33 Clos Vougeots from 2013

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

14 November 2015

Special note: I meant to publish this today, as I am in Beaune for the 155th Hospices de Beaune wine auction. While eating excellent Japanese sushi at Sushi Kai in Beaune last night, I got CNN alerts about terrorist attacks in Paris, which have proven to be sadly horrific. Some media outlets this morning have reported over 150 dead. French President Francois Holland has declared a national emergency and has closed borders. It is a sobering morning. We should reflect on the value of life and liberty and on the innocent victims of such vile and cowardly acts committed in Paris. 

Clos Vougeot.

The name evokes legends. And the château is a beautiful place, as you can see in the picture I took from mid November in Burgundy.

According to Jasper Morris, in his excellent tome Inside Burgundy, it is uncertain when walls first enclosed the Clos Vougeot vineyard, but there is mention of a so called clausum de Vougeot back in 1211 and of a grand clos de Cîteaux de Vougeot in 1228.

Monks were already making wine apparently since one century before. It was once a single vineyard, but then broke into various ownerships in its nearly 900-year history. A major date was the French Revolution, which led to the disenfranchisement of the religious owners – so typical of that turbulent period in French history. It eventually fell into single ownership until 1889, when it was sold to six owners. By 1920, there were 40 owners. Today, about 80.

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Viticultural jewel and minefield

So Clos Vougeot is a jewel of Burgundy. But with so many owners, a very good example of a wine minefield. When it was a single vineyard, many historians believe that the wine was made from grapes across the slope.

Clearly, its 50 hectares vary in terroir quality and almost everyone agrees that the middle to top slope merits grand cru status, while much of the rest is more like premier cru.

But then how can you explain why some very successful Clos Vougeots are made from vines grown closer to the bottom of the slope?

Winemaking.

TASTING THE WINES 

Yes, that is more or less what many experts say, including Bud Cuchet, our gracious host at Fine+Rare in London, where I tasted 33 wines from the 2013 vintage in late October 2015. Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocates, who also attended the tasting, stresses winemaking in Clos Vougeot as well, as a determining factor in qualitative differences among Clos Vougeot producers.

And, as Jasper Morris experienced in 2007, when he tasted over 20 Vougeot wines: “The skill of the winemaker seemed to have much more impact than where the parcel of vines was located.”

So, yes, Clos Vougeot remains a minefield of varying quality – and it comes down to producers. Especially in a challenging vintage like 2013, which both Cuchet and Martin said is not as successful as the challenging 2007 vintage.

Indeed, look up any vintage report on 2013 and you can see how difficult the harvest was.

In any case, a single blind tasting in late 2015 of very young wines does not reveal any universal truth, but at least it lends insight. Although Clos Vougeot has some 80 producers, being able to taste over 30 of them in one day was really, really cool.

Some properties surprised me, others not so much and a few were disappointing – based on this tasting.

Tasting notes from the blind tasting in London on 29 October 2015.

Thanks so much to Bud for the invitation to taste!

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An excellent tasting venue in London

Scores are conservative, as the vintage really is not a super one. Wines in bold I liked particularly. If red and bold, even more. When underlined, too: wine nirvana.

  • 2013 Maison Bertrand Ambroise Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Fresh and aromatic, with crunchy red fruit. Is it just a touch green? Not so substantial on the palate, even if charming enough. I was rather surprised to read from Jasper Morris that this property tends towards “dark-coloured, powerful wines from fully ripe grapes balanced by plenty of oak” because in this case “fully ripe” did not come to mind. Comes across as a pleasant drink, but one expects more from grand cru. (87 pts).
  • 2013 Olivier Bernstein Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Somewhat darker hue than the preceding wine, exhibiting a deeper sense of ripe fruit. A bit more oak aspect on it, and just slightly drying on the finish. But more volume on mid palate, more structure, too. Nice job from a domain I had never heard of. Indeed, a recent “mini-negociant” according to Morris. Good job for a challenging vintage, even if I did not get a “grand” aspect from a grand cru appellation, either. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Henri Boillot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Floral aromatics, spice. A firmness on the palate. Certain austerity, but ripe tannin and a long finish. Needs time to come together. Here a case of not being surprised when I found out who the producer was. I met Boillot some five years ago. He is a very careful winemaker who seeks the highest quality. Excellent quality here, too and a wine that does reflect grand cru terroir. (90 pts.)
  • 2013 Bouchard Père et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Cranberry aspect, crackling red fruit aromatics and on the palate. This has verve and energy, too. You want to keep drinking it, as it has warmth and fruit. Bouchard is getting better and better with reds – and here another example. Philippe Prost is as talented a winemaker as he is a really nice person. And the estate owns plots both at the top and the bottom of the Clos Vougeot slope… (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Chanson Père et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    A more closed in nose coming after the Bouchard. Steely. A bit austere. Revisited about 30 minutes later, and remained charmless. Here a disappointing showing from a solid negociant/producer. Not sure what happened, but let us not be too harsh in scores. Who knows? Maybe it will come around. I hope so. (86 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Château De La Tour Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This is more expressive that the Chanson, almost more evolved with notions rustic and iron rich power. It has warmth, and the mid palate is charming, although the finish is a touch attenuated. Could this be basically a “solid prototype” for 2013 Clos Vougeot? It is meaty on the palate but lacks enough grace for me to get too excited. I have visited the domain and tasted the wines and think that they are generally a bit too expensive for what they are. This one is just not all that great, either for its pedigree. (87 pts.)
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Clos Vougeot in November 2015

  • 2013 Domaine Château De La Tour Clos Vougeot Vieilles Vignes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Red fruit and less meaty/rustic than previous wine, with more charm. More evident substance on mid palate, with a rounded overall texture. A touch austere on the finish, but riper fruit than the Chanson. Yes, the old vine blend is better than the regular edition. But why pay more for this than, say, Confuron, whose Clos Vougeot in 2013 is better? In any case, could it be that the whole bunches fermentation (with stems) makes the wines generally tough when young? I have been quite disappointed with the 2009 that I bought, when I tried it last year as it is comes across as hardly “2009” … Quite hard in fact. I wonder how the 2013 will evolve. (89 pts.)
  • 2013 Maison Albert Bichot Clos Vougeot Domaine du Clos Frantin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Well, well! Fruit driven, baked cherry, spice. Attack has verve. Mid palate sap. A touch warm on the finish, but overall delicious! Even if it lacks concentration of superior vintages, bravo to Albert Bichot. Ever since Richard Bampfield MW organized a visit for me and some other journalists over five years ago, I have grown to appreciate excellent quality from this domain. No surprise here. (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Jean-Jacques Confuron Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Charm on the aromatics. Fresh floral and bright. The palate has energy and ripeness. There is some mid palate gravitas but not the most intense or concentrated. Finish is medium plus to long. Yummy! This easily rates as one of my favorite Clos Vougeots of the Fine&Rare tasting. The freshness could come from the domain’s dislike for any post fermentation maceration, which – as Morris writes – is seen as leading to a loss of freshness. The 100% new oak for this as for their other grands crus is very well integrated, although I am not sure that they used 100% in 2013. In any case, this producer has plots in the upper part of the Clos Vougeot slope as well. Nice job! (93+ pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine de Montille Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    From magnum. By comparison to the Confuron, tasted just before, a touch more steely. There is spice and fruit, however. Just the finish is a bit pinched even if the mid palate is voluminous. Well, the wines from this domain that I have tried tend to exude elegance and grace. In that sense, I was a bit disappointed by the outcome here. Vintage character? (89 pts.)
  • 2013 Joseph Drouhin Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Somewhat faceless compared to de Montille, which indeed had loads of mid palate substance by comparison. This one is more austere and edgy. It has some sparkling red fruit, a good thing, but the overall palate feel and finish is angular. I am a fan of Joseph Drouhin and the stress on elegance freshness and grace, but here I was left cold by the outcome. (87 pts.)
  • 2013 Faiveley Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    The overall impression I got from this was of a closed phase. A closed nose. And then the palate seemed to lack fruit intensity. Here yet another well known and deservedly acclaimed negociant, but also leaving me a bit cold. Not angular like Drouhin, but not saying much either. Give it time in bottle, and cross the fingers. (87 pts.)
  • 2013 Forey Père et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This is very charming on the aromatics. Floral and red fruit driven. The palate is medium bodied for a grand cru, with a finish that is somewhat dilute. And yet, the pleasure is there, the red fruit charm is fun. I had never heard of this property before and was rather impressed by the showing. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Jean Grivot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Reductive nose. The palate has sap and energy. There is a seductive feel to it, with darker fruit for the vintage and a sensation of volume. Finish is somewhat tough, but neither hard nor abrupt. Give it time to age in bottle. Some floral aromatics peek through at the fond du verre… One of my favorites from this tasting and goes to the heart of what makes a great Clos Vougeot. As Jasper Morris wrote: “This wine goes some way to blow the received wisdom that you cannot make fine wine from the bottom of the Clos”. If the price is right, I could be a buyer. But what are “right prices” these days for grand cru Burgundy? (93 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Anne Gros Clos Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    A sweet red fruit aspect, nougat as well. Then some earthy aspects. Rich and sap filled mid palate. Lacks a bit of subtlety, not very layered but a tasty drink with medium plus flavor intensity, even if somewhat monolithic in expression – and a medium, not long finish. Well, here we have a confirmation of terroir driven quality, as Anne Gros’ vineyards are in the upper part of the Clos with excellent southern solar exposure. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Gros Frère et Sœur Clos Vougeot Musigni – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    More a floral aspect here, plant and roses. There is richness too, but lacks some mid palate body towards the finish that is marked a bit by warm alcohol. Starts out very flavorful, but then tapers off. Interesting, as I had visited Bernard a few years back and found the wines to be quite glossy with much oak and a warm aspect. If you like the style, score higher. (90 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Michel Gros Clos Vougeot Grand Maupertuis – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Somewhat diluted aromatics. The palate is lacking ripe fruit expression, seems to be somewhat flabby, and then tapers off to a boring finish. This was quite a disappointment. Perhaps I am totally misunderstanding this!(86 pts.)
  • 2013 Jean-Michel Guillon Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Here we have more freshness, even mint and another herb (thyme?). The palate is medium bodied like so many of these 2013s, and a touch thin on the finish. Not among the very best, but quite good indeed. Had never heard of this producer before. If the price is right (again, is that an oxymoron for grand cru Burgundy?), I could consider buying. (90 pts.)
  • 2013 Alain Hudelot-Noellat Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Suave and rich, this wine conveys pleasure. There is nothing too hard or too intense. Honest to the vintage. A charmer but with more than expected weight. Lovely. Among the very best from this tasting – and no surprise. Perhaps the best. This domain, which I visited a few years ago, generally makes polished wines, with elegance and grace, balancing oak (up to 60% for grands crus like this one) and freshness. Oh yes, the plots of vines belonging to this producer are located near the top of the slope. I would be a buyer, but this will probably be a triple digit wine… (94 pts.)
  • 2013 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This starts out fine, with a promising attack but then is a bit steely and lacks enough ripe fruit to be really appealing. After some time in glass, it remained steely and austere. A disappointing showing from a top producer! (86 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Francois Lamarche Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Somewhat closed nose. The palate has richness and fruit, but I feel like the oak is overcoming it, from the mid palate through to a finish that is just a bit tough on the gums. But over time, it gets better in glass. I suspect that the wine will get better in bottle over time and turn out quite good. (89 pts.)
  • 2013 Louis Latour Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This has sap, with some minty and herbal notes reminiscent of the Guillon. But more austere, even if tannin is ripe. Give it time? Interesting to note how the color of the wine seems a bit more evolved than the others. One of the better negociant bottles, although not as good as either Bouchard or Bichot. (89 pts.)
  • 2013 Marchand & Tawse / Pascal Marchand Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    The aromas seemed off, also noted by Neal Martin, who was at the same tasting. NR (flawed)
  • 2013 Mongeard-Mugneret Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Although the nose does not suggest much at this stage, there is a sap filled palate, here, that pleases. Rich and fruit driven, even if the finish is shorter than the mid palate suggests. I rather enjoyed this! (90 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Denis Mortet Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Pine forest nose very fresh with meadow like airiness. The palate is rich, reflecting ripe fruit and moderately substantial. There is energy, the acidity lifts the wine. Finish is also bright. Nice job! An interesting example of a domain whose holdings (just .31 hectares) of Clos Vougeot are at the bottom of the slope, but the vines average over 60 years old… So perhaps the old vines contribute to this success. And talented winemaking. (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Ponsot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    The wine was somewhat closed, although I could get a solid ripe fruit expression, dark and red. The palate was not quite austere, but somewhat edgy through to a medium finish. Considering the producer, a bit of a letdown. (87 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Score higher if you like oak. Yes, this has sap and richness. I could tell that there is structure, too. But why so much oak? Will the fruit be able to stand up to it over time? I am really not too certain. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Henri Rebourseau Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    While not a revelation, I did like the superior freshness coming from this wine after the preceding one. The palate is somewhat polite, although it conveys weight and volume, it just tails off on the finish, which is marked also by a bit of edgy tannin. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Remoissenet Père et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This has concentration and is just delicious. Seductive ripe red and black fruit. Smooth texture on the palate and long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    While not as expressive as the previous wine – reductive aspects – this also has quite a bit of body and substance, built on ripe fruit and with balancing acidity. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Laurent Roumier Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This is lovely wine. Spicy and elegant. Perhaps lacking the concentration and length of the top ones assessed here, but darn tasty. Bravo. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Château de Santenay Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This one left me a bit cold as the palate comes across as austere, like some others here. (87 pts.)
  • 2013 Domaine Tortochot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    This has substance and dark fruit ripeness, with savory flavor and a long finish. Not the most complex but a crowd pleaser with some grand cru gravitas. (91 pts.)

Readers should understand that I have never tasted so many Clos Vougeots from a single vintage, so it was a new experience for me to compare. Perhaps some of the more closed wines just need more time to shine.

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2 Comments on “33 Clos Vougeots from 2013

  1. Have you pinned your notes to a map of the Clos to try to develop a feeling for some kind of unifying characteristics (beyond winemaking and picking decisions) within the major areas of the vineyard?

    • Thanks for writing. I have not pinned notes to a map. Based on tastings and from what I have read from people much more expert in Burgundy than I could ever pretend to be, I do think that winemaking is underestimated, and terroir overestimated with Clos Vougeot. Having said that, if all winemakers were to make the same style of wine, and with same viticulture and vat room work, perhaps the mid to upper slope would turn out to be the best Clos Vougeot. A very good question you pose in any case, and worth digging deeper.

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