Michel Arcelain Bourgogne 2013
Michel and Mado Arcelain have been working their domain in Pommard together since they were married in 1963. The domain is made up of parcels of vines inherited from both sides of the family and over a number of generations, as well as vineyards purchased by them over the years. These vineyards (with the exception of a small parcel planted in Chardonnay) are all Pinot Noir of the highest quality, known as Pinot Fin. The domain has taken on a younger face of late, with the arrival of their grandson Pierre Andre, a young dynamic force in an already dynamic domain.
This Bourgogne will stop you in your tracks. Like so many regional appellation wines from small, proud production domains, the grapes for this wine come from a vineyard in the village where the producer lives and work. In this case…it’s Pommard. This is no big-volume blend Bourgogne like you get from the negociant houses. No, you’ll swear that this is a little Pommard. And that’s how it should be!
Michel and Mado Arcelain have been working their domain in Pommard together since they were married in 1963. The domain is made up of parcels of vines inherited from both sides of the family and over a number of generations, as well as vineyards purchased by them over the years. These vineyards (with the exception of a small parcel planted in Chardonnay) are all Pinot Noir of the highest quality, known as Pinot Fin. The selection of quality vines was primordial for the domain, and they have been cultivated like a garden since 1949.
BURGUNDY 2013 VINTAGE
Burgundy 2013 was yet another small crop. The fourth in as many years. Some of it will be very good, in both red and white. But for some producers it was a disaster. As we always do, let’s start with a run-down of the weather conditions over the growing season (what the locals tellingly call ‘the campaign’).
Winter was wet and hung on stubbornly. March snow gave way to a few spring-like days, and everyone thought the worst was over. But no. April was cold and wet. May was the wettest on record. We posted photos of ducks swimming in the flooded vineyards. And winter gloom and temperatures persisted.
June was better, but just. Flowering started in the early part of the month, but with the cool wet conditions it was erratic and irregular. Lots of coulure and millerandange as a result. These aborted grapes would be one of the reasons for a small 2013 yield, and would come in to play in the final outcome at harvest.
Summer arrived late in the month. But even the warm temperatures and relatively fine weather did little to dispel the feeling of instability. There was nothing consistent to make you feel like you could just settle in to grape growing.
Then in the third week of July, high pressure and high humidity built up to a series of storms, the most violent of which tore out of the Savigny valley on the 23rd. Like a military gunship, the hail storm swept across the Savigny vines, hit Pernand on the west side of the Corton Mountain and headed south across Beaune, Pommard and Volnay. Producers tell us it lasted almost half an hour. It was the second year running that Pommard and Volnay were ravaged.
The humidity continued into August, and producers up and down the Cote nervously watched the sky. The big fear now was that damaged grapes would rot of mildew and odium, so preventive spraying intensified. If there was a bright spot in the growing season, it was the dry spell in mid-August. The damaged grapes shriveled and dropped off the vine, making the inevitable sorting at harvest more manageable.
Yields were tiny, even in the areas not ripped by hail. But the quality of the fruit was good going into September in the Cotes de Nuits and the white wine production south of Beaune, as well as in the Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Chablis.
Most of the harvest came in in the first weeks of October, the latest Burgundy vintages since 1991 and 1978. Maturity arrived at the end. Slowly at first, just like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like it to be. But that slow maturity turned into a gallop, especially for the whites. From Macon to Chablis, the quality of 2013 whites comes down to crucial decisions about when to pick in the final few days.
Two months prior to harvest, the mood was gloomy. And granted, those poor producers who got slammed in July will suffer for years. (Some say that another small crop in 2014 could force some out of business.) But there is quality in many cellars. The reds will be highly variable, but the best wines (from domains that sorted the harvest carefully as it came to the cuverie) are fresh, deeply colored and beautifully ripe, with balance that seems apt for long aging. As always, you have to know who made the wine. There is more consistent quality in the whites across the board. Some say an excellent exciting year.
REGIONAL APPELLATION OF BURGUNDY
Generally considered the generic Burgundy wine, appellation Bourgogne, both red and white, can also be thought of as the model of what Burgundy wine should be. It is produced in almost all of the winemaking communes throughout Burgundy, and from the same grape varieties as the more specific appellations. This means that simple Bourgogne has the potential to express terroir and vintage. But because it can be produced by blending wines sourced from across the region, the quality and specificity of this appellation can be questionable. On the other hand, many Bourgogne are produced within a single commune and some even from a single vineyard. So as with all Burgundy wine, you need to know its pedigree and who made it.
The appellation Bourgogne is restricted to wines grown within the defined limits of the appellation:
Yonne 54 communes
Côte d’Or 91 communes
Saône et Loire 154 communes
Pinot Noir is a native Burgundian grape and, with the exception of a bit of César still to be found in the Yonne, is the principle variety in Bourgogne Rouge. Red wines in Burgundy are often described as deeply colored, but this is not necessarily the case. Though the skins of pinot noir are black, the juice is colorless. And so whatever color the wine itself has comes from contact with the skins during the pre-fermentation maceration. So naturally, each vintage will produce a different color wine. In general though, ruby and crimson are the tones most associated with Burgundy. Fruit notes are often strawberry, black fruits and cherry. And then with age we start to notice wilder aromas and flavors, undergrowth, mushrooms, animal.
In many cases the regional appellation Bourgogne Pinot Noir is grown near and sometimes adjacent to more prestigious crus. But the mystery of Burgundy is that wines separated by dozens of meters can be so different one from the other. Appellation Bourgogne vineyards tend to be located along the foot of the vineyard slopes on limestone soils mixed with some clays and marls. The soils are usually heavy but can be stony, rocky even, and quick-draining.
Red – Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Bourgogne Rouge tends not to be elaborately made. So its simplicity is valuable in food pairing. Delicate and refined, it can go with delicate dishes that are naturally aromatic, salads and simmered meat stews. But it also makes them ideal for those who prefer red wine to white when pairing with fish dishes. And of course, the classic red wine cheese combinations work perfectly.