Tasted in Vosne-Romanée with Alice Rion, 27th March 2015.
Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion
8 route Nationale
Tel: +33 3 80 61 05 31
Since 1896, five generations of Rions have worked at this Vosne-Romanée domaine. Of-course there are many Rions and most are related; Daniel Rion was the brother of Alice’s grandfather, and Patrice a cousin.
The domaine works eight hectares of vines, 85% of which is pinot noir, but there is also a little gamay, aligoté and chardonnay – the gamay is for red and rose – both with a Côteaux Bourguignone label. The vines are mainly between, Nuits/Vosne and Chambolle with a little Clos de Vougeot plus, since 2010, a slice of Meursault Sous la Velle. Overall, about 15 different labels are produced from 25 separate parcels of vines.
The domaine commercialises the majority of its production through passing tourists, Alice laughs “There’s always someone at the house so it’s quite easy for us to sell.” They are aided in this by their location on the main RN74 road through Vosne – even large groups are accommodated – 70% of their produce is sold this way. So the main buyers are individuals and the rest is by export. There’s no UK importer so Japan and the US are the main export locations.
On the viticulture Alice notes that “In the vines we are lutte-raisonée, but we are not extremists; we like both our liberty and also to take what we think the best of each approach. We’re certainly not interventionist, for example we did only 4 treatments in 2014. We’re lucky to have some quite old vines; some of old vine (bourgogne) chardonnay is over 100 years old, whilst the pinots are often 60-70 years-old.
“Almost everything is done by hand – it’s not really possible to use a machine in the old vines anyway, as the vines may be big and fat but generally the base is quite narrow and they are easily snapped off. For the harvest we need about 30-35 people and the whole domaine is picked in about 5 days. 2013 was late so we lost some students but there are plenty of locals who are happy to help – probably because they know that they will eat and drink well (with moderation of course!) The ladies complain that they gain 3 kilos, but we tell them it’s three kilos of muscle!
“We practice total destemming when the grapes arrive – with older vines we don’t need extra concentration. Fermentation is in large concrete tanks, these are naturally cool, so we don’t have to cool the grapes as they normally take 3-4 days to start their fermentations. We ferment for about 10-12 days, pigeage is ‘whole-body-natural’ and how many times will depend on how concentrated the vintage is.”
No demi-muids are used here, just normal size barrels used for up to 3-4 years. How much new oak is used depends on the appellation; for instance 100% for Clos de Vougeot, more like 50-60% for the 1ers. It’s roughly 15 months of elevage, aiming to bottle before Christmas. Wines are assembled into tank but there’s no further tank elevage – Alice says that she thinks the wines dry-out a little like that. Racking depends on the wines – if there’s no reduction then there’s no racking until bottling, if there is then ‘of-course’ a racking is made.
We tasted only those wines in bottle. Almost all the labels bear a Vieilles Vignes notation. And some very good wines there are too – note that there are also two very 2013 Chambolles (not yet bottled) from here included in my 2013 Chambolle report!
2013 Vosne-Romanée ‘Dame Juliette’
Juliette is Alice’s grandmother – an assembly of 3 small parcels.
Bright with a lovely core of red fruit – very appealing and with lots of depth too. A little tannin but plenty of fresh red fruit and a growing depth of flavour. Fine length, this is very good.
2013 Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Chaumes
Classic deep, musky Chaumes with forward fruit. Round, a little grainy tannin slightly salted full-flavoured and excellent. Long stony length too
From 2 parcels either side of the border between Nuits and Vosne.
Also a pretty, slightly floral nose with red fruit. Modest tannin, direct, tasty fruit – real finishing intensity with a good sweetness to the fruit. Very good Bourgogne.
2012 Nuits St.Georges Dame Margeurite
Alice’s great-grandmother. From 4 different parcels that follow the border with Vosne.
A deeper nose, if less round, with slightly more direct, macerated fruit. The palate is round and welcoming – more than I expect given the nose. – some structure but a very good depth of appealing fruit. Very tasty.
2012 Nuits St.Georges 1er les Murgers
Of course on the Vosne side of Nuits.
Bigger, deeper and rounder – concentrated ripe dark fruit. Full flavoured, grows in the mouth, lots of texture, modest ripe tannin and a growing intensity of fruit flavour through the middle. An extra growth of flavour again the finish too – this is very, very good!
2012 Clos de Vougeot
One Parcel was en fermage and its last vintage was 2014, but another small parcel in same area remains, les Baudes Hautes so mid-slope, southern side.
Forward fruit and flowers – surprisingly open. In the mouth this packs a punch, plenty of underlying but very ripe tannin, growing flavour too. Not an unfriendly or austere wine. I find this remarkably open for what it is, and perhaps a little easy today, but the length is very good indeed.
2013 Meursault Sous la Velle
Three barrels, two new.
Perfumed and floral, a little fat, but with fine balance. Quite a mineral note of salt with a faint tannin impression – lovely. Long finishing. Today I don’t obviously note ‘Meursault’, but I do note that it’s very tasty indeed.