Category Archives: Decanter

Another addition to the Chianti quality pyramid: tasting Rùfina’s Terraelectae wines

Federico Giuntini Masseti, president of the Chianti Rùfina Consorzio, says that the purpose of Terraelectae – Chianti Rùfina’s new top-tier category- is to highlight the special character of the Sangiovese-based wines from Rùfina’s unique terroir. The producers hope the category will allow Chianti Rùfina to emerge from Chianti Classico’s shadow and be considered a top Tuscan DOCG, like Brunello.

Chianti Rùfina, the smallest of the sub-regions of the greater Chianti area – just one-tenth the size of Chianti Classico – lies about 30 minutes by car northeast of Florence.

With a more rugged terrain and vineyards that lie at a higher elevation, the region has an overall cooler climate compared to Chianti Classico, which gives the wines a more savory and engaging wild component – Gerardo Gondi of Tenuta Bossi, one of Rùfina’s top estates, aptly calls the wines ‘mountain Chianti.’

Faye Lotero, owner of Fattoria Lavacchio, another leading estate, believes that Chianti Rùfina has an advantage with climate change because of its elevation and wind-swept terroir. Meanwhile, the under-the-radar status of Chianti Rùfina is a boon for consumers because the wines deliver more than their prices suggest.

Terraelectae requirements

The requirements for Terraelectae differ from those of Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione category, which need not come from a single vineyard, nor be made entirely from Sangiovese. In contrast, to be included in the new Terraelectae category the wines must meet Chianti Rùfina Riserva standards, come from a single vineyard, and be made exclusively from Sangiovese.

Other regulations require that Terraelectae be made from a reduced yield (70 quintals/ha) and undergo 30 months of ageing prior to release, 18 of which must be in barrel and six in bottle. The specifics of barrel ageing – size and age of the barrel, and the type and origin of the wood – are left to individual producers.

Each producer in Chianti Rùfina – there are only about 20 of them – can select a single vineyard for their Terraelectae bottling. If the wine meets the requirements and receives approval from a group of Chianti Rùfina producers, it will carry the Terraelectae moniker on the label. The producers themselves, not a regulatory authority, have set the criteria for inclusion and judge the quality and character of the wines.

Ten producers have designated a Terraelectae with the 2018 vintage: Tenuta Bossi, Colognole, Frascole, Marchese Frescobaldi, Grignano, Fattoria Lavacchio, Fattoria Selvapiana, Villa Travagnoli, Castello del Trebbio, and I Veroni.

That three more producers – Podere Il Pozzo, Fattoria Il Lago and Ormae Vinae – opted to wait and release their first Terraelectae with the 2019 or 2020 vintage is either a sign that that the self-policing by producers may be working, or is just an example of inefficiency or indecisiveness.

Predicting the future success of new wine projects is hazardous. Who would have predicted the popularity of Bolgheri wines? That said, Terraelectae has at least one thing going for it – SuperTuscan wines are not common in Chianti Rùfina, so the confusion that has arisen in Chianti Classico about whether a producer’s Gran Selezione or their SuperTuscan sits atop the quality pyramid is unlikely to surface.

As the tasting notes indicate, the 2018 Terraelectae releases showed very well, with almost all receiving more than 90 points. If the wines remain high-quality and a unique expression of Sangiovese reflecting the distinctive terroir of Chianti Rùfina, the Terraelectae moniker on the label will be useful to consumers. Self-policing by producers will be critical and will ultimately determine whether the Terraelectae designation elevates the entire region or is meaningless.

The 10 inaugural Terraelectae wines:

Fattoria Selvapiana, Vigneto Erchi Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Fattoria Selvapiana, one of the area’s top producers, designated their 5ha Vigna Erchi, a site that has more iron in the soil compared to their iconic Bucerchiale vineyard. Owner Federico Giuntini thinks the difference in terroir explains why Vigna Erchi produces a bolder wine. Extraordinary elegance and a silky suaveness complement the bold dark fruit character. Though aged in French barriques for 18 months, there’s not a hint of oakiness on the palate; you just feel its influence. A classic example of muscle and refinement, the wine delivers enlivening freshness and great length. The tannins remain polished and unobtrusive even after holding the wine in the mouth. It’s a youthful wine, to be sure, but its impeccable balance predicts a long life and glorious evolution.

Points: 95

Frescobaldi, Vigna Montesodi Riserva, Chianti, Rufina, 2018

Marchese Frescobaldi are based in Chianti Rùfina and are by far the largest producer. They have been making wine from their 20ha Vigna Montesodi for decades, and by labelling this iconic wine as ‘Terraelectae’, it gives immediate credibility to the entire project. The southwest exposure of the vineyard containing well-drained clay and limestone likely explains the wine’s stature, and the wine is aged in large 30hl French and Austrian oak. Both powerful and elegant, the suave texture of this youthful wine is captivating. It unfolds and blossoms as it sits in the glass. A long and explosive finish highlights its dark fruitiness and minerality. In a word, wow!

Points: 95


Tenuta Bossi, Vigna Poggio Diamante Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Marchese Gondi’s estate, Tenuta Bossi, which dates from the 16th century, opted to use the best section of their southwest-facing Vigna Poggio Diamante for their Terraelectae. Located at about 250 metres above sea level, its galestro soil is remarkably well-drained thanks to calcareous sediment. The wine is aged in a combination of large Austrian oak barrels and used barriques, and the result is a mid-weight wine that exudes delicacy and grace. Gorgeous cherry-like notes on the nose and the palate announce Sangiovese, and the texture is paradoxically suave and firm, Burgundian in character with stunning purity and length. Finely honed but apparent tannins remind you its a youthful Sangiovese-based wine.

Points: 94


Fattoria Lavacchio, Vigna Casanova Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Faye Lotero of Fattoria Lavacchio selected their 1.8ha organically farmed Vigna Casanova for their Terraelectae label. Planted in 1963, the clay- and limestone-filled vineyard sits at 450 metres and faces southwest, which allows for good ripening of the Sangiovese. They ferment the wine in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for about three weeks, before ageing it in 15hl barrels made from oak grown locally in the Florentine mountains. The wine delivers fabulous floral aromatics followed by a chocolate-tinged dark fruitiness. This suavely textured wine has an alluring smoky, savoury side. Both powerful and elegant, Vigna Casanova’s great acidity keeps it fresh while fine tannins provide plenty of structure.

Points: 94


Grignano, Vigneto Poggio Gualtieri Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Grignano relied on a 1.8ha portion of their southeast-facing Vigneto Poggio Gualtieri, which they consider their best vineyard, for their 2018 Terraelectae. The wine ages in a mixture of large oak casks and barriques. Grapes from the oldest, 30-year-old-section, the Monte Fiesole plot, provide noticeable and welcome power. The flavour profile here tends toward darker cherries mixed with alluring earthy notes, imparting a lovely not-just-fruit complexity. It maintains great freshness and refinement, too. In short, an exciting young wine.

Points: 94


Travignoli, Vigna Colonneto Riserva, Chianti, Rufina 2018

The clay and limestone Colonneto vineyard, a 3.1ha expanse, is ideally situated, facing south at 310 metres high. Clemente Busi, whose family owns Travignoli, explains that they selected only a small portion of the vineyard for the Terraelectae bottling, giving them the option to expand production as the market demands. Aged in 25hl oak casks for 24 months, the wine is amazingly complex, especially considering that it was the first commercial release from only 10-year-old vines that were harvested by machine. Its depth, concentration and tannic structure belie its meager – by today’s standards – 13.5% stated alcohol. Dark mineral notes intermingle and complement black cherry-like flavours. An enlivening fresh finish amplifies this youthful wine’s elegance and stature.

Points: 93


Colognole, Vigneto Le Rogaie Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

The Nunzinate brothers, Mario and Cesare planted Vigneto Le Rogaie about two decades ago. They could have extended it another 100 metres but didn’t because the soil in that section was slightly more acidic and not hospitable to the clones and rootstocks of Sangiovese they chose. The upper part of the 2.1ha vineyard, situated at 420 metres and comprised of a complex soil of clay, sand, silt and limestone, provides the fruit for this Terraelectae. It undergoes a three-week maceration in 50hl stainless steel tanks followed by 20 months in large 25hl Slavonian oak barrels. The resulting wine leads with gorgeous floral nuances followed by juicy sour cherry notes on the palate. A beguiling spicy and savoury character juxtaposed with those cherry hints makes this midweight wine sing. Fine, ripe tannins and bright acidity provide appropriate structure without astringency.

Points: 93


Castello del Trebbio, Vigneto Lastricato Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Castello del Trebbio, constructed in the 12th century by the Pazzi family, has been making a Chianti Rùfina Riserva from their 2.6ha Vigneto Lastricato for decades. They made a rigorous selection of 2,600 bottles for their Terraelectae bottling in this inaugural 2018 vintage. Ana Baj Macario, who, with her husband Stefano Casadei, owns the property, says that though they are not certified as biodynamic, the farming is organic and they follow biodynamic principles. Fermentation occurs in clay amphorae. The resulting wine is fresh and floral, with juicy, sour red cherry-like nuances. An attractive angular firmness balances the bright fruitiness of this mid-weight wine.

Points: 91


Frascole, Vigna alla Stele Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Frascole, whose vines have been tended organically since 1999, selected the southwest-facing Vigna alla Stele for their Terraelectae label. Situated at 360 metres, this 0.72ha clay- and loam-filled vineyard is one of Rùfina’s highest, which explains why it is typically harvested a week later than the others. Fermented in open-topped 500-litre tonneaux without temperature control then macerated for about 20 days before ageing in French oak barrels for 18 months helps explain its darker, more muscular profile. The fruit is reminiscent of plums rather than cherries. Very structured and youthful, its power is front and centre at this stage, while ever-present Tuscan acidity keeps it fresh.

Points: 89


I Veroni, Vigneto Quona Riserva, Chianti Rufina 2018

Luca Innocenti, I Veroni’s longtime marketing manager, describes the southwest-facing 5.5ha Vigneto Quona as ‘on a gold hill with spectacular exposure to the sun.’ Sitting at 300 metres with clay and sandy soil, it – like all their vineyards – has been farmed organically since 2013. The wine is barrel fermented and then aged in a combination of large oak casks and barriques for 18 months. Engaging floral notes pull you in and give way to a weighty wine redolent with dark cherry-like fruitiness. Though the acidity keeps it fresh, the tannins are prominent in this youthful wine and need time to smooth out.

Points: 88

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2014

Drinking Window: 2024 – 2034
The light straw color and spiciness of youth bode well for this six-year-old wine. Minerals and pepper-like spice predominate while pineapple-like fruitiness lies in the background at this stage. The following night, more fruit elements emerge, while the riveting acidity keeps it fresh and full of energy. Its invigorating and lengthy finish amplifies all its elements. The wine’s stature comes as no surprise given the success of the vintage for whites.
Points: 96

From Decanter Magazine: Chianti Rùfina ups its game with Terraelectae

The wines from Chianti Rùfina, a unique, high-quality sub-region of the greater Chianti area, are overshadowed by those of its larger brother, Chianti Classico. Now, Rùfina producers are striving to change that with Terraelectae, a category of wines that will sit at the pinnacle of the Chianti Rùfina quality pyramid.

Each producer – there are only about 20 of them in all of Chianti Rùfina – will be able to designate a single-vineyard wine made entirely from Sangiovese as ‘Terraelectae’ and will label it with that moniker in addition to the name of the vineyard.

This contrasts with Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione, a category created about a decade ago to highlight the DOCG’s top wines. Gran Selezione must come from a producer’s own vineyards but are not required to be made exclusively from Sangiovese, nor come from a single vineyard.

Terraelectae regulations

Terraelectae wines must be Riserva, have a maximum yield of 70 quintals/ha, contain at least 12.5% alcohol, and be aged for at least 30 months, at least 18 of which must be in oak barrels and at least six months in bottle. The concept is unusual because producers themselves, not a governmental body, are setting the regulations and overseeing the quality and character of the wines (the producers of Buttafuoco Storico in Oltrepò rely on a similar concept of self-regulation).

The wines from Chianti Rùfina are distinct from those of Chianti Classico thanks to its higher elevation and more rugged topography, both which contribute to its cooler climate. Gerardo Gondi of Tenuta Bossi, one of the region’s leading estates, describes them as ‘mountain Chianti’.

Chianti Rùfina, despite producing enticingly savoury wines, always fights for a place at the table. Chianti Classico produces at least ten times as much wine from 15 times as many producers. Habitually confused with Chianti producer, Ruffino, the Rùfina consorzio placed an accent on the ‘u’ in the 1970s to try to convince even the Italians how to pronounce it.

Eventually, Chianti Rùfina producers hope that the Terraelectae wines will combat their underrated status and propel them into the top echelons of Tuscan DOCGs, such as Brunello di Montalcino.

For the initiation of this project, nine producers designated a 2018 Chianti Rùfina as Terraelectae. The wines first were certified as DOCG Chianti Rùfina by Italian wine regulators. Next, the candidate wines were tasted by an outside consultant, Gabriele Gorelli, Italy’s first and only Master of Wine. Then, a group of Chianti Rùfina producers themselves tasted the wines to assert that they conform to a standard character and quality. Only then were the wines allowed to sport Terraelectae on the label.

It was clear from my discussions that some producers who submitted wines were asked to wait a year or two, presumably to refine quality, before being allowed to use the Terraelectae designation. Three additional producers are set to declare a wine as Terraelectae for the 2019 vintage.

The key to success of the Terraelectae project will be whether, as a group, the wines continue to remain top-notch and continue to display a common theme. Whether the self-policing by producers will work in the long term to ensure that this occurs remains to be seen.

Irancy: regional profile plus 20 wines to try

Not familiar with Irancy? Well, you’re not alone. Even though it carries a Burgundy village appellation—high praise, since less than half of Burgundy wines do—more than a few residents of Beaune, to whom I spoke last autumn, could not identify it.

In addition to its off-the-beaten track location near Chablis, regulations allow growers to include up to 10% of César, a near-forgotten red grape, in the blend.

Local lore has it that the Roman legions of Julius Caesar planted César millennia ago. Though DNA analysis of the grape has disproved that myth, the name remains.

Hotter climes beneficial for Irancy wines

Thanks to climate change, the wines of Irancy are now getting their day in the sun – literally and figuratively. Irancy is clearly a hot area (no pun intended). Even though it has no premier cru vineyards (yet), growers are more frequently bottling wines using the names of specific lieux-dits.

Paul Espitalié, director of Chablis-based Simonnet-Febvre, explains that years ago it was difficult for grapes to attain adequate ripeness, and thus their subtle terroir expression was lost.

Nowadays, however, riper grapes allow for better extraction and body, which enables an expression of what are clearly different terroirs.

Awareness of Irancy wines on the up

Négociants have taken advantage of the excellent quality-to-price ratio and have started increasing the visibility of these wines. It won’t be long, therefore, before consumers are able to enjoy more of these great value wines.

Just as well-priced, high quality wines attract consumers, so well-priced land attracts growers.

Espitalié explains that, as expected, vineyards in neighbouring Chablis are very expensive, and to some extent the winemaking philosophy is weighed down by tradition.

It comes as no surprise, then, that young winemakers are buying vines and experimenting with different vinification and viticulture techniques in the less expensive, less rigid area of Irancy. This also explains why many producers of Irancy wines are based in Chablis.

The history of the Irancy appellation

Irancy takes its name from a tiny eponymous village located in the greater Auxerrois area, on the right bank of the Yonne River, barely a dozen miles from Chablis.

With its narrow streets, charming stone buildings, and imposing Gothic church, the village looks like any other hamlet in Burgundy.

It was the birthplace of Jacques-Germain Soufflot, the architect responsible for the Pantheon in Paris.

1936 Wines from Irancy were first included under the Bourgogne umbrella.
1977 Irancy promoted to the Bourgogne-Irancy regional designation.
1998 Irancy gained village appellation status.

Formerly classified as a regional appellation, Bourgogne-Irancy, the wines were upgraded to village status in 1998 as regulators realised their potential. This put them on the same level, within the Burgundy hierarchy, as Marsannay and other villages of the Côte d’Or.

Irancy is now poised to follow Marsannay’s march from a regional appellation, to a village appellation, to a village appellation with premier cru vineyard designations.

The lay of the land

The roughly 190ha of vineyards lie in a south-facing amphitheatre surrounding the village. The back of the amphitheatre blocks the colder northern winds, and the vineyards themselves lie at around 130m-250m altitude.

The soils, similar to Chablis, are a mixture of Kimmeridgian limestone and marl.

As in nearby St-Bris, Chardonnay does not do well here, despite the similar soils and proximity to Chablis.


César is a vigorous grape variety, ripening earlier than Pinot Noir, and is known for its power and tannins.

Traditionally, it has been co-planted and harvested with Pinot Noir in Irancy, making it difficult to determine precisely how much of it might be in the blend.

In the past, when Pinot Noir struggled to ripen in this cold locale, growers liked to use a touch of César in their blends to beef up the wine.

Current opinion regarding César’s usefulness varies. Anita Colinot, of Domaine Colinot, has always included it in many of her wines and presumably will continue to do so, since she opts to replant it when necessary. Though she emphasises they are careful to plant it in south-facing sites where she thinks it does best.

Jean-François Bersan, of the family-run Domaine P-L & J-F Bersan, insists that César is ‘part of our heritage, and well managed it can make a significant contribution to the style of the appellation.’

Guilhem Goisot, of Jean Hugues & Guilhem Goisot, a leading producer based in St-Bris, feels differently. He has four rows of César vines, whose grapes he gives to his grandmother. He prefers to use 100% Pinot Noir for his Irancy wines, even though they have less colour and tannin, because he feels the wines are more refined and delicate.

What do Irancy wines taste like?

Though the wines can show considerable variation depending on the vintage and presence or absence of César, in general Irancy wines are a lighter and firmer version of Pinot Noir – with a Côte Chalonnaise-like stoniness – rather than an opulent one, expressing red fruits and often cherry-like notes.

César can add not only colour and backbone, but also a rustic – sometimes charming, sometimes not – element, especially when young.

It would be a mistake to think that wines from a ‘lesser’ appellation, such as Irancy, or Marsannay for that matter, should only be enjoyed when young, or that they lack the capacity to develop with bottle age.

Indeed, a 2015 Irancy from Chablis-based Vincent Dauvissat, appropriately named Soufflot, tasted in November 2021, while still youthful had started to show the marvellous complexity of bottle age.

And a 2012 Domaine Colinot from the Mazelots lieu-dit was just coming into its own when I tasted it in 2019.

Irancy vintage guide

2015 A fabulous vintage in Irancy, as it was for other reds throughout Burgundy.
2016 A small harvest marred by frost and hail. Similar to the rest of Burgundy, the wines are variable.
2017 Hot, with many wines lovely to drink now.
2018 Hot, showing the most ripeness along with supple tannins.
2019 Energetic wines with a good balance of richness and acidity.
2020 Hot, and although I have not tasted any 202s yet, red Burgundy wines from this vintage show surprisingly good acidity and life considering the early vintage, so I have high hopes for the 2020s from Irancy.

The future of the Irancy appellation

So, where is the appellation headed?

Based on my tastings over the years, it’s clear that Irancy is headed in the right direction as growers continue to refine their wines.

Talk is already underway regarding which lieux-dits might qualify for premier cru status.

Though that designation will likely take another decade, I anticipate that it will occur eventually.

The overall outcome is likely to be similar to what we’ve already seen in Marsannay, another previously overlooked appellation.

As consumers discover the wines of Irancy, demand and prices will surely rise. My advice, explore this appellation and board the train before it leaves the station.

Irancy producers to know:

Domaine P-L & J-F Bersan: Though founded in 1453, this family-run domaine, located in St-Bris, really got its start in 2009 when Jean-François’ son, Pierre-Louis, returned from an internship in New Zealand, thus completing his oenology degree from the school in Beaune. The domaine received the top level of Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE) certification in 2018 and converted to organic farming in 2020.

Dampt Frères: Founded in the 1980s, this top Chablis-based producer only started planting in Irancy in 2014 and received HVE certification in 2018. It has just over 2ha in Irancy, 97% of which is planted to Pinot Noir and the remainder to César. They harvest by hand, sort the clusters, and age the wine in a combination of oak barrels (two-thirds) and stainless steel tanks for about 16 months.

Maison de la Chapelle: Delphine and Grégory Viennois founded this small domaine in 2014. Currently they produce only about 15,000 bottles of Irancy annually from their 4ha of Pinot Noir. Looking to the future, they have plans to make a cuvée exclusively from César, even though they will not be able to label it as Irancy given the current regulations. Using only wild yeast, alcoholic and malolactic fermentation occurs in one- to five-year-old oak barrels. They bottle all their wines without fining or filtration.

Domaine Colinot: One of the leading traditional domaines of Irancy, Domaine Colinot is run today by Anita and Jean-Pierre Colinot. Their 13ha span the best lieux-dits of the appellation. Except for their bottlings from Les Cailles and Boudardes, their cuvées contain 8-10% of César. Hand harvesting is the rule here followed by destemming and vinification in traditional vats, except for their Cuvée Soufflot, which is vinified in oak barrels.

Clotilde Davenne: Based in Chablis where she founded her domaine in 1989, Clotilde Davenne expanded to Irancy in 2005. She’s a firm believer in César, replanting it to maintain its 10% proportion in her 1.2ha of Irancy vineyards, all of which carry HVE certification. Her winemaking depends on the plot and the year, so there’s no formula. Her keen intuition and talent – for 17 years she was the enologist at Jean-Marc Brocard’s domaine – direct her.

Christophe Ferrari Domaine St Germain: In 2015, Nicolas Ferrari took over from his father, Christophe, who created the domaine in 1987. Though Nicolas maintained many of the traditional techniques his father had adopted, he also embraced more modern ones, including native yeast-fermentation, bottling without fining or filtration, and using non-fermentable yeasts to minimise sulphite use while still maintaining high hygiene standards.

Domaine Verret: Though this domaine traces its history back to 1750, it’s only since 1930 that it has focused exclusively on viticulture. Its 13ha, which are farmed ‘as naturally as possible,’ are spread over the appellation. Damien Verret believes that César holds little interest today, so the vineyards are planted exclusively with Pinot Noir. He keeps yields low, averaging about 38hl/ha, to maintain quality.

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen: The young Céline and Frédéric both come from Chablis winemaking families. Staying close to home, they established their small domaine in Chablis almost a decade ago, describing themselves as ‘artisan winegrowers.’ They produce a little Irancy from Pinot Noir and have just purchased a plot of César. They will achieve organic certification for their vineyards in 2023. This is a domaine to watch.


Louis Jadot: producer profile

It’s unbeknown to many that Maison Louis Jadot, one of Burgundy’s most venerable négociants, is also one of the region’s major growers – and a top one at that.

Jadot owns or controls over 141 hectares of vineyards in the Côte d’Or, the majority of which are Premier and Grand Cru.

Jadot actually began as a grower in 1827 when Louis Henry Denis Jadot acquired the Clos des Ursules through marriage. Three decades later, in 1859, he founded the négociant firm.

Frédéric Barnier, who joined Jadot in 2010 and succeeded the legendary, Jacques Lardière, as Jadot’s winemaker in 2012, points out that most négociants started as growers because, as entrepreneurs, they realised they needed more than one plot.

Management remained within the family until 1962 when Louis Auguste Jadot, the grandson of the founder, died suddenly without heirs.

His widow appointed André Gagey, her husband’s longtime assistant, as managing director.

In 1985, the Jadot heirs sold the business to Americans the Kopf family, owners of the Kobrand Corporation, Jadot’s American importer. Little changed.

Upon André’s retirement in 1992, his son, Pierre-Henry, became President of Maison Louis Jadot.

How did the transformation from négociant to grower occur?

The grower side of the business has exploded over the last 35 years with a series of purchases, starting in 1985 with what was likely the most significant transfer of prized vineyards in modern Burgundy history – the acquisition of Clair-Daü.

With the parcels Jadot acquired, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Chapelle Chambertin, Bonne Mares, Musigny, and Clos Vougeot, the Clair-Daü purchase transformed them from a Côte de Beaune domaine to a major grower spanning the entire Côte d’Or.

Also included in the sale were a host of Premier Cru parcels, including a piece of Les Amoureuses in Chambolle-Musigny, and in Gevrey-Chambertin, a section of Clos St. Jacques.

Barnier lights up when describing the significance of the purchase: ‘It was a key acquisition—a great opportunity.’ Although it was widely assumed that American money helped finance the Clair-Daü purchase, Gagey emphatically reminds that all of Jadot’s acquisitions have been done with Maison Louis Jadot’s resources.

In addition to Jadot’s purchases of Maison Champy (1989) and Domaine Prieur-Brunet (2017), they acquired portions of the vineyards of Château de Chorey lès Beaune (2012), and managed to pick up parcels in Echézeaux, Meursault (Perrières and Narvaux) and other locales.

Additionally, Jadot oversees Domaine Gagey, which includes, among others, a piece of Clos St. Denis and another plot in Echézeaux.

Jadot scored more coups when they purchased a leading estate in Moulin-à-Vent, Château des Jacques in 1996, and a similar jewel in Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine J. A. Ferret (2008).

Today, with increased prestige – and prices – of wines from the lieux-dits of Beaujolais and the approval of Premier Cru vineyards in Pouilly-Fuissé, it is clear just how prescient those purchases were.

These vineyards, combined with the talents of Jacques Lardière and now, Frédéric Barnier, put Maison Louis Jadot squarely in the ranks of Burgundy’s great growers.

How has Burgundy changed over the years?

The Burgundian business model, Barnier explains, has changed enormously over the last 50 years. Previously, even the most famous growers sold wine to négociants to generate cash. But that, as he says, ‘was another time. Unbelievable, when you think about it, now.’

Sales of Premier and Grand Cru grapes to négociants have shrunken further as a younger generation returns to run family estates and bottle more wine themselves.

Gagey points out that owning vineyards assures a steady supply of top grapes. He continues; ‘you also control the farming, the harvest, and the yield, all factors contributing to quality.’

Gagey estimates that 80% of Jadot’s Premier and Grand cru wines come from their vineyards, noting, ‘our soul is in the vineyard.’

How has the viticulture and winemaking evolved?

Without fanfare, much of Jadot’s vineyards have been farmed organically for years. This year, Jadot began the obligatory, three-year transition period after which all its Côte d’Or vineyards will be certified organic.

Barnier insists that the primary motive was maintaining the land and employees’ health. Mixing philosophy and practicality, Barnier says ‘This is the way to live for tomorrow. Of course, if we make better wine, that’s good, but there are many factors in making better wine.’

The opening of a state-of-the-art winery in Beaune in 1996 and the addition of a section dedicated to white wines in 2009, marked new phases for Jadot.

At the time, Lardière was positively giddy about the winery. The functional, but architecturally beautiful, circular winery boasts varying-sized fermenting vats that reflect the size of vineyards, allowing more precise vinification.

Also, in the 1990s, Jadot and Canadell, a top French timber company, established Cadus to make barrels, assuring them of the oak’s provenance and controlling the whole process, from drying the staves to toasting the barrels.

Barnier’s winemaking philosophy remains minimally interventional, like his predecessor’s. With the changes in the vineyards and winery, the wines are more precise and focused. They still are made to evolve with bottle age. Even village and regional ones benefit from bottle age while their Premier and Grand Crus benefit from at least a decade of careful storage.

What is special about the négociant side of Jadot?

Gagey remains enormously proud of their négociant business. He emphasises that Jadot is unique among négociants because they buy grapes and vinify over 80% of their négociant bottlings, including regional wines.

Gagey notes that vinification is a key determinant of quality and style, which explains why they have six wineries: Chablis, Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais, Domaine Ferret and Beaujolais.

The labels of the négociant and domaine wines are almost identical. On closer inspection, the domaine appears in a small rectangle at the bottom of the label.

For the consumer, the plethora of names could be confusing.

Luckily, there’s a wonderful consistency whether the bottle proclaims Domaine Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, or no domaine name at all, indicating a négociant bottling.

Indeed, Pierre-Henry Gagey once told me that one of the best wines they have made, a 1959 Romanée St. Vivant, came from someone else’s grapes.

What’s happening outside of France?

In 2013, Jadot expanded overseas, buying vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and building a winery, Résonance, there.

Carrying on the tradition, Pierre-Henry’s son, Thibault, heads-up that project. Echoing Louis Henry Denis Jadot, Gagey told me at the time ‘Maison Jadot has the DNA of an entrepreneur.’

Louis Jadot, Côte de Beaune-Villages, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2026
Warm vintages such as 2018, provide less prestigious appellations, such as this one, with often-needed ripeness which enhances their appeal. Though a négociant bottling, winemaker Frédéric Barnier included some declassified estate fruit from Santenay, Monthélie, Chorey- and Savigny-lès-Beaune, which likely accounts for the wine’s density. Subtle earthy notes balance its bright cherry-scented fruitiness. Despite the warmth of the vintage, it remains fresh and lively. Charming now, it has the requisite structure to develop over the next few years.
Points: 90

Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Beaumonts, Chorey-lès-Beaune, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2028
Chorey lès Beaune has no 1er cru and much of its vineyards lie on the other side of the D974 road connecting Dijon and Beaune. Les Beaumonts climat, however, lies on the ‘good’ side of the road, nestled between Aloxe-Corton and Savigny-lès-Beaune, which perhaps explains part of the nexpected grandeur for this unassuming village wine. Surprisingly sumptuous – the vintage speaking – it’s broad, yet spritely, with an alluring not-just-fruit component. Its suave texture makes it easy to enjoy now, but added complexity appeared the next night, suggesting it will develop nicely with a few years of bottle age. It’s a great village wine.
Points: 92

Louis Jadot, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, Beaune, 1er Cru Chouacheux, Burgundy, 1995

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2025
The 1er Cru Chouacheux lies near the bottom of the slope, just below Vignes Franches, in the southern portion of Beaune, an area known for more muscular wines. This 1995 has developed marvelously, displaying clean mushroomy nuances. Very refined, it’s paradoxically delicate and powerful. It shows that, in the right hands, the best Beaune 1er cru evolve beautifully with bottle age.
Points: 95

Louis Jadot, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, Corton Les Pougets Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2026 – 2036
Jadot’s Pinot Noir in the Corton Les Pougets climat (also the site for their Corton-Charlemagne) is planted high up on the slope and faces south, which likely explains its consistent ripeness. The 2018 is, like Jadot’s other 2018 Côte de Beaune bottlings, wonderfully fresh and lively, balancing its iron-tinged fleshiness. Its suave texture is deceiving because it imparts a sense of precociousness. This Corton needs a decade to reveal its grandeur.
Points: 95

Domaine Louis Jadot, Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2002

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2031 At nearly 20 years of age, Jadot’s fabulous 2002 Bonnes Mares is just starting to show a hint of maturity. It conveys the Chambolle plushness combined with a crushed stone mineral component. For all its depth and power, its finesse is what makes this wine memorable. Fresh, without a hint of fatigue, this Bonnes Mares is developing beautifully with miles to go before it sleeps.
Points: 97

Louis Jadot, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, Beaune, 1er Cru Clos des Ursules, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2023 – 2033
Still owned by the Jadot family, (hence, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot), this 2.8 hectare walled plot included within the 1er cru Vignes Franches, is Jadot’s flagship Beaune bottling. The 2018, to my mind, is one of the best Clos des Ursules Jadot has ever made – it is explosive, delivering both power and finesse, buttressed by freshness. Slightly exotic, with a chiseled refinement, it is very appealing now, but it has glorious development ahead of it. Barnier thinks the Côte de Beaune out did the Côte de Nuits in 2018, perhaps because, in general, they picked slightly earlier there. The energy of this 2018 Clos des Ursules supports that theory.
Points: 97

Domaine Louis Jadot, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2026 – 2036
Jadot’s 0.4 hectares of this prized site lies near the top of the slope and densely planted (10,000 vines/ha). The 2018 came in at 14 percent alcohol, reflecting a rare level of ripeness, but nonetheless, displays marvelous acidity, which keeps the wine full of energy. Long and precise, this is a brilliantly balanced wine that shows why the site is so revered. Though packed with flavour, it is light on the palate, which is my definition of Burgundy – flavour without weight.
Points: 98

Louis Jadot, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, Clos de la Croix de Pierre, Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru En Caradeux, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2026
Jadot typically transforms Chardonnay from this east-facing parcel in the 1er cru En Caradeux climat into a readily accessible wine. The overt and forward 2018 fits that mould, delivering a ripe fruitiness buttressed by fresh minerality. Despite its immediate appeal, it developed more complexity sitting in fridge overnight and became more alluring the next evening.
Points: 92

Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Le Clos Blanc, Beaune, 1er Cru Grèves, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2023 – 2030
Pierre-Henry Gagey’s grandfather planted Chardonnay in this vineyard about 70 years ago. Then, Pierre-Henry’s father purchased another 0.8 hectares, which they planted entirely to Chardonnay. One of few fine white wines from Beaune, Le Clos Blanc is always a generous wine. The 2018 has finesse and structure that balances its opulence. Long and fresh, it’s another success in this warm vintage.
Points: 93

Louis Jadot, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2011

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2026
At a decade of age, this Jadot Corton-Charlemagne is a stunning surprise from this poorly-regarded vintage. Bright, fresh and long, it delivers distinct minerality, depth and an alluring hint of orange-rind spice. It’s a beautifully developed Corton-Charlemagne that is just hitting its stride and shows no signs of fading soon. It reminds us of the importance of producer, more so than vintage, when selecting Burgundy.
Points: 95

Louis Jadot, Domaine des Héritiers, Les Demoiselles, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2024 – 2034
Maison Louis Jadot owns half of this 1.05 hectare lieu-dit that lies on the northern end of the Chevalier-Montrachet climat (Maison Louis Latour owns the other half). Typically, it is stonier and firmer with less richness compared to Montrachet itself. But Jadot’s 2018 displays a hint of butterscotch, reminiscent of Montrachet itself, alongside its characteristic minerality. It’s fabulously energetic with surprising acidity for that warm vintage. Befitting a youthful grand cru, it expands in the glass while the freshness in the finish magnifies its grandeur.
Points: 96

Domaine Louis Jadot, Meursault, 1er Cru Perrieres, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2024 – 2034
Jadot’s parcel lies near the top of the Les Perrières Dessus lieu-dit, a cooler site, which explains, in part, why this wine has such brilliant acidity, and, as a consequence, incredible length. Winemaker Frédéric Barnier also notes that they blocked the malolactic fermentation, preserving the more prominent malic acid in the wine. The slower ripening imparted a distinct and wonderful stony aspect to wine, characteristic of the site. Its mineral component is simply stunning.
Points: 96

Simonnet-Febvre, Irancy, Burgundy, France, 2018

Drinking Window: 2022 – 2029
Simonnet-Febvre, a leading Chablis-based grower and négociant, sees plenty of potential for Irancy. They bottle this one as well as two from the lieux-dits of Paradis and Veaupessiot. The 2018 Irancy, a field blend of Pinot Noir and César, shows considerable depth despite a lower stated alcohol -13% -than expected for the hot 2018 vintage. It delivers power, relatively speaking for Irancy, without sacrificing polish or finesse. Red cherry-like flavours and touches of charming rusticity are apparent in this harmonious wine. Surprisingly approachable and charming now.
Points: 90

Tasting five decades of Louis Latour’s Corton-Charlemagne

Corton-Charlemagne, one of the world’s greatest white wines, needs a decade to blossom fully and to show why it deserves its grand cru status. And then, like a great red wine, the best vintages from a top producer remain at their peak, on a plateau, for decades.

With their almost 10.9 hectares of vines, at an average age of roughly 30 years, Louis Latour is not only the largest owner in Corton-Charlemagne (Bonneau du Martray is second with about 9.7ha), they are also a master with this grand cru.

I have come to these conclusions from extensive tastings over the years including a recently-conducted 30-plus vintage vertical spanning the years 1978-2018 and regular sampling from my cellar.

I have also attended annual tastings for more than 20 years during which the late Samuel Seidman, Latour’s importer for New England, presented the previous 25 vintages of Latour’s Corton Charlemagne.

These annual tastings allowed an assessment of how an individual vintage changed and evolved year after year and showed how vintages, such as 1979, 1989 and 1999 reached, and remained on, a high plateau for a decade and more.


The roughly 72.8ha Corton-Charlemagne appellation is composed of nine lieux-dits spread over three communes; Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Ladoix-Serrigny on the hill of Corton.

The lieux-dits form a J-shaped band running on the east just under the forest (Le Corton, Les Renardes, Basses Mourottes, Hautes Mourottes and the upper part of Le Rognet et Corton) to the south-facing Les Languettes, Les Pougets, and Le Charlemagne, and to the southwest (En Charlemagne).

Producers, and others more knowledgeable about geology than I, tell me that these lieux-dits, sitting high on the hill, have a higher content of limestone in the soil, making them especially well-suited to Chardonnay.

A small amount of Chardonnay is planted outside of these lieux-dits and bottled under the Corton appellation, but these rarely achieve the finesse and complexity of Corton-Charlemagne. That said, Domaine Parent makes an exceptional one.

About 90% of Latour’s parcels are located contiguously in the south-facing lieux-dits along with two smaller pieces in Le Corton and Les Renardes. Latour’s steely style ideally balances the ripeness imparted by the vines’ southern exposure.

From Aligoté to Chardonnay

Ironically, phylloxera was likely responsible for Chardonnay’s presence here. Prior to infestation with that aphid, Aligoté was widely planted.

In the late 19th century, after the devastation caused by phylloxera, the seventh-generation Louis Latour started the re-planting of their vines with Chardonnay. His signature still adorns their label.

Since Corton-Charlemagne is the largest of the grand cru vineyards, for both red and white, in the Côte d’Or, the wines are easier to find and are the least expensive of the white grand crus.

But, as with Clos de Vougeot, there are scores of producers bottling Corton-Charlemagne and, like Clos de Vougeot, the quality of the wines is highly variable, which makes it all the more important to remember the key to Burgundy: producer, producer, producer. In my mind, Latour ranks among the best.


Latour’s Corton-Charlemagne are always tightly wound when young, showing a balance of spice, melon-like fruit and minerality.

In their youth, perhaps the first five or so years, the pepper-like spice and mineral aspect predominates. These youthful ones inevitably open and express themselves better a couple or even several nights after opening.

With bottle age, melon-like or spiced pineapple flavours appear. At all ages, the steely backbone of acidity for which Latour’s whites are known provides energy and support.

As the wines mature, they develop a luxurious and captivating richness.

At their peak, wines from the very best vintages, such as 1979, 1989 and 1999 remain on a plateau for decades, showing the complexity of maturity while maintaining freshness.

My preference for most vintages is to drink them no sooner than 10 years of age.

Top vintages

My experience with these wines over the years show the beauty of this appellation.

All these wines showed well at earlier stages in their lives. Some, such as the 1983, 1991, 2000 and 2001, while still rated today in the low 90s on a 100-point scale, are not in the same league as the very best.

There were a few, the 1987, 1992, 1994 and 1998, that are now well past their prime.

But strikingly, even in weaker vintages, Latour’s Corton-Charlemagne shows the value of a top terroir and a dedicated producer. Despite the general repute of 1980, 1984 and 1993 for whites, wines from these vintages have developed beautifully and gracefully and remain a joy to drink today.

Food pairings

As any New England-based wine lover can tell you, Latour’s Corton-Charlemagne is an ideal match for steamed or boiled lobster. Keeping with the theme of rich wine and rich food, other excellent matches are sautéed scallops or chicken in a mushroom cream sauce.

But a good argument could be made for matching the power and density of these wines with a garlicky shrimp scampi or for enjoying their splendid complexity contrasted with a simply broiled sea bass.

As with all great white wines, these Corton-Charlemagne should be served chilled, but not cold, so as not to blunt their layers of subtle charm. And surprisingly, even many of the older wines benefited from 30-minutes or so of aeration in the glass.

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1978

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2021
The 1978, a favourite for decades, is now after 40-plus years, on its decline. This ‘orange wine’ still has good depth, providing nuttiness, dried stone fruit-like flavours, and an exotic twinge, all supported by lemony acidity. It’s just lost the ‘wow’ factor and elegance that it formerly had. Still, I’d be happy to have another glass.
Points: 92

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1979

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2021
The 1979 continues to outshine the 1978 and remains on a plateau. Orange in colour, it delivers a spice box of flavours along with hints of coffee and smoke. A refined wine, it remains balanced and elegant despite bombarding the senses. A subtle creaminess, not the butterscotch character of the other white grand crus, is alluring. Funny colour, but great flavours.
Points: 96

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1985

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2022
Much like the 2018, the 1985 was precocious from the start. I never would have imagined its graceful evolution at 35 years of age. Orange-coloured now, it displays the panoply of mature rich flavours – dried fruits, nuttiness, and spice – yet the mineral-like aspect of Corton-Charlemagne persists. Its cutting cleanness, creamy texture and elegance still impresses.
Points: 95

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1989

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2025
Unbelievable! At 31 years of age, the 1989 retains a bright golden colour without an orange tinge. Displaying a subtle array of apricot-like notes, toasty nuttiness and delicate spice, it enlivens the palate with its amazing freshness. Each sip brings new flavours. Powerful and penetrating, this wine has both elegance and energy. You’d never guess its age. Paradoxically, it is both broad and precise simultaneously. Just gorgeous, even the scent from the empty glass is heavenly. It remains on a plateau with no signs of descending, at least judging from this bottle.
Points: 100

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1990

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2025
The 1990 and the 1989 have long provided a fascinating comparison, with the former being just a touch riper and the latter a bit more energetic. At 30 years of age, the differences, though less dramatic, remain. The 1990, still straw yellow in colour, exhibits fresh, rather than dried, fruit notes, though nutty nuances appear in the finish. Its complexity is staggering. This refined wine remains balanced and fresh with a vibrancy that belies its three decades of age.
Points: 98

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1996

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2022
A suspicious orange colour notwithstanding, the 1996, at 24 years of age, was a success both aromatically and on the palate. It was bright and fresh without a hint of unpleasant oxidation despite the colour. Rich and creamy, with nuances of stone fruits, its minerality was still evident. The acidity for which the vintage is known, has kept it vibrant. A different style of orange wine!
Points: 95

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1997

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2023
The stature of the 1997, a not highly regarded vintage especially for whites, was a complete surprise. Dark straw without a trace of orange, it was amazingly and surprisingly fresh, displaying an alluring and balanced combination of pineapple-like spice and creaminess. Long and refined, I kept checking the label to be sure it was the 1997.
Points: 95

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1999

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2028
Despite its two decades of age, the 1999 remains straw coloured and immediately fresh on the nose. Luxurious richness for which Corton-Charlemagne is known is front and center. Mint-like herbal notes and a firm mineral element add dazzle in the finish. Again, like the 1989, it’s both refined, robust and full of energy. In my experience, it’s been at its peak for at least a decade and shows no sign of fading. Although quality and quantity usually do not go together, Latour produced about 15% more in 1999 than their 40-year annual average of 48,000 bottles.
Points: 100

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2002

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2023
The 2002 highlights a downside of vertical tastings. By itself, the straw-yellow 2002 is stylish and compelling. But it is overshadowed next to the 2004 and 1999, lacking the precision and elegance of the best. Still, at 18 years, it has marvelous depth and a vibrant balance of fruit and spice. Perfectly mature, yet not tired, it shows the stature of the appellation.
Points: 93

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2004

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2031
There’s no surprise here. The 2004 remains fabulous as it has been since release. There’s hardly any sign of age, except a darker straw colour. Subtle spice and pineapple-like fruitiness complement its minerality. Paradoxically explosive, it exhibits real finesse and grace, befitting its grand cru status. Its vibrancy belies its 16 years of age. It was still going strong the following night, so I suspect this one will continue to give pleasure for another decade.
Points: 98

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2005

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2026
Though a dark straw colour similar to the 2004, the 2005 is riper, reflecting the vintage, with more melons than spice. Still, characteristic peppery notes come through nicely. Indeed, over the years tasting them side-by-side, the 2005 has always been riper and richer, while the 2004, racier and sleeker. Despite its richer presence, it retains vibrancy and is still energetic the next night. The 2005/2004 pair present an intriguing duality of style to consumers.
Points: 95

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2008

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2031
Despite its age, the 2008 takes time to express itself after pulling the cork. Amazingly, it improves as it sits in the glass. Golden yellow, the 2008 delivers a marvelous ying and a yang of white pepper-like spice and pineapple-like fruit. Its richness is fully developed and amplified by vibrant acidity in the finish. It has reached its peak where I predict it will remain for another decade at least.
Points: 97

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2009

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2028
Latour’s steely style explains why the 2009 is another success in a warm year not known for great white wines. Clearly ripe, but without a trace of over ripeness, it displays more pineapple than pepper, retaining elegance despite the richness. The winemaking team captured good acidity and energy – it still displays vivacity the next night – especially considering the vintage. It may lack the verve of the 2008 and 2010, but it is seductively luxurious and welcoming now.
Points: 95

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2010

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2031
The 2010 has a great presence and, along with the 2004 and 2008, is my favourite for drinking now. As would be expected with a decade of age, the colour has taken on a light golden hue and the bouquet is far more developed and immediately apparent. A mélange of ginger and pepper-like spice offsets a racy richness. An underlying creamy mineral-like component is clear. Its chiseled profile enhances every aspect. The 2008 is likely a hair richer, but this 2010 has a sleek elegance that is captivating.
Points: 98

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2011

Drinking Window: 2021 – 2025
The 2011 is another surprise because it’s the product of arguably the worst year of the decade for whites. Yet, at nearly a decade, it remains youthfully reticent with a still light straw colour and profile. The spicy peppery aspect continues to overshadow the melon-y fruitiness. Herbal, even minty, nuances appear in the finish. Brilliant acidity keeps it fresh. Less concentrated than the best years, it is nonetheless a great success.
Points: 92

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2013

Drinking Window: 2022 – 2027
Still pale straw in color, the 2013 is a surprising success in a difficult year. The richness that comes with maturity is starting to emerge and is nicely balanced by freshness and spice. Long and graceful, this still youthful wine is lovely to drink now. Even the next day, it showed its elegance and freshness. Latour’s success in this tough year is likely due, in part, to a severe selection: they bottled only 40% of their production.
Points: 93

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2015

Drinking Window: 2025 – 2030
The wine’s pale straw colour and reticent initial impression announces its youth. The spice element is far more apparent than the melon-y one in this tightly wound wine. Beautifully balanced, it blossoms, but remains youthful, as it sits in the glass. Indeed, richness appears two days later. It has great energy, especially given the vintage. This is a classic youthful Corton-Charlemagne that is developing beautifully and needs another five years, at least. In a year not known for producing great white wines, this one is a towering success.
Points: 95

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2017

Drinking Window: 2027 – 2040
This youthful wine shows the expected pineapple-like spiciness buttressed by great structure and energy. Pale yellow, it’s surprisingly appealing now, despite its youthful vigour. The sumptuous richness of mature Corton-Charlemagne starts to peek through as it sits in the glass. I’m sure that will develop and become more apparent thanks to the wine’s impeccable balance and underlying crystalline structure. It was still fresh and pure the next night after being opened and refrigerated.
Points: 96

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2018

Drinking Window: 2026 – 2036
Though the vintage was warm and yields were high – not, one would think, a good combination for a vibrant white wine – the 2018 Corton-Charlemagne is just that. It is yet another example how wine made from great terroirs in the hands of talented producers can turn out fine even under adverse conditions. Forward and rich, though with surprisingly good acidity, it delivers hints of luxuriousness that will develop and become more prominent with proper cellaring. Its forwardness suggests it will be enjoyable sooner than my usual decade rule. That said, it reminds me of the 1985, which is still going strong.
Points: 94

Glory in Givry: Domaine du Cellier Aux Moines

As in its more famous neighbouring region, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay reign supreme and, with rare exceptions, are the mandated grapes for the wines.

Major appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise, moving from north to south, include Rully and Mercurey, which produce both red and white wine, Givry, which produces mostly (80%) red wine, and Montagny, which produces white wine exclusively.

Just over half of the 256ha in Givry devoted to red wine is classified as premier cru, divided among 38 vineyards. By comparison, 76% of Beaune’s 364ha devoted to red wine is classified as premier cru.

The 12.9ha Clos du Cellier aux Moines is considered to be one of the best. Domaine du Cellier Aux Moines, one of the top producers in Givry, owns the largest piece. Their choice 4.70ha are planted to Pinot Noir in the mid and upper slope of the vineyard, affording ideal exposure.

Domaine Baron Thénard owns just over 4.4ha in the mid and lower part of the vineyard and Domaine Joblot has about 2.2ha in the lower part.


The Domaine du Cellier Aux Moines traces its origins to the 12th century when it was under the auspices of the Cistercian monks, (moines is French for monks) who also founded the famed Clos Vougeot at about the same time.

Fast forward to 2004, when Philippe and Catherine Pascal took over the Domaine and built something unique in Burgundy—a fully gravity-flow winery.

Initially, they used the 12th-century building for the winery, which Philippe Pascal noted was ‘great for pictures, but a nightmare for the winemaker.’ The Pascals restored it so beautifully that now the French government lists it as one of the country’s historic sites.

An abandoned quarry adjacent to the domaine allowed them to create a winery with three of its four levels underground. It took two years to design and another two to build but was ready for the 2015 harvest.

The advantage of a purely gravity-flow winery, aside from its energy efficiency, is the ability to move the grapes, juice, and wine from harvest, to fermentation, to barrel ageing without the use of pumps. Pumping potentially exposes the wine to oxidation and other stress.

In addition to controlling temperature naturally, the winery’s underground positioning controls humidity, which reduces evaporation  – the angels’ share – during barrel ageing. Another plus: the configuration allows them to bottle the wine unfiltered because of the natural sedimentation that occurs prior to bottling.

Making the dream a reality

Ever since their early days together, Philippe, an agronomist by education, and Catherine, a lawyer from Beaune, always dreamed of owning a small vineyard together ‘somewhere, someday,’ remarked Philippe. He continued, ‘We wanted to do it with our own hands … and get our feet wet.’

In his previous life, Philippe was with LVMH-Moët Hennessy as CEO of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and CEO of Moët Hennessy. Somewhat philosophically, he remarks how ‘life sometimes gives us a wonderful opportunity to do different things.’ So, at age 58 – he discreetly omits his wife’s age – they purchased the domaine and embarked on a new career.

Looking back on the last 16 years, he said that it turned out to be more complicated than anticipated. ‘Even in France, where everything is complicated, this was more complicated than we imagined.’

Again, with that Gallic philosophy, he observed that there was a beauty in the opportunity to learn something new. They took viticulture courses, learned from other vignerons and embraced the ‘less is more’ philosophy. With unbridled enthusiasm, he exclaims: ‘it was a fascinating learning experience.’

Building a team

To guide the conversion to organic farming, they recruited Guillaume Marko, who had worked at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, as well as Domaine Arnoux Lachaux in Vosne-Romanée and Domaine Frédéric Magnien in Morey Saint Denis.

Eventually, with the 2017 vintage, they had converted the entire domaine to biodynamics. The Pascals are firmly committed to biodynamics because, as Philippe notes: ‘it forces us to be a better viticulturist.’

They fine-tuned the viticulture, replanting with a massal (field) selection of Pinot Noir vines that produced smaller bunches of grapes with smaller berries. With replanting, they embraced the parcelaire approach to the domaine, sub-dividing their 4.8ha into half a dozen plots depending on the characteristics of the soil.

Philippe credits the help they received from Sylvain Pitiot who used a similar technique with great success when he was in charge at Clos de Tart. He thinks that embracing biodynamics ‘sharpens the expression of each plot.’

Work in the vineyard

With a laugh, Philippe describes the parcelaire approach as a ‘headache, but a great tool.’ During the growing season, they follow each of the plots carefully to allow them to individualise the timing of the harvest, which, even with such a small domaine, can vary by up to a week.

Their primary concern is to wait for physiologic ripeness – the ripeness of the tannins – rather than ripeness as measured by sugar level. He explains that since they perform whole bunch fermentation—vendange entier—which means the stems are included with the berries, the stems must be ripe and brown with fully mature tannins.

The Pascals have revived and replanted Pinot Noir in a tiny, 0.26ha, walled plot, Clos Pascal, that had been abandoned after the phylloxera crisis.

Marko trained the vines on poles (échalas), using an old, traditional, training system to limit yield and reduce stress on the vines. Though it had originally been classified as Premier Cru, French politics being what they are, it was declassified to, and bottled as, a village wine under pressure from other Givry growers, according to Philippe.


Two major advantages of whole-bunch fermentation, according to Philippe, are having intact berries and using the stems as ‘a sponge.’ Since there is little destemming, the majority of the berries are virtually intact prior to fermentation. When fermentation begins it does so within the berry and then they burst. Pascal believes that even this brief intra-berry fermentation captures aromas better and results in better extraction of flavours. He adds that stems absorb unpleasant tannins, like a sponge. In short, he’s convinced that, if done properly, the wine will be more refined with a more elegant structure and better aromas.

They train their harvesters to pick only mature berries, leaving everything else for the birds. The serious sorting begins at the sorting table at the cuverie under the guidance of Catherine. There, workers cull unripe or otherwise less-than-ideal berries to be used for a second wine, another idea they learned from Pitiot.

Lots from barrels that don’t measure up to their standards also find their way into the second wine, Le Petit Clos du Cellier, which they bottle under the Givry, not Givry Premier Cru, appellation, and sell only within France.

A third of their production typically winds up in Le Petit Clos, according to Pascal. He believes they’ve achieved a tremendous leap in quality by using the parcelaire approach in the vineyard and the introduction of a second wine in the winery.

Their incremental improvements in the vineyard, care with the yields, and their unique winery together explains the dramatic increase in quality of the wines since the Pascals took over. It’s fascinating to see the impact of these changes on the wines.

The tasting

My assessment is based on a vertical tasting of 12 vintages of Domaine du Cellier Aux Moines’ Clos du Cellier aux Moines from 2006 to 2019. Since Covid-19 prevented me from going to the estate, they sent me the wines, including an unfiltered, unsulfured barrel sample of the 2019.

All the wines, even the barrel sample, arrived in excellent condition, no doubt because the Pascal’s daughter, Margot, carried them back personally to New York, where I collected them.

Overall, it was an impressive line-up of wines. Full tasting notes are below, but first, an overview and some highlights.

The 2006, made early in the Pascal’s ownership before they initiated many changes, showed the potential of the site. Fully mature, it conveyed the magic of mature Burgundy with its combination of dried fruit and savoury elements.

The quality of 2009 and 2010 vintages, a time before the changes had achieved their full impact, reinforced the concept that their terroir was exceptional and reflected these two great vintages, especially for red Burgundy.

The 2012, from a difficult vintage, showed the value of their replanting and parcelaire approach. Philippe described it as their ‘first replanting harvest’ because a third of the final blend came from those vines. Nearly mature, the 2012 was a real success, conveying a wonderful balance of concentration, complexity, and freshness.

With its enormous leap in quality, the 2015 heralded the beginning of a new era at the domaine. The 2015 and all subsequent vintages were now on a higher plateau. The wines displayed a finer texture – cashmere compared to lambs wool – compared to the previous vintages.

Three changes, occurring simultaneously, explain the leap. Firstly, 2015 was the first vintage to be vinified by Guillaume Marko, confirming the value of a talented winemaker. It was also the first vintage vinified in the new winery, which seems to validate the importance of gravity flow. And it was when the domaine started to bottle a second wine, which elevates the quality of the grand vin by eliminating lesser quality lots.

The 2017, the first year the domaine was almost fully biodynamic, makes a powerful argument for that technique. With silky tannins, it was a masterpiece of grace and power. Philippe emphasises that since 2017 was a naturally generous vintage coming after low-yielding 2016, controlling yields was key to quality. Variable yields explain the Janus-like nature of the 2017 vintage for reds in general – some are forward and charming, while others are structured and concentrated. He felt their yields at about 40hl/ha, well below the maximum allowed of 52hl/ha for Givry Premier Cru, resulted in the ‘right balance between concentration, backbone and fruit.’

Lastly, from this tasting, I estimate the peak window for drinking Domaine du Cellier aux Moines to be about 12-15 years for wines from the best vintages and six to eight years for wines from lighter years.

Eight hundred years after its founding, the Domaine du Cellier aux Moines has become a rediscovered star in the constellation of Burgundy wines.

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, Burgundy, France 2019

Drinking Window: 2027 – 2033
It’s difficult to predict how the final wine will compare to a barrel sample. To my way of thinking, tasting a barrel sample is somewhat analogous to viewing a single frame of a motion picture. The ending may be a surprise. That said, this unsulfured, unfiltered barrel sample showed great potential. Less ripe than the 2018, it already shows the tantalising combination of savoury minerality and cherry-like flavours. Its glossy texture comes as no surprise. Bright acidity enlivens the palate. I can’t wait to taste it after bottling.
Points: 93

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2018

Drinking Window: 2025 – 2030
Unsurprisingly, given the warmth of the vintage, the 2018 leads with a pristine and dark cherry-like power than overshadows the mineral aspect hiding underneath. Though lacking the tensile nature of the 2017, it displays uplifting acidity, especially in the finish, that offsets the ripeness. Appropriately reticent given its youthfulness, it blossoms with air. The cashmere-like texture and harmony at this stage suggests it will develop well. It’s scheduled for release in the Autumn of 2021.
Points: 92

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2017

Drinking Window: 2026 – 2030
The 2017 vintage for red Burgundy was Janus-like. Some wines are charming and forward. Others, like this one, have the requisite substance, structure, and balance for the long haul. This was the first year the domaine was almost fully biodynamic, and, that perhaps, explains the wine’s brilliance. Immediately expressive, the 2017 grabs your attention. Aromas leap from the glass. On the palate, it combines firm mineral qualities with a Bing cherry-like fruitiness in a suave and elegant package. Fractionally less ripe compared to the 2015, its minerality shines. A hint of bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal. Supple, yet firm, tannins provide perfect support.
Points: 96

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2016

Drinking Window: 2025 – 2030
The Pascals introduced organic farming in 2016, which may explain its success in that tricky vintage. The only problem: it follows the 2015. Captivating savoury notes—that not-just-fruit character—are apparent and mingle with dark cherry-like fruitiness. Suave texture, now a hallmark of the domaine since 2015, adds to its appeal. Ever so slightly less elegant than the 2015, it is nonetheless, an incredibly appealing young wine.
Points: 93

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2015

Drinking Window: 2025 – 2030
The grandeur of the 2015 comes from a combination of a new winery, a new winemaker, and the introduction of a second wine. That trio of changes catapulted the wine—and subsequent vintages—to a higher plateau. The 2015, with succulent dark cherry-like fruit, is concentrated, yet not over-the-top. Great acidity keeps it fresh and amplifies its charms. It’s paradoxically both suave and firm and supported by fine-grained tannins, combining the power of 2009 with the sleekness of 2010.
Points: 96

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2014

Drinking Window: 2020 – 2022
The 2014 vintage was difficult enough for red Burgundy in general. The fruit fly, Drosophila suzukii, wreaked even more havoc, according to Philippe, forcing them to sort severely. The wine reflects the challenges of the year with lighter colour and less concentration. Unexpected whiffs of maturity are already evident in the nose. That said, it does deliver charming nuances of bright and dried cherries atop the stone-y firmness characteristic of Givry.
Points: 86

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2013

Drinking Window: 2020 – 2022
With rain during harvest, the 2013 was a difficult year in Burgundy in general and especially for the Domaine du Cellier aux Moines. Philippe Pascal reports that they discarded one-third of the crop because of rot. Nonetheless, the wine is charming, delivering a purity of red cherry-like fruitiness. Though less concentrated than previous vintages, the wine is clean and pure, offering proof that the severe selection paid off. It conveys the classic firmness of Givry without a trace of hardness or angularity.
Points: 87

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry, 1er Cru Clos du Celliers aux Moines, 2012

Drinking Window: 2020 – 2025
The 2012, shows the benefits of the Pascal’s improvements in the vineyard. It was the first vintage to include a significant portion of grapes from their replanted massal selection of vines using the parcelaire approach, which they initiated in 2008. Youthful still, but enjoyable to drink now, especially after time in the glass, it delivers an enchanting combination of dark cherry-like notes and savoury accented ones. With time, mineral-like qualities add complexity. Its gracefulness is apparent in the long and lifted finish. Everything has come together in this beautifully textured wine.
Points: 93