nicolas potel 1997 volnay & an april fool (almost me)


Matterhorn from Gornergrat, 3rd April p.m.
Matterhorn from Gornergrat, 3rd April p.m.

Back from a very nice week-long break. Whilst we only skiied for 2.5 days it was good to recharge the batteries. I received a number of emails and ‘comments’ during the week that were related to the Spring Issue of the Burgundy Report – I’ll work my way through them in the next days – but thanks for taking the time to write.

Whilst away I got this amazing email from a (normally) trustworthy merchant:

2008 Griottes Chambertin, Domaine Fourrier

Did you know that huge swathes of the greatest vineyards inBurgundy are not planted with vines? It’s the tractors. They need space to turn at the end of the vine rows, with the result that vineyards are robbed of their full potential due to a simple but inescapable mathematical necessity. Thus countless barrels of the finest grands crus are not available to the ever growing band of Burgundy enthusiasts.

But a solution has been found. After years of hard work, using technology of mind-mangling complexity, a tractor has been developed that can turn almost on itself over the vines, meaning that precious space can now be planted. It works by extending spider-like arms that lift and support the machine as it rotates above the canopy. The hydraulics are so sensitive that even densely planted vineyards can benefit, and it has been designed to avoid impacting the soil. The project has been developed jointly by the University of Bordeaux, under the direction of Professor Thomas Delaronde, and Château Pétrus, with some participation by Domaine du Clos de Tart. Jean-Marie Fourrier, the intellectual winemaker and rising star of Gevrey-Chambertin, expressed strong interest in the idea almost from the beginning five years ago. In 2004, he planted a sélection massale of his finest vines at the upper end of the Griotte vineyard, just below Chambertin Clos de Bèze, and has tested several prototypes of these fantastically expensive tractors on the plot. Now that the experimental stage is reaching its conclusion, many other domaines in Burgundy are expected to follow suit.

In 2008 the first grapes were harvested, vinifed apart, and are now awaiting malolactic fermentation in the domaines’s cellars. ‘I had no idea of the quality of this terroir, but now I know what it can do. It’s the perfect segue from Clos de Bèze to Griotte, with all the spice of the latter with the soft intensity of the former. It is so different from my regular Griottes, and in years to come will show greater complexity as the vines age,’ he says. The wine from this tiny parcel has been christened ‘cuvée du tracteur Thomas’ after its inventor.

As Jean-Maries’s earliest and principal importer in the UK, we are delighted to be able to offer this unique wine to our customers. Quantities are miniscule, and anticipated demand for this rarity is high, so there is a limit of 6 bottles per customer, on a first come first serve basis. For those lucky enough to be regular purchasers of Jean-Marie’s Griottes, it will provide a fascinating comparison.

2008 Griottes Chambertin, ‘cuvée du tracteur Thomas’ £480 per 6 ibd London. (expected delivery Winter 2010-2011)

Even via my mobile phone I was typing what I considered an ‘appropriate response’, only to note the date – 1st April. I deleted my text and instead sent congratulations on a good story – I also asked how many cases he’d managed to sell – the answer, 1 hour after sending his mail, was already 15 cases!

Anyway, I took 14 bottles to the holiday appartment, a real mix of countries and vintages, but took no notes. Yesterday though, I opened the following wine. I’ve opened one every couple of years since release and they have mainly been too tight – seems it’s now, slowly, starting to become interesting:

1997 Nicolas Potel, Volnaytry to find this wine...
A medium-plus core of ruby-red colour. The nose starts a little dense and unyielding, only slowly and partially opening to give a tense, brooding red cherry impression against fainter savoury elements, perhaps hinting at brett. In the mouth this is silkily textured, still with a grain to the background tannin. The acidity is not perfectly seamless in the mid-palate, but makes your mouth gently water. In the mid-palate there’s a very impressive concentration of clean and tasty fruit that does have a small burst of additional dimension. A good finish. This wine has only very slowly opened in the last couple of years and I would say it needs another couple of years to start drinking well, I’m just a little concerned about that bretty element on the nose. A successful ’97.
Rebuy – Maybe

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There is one response to “nicolas potel 1997 volnay & an april fool (almost me)”

  1. Gavin6th April 2009 at 9:11 amPermalinkReply

    An excellent joke in a year that seemed to lack good pranks. 🙂

    It is an interesting topic though. The turning areas for tractors are not, of course, wasted land at all. Under the AC, the grower can produce a maximum amount of wine from the land he owns — including the land not actually planted. Just about everyone yields (by some kind of miracle) right up to the maximum allowed. And you get to do 5% less work. 🙂

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