Episode 93 – Robert Rolls 2020 Burgundy En Primeur
19th January 2022
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All prices are in bond per case (3b, 6b or 12b)
While the majority of my 2020 Burgundy En Primeur Notes and Scores are published for Members only (a snip at £60 per year for 5 in-depth Reports – please do sign up because I will never let your palate down), I have decided to publish today’s tasting notes free under my Wednesday Wines banner so everyone in the world can read them gratis.
The notes, in italics, on each estate are written by Robert & Jack Chaddock, while the tasting notes and scores on each wine are my own.
NB – these tasting notes were written in just 2 hours and have not been edited or polished. They are reflections of my immediate reactions to the wines so please forgive any typos and please enjoy my visceral thoughts on this delicious collection of 2020 Burgundies. Please also get in quick – the stocks are very limited.
Domaine Gilles Morat, Vergisson
Harvesting at the end of August, Joëlle told us they were pleased with the quality, feeling the wines to have good balance and freshness. The grapes were in great condition, with thick skins, which in turn have given aromatic wines. This was a very impressive tasting, with each wine showing the quality these vineyards are capable of when treated with care and skill. After the success of 2019 here, 2020 seems to be another good year.
2020 Saint-Véran, Roche Mer £72.00/6 IB
Lovely, ripe, silky-smooth and buoyant, this is a juicy wine and one which is cut through with bright acidity. Drinking now and bargain-priced this should take everyone through the summers of 2022 and 2023 nicely. 16.5/20
2020 Pouilly-Fuissé, 1er Cru Sur La Roche £168.00/6 IB
Ramping up the intensity, the richness and also the oak involvement, this is an indulgent P-F with a heady mid-palate and a cleansing finish and in spite of its layers and presence it, too, could be attacked nice and early, but it will run on longer than the Saint-Véran above. At £28 per bottle in bond, this is a particularly cunning buy given its grand stance and sophisticated fruit. 17.5/20
Domaine Gilles & Nathalie Fèvre, Fontenay-Près-Chablis
This 15-hectare domaine comprises vineyards handed down to Gilles Fèvre, as a member of Chablis’ pre-eminent family. The highly articulate Nathalie is a former winemaker at La Chablisienne. They offer a focussed portfolio of Chablis, three 1er Crus and one Grand Cru, Les Preuses.
2020 Chablis, 1er Cru Fourchaume £120.00/6 IB
Slightly lighter and smoother than the next wine, Fouchaume is into its stride and already offering cooling green apple and crisp pear notes as well as a silky, soothing palate. Drink now and for the next few years. 17/20
2020 Chablis, 1er Cru Mont de Milieu £132.00/6 IB
This is a slimline Chablis with a nervy edge and a lean finish and while it will flesh out a little over the coming six months or so it will always be a keen-edged, raspy style. Bright, citrusy and herbal, this is a seafood and crustacea wine as opposed to a roast chicken candidate. It has enough freshness to hold nicely for a good few years. 17+/20
Maison de la Chapelle, Irancy
An exciting new wine from MdlC, an Aligoté from vineyards around Chablis, two parcels in Chitry, to be precise. 30- and 35-year-old vines growing in Kimmeridge soils. Direct pressed, the given six months in stainless steel on its lees.
2020 Bourgogne Aligoté £66.00/6 IB
With grainy, old-style skin notes and real grip and raspiness on the back palate, this is a time machine of an Aligoté which take me back to the Eighties with its slightly deeper colour and ‘takes no prisoners’ acidity. In spite of this, the fruit is ripe and so the crispness is nicely offset by ripe, smooth fruit. 16.5/20
Domaine Sylvain Langoureau, Saint-Aubin
The Langoureau family continue to offer high quality and great value across their various St Aubin bottlings. Now fully organic, the domaine is worked by hand, vines are pruned to give low yields and grass grows between the rows. In the winery fermentations happen with natural yeasts and new oak is used sparingly – Sylvain and his wife Nathalie want to clearly showcase their various climats, free from invasive flavours. Nathalie told us they didn’t necessarily look for concentration, rather fruit and freshness. They love the style of 2020 – ripe, yet expressive and fresh.
2020 Bourgogne Aligoté £54.00/6 IB
Leaner and more angular than the MdlC wine above, this is a bitingly fresh AliG with lovely cleansing fruit and a tangy finish. A snip at nine quid, this is a decent swop for a Loire Sauvignon, such is the freshness of fruit and attack. Lovely! 16.5/20
2020 Saint-Aubin £90.00/6 IB
Saint-Aubin has become expensive real estate of late and yet this wine is incredibly keenly priced and it lacks nothing in accuracy or precision. The fruit is delicious, demure and yet it manages to retain a razor-sharp finish which keeps it vital and refreshing throughout. Lovely sleek pear flesh fruit notes make for Zen-like drinking and I cannot recommend this wine enough given its rapport qualité prix. 17/20
2020 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru Bas de Vermarain à l’Est £114.00/6 IB
This is a refined wine with more volume of flavour and length than the village label and yet it has a very similar flavour. I am sure that there is more weight and length here but only a hint more and so I would stick to the village and save a few quid! 17/20
2020 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru En Remilly £120.00/6 IB
I think that there is a reason to trade up here! Not least because the fruit is ramped up and the length is tremendous. Still a leaner style (not trying to be a Chassagne) and certainly rather dramatic and crisp, but this is a wine that needs a few years to soften and then you will have a balletic creation with real style. The value, again, is superb. 17.5/20
2020 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru La Garenne £198.00/6 IB
La Garenne is often a tense site and in 2020 it is very much on song with refined fruit, a slippery palate and a much longer finish than any of the others in this portfolio. This is a clean, bright and sonorous style and not a big, oily oaky wine and it is a real breath of fresh air. Once again, the value is terrific! 17.5+/20
Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, Pernand-Vergelesses
This family domaine was established in 1879, and its 20 hectares cover holdings in 6 villages of the Côte de Beaune, including a Monopole within Pernand-Vergelesses. The domaine is now run by Christine Gruère-Dubreuil, one of the leading female winemakers in the Cote D’Or. Christine’s daughter, Clémentine, has recently joined the domaine full time. Christine’s wines are fine-boned, elegant, and delightfully pure. Made traditionally, with new oak used sparingly, they are eloquent interpretations of their sites.
2020 Pernand-Vergelesses £112.00/6 IB
There is more power here and you can actually smell the ‘weight’ of the intensity of fruit and this comes through immediately on the palate. This is a firm, upright wine with a huge amount of energy and minerality and it is quite backward on the finish which is stony and raw. Given time, this inexpensive wine will blossom, but I think you will have to wait two years. When this wine opens I think you will have an accurate P-V with more edge and attitude than hosts of whites made on the southern side of Beaune. 17+/20
2020 Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru Clos Berthet £198.00/6 IB
Much more flamboyant and more to grab onto, too, this is an expressive white with classy fruit and trademark acidity, but this time it gives the impression of immediate balance, which is wrong! Clos Berthet attempts to hoodwink you into thinking it is drinking but, like the wine above, it would love some time to gather its thoughts and grow into its full potential, which is mini-Corton shaped as opposed to P-V-plus! 17.5+/20
Domaine Jean Pascal, Puligny-Montrachet
This 15 ha domaine is now run by Alexandra and Yann Pascal, a husband-and-wife team. They own vines in Puligny, Meursault, Auxey and Volnay. Alexandra told us that whereas 2019 was rich, 2020 was classical, remarkably so, despite the conditions. They enjoyed great weather from March to September, with a little rain here and there. They began harvesting for Crémant on the 17th of August and were all done by the 30th. Their earliest ever harvest. The warm, dry conditions had given healthy grapes with thick skins. Fermentations were trouble-free, and Alexandra feels the wines have a subtle richness, but not at the expense of freshness or tension.
2020 Auxey-Duresses Blanc £126.00/6 IB
There is some decent amplitude of flavour here and it feels like this wine has slight delusions of grandeur (I want to me a Meursault?). Either way, this is a robust wine with considerable structure and lashing of acidity. While this makes it feel big and bold I wonder if something is slightly missing? There is a green hint which runs the length of the spine and I would like it to shake this off before I attack it. Will this happen in time to coincide with the acidity softening? I am not convinced. 16.5+?/20
2020 Puligny-Montrachet £198.00/6 IB
This is a more successful wine with a silhouette that matches its appellation and this makes for more comfortable drinking. Firm, controlled, well-balanced and admirably tense, this is a refined style, without too much oak and it will age incrementally over the foreseeable. I anticipate it will start to open up in 2023. Good stuff. 18+/20
Domaine Florence Cholet, Corcelles les Arts
Florence Cholet is an exciting prospect. Widely travelled, she has worked across France, the US and Australia, and has now returned to tiny Corcelles les Arts to take on her family domaine. She told us that picking date was key in 2020, as she thinks it always is. She doesn’t use much technical analysis, she knows her vineyards, tastes the grapes and looks at the skins when she’s deciding when to harvest. Florence’s whites display the vintage’s character with style and energy – she’s outperforming some big names from her seemingly humble sites.
2020 Puligny-Montrachet £180.00/6 IB
Smooth, juicy, green herb-tinged and creamy, this is a flattering style and it is relatively forward and welcoming but it is not one of the more serious Pulignys in this vintage. If you are after a wine to drink nice and early with some fun to be had from the off, this is it, but see below (and above) for longer-lived propositions. 17/20
Domaine Paul Pernot et Ses Fils, Puligny-Montrachet
Pernot has long maintained that respectable yields encourage wines of extra finesse and expression which is why his 2020’s are a pleasant surprise despite a relatively modest crop. The natural ripeness of the vintage interplays well with a sound acidity and the wines reveal not just an engaging blend of freshness and opulence but also the subtle sense of distinction which sets the wines from this village apart.
2020 Puligny-Montrachet £222.00/6 IB
There is more fruit amplitude and volume here and the flavour is both immediately appealing and also long and impressive, too. With a grippy finish, this wine has good balance already and it seems remarkably fit and tidy, so I wouldn’t be too upset if you cracked on good and early here. But, I have a feeling that this flavour and energy will not lose its gusto for a long time to come. There is more stuffing here and this provides this cuvée with remarkable tenacity on the palate. 18+/20
2020 Meursault-Blagny, 1er Cru La Piece sous le Bois £282.00/6 IB
Blagny seems to be an unusually successful village in 2020 and this wine is a thriller with a rich, ripe engine and also equally impressive acidity underpinning every molecule of flavour. It needs time not least because the finish is a little raw and hard, but there is a lot of fun to be had here when this acidity subsides and the fruit is given permission to billow. Do bear in mind that this is a Blagny, and so you can be assured of latent power just under the fleshy surface that will enable this wine to attack full-bore main courses with ease. 18+/20
2020 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Folatières £336.00/6 IB
Folatières is succulent, ever so slightly exotic and it even hints at exoticism in 2020 and yet I think I prefer the Blagny! I am seduced by the proportions found here and I am certain that everyone will feel the same way, but it is not quite as detailed nor as interesting as the Blagny, so I will give it the same score even though many will be seduced by the obvious glamour! 18+/20
Domaine Michel Niellon, Chassagne-Montrachet
While 2020 was a hot year a little rain in early August helped, and it was an easy season with no huge problems. The harvest brought very healthy grapes; the skins were exceptional. When I commented on the beautiful colour of their 2020 wines, Marlène said that picking date was all-important; if grapes were picked too ripe, the colour would be flat. All in all, 2020 gave the domaine good volumes and the pH of the wines was correct.
2020 Chassagne-Montrachet £432.00/12 IB
There is no point mincing my words here – the nose on this wine is beautiful! It stopped me in my tracks and brought flashbacks of joy. This is a pinpoint accurate Chassagne and it is also a benchmark Niellon wine and these twin traits make it a cracker in 2020. Erring on the side of generosity and also showing rather flattering approachability already, this is a delicious wine 18/20
2020 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Clos de la Maltroie £594.00/12 IB
You can ratchet up the drama a few notches here and then add a few degrees more tension over the village creation and you have a model Maltroie. In the greater scheme of things, this is only a fifty quid wine from a rock star estate and you would be a fool if you didn’t race to secure some stock. Drinking from 2024 for a further eight-ten years this is a thoroughbred beauty. 18.5+/20
2020 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jean £612.00/12 IB
Identical to the Maltroie in shape, size and potential and while the flavour is ever so slightly more backward, this is another beautiful wine and it is on tiptop form in 2020. 18.5+/20
Domaine Buisson Battault, Meursault
Francois Buisson gives his wines 12 months in barrel, around 20% new, before moving them to tank along with their fine lees for at least six months. He doesn’t use bâtonnage after fermentation, preferring the slow enrichment that comes with extended lees contact. His wines balance Meursault’s classic richness with taut, zippy acidity and a poised minerality.
2019 Meursault, Le Limozin £180.00/6 IB
This is a fleetingly chubby wine with a round middle bookended by tart acidity. It is a jolly, clean, accurate Meursault and the fruit is as expected but it is rather simple and rather obvious a while it will drink well for five or six years it won’t challenge the senses. 17/20
2019 Meursault, 1er Cru Les Charmes £258.00/6 IB
This is another wine that does exactly what the label says, but not much more. The fruit is bold and ripe and undoubtedly charming but it parks up a little short and I cannot see a lot of complexity behind the façade. Like the wine above, it will work well but not interrupt the conversation. 17.5/20
2019 Meursault, 1er Cru Le Porusots £258.00/6 IB
Ditto the wine above. Nice, ripe, fleshy and bold, there is a decent structure here and a little more concentration and potential over Les Charmes, but it is not as refined nor as elegant as many of the preceding wines. 17.5+/20
Domaine Florence Cholet, Corcelles les Arts
Florence doesn’t look for deep colour when she’s making her reds – she values freshness and perfume. Her St Romain, from the south-facing Sous la Velle vineyard, epitomises this style.
2020 Saint-Romain Rouge £96.00/6 IB
Spicy and slightly resinous on the nose, there is a lot of fruit here but it is marked by a few wilder elements that take away from the purity. The finish is dry and a little short and I cannot see it fleshing out much, so I am not getting too excited about the potential here. 16/20
2020 Auxey-Duresses, 1er Cru Les Ecussaux £126.00/6 IB
There is a purer and more fruit-focused feel here, but I am not over-enamoured by the oak imprint which is a touch varnishy. This will inevitably be a more successful wine than the above, but it will always have a rawness to it. 16+/20
Maison de la Chapelle, Irancy
Grégory Viennois is the technical director of Chablis Laroche where he is responsible for producing over a million bottles of white wine a year. Maison de la Chapelle is his passion project. Here, working with his wife Delphine, he makes a little under 12,000 bottles of red from two garages in his garden, doing everything by hand.
2020 Irancy £81.00/6 IB
There is a Cabernet Franc freshness to the nose which gives this wine a green/stemmy halo which I adore. Underneath there is Pinot intensity and on the finish a more agricultural, earthy and which anchors this flavour to the soil. Vital, engaging and elemental, this wine is not for the faint-hearted but I like its honesty and passion. Give it two years to level out. 16.5+/20
2020 Irancy, Les Beaux Monts £114.00/6 IB
Take the framework of the wine above and inject mulberry fruit and black cherry stone freshness. This is a revelation and a wine of uncommon deliciousness and uniqueness. I would urge everyone to pick up a six-pack for fun and then you will experience one of the most expressive Irancys I have ever tasted! 17.5/20
2020 Irancy, Les Bâtardes £120.00/6 IB
This cuvée pushes the model a little too far in my opinion and the earth and stem notes overtake the fruit. One for purists I suspect, but it is good fun, daring and opinionated and these are critical qualities when one is endeavouring to make memorable wine. 17+?/20
Domaine Tupinier-Bautista, Mercurey
Manu says he is working to find the elegance in Mercurey. Fruit is no problem, but he wants restraint. He uses a long cold soak and starts his fermentations slowly. He uses remontage, pumping over, rather than the more aggressive Pigeage, punching down – a disaster according to Manu when applied to Mercurey grapes. ‘Pinot must be fresh, it’s not syrah! I love elegance and finesse, like Chambolle-Musigny’.
2020 Bourgogne Rouge £69.00/6 IB
Nice and even and certainly ripe and round, this is a decent, standard-bearer for this estate, but it doesn’t quite fire me up. 16/20
2020 Mercurey, Vieilles Vignes £90.00/6 IB
Nice and accurate and with lovely freshness of attack this is a modern Mercurey with a smooth palate and none of the earthiness or grip (or oak) of older-style wines. I imagine that restaurateurs will snap this wine up because it gives you a lot of joy without waiting too long for it to come around! 16.5/20
2020 Mercurey, Clos de Touches £99.00/6 IB
Now we are getting into the meat of the Domaine and the fruit is a little more amplified and the finish is a little longer and more rewarding. It is worth trading up to this wine if you are not intending to drink the wine for a couple of years. 17/20
2020 Mercurey, 1er Cru En Sazenay £126.00/6 IB
There is a marked change of pace when you step up to this wine and it is backward, closed and more elegant, too. The tannins are certainly bright and lively and the fruit is languid and blackberry-tinged, but much of the action is still under wraps and so you must be patient here. 17+/20
2020 Mercurey, 1er Cru Les Vellées £132.00/6 IB
And this is the pick of the bunch. There is an extra wave of flavour here which bring a greater degree of harmony to the whole. This is clearly an estate to watch in Mercurey and if you are on the hunt for honest and accurate red Burgundy that doesn’t cost the earth then you ought to give these guys a whirl. 17.5+/20
Domaine Rodolphe Demougeot, Meursault
Rodolphe largely built his domaine himself, from a few plots inherited from his family to the 10ha he works today. Over time he stopped using chemicals and began to work in an old fashioned, manual way, using a horse to plough some of his vineyards. He now works organically and uses the biodynamic calendar to inform his decisions. He specialises in single vineyard wines, carefully choosing sites that have a distinctive character. His winemaking is designed to let each vineyard shine, and a tasting here is always a dive into terroir. A talented winemaker, his wines show complex aromatics that range through fruit, flowers, and minerals. These are, in my mind, the mark of fine Pinot Noir.
2019 Savigny-lès-Beaune, Les Bourgeots £114.00/6 IB
Primary fruit notes and floral tones lead the way here and there is a whoosh of action and then it fades away as quickly as it arrived. Nice, ephemeral and fleetingly enchanting but that’s about it. It is worth pointing out that this is a nicely perfumed experience even though it is rather brief. 16.5/20
2019 Monthélie, La Combe Danay £114.00/6 IB
There is a little more depth and bite here with an earthier finish and a slightly darker hue but, again, this is not a particularly serious wine and it will do the job and little more. 16.5/20
2019 Pommard £168.00/6 IB
Again, the boxes are ticked, the fruit is open and friendly and yet there is little depth to be found. I would love some structure behind the bright, juicy fruit and the finish is just a little lightweight and unconvincing. 16.5/20
2019 Pommard, Les Vignots £204.00/6 IB
At last a little more flesh and substance here, but only a modicum more to discover. I am a little underwhelmed by the style of wine here and while the primary flavours are all bright and correct I cannot sense any real passion and conviction. 17/20
2019 Pommard, 1er Cru Charmots Le Coeur des Dames £230.00/6 IB
Try as I might, and I can assure you I have searched hard in these wines, but I cannot find much more depth here and while this is a ‘bigger’ wine than the others and there is a little tannin here, I cannot get excited about this style. 17+/20
Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, Pernand-Vergelesses
The reds at Dubreuil-Fontaine showcase Christine’s light touch, elegant approach to winemaking. Her mineral, perfumed Pernand-Vergelesses Ile de Vergelesses is a great example of this vineyard, one of the unsung greats of the Cote de Beaune. Don’t miss the Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru – from the very heart of Corton and set to age brilliantly in 2020.
2020 Pernand-Vergelesses £105.00/6 IB
This is a rather gruff wine with a large amount of up-front noise and little elegance to follow it up. The fruit is solid and blocky and I cannot see it softening much given time. 16?/20
2020 Volnay £162.00/6 IB
This is a much more exciting wine but it is jolly backward and sinewy and while the fruit is here, there is serious tension and it will require five or more years to senesce. I am sure that it will fall into line though, so stick with this wine. 17+/20
2020 Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru Ile des Vergelesses £186.00/6 IB
With more depth still and a lovely balance, too, this is a bigger-boned PV and one that has lashings of drying tannin and this will need patience and self-control. I am certain it will work, but this will, like the Volnay, need at least five years to show any signs of smoothing out. 17.5+/20
2020 Corton-Clos du Roi, Grand Cru £336.00/6 IB
This is a very indulgent wine and it is another Corton rouge that seems to have benefitted from this vintage (I have seen a lot of success in Corton and Aloxe in 2020). The fruit is rich and layered and there is a velvetiness here that I find very exciting. In among the ripe fruit, there is plenty of artefact and detail, too, which will surface in five or more years. 18+/20
Domaine Joseph Voillot, Volnay
A pleasure to be showing these at our annual Burgfest for the first time! Our second vintage working with Étienne Chaix at Domaine Voillot, though Robert shipped from his grandfather in the 1980s. Harvest began on the 22nd of August, one day before 2003, and their earliest ever. Etienne felt that the hot, dry start to August, when the vines ripening slowed almost to a standstill, was essential as it allowed tartaric acidity to be retained. In turn, this has given the wines extra freshness despite the ripe year, and in turn better balance and longevity. Yields were around 10-20% down.
2020 Bourgogne Rouge, Vieilles Vignes £102.00/6 IB
This is a nicely perfumed wine but it lacks a little stuffing and this gives it a slightly sinewy feel that is unlikely to flesh out. 15.5?/20
2020 Volnay, Vieilles Vignes £180.00/6 IB
This is lovely with heady perfume, a slightly more slender palate than I would love, but it is an elegant style and the acidity and tannin are fit and proud and they will guard this wine for the future. Nice and floral, this is a very pretty wine. 17+/20
2020 Volnay, 1er Cru Les Fremiets £276.00/6 IB
Les Fremiets has the depth I was hoping for in the VV and perhaps I was hoping for too much too soon! Delicious and rather grand this is a wine for the patient collector, but it will be suitably delicious given time. 17.5+/20
2020 Volnay, 1er Cru Les Champans £276.00/6 IB
This is a more exotic creature and it is more expressive and wild, too. Again the tannins are tough and raw, but they will work a treat given time! 17.5+/20
Notes on my scores – I have attached my scores out of 20 for every wine. In addition to this, I have included my score conversion chart for those of you who are into medals, stars or 100-point scores. If a score has no ‘+’, this indicates a wine that is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm. One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.