Top Under-the-Radar Single Plots in Burgundy

By Gavin Smith

Dec 12th, 2019

For all of us Burgundy obsessives the individual plots conjure up a magical sense of variety in Burgundy. The Grand Crus and even the top Premier Cru wines provide such unique personalities, aficionados can’t help but get attached to particular sites whose terroir speaks directly to them.

Whilst there are many great single vineyard sites throughout the Cote d’Or we thought it was worth highlighting some special plots that whilst not carrying the same weight as the more iconic plots, could be shrewd buys offering real personality but without the price tag.

Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 'En Musigni' - Domaine Gros Frere & Soeur

Clos Vougeot is clearly the most diverse Grand Cru in Burgundy due to its size (50 hectares) and huge range of growers (currently over 80, producing their version of Clos Vougeot). Unlike many single sites in Burgundy, due to the size and diversity of soil, identifying a distinctly Clos Vougeot flavour profile is not easy to come by. Jasper Morris in his book “Inside Burgundy” states that whilst “the top of the Clos is probably Grand Cru territory…the rest is sandwiched between village-level Vosne Romanee and Premier Cru Vougeot.” With this in mind many consumers are conscious of buying Clos Vougeot and keen to know whereabouts on the site each growers' particular vines are situated. Whilst it is not just about the location (there are certainly good examples dotted around the vineyard) you can't help but notice that Domaine Gros Frere & Soeur have clearly some of the best situated vines in the whole plot, located in the north west of the site bordering the Grand Cru site of Musigny.

Tasting the 2018 vintage earlier this year, their Clos Vougeot certainly has a very earthy minerality on the palate that brings a real dynamism to the palate and an amazing lift. Considering Gros Frere and Soeur’s winemaking style (100% de-stemmed) and highly concentrated fruit, to have such vibrancy and terroir-driven earthiness just shows the remarkable positioning of this site.

1er Cru Les Petits Vougeots – Hudelot Noellat & 1er Cru +

Chambolle Musigny Chabiots, Albert Bichot

These two beautifully situated sites really offer fantastic value producing two very distinct wines of exceptional quality whilst remaining a tenth of the price of its more famous neighbouring Premier Cru of Amoureuses. Whilst these might not carry the aromatic intensity of Amoureuses they are still both beautiful wines. Hudelot Noellat’s Petits Vougoets Premier Cru sits right underneath the Musigny Grand Cru and neighbours Amoureuses – it couldn’t be better situated! The wine is very Chambolle in style (more so than Vougeot) as it sits on a bedrock of limestone. Limestone soils completely excelled in 2018 retaining the all-important freshness in the wine – this wine has extraordinary aromatic complexity but also an underlying substance in the mid palate and offers real quality at a great price.

The Chabiots from Albert Bichot also neighbours Amoureuses but sits above it whilst neighbouring the Musigny Grand Cru to the south. The Chabiots has a real density in the centre of the palate giving a lovely brooding undercurrent of deceptive power whilst the wine retains all the fragrant Chambolle perfumes and silk-like texture you want from the appellation.

Clos de Comeraine

1er Cru Clos de la Commaraine - Pommard

This will be a relatively unknown site to even the most seasoned Burgundy aficionado as the sites has remained largely neglected up until its recent purchase in 2016. This single Clos (walled vineyard) has some serious history attached. In the 18th century it was as respected as the Grand Crus of the Cote de Nuits and considered the Grand Cru of Pommard. Records dating back to 1787 show it was the favourite Burgundy wine of Thomas Jefferson.

It has since been purchased by a couple of hoteliers from Chicago who have been determined to bring the vineyard back to its former glory. On purchasing the 3.75 hectare they carried out thorough soil studies using electromagnetic / sonar equipment to identity the varied terroir within the Clos. Following this research they were able to divide the Clos into eight different subplots. These eight different sub plots were picked at different times and vinified separately. In total 35 barrels were produced, these were then extensively blind tasted and only 20 barrels were kept for the final blend. This wasn’t because the quality was necessarily worse it was just they didn’t feel the rejected barrels fit into the style typical of the vineyard. A style defined by its elegance, fine tannins and great depth on the palate. It is unusual for Pommard to be so elegant but historically it is how this Clos has been perceived dating back to the 18th century. The 2018 is the first vintage to be treated with such precision and the barrel tastings were incredibly impressive. What’s more, the winemaking was overseen by the talented Louis Michel from Domaine Liger-Belair.

View from Les Damodes vineyard

1er Cru Nuits St Georges Les Damodes – Domaine Faiveley

Les Damodes is beautifully positioned neighboring the Vosne Romanee 1er Cru of Malconsorts. Depending on your exposure to Nuits-St-Georges in cooler vintages and certain sites the appellation can come across very austere, grippy and often over tannic. However, the northern part of the appellation and its close proximity to Vosne Romanee can produce fleshier, riper and dynamic expression of Pinot on a par with some of Vosne’s top sites.  Les Damodes from Domaine Faiveley offers tremendous value for the price and remains a real under the radar recommendation because of its proximity to some of the Cote d’Or’s greatest sites at a tenth of the price.

1er Cru Gevrey Chambertin Bel Air – Domaine Taupenot-Merme

The Bel Air vineyard is a site that has come into its own in the last decade thanks to the climatic shift to warmer temperatures on the Cote d’Or. This site sits above the Grand Cru vineyard of Chambertin Clos de Beze and whilst in the past struggled to reach ripeness due to the partial shading of the forest above (of which has since been partially removed) and its relative altitude today produces one of the most exciting Gevrey Premier Crus of the appellation. In recent vintages the wine manages to produce wines with a fantastic mineral raciness due to minimal topsoil, whilst reaching full phenolic maturity. In a warm vintage like 2018 it is an absolutely stunning wine and a tenth of the price of its neighbouring Grand Cru sites that sit below.

24 Hours in... Burgundy

BY Gavin Smith,

Dec 12th, 2019

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