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Our recent visit to Burgundy reminded us of how much we like the old-school wines of Domaine Stéphane Magnien in Morey-Saint-Denis and Domaine Jean and Gilles Lafouge in Auxey-Duresses. Both estates work well in the vines, and practice old-fashioned vinifications, producing lovely un-forced and elegant Burgundies. Prices here remain reasonable and give wise consumers the chance to enjoy beautiful wines of terroir at a modest cost. We have just received the last of the wonderful 2015s from both estates - they show the style of this excellent, rather warm vintage but remain balanced and ageworthy while the relatively forward fruit makes them superbly enjoyable as young wines.
Stéphane Magnien is the fourth generation in his family at this four hectare estate in Morey Saint-Denis. The domain has never used herbicides, doing a deep plowing to aerate the soil each winter and uses only organic composts. There is a high percentage of old vines, including a great deal of "Pinot Tordu," a small-berried, aromatic old clone of Pinot. Minimal new oak is used, about 15% for the premier and grand cru wines, and the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Hand harvesting, of course, and long, wild-yeast fermentations. Bargain hunters should note the 2015 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain "Cuvée Densité" at only $16.99! Made from old vines of Pinot Noir and Gamay, the 2015 is particularly delicious, as Eric Asimov noted in his "20 Under $20" article in the NY Times last September. (this is the last vintage for the "Cuvée Densité" so don't miss it) Of course we always love Stéphane's "village" Morey-Saint-Denis and the 1er Cru "Les Faconnières is particularly wonderful in 2015!
From Jean and Gilles Lafouge in Auxey-Duresses, we have received more of their wonderful whites from Auxey-Duresses and Meursault, premier cru and village reds from Auxey-Duresses and just a few cases of their rare old vine Pommard 1er Cru Chanlins. There is excellent vineyard work here, in the process to becoming organic, with very short pruning and no green harvest. Hand-harvesting and wild-yeast fermentations of course, about 25% new oak, minimal batonnage for the whites and natural clarifications. Our tasting with Gilles Lafouge last January was fantastic, with the wines showing beautiful balance, even in this ripe vintage - as they did in 2009, due to the cooler vineyards in the "combe" of Auxey-Duresses. A particular standout and superb value is the "village" Auxey-Duresses - it shows pretty aromatics with lovely ripeness and balance on the palate - it's delicious now and will drink nicely over the next eight to ten years. The tiny productions of Meursault "les Casses Têtes" and Pommard 1er Cru "les Chanlins" are not to be missed and we always enjoy the Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru "la Chapelle" which drinks beautifully as a young wine and ages nicely as well.
This is a delicious Bourgogne Passetoutgrain from the young and very capable Stéphane Magnien, whose great vineyard work and un-forced vinifications are producing superb, elegant Burgundies. The 2015 Cuvée Densité is from old vines of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Gamay and gets a longer élevage than his "regular" Passetoutgrain. This is a lovely and affordable Burgundy that shows deep aromas of cherry and blackberry with earth and citrus notes. The palate shows a potpourri of berry fruits with impressive length, finishing with juicy acidity and mineral flavors. Drinking beautifully now, and over the next few years - buy a case and make this your "everyday" Burgundy. (Featured in the NY Times "20 Under $20" of 9/21/17) David Lillie
The young and very talented Stéphane Magnien is producing delicious, old fashioned Burgundies from his beautifully tended vineyards in and around Morey-Saint-Denis. The estate has never used herbicides and uses a plowing regimen designed to force the roots deeper into the limestone bedrock. The "village" wine is always one of my favorite recommendations in Burgundy due to its elegance, balance, lovely fruit and great value. The 2015 is particularly beautiful, showing a bit more depth and ripeness than the excellent 2014, with aromas of blackberry and strawberry liqueur, violet, brown spice, orange peel, smoke and earth. The palate is dense, but not over-ripe, with earthy black fruits, bitter chocolate, citrus and spice with a core of firm acidity and mineral flavors. Quite delicious as a young wine, this ripe and elegant Morey-Saint-Denis will be at its best from approximately to 2022 to 2030. Those looking for value in a 2015 red Burgundy should consider buying a case of this lovely wine. David Lillie
From a parcel of old vines grown in Les Faconnières, one of the best situated climats in Morey-Saint-Denis, located beneath Clos de la Roche and between the Millandes and Charrières premier crus. The 2015 Faconnières was the star of the premier crus tasted at the estate last January, with lovely aromas of black fruits and violets. The palate was dense, elegant, and chalky with black fruits, earth and mineral flavors that continued in the very long finish. 20% new oak. Hold for 5 to 6 years minimum, said Stéphane, best at 7 to 15 years. Fabulous wine! David Lillie
Situated just above Clos de la Roche, the Magnien's 2014 1er Cru Mont-Luisants shares the grand cru's "inherent lushness" (Clive Coates) in this lovely vintage for Burgundy. The wine shows a deep red-black color with lush aromas of blackberry, plum and ripe strawberry with earth, graphite and citrus. Dense ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit coats the palate with hints of bitter chocolate and soil. Surprisingly round but with nice chalky acidity and a long finish of citrus and pretty berry fruits. Quite delicious now, this lovely wine will offer superb drinking with a little time in the cellar, perhaps best 2020 - 2035. David Lillie
Les Sentiers is located beneath the Bonnes Mares grand cru, north of the village and shares similar soils. The wines, while layered and elegant, are more muscular and velvety, rather than silken and high-toned. The 2015 vintage is effusively perfumed, with aromas of black cherry, wild raspberry, violets, forest floor, and iron. The mid-weight palate is ripe and supple with dark fruits, game notes, and a pungent minerality, girded by firm, ripe tannins and great freshness on a long, complex, rising finish. This is really lovely and will reward 5-10 years cellaring. A beautiful expression of Sentiers! John McIlwain
Jean and Gilles Lafouge have produced a delicious "village" Auxey-Duresses in 2015 - those looking for value in red Burgundy should stock-up on this lovely wine! Tasted before bottling in January 2017 the wine showed a lovely bright garnet color with very pretty aromas of tart cherry and wild strawberry with violet and citrus. There is lovely ripeness on the palate with ripe cherry and red currant with nice concentration and balance, and a long finish with lingering red fruits and firm acidity. This will drink beautifully as a young wine, and over the next five to eight years. Given the reasonable price, this is highly recommended! DL
La Chapelle is a "climat" within Les Breterins and Reugne, on the steep slope of la Montagne de Bourdon, facing south/southeast. The vines are well-placed in mid-slope and are mostly sixty years-old, giving the most "generous" of the three Lafouge premier crus. The soils here are partially "marnes blanches"which seems to contribute to the more supple and elegant style of wines from this site. The 2015 is well-endowed with sweet black cherry and chalky raspberry fruit but shows nice freshness and lift even in this warm vintage. A 2005 opened last week (February 2018) was absolutely singing, with gorgeous fruit, quite focused and elegant with nice earth and sous-bois notes of maturity. David Lillie ....Tasted in January, the 2015 Chapelle impressed me with immediate pretty red fruit on the nose, then dried fruit and cassis on the palate, with a lovely long finish. This should age nicely. Eben Lillie
Les Duresses, according to Jasper Morris, is the best placed vineyard in Auxey-Duresses, on a steep south-east facing slope that continues into Monthelie. This wine is always well-structured, a bit less forward than Lafouge's La Chapelle and it ages beautifully. The 2015 has bright ruby robe, high-toned ripe raspberry, and red currant aromas with hints of violet on the nose. Cool (especially for the vintage) red fruit on midweight palate. Pure fruit, good acidity, just the right back notes of beet root and chalk. This has great lift, energy, and persistence on the finish. Just lovely. David Lillie
"Les Boutonniers" is contiguous with Meursault "Meix Chavaux" on shallow soils of clay, high in iron, over the limestone bedrock, usually giving a somewhat lean and very "mineral" white Burgundy. The 2015 shows very floral aromas with pear, citrus and stone. The palate is crystalline and dense with subtle white fruits leading to a long finish with citrus peel, spice and mineral flavors. This is a lovely, very refreshing Burgundy to enjoy with grilled fish, roast chicken and goat cheeses. It's delicious now and will cellar nicely for eight to ten years. DL
From a north-facing parcel fairly high on the slope next to Meursault Les Vireuils. Subtle, rather delicate aromas of lime-flower and citrus, with white fruits, stone and honeysuckle. The palate is fresh and bright with mineral flavors predominating, with pear, lemon peel and herbal notes, quite pure and refreshing. The opposite of an oaky fruit-bomb, this is a light and lovely Chardonnay of terroir that will accompany shellfish, sole, flounder, cod and young goat cheeses.
From eighty year-old vines, in mid-slope on thin well-drained clay/limestone soils, the 2015 Meix Chavaux shows elegant pear, lemon, lime and floral aromas. The palate is rich and ripe with white fruits and exotic citrus covering the chalky core, with firm acidity and mineral flavors in the finish. Serve with full-flavored fish dishes, poultry and white meats, mild cheeses. This is a beautiful young Meursault that is delicious now and over the next ten years.
The Meursault lieu-dit Les Casses Têtes is located on the hillside above the premier cru Les Gouttes d'Or and next to Le Tesson. The soils are thin and rocky producing wines of great energy and lift. The 2015 Lafouge is a very pale gold color with aromas of wet stone, pear, fresh herbs and lemon peel with hints of oak - showing a bit more richness and fruit aroma than usual in this ripe vintage. The palate is crystalline and vibrant with stony acidity and flavors of marcona almonds, bitter lemon, dried pear, anise and saline minerals. This is a beautifully structured Meursault to drink now in its rather intense youth with crab, broiled sole, flounder and cod, or cellar for ten to fifteen years or more. Highly recommended. David Lillie