Check out the (right, relatively recent) sign in the parking of Volnay, and you will see a list of about 40 domaines that actually reside in Volnay – and I thought to myself – ‘why not do them all?’
This should be a relatively ‘easy’ project as Volnay is a small appellation and the number of producers is relatively modest – first, I just had to convince the head of the grower’s syndicate, Thiébault Huber, that it was a good idea. 3 months later I had a visiting programme! Check deeper and there are actually only 34 producers in the village as people like de Montille and Nicolas Rossignol are included.
Of-course it didn’t work out perfectly – there were 34 names in my visit list but in the end I completed only 29. First, Xavier Cluzeaud had died and anyway didn’t commercialise anything himself. Then one Boillot wasn’t at home when I came for my appointment and didn’t reply to follow-ups. A second Boillot didn’t have the appointment in his calendar and (also) didn’t respond to fixing it in his calendar. Then there was the vigneron (who I won’t name) that simply laughed in my face saying he didn’t have time – and then walked away – you can probably tell that I’m still seething about that one! The last failure was my fault; initially I missed Marc Rossignol due to an error in my programme – not my error. I made a new appointment but forgot to put it in my diary – so didn’t turn up – definitely my error! He didn’t respond a second time – probably understandably. Still, 29 from a possible 33 seems like a victory – and some super discoveries lie within!
This month is part 1 of my Volnay project. Part 2, next month, will include a considered profile of the Village and its vines, plus tastings with important producers who live outside the village; Bouchard Père, Clos de la Chapelle, Drouhin, Jadot, Lafon, Prieur, Nicolas Rossignol et-cetera…
I’m occasionally asked about my choice of timing for my new vintage reports, and honestly, much of it is ‘market-driven.’
The market imperative, at least in Europe, is that people want to know about the new vintage wines before the round of offers and tastings that occur every January in London. To accommodate that, I attack the (mainly) white domaines in October, the (mainly) red domaines in November and the more interesting ‘houses/maisons’ in December. That means that The whites are online by the end of November, the reds before Christmas – sometimes I even manage to get the ‘maison’s ‘out’ also by the end of the year too.
So, there’s nothing unremarkable about that – I do the whites first as they are relatively easier to taste and often bottled before the reds – though they are still far from finished. The timing of the reds is more of a shame, as they will have as much as another 6 months elevage so will be different beasts at bottling – usually fuller and more impressive. Even 3 months later (see Thomas Bouley in this issue) the wines might not yet be ready to show their final potential – though each domaine will be different.
Then there’s Chablis in January – ‘why do Chablis after the Côte d’Or?’ Simple. There’s less demand for Chablis, and save for a couple of renowned domaines, pretty much everything is still available to buy long after the Côte d’Or whites are sold out. I should say, there’s also the, no small matter, of respect for the wines. To do these in July or August, is no different (to me) to trying to write about Chevalier-Montrachet in July or August – it’s just too early – like those French publications that score wines when still in malolactic fermentations – that won’t happen here, ever! But after CHablis, what about Beaujolais in February?
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I rather like a maturing Bojo – sorry for my shorthand – there’s no lack of respect intended, and a BJ could have caused extra confusion! I also really like the newer wave of destemmed Bojos and surprisingly some of the wines described as ‘natural!’ The first Bojo I bought, by the case, were some of the 2005s by Stéphane Aviron – but the heavy aroma of thermo-vinification has never been my thing.
Move forward 10 years, and villages wines from the Côte de Nuits often start at €40, which is at least three times the price of a well-made, indeed expensive, Bojo. I’ve decided that I really need to write more about these wines – but how to find the ones that I like and would enjoy writing about?
Well, in April I’m going to start the process of ‘triage’ and some domaine visits. My plan is to organically, empirically, widen the list of Bojo visits and analysis over the next years – I’ll use the same process I’ve done in Chablis, where I’ve grown from covering 20 domaines to more than 50 domaines in three years. I hope it’s a) fun and b) of interest to you all. If it isn’t I’ll stop!