An interesting tasting: A Lafon vintage battle, with red 1999 vs red 2009 at R-vinbar in Copenhagen.
While Dominique Lafon is known more for his excellent white Burgundies, experience shows me that some lovely wines can be found exploring his reds – especially his Volnays, although the Monthelie often delivers a delightful surprise.
With us to comment on the tasting was Mr. Soren Kieffer Olsen, owner of Vinrosen, Domaine Lafon’s long-time Danish importer. Not many have such vast Burgundy experience in Denmark.
Dominique Lafon about his reds
I have followed the Lafon reds since the late 1990s, and have also tasted some older vintages dating back to when Dominique’s father was in charge of the wine making.
One of the big changes at the domaine was the conversion to biodynamic viticulture. This process was begun in 1995, and after 1998 all the vineyards were converted. This change has gradually improved the wines’ expression of terroir, and enhanced their quality. Normally it takes 5-10 years to see the full effect of the conversion to biodynamic viticulture.
Dominique Lafon explained the change in his red wine-making – away from the more extracted style of the mid 1990s – as a search of more terroir-driven, classic red Burgundies.
Tasting the two vintages, 1999 and 2009, does raise some interesting questions: Was the extraction still noticeably higher in 1999, and has the biodynamic viticulture moved the wines towards more balance, definition and terroir expression over the period from 1999 to 2009?
The Volnays from Comte Lafon
Dominique Lafon makes four different Volnays – a generic Volnay village made from the young vines in Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu, a Volnay Champans 1er cru, a Volnay Clos des Chenes, and last but not least Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu. Furthermore, he produces Monthelie Les Duresses as the entry to the red lineup at Lafon.
The tasting program – Comte Lafon Volnays
- Monthelie Les Duresses 2009
- Monthelie Les Duresses 1999
- Volnay Clos des Chenes 2009
- Volnay Clos des Chenes 1999
- Volnay Champans 2009
- Volnay Champans 1999
- Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 2009
- Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 1999
Tasting Notes from the Comte Lafon Volnay Tasting
Starting out with the Monthelie Les Duresses set – beginning with the 2009 …
Monthelie Les Duresses 2009
The Monthelie Les Duresse 2009 is forward and charming – just a discrete note of sous-bois (forest floor) is indicating some age. A rich, sweet and generous wine, offering a lovely drinkability. Still relatively youthful; give it five more years.
(Drink From 2024) – Good+ (87p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Monthelie Les Duresses 1999
The 1999 Monthelie Les Duresses is of a more robust character – nose with full sous-bois, ripe raspberries and with an ever-so-slight tar note. More intensity and matured complexity than the 2009, and a somewhat more rustic and sturdy wine than the ’09 – presumably with a bit heavier extraction. For my money the 1999 takes this round: 1999 is ahead 1-0.
(Drink From Now) – Good (88p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Volnay Clos des Chenes 2009
The Volnay Clos des Chenes 2009 is rich and velvety – just a slight note of sous-bois, otherwise quite youthful. It’s an elegant Volnay offering lovely ripe and slightly mature fruit. I would give it seven more years to gain complexity, but it is nevertheless quite a treat already.
(Drink From 2025) – Very Good (90p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Volnay Clos des Chenes 1999
Volnay Clos des Chenes 1999 is clearly a sturdier and more robust wine, with tar notes and a very clear aroma of sous-bois. It’s somewhat more heavily extracted, giving the wine a more old-school style. Still, a lovely Volnay. That said, I prefer the 2009, tying the contest at 1-1.
(Drink From 2022) – Very Good (89p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Volnay Champans 2009
The Champans 2009 is still quite youthful, with only a slight maturing of the fruit supported by a mineral note from the stony terroir of Champans. A lovely wine, and with 66% of the vines having been planted in 1922, showing intensity and depth. Old vines do give something special in these terroirs. A beautiful wine in my view.
(Drink From 2027) – Fine (91p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Volnay Champans 1999
The Volnay Champans 1999 is more mature, with evident forest floor, ripe cherries and raspberries. A bit of tar, otherwise not many signs of the slight 1999 austerity. More sturdy than the 2009, which I preferred. So it is 2-1 for the 2009s, although this one was close.
(Drink From 2022) – Very Good (90p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 2009
The Santenots-du-Milieu 2009 is a wine with a larger framework, and it is showing great potential. Dark cherries and amaretto cherries, supported by a citric note from the limestone subsoil of the Santenots-du-Milieu. Still a youthful wine, but will drink well over the next 10 years. A delightful wine.
(Drink From 2027) – Fine+ (92p) – Tasted 29/05/2019
Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 1999
Sadly, the Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 1999 is slightly corked. A hint on the nose, and the fruit on the palate is tiring a bit.
NR – Tasted 29/05/2019
Concluding remarks on the Lafon Volnays
The contest ended 3-1 for the 2009 vintage, mainly due to the vintage’s more refined and delicate expression.
I think the introduction of biodynamic viticulture has influenced in a significant way the quality of the 2009s, and while the 1999s were a bit influenced by the biodynamic viticulture, things do take time.
Furthermore, the extraction of the 1999s was slightly heavier which, taken together with the biodynamic influence, does explain a lot of the difference between the two vintages.
Final score: 3-1 to 2009
The Lafon Volnays and the Monthelies showed very well. Many thanks to Vinrosen and Bo at R-vinbar for this fine tasting