Clos Vougeot. The most recognized vineyard site in burgundy. The monestary/chateau building is the symbol of a religious order ,Cistercians, that embodied a humble and pious return to the positive influences of the church.
It is the symbolic Cru of Burgundy. The walls encapsulate the meaning of a special place. A little less than 51 hectares of potential vineyard land fall within the perimeter. The wines have been praised, and more recently, disparaged, as a Grand cru. Camille Rodier classifies CV as the top 3 of Grand crus, current English writers dismiss it as ‘second tier Grand cru’, incapable of keeping up with current fashion.
My own notes over 5 decades paint a more intriguing picture, one with far more beauty than disappointment in the comments. It seems you find what you are looking for at this location. There is certainly much to explore in Vougeot. Allow me to lead a search through a few articles this year.
First, lets look at some of what’s written and see what it means. The first symbol is its size, is CV too big, was the Church too inclusive of its wards? Compared to the other 2 of the ‘top three’ , CV is larger than Romanee-Conti [1.81 ha.] and Chambertin – Beze [ 28.3] then this is true. The assertion is the cornerstone of current microscopic focus of Luit-dix, the naming of every subsection of every vineyard area. Like class warfare, it the battle between ‘size counts’ and ‘exclusive is superior’. The contrast between Romanee[conti] and [clos] Vougeot could be seen as an 18th century parable between the Uber class consciousness of Royalty/wealth vs the mass strength of the Church and the parishioners.
Chambertin is less resistant. The Chambertin-Beze size is much larger if you add the hypehenated Grand crus adjacent to Chambertin-Beze. 87 ha. The argument for inclusion was that these were sold as ‘Chambertin’ in the many decades before classification.
By the same critics, CV runs down too far down the slope, at one corner touching the roadway [RN – 74] which should be villages or bourgogne classified. This is the same roadway that the Grand cru Charmes runs down to, not so disparaged, and the same roadway where Gevrey villages appear on the other side, unlike Vougeot. The focus is on a tiny south-east corner of CV, which is possibly compromised because of road improvement done last century. Even a generous trimming of this corner might result in a 2% loss in the total, leaving 50 Hectares out of the discussion. The half dozen proprietors in that corner might not miss it, there are some famous names down there.
Which is the next point from critics, ‘There are too many owners.’ Interesting in its presumption, which ones should be barred from ownership? Will this same rule apply to other Grand crus? Monopoly or diversity? I think that tasting panel would be more conflicted than the original appellation controllee panels were.
So if size now is important, then the largest owner, CHATEAU de LATOUR, would be a great example. At 5.48 hectares, this would be equivalent of the Domaine Romanee Conti holding in Romanee St. Vivant, or a half a hectare less than the Monopole LaTache.
The new thinking would classify this great property as a lower class Grand Cru. I refer you to the article Steen wrote recently, and to reinforce this appreciation from my recollections of a spectacular 1953, a regal 1959, a rich 1969 from this cellar.
There was a period of time in the late 1980’s when experiments with the Guy Accad methods were tried. In my opinion the resulting intensity of these wines did not improve them. CV has a natural intensity on its own. The Chateau de Latour has continued to strive for fine tuning the wine and I would drop my objections from 3 decades ago.
I can also recount similar issues with other very famous Domaines in this neck of the woods, but I wouldn’t suggest declassifying those vineyards under their control. Instead, lets not dwell too much on formal titles, but look more at the wine itself. Let us not miss the wines from one of the best cellars in the world of Clos Vougeot.
In the next column I will review my experiences from many other cellars in Burgundy with a piece of the action inside the walls. I hope you will join me.
Cheers – CRC
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