The 2014 Monthélie les Duresses was the only red not touched by hail and my sample was taken directly from vat, though it will not be bottled until the spring. It has plenty of fresh redcurrant and cassis scents on the nose. It is simple on the palate with fine tannins, plenty of fruit and a juicy blackberry finish that will give lots of pleasure over the next 4-6 years.
Entering Domaine des Comtes-Lafon, the first thing that I notice is a spruced up reception. The walls have had a lick of paint, barely dry as far as I can see. Though what perturbs me is that there is no naughty vintage poster, the one advertising Mâcon featuring a skimpy bikini and a lecherous hand on the cusp of undoing it. Either “Women in Wine” have signed a petition requesting its removal or Dominique Lafon felt that it was just two risqué. I ask its whereabouts to Dominique once he appears. I can tell he’s coming because I can smell the burning tobacco about 30 second before enters. “We have just had it furnished,” he tells me as he leads me out to where he plans to build a formal tasting facility. I make a personal request to reinstall the poster and if any feminists complain, I will give Dominique my telephone number, the fake one.
We troupe down to the cellars as usual, stopping via his Monthélie that is finished its élevage in stainless steel rather than barrel. Interestingly, he tells me that he has been inspired by the late Gérard Potel’s modus operandi of transferring wines into stainless steel for their final six months rather than keeping it in barrel for the full “upbringing.” Dominique has found this can improve the wine, though of course you are limited by how many stainless steel vats are at your disposal. This is Burgundy, not Bordeaux. As such, he has been able to do this with the Meursault Desirée and Bouchère this year, since they both seem quite open. Of course, we had to broach the painful subject of the hailstorm on June 28…
“Puligny was not affected, but in Meursault it was very bad,” Dominique told me, the trauma still seemingly difficult to bear. “We lost 30% of the crop is Charmes, 70% of the crop in Goutte d’Or and Porusots. You know, on that Friday I was tasting barrels with my winemaker Caroline, who works with me down in the Mâconnais. The wines were looking great and Caroline said to me that we were looking at a large crop. The following day, the Saturday, I was having lunch with Etienne de Montille. I looked out of the window and I could see the storm in the distance. It didn’t look too bad. Afterwards I drove out into the vineyards to see what the damage was like. It was then that I saw the devastation. I bumped into Michel and Frédéric Lafarge. They were in tears.”
It brings home the human devastation that hail wrought among its winemakers in 2014. But life goes on, as does the vintage. Vines are hardy creatures, even if the successive hailstorms mean that it will take several years for them to fully recover. Dominique commenced harvesting on September 10 and finished in Monthélie on the September 19. Despite the carnage, Dominique is very satisfied with his white, perhaps even more so with his reds, which he opined could be better than either 2012 and 2013. They had finished their malolactics in January/February, had been sulfured but not racked. Of course, due to the hail, quantities are severely depleted but what survived is top quality, including a gorgeous Volnay Santenots that Dominique admitted he now extracts for more gently than 15 or 20 years ago. The result is a crop of more elegant, tensile reds that in my opinion are much better than they were before.
Apropos the whites, I think Dominique is making better wines than ever. He is a winemaker that constantly questions the way he does things, exchanges views with fellow vignerons, and admits when he made mistakes and tries to correct them. Tasting these 2014s, I felt that the terroirs spoke very clearly here. Perhaps one or two were thrown a curveball by the hailstorm, did their utmost to recover but never quite got back on track, such as the Clos de la Barre and Desirée. Both constitute decent Meursaults that I feel had their wings snipped by the hail. Move up to the premier crus and the difference in quality is easy to see. In particular, the Meursault Genevrières is another occupant of this vineyard that attested to how well it performed in 2014, more so than the Meursault Charmes at this prenatal juncture. Then the Meursault Perrières waltzes so nonchalantly and delivers wondrous mineralité, a bona fide Perrières that sings of where it comes from with such clarity that you are temporarily whisked there. The Montrachet is the “dog’s bollocks” as we used to say. As I state in my note, whilst one feels coerced to examine its minutiae, the hedonistic side of your personality will wonder what the hell you are doing and just gulp it down. Try to do both, is my advice.
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