A wealthy Chinese business man, M. Louis Ng, has acquired the 1.7 hectare domaine of the Château de Gevrey-Chambertin, and has entrusted the vines to Domaine Armand Rousseau. The 10 ares of Charmes-Chambertin and the 30 ares of Lavaux-Saint-Jacques will be added to the existing Rousseau cuvées. A 'Clos du Château' will be made from the remaining 1.3 hectares of village wine.
The Domaine de la Vougeraie has been further enlarged; by 27 ares of Corton-Charlemagne, three hectares of Nuits-Saint-Georges, Clos de Thorey (monopole) – which the estate had recently been farming – and just over a hectare of village Savigny-Lès-Beaune blanc. This brings the surface of the property to 37 hectares.
It has now been officially confirmed that the Domaine de Montille has acquired the Domaine de Puligny-Montrachet, Etienne de Montille having run it for the last ten years. Rumours had been circulating for a month or so. Part of the delay, it has now become clear, is that the estate's holdings in Le Montrachet (one ouvrée) and Bâtard-Montrachet (two ouvrées) have been separately sold to Francois Pinault, proprietor of Château Latour and what used to be Vosne-Romanée's Domaine Engel, now the Domaine Eugenie.
The Domaine Maume has been acquired by a consortium of Canadian businessmen who have appointed Pascal Marchand, late of the Domaine de Vougeraie, as wine-maker. The 4.33 ha domaine owns land in the grands crus of Mazis and Charmes as well as various premiers crus in Gevrey-Chambertin, where it is based.
The Beaune negociant Seguin-Manuel has taken over the two hectare domaine of Jean Michelot, based in Pommard.
As from January 1st. 2012 the Domaine Bruno Clair has taken back part (22 ares) of the Bonnes Mares which belonged to his late father and was farmed by the Domaine Fougreay de Beauclair. The remainder (92 ares) will revert to him on 1st. January 2016.. This gives the Clair estate 63 ares now. They will have 1.55 ha as from 2016.
La Compagnie des Vins d'Autrefois, run by Jean-Pierre Nié, has bought the business of Vincent Girardin. Certain of Girardin's own vines have been sold, but the leases, notably a large presence in Puligny-Montrachet, thanks to Henri Clerc, have been retained. The company will continue an existence independent of La Compagnie des Vins d'Autrefois. Girardin, aged 51, has had back problems since a quad accident a couple of years ago. He will continue as consultant.