It is not just an historic name on a barrel…cuvee Nicolas Rolin
Beaune has so many stories within stories that it is easy to dismiss it as a monoculture, and therein lose the emphasis of complex possibilities.
The hillsides of premier crus roll effortlessly in a tapestry of vineyards that invite easy enjoyment over contemplative tasting.
There is deep seated differences in vineyards to the north and to the south. These dramatic soils, all congregated under the name “Beaune” have some special stories to tell. It is very productive to examine these vineyards individually via wines made by individual wineries that have holdings in more than one source. But there is another aspect that is exciting to me, using material from more than one location to create a wine where the whole is more than the pieces.
One of my first trips to Beaune started with a tour of Leon Violland, graphically illustrated this point. They had some excellent properties in Pommard, and they were showing off the results by blending from barrels what would be the final wine. I noticed that a couple of the barrels were labelled differently and as it turns out, it was premier cru Charmots. I objected that they should not put the premier cru in the villages,as I could sell this for a premium. But, the wine, would it be as good? That vintage, the answer was decidedly, NO. I tasted the components separately, and neither the 1st cru or the villages were as good separately as the assemblage.
So there is the Faustian question; Specific locations, or superior wine? If superior wine intrigues, take this to the situation in Beaune, and ask, ‘Is a blend of 2 or 3 vineyards resulting in a more exciting wine than the components?’
This is exactly what the Hospices de Beaune has done for 300 years! Don’t succumb to the temptation to look at the cuvees as an easy way to expedite sales, instead imagine a careful consideration of which sites not just compliment, but supersede, the statements from each vineyard.
I look at ‘Nicolas Rolin’ perhaps as complex as the personality it was named for. The anchor vineyards; #1, Cent Vignes. #2, Teurons. #3, Greves. It heavily relies on Cent Vignes, a northern Beaune with a Savigny overtone, always serious and complex. To this, the Teurons advances an element of stability and richness. Finally, the Greves, promoted as the best Beaune, at its peak a deep persuasion of flavor. I have been fortunate to enjoy the results in numerous vintages from many cellars. It clearly is a fourth dimension, a statement that begs to be evaluated independently. I am biased toward this result, I admit. There is a wealth of examples to influence me.
Nicolas Rolin is so different from Guigone de Salins or Maurice Drouhin that you could be forgiven if you thought they were different appellations. Nowhere else in the Cote d’Or do you get this sort of adventure.
Think of it as if someone took different portions of Echezeaux and make a wine better than the sections…but that is another story! Bob