2011 Burgundy – A Vintage Certainly Worth Buying – IF You Can Find Them

A prime success in 2011 ~ Clos de la Roche | Cote de Nuits

A prime success in 2011 ~ Clos de la Roche | Cote de Nuits

Let’s cut right to the chase: My conclusion on the 2011 Red Burgundy vintage (born from recent tastings as well as ongoing critical analysis of the region’s top estates) is that this is most certainly a collection of wines worthy of representation in any serious Burgundy aficionado’s cellar. Naturally I’m referring to the top estates when I make this statement, as the weather conditions preceding harvest (practically from the moment of bud-break and continuing unabated throughout August) were anything but ideal – Burgundy continues to witness more August harvests in this century than were ever reported in the previous. So it should be repeated (with exclamation point added) that serious consumers of Burgundy should be highlighting serious producers of Burgundy on that proverbial shopping list when it comes to filling their carts with 2011s.

That point being duly noted, 2011 is most certainly a vintage that yours truly will be buying not only as a professional but also as a consumer. Simply put, the wines showcase purity of place – immediately out of the bottle – while offering succulent fruit which is unencumbered by that “classic vintage” tannic spine. I expect to enjoy these 2011s across the span of the next decade (plus) while I’m patiently awaiting the unwinding of my 2005s (which remain tight as nails) as well as my 2010s (which have now quietly slipped into a slumber that I honestly hadn’t predicted). And based on the comments from the wine-makers I’ve spoken to, they concur that the 2011s will make for pleasurable drinking young as we monitor those more tannic wines that are tucked away in our cellars.

And what of “hot spots” for 2011? Where are the “go-to” appellations in this vintage? In my analysis, I have discovered some truly outstanding wines (very nearly rivaling their 2010 counterparts) from the villages of Pommard and Volnay for the southern reaches of the Cotes de Beaune – again, stressing that I have paid primary attention to the top estates. Prime examples of these successes may be found at Nicolas Rossignol, Pousse D’Or and Henri Boillot. Another “hot spot” for 2011, the hill of Corton turned in notable successes to include the estates of the aforementioned Pousse D’Or (whose Clos du Roi is especially worth seeking out) as well as Etienne de Montille’s biodynamic farmed Domaine de Montille where his version of Clos du Roi is quite unique from Landanger’s yet equally thrilling.

Turning our eyes and palates north, a particular favorite of mine may be found in the tiny village of Morey St Denis, where I have discovered a healthy dose of superb Grand Crus to include a host of outstanding Clos St Denis, Clos de la Roche and Bonnes Mares bottlings. These examples offer what may be the most interesting and delicious variations from these hallowed vineyards since the ‘05s and 2010s – they’re THAT good (in particular Virgile Lignier Michelet’s 2011 Clos de la Roche is a showstopper). And across the line-up I found the 2011s from Romain at Domaine Taupenot Merme consistently excellent to outstanding – very nearly equaling his chart topping 2010s.

From there, I’ve found relatively consistent results throughout the Cote de Nuits to include multiple successes specifically in Gevrey Chambertin. In particular I was struck by the generous style at Domaine Jean Michel Guillon (where these folks are bottling some of the most succulent wines in the Cote) – if you can find any of Guillon’s Premier Cru bottlings (Champonnets, Petite Chapelle, etc.) BUY THEM. Other highlights in Gevrey include Dugat-Py and Geantet-Pansiot – to name a couple of the very best (sure to be on my professional as well as personal short list). From there – as long as enthusiasts perform their due diligence – the Cote de Nuits is plentifully packed with excellent to outstanding (90-95+ point rated) wines.

Just how good IS 2011? Well, in the more positive words posited by Allen Meadows of Burghound, he informed us it would be a shame to overlook this vintage and even stressed that he himself would be layering in certain selections. After all, to cherry pick exclusively 5-star vintages clearly isn’t the point if you’re a Burgundy enthusiast seeking to CONSUME the Cote’s treasures products. It’s those vintages nestled between the “classics” that offer daily drinking alternatives.

So there we have it: 2011 is most certainly a vintage worthy of serious Burgundy consumer’s attention. It would be a travesty to overlook such a vintage – one considered “the most interesting vintage after 2005 and 2010” according to (arguably) the world’s foremost authority on the subject. So if your merchant isn’t yet stocking these wines, ask them why. Better yet, if you’re not seeking these 2011s out, perhaps it’s time to begin filling out that shopping list.



Domaine Jerome Chezeaux – Where lutte raisonnee results in Super-Star status

Serious man - Serious wines!


Another fine producer who was conspicuously absent at this year’s Grand Jours De Bourgogne; could it be that importers State-side are hoarding the fruits of their favorite producer’s labor away for their own pleasure? The absence of this perennial over-achiever certainly suggests such a possibility.


The original estate that would eventually become known as Domaine Jerome Chezeaux was formed in 1930 by Julien Missery through land acquisitions that spanned throughout top lieu dits in and around Nuits-Saint-Georges. The Missery lineage is well-known in the Cote D’Or – even today – as it has been linked to the eponymous Chateau, which is located some 15km west of Dijon, quietly nestled in the French countryside. Whether Julien – the ancestral forefather to today’s Chezeaux family – is related to those members of the Missery line is uncertain, yet it is certain that the Chezeaux’ have been in the Cote for quite some time.


Jerome took over the family estate upon his father’s untimely death in the early 1990s. Having studied at his father’s side – as well as having gained knowledge of the more modern school of viticulture via his studies at the “Lycee Viticole de Beaune” – Jerome was fully equipped for the role of vigneron of his family’s Domaine. And while Jerome fully realized the advancements available to him as had been put forward at university, he remained steadfast in his conviction to honor time tested and traditional methods of Burgundian wine-making.


Jerome’s approach to viticulture is summed up easily in a single phrase – as is the work of most of today’s greatest Burgundians: “non-interventionist”. Just as his father (Bernard) before him, Jerome believes in a strict adherence to a vineyard process known as lutte raisonnee. Succinctly described, this is the art of “struggling reasonably” or “fighting reasonably” within one’s own vineyard.


Towards the goal of reversing years of abuse to the soil as a result of the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides and more, French vignerons have turned to a natural method of tending their vineyards that ensures a return to healthy, vibrant soils and crops. This use of natural ingredients, as well as the implementation of plowing as well as the planting of cover crops and more (such as introducing various biodiversities to one’s vineyard, etc.) is drastically improving the quality of not only France’s vineyards, but the complexities of the wines emanating from these healthier vineyards as well. Only when absolutely necessary do these practitioners of lutte raisonnee employ herbicides, etc. – and only to the very barest degrees necessary.


In addition to his natural practices in the vineyard, Jerome adheres to time-honored traditions in the cellar as well: wild yeasts, malolactic in barrel, limited new oak and never are the wines subjected to filtration.  These practices consistently garner critical acclaim, and have resulted in praise from the Wine Advocate to include, “…These are some of the most beautiful, classically built wines I tasted on my trip…” As for the newly released 2010s, critical acclaim is once again quite impressive, with scores ranging from 90-95 for each of their lieu dits. This is indeed a super-star Domaine!


For details on currently available offers from this estate, please visit:




First Report – Grand Jours de Bourgogne 2012

GJDB 2012, Day 1 - Clos Vougeot


Having just returned from a recent week of tasting in Burgundy where I met with more than a hundred producers and personally sampled (what seems like) nearly a thousand wines, I am now embarking on organizing my notes. As this process will undoubtedly require several days to complete – and considering how excited I am to begin rolling out some of the details – I’ve decided to share some of the discoveries in a sort of “Burgundy of the day” format.


For my 1st installment, I’d like to introduce everyone to one of my long-time favorites:


Domaine Bertrand Ambroise


I met with Bertrand’s daughter – Ludivine – while tasting the Domaine’s 2009 Corton Le Rognet at the GJDB event in Ladoix on March 23rd.


Ludivine describes her family’s wine-making methods as “sustainable” (horse plowing, very minimal use of herbicides and pesticides, and no tractors in the vineyards). And as the photos of her vineyard plots attest, this move to a more natural way of wine-making has rejuvenated the soils as well as old vines in her Domaine’s holdings. Hand-pruning, extensive green harvesting (Vendanges verte), the traditional method of burning the old vine cuttings via the incinerateur de roues, fermentation in oak, as well as barrel ageing all attribute to wines of unquestionable age ability, structure, and intensity. And while Ambroise has made a move recently to slightly more refined wines, these remain some of the most robust wines in their respective appellations.


As for Bertrand himself, he is very much the lead wine-maker here at his eponymous Domaine – having arrived in Burgundy (Beaune specifically) a few years before taking over at what would later become Domaine Bertrand Ambroise. The original Domaine upon which Ambroise would be established in 1988 dates back to the 18th century. But it wasn’t until Bertrand and his wife Martine took over that the Domaine began to attract global attention. Bertrand and his wife Martine – daughter of the man who owned the Domaine until his death in 1987 – worked the 20 acre estate alongside Martine’s father, encouraging the move to sustainable farming as well as improvements in the cellar.


Now totaling 42 acres, Domaine Bertrand Ambroise is a true family-run estate. Bertrand is joined by his son Francois – who is also a wine-maker – as well as Ludivine – who handles the business affairs of the Domaine. In 2007, Bertrand became a grand-father when his grand-daughter Eloise was born, and a new label was launched in her honor. Three generations of Ambroise now daily may be found on the grounds of this outstanding Domaine, ensuring top quality for many years to come.


For details on currently available offers from this estate, please visit:




And remember to check back often, the 2010s are just around the corner!