Domaine de Bellene New Arrivals 2017
The key takeaway for readers is that when the 2017s are good, they are very good (even sometimes great) and entirely classic in style. BURGHOUND
The phrase that came to my mind many times while I was tasting was 'true to type' for it's a vintage that has produced fragrant, finely structured wines that are likely to be ready to drink earlier than the 2016s but have the balance and the depth to age well, certainly over the medium term...I would agree with Cécile Tremblay that it may not be the vintage of the century but clearly a lot of hard work has resulted in wines I want to drink, now and in the future. Aromatic, fine-boned and true to type. JULIA HARDING, www.jancisrobinson.com
As many of our long-standing devotees of the wines from Nicolas Potel's Domaine de Bellene will know, this year we decided to split our offering between the great value regional wines (Bourgogne Rouge, Cotes de Nuits Village and St Romain Blanc) and the higher-up--the-hierarchy brothers. The latter are bottled later, and we have long thought benefit from a little extra time in bottle before release. I know that at the time we released the "regionals" many of you were looking to stake a claim for your usual favourites from higher up the hierarchy. Well, here's your chance! Next week we land the remainder of our annual allocation from Bellene and all the big guns are on show.
Our visit this year was the most instructive and impressive that I have done in many years of visiting with Nicolas. He was clearly buoyed by the twin fortunes of the high quality of the wines and the fact he had returned to something like a normal year quantity-wise - no doubt a massive relief having lost over 40% of his crop in the 2016 frosts - in some plots no wine was made at all.
As ever, the emphasis is always on learning and tweaking at Bellene. Potel is forever playing at the margins with things like oak usage (moving to larger vessels), vineyard management changes (he sees changed canopy architecture as essential as warmer vintages become the norm) and the use pigeage and stems in a given vintage. There is never a dull moment and it is always a place you must be on point to absorb and process the enormous amount of information being given. The key take-way is that he views his craft as something that is continually being learned and relearned based on his own expanding views and the vicissitudes of the vintage.
Of course, as many of you will know the key tenets of the Domaine are old vines (nothing under 40 years and the oldest being Greves planted in 1904), massale selection for replanting, vineyard management is organic and fermentation takes place in the dark without sound to preserve the anthocyanins. There are no tricks here - his wines are what the vintage gives you: no additions, winemaking is simple and any real variations revolve around the use of pigeage (plunging the cap) and the use of stems/whole bunch in the various crus.
In our three hour visit we tasted through the range of 2018s in barrel and 2017s that had recently been bottled. The 2017s is an intriguing set of wines and reflect both the supple approachability of the vintage with lovely site transparency. It's a deadly combination. Tannin presence is higher in a few of the wines due to differing regimes of stem use and pigeage. My impression was that the tannin profiles have been handled well and along fruit weight lines, meaning a little more for more deeply pitched fruit.
Our favourites were the stunning Beaune Cuvee Cinquantiere (a blend of 6 premier crus Beaune plots), Volnay is as ever a textbook example of the lace, cherry, and mineral of the commune, Quartiers de Nuits which is in all but name a 1er Cru Vosne sandwiched as it is between Echezeaux and Clos de Vougeot - supple, sexy and Asian spiced. Finally, the under-the-radar star of the range is the Nuits St Georges VV. It holds its cards pretty close to the chest and it's only once you've collected these wines for a few years do you understand just how good this wine is. It's dense, dark cherry, rock, compressed and slightly rustic power is beautifully uncompromising.
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