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Parker 95 points / The 2009 Corton, here in its first vintage, is a wine that has very high expectations pinned on it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the prestige the Domaine is sure to bring to the appellation following its recent purchase of three vineyards in Corton. It shows a rich core of dark red fruit that powers through to the finish with tons of authority and concentration. The Corton is a solid wine from start to finish, but it also possesses beautifully delineated aromatics and tons of potential. This will be a fascinating wine to follow over the coming years. The early accessibility that defines some of the Domaine's other -entry-level- wines is nowhere to be found, however, so readers will need to be patient. The Corton is a blend of parcels in Clos du Roi, Bressandes and Renardes. The old-vine fruit from all three vineyards is harvested and vinified together. Anticipated maturity: 2019-2059. -Fasten your seatbelt- says de Villaine as we approach the 2009 Grand Crus from the Cote de Nuits.
The historic Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has recently moved offices to a renovated complex in the center of Vosne. Aubert de Villaine compares the 2009s to the 1959s. I will have to take his word for it, as I wasn't even close to being born when those wines were made. De Villaine thinks the 2009s will remain open throughout their lives. Unfortunately I wasn't able to taste the Grands-Echezeaux, Richebourg and Romanee-St. Vivant, as the wines were bottled in the days leading up to my visit. I will report on those wines from bottle later this year. The harvest started on September 10 with Corton and ended on September 19 with the last of the Echezeaux. The 2009s were vinified with 100% whole clusters and aged in 100% new oak barrels.
The Hill of Corton lies in the midst of a cluster of famous wine-growing villages - Ladoix- Serrigny, Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune - with, to the north, the southern end of the Côte de Nuits where vineyards mingle with stone quarries (Comblanchien limestone). The vineyards lie at heights of 250-330 metres and form a kind of amphitheatre not found elsewhere in the Côte. The Hill of Corton produces white Corton-Charlemagne and (mainly) red Corton, described by Camille Rodier as " le roi des bons-vivants " (or " the king of the bon vivants "). Corton Grand Cru received its AOC status on 31 July, 1937. A small quantity of white wine is grown but only the reds have the right to add the name of their " Climat " to that of the appellation.
Exposure is south-east/south-west (not an arrangement frequently found in the Côte). The hillside offers a text-book cut-away illustration of the local geology. The Oxfordian Jurassic limestone lying between Ladoix and Meursault is younger (145 million years) here than elsewhere along the Côte. At mid-slope the gradient is gentle and the soil reddish and pebbly, derived from brown limestone and rich deposits of marl with a high potassium content. The Pinot Noir grape is pampered here. The Chardonnay grape (which gives us the Corton-Charlemagne) occupies the top of the slope.
The extensive area covered by this Grand Cru and the large number of different " Climats " (named plots) it contains explain the observable differences in character among the wines grown here. The rare whites (grown mainly in the Climats of Vergennes and Languettes) have a keeping potential of 4-10 years. Colour: pale gold with green highlights. Mineral aromas (flint) blend with butter, baked apple, bracken, cinnamon and honey. Elegant and highly-bred, supple and well rounded, this unusual Chardonnay has much in common with Corton-Charlemagne. The Corton reds are an intense velvety crimson, darkening towards magenta. Their generous aromatic expression is of fruit notes (blueberry, gooseberry, kirsch cherry) or flowers (violet),evolving towards underbrush, animal, leather, fur, pepper and liquorice. On the palate this wine is well-built, powerful and muscular and the chewy body comes to the fore.Firm, frank and fat, it requires time (4-12 years) to reach its peak.
Red: solid and opulent, Corton is a Burgundy's iconic - highly complex, impressively mouth-filling in a way that is at once sensual and structured. For this reason, strong soft-centred cheeses and blue cheeses are needed to tame it. But, without question, its closest companions are highly-flavoured meats that match its powerful flavours and intense aromas. Indeed this wine is sublime with roast or grilled beef, or any and all game (furred or feathered) roasted, braised or - naturally - in sauce.Serving temperature: 14 to 16 °C
White: white Corton is a natural match for shellfish, fish, poultry in cream sauce, and goat's cheese.
Serving temperature: 12 to 14 °C
In exceptionally sunny years, it often happens that the sun accompanies the grapes, which it took so much care to ripen, from the end of vattings to the birth of the wine. This is what happened this year - a year ending with a « 9 » which once more associates this figure with the star of life.
The Indian summer set in at the end of the harvest and the glorious vineyards, relieved of their fruit, are changing colours every day, becoming more and more golden-yellow, as if the nostalgia for summer days was expressing itself through the gold that covers the leaves before they fall off and provide nourishment to the soil.
The wineries are buzzing with activity in the village streets that stretch out in the sun and the winegrowers have a smile on their faces while they smell the fragrances coming from their wineries and reminding them all the time what a blessing from gods it is to have a great vintage in Burgundy.
Not that everything was easy - on the contrary. In the winegrower's annual fight with irregular and unpredictable weather, whose whims, he knows, are necessary for making great wines, victory often takes shape very late. It was the case in 2008 as it was not until mid-September that the « window » of beautiful weather opened and permitted the vintage to be successful.
At other times, rarer, as in 1999, 2005 or in this year 2009, victory is won as early as the beginning of August. But we were then so busy protecting the vineyards against the violent attacks of oidium, of mildew especially and even of botrytis from the spring until the end of July, that we did not notice it.
After an early budburst as has often been the case in recent years, those diseases were favoured during the months of April, May, June and even July by regular stormy rains that gave no respite to the winegrower. Even though the sun kept on activating the metabolism of the vineyards, the heat brought storms almost every week. Fortunately these were not too violent - except where there was hail, in Gevrey-Chambertin for instance - but obliged us to repeat our biological treatments each time.
On the other hand, it was precisely thanks to the spring rains that the vineyards could reserve enough water to get through, without suffering, the drought period that we experienced in August - with the exception of a storm on the 13th - until the harvest. This hydric balance permitted the leaves to fully function in their role of sugar producers and the grapes could completely ripen.
Thanks to their experience of selective picking, our harvest team totally respected the natural near-perfection of the grapes. Moreover, we left aside for a second passage the vines that were overloaded or the young ones that were not fine enough.
As a result, the grapes that passed by on the sorting table are among the most beautiful we have ever seen. As in 1999 or 2005, there were a lot of small clusters, many millerandage berries, and as a sign of the great years, the old vines, not very productive in general, yielded this year a generous harvest of small berries, sumptuous examples of the finest Pinot Noir.
We also observed a phenomenon typical of great years: the grapes that were most exposed to the sun had roasted and contained nearly concentrated sugar that was released at the end of the fermentation. As a result of this occurrence, the wine experienced a truly natural and progressive sugar enrichment that resulted in higher degrees than those we noted at the beginning of fermentation.
As regards quantity, it is satisfactory too: due to the beautiful bunch setting, which was the same for all the fruits this year, and the generous flowering, the size of the harvest can be compared with 1999 or 2005.
The vines were harvested in the following order:
On September 10th: the Cortons where maturity was well in advance of Vosne-Romanée
On September 13th: the Richebourg
On September 14th: the Romanée-Conti
On September 14th and 15th: the La Tâche (the grapes of the young eight-year-old vineyards were so fine that we decided to include them in the great cuvée)
On September 15th and 16th: the Romanée-St-Vivant
On September 17 and 18th: the Grands-Echezeaux
On September 18th and 19th: the Echezeaux
Montrachet: the maturity of the Pinots and Chardonnays evolved strangely and unusually over the year. The Chardonnays were late to flower, at least one week behind the Pinots. But their reaction was so active in the last hot weeks that the difference in maturity noticed all through the growing season had almost disappeared by harvest time.
The Montrachet was harvested on September 15th, before we completed the harvest of the reds. The fruit is so beautiful, golden-coloured, ultra ripe, in a word sumptuous and beyond description that we have great hopes that it will be one of our most exceptional Montrachet.
At the time of this writing, on October 7th, fermentations are slow, regular and reach high temperatures naturally. The quality of the grapes and the richness of the "material" enable us to look for long vattings. Colours are red-garnet, almost black. It is a vintage of high lineage, at the level of the wonderful grapes that we harvested, that seems to be at birth in the vats.