Jean-Jacques Girard Aloxe-Corton 2015
With this Aloxe Corton, Jean-Jacques comes roaring out of his home valley of Savigny les Beaune. Where his Savigny is floral, spicy and elegant up front, the first nose of this Aloxe Corton is powerful, animal. Then it's a mouthful of black fruit, with the elegance rolling in on the mid-palate and sticking around for the finish and the reflection. This is another register for Jean-Jacques Girard, who, you will find, has perfect pitch!
Jean-Jacque Girard's website says that his family was growing grapes in Savigny-les Beaune back in 1529. That, as the French say, is 'formidable', and would make the domain one of the oldest in Burgundy. But really what matters to us today is what happened to the domain in the past generation. In the late 90s, the original and venerable Domaine Girard-Vollot was split between Georges Girard's two sons Jean-Jacques and Phillipe. The original domain was about 38 acres. And since the split, Jean-Jacques has built his holdings back to over 40 acres, making it one of the most impressive domains in Savigny.
BURGUNDY 2015 VINTAGE
We have resisted writing the Elden Selections Burgundy 2015 harvest report until now (April 2017), mainly to let the hub-bub and hyperbole settle down, but more importantly to be sure that the claims we are about to make are justified. We’ve seen too many vintages vaunted as ‘the year of the century’, when really the wines simply showed well young. Burgundy 2015 is a truly extraordinary vintage. The reds are rich, ripe, balanced and powerful. And from all over the region they express chiseled, focused terroir. Despite their youthful seductive charm, these are wines to keep, with serious ripe tannins already melted into explosive fruit.
Comparisons have been drawn with the 2005 vintage, though there is more concentration in the 2015s than in the 2005s. Like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly, great vintages often go to sleep in the bottle. And 2005 is just reawakening from several ‘dumb’ years. It’s been worth the wait. The wines have metamorphosed. 2015 might be similar. And if the comparison is apt, investors in 2015 should appreciate the youthful beauty of this great vintage now, but be prepared to be patient.
That said, 2005 was no ‘year of the century’. But 2015 is also being compared to 1990, which arguably was. And I hear that Michel Lafarge, one of Burgundy’s respected elders, says he remembers drinking 1929s, and he draws parallels. The whites are a bit more uneven, and early reports claimed that the vintage lacks acidity. Certainly, these are wines which are riper and more luxuriant than the exquisite purity of 2014 white Burgundy. But there is no risk that well-made wines will be overly ample or flabby. The best wines will have benefited from the barrel. Comparisons are drawn to 1985, one of the great vintages in white.
The heterogeneity in 2015 white Burgundy is due to the tricky growing season, which was mostly hot and dry, but which cooled significantly in September. Was it better to pick early or late? And did the wine deserve more or less barrel aging? These are questions which will be answered producer-by-producer, bottle-by-bottle over the coming years. But what is clear is that they 2015s are concentrated, fresh and structured.
We believe that to understand a vintage, it is important to look at the weather. Because Burgundy is a single-grape wine, the only thing that changes from year to year in a producer’s vineyard is the weather. So we look for patterns and try to analyze what makes a good year, a bad year…and in this case, an excellent year.
The winter of 2014-2015 was uneventful. It was never really cold, but when it was, it was dry. Mostly it was mild, so we had more rain than snow. We would need the replenished water reserves in the long hot summer ahead.
April was warm and dry, and bud-burst took place early. Mornings in May were sunny, afternoons cloudy, and overall cool and dry. The vines began to flower in the last week of the month, so we knew we were looking at a harvest in early to mid-September.
In early July, the mood started to mount towards hopeful. The weather had been steady, dry and cool. But slowly during the month, temperatures began to rise, and in the last week of July hit 30C. The flowering had been successful, so there was a good crop on the vines.
Day after day of warm dry conditions brought drought considerations into play. But no hail for once! August continued in this way. Hot and dry. A little welcome rain later in the month, but just enough to keep the stress levels down. But no storms or hail. And extremely healthy fruit on the vine. No rot, no mildew, no odium. The mood was optimistic, even euphoric.
Harvest ostensibly started the first Monday of September. And days later the weather broke, and a cool period set in for ideal harvest conditions, stabilizing acidity levels. It stayed this way until September 12th when the first serious rain in two months fell in the southern part of the region. Harvest was disrupted for a few days, but the 19th, it was pretty much all over.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Linking the Côte de Nuits with the Côte de Beaune, the hill of Corton signals a change in the landscape. Towards Beaune the land becomes more rounded, its sharp contours yielding to gentle valleys. Like its neighbors Ladoix-Serrigny and Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton (pronounced "Alosse") shares much with the Corton mountain on the approach to the prestigious grands crus of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne.
The appellation Aloxe Corton covers the villages of Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny, and includes 14 premiers crus vineyards. The soil is deep in most parts of these vineyards, and gives a vigorous, full-bodied Pinot Noir, robust yet refined. Tender and fruity, the village wine reaches its peak after 3 to 5 years in the cellar.
Aloxe-Corton whites are very rare. The reds are quite dark in color, their shades varying from deep ruby through to garnet. While young, the wine's aroma suggests spring flowers with red (raspberry, strawberry) and black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry). These intensify with age and evolve into more musky floral notes like jasmine, preserved and brandied fruits, nuts, plummy prune, leather, truffle, mushroom and cinnamon.
A cross section of the Corton hill reveals a classic geological picture. At altitudes of between 200 and 300 meters, the soil is reddish brown with flint and limestone debris (known as chaillots) mixed in, and is rich in potassium and phosphoric acid. The vines face due east. Wines from the northern end are more tender and fruity while those from the southern end are firmer and more complex. Pebbly soil favors supple, high-bred wines, while clay and marl breeds firmness and complexity.
Nearly all reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha)= 2.4 acres
Reds : 116,08 ha (including 37.60 ha premier cru)
Whites : 1.70 ha
The power of the Aloxe-Corton reds calls for forceful, aromatic dishes. Their opulence softens firm and fibrous meats. Their solid but distinguished tannins are a match for marbled meats and brown sauces. These great red wines go best with rib steaks, braised lamb, and roasted poultry. Spiced dishes such as couscous with meat or meat tajines also combine well with this wine, as do soft-centered cheeses such Époisses.
On the label, the appellations 'Aloxe-Corton' and 'Aloxe-Corton 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 des Maréchaudes
Clos du Chapitre
La Toppe au Vert
Les Petites Folières
The following climats are village wines from a single-vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
La Toppe Marteneau
Les Brunettes et Planchots
Les Genevrières et le Suchot
Les Petits Vercots