Dominique Lafon is one of the iconic winemakers in Burgundy – known for his excellent white Burgundies and to some degree also for his fine reds from Volnay and Monthelie.
Dominique is a quite rare guest in Copenhagen, and the Danish importer of Lafon – Vinrosen – took the opportunity to arrange a great tasting of Lafon wines, when he visited Copenhagen last week.
Dominique Lafon about the wines
I have followed The Lafon wines since the early 90s and have also tasted some older vintages dating back to when Dominique’s father was in charge of the wine making. This tasting was however my first opportunity to hear Dominique explain about his wines and his thoughts about the wine making – changes in style and vinification during the last decades.
I was therefore very pleased to find that Dominique is quite open about the proces of improwing quality and some of the good and bad decisions he has made over the years.
Dominique Lafon seem to be a very open minded guy who continues to improve and evolve the vinification at the domaine – as he elegantly explains the philosophy … my next vintage is going to be my best vintage.
This is of course seen from a vigneron perspective … but the will and desire to improve every year is clearly there – despite the succes of the domaine.
One of the big changes at the domaine is the conversion to biodynamic viticulture. This proces was started in 1995, and after 1998 all the vineyards were converted. This change has gradually improved the expression of the terroir in the wines, and really added to the quality of the wines. Normally it takes around 5 – 10 years to see the full effect of the conversion to biodynamic viticulture.
Dominique explained that he furthermore has made a lot of smaller adjustments in the vinification of the whites over the last decade, and some of these changes have according to Dominique made the wines slightly more reductive in the later vintages. He has – like most other producers of white Burgundy – been fighting the premox nightmare, and I’m sure some of the changes made here are initiatives to ensure that this problem is eliminated.
For the reds Dominique explained the change away from the more extracted style in the mid 1990s – moving on to more terroir driven classic red Burgundies. He was very open about this proces, and allthough he may regret the extraction in the 90s his 1997 Volnays showed very well on the day.
But the important question was however – has quality really improwed during the last decade, and how is the current quality of the Lafon wines? To answer this question the Danish importer Vinrosen put together a program of Lafon whites from the vintages 2009, 2004 and 2000 – and a tasting of Volnays from the vintages 2004, 2002 and 1997. The tasting of the reds will be covered in another article.
The tasting program – white Burgundy
- Meursault Clos de la Barre 2009
- Meursault Clos de la Barre 2004
- Meursault Clos de la Barre 2000
- Meursault Charmes 2009
- Meursault Charmes 2004
- Meursault Charmes 2000
- Montrachet 2009
- Montrachet 2004
The vintages 2004, 2000 and 2009
The great thing about tasting wines from the same producer and vineyard in different vintages is that one get a very good insight in both the producer style/quality and the style/quality of the individual vintage.
The three vintages are very different … the 2004 vintage is a classical acidity driven vintage, the 2000 vintage is known for rich, charming and approachable wines, and the 2009 vintage normally gives exotic, rich and quite dense wines – perhaps lacking a bit of nerve and freshness. This was my view on the vintages before the tasting – but did the wines support these rather general characteristics of the vintages?
White Burgundy – 2004 vintage
The 2004 vintage is more classical and acidity driven than the two other vintages, and as expected my preferred vintage of the three. The picture is however not as clear cut as expected, as the 2004 vintage has some – should we call it slight imperfections – and they became more clear during this tasting.
The 2004 acidity is linear, powerful and crisp, but perhaps also somewhat monolithic compared with vintages like 2008 and 2010. It’s a small detail, but adding the somewhat dense expression of the fruit … quite heavy notes of apple, almonds and pineapple on the midpalate … the wines appear slightly dense and austere compared to 2000 and 2009. Please notes … these are minor imperfections … the wines are great and I preferred the 04s in general. This does however confirm my observations from other 04 whites tasted recently from top producers like Coche-Dury and Domaine-Leflaive.
The 2004 vintage also seems to develop slightly quicker than initially expected … not alarmingly so … but it’s not a vintage that needs 20 years more in the cellar. The Clos de la Barre is drinking beautifully now, while the Charmes need some years more (if stored perfect), and the Montrachet will most likely improve for the next decade or so.
White Burgundy – 2000 vintage
I always loved the 2000 vintage in Burgundy – both the reds and the whites are charming, forward and are actually longer lasting than first expected. This is also the case with the Lafon whites – they are still quite fresh and vibrant – with a juicy fruit and very nice complexity. They are somehow more charming than the 04s – but lacking the depth, weight and length of this vintage.
The purity of the fruit is very fine, and I was really pleased to see how well these wines are keeping their nerve and freshness. They are better than expected – but stylewise in line with my general view on the 2000 vintage.
White Burgundy – 2009 vintage
The 2009s was the positive surprise of the evening – with more freshness, balance and focus than expected. I had tasted the Clos de la Barre 2009 earlier, and it’s still very good. I like the slightly understated style of the Lafon 2009s – the slight reduction – really helps to “control” the exotic ripe fruit of the 2009 vintage.
In general the 2009 whites are quite exotic and hot, but there are exceptions like Lafon, who has made lovely and very drinkable wines.
The style and quality of Lafon whites
In my view the tasting showed a slight change in the whites towards a slightly more understated style. Given the vintages the wines somehow seem more focused with a more clear expression of the terroir. My guess is that this is the result of a slight increase in the added SO2 during the last decade.
The quality has in my view also improved, as the 2009s and other recent vintages in general show some more terroir driven wines with a better focus and mineralic definition. The wines are now more in line with my palate – i.e. a little less expressive fruit – and more focused and balanced by acidity and minerality when the wines are young.
A very memorable evening
The Lafon tasting is somehow one of the most memorable wine evenings I have attended – firstly it was very interesting to hear Dominique Lafon explain his views on the wines and the vinification, secondly the informal and cheerful atmosphere at the tasting made the evening even more memorable.
Last but not least tasting two Montrachets from Lafon at the same event – is a treat – very generous of Vinrosen and the collector who donated the 2009 to the tasting.
Thanks goes to Vinrosen, Dominique Lafon, Restaurant Sommelier and Mr P.
Tasting notes from the tasting
- Comte Lafon, Meursault Charmes 2000
- Comte Lafon, Meursault Charmes 2004
- Comte Lafon, Meursault Charmes 2009
- Comte Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre 2000
- Comte Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre 2004
- Comte Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre 2009
- Comte Lafon, Montrachet 2004
- Comte Lafon, Montrachet 2009