Thursday, October 26, 2017

Domaine Michel LAFARGE (Volnay) -- 2016 tasted from tank and barrel

It was fitting that I began my tastings at Michel Lafarge: my first visit to review Burgundy for The Fine Wine Review started at this estate, and I’ve visited every year since, making this the thirtieth consecutive year I’ve visited. Throughout that time, Lafarge has been consistent in upholding the highest standards, notwithstanding the many years that posed very difficult conditions such as rain, hail, and now frost.

It was Michel Lafarge who received me on that first visit and for many years thereafter. In more recent years, Michel’s son Frédéric has received me, but I often see Michel to say hi, too. Frédéric is about the same age now as Michel was on that first visit, and Michel will be turning 89 in just a few weeks. Time flies!

Lafarge’s vines suffered from the freezes on the nights of 27, 28, and 29 April. Losses amounted to about 70%. Following the freezes, there was lots of mildew, but the estate was equipped to handle it well.

Harvesting began on 21 September with the Volnay 1er Cru, Clos du Château des Ducs. As always, all grapes were destemmed by hand. Generally, the wines finished their malolactic fermentations in March or April, but the Bourgogne-Passetoutgrains was considerably later. Alcohols are in the 12.8-13.0º range and there was very little chaptalization. 

Frédéric characterizes the vintage as joyous, and I agree. The style here, as with many of the 2016s that I’ve tasted, is similar to 2014 but with more gentleness to it. Without knowing the story of 2016, one would not guess that these wines came from a very small harvest. The wines are very good expressions of their respective terroirs.

Overall, in the last five years, Lafarge has made as much wine as it makes in two normal years; to put it another way, the average for each of the past five years is only 40% of a normal year’s harvest. This, alas, is typical of the producers on the Côte de Beaune. (In 2017, there was a harvest of normal quantity, the first since 2009.) (Continue reading here.)