Neal Martin - 28/12/2016
About this WINE
Domaine Michel Lafarge
Michel Lafarge is very much a family domaine. Continuing his father Michel’s legacy, Frédéric and his daughter Clothilde produce some of the greatest 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. The grapes are de-stemmed, vinified traditionally and very little new oak is used in the cellar.
They have around 10 hectares of vines, including some of the very best sites in Volnay. The vines are mature, but not excessively old, and yields are low without being draconian. When they are working on a patch of vines, they are usually accompanied by their hens who eat up any lurking pests.
From the simple yet pragmatic grape reception area, to your descent to the barrel cellar via by the slowest lift in Burgundy, and then the emergence into the dimly lit, scruffy and intimate cellar; In the winery, everything feels as if it hasn’t changed in decades. In many practical senses, that is the case, but there are always small innovations, such as the introduction of their manual de-stemming tray used for their smaller parcels such as Clos du Château des Ducs. But what pervades most of all is the feeling that here wines are made by instinct – and the process does not define the result. The wines speak for themselves: wonderfully fragrant, complex and harmonious – the essence of great Volnay.
In 2014, they purchased vineyards in Beaujolais which are farmed using the same biodynamic practices as employed in the Côte de Beaune. These wines are bottled under the name Domaine Lafarge-Vial.
The appellation Bourgogne Passetoutgrains is the only exception to the usual rule in Burgundy that wines are made from single grape varieties. The rule states that this wine must be made from at least 30% Pinot Noir.
Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains is allowed to be produced in the entire area known as the basic Bourgogne appellation. This encompasses 91 communes from the department of Côte d'Or, 85 communes of Rhône (not to be confused with the wine region Rhône), 154 communes of Saône et Loire region and 54 communes of Yonne.
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.