Domaine de Bellene 2019 The Top Crus

Readers should scan Potel's 2019s carefully because there is a cluster of excellent wines from some of the regions finest appellations, but also many that I suspect will represent great value...

I detected a shift in style with the reds that I found imbued with more finesse and more terroir expression than I expected, a positive progression and asked Potel about recent changes. "We changed things from 2017. The tanks are now closed, and we do less pigeage. We no longer use pumps and use buckets instead and also practice longer fermentations. I like the tannins to be softer at the end". This revised modus operandi has yielded some real gems...NEIL MARTIN, www.vinousmedia.com

One of the highlights of my tasting tour was visiting Nicolas Potel at his winery with its beautiful old stone barrel cellar at ground floor level. JASPER MORRIS, www.insideburgundy.com 2021

On the vintage:
So, as with every vintage, the two questions for readers that take precedence over everything else always are: should you buy the 2019s and if so, how much of them? The best wines are definitely ripe but with a really lovely freshness and underlying tension that makes the palate impression particularly inviting and when allied with very fine terroir transparency, you have a potently seductive combination. Moreover, the finest examples flash an exquisite acid/fruit/tannin balance that makes them sing in the sense that you just can’t help but take another sip.

So the short answer to the first of the two questions posed above is, yes, I believe that the 2019s belong in any serious Burgundy collector’s cellar; indeed I believe that it would be a significant mistake to pass on them.

If I had to choose just one vintage with which to compare 2019, I would have to go way back in time to 1966 or even 1949. Full disclosure – I was not around to taste either of these vintages when they were young, so I don’t wish to speak outside of my direct experience but in terms of style, refinement and completeness, the 2019s make me think of these two. BURGHOUND

Welcome to our annual special offer for Domaine de Bellene's brilliant newly arrived 2019 Burgundies.

One of my last visits in Europe, on the cusp of the worldwide lockdown, was with Nicolas Potel at his beautiful Domaine just outside the road that rings central Beaune. The 2019s were the focus and I have to say, they were a lovely set of wines. Despite a warm year, Potel has done a masterful job of grabbing the ripeness without the burn. What's more, the level of detail in the crus is especially noteworthy and emblematic of his evolution to a new more refined style (more of that below).

As always when visiting with Nicolas, the conversation traverses the gamut of topics including the wines in the glass, climate change, his changing style and his plans for his children to take over the domaine under daughter Antonia. It's a funny thing to see the once tearaway Potel settling down a little. His evolution from his family's Domaine de la Pousse d'Or via the rollercoaster of his first micro-negoce business to now arrive at his 22 hectare domaine, has at times been a wild ride. These days, as reviewer Neal Martin observed in his report for vinousmedia.com, he is a "changed man". Calmer, more inward and contemplative about the future. It's a good change!

As I alluded to above and have reported over the last couple of years, the big story at this domaine is that Potel has made some fundamental changes to vinification which has resulted in more immediate and pliant textures. He and I first spoke about this after the 2015 vintage showed him that warm vintages were to be the rule in Burgundy, not the exception. As such, alongside vineyard and picking regimes the extraction of tannin needed to change, becoming gentler to allow more detail to emerge from the wines. The change has been palpable and while the essential earthy and vinous nature of the Potel style has been retained, there's a sense of lightness on the back end that conveys more terroir detail and a less dour persona. It is particularly noteworthy for the cru bottlings listed here where the personalities of the vineyards is even more in focus than in the past.

In terms of the 2019s, Potel employed two huge picking teams once he saw the vintage peaking early and to maintain freshness he would need to narrow the window by weeks in order avoid excessive alcohols and retain definition in the wines. Incidentally, worth mentioning again that Bellene's vineyards are farmed biodynamically or organically and average vine age is 65 years with the oldest vines being 118 years old in Beaune Greves. Once in the cave, all crus were fermented with 100% whole bunch. and elevage lasted until bottling in late 2020.

The 2019s are a beautiful set of releases and I recommend them to you highly.