Domaine Jean Fery Pernand-Vergelesses 'Les Combottes' 2014
Pernand 'Les Combottes' lies in a heat trap above and behind the village of Pernand-Vergelesses. In a sense it is the last vineyard in the line leading off of Corton-Charlemagne, which explains why you often see this village appellation bottled as a single vineyard lieu-dit. The Domaine Jean Fery has its roots in Echevronne, just above the village of Pernand-Vergelesses, so this is, in a sense, their signature white. Floral and mineral, uniquely Pernand, there's a freshness and a purity that is fleshy and fruity but well-cut and firm.
Domaine Jean Fery
Nestled in the Hautes Cotes village of Echevronne, the Domaine Jean Fery is the master plan of Jean-Louis Fery, the latest in a wine line dating back to the mid-1800s. From 1994, with the help of Alain Meunier of the Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, the Domaine Jean Fery went bio (without actually claiming the certification) and started expanding their vineyard holdings. From the 2006 harvest, Pascal Marchand took the reins, continuing the domain's quest for quality and integrity.
2014 was a year for maxims in Burgundy. One was the ‘don’t count your chickens’ warning. And another, a keystone in Burgundy wine making, was ‘September makes the wine’. Simple truths to heed.
After three very small harvests, Burgundy urgently needed to fill its cellars. And despite some heart-breaking setbacks and a growing season that was jumbled in disorder, a decent amount of wine was produced. Not enough, of course. But ‘correct’, as the French would say.
There was no winter to speak of, followed by a mild and sunny period from February through April that saw some rain, but less than normal. The vine got going early, and talk was of a late August harvest.
But May was cool and rainy, which slowed the development. The vine began to flower in the last week of May in the southern part of the region. So at that point, counting the traditional 100 days from flowering to harvest, picking would start in early September. The weather during the flowering period was sunny and warm with just enough rain for this critical period to unfold and to finish.
And then early June was hot. Summer hot. As June was in 2003, some have said. This speeded things up. The flowering in the northern part of the region, and in those vineyards at higher altitudes, got a kick that would help them to phenolic maturity later.
With these conditions, fruit began to appear soon thereafter, and by the end of June small grapes had formed and clustered. The hot dry conditions however led to both millerandage (unevenly formed bunches made up of normal grapes and thick-skinned seedless berries ) and coulure (buds that never flowered), both of which reduce the overall crop, but which can give concentration to the remaining fruit.
Flowering and fruit set was certainly among the earliest of the past twenty years, with as much as a week head start on what would be considered normal here. And if you compare 2013 to 2014, we were three weeks in advance.
Then disaster struck. At the end of June, a series of violent hail storms ripped through the region. One in the Cote de Nuits, where parts of Nuits and Chambolle-Musigny were hit with 20% crop loss. The other two in the Cote de Beaune: the first, widespread, ranging from Meursault in the south and on up to the Corton Mountain and Savigny les Beaune, caused substantial damage; the other, painfully localized, tore through the premier cru hillsides of Pommard and Volnay. The latter was the newsmaker, with up to 80% crop damage in some sectors, but also because this was the third consecutive year that Pommard and Volnay had been seriously damaged. There have been subsequent financial worries for small producers who were not insured.
Yet, despite these disasters, from Macon to Chablis there was a serious crop on the vines. Weather in July was mixed. Hot and sunny, then cloudy and cool. Constant rumblings of thunder in the distance kept everyone on edge.
Hail damage often leads to mildew, so vigilant vineyard work was crucial as the rains came and August turned cool, wet and gloomy, more like winter than the previous winter had been. Maturity stalled on the vine. And with the ever-present risk of rot cast a pall on the chill August air.
As we reached September, with fingers crossed, Burgundians put their hopes in the maxim that ‘September makes the wine’. Because in 2014, it was make or break. We needed a glorious September, and that’s exactly what we got. Light, warm northerly winds. Warm days, cool nights. Everything needed to salvage the potential mess that August had served up. In the end, we had the best harvest conditions that we have seen in many years.
Picking started on 8 September in the south, around the 15th in the Cote and Chablis, and finished around the 26th in the Hautes Cotes.
The crop came in healthy. There was no rot. And with normal sorting work in the winery (mostly where there had been hail damage) we brought in one of the healthiest harvests in recent years. The whites are balanced and intense. The reds show good ripe fruit. Some say the best vintage since 2009. A miracle!
COTE DE BEAUNE
Pernand-Vergelesses is tucked into the junction of two valleys behind the Corton mountain which it shares with two other villages, Aloxe Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny. There also you find the prestigious grands crus of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne. Eight premiers crus vineyards are found in two distinct zones. One group is situated south of the village in the direction of Savigny les Beaune, touching on the Savigny 1er Cru and, in some cases, sharing the vineyard name. The other group is located immediately to the northeast of the village, on a hill adjacent to the Corton mountain, like a continuation of the grand cru Corton Charlemagne vines, and, not surprisingly, produce only white premier cru wines.
Produced only in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses, appellation Pernand-Vergelesses includes 8 premiers crus. The commune of Pernand-Vergelesses also produces 3 grands crus: Corton, Corton-Charlemagne and Charlemagne.
Pernand-Vergelesses Pinots should be intense ruby going towards crimson. In youth, the nose is strawberry, raspberry, and flowers. When older, it evolves typically into underbrush and spices. The mouth is unaggressive but muscular with well-melted tannins. Fleshy and robust, it is nonetheless one of the perkiest reds of the Cote de Beaune, with juicy fruit and balanced acidity.
The Chardonnays are white gold or pale yellow turning gold with age. They have a unique minerality with aromas of sweet acacia in youth and later, notes of amber, honey and spices. On the palate it is mineral, like most whites of the Corton mountain, harmonious and charming.
Most of the vineyards face east or south, with a few facing north-east, at altitudes of 250-300 meters. On the lower slopes are clayey-limestone soils mixed with chaillots (flinty residues from siliceous limestone). These soils are easily-worked and rich in potassium and phosphoric acid. Mid-slope, the pebbly limestone soils suit Pinot Noir, and at the top, the brown or yellowish marly soil favors Chardonnay.
Red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 82.31 ha (including 43.93 ha premier cru)
Whites : 53.01 ha (including 17.60 ha premier cru)
Fleshy and fruity, the reds are very seductive, and with age soft tannins go well with forceful meats like leg of lamb, feathered game, grilled pork or roiasted beef. From the cheese board, most any creamy cheese works, Mont d'Or, Vacherin, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Cîteaux.
The whites are fresh and lively. Of all the whites of the Cote, this is the first choice for sushi, which may or may not be coincidence that the local restaurant is fusion Japanese-French. The same goes for fresh-water fish in white sauce, and for seafood pasta or risotto, which its vivacity will lend depth and contrast. It also works well with cheeses of the gruyère type.
On the label, the appellations Pernand-Vergelesses and Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos du Village
Creux de la Net
Ile des Vergelesses
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Clos de Bully
Es Larret et Vignes Blanches
Le Devant des Cloux
Les Plantes des Champs et Combottes
Sous le Bois de Noël et Belles Filles
Sous les Cloux