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Also in this series:

Wine Traveller Diaries - Loire Valley

Wine Traveller Dairies - Chablis

Wine Traveller Diaries - Burgundy 2022: An Introduction

A visit to Château de la Tour 

This year, we visited Edouard Labet, whose father, François, was overseas. Edouard told us that ’23 was a long, generous season, good for quantity and quality, but they had to work very hard throughout the season. Picking dates were critical, and they had to sort very strictly, primarily for under-ripe berries, as there was a range of ripeness in the vineyard and also a bit of acid rot. They also had to do a solid green harvest to keep the yields down to reasonable levels and to allow for proper ripeness. In the end, they are very happy with the quality. We tasted a range of ’22s from cask. Edouard told us it was the most balanced vintage for quite some time. He pointed out (as many growers did) that even though it was a warm vintage, they didn’t suffer the dry conditions they did in 2020. The wines have excellent depth and energy, and after tasting through a wide range of casks, I can confirm it’s a superb year.

There is slight evolution with the winemaking now; Château de la Tour is no longer prescriptively 100% whole bunch, and new oak has been reduced. We also tasted the ’21s from the bottle (the next vintage on the way to Australia). Like so many top addresses, it’s a lovely, elegant, classical year. The Classique ’21 is a pretty, bunchy, sappy, red- and blue-fruited wine with a nice balance of fine tannins and sweet fruit. It’s delicious and will be fun to present to the market. The Vieilles Vignes is a deep, cool, powdery, old-school style of Burgundy that will make many followers of this estate very happy. As always, it will need more time than the Classique.

We also tasted something unique at this address: a Clos de Vougeot blanc! 2023 marks the first time this was made, with only one barrel produced. Edouard pointed out that, in fact, this wine is a celebration of history as, in the early 1800s, at least one-fifth of the Clos de Vougeot was planted to white varieties. These were likely co-fermented into the reds, of course (as has been the case at Château de la Tour with the white grapes that went into this wine), but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story ;-). 

This new white has been made from Pinot Beurot or Pinot Gris, vines that already existed but were, as mentioned, used in the de la Tour reds. It was still very early days for the white, but it looked terrific—deliciously fleshy yet racy.  Finally, it looks like Edouard may visit Australia in 2025—perfect timing to launch the domaine’s excellent quality 2022 vintage.


A visit to Clos de Tart

There have been a lot of changes here since the Artemis group put Alessandro Noli, pictured above, in charge. Apart from a brand-new (no costs spared) cellar being installed, Noli has also made some subtle changes in the vines and winemaking approach: he picks a little earlier, uses far less new oak, ferments everything in large cask, and bottles with a state-of-the-art bottling line (in the past this was done by hand). The extraction is also much lighter. Noli told us: “We really don’t have to extract; the matter is already there.” Actually, putting them all down on paper, perhaps these changes are not so subtle. Regardless, the result is that Clos de Tart is making the best wines since I started visiting (some 20 years ago) and, in fact, since I started drinking the wines (late ’90s).

To summarise, Noli’s approach results in far finer, more precise wines than those of the Pitiot/Devauges era. The natural power of Clos de Tart is still there. Yet the wines are more digestible and elegant, with finer tannins and better drinking young, without sacrificing age-worthiness. Say what you like about large company ownership, but if the wines are better, then I’m all on board!

The ’21s here are wines of great finesse but are still quite tightly wound. Noli is holding them back an extra year as Clos de Tart moves towards releasing his wines with more age. The goal is to get to the Clos being released at five years of age. If I understood correctly, the idea is to delay the release date by holding back the release every second year (assuming they have reasonable stock), using back vintage wines and some wine from the previous vintage to help tide the market over. Once they get to the point where the wines are being released with five years of aging, they will revert to a standard, one vintage-per-year approach. So, this year we’ll offer the 1er Cru La Forge de Tart, with the 2021 Grand Cru Clos de Tart released in 2025.

The 2021 is a classic Pinot lovers’ year (the opposite of the powerhouse 2020). 2022 is absolutely superb; more fruit yet still really, really fine, pure and balanced. Noli also told us that he is very excited with ’23 (which we did not taste as the wine was still finishing malolactic conversion). He said, “Good estates will make excellent 2023s, but you will see a lot of variability with the commercial producers.” This makes sense in what was clearly a year for the grower.


A visit to Nicole Lamarche

Nicole Lamarche is back in form (personally speaking) after a tough last couple of years during which she lost an important chunk of her vines—including Malconsorts, Grands Échezeaux and other important plots (to a stealthy deal between her cousin and Comte Liger Belair). She seems over it now, and the whole sordid affair has prompted her to take a new direction. In short, she has launched a négociant range, starting with a few new cuvées in ’22 and expanding to ’17 reds and five whites in 2023! 

This is on top of the Domaine wines, of course. Her idea with the négociant wines is to work with good growers to be able to offer a range of delicious, reasonably priced wines in her “finesse-driven” style. Nicole stressed that she wants to somewhat challenge the idea that all good Burgundy needs to be crazy expensive. Sounds good to me! 

Nicole Lamarche’s name has become synonymous with finesse and a very light touch in the cellar. Nothing has changed in this regard, although I think the consistency of the wines has never been better. Lamarche’s approach is working very well in these warmer vintages, and the Domaine 2022s are as fine a set of wines as I’ve tasted here.


A visit to Domaine Ghislaine Barthod

On our arrival here, we were given the terrible news that Clément Barthod’s new dog—a lively short-haired pointer—had broken into Ghislaine’s office and eaten a swag of documents, including the Bibendum allocation! I suggested we immediately rush the dog to the vet to have the paperwork ‘recovered’, but Ghislaine wasn’t having it. I mean, I love dogs, but nothing gets in between me and my Ghislaine Barthod! Anyway, we’re still waiting for our allocation to be rewritten. Once I’d let this go, we settled in to taste through the 2022s with Ghislaine, with Clément and his father, Louis, making fleeting appearances. Clément was rushing off to the hospital—sadly not the veterinary hospital, but rather the one for humans—as he and his partner were about to have their first child, and it was time for the last check-up/ultrasound.

 I’m sounding like a broken record, but the ’22s are also outstanding here. Probably more classical, more “Barthod” than I expected, i.e., tightly wound and deep. We also tried a couple of 2023s, which seemed, from a small sample size, much more open, fleshy and forward. But we only tasted two examples—Bourgogne and Chambolle villages (always more open than the 1er Crus)—and it was obviously very early days. Ghislaine said that the 2022s seemed similarly open at the same stage. We’ll see. In other news, Clément Barthod has planted a few more white vines—this is the fifth vintage that the estate has made some Bourgogne Blanc. We will continue to ask for an allocation. Still, the production is tiny, and so far, it hasn’t been available for export.


A visit to Domaine Ponsot

It’s business as usual at this historic estate with what appears to be two outstanding vintages in the cellar. Alexandre Abel (pictured above) is delighted with his 2022s, as he should be—they’re fabulous—and 2023 also looks good. The whites here are getting better and better. In general, 2022 reminds Alex of 2015, but the wines are a bit racier for mine. The acids are actually quite low—certainly lower than ’21 or’ ‘20—yet the wines are bright, energetic, and have excellent depth. Alexandre has offered to come to Australia in 2025 (we accept!) for the launch of the 2022s when there will be more wine. Not that it’s an enormous year here; Ponsot’s ’22 yields are, in fact, surprisingly low—similar to 2019, which is to say about 70% of an average year. 2023, on the other hand, is a full year with the appellation limits reached. This is a benchmark domaine that just keeps on setting benchmarks. And if I were to say something slightly controversial, the wines are every bit as good, maybe better, and certainly more consistent, today than they were under Laurent Ponsot.


A visit to Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux

 As many are aware, Arnoux-Lachaux is today one of the most talked about domaines in Burgundy (maybe the most talked about). Charles’ work in both the vines (bush vine/spur pruning, no cultivation, no trimming, very low yields) and in the cellar (100% whole bunch, low sulphur, no new oak, then 100% ceramic Clayver and no new oak at all, very short macerations, etc.), along with the very high prices, has put Charles at the extreme edge of Burgundy’s avant-garde producers.

Charles started experimenting with the Italian-made Clayver aging vessels in 2020, but only with Bourgogne and some Nuits-St-George as part of the blends. He then used eight in 2021, and by 2022, he had decided to put the whole vintage in Clayver (apart from only six barrels for things that didn’t fit). He does not muck around! The investment must be incredible, but I suppose he will save money in the future as Clayver are supposed to last forever. I’m also told you lose much less wine in Clayver, as there is much less evaporation than in barriques. And as Charles is now only doing tastings from the bottle, never from the Clayver, topping hardly ever happens. These vessels also enable longer aging, and Charles will now be aging the wines for three years instead of two.

We are still learning the implications of all the changes that Charles has made in the vineyard and cellar. He aims to arrive at a system that can give him the ‘balanced’ low yields and the purity of fruit he desires. In a high-cropping year like 2023, Charles had only 25-30hl/ha, roughly what he aimed for. In 2020, however, a low-yielding vintage, he had only 12/hl/ha and 6hl/ha in his top terroirs (where the vines tend to be oldest)! Such yields are crazily low, and it’s one of the reasons why we have had such tiny allocations lately. To give some context, Charles produced 60 barriques of wine in 2020. In contrast, his father, Pascal Lachaux, regularly produced 240-250 barriques from the same surface of vines! Charles’ system is not only lower-yielding but also much more expensive to manage, requiring 25 people in the vines throughout the season for 14 hectares. There are many details as to why, but one factor has been the conversion to spur pruning and, in particular, the two hectares of vineyard that are staked (paisseaux or échalas)—Charles has found that this takes his team up to four times more to manage.

This year, we tasted some of Charles’ 2020s and the odd ’18 and ’19. The change in style from his father’s (100% destemmed and 100% new oak) was, as always, striking. These are extremely expensive and rare wines today. Still, they are outrageously good: pure, silky, seductive and the product of a zero-compromise approach to viticulture and winemaking.


A visit to Camille Thiriet

Time to get very excited, if you aren’t already. As most will know, we started working with this rising star last year. At that time, Camille Thiriet’s wines were mostly négociant, made from purchased fruit from a variety of sources. And yet it was already clear to me, and others who knew the wines and the story, that Camille and her partner Matt Chittick were destined to do great things. Both are talented, driven people and the wines—even from the challenging year of 2021 (especially tough as a négoce)—were really top-notch. In a very good sign for our market, the wines have pretty much sold out, even though they were from a new producer, an unhyped vintage and villages that few (if anyone) knew much about—Corgoloin and Comblanchien, which both fall under the nondescript Côte de Nuits-Villages appellation. They are also the most expensive Côte de Nuits-Villages on the market, albeit with good reason! 

But let’s get on to this visit. As alluded to above, Camille Thiriet has gone from being primarily a négociant in 2021 (with only a tiny .25ha of vines) to being mostly a domaine, owning 6ha of vineyards. This is because Camille Thiret has managed to acquire the Gilles Jourdan domaine and cellars, all within Corgoloin. There will now be two distinct ranges of wine: the Domaine wines (all Corgoloin and a little Pommard) have blue wax, and the négociant bottlings (mostly Comblanchien) are bottled under white and black wax. The whole range is superb. In fact, without exaggeration, my tasting of Thiriet’s 2022s was as exciting as any lineup I encountered in Burgundy. And they are also in a style that I absolutely love. Namely, they are fresh, digestible and delicious wines with plenty of whole bunch influence (as you would expect when you know that Camille and Matt are great friends with Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac, and that Bernard Noblet, the former DRC cellar master, has consulted here for the last five years).

We have found another great Burgundy grower bound to go from strength to strength. Like Lamy, Dagueneau, Dureuil-Janthial and Goisot once upon a time, the wines come from an area not known for outstanding quality, or not known at all, which, for me at least, makes the story all the more exciting. More will be revealed when the 2022s land later this year. 


A visit to Domaine de l’Arlot

Geraldine Godot told us that her wines from 2022 “have more in common with 2021 than 2020.” She was referring to the fact that you can taste these wines and completely forget that the year was warm. “I like this sort of vintage when you forget whether the season was hot or cold.” She continued. As I said in a recent post, there is a reason why this is now a three-star domaine in La Revue du Vin de France’s ‘Green Guide’—the wines are simply outstanding and only seem to be getting better, gaining ever more precision with each release. Unsurprisingly, Godot’s 2022s are wonderful: deep yet with great finesse. Everything came in at between 13-13.5 natural alcohol. No whole bunch was used. And excellent in both white and red!

Premeaux does not fit neatly into the Nuits-St-Georges appellation. The wines have much more finesse than the stereotype, and it is also a superb area for whites. L’Arlot’s vins blancs are superb. And seeing I have mentioned the Côte de Nuits-Villages appellation regarding Camille Thiriet, I should remind everyone that l’Arlot also produces a fine example from Comblanchien: the Clos du Chapeau rouge. It’s terrific value—something to be celebrated these days! 


A visit to Denis Mortet 

Arnaud Mortet is on a killer run of form. Not only is the quality off the charts, but the wines have never exhibited more purity, terroir transparency and finesse. In many ways, Arnaud has completed the vision that his father (Denis) always held for the domaine, which was established in the early ’90s. Denis was inspired by his mentor, Henri Jayer, Bize Leroy and his cousin (Arnaud’s uncle) Charles Rousseau. The first two inspired Denis to work tirelessly in the vines to harvest perfect, ripe fruit in order to produce wines of great depth, but he also sought to emulate the finesse for which Rousseau is so renowned. Denis’ son is now offering us precisely this combination year in, year out. It is a style all his own; after all, Mortet has his own terroir and his own distinctive practice, but the wines can sit comfortably alongside these great names.

Arnaud has produced yet another cracking set of wines in 2022. This is no surprise—he really doesn’t miss these days. He is working with more and more hand-destemmed berries (where the berries are cut off the stem with scissors) while rethinking his barrel selection, with François Frères giving way to Cavin and far less new oak. Today, Arnaud Mortet’s wines represent an ideal form of modern Burgundy—deep, textural, great drinking young yet impressively ageworthy—and 2022 is a seriously great vintage here. The wines are so pure, fleshy and yet lively. I’m very keen to do an event or two when these wines land. Let’s see how we go!

—Robert Walters