As most Burgundy lovers know by now, the 2021 growing season kept vignerons awake at night up and down the Côte d’Or. There was a long list of challenges: frost, hail, cold periods, wet periods, and all the various maladies that come along with them. In the Côte de Nuits the difficulties did not produce quite the catastrophic loss of quantity that they did for the Chardonnays of the Côte de Beaune (for which see the miniscule quantities of Vincent Boyer’s brilliant whites, detailed next). But for the Côte de Nuits 2021s, it very much matters who made your wine.
When we visited this Spring we were pleased to find how well our producers did. As Allen Meadows (“Burghound”) put it, “2021 produced many really lovely wines that should provide for delicious drinking early on, yet be capable of amply rewarding mid-term cellaring. When the 2021s are good … they are a joy to drink.” Vintages like 2021 produce terroir-transparency, not so much big wines as focused ones that emphasize the uniqueness of their vineyards. Burghound was uniformly enthusiastic about the wines from the Domaine Michel Gros, and we agree with his assessments.
Gros now has four bottlings at the regional level — one from the Côte d’Or itself, and three from the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, located just over the top of the Côte. Michel’s father was an early acquirer of vines in the Hautes Côtes, which feature soils very much like those of the Côte d’Or proper. The recent trend to warmer vintages has made ripening easier, and the wines of the Hautes-Côtes are getting more attention every year.
As we reported in last Sunday’s opening post, the Bourgogne Côte d’Or is especially attractive in 2021, with a lovely aromatic profile of violets, cherries and earth. Unfortunately, too many of you agreed and it sold out. But we’re glad to be able to include Gros’s three regional wines from the Hautes Côtes in this offering. The vines in the Hautes Côtes generally produce darker fruit – more blackcurrant than cherries – and the Domaine’s three bottlings vary according to the particularities of their terroir. The regular Hautes Côtes cuvée offers blackcurrant fruit blended with plenty of earthiness and a hint of toasty oak. Right now, the minerals are front and center, and Burghound suggests perhaps a year in the cellar to round this wine out. Whether you take that route or simply give it some time in a carafe, it will make for a well-priced, refreshing blend of fruit and minerals particularly well-suited to the table.
Hautes Côtes “Au Vallon” faces directly south and so ripens a bit more readily than the regular cuvée. The 2021 Vallon will require less patience than the regular bottling, offering both dark and red fruits along with notes of spice and violets. It’s a wine of medium weight with good precision that should drink well soon after it arrives. The Hautes Côtes “Fontaine St. Martin” 2021 is the most serious of three wines. The 2021 garnered Burghound’s “particularly outstanding for the appellation” marker, and has more density and greater length than the other bottlings. Neal Martin of Vinous agreed, finding “supple tannins, the oak neatly integrated, fine depth” concluding “this is very promising – deserves a couple years in bottle.” The mix of fruit, flowers and spice will benefit from some time in the cellar, but this wine will offer the most complexity in the long run of the three wines from the Hautes Côtes.
At the Village level there are two wines from Nuits St. Georges; one from a group of vineyards near the border with Vosne-Romanée, and one from the “Chaliots” vineyard in the heart of the appellation, near “Les Saint Georges” that lends its name to the town. The former wine always shows a bit of Vosne spice along with its typical Nuits mix of cherry and blackcurrant fruit. The 2021 Nuits offers lovely aromatics in a higher register, providing a counterpoint to the base of earth, toast, and fruit. The 2021 Nuits St. Georges “Chaliots” is from the middle of the appellation, and as usual shows the meatiness that defines typical Nuits St. Georges. The beef-broth element adds depth and heartiness to the wine. It will be a good match for a mid-winter beef and root vegetable stew.
The Domaine’s recent acquisition, Gevrey-Chambertin “La Platiere,” is very nice in 2021. Burghound praised its “lovely layering to the aromas of red currant, newly turned earth and hints of the sauvage and forest floor.” The attractive nose goes well with the wine’s density – this is Gevrey after all – and the combination suggests good aging potential over the next five years or so. Neal Martin of Vinous found it “harmonious, with a precise, mineral finish,” awarding 90-92 points and concluding “very fine.”
Gros’s Morey St. Denis is from a vineyard at the top of the slope that adjoins three Grand Crus (Clos de Tart, Clos des Lambrays, and Bonnes Mares) from above. The elevation adds extra freshness to the complexity that comes from the fine terroir, but the wine from this vineyard always drinks well after a few years, showing excellent balance and an elegant mix of fruit and minerals. This is detailed, lace-like and precise, and in a terroir-transparent year like 2021, it is likely to be particularly nice.
Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée, the most sought-after villages of the Côte de Nuits, are both excellent in 2021. Half of the Chambolle cuvée is from a vineyard that adjoins the great Grand Cru “Le Musigny,” and the wine often develops at a pace more akin to a premier cru than a village wine. The 2021 has excellent potential, with a particularly attractive aromatic profile – lots of high notes, “aerien” as the French put it, and good underlying volume. The finish is long and a bit saline. Burghound thought the wine “sufficiently structured to repay up to a decade of cellaring.” The village Vosne-Romanée also promises a bright future. The expressive nose offers up a dose of the classic Vosne spice and violets, and the finish is long. As with all of the 2021 cuvées, Gros has extracted just enough tannin to support the fruit, and the resulting wine is lithe and middle-weight. We never have trouble finishing a bottle Vosne opened “too young,” but it will require serious restraint to keep your hands off the 2021s early. If you have the patience, this will provide an elegant accompaniment for refined dishes over many years. If not, no worries.
As usual, the Gros wines show the very best at the high end. Burghound gave his “particularly outstanding” indicator to both the Vosne-Romanée premier crus in 2021: Aux Brûlées and the Clos des Réas, the town’s only premier cru monopole, which has been in the Gros family for more than 150 years.
In Aux Brûlées 2021, Burghound offered particular praise for the “restrained but perfumed and even spicier nose [that] reflects notes of sandalwood, anise, exotic tea and pretty floral nuances.” The palate is dense, exhibiting “impressive power” according to Burghound, and the finish is very long. The story is the same for the Clos des Réas, which offers a similarly complex nose. Réas’s fame is as an elegant wine that drinks well early but also ages well, and we expect the 2021 to fit the pattern. Neal Martin effused “this might be one of the most nuanced and desirable Clos des Réas I have encountered…Bravo.” It will need a bit of time for its weight and depth to develop, but after just a year or so it should come into its own. We expect a classic Vosne here, with floral notes, spice and dark fruit, balanced by the note of toasty oak that is the Domaine’s signature.
Finally, there is a very small allocation of Clos Vougeot from Gros’s very small parcel in the best section of this famous Grand Cru vineyard. Even in a year like 2021, his Clos Vougeot is big wine, very concentrated and powerful. The fruit is deep and dark, and the finish is extra long. As Burghound described it, “A classic Clos de Vougeot.” There’s precious little of this to go around, so we’ve lowered the minimum to 3 bottles.
Gros usually serves his white last during our tastings, so we’ll do the same. The Hautes Côtes’ Fontaine St. Martin is also home to the Domaine’s sole white wine. Chardonnay is planted to about ⅖ of the monopole’s surface area, and so benefits from the same excellent soils as those found on the Hill of Corton. The wine, raised in oak barrels, has toasty notes of oak that recall the Domaine’s reds, together with orchard fruit dosed with a touch of lemon peel. The 2021 is of medium weight, with good length and balance. It is likely to drink well in the near term.