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Jacques-Frederic Mugnier: The Importance
Jancis Robinson refers to Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier as “maker of some of the purest Chambolle-Musignys,” referring to the extensive and well-established estate based one of the Côte de Nuits’ most elegant villages. John Gilman believes “the wines are amongst the very greatest treasures to be found in all of Burgundy,” and Robert Parker attests that “Mugnier has made some of the most delicious, intriguing Pinot Noirs in Burgundy since the mid 1980s,” when Jacques-Frédéric oversaw the first wine bottled at the estate, then still known as Château de Chambolle-Musigny.
Jacques-Frederic Mugnier: The Insight
Every commentator singles out Mugnier’s prohibitively rare bottling of what Parker calls “a silken-textured, explosively aromatic, impulsively intense, seemingly weightless” Musigny. Mugnier is the second largest holder in this Grand Cru vineyard after Comte de Vogüé, with arguably better-located plots dead in the centre of the classic hillside part of the vineyard, (de Vogüé’s southerly parcel, known as Les Petits Musigny, is historically a separate Grand Cru in its own right). Many vintages of Mugnier Musigny have either completely vanished from the market or have seen prices rise fifty percent in recent years, as already shallow availability dwindles into virtual non-existence for what is regarded as one of the greatest wines in the appellation. In September 2016 this was further exacerbated when J.F. Mugnier announced he would no longer be releasing his Musigny en primeur, choosing instead to put small bottlings on the market only as they reach appropriate maturity. The news arrived in a letter signed by Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, with a personal message to his oldest and dearest customers: “Too many of these great bottles are opened as early as a few months or a couple of years after they were filled, at a time when they can only offer a few hints of their future greatness. Something like watching an opera on a cell phone screen… Musigny is among our wines the one that, more than any other, not only deserves but demands patience.”
Those who have less patience are still lucky that Mugnier’s Bonnes-Mares, the Grand Cru at the northern end of Chambolle-Musigny does not lag far behind in quality, while perhaps even more remarkable are the domaine’s Premier Crus Les-Amoureuses and Les-Fuées, both of which are cult wines in their own right.
However, the most famous Premier Cru is undisputedly the Clos-de-la-Maréchale, Burgundy’s largest Monopole. This impressive holding is a “true” clos, with stone walls encircling its enormous 14 hectare area at the southernmost end of Nuits-Saint-Georges. In 2005 Frédéric Mugnier re-grafted some Pinot Noir to Chardonnay here with outstanding results, but both white and red are extremely hard to find. For Galloni, the 2009 Clos-de-la-Maréchale Blanc “possesses gorgeous energy and depth”, while Steve Öhman believes that the 2010 red Clos-de-la-Maréchale “represents all the best in Burgundy … juicy, vibrant, complex, enjoyable … a magnificent wine.”
Jacques-Frederic Mugnier: The Background
From the mid-19th Century until 1984, the Mugnier wine estate was entirely leased out, and since 1945 this was done by contract with the outstanding quality négociant Domaine Faiveley, who oversaw every aspect of viticulture and winemaking. Nevertheless, J.F. Mugnier has stated by way of example that when the sharecropping contract for Clos-de-la-Maréchale finally expired in time for the 2004 vintage, the number of man-hours spent on each vine here tripled. Similarly, across the holdings, pruning systems have been optimised to regulate vigour and re-planting minimised to promote vine age. New oak has been gradually reduced in the cellar. These are just some details of Jacques-Frédéric’s increasingly elegance-focussed style, praised by the Revue des Vins de France for “opening up a new avenue in the expression of great Burgundy.”
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