There once was a man, that in his lifetime, became known as the “Saint of Volnay”.
He earned the name; He was instrumental in building the town school , he restored the Volnay church, and in 1809 he named the Hospices de Charite’ the inheritor of his vineyards to ensure the care of five elderly inhabitants in perpetuity. This was during the complex times of the first Napoleonic empire, and was more difficult than it might seem.
So, what have you done recently for your hometown?
Francois Blondeau, whose vines included plots of Volnay Champans and Taille pieds, thus married the finest locations into one cuvee, an accomplishment worthy of a Saint.
One could argue a precise match of generous structure with electric complexity personifies Volnay. Volnay, for that matter, personifies the Cote d’Or.
It is one of the finest cuvees in the Hospices. Its lack of fame falls into familiar territory. Not Grand cru, or more precisely, too many vineyard names to absorb.
No signature of a famous domaine, unless you realize the importance of the Hospices. Additionally, Volnay requires a long time to mature. This last complaint is precisely why it yields great wine. Too much is drunk too young. When many a famous spot up north is getting along in years, Blondeau is just opening up. Mature Blondeaus right now are frequently well past 25.
I am at odds with conventional insider Burgundy winespeak, always stating that Volnay is similar to Chambolle . I find fault on two levels. The implication is that here is a ‘Cote de Beaune wine’ that actually can be compared to the lofty ‘Cote de Nuits wine’. Volnay has a history that easily is equal to large swaths of the Nuits. Why is it never written under Chambolle that it is similar to a Volnay?
Secondly, I find little to compare, unless you are driven solely by persistent fruit. Volnays are called delicate, but my experience indicates a more substantial wine. Volnays have deep color, Chambolle, at least in the 1970’s when I began searching, were the lightest of the Nuits, partially since there used to be more Chardonnay in the wine. Today it is darker for a reason. There is a crystalline quality to top Volnay, that seems different from the creamier Chambolle. The closest comparison might be to Musigny itself, which would be considered heresy amongst the collector class. The Musigny always seems lighter. These comparisons only resonate in mature examples, since both need some age.
The home of the negociants, the town of Beaune, has long appreciated this Blondeau cuvee. Bouchard, both the old ‘Pere’ and ‘Aine’ cellars , produced a wealth of Hospices Volnays.
A small idiosyncratic cellar, Camille Giroud, hoarded a cuvee of 1937 until release 20 years ago. I purchased and imported 120 bottles into San Francisco. It had all the intrigue of Matching a hot dry vintage to a complex vineyard, but achieved a good result.
A 1982 bottled for Switzerland is a subtle experience today, and late 1980s and early 1990’s vintages are worth pursuing.
These are prizes that do not appear on the ‘hot Hong Kong auction lists’, to the advantage of those that seek a price for drinking now, as opposed to collecting.