I remember the wines of Pousse d’Or from the early nineties as being among the most elegant in Volnay, with an indefinably delicate expression of Pinot Noir. Then with Gérard Potel’s death in 1997 the domain somewhat fell out of view. A visit this week explained the history and demonstrated its return to full form.
Patrick Landanger, who had been an engineer and inventor, bought the domain in 1997, and started by employing a régisseur (general manager). But it was very difficult to sell the 1998 vintage: many of the contacts with clients had been personal, and there wasn’t much confidence after Gérard Potel’s death. “Patrick was told that if he wanted to regain confidence he would need to make the wine himself. So he went to oenology school… The first vintage he made was 1999, which was well received,” explains commercial manager Marleen Nicot.
There’s been major investment here in a new building that houses a gravity-fed winery. It’s built into the side of the hill, with three levels to allow berries to come in at the top, go down into the barrels, and then down again for bottling. “We are happy to have the slope of Volnay here and to able to the work by gravity,” says Marleen.
Production is focused on red wine. There are 17 ha today, which is significantly more than in 1997, but the only white wine comes from a vineyard that was purchased in Puligny Montrachet. The heart of the domain remains the premier crus from Volnay, but Patrick has extended the domain first farther north on the Côte de Beaune with two vineyards in Corton, and then into Chambolle Musigny with some village wine and four premier crus. If Volnay is the most elegant appellation of the Côte de Beaune, Chambolle is its counterpart on the Côte de Nuits, but you don’t often get the chance to compare wines from these two appellations coming from the same winemaker.
Patrick has not stopped inventing. All the barrels of red wine have a glass structure on top that looks like a decanter. Called a ouilleur (from ouillage, which means topping-up), it’s a device that keeps the barrel completely full. A polythene top with holes and a flap allows gas be expelled, but air cannot enter. So the head space above the wine is filled by carbon dioxide that is released naturally from the wine. It means that opening the bung for topping up is required less often. You can also see whether malolactic fermentation is proceeding without needing to open the bung.
For all the premier crus there is one third new oak, one third one-year, and one third two-year; grand Crus have 40-45% new oak. Larger barrels (350 liter) are used for the white wine – Patrick prefers to reduce the oak surface – and oxidation will be lower. (I wonder if that will help to avoid premox). Ouilleurs are not used for the whites because of the need for battonage.
The ouilleur reduces the need for topping up
We tasted the 2013s from barrique. The name of the Volnay Bousse d’Or reflects the refusal of the authorities to allow the same name to be used for both the domain and a premier cru, and the wine gives a precise, yet intense impression that will be very Volnay-ish as it develops. Two more premier crus from Volnay are in the same general style. Clos des 60 Ouvrées has a bit more punch and structure, but is less generous at this stage. People who like wines younger generally prefer Bousse d’Or; those who prefer to wait may prefer 60 Ouvrées. Clos d’Auvignac is concentrated and structured. The Chambolle Musigny’s seem a little rounder, a little more feminine, rising from the village wine with fruits that are lighter than the Volnays, to the premier cru Charmes, which is more restrained but promises to move in the direction of finesse and silkiness, to Les Amoureuses, which adds a touch of spice and a glossy sheen; then moving to the grand cru Bonnes Mares there’s just a bit more roundness and power, that indefinable difference that marks the grand cru. The 2013s have been successful here, and my two favorites of the moment are Bousse d’Or and Amoureuses, but in the future it would make a fascinating blind tasting to compare the exression of terroirs in the premier crus from Volnay and Chambolle Musigny as they mature.