In Bourgogne: Domaine des Terres de Velle
This is a domaine that started from scratch in 2009. Sophie and Fabrice Laronze were Burgundian, but not from winegrowing families. They found a domaine for sale in Auxey-Duresses that was in bad shape, but had the potential for producing high quality. It was 6 hectares, with lots of 40-50 year old vines. With the help of an investor, they bought the vineyards and also a home/winery.
These 6 hectares are spread over 25 different plots and cover 14 appellations. Such is the way in Bourgogne! These vineyards are 60% white, and are in the Côte de Beaune only. The same investor has just bought another estate so soon they will have a plot of Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru to play with. Production is currently 30 000 bottles.
Fabrice learned winemaking through working with American négociant Alex Gambal. They met in 1999 and Gambal hired him to be winemaker. At the time, Gambal was buying wines; Fabrice oversaw the transition to buying grapes and making the wine, as well as started overseeing the elevage.
Sophie began working with Albert Bichot, and then moved to become export manager for Tonnellerie de Mercurey, one of the region’s top cooperages. In 2004 she joined Fabrice working at Gambal as market manager for Europe.
When they began their initial efforts were spent on the vineyards, and the first step was to stop using herbicides and insecticides. They currently only spray against fungal disease and try just to use copper and sulfur, although they are not organically certified.
Sophie took me to see two vineyards. The first was a plot of the new (2017) appellation of Bourgogne Côte d’Or, which is a Bourgogne-plus regional appellation for red and white still wines produced within the 40 villages in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. Their plot is close to the village of Meursault, and on one side the neighbouring vines are village Meursault, and then just over the road they are village Puligny-Montrachet.
When they took over this plot they shifted from herbicide to cultivation. ‘The challenge with these old vines is that when we started ploughing the roots were very superficial,’ says Sophie, ‘and we had a lot of vines dying the first year.’ So they decided to cut the roots in the middle of the rows and only gradually plough close to the vines. ‘Each year we would come closer to the vines and it would be better, but it took us 3-4 years to reach what we have now.’ The vines are now looking very good.
The second stop was to see their holdings in Auxey Duress. These sloping vineyards have some amazing soils.
Domaine des Terres de Velle Les Bulles NV Cremant de Bourgogne
60% Aligote, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, traditional method, 2.7 g/l dosage. Based on 2015. Focused and concentrated with a bit of toast and spice, as well as some pear and citrus fruit. Lovely depth to this wine: structured with a hint of cherry, as well as some linear citrus fruit. Has really nice depth and freshness. This is really good. 91/100
Domaine des Terres de Velle Bourgogne Côte d’Or Chardonnay 2017
10% new oak. Meursault and Puligny grapes go into this Chardonnay. Powerful and lively with nice citrus fruit and a bit of peachy richness. Nice depth here with a mealy, spicy edge. This has a lot of flavour and depth for the appellation. Nice mineral core. Lovely wine. 92/100
Domaine des Terres de Velle Monthélie Les Sous-Roches 2017
‘Under the rocks’, a very steep vineyard with lots of limestone. It’s ideal for Chardonnay. This is 25 year old vines. Mealy, tight and lemony with lovely acidity. Has concentration but also freshness and delicacy. Very expressive with hints of almonds and honey, and a fresh, tight, mineral core. 94/100
Domaine des Terres de Velle Bourgogne Côte d’Or Pinot Noir 2017
Two plots: one in the plain of Volnay, and the other in the plain of Puligny Montrachet. Very floral red cherry and raspberry nose. Not too extracted: there’s a savoury edge to the fresh cherry fruit with some grippy tannin. Lighter style, with some tannin. 89/100
Domaine des Terres de Velle Auxey-Duresses Les Closeaux 2017
The block we visited on the cold NE facing side of the village. They try to keep the fruit fresh in this. There’s a lot of limestone in the soil bringing lots of structure so they don’t want to extract too much. This has nice freshness and acidity, with a slight grainy, chalky edge to the rounded sweet cherry and plum fruit. Good maturity but also some freshness. Lovely balance here. Finishes tight and a bit herbal. 92/100
Domaine des Terres de Velle Volnay En Blanches 2017
On top of the hill in Volnay, above Clos de Chene. Lots of limestone in the soil: white stones. Floral, lively nose with nervy red cherry fruit. Supple and elegant on the palate with fresh red cherries and plums, as well as some nice structure and good acidity. Has a brightness and good tannin, but also a lightness from the low extraction approach. Potential for development. 94/100
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