The Clos de Vougeot in the heart of the Côte de Nuits occupies most of the vineyard area belonging to the commune of Vougeot. Vougeot's neighbours are Chambolle-Musigny, Flagey-Échezeaux and Vosne-Romanée. On the slopes at the upper end of the Clos, it abuts on the vineyards of Musigny and Grands-Échezeaux.
Founded around 1110 AD by the monks of nearby Cîteaux, who remained its owners until the Revolution of 1789, the Clos de Vougeot is a Burgundian icon. Its 50.59 hectares have never been broken up and it retains its identity intact within the walls which were built to enclose it 5 centuries ago. Its wines are among the finest of the Grand Cru reds and it has held Grand Cru status since 31 July 1937.
The château, (which adjoins the cellars and the winery with its giant presses dating back to the 12th and 14th centuries), is built in the Burgundian Renaissance style and is open to visitors. The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin holds its meetings or « chapters » here and therefore it is no surprise that the finest food and wine in France is found here.
The diversity of soils within the Clos de Vougeot makes up a sort of needle-point tapestry. At about 255 metres above sea-level, its upper end is gently sloping, with soil only some 40 cm deep, coarse-grained and gravelly over a limestone base. In the centre, at about 250 metres of altitude, the soil is still shallow (45 cm), brown, more clayey, overlying broken limestone. The lower portion (around 240 metres) has a brown soil which is deeper (90 cm) and lies on a layer of marl, rich in clay and alluvium. The rocks belong to the Jurassic period (175 million years BC).
« Here's presence ! » exclaims Hugh Johnson's Wine Guide. Nowadays the vineyard is divided among numerous owners and for this reason no single description can be applied to the reds wines. There are, however, common features : very intense colour ranging from strawberry red to deep garnet ; a suave bouquet, redolent of springtime of blown roses at dawn, of violets in the morning dew, of moist mignonette... Add to these blackberry, raspberry, wild mint, liquorice and truffle... On the palate, the taste is masterful, rich, succulent and mellow, combining elegance and delicacy with meaty fullness. A long finish in the mouth and long aging potential (anything from 10 to 30 years and sometimes even more).
This mouth-filling and noble wine demands to be matched with food that is equally as rich, smooth, opulent, and complex. The emphasis therefore will normally be on musky and marbled meats: forerib of beef, braised lamb, roast veal with mushrooms or a nice game-bird (in sauce or simply roasted). The meat must not be too firm, thus allowing the tannins of the Clos de Vougeot to envelop it without being over-dominant.
Cheeses: preferably soft-centred cheeses such as Époisses, Langres, Soumaintrain, Saint-Florentin, and not forgetting Cîteaux, whose monks first established this famous vineyard.
Serving temperatures: 12 to 13 °C for young wines, 15 to 16 °C for older wines.
The 2014 vintage in Burgundy was a very complicated one, although less so than those in 2013, 2012 and 2011, which featured dramatic crop shortages due to shatter, bad fruit sets and hailstorms.
In 2014, there were two problems which resulted in crop loss: hail in the Côte de Beaune, especially inMeursault; and poor flowering in some of the hillside vineyards of Puligny and Meursault.
The winter temperatures were above average with only 4 days the entire winter below freezing. Rain amounts during the winter months were way above normal in January and February but below average for March and April. Temperatures in March and April were above normal but not extreme. May was slightly below normal both in temperature and rainfall.
June was also dry with below average rainfall (.2 inches of rain fell on the 4th, and .67 incheson the 12th), so flowering was much more uniform than in past years. There was no crop loss or rot. Flowering began in early June. By June 6th, flowering was 50% completed and almost entirely overby the 13th. June 6th until the 21st was the warmest stretch of the summer, with temperatures above86 degrees from the 7th to the 13th. On June 28th, the communes of Meursault, Pommard, Volnay and Savigny were hit twice by a devastating hail storm. These same communes had also suffered hail damagein the 3 preceding years.
July and August were unseasonably cool months. There was 65% more rain than the average.There were only 2 days in July with temps above 86o, the highest temps for the remainder of the summer and fall. From August 11th to September, temperatures never rose above 78 and mostly stayed around 72 for the high. It rained quite often in early August. There were no downpours, but it was always grey and damp. Because of the cool weather, the acids were maintained and since it was not too wet, there were few problems with mildew and odium as there had been in 2013.
September was quite dry. A small amount of rain fell on the 9th, 1.02 inches of rain on the 18th,and finally .39 inches on the 19th. Some growers started harvesting around the 11th of September andhad to hurry to get the grapes in before the rain on the 18th.
The 2014 vintage has similar acid levels to the 2013s, which were high. Because the acids in the2014s were 50% malic and 50% tartaric, the resulting wines are richer and more concentrated than the2013s. Natural alcohols were about a half a percent higher than the 2013s. Because of the high levels of tartaric and the less ripe grapes in 2013, it is a vintage of soil expression with lots of precision. 2014
is more of an expression of grapes with lots of juicy, concentrated acidity, refreshing with great bodyand balance. I really enjoyed tasting the wines. The malos had finished because the winter was so warm,therefore the wines were quite easy to taste and advanced, totally the opposite of 2013. The quality was much more heterogeneous than 2013, and quality should be quite high across the board.
It disturbs me that some growers are so concerned with premature oxidation that they will harvest slightly underripe grapes in order to keep the acids, and will add a lot of sulphur. Because the wine lacks alcohol, they will compensate by adding sugar, stirring the lees and using new oak. This is ridiculous – you cannot make wine because you’re concerned about those who want hold the wine for 10 years, and leave consumers who want to drink wines young with acidic, mineral, sour wine. I hope this is only a phase.
I would like to put 2014 in perspective in relation to the previous vintages:
2013 – Mineral, citric-lemon acids with salt and earth and lots of stony terroir.
2012 – More a vintage style with concentration because of the low yields. Good acids but not at all racy. 2011 – A year of the fruit, somewhat like 2014, but without the density. With texture, but not tremendous length on the palate.
2010 – A great year with perfect balance.
2009 – The last year of the sun, with high alcohol and very ripe wines with high pH and low acidity.
What’s lovely about the 2014s is that, along with its lush fruit, there are racy acids and the expression of terroir, too. It’s rare to get such high levels of acidity with so much concentration, and it’snot because of the crop size, but more a reflection of the sunlight hours, which were high without theheat. This allowed the grapes to ripen, and the cool days and nights in August kept the high acids. The fact that there was a lot of wind in September, combined with sunny days and very little rain, made for a perfect harvest window. Even those growers who waited out the few rainstorms in and around the 18thof September were able to let the vineyards dry out and finish their harvest. I am also excited that 2014should be seen as a vintage that is consumer friendly, with its up front fruit and concentration, and also one for purists where the vineyards’ intrinsic character is present, too. It is commercial, yet profound.
I wanted to briefly talk about pricing for 2014s. Given the tiny crops for white Burgundies in2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, you might expect some big price increases. However, the growers have beenreasonable with 2014s, mostly keeping pricing the same, with the maximum increase being 10% at one domaine and 0-5% from all my other growers.
By Clive Coates MW