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Domaine Joseph Voillot Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens 2005
Much as Joseph, son-in-law Jean-Pierre (pictured) came up steeped in Burgundian culture. His father managed grower relations and wine selections for the then family négociant firm of Bouchard Père et Fils, and it was a natural for Jean-Pierre to study enology. After his degree, he embarked on a stint as a courtier, or local broker, of wine in Beaune, and fell in love with one of the three daughters of Joseph Voillot. That marriage put him at the right hand of Joseph, and for fifteen years the two worked together until Joseph's retirement in 1995. During those years, Jean-Pierre joined the staff at Beaune's viticultural school and taught winemaking to all manner of students, both French and foreign.
In the late 1990s, shortly after becoming managing director at the domaine, he undertook a series of small steps that came to be systematic changes. In the vines, he moved to sustainable farming. In the cellar, he did away with fermenting with a percentage of stems because he liked the essence of fruit. He did trials on the length of barrel ageing, and came to bottle his premier crus after roughly sixteen months in wood followed by a month in steel (fourteen months in barrel for the Villages; twelve to fourteen for the Bourgogne—with both classes also receiving a month in steel to rest and clear before bottling). The two Meursaults moved to a roughly fourteen month barrel regimen (Joseph left the wines of both colors in barrel significantly longer).
Jean-Pierre has also shied more and more away from new oak, moving from around 30% new barrels for the premier crus to today using 10-20%. He lowered the sulfur additions. He experimented with filtration systems, and for several vintages bottled the premier crus without filtration. Eventually, he settled on one very light filtration at the mis, if necessary, because for him this gave the wine just that extra little touch of lift and purity. No fining for the reds; a light fining of the whites.
He's an old soul, Jean-Pierre, one quite committed and modest. Elegant in argument and clear in vision, he has no truck with tra-la-la. He cares deeply about Burgundy's traditions and the structure of the family domaine, and the cultural and artistic diversity that such things inspire (which is why this deeply pragmatic man won't go for strict organics in what is a wet, northern climate: the first rule is to have a harvest to survive; everything else flows from that).
He is, as Neal Martin has written, the proverbial winemakers' winemaker, known above all for purity of fruit, finesse, and clear expressions of terroir.
Today the domaine farms parcels spread across Volnay and Pommard (plus a piece in Beaune's 1er cru Coucherias, which is partially declassified into the Bourgogne). All of the Villages parcels are farmed the same, and all of the premier cru parcels are treated the same; ditto for how these wines are treated in the cellar. The differences come from the sites.
Some of the darkest, deepest and sturdiest Pinot noir of Burgundy, Pommard is one of the two villages in Côte de Beaune—along with Volnay—that is recognized for its impressive Pinot noir. While it can’t boast any Grands Crus vineyards, its extraordinary Premiers Crus vineyards are aplenty.
Les Pézerolles, Les Épenots, Clos des Épeneaux, Les Chanlins, Les Jarolières, Les Fremiers and particularly Les Rugiens are among the most outstanding Premiers Crus.
The best Pommards will be concentrated in flavors such as black cherry, blackberry and dark chocolate, have dazzling aromas of violets, menthol or wild herbs and a firm and powerful finish. They typically demand some time in the bottle to reach their peak.
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.