We tasted a lot of very good Burgundy in 2018, and the quality of the vintage shines through from top to bottom. But something particularly struck us about Pommard this year…
There is a bit of an injustice perpetrated on the wines of Pommard. Year in, year out they are described as - or assumed to be - “rustic”, “difficult to get on with when young”, “austere” or, for the kinder critics out there, “wines for the patient drinker”.
Let’s be honest – these were fair comments once upon a time and were certainly based largely on fact. However, even in a region as traditional as Burgundy, things change. Indeed, weather conditions are changing the very fruit vignerons harvest - and of course winemaking techniques and available technology have changed sometimes beyond recognition in just a few years.
I have been tasting the new vintage in Burgundy every year for over a decade now, and I am seriously struggling to remember the last time I tasted a Pommard that corresponds to these preconceived ideas - at least at the excellent addresses I have been lucky enough to visit.
Pommard does still yield some of the best and fullestbodied red wines in the Côtes de Beaune. The iron-rich clay soils, very similar to those in the most revered vineyards of the Côtes de Nuits, give the wines a natural power, structure and depth of colour and flavour that place the village head and shoulders above its neighbours Volnay to the south and Beaune to the north, with regards to concentration and age-worthiness.
What has changed however, is the quality of fruit at the core of the wine on the one hand, and the quality and texture of the tannins on the other. The attention to detail in good growers’ vineyards and the more modern vinegrowing techniques yield fruit that has stunning balance, with pretty, rich flavours and, perhaps most importantly, great purity.
Winemaking techniques have also evolved dramatically, and producers work incredibly hard to coax just the right amount of tannins out of the fruit, with very careful and light crushing, pumping over rather than punching down, and careful management of fermentation temperatures. The word “infusion” is the leitmotiv these days, often replacing the now old-fashioned (and etymologically suggestive of more active human interference) idea of “extraction”. Perhaps most crucially, the final aim has changed, and expression and balance are the goals, over structure and power, which are given a in this commune.
The result is stunning. The better Pommards out there achieve a brilliant balance – they are impressively intense and concentrated, with firm structures of fruit-coated tannins, yet they are open, aromatic and beautifully expressive.
What’s more, the throngs of people knocking on the doors of Chambolle-Musigny or Vosne-Romanée estates often snub – or forget – Pommard, with the result that these wines increasingly deliver some of the best values to be had in the whole of Burgundy.
You can pick up superb examples from crus such as Rugiens-Bas or Les Epenots, the vineyards most deserving of potential promotion to Grand Cru status, at great producers’ addresses, for literally half the price of top 1er crus from the Côtes de Nuits; not to mention the Grands Crus.
My advice is that you do just that and through our top premier crus from Joseph Voillot and Domaine du Pavillon, re-discover this unfairly maligned appellation – and grab yourself a bargain in the process!
Ludovic Surina, Private Client Director