Capitain-Gagnerot Ladoix 1er Cru 'Les Grechons et Foutrieres' 2016
The Capitain Ladoix 1er Cru Grechons is very much an insider's wine. It's sold almost exclusively in the region (or to those who know Capitain well). Year upon year we have tasted the new Grechons at the same time that we taste the latest Capitain Corton Charlemagne, often standing in the freezing cold when the barrels have been taken outside to cold-precipitate the tartaric acids. The number of times we have mistaken the Grechons for the Charlemagne cannot be just chance! There is a similarity in the minerality, with that Corton Mountain limestone smokiness unlain with honey and white flowers.
Anybody who has followed us since our start in early 1996 knows the Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Ladoix-Serrigny. We have seen three generation now. Roger Capitain was our first mentor in Burgundy, and we learned our craft leaning against a wine barrel, soaking up his wisdom and discussing his inimitable wines. His sons Patrice and Michel, and now Patrice's son Pierre Francois (the whole family, really), carry on a tradition that is most easily described as a style. There is no mistaking a Capitain wine. Once you know it, you can pick one out just in the bouquet. It's a purity. And it's our benchmark in Burgundy.
BURGUNDY 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
Remember, this was a tough one for Burgundy. For some producers, it was the fourth consecutive year that their vineyards were damaged and their yields were low. There had not been a ‘normal’ crop since 2009, so their cellars were empty. And when we talk of 50% crop loss, that’s an average across the region. Some areas had zero crop.
So when we get excited about the quality of the 2016s, we need a little restraint as well. Not everyone did the meticulous vineyard work that was necessary to get through the horrible start. As always, if you want to find the best wines, you need to know the best producers. Another important consideration in a low-yield vintage is the shortage of grapes, which means that the big negociant houses can have trouble sourcing fruit. Be careful with negociant wines in 2016. Buy from tried-and-true producers.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Coming south from Dijon, Ladoix is the first village of the Cote de Beaune. En route you will have left the Cote de Nuits at Nuits St. Georges and traversed a zone of commercial quarries. Ladoix shares with Aloxe-Corton and Pernand-Vergelesses the famous wines of the Corton mountain. But it also has a northern zone of vestigial Cotes de Nuits soil. The vineyards grow both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, seemingly randomly, but really they are planted mostly according to the complexity of the soils as the hillside heads up into the vines of Aloxe-Corton.
Produced in the commune of Ladoix-Serrigny, the appellation Ladoix includes 11 premiers crus.
Ladoix red is often the color of cassis (or blackcurrant), bright garnet with deeper tints. But if you are looking for deep color, you have come to the wrong place. Ladoix is a finesse wine, long on little red woodland fruit and the first hints of Cote de Nuits cherry. It is deceptively tender and supple, but should have a depth that comes from its location rather than extraction. It can be voluminous without being dense.
Ladoix white is golden straw colored and should smell of flowers and have notes of ripe autumn fruit, plum and apple, pear and fig. They are bright on the palate, often very juicy, but show the firmness of good structure. Their minerality in not unlike the famous neighbor further up the slope, Corton-Charlemagne
The soils of the upper slopes are pebbly and red, iron-rich olite with a high limestone content and a good bit of marl. These soils suit white wines. Mid-slope, reddish-brown calcareous soils with abundant limestone debris produce full-bodied and flamboyant red wines. Clayey soils at the foot of the slopes take away some of their finesse, but add oomph. Exposures are mainly east or south-east to south. with altitudes at 230 to 325 meters
Reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area :
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 73.86 ha (including 15.96 ha premier cru)
Whites : 20.14 ha (including 8.73 ha premier cru)
'Silky' is a word often used to describe red Ladoix. Soft tannins and roundness texture go well with cured ham and delicate meats like rabbit or boiled beef. There is a fleshiness that will smooth out the spices in a curry of lamb or poultry. It goes well with mild cheeses such as Vacherin, Reblochon or Cîteaux.
Ladoix white at its fullest, suits the salty iodine flavors of shellfish and cooked seafood. Blue cheeses work, as do firmer aged goat cheeses and grainy gruyère.
On the label, the appellations 'Ladoix' and 'Ladoix 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru.