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Profile: Domaine de la Pousse d’Or (Volnay)

bousse-dor fermentation tank

The Pousse d’Or dominates many of the views of Volnay. I also note, that I always seem to refer to it as ‘the Pousse d’Or’, rather than ‘the domaine’ this place seems special. The views from the Pousse d’Or can also be wonderful – a vista towards the Alps – very special indeed.

Of-course the Pousse d’Or has quite some weight of history behind it. The Cistercians were responsible for some of the remaining cellars – but in the late 1800s the Pousse d’Or was the property of Monsieur Delaplanche-Garnier and named the Château de Volnay et Clos d’Audignac. The house was left to his daughter who in-turned donated it to a good cause – but the house was left empty. Today’s Domaine de la Pousse d’Or was actually born in 1964 – but without a home – the house of Delaplanche-Garnier became its home after being bought at auction later the same year.

domaine-pousse-dorPatrick Landanger bought the Pousse d’Or in 1997, following the death of Gérard Potel. Landanger already had some contacts with Potel, but once the domaine was put up for sale he instantly knew where to spend the money he earned from his manufacturing business.

Construction of a new cuverie began almost immediately; now everything works by gravity, rather than pumps – being set into the hillside facilitates this – tunnels interconnect the buildings. Much has been built and the Cistercian vaults extended in years since Landanger moved in.

Of-course construction was not the only project when Landanger moved to Volnay – there were vines to think of. The Santenay 1er Les Gravières was sold, but vines in Corton were bought from the Jaboulet-Vercherres. Successive purchases in 2004 (Puligny Clos le Caillerets from the Chartron family), 2008 (a number of vines from Chambolle owned by Moine-Hudelot) and finally (so far) 2009 (Clos de la Roche from the Remy family) brings the Pousse d’Or domaine to seventeen hectares – Mrs Landanger doesn’t want it to get any larger – as she organises the harvest! Today at the Pousse d’Or you may be serially greeted by any of two dogs, two cats or even two parrots – but of the six, it is only one of the parrots who will bite!

In the vines and in the cellar

In the vines, Gérard Potel’s son, Nicolas, had already converted some of the vineyard work to ‘Bio’ – from conviction the Landangers have followed his lead in all their vineyards; many treatments are aligned to phase of the moon, and all herbicides and insecticides are avoided. They seek no certification in this. The Chambolle vineyards ex-Moine-Hudelot are much harder to manage as the parcels are quite small (though typical for Chambolle), they also needed a lot of hard work in the first years as there were many missing vines. [For info, the vines but not the stocks of Moine-Hudelot were purchased, so some of those (older) wines still reach the market from their original source and wearing their original labels.]

Now there are three Vistalys machines in Burgundy that I’m aware of; here at Pousse d’Or, Louis Jadot and Vincent Girardin. It has been used here for three vintages, though the team were a little disappointed in 2009 as the harvest was so clean that there was little work for it to do!

Vistalys
In the cuverie, small cases of grapes are first emptied onto a vibrating table, “removing leaves, snails, stones and obviously bad bunches”. Everything is then destemmed, the ‘single berries’ then move along another table to the Vistalys:

“it’s a computer with cameras inside – you instruct the computer what sizes and colour grapes to reject – those discarded are blown away by a jet of air (it’s a noisy machine). It took some days with technicians to do the programming, but then everything worked well.” (image below)

The sorted grapes move down one floor to the fermentation tanks – some named for the individual cuvée (like the main image above. Each tank is thermo-regulated – a cold maceration period of seven days passes before the alcoholic fermentation begins. The cuvaison is a minimum 21 days, pneumatic pigeage equipment moving from tank to tank. The contents of those tanks then (once more) moving by gravity to the barrel cellars below – one part of those cellars dating from the 1500s.

Since 2009 there are newer small tanks for each of the new cuvées that came from Moine-Hudelot – only the villages Chambolle cuvée is a little larger – in 2010 for instance, there were just 3 barrels of Bonnes-Mares. A new vertical press is used (also since 2009) for pressing the grapes post-fermentation.

Ouilleurs
One cellar is mainly for premier crus, but in the barrel cellar you are immediately struck by the glassware that sticks out from each barrel – developed by Landanger – he calls ‘Ouilleurs’ (as in the French for topping up the barrel). They are essentially clear expansion vessels so you can easily see what needs topping up – the volume seems about half to three-quarters of a litre – they allow the escape of gas during malolactic fermentation but retain a duvet of CO2 – also, the pipette can descend directly through the Ouilleur into the ‘belly’ of the barrel to take wine for tasting. The system was originally trialed with the Bousse d’Or but the 2011s are now the second vintage where all the reds have used this system. It seems to me a very elegant solution.

The barrel regime is relatively simple; one-third new barrels, one-third one year-old barrels and finally one-third of two year-old barrels; grain très fin with a medium toast. The barrels are racked after 13-14 months into stainless steel tanks for at least 3-4 months for settling before bottling. Bottling is only under cork – fitting to the phase of the moon.

The Puligny-Montrachet Clos le Caillerets also has its own cellar, aging in 350 litre barrels. This size has been used since the very beginning – 2004 the domaine’s first vintage.

The wines

It is clear that no detail is too small for Patrick Landanger, everything in the cuverie is immaculate – from the tiny baskets he uses for the grapes, his optical sorting regime, down to his Ouilleurs. Yet, I still have one issue, so I was very keen to try to understand the current wines of Pousse d’Or. The reason was a relatively disappointing tasting of (a small sample of) their bottled 2009s ‘could it all be like this?’ was my concern. As a baseline, I reproduce those notes here before moving onto the 2010s.

Tasted 5th November 2011. Certainly they are an interesting set of wines – ones that have garnered very high ‘critical’ scores – yet impressive as they are, at this young age I find them all too similar, and that’s all down to their current cloak of oak. In character the oak aromas and flavours remind me of the toasty wines that Bernard Gros produces, which, for my taste, this oak seems more suited to Bordeaux than Burgundy. But this fades in Bernard’s wines after about 5-6 years; let’s see what happens here.

2009 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny
Just a hint of toasty oak on the nose; dark fruit bubbles below. Fresh, good acidity here though currently offering a rather narrow flavour-impression. There is obvious oak as a flavour component which obscures much of what I’d hope to find in a Chambolle. I like the shape of the wine but time will tell how good it is as the oak fades.

2009 Pousse d’Or, Volnay 1er Les Caillerets
Medium-plus colour. Crystallised dark fruits play on the nose – with less overt oak than the villages Chambolle. The flavour of the oak is obvious but the wine has good tannin with just the right amount of ‘grab’ for a young wine – excellent width and complexity. This is a very engaging wine but without the common minerality of a Caillerets – perhaps it will develop as the oak fades.

2009 Pousse d’Or, Volnay 1er Clos des Audignac
Medium-plus colour. There is a more meaty depth to the fruit than was the case for the Caillerets. In the mouth this is very finely proportioned, offering a lovely balance between the tannin and the understated (though just about perfect) acidity. The oak is here as a flavour component too, but it seems to be in a more supporting role than some of the other wines.

2009 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Groseilles
Medium-plus colour. The oak is here for sure but there’s very cool and clean fruit too. Decent tannin, understated acidity and quite the most impressive intensity of these ‘Pousse’ wines, so far. I find the flavour still to be significantly of oak, I just wonder for how long.

2009 Pousse d’Or, Corton Clos du Roi
Medium-plus colour. Notes of ripe dark fruit mingle with equally dark oak – or is the latter colouring the former? After the nose this is much more lithe than I was expecting – really lovely intensity and some ripe tannin too. Long-finishing flavours of dark fruit and licorice; this wine seems to have absorbed the toasty flavours more than the others.

Autumn 2011 Burgundy Report

Tasted 20th November 2011. What better way to contrast my impression of the oakiness of the 09s, than with their siblings from 2010 – and just two weeks later. I have to say that the lower appellation wines did also seem rather too oaky to me, but as you rose higher through the appellations, it was much less bothersome. Overall the wines, despite their overt reductive elements, are excellent, showing no astringency to their tannins, and really excellent minerality. The early wines had already been assembled for about 1 month in tank. For the record there was 40% less wine produced in 2010 versus 2009.

Summarising: I think young bottled wines very often show their oak aromas to a higher degree than you note from barrel, so I would reserve judgment as to the extent the cuvées are marked, but marked they are. Oak that you can taste and smell is invariably a question of personal taste – and these wines seem to be to the taste of many – including Allen Meadows. But for my own taste (what else can we follow?) the oak treatment might be fine in a powerful, earthy Gevery-Chambertin, but it is far from what I would hope to find in wines like Volnay and Chambolle. These wines, to an extent, remind me of the reds of Bouchard Père that, for a number of vintages, I (equally) deplored because of their ‘make-up’ – of-course I was so happy when I tasted the 2010 BP&F reds to see that this may have changed.
It’s clear to me that the detail-concious Patrick Landanger is a fine custodian for this important domaine – he also clearly makes every possible effort to craft fine wines – but from the perspective of ‘personal taste’ I wouldn’t buy the current wines for my own cellar.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Santenay 1er Clos Tavannes
Plenty of oak-toast on the nose, augmented by a little reduction – slowly there’s a dark-ish red fruited dimension. Concentrated and quite lithe in the mouth, with good structure and length.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Volnay 1er En Caillerets
Again there’s a reductive element, but the oak is fainter here. The acidity is higher but so is the intensity. Faint CO2 spoils further appraisal.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Volnay 1er Clos Audignac
Effectively the garden of the Pousse d’Or, there were some old vines (1929) here, but the yield was so small that they have replanted a part – not yet in production.
Again some reduction. More acidity again, intense and more linear than I expected – certainly after the Caillerets – yet there’s very good density of flavour in the mid-palate, whilst remaining fleet of foot. I think this will be excellent as it lingers on a new note of violet flowers.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Volnay 1er Clos Bousse d’Or
Reductive notes again. In the mouth this is rounder and more textured yet also with more minerality – excellent complexity to match the supporting acidity. Super.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Volnay 1er Clos 60 Ouvrées
Here is the first wine with no obvious reduction, but spitefully it’s tight as a drum! Again there is super minerality here and this time with a much more direct personality than the ‘Bousse’, and seemingly less textured. Deep, wiry, inner-strength here – this will be excellent.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Pommard 1er Les Jarolières
Lots of reduction yet a floral element occasionally floats above it all. Textured, velvet tannin that eventually shows some grain as you swirl it around your mouth. This wine finishes long on a fine line of acidity.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Corton Clos du Roi
Just a hint of reduction, and swirly is quite enough to release a pretty mix of fruit and flowers. Really mouth-filling, showing some grain to the tannin. Then there’s another dimension of flavour in the mid-palate. Very long – another excellent wine.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Corton Bressandes
”In the early years the Bressandes is the more open and interesting versus the Clos du Roi – but after five years, the Clos du Roi is ‘King’.”
Again some reduction, all I can say is that the aromas today are a little wider but less precise than the Clos du Roi. Another wine that fills the mouth; in this case a little rounder but with less muscle than the previous wine. Very good intensity, which grows in the mid-palate, before finishing well with good energy. The last drops in the glass, shed of their reduction, smell very pretty indeed.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny
Here’s a wine that seems to be saying more about toasty oak than about reduction – or indeed wine – there are a few higher tones but it’s hard to get past the wood. There’s good acidity and intensity, nice flavour too – even better in the fine finish.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Grosseilles
This is neither particularly oaky nor reductive but it does seem a little aromatically diffuse; clearly a few floral and fruit references but little focus today. After the villages Chambolle there is more depth and sucrosité, backed by good velvet tannin – certainly a good step-up in quality. Really good high-toned fruit flavours, the last drops delivering what the first pour didn’t; focused and very pretty red fruit aromas.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Feusselottes
A darker, broader aromatic impression – certainly some of the depth is reduction but this becomes steadily prettier in the glass. Again there’s excellent concentration which dovetails with the texture. The tannin is a little stickier than the other wines’ but today that’s all the better to cement the lovely flavours to your gums. Wide and interesting in the finish, with very good length.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes
Deep and intense, the dark fruit on the nose impresses. Full of flavour with decent tannin and minerality that’s allied to intensity. This wine really grows in complexity once you reach the mid-palate before ending in a mineral finish. Very lovely wine!

2010 Pousse d’Or, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses
The nose is less deep than the Charmes but very pretty indeed, complex too but also without quite the focus of the Charmes. Really finely textured impression from the tannins, but not at the expense of tannin. Really wide in the mid-palate and with fine, lingering acidity too.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Bonnes-Mares
From the Chambolle side of the vineyard. No obvious reduction, some saline minerality though. A little CO2 spoils full appraisal of the texture but there’s a little grain to the tannin – though perhaps as much from the gas – and lovely intensity to the flavour. The tannin asserts itself in the finish, yet all the while you will have flavour leaching from your gums – well done!

2010 Pousse d’Or, Clos de la Roche
A purchase from the Remy family, a little after the Moine-Hudelot vines. This delivers an interesting mix of stones and dark fruits. Padded texture yet still with finely grained tannin. Flavour grows in tandem with the slowly growing intensity and acidity – an impressive peacock’s tail of flavour as you head towards the finish but this flavour quickly shrinks to a narrow but long thread through the subtle finish. Very impressive.

2010 Pousse d’Or, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Clos le Caillerets
Direct from tank this is a little aromatically diffuse, not aided by a little SO2. Very silky wine; the flavours grow impressively too. I’m not sure if I might prefer a hint more acidity as this seems just a little rich today – after bottling with a slug of CO2 (conjecture!), who knows…

Domaine de la Pousse d’Or
Rue de la Chapelle
21190, Volnay
France
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 21 61 33
Fax: +33 (0)3 80 21 29 97
Email: patrick@lapoussedor.fr
Web: www.lapoussedor.fr

One response to “Profile: Domaine de la Pousse d’Or (Volnay)”

  1. Thomas

    nice reading. While a bottle Label reads. VOLNAY I CRU LES CAILLERETS ” CLOS DES 60 OUVEES” 1979 LA POUSSE D’OR IT SURVIVED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS.

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