So much has been written on or about the iconic domaines and wines of Burgundy making it so much more satisfying coming across a top drawer producer that I have not encountered before. Discovering the incredible wines of Bruno Desaunay-Bissey and unravelling the story behind this family domaine has been a great pleasure. These are wines with wonderful focus and purity of fruit, carefully considered extraction, impressively creamy concentration and an understated power all polished off into a final artisanal expression in bottle that shows an authenticity of style that represents Bruno’s own personal taste and passion for wine.
Together with his wife, Marie-Christine Bissey and his son, Bruno manages this small family domaine based in Flagey-Echezeaux that consists of 6 hectares, some of which is owned by the family, including prestigious old vine plots in Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, with additional plots farmed on a “fermage” basis. A fermage is a piece of land which is owned by someone other than the person cultivating it, or a farming tenancy in effect. It is estimated that in 2010, two-thirds of all French agricultural land was tenant-farmed. Because vineyard land tends to inspire affection in the families who own it, even when they have become involved in other activities, fermages are very common in French wine regions even though this may not necessarily be identified on the producer’s wine labels.
With first vintages produced in 1975, it seems almost inconceivable that wines of this quality have managed to enter the market almost unnoticed, especially considering the current clamour and fervour of wine merchants to discover “the next big thing” in Burgundy. Over the years, some of the production was sold off to other domaines and as recently as the mid-1990’s, several of Bruno’s valuable barrels of Grands Echezeaux were being sold to illustrious names like Dominique Laurent. The Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru appellation takes the shape of a triangle with its northern point orientated towards Musigny, its eastern flank bordered by the Clos Vougeot Grand Cru and its western flank by Echezeaux Grand Cru. The Desaunay-Bissey old vine parcel, planted from 1928 onwards, is located on the point of this triangle.
Since 2007 Bruno uses no herbicides or pesticides and all the soil is tilled. Bruno’s winemaking is very terroir-expressive, doing short pre-fermentation macerations, using only indigenous yeasts and crucially, not too much extraction. Barrel-aging is on average about 33% new except for the Grands Cru reds where a slightly higher percentage is used. Since the early 1990s, the wines are neither fined nor filtered. Bruno’s wines are normally only racked twice, once after malolactic fermentations and once before the assemblage.
Bruno cultivates, together with his father-in law, Daniel Bissey, several other parcels of very old vines situated in Vosne (some 80+ years), Echezeaux (some 110+ years) Grands-Echezeaux (70+ years), Chambolle (90+ years) and Nuits St. Georges (60+ years).
Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes 2018, 14.5 Abv.
This ‘entry level’ Bourgogne appellation Pinot Noir displays some of the most seductive exotic notes of purple flowers, pink musk, blueberry and black cherries showing where the old vines start to make their influence felt. On the palate there is focus and tension, powdery tannins and fine textural shape all framed beautifully by bright fresh acids. A delicious offering with intensity and blue and black berry length, hints of wild strawberry and a beautiful saline bite on the finish. This really punches above its weight. Drink now to 2028+.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Gevrey-Chambertin 2018, 14% Abv.
Deep and alluring, this Gevrey shows an impressively broody depth of black currant, blueberries and a savoury, brambley, meaty complexity with a kiss of graphite spice. Pure and expressive, there is impressive concentration and focus on the palate with Parma violets, caramelised cherries, blueberry crumble and some attractive chalky limestone mineral grip on the finish. Vibrant, energetic and textually very polished, this should evolve beautifully over a few more years in bottle but it’s already so mouth-watering and delicious. Archetypal premium quality village Gevrey. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Chambolle-Musigny Combe d’Orveaux Vieilles Vignes 2018, 14% Abv.
This famous Chambolle plot yields a richer, earthier expression with a wonderful overlay of perfumed dried flowers, potpourri and subtle savoury Chinese five spice hints. Laser like focus on the palate, the wine shows a potent intensity of red and black berry fruits, mouth-coating richness and a long, liquid minerality on the finish. A very pretty wine that displays impressive powerful and tension behind a classy, elegant demeanour. Drink from 2022 to 2035+.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Vosne Romanee Vieilles Vignes 2018, 13.5% Abv.
Initially this displays a deep, earthy, broody dark fruited aromatics with bramble berry, black currant and layers of savoury Vosne spice. With a little more coaxing, this wine starts to yield notes of pink musk, violets and blueberry hints which follow to a wonderfully chiselled, focused, tight knit palate with incredibly chalky, fleshy sweet tannins. Again, plenty of concentration, blue and back berry fruits, purple rock candy and all the textural power and drive that you could hope for from a top Vosne Romanee producer. Despite being perhaps a little less intricate and exotic, this wine’s power, concentration and pure focus are alone enough to bowl me over and make me contemplate pouring a second glassful. Absolutely delicious. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux-Monts 2018, 14% Abv.
Sourced from an 80+ year old vines, this wine shows pure class and allows its pedigree to shine through in this serious expression of Vosne Romanee. One of the most respected 1er Cru vineyards delivers quality in bucket loads in 2018 with even more perfume, lift and intricacy than the village wine. The aromatics display a splendid array of crunchy wild strawberries, red and black cherries, subtle dried herbs and alluring Vosne spice. The palate reveals incredible depth and breath with piercing mouth-watering concentration, fine-grained tannins like polished marble and a tart, bright maritime salinity on the finish that retains a seductive kiss of pink rock candy. This is a very serious effort indeed. An utterly seductive Pinot. Drink from 2022 to 2038+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Echezeaux Grand Cru 2018, 14% Abv.
Made from old vines planted in 1902, 1940 and 1945, this Grand Cru red shows a more reticent and broody demeanour to begin with before revealing a complex melange of red and black berry fruits on the nose, seamlessly integrated oak and a subtle freshly tilled earth savoury note. Broad, suave and texturally plush, this is a wine to savour, to lose yourself in and to allow the more intricate finery to reveal itself slowly over time in the glass. The texture is dense, compact, almost creamy, with powder fine tannins, layers of bright blueberry, cassis and Fraises des Bois notes that linger for an age on the finish. Grand Cru Burgundy is not just about more volume, it’s about intricacy and complexity of rhythm, more drum, more base and an altogether more melodic crescendo. Drink from 2022 to 2038+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru 2018, 14% Abv.
There is plenty of fragrant intricacy and complexity evident on this big hitting Grand Cru all delivered with the most considered delicacy, complexity and subtlety. The wine shows notes of rose petals, violets, pink musk and perfumed red and black orchard fruits underpinned by a grounding of chalky, stony minerality. The palate displays a broad seductive rainbow of flavours starting with tart red berry fruits and strawberry pith before fading to more darker blue and black berry fruit notes. But it’s the tension, taut energy, stony minerality, focus and length of flavour that really makes this a real eye opener. Quality comes at a price and this is certainly worthy of top echelon Grand Cru Burgundy status. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available in the UK from Importer Wimbledon Wine Cellar London and Handford Wines.