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Domaine Arlaud Bourgogne Rouge Roncevie Vieilles Vignes 2008
We can say with confidence that the 2008 wines of Domaine Arlaud are some of the finest red Burgundies we tasted—here you'll find some of the most harmonious, most complex and certainly the easiest to love wines of the vintage. But as we've said times before, the secret of the domaine (and of the Cote de Nuits) is "Roncevie." This extraordinary vineyard, with its many older vines, is basically a village Gevrey, as it is surrounded by vineyards that are designated as such—not to mention it sits a stone's throw away from grand cru Mazoyeres-Chambertin. It pays to know your vineyards in Burgundy, and "Ronceive" is one of those insider secrets that shows you that terroir does matter.
Cyprien Arlaud took the reins of the domaine in 1997 with the simple and unwavering vision of making pure, benchmark Burgundy. He knew the only way to achieve this goal was to be forward thinking in the cellar, and most importantly in the vineyards. The same year he was put in charge, he began the conversion of the estate to biodynamics (certified in 2014). He also began using horses to plough domaine vineyards in order to keep the soils as healthy and alive as possible. With top holdings in Morey St. Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Vosne-Romanée, he immediately saw the difference in the health of the vines between those that were horse ploughed and those that were ploughed by tractor. As Cyprien notes, “It’s hard to get good grapes from vines planted on a cement highway.” Luckily for him, his sister Bertille has become one of the most important horse ploughers in all of France. With her two horses Nougat and Okapi, she ploughs every single vineyard herself, while also ploughing and training horses for many top estates across the country. The results from this intense care for the vines became evident very quickly, with wines that spoke of terroir in the clearest of voices.
In the cellar, intervention is kept to an absolute minimum. Under Cyprien’s stewardship, elegance has been the focus with lower levels of extraction and the reduction of new wood to zero on the Bourgogne and 15-30% on the rest of the lineup. Partial whole cluster is used on the upper level wines (maximum 30%), purely on the nature of the vintage and if the stems are perfectly ripe. The cellar in Morey St. Denis is one of the coldest in the Côtes de Nuits, helping Cyprien pursue a slow, non-interventionist vinification, with minimal use of SO2. All of his wines are also bottled unfined and unfiltered. Meeting Cyprien makes it clear how in touch he is with every meter of vines he farms. He is immensely talented, but also has an insatiable curiosity that allows him to keep learning and keep getting better. We are absolutely sure that his name, and the wines he is crafting today and in the future will go on to live in Burgundy lore.
A legendary wine region setting the benchmark for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay worldwide, Burgundy is a perennial favorite of many wine lovers. After centuries of winemaking, the Burgundians have determined precisely which grape clone grows best on which plot of land. While the concept of ‘terroir’ reigns supreme here—soil type, elevation and angle of each slope—this is a region firmly rooted in tradition. Because of the Napoleonic Code requiring equal distribution of property and land among all heirs, vineyard ownership in Burgundy is extremely fragmented, with some growers responsible for just one or two rows of vines. This system has led to the predominance of the "negociant"—a merchant who purchases fruit from many different growers to vinify and bottle together.
Burgundy’s cool, marginal climate and Jurassic limestone soils are perfect for the production of elegant, savory, and mineral-driven Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with plenty of acidity. Vintage variation is of particular importance here, as weather conditions can be variable and unpredictable. In some years spring frost and hail must be overcome.
The Côte d’Or, a long and narrow escarpment, forms the heart of the region, split into the Côte de Nuits to the north and the Côte de Beaune to the south. The former is home to many of the world’s finest Pinot Noir wines, while Chardonnay plays a much more prominent role in the latter, though outstanding red, white, and rosé are all produced throughout. Other key appellations include the Côte Chalonnaise, home to great value Pinot Noir and sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne. The Mâconnais produces soft and round, value-driven Chardonnay while Chablis, the northernmost region of Burgundy, is a paradise for any lover of bright, acid-driven and often age-worthy versions of the grape.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.