Domaine Michel Lafarge Dinner at Noble Rot…

With the Burgundy En-primeur 2015 campaign lurking just around the corner in the UK wine trade, it seemed an opportune moment to be reminded why Burgundy is such a special region and why it’s wines can be mesmerisingly good.

Last night I attended a private vertical tasting of Domaine Lafarge wines at the trendiest wine bar in London, Noble Rot, as a guest of owners Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew. On display was a tantalising list of some of the finest Cotes de Beaune reds ever produced. Indeed, along with Marquis d’Angerville, Domaine Lafarge probably produces the finest Volnay reds known to man.

With numerous poor, low yielding vintages over the past 5 years, the wines of Volnay have become somewhat of a rarity on wine merchants shelves. So getting to taste multiple vintages of the most famous vineyards back to the 80’s was a real privilege. 

After a duo of palate cleansers in the way of Champagne Emmanuel Brochet Brut Le Mont Benoit 1er Cru NV (92/100) and Domaine Roulot Monthelie 1er Cru Champs Fulliot 2011 (91/100) matched with native oysters, we were ready for our Lafarge journey to commence.

Lafarge have around 10 hectares of vines on some of the very best sites in Volnay, managed on biodynamic principles. Many of their vines are mature but not excessively old and yields are generally low. Very little new oak is used and the wines are handled as little as possible, with only a couple of rackings, a light fining and normally no filtration pre-bottling.

Slip Sole and Smoked Butter

I have recently written a lot about the rising popularity of both Aligote and Gamay, so the Lafarge old vine Aligote Raisins Dores 2009 (88+/100) was a good starting point. Not particularly known for their whites, Lafarge’s Meursault and 1er Cru Beaune Les Aigrots can be quite accomplished wines. The Aigrots 2011 was fresh and mineral laced with plenty of stoney yellow fruit (89/100).

A little Gamay / Pinot Noir Passetoutgrain 2008 (88/100) blend readied our palates for 9 fantastic 1er Cru wines from Clos des Chenes and Clos des Chateau des Ducs Monopole. 

Roast Quail

The highlight of the night was undoubtedly the older Clos des Chenes pairing of 1985 (97+/100) and 1993 (96/100). Both wines showed incredible precision, perfume, finesse and seamlessly sweet, pure red forest fruits. Such profound harmony and balance. Pinnacles of achievement in Volnay.

A wonderful evening with such beautiful Volnay wines and not a single disappointment. Thank you Dan and Mark.

Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar is located at 51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB.

The Age of Bourgogne Aligote…

It’s a mild Autumnal October evening and I’m sitting on the sofa reading issue 12 of Noble Rot magazine while my cod fillets gently grill in the oven. The magazine this month is almost entirely devoted to the worship of everything Beaujolais and the Gamay grape. 

But tonight I’m drinking something altogether different… a bottle of Francois Mikulski’s vieilles vignes Aligote 2014, the perfect match to my grilled fish. But like Cru Beaujolais, or even the humble Gamay grape, Aligote has wallowed in unloved obscurity for decades. 

I remember only a few years ago, wine merchants would be forced to buy 120 or 240 bottles of Aligote, just to get their village and 1er Cru allocations from these well known growers. The clever merchants pumped the fresh, vibrant Aligote wine stocks out immediately, on low margin offers, so as not to be left sitting on unsaleable, ageing Aligote 12 months later when new stocks would yet again be thrust upon them.

My lovely cod fillets with panko crumbs on a bed of puréed Romano Peppers and grilled butternut.

Oh how times have changed. Most merchants now sell out En-primeur of their top domaine Aligote whites from growers including Lafarge, de Villane, Ente and Mikulski. Like the mood and demand for Beaujolais has exploded in the past couple of years, so too has the thirst for low alcohol, fresh, vibrant, domaine bottled, old vine Aligote whites.

Beaujolais, Bouzeron, and their representative grapes are back in fashion and back in demand in a big way, and thankfully for consumers, they are all still, for the time being, properly affordable. So I say… buy, buy, buy!!

Tasting Note: Beautiful nose of liquid minerals, lime zest, alka seltzer and briney sea breeze. Also hints of lemon butter and dried herbs. The palate is tantalisingly fresh, but also concentrated with green fruits, lime peel, wet chalk, crunchy green melon and tart green Granny Smith apples. Such balance and energy. Kind of like a white equivalent of Cru Beaujolais. Just a lovely 12 abv wine from this epic white vintage! (Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)