Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Corton in red

One of the highlights of any wine tour is to stand at the edge of a great vineyard – preferably on a lovely sunny day – and then taste the wines.  Here are the pictures taken as the light faded on a chilly but sunny early spring day in March 2014:

The Bichot part of Corton is directly above the village of Aloxe-Corton. The vineyard is called the Clos de Marechaud three-quarters of which carries that name as a Premier Cru while one quarter is Corton Grand Cru.  The main differences between the two are that there is a higher proportion of clay in the Grand Cru vineyard which gives wines of greater body and which stores water which is helpful in hot years.  The figures are 54% clay in the Grand Cru and between 40% and 50% in the Premier Cru.  The land in the Grand Cru section is flatter (usually the slope is preferable) but the key point is that there is deeper soil in the Premier Cru section. The realities literally on the ground in Burgundy are rarely in line with simple rules about quality factors. 

As you can see on the far right of the lower picture 30 ares (ie 0.3 hectares) of the Grand Cru section has been completely dug up and prepared for new vines.  This is a very expensive business. The plants themselves are not that expensive (about €5000, even when planted at 10,000 vines per hectare) but the groundwork, the new posts and trellises, and above all the total loss of production for five years is a massive hit.  But it does give the chance to clear the ground properly and adjust the gradient in minor ways, address drainage issues, increase yield in comparison with old vines and start again in an orderly way which should help the day-to-day work for the next 50 years.

And the wines themselves?  For a group of wines students Bichot laid on a blind tasting of four wines all from the same vineyard but with a range of vintages. We did not know the quality level (village, premier cru, grand cru) but if there are four lines in the flight it is likely to be higher than lower.  In fact they were Corton: 

Corton 2009 – wine number 1 showed some ageing on the nose with developed black plum fruit and still lively, grippy tannins.  I thought it was a 2008 but in fact came from the warmer 2009 vintage.  Its quality showed in the intensity and purity of the fruit and then the length of finish.

Corton 2005 – this vintage showed its class through its relatively high acidity, real concentration, the prominent legs and its impressive if fine tannins.  Because of the freshness I had it in 2008 but it came from the great 2005 vintage. One to treasure and allow to develop over the next decade or even more. 

Corton 2002 – another great vintage, this time showing marked development on the nose (dried fruit and mushroom notes, yeast and saltiness), square and structured in the mouth, has the fruit to go with the further complexity which yet more time should give it.  

Corton 2000 – marked mushroom and forest floor now evident, refreshing acidity, a superb, complex wine from an average vintage.  Part of the point of a Grand Cru site is that it can outperform the year.  

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