End of Harvest
Monday, 31 October 2016 by Ben Browett
Wednesday was the last day of picking with a full team at Eugenie. Fortunately, there was not far to travel after breakfast at the Domaine, as we were picking the village vineyard Clos d’Eugenie which is attached to the winery. This half a hectare plot is made into its own label, separating it from Eugenie’s Vosne Romanée village wine which is made from different vineyards in the village. The enclosed vineyard sits just five metres from La Tache and Michel believes the quality here is a step above what one would expect from Bourgogne villages.
My first day at Eugenie had involved picking the young vines at Aux Brûlées and for the afternoon, we were back to the same vineyard for the older vines. This premier cru vineyard is high up the slope sitting just on top of a very thin layer of soil. As the name suggests, grapes ripen well here creating a full and rich example of Vosne Romanée balanced with great minerality from the rock underneath. Jasper Morris describes this as ‘exceptional premier cru’ and the winery is clearly reaping the rewards of the extensive work in the vineyard throughout the year.
Thursday morning was another early start as we headed to Cote de Beaune to pick the last of the Chassagne Montrachet which wasn’t quite ripe enough when we last visited. It was a similar story here, small yields but the grapes we did pick looked healthy. Once finished in Chassagne, this confirmed the end of the harvest and I headed to Mathieu’s new winery in neighbouring Nuits St Georges- Domaine Moron-Garcia. Though a much smaller operation, Mathieu is employing the same meticulous production methods here as used at Eugenie, and I spent the afternoon helping him get ready for berry by berry sorting for once he starts harvesting.
With the last of the red grapes in the vats, Michel took me down to Eugenie’s cellars below the winery to taste the 2015 vintage which is currently in barrel. This was a good illustration of the low levels of production here at Eugenie - a world away from the endless lines of barrels in Bordeaux cellars. We started with the Eugenie Vosne Romanée Villages, a fresh, open and floral wine already marrying well with the oak. Then onto the Domaine’s other village label, Clos d’Eugenie. This is a clear step up with more concentration…Michel remarks that if the villages is round and charming, this is straight and focused. Sweet red fruit, chocolate oak spice and magnificent length. Seriously impressive for a village wine.
Eugenie’s Vosne Romanée 1er Cru Les Brûlees is a style of Pinot I love and the 2015 is a blockbuster. There is plenty of mouthfeel here, a bright ruby colour leads into gobs of red and black cherries but it’s the mineral, smokiness on the finish that makes this wine precise yet elegant. Onto the Grand Crus and the Echezeaux is all about sweet red fruit, powerful but with a round, smoky finish. The Grands Echezeaux is not dissimilar, but with more savoury notes entwined with creamy oak spice. The Clos de Vougeot is a good example of refined red fruit aromas but like the Echezeaux, Michel and I agree it needs more time before the fruit and oak is fully balanced. I can’t help but think of Miles Raymond in the film Sideways- ‘only someone who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression’. Whilst, unlike Miles, I do like Merlot, I’m already looking forward to trying these Pinots again in the future to see how they will develop.
Friday was La Paulée, the name for the end of the harvest party at Burgundy wineries. After a demanding five days of picking I was excited for food, wine and conversations in broken French. We started with some wines from Michel’s family Domaine and after some slightly more alcoholic local spirits, Michel opened some exciting bottles of Domaine Engel - the name of winery before its change of ownership and rebirth as Eugenie. First up was Domaine Engel, Echezeaux 2001 in magnum, some delicious sweet fruit but I suspect that this has seen slightly better days. This was followed by Engel Vosne Romanée 1er Cru Les Brûlees '98 magnum which, true to form, revealed ripe fruit balanced with great minerality and acidity. A fantastic bottle to finish off the harvest.
Many thanks to Michel, Mathieu and the rest of the team at Domaine Eugenie. An amazing experience to do the harvest in the heartland of Pinot Noir and at a winery making quality wine from some of the best sites in the region.