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2010 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Michel Lafarge
Michel Lafarge, now in his eighties, and his son Frédéric make use of their combined experience top produce some of the greatest Burgundy wines in Volnay. There is nothing modern in their winemaking, though the meticulous care of their biodynamically farmed vineyards puts the domaine at the forefront of viticultural practices. When they are working ona patch of vines they are usually accompanied by their hens who eat up any little pests which may be lurking!
They have around 10 hectares of vines and own some of the very best sites in Volnay. The vines are mature but not excessively old and yields are low without being draconian. There is very little new oak used, and the current mix is 5% new oak, with the balance of 2-to 5-year-old wood. The wines are handled as seldom as possible, with only a couple of rackings, a light fining and rarely any filtration.
The Lafarge domaine is run very much by instinct and respect for the terroir, with no sense of imposition and with biodynamic techniques. The wines are allowed to speak for themselves and are wonderfully fragrant, complex and harmonious - the essence of great Volnay.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
Bourgogne Rouge is the term used to apply to red wines from Burgundy that fall under the generic Bourgogne AOC, which can be produced by over 350 individual villages across the region. As with Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rosé, this is a very general appellation and thus is hard to pinpoint any specific characteristics of the wine as a whole, due to the huge variety of wines produced.
Around 4,600 acres of land across Burgundy are used to produce Bourgogne Rouge, which is around twice as much as is dedicated towards the production of generic whites.
Pinot Noir is the primary grape used in Bourgogne Rouge production, although Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and in Yonne, César grapes are all also permitted to make up the rest of the wine. These wines tend to be focused and acidic, with the fruit less cloying than in some New World wines also made from Pinot Noir, and they develop more floral notes as they age.
Although an entry-level wine, some Bourgogne Rouges can be exquisite depending on the area and producer, and yet at a very affordable price.