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Domaine d’Eugenie: after the harvest, part one

Thursday, 15th October 2015 by Thomas Parker

Following four days of intense harvesting and selecting at the Domaine, the time I had left in Burgundy allowed me more freedom to see the other side of the process, taste some more wines, and relax a little bit.

That relaxation started with “La Paulée”, a festive lunch and party to celebrate the end of the harvest with all the pickers. This turned out to be the last day of brilliant sunshine as we travelled to our usual restaurant after a little aperitif to eat a feast of a menu alongside some excellent wines. This group is close knit and likes to work together. When you consider that for many this is the only paid employment of the year, they do work diligently for the Domaine. They like working for Michel, and over the meal you can sense the respect they have for him. We started with a 2013 white Ladoix from Domaine Michel Mallard et Fils, which is currently run by Michel’s father. Bright and fresh with a little creaminess lifted by clean acidity, it was the perfect start to the day. After that we moved straight onto reds, and Michel had brought four magnums from the Domaine along with him. The first two we tasted were from the days before Eugenie, when the plots were run and sold under the René Engel label. The first magnum was a 2001 Vosne Romanée 1er Cru les Brulées which was fully mature, showing lots of leather and forest floor with hints of cherry and bramble fruit. The palate was broad and tertiary, and the finish savoury, if a little short. A good wine, but quite developed for my taste given this was only a 2001 in a large format. The second magnum was another Engel, and this time it was the 2001 Echezeaux. To my palate this was a clear step up, though others thought it still had the same issues of being a touch overdeveloped for its age. The darker, riper fruit balanced well with the tertiary notes of savoury spices, leather and scorched earth. This wine also had a notably longer finish than the Brulées. This is a wine for drinking now or over the next few years. I certainly wouldn’t be holding any back if I had them in the cellar.

The team poses for a group photo

After the two wines from Engel we turned to post Eugenie wines. We started with a 2008 Vosne Romanee 1er Cru les Brulées, which was immediately in contrast to the two wines before it. Often people discuss the similarities in wines from the same vineyards and plots, but the difference between Engel wines and those of Eugenie seems quite clear. This Brulées had much more intensity of ripe fruit, and a cleaner, clearer spicy, floral character to represent the vineyard. At this age, certainly from magnum, it is still youthful and exuberant, with a lovely toast and spice from new oak, though it is well knitted into the fruit profile. Long, spicy and ripe, this was an absolutely delicious glass of wine.  Michel, of course, saved the best for last. We ended the meal with a magnum of 2007 Clos de Vougeot that was showing very well. Lots of spice and dark fruit on the nose, with wood smoke, nutmeg, black cherry and forest fruits all in evidence. The palate was ripe and smooth, with the tannins fine, rounded and melted into the wine. The core of red and black fruits was complemented by spice, but the oak had knitted very well into the wine and was now an accompaniment supporting the fruit rather than a dominant flavour. The finish was long and moreish, with just the right balance of fruit and spice, with hints of more developed character. A superb magnum that was my clear favourite for the day. You can really enjoy this now but I’m sure it will keep. After the meal, the speeches, music and dancing went on several hours into dusk, as the pickers enjoyed a deserved day of relaxation before heading their separate ways until next year.  Many will be heading on to pick at other Domaines, which given the weather, would be no fun task…

After the festivities I worked quietly on Saturday morning with the remaining team of four. There is always a need for a big clean, and to analyse and work on the now-full vats as they turn to wine. After checking on the superb looking berries and helping the team prepare them for the next stages, I went down to see the store of wines at the Domaine. Having already seen the large stocks at Latour as they work towards building their back cellar after exiting the en Primeur system, the stocks at Eugenie are, by contrast, absolutely minute. Part of the beauty (and sometimes frustration) of Burgundy is in its scarcity and you can certainly say this for Eugenie wines. It is reflected in the fact that Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux take up less than one vat each for the 2015 vintage. Form an orderly queue. We emerged from the store to find a thunderstorm in progress over Vosne-Romanée. I was relieved not to be picking in it, but not as happy as Michel, who knew he had timed the harvest to perfection. Several other producers, who had not finished (or only just started), were rushing back to the Domaine as the conditions were too wet to pick in. It should be very interesting to taste the 2015s when they hit the market, as the different harvest times will doubtless lead to heterogeneous wines. The rain continued, on and off, every day until my departure on the Wednesday.

2012 Vosne Les Petits Monts from Georges Noellat

After the morning’s work I had a lunch with friends where we drank a gorgeous bottle of 2012 Vosne Romanée 1er Cru les Petits Monts from Georges Noellat. If you haven’t discovered these wines since the young Maxime Cheurlin took over, you should definitely seek them out. We followed this with lovely tasting of Ramonet’s 2013s in Chassagne-Montrachet, and then returned to Vosne for a brief tasting at the Domaine. The wine was served blind, and having all decided it was youthful, we were hovering around the Grand Crus, only to discover it was in fact the 2013 Clos d’Eugenie. Very impressive for a village level wine, I was also struck yet again by the balance of fruit purity and fresh acidity of the vintage. 2013 might be a vintage to forget in Bordeaux, but much of the Burgundy I have tasted, both red and white, is really delicious. They are fresh wines with real poise and precision.

I then travelled for dinner with the same friends where we tasted a real mix of wines both from within and outside of Vosne. Edmond Vatan’s Sancerre Clos de la Neorre is a bit of a cult wine for some of my Oxford blind tasting friends, and is extremely difficult to find in the UK, but the 2010 I tasted is certainly going to make me seek it out again. Brilliantly mineral and cool on the nose, the racy acidity, struck flint, green fruit character has wonderful texture. The chalky layers of lemon fruit and lifted floral purity were superb. I can only see this getting better over 5-10 years plus. The second white we had speaks more of the area, a 2005 Chablis 1er Cru les Vaillons from Raveneau. I’ve not had much older Raveneau until recently, but have developed a real taste for the beeswax, ripe fruit and wonderfully textured wines they become after 5 or more years in bottle. This particular wine was showing superbly at 10 years old. I wouldn’t necessarily wait longer as it was so well balanced between fruit and honeyed development, but I’m sure that those bottles left in a dark corner could turn out to be stunners given half a chance. Our third white was a bottle of 2010 Meursault 1er Cru les Chevalieres from Boisson-Vadot. My friends had never come across the producer before but all remarked how this wine was quintessentially both Meursault and 2010. The nutty, rich and ripe notes from the appellation were kept in check by the vintage’s refreshing acidity. This was a wine with both bower and balance, and paired very well against the food. We took another trip outside Burgundy next with a 2007 Barolo from Giuseppe Rinaldi. This was not a producer I had tasted with a little bottle age before, but I was suitably impressed. Violets, black cherry and bramble fruit were given a little sweetness from new oak. I was braced for tannic power on the palate given the age, but the more modern style meant that these tannins were softer, and well integrated into the wine, which was a real delight. Ripe fruit was wrapped in velvety tannins and given lift from dried flowers and sweet spice. Given the superb length and intensity, I’ve no doubt this will age well, but it is already a superb wine. Back to Burgundy, and we finished with a 2006 Vosne Romanee 1er Cru les Chaumes from Meo-Camuzet. This was already showing elements of development with undergrowth and truffle pairing red cherry fruit. The palate was quite brambly and spicy, with a little wood spice from new oak complementing the velvet tannins and ripe fruit. This was ready to go, and while a very good wine, I didn’t feel it justified the price point it took by comparison to what else we drank over the evening. I went to bed with the prospect of a Sunday lie in ahead, and a little rest before some more light work with the core team at the Domaine before my return to England.

Wines from Saturday's dinner
Tagged with: Burgundy | Eugenie | Harvest
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