In the summer of 2017, I met with Fabien Duperray of Jules Desjourneys in Beaujolais. To say I was bowled over by his wines would be an understatement, so when he insisted that I go to meet his friend Jean-Yves Bizot in Burgundy, my nose ended up in Vosne-Romanée.
I met with Thomas Berry, Bizot's assistant winemaker, who led me down to a small cellar, that was barely half full. Berry explained that the chaos of the weather of 2016 meant that yields were down by 55%, to only 9hl/ha. For Bizot, yields tend to sit at a maximum of 25hl/ha. This is also low, and is down to specific pruning techniques. In the vineyard, vines are pruned very short, to just one spur with two buds and one cane with three buds (like Guyot, but shorter and not bent). In addition, he never trims the apex, so vines are free to keep growing. Not cutting them is crucial, explained Berry, as this means that the energy can continue to store its energy over winter.
Jean-Yves began working at the domaine in 1995, which had previously been rented out by his parents. His father was a doctor and didn't have time to tend to the vines, thus they had been rented out to other growers. Jean-Yves, who had trained as a geologist, took a degree in Oenology and turned his hand to winemaking.
The domaine originally consisted of 2.5ha when Jean-Yves began, and has since added parcels in the late 2000s in the suburbs of Dijon - Le Chapitre and Marsannay, Clos du Roy, bringing the size of the domaine to 3.5ha.
After his oenology degree, it was in the cellar where everything he thought he had learnt went out of the window. He spoke to his father about how his grandfather tended the vines and vinified the wines, and as a result stopped using herbicides. He also began to look into reducing sulphur and using zero sulphur in 1998. By 2001, the domaine was working entirely organically.
Discussing sulphur, the domaine uses none throughout vinification, only adding a tiny amount a couple of weeks before bottling. Berry explained that SO2 extracts tannin, so if you add SO2 to a wine that sits in oak, this will extract the oak tannin and thus hide aromas.
Vinification is very gentle. Extreme sorting takes place in the vineyard (taking up to a couple of minutes to check each bunch), in order to avoid any further manipulation in the cellar. Whole bunches are crushed by foot in wooden vats, after which indigenous fermentation is launched. Maceration only lasts around a week, after which the wine is crushed and fermentation rapidly occurs. The wine is pressed five days later direct to barrel, transported by gravity through a hole in the floor to the cellar, straight into all-new Rousseau barrels (meaning there has been no previous sulphur and no need for sulphur). Here the wine remains for 16 - 18 months, after which the team bottles everything by hand. Three men sit from barrel to barrel, one marking the level, one filling the bottle and the other corking. The whole process takes about a month.
We tasted through some wines in bottle.
Vosne Romanée 2015
From Les Saules, Les Communes and Les Colombières.
Crushed rock and bright raspberry skin nose with underlying incense and violet notes and a distinct saline edge. On the palate it is brilliantly tense with bold energy and a spicy, minty finish.
Marsannay Clos du Roy 2015 (0.3ha)
The parcel is located right by Chenôve, just before Dijon. The nose is more fruit forward, with bramble notes and an almost broody ashy nose. On the palate it is very lively, also tense and more muscular than the Vosne, showing some savoury pine kernel notes and some undergrowth.
Vosne Romanée Les Jachées 2015 (0.7ha)
Bright blood orange nose with some subtle Christmas spices, with orange peel and lemon peel and some white pepper. A very pretty delicate body with some more incense coming through with air. A very elegant body with silky, very soft tannins.
This comes from Les Orveaux and Les Treux. Les Treux is occasionally also declassified to create a Vosne Romanée Premier Cru.
There is heady, opulent black fruit here; black cherries and bramble, as well as some red cherry flesh. Very pure and dense, with more structure, you could say less "gourmand" than the others. It is spicy, with a lean, direct approach. Very much still a baby, with an incredible lingering finish of fresh cherries and perfumed rose hip notes.
Bourgogne Le Chapitre 2014
Historically a very important wine, which punches high above its Bourgogne classification. The nose is driven by raspberry flesh and cherries. Tannins are a little more rustic with an intense bite and a zippy fresh fruit finish.
Vosne Romanée 2014
Pretty, perfumed nose with distinct violets and peonies. On the palate, a direct, quite tight structure, showing cherry stones and raspberry skin with a delicious, savoury finish showing fresh bark.
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blanc 2014 (0.2ha)
Wow. Gorgeous bright apricot notes, super energetic with bright, pithy yet rich citrus and citrus oil notes. There are some savoury cashew, chewy, almond skin notes on the palate, joined by fresh pineapple and fresh acacia honey notes on the finish. Absolutely delicious.
Suffice to say, since I visited and tasted these wines I am smitten.
Imported by Wimbledon Wine Cellars.