I don’t drink much Burgundy, but recent NEWTS tastings have included 2 good Volnays; the Maison Roche de Bellene 2009 Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Chenes (~£23) and the superb Domaine Comte Armand 2009 Volnay (~£31).
Last week I had a third Volnay at a friend’s monthly tasting gathering where the Maison François Parent 2006 Volnay 1er Cru Les Frémiets (~£32) was brought out for everyone’s opinion, although we gathered from its introduction that it may not be for the good!
I am always trying to improve my palate and ability to accurately critique a wine, and sometimes the best way to do that is to analyse wines that are faulty or “not quite right” – the François Parent Volnay was an opportunity to do so.
The nose was closed with little fruit but there was already a suggestion of something wrong. While it didn’t come across as classically corked there were similarities on the edges of the smell, enough to raise alarm bells at least. On the palate the wine had a musty, damp quality – there was fruit and tannin, but they were lifeless suggesting something much older and past its best.
A healthy discussion ensued on the possible causes and the group consensus was that it wasn’t a bottle fault but more likely that the fruit had not been in the best condition from the start. This made sense when we learned that the bottle had come from the supplier requesting feedback on its quality and a no-pay guarantee if it didn’t come up to scratch.
A 2006 Burgundy vintage check shows that, after a wet August, mildew and rot were a concern for Pinot Noir, requiring very careful berry selection. Various 2006 reviews laud the white wines but show the reds to be fast evolving, Jancis Robinson wrote of “the occasional telltale metallic taste of rot in some of the less successful reds“. This description mirrors what we found in the Parent Volnay, an experience I’ll add onto the others I’ve picked up along the years that should help me appreciate good wines for what they are – a challenge that shouldn’t be taken for granted!
The superb Domaine Comte Armand 2009 Volnay was presented by Alastair Stewart of Richard Granger Wines in his November tasting of Pinot Noir from around the world.
It had a complex nose with some clove and a touch of barnyard, with violets and pomegranate developing in the glass. Flavours were well balanced with sweet spice and a lovely acid finish, although its tannins were still a bit grippy at the front suggesting it needs a few more years to fully integrate, even though it was drinking very well already.
These two wines show 2009 as a great vintage (which seems to be living up to the hype) and also show Volnay as a style of light, elegant red from the Côte de Beaune worth tasting when given the chance, barring the vagaries of nature and winemaking.