Jean-Jacques Girard Corton Grand Cru 'En Charlemagne' 2015
Cortons, like their neighbor Corton Charlemagne, are as diverse as the parcels they come from and the producers who make them. You will notice that we offer several different Cortons from several producers. All exceptional examples of this Grand Cru appellation, but each in its own way. We encourage you to buy one of each and arrange a Corton tasting with special friends who would appreciate the occasion.
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
The Corton mountain lies in the midst of a cluster of wine-growing villages (Ladoix-Serrigny, Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune) with, to the north, the southern end of the Côte de Nuits where vineyards mingle with stone quarries (comblanchien limestone). The vineyards lie at heights of 250-330 meters and form a kind of amphitheater not found elsewhere in the Côte. The Corton mountain produces white Corton-Charlemagne and (mainly) red Corton.
The appellation Grand Cru Corton covers the villages of Aloxe-Corton, Ladoix-Serrigny, Pernand-Vergelesses, and includes 25 Grand Cru climats. The extensive area covered by this Grand Cru and the large number of different climats it contains explain the observable differences in character among the wines grown here.
The rare whites (grown mainly in the climats of Vergennes and Languettes) have a keeping potential of 4-10 years. They tend to be pale gold in color with green highlights. The nose is often flinty mineral and baked apple spices. Elegant and highly-bred, supple and round, this unusual Chardonnay has much in common with Corton-Charlemagne, if slightly fatter, perhaps due to a soil more suited to red.
The Corton reds are often intense crimson, darkening towards magenta. Their aromatic expression in youth should be fruit forward and floral, with notes of blueberry and kirsch cherry, evolving towards underbrush, leather, fur, pepper and liquorice with age. On the palate Cortons are notably powerful and muscular. Firm, frank and fat, they require time (4-12 years) to reach maturity.
Exposure is south-east and south-west (unusual in the Côte). The hillside offers a text-book cut-away illustration of the local geology. The oxfordian Jurassic limestone lying between Ladoix and Meursault is younger here than elsewhere along the Côte. At mid-slope the gradient is gentle and the soil reddish and pebbly, derived from brown limestone and rich deposits of marl with a high potassium content. Pinot Noir is king on most parts of the slope. Chardonnay (which gives us the Corton-Charlemagne) almost invariably occupies the top reaches.
Mainly red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 90.25 ha
Whites : 4.53 ha
Red Corton, solid and opulent, is complex and mouth-filling in a way that is both sensual and structured. Strong soft-centred cheeses are often served. But, without question, its closest companions are meats that match its power and intensity. Roast or grilled beef, or any and all game (furred or feathered) roasted, braised or in sauce. The rare white Corton should be saved for a special occasion but in general is a natural match for shellfish, fish, poultry and goat's cheese.
On the label, the words 'Grand Cru' must appear immediately below the name of the appellation in characters of identical size, and red wines only may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard classified as a Grand Cru climat.
The Grand Cru climats are:
Le Clos du Roi
Le Meix Lallemand
Le Rognet et Corton
Les Chaumes et la Voierosse
Les Grandes Lolières