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Updated: Domaine de l’Arlot (Nuits)

Much has changed at this domaine since I made my profile – time to renew and make new acquaintances.

Summer time in 2011 was a time with many interesting stories about Domaine de l’Arlot. The winemaker Olivier Leriche had decided to leave for a new project outside Burgundy and apparently the new winemaker was going to reverse the conversion of the vines from biodynamic to more conventional farming, and stop using stems to making the domaine’s wines. Arlot Armageddon if you like – but that was just a frenzy of gossip…

What really happened…

Jacques Devauges joined l’Arlot, as technical director little more than 4 weeks before the 2011 harvest. He had experience at a number of domaines in the Côte d’Or, including just down the road at Domaine de la Vougeraie, working with Pascal Marchand, and just up the road at Domaine Michel Magnien and Maison Frédéric Magnien in Morey St.Denis. Jacques’ approach has been much more down to earth than the gossips had suggested, as you will note in the (his) comments that follow.

”Jean-Pierre de Smet and Olivier Leriche had always worked together on the idea/intention to make wine that reflected the terroirs. We continue to execute that with as much precision as we can. The domaine moved to ‘organic’ management in 2000 and then to ‘Biodynamic’ in 2003. We strive to make any small improvement that we see is possible – no more, no less.”
Jacques Devauges, November 2012

In discussion with Jacques, standing by the 2011 barrels…

Re 2012: Jacques noted that

“Most people I speak with suggest that there hasn’t been such a difficult rainy year, coupled with mildew and oïdium since 1977. I Nuits St.Georges We have seen yields close to 50% of a normal year – mainly due to coulure – however, in Vosne our yields were quite good, over 30 hl/ha – which is more than in 2011!”

Returning to the subject of 2011s :

“Spring was like Summer and Summer was like Spring, yet we still had an early vintage.
“We had eight people doing triage at the domaine, the last four’s job was to separate the millerande bunches from the ‘standard’ bunches of fruit. We used those millerandes whole in the fermentations, the rest were destemmed – so the effective percent of whole clusters is the same as the percentage of millerande bunches – you get better stem maturity in these clusters.
Regarding the maturity of the fruit, we picked at what we believed to be the best ripeness, avoiding over-ripe characters. Clearly in this vintage the sugars were a little lower than the average, so we chaptalized between 0.5 and 1%.
The use of oak doesn’t go higher than 50% and our barrels are made for us by Remond in Ladoix from oak staves that we buy together with Domaine Dujac that we weather outside for 2-3 years. We use a special toast on the barrels which is done at quite a low temperature, but for a long time.

All the wines that follow were tasted from barrel on Friday 16th November 2012. Assuming that the pyrazine element does not become a post-bottling issue, I find these a very strong set of wines, most of whom might argue a place in my cellar.

2011 Côte de Nuits Villages Clos du Chapeau
There is deep soil on the valley floor here – facing the combe – so there is plenty of gravel too.
There’s a very nice depth to the aroma – some whole cluster but no pyrazines. Good flavour and balance – with some sandy-grained tannin – but this a very pretty wine.

2011 Nuits St.Georges Le Petit Arlot
From the most recently planted plots of the ‘Clos l’Arlot’. The vines are now 10 years old.
There is more aromatic depth, perhaps facilitated by a faint reduction. Across your tongue the tannins are less sandy, and there is more depth and richness. Darker fruits and a nice length too – certainly not a ‘simple’ wine.

2011 Vosne-Romanée
A portion of the domaine’s Vosne 1er Les Suchots was replanted in 2003 and is now the source of fruit for this wine.
The nose has bright cherry, again a hint of reduction too. Despite some grainy tannin, this has very nice texture – an elegant rather than forceful wine – indeed, very pretty.

2011 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Petits Plets
A wine made from the youngest vines in the Clos des Fôrets vineyard. These were planted following the fatal (to some vines) frosts of the winter 1985-1986, so are today 22 years old.
This is the deepest nose so far, but also shows the most reduction. Cushioned concentration in the mouth, and despite this concentration, there is a large measure of elegance. A nice line of flavour pushes through the mid-palate and into the finish.

2011 Nuits St.Georges 1er Clos l’Arlot
This wine has quite a shy nose. Very good concentration in the mouth, and with finer tannins than the ‘Plets’, though that tannin seems more abundant. The flavours have their own fragrance which is redolent of whole clusters and minerality. A very, very good wine.

2011 Nuits St.Georges 1er Clos des Fôrets
We had the opportunity to taste through the different terroirs of this 7.11 ha Clos, before a reasonable blend was made by pipette.
The nose has an understated dark cherry. In the mouth this is round and rich yet rather understated. Plenty of supporting tannin and a super-long finish. Wonderful!
2011 Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Suchots
These 55 year-old vines have delivered a shy but elegant nose. Plush, with plenty structure and a really wine panorama of flavour, though not so deep. That flavour holds very well in the finish.
2011 Romanée St.Vivant
Fine, precise berries on the nose – the aromas slowly build depth with time in the glass. A rather mineral and complex wine – rather than a forceful one. A beautiful thing.
2011 Côte de Nuits Villages Les Lurets (Blanc)
From vines opposite the house on the other side of the Route Nationale D974. This was previous a pinot noir vineyard, but the team were never happy with the results, so pulled-up the pinot and replanted with chardonnay in 2006. This 2011 is the first ‘commercial’ vintage.
The nose is very bright – and I think rather interesting – with a blend of agrumes augmented with a subtle aniseed. In the mouth this is round and rich though clearly not possessing the energy that the nose suggests. But these are young vines and this remains an attractive wine.
2011 Nuits St.Georges La Gerbotte (Blanc)
La Gerbotte is actually the southern-most plot of land which is classed as part of the Clos l’Arlot – it is separated from the rest of the vines by the stone-quarry behind the main house. The vines are 16 years old and include about 4% Pinot Beurot (Pinot Gris). Jacques notes “We are waiting for less roundness and more minerality, since these are young vines.”
The nose is deep and round, but not particularly exciting. In the mouth there is also depth, plenty of richness too. There is an aromatic component to the fruit, and I do see a little minerality, but it does need a twist more acidity if it going to sing.
2011 Nuits St.Georges Clos du l’Arlot (Blanc)
I find the nose slightly fume. There is a nice core of sweet fruit, yet it is wrapped in an interesting minerality. Good acidity that is delivered in such a way that I am reminded of a good Chassagne blanc – yet this is clearly an individual. Very nice wine indeed.

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

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