WB Weekly Burgundy Appellation Series Week 14: Volnay

Hello and welcome to our WineBerserkers Weekly Burgundy Appellation Tasting Series. This week, we will focus on the wines of Volnay.


We will begin with a few comments noted in MJ Lavalle’s ‘Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne et Des Grands Vins de la Côte d’Or, written in 1855.

-Roughly 220 hectares planted to Pinot noir, 210-220 to gamay
-Perhaps, like Beuane, it is considered to produce the greatest number excellent wines
-Nevertheless, it seems that to be right, we must distinguish some climates, notably “Les Caillerets” and “Les Champans”, as being distinguished under the name Tête de Cuvée.
-Cited as the the old home of kings and the first dukes of Burgundy

Tête de Cuvée

En Cailleret, En Cailleret-Desus, Les Caillerets 14ha 42a 60 cents

En Champans 11ha 34a 90 cents

Première Cuvée

En Chevret 6ha 6a 45 cents
En Fremiers 6ha 50a 45 cents
En Bouze-D’Or 1ha 96a 85 cents
Les Angles and Pointe-D’Angles 4ha 70a 75 cents
La Barre 1ha 29a 60 cents
Carelle-s. (Saint) Chapelle and Rougiots 3ha 78a 95 cents
En L’Ormeau 4ha 34a 35 cents
Les Mitans 3ha 99a 50 cents

Deuxième Cuvée

Les Clos-Des-Chênes 16ha 27a 40 cents
En Taille-Pieds 7ha 28a 85 cents
En Verneuil 79a 45 cents
Les Cazelles-Dessus 2ha 12a 80 cents
Les Aussy 3ha 32a 75 cents
Les Roncerets 2ha 1a 70 cents
La Robardelle 4ha 25a 70 cents
En Brouillard 6ha 82a 20 cents

Troisième Cuvée

Les Grands-Champs
La Gigotte
Les Combes
Les Lurets
Les Pluchots
Les Echares
Les Jouères
Les Pitures-Dessus
En Vaux
Les Chanlains
La Cave

Quatrième Cuvée

Sur Rocher
Le Pâquier
Les Petits-Près
Les Longbois
Les Petits-Gamets
Les Buttes
Les Serpents
Les Grands-Poisots
Les Petits-Poisots

Lavalle placed the following remarks:

The wines of Volnay are thus appreciated by one of our most competent connoisseurs : “The wines of Volnay are exquisite by their finesse, their purity of taste and of bouquet. They are, we believe, the finest wines of the Côte de Beaune, apart from le Santenot.

All of the authors that have written about the wines of the Côte d’Or have agreed with finding a fair appreciation. M. Morelot (Dr Denis Morelot – author of Statistique de la Vigne dans le Department de la Côte D’Or written in 1831)
, in his ‘Statistique’, expressed it as: ‘All of the wines that are harvested on this part of the Côte are excellent. They have finesse, a bouquet, a delicacy, a smooth taste that is not met by one in any other space in wine. Also, as they are never too young or too old, one can say that they are at the summit of all the other wines. ‘

This would be an error and an injustice in accepting in this form of general opinion issued by M. Morelot.

Obviously, it cannot be accepted by anyone in Volnay to have this type of rating, as a whole, to possess the type of superiority that he poses. The top wines of other places in the Côte are certainly above the best wines of Volnay, and if we are to be truthful, they cannot compare (aside from Les Caillerets and Les Champans) to the best wines of other climats.

In understanding these limits, one willingly accepts the appreciation of M. Morelot. Within the climats of Volnay, les Caillerets produces vines very remarkable by an exquisite finesse and that which merits being placed into the rank of the Tête de Cuvée. Also, it is said in our countryside, that if it didn’t have the vines of Cailleret that the there wouldn’t be a known value of Volnay. It is above all in the 12th-16th centuries that the wines of Volnay have aquired their most brilliant reputation. We see that the wines of the Côte de Nuits, at that time less widespread, were rarely appreciated, and the wines of the Côte de Beaune were the only wines in great renown afar. Among those, the wines of Volnay, as today, stood in the top rank.

I will recall that from the 13th to 17th Century, the wines of Volnay and from Pommard should only have a color, lightly shaded, such as the eye of a partridge. For this, one cultivates a lot of white vines and one leaves the wines for a short time in the tank.

Thanks, Ray. Surprised to see Taillepied as a deuxieme. Is Clos des Ducs camouflaged within one of the other appelations?

Thanks, Ian. I couldn’t find anything specifically. I did see that he cites Courtépée as remarking that, “Hughes IV, in 1250 making reparations to restore the ‘chateau’, citing that it was a place of sojourn for the dukes and duchesses for relaxing due to ‘very varied views’ (seriously), good air that one can breathe and of the excellence of the wines and of their countryside.”

Closest I find ranked is “Les Pitures-Dessus” in Troisième Cuvée rank. Two things:

It is possible that the owners of these vines in Clos des Ducs did not place the wine on market, at least not in a great quantity. It is also possible that the Clos was an enclosed section of what was considered still widely considered as “les Pitures-Dessus”. In short, both Lavalle and Morelot before him passed up naming a “Clos des Ducs”.

One of the more interesting side stories of this is the tone in which Lavalle goes after Morelot’s opinion of Volnay. I know that Lavalle borrowed heavily from Morelot’s text, so I know that he respected his work. With Lavalle being the author of higher regard, (at least Lavalle is less obscure), I wonder what consequence the statements in Lavalle’s book had on the reputation of Volnay wines lauded by Morelot.

Thanks Ray. There is less pinot noir today, until you add in Santenots, and a lot less gamay, LOL. Here is my introduction to Volnay…

Volnay’s stock in trade is wines that are fragrant, delicate, elegant, and feminine. The best of Volnay has a powerful and yet weightless presence on the palate.

Wineberserkers is a tough crowd when it comes to making generalized simplifications such as the above. Last week we had significant evidence presented that is contra to the general characterization of Pommard as sturdy, structured, and austere in youth. I’m sure we’ll have contra data points offered up this week, but perhaps they just need some cellaring to allow the raucous youthful fruit to subside, and the elegant, feminine side to emerge.

Indeed, Volnay is often compared to Chambolle-Musigny. To me, there is no higher praise that can be given. In Burgundy, generalities are usually misleading, but I think to compare these two communes is better than most generalities in the region, as both are known for delicate, ethereal wines of finesse, yet having concentration, intensity, and grip that belies their weightless, airy profile.

Volnay has about 238 hectares of vineyard…
98 ha village level (averaging nearly 43,000 cases of wine annually).
140 ha of 1er cru (about 55,000 cases on average). The 1er cru vineyards include 111 ha in the commune of Volnay plus 29 ha of Volnay-Santenots, located in the commune of Meursault but labeled as Volnay if pinot noir is grown (as most of it is).

Grand Crus:

Quasi-Grand 1er Crus:
Clos des Ducs (2.41 ha monopole of Marquis d’Angerville)
Caillerets (14.36 ha)

Elite 1er Crus:
Taillepieds (7.13 ha)
Clos des Chenes (15.41 ha)
Clos de la Bousse d’Or (2.14 ha monopole of Dom. Pousse d’Or)
Clos du Chateau des Ducs (0.57 ha monopole of Dom. Michel Lafarge)
Santenots du Milieu (in Meursault, 8.01 ha)

Other 1er Crus… After the elite crus listed above, my honorable mention would go to Champans and Fremiets.

Just a note about Santenots: I’m not in favor of labeling wine from one commune under the name of another, as a general matter of principle. And in particular, I’m not in favor of Santenots piggy-backing on Volnay. Santenots is a fine cru, indeed an elite cru if we’re talking Santenots du Milieu. But Santenots tends to be richer, more full-bodied than the best of Volnay, which is defined by more ethereal, feminine wines. I would rather call it Meursault 1er Cru Santenots Rouge, and if there is a problem with that, how about Pommard Santenots?

1 Like

You are a gentleman and a scholar, Ray; and by all accounts an exceptional wine-maker.

Thank you Ian, that is a truly generous thing to say! I don’t really deserve the really nice compliment as I don’t really do all that much and I am hoping to never have to ‘make’ wine. :wink:

I will call up the domaine tomorrow to see if they know the older lieu dit, or if there is a bit more history that we could possibly unearth.

We generally drink Volnays with various kinds of fresh salmon. It makes a great combination.

Lavalle ranks Champans at the very top, but I rank it lower as the wines tend to be fuller, richer, and less delicate and complex than some other Volnay climats. Regardless of that, Domaine Marquis d’Angerville does it well…

Domaine d’Angerville 1999 Volnay 1er Cru Champans
Slightly darker color with slight evolution toward garnet. A fragrant wine with lovely dark fruits and minerals. Deep and expressive palate, satin texture, rocks and fruit in a very elegant arrangement. Powerful and tightly wound, with great balance and poise. Seems to want 3 to 5 years. Great stuff. Outstanding, with upside potential.

Domaine d’Angerville 2002 Volnay 1er Cru Champans
Gorgeous ruby color. Less perfumed than the other decanter, and a wee bit spirituous. Big and spicy and forward palate features red fruits and is a bit garish compared to the elegantly refined 1999. I wait. After 4 hours decanting, the fruit is now tending toward the dark side, with velvety texture and minerality emerging on the long finish. The heat is gone, the balance is better now. Outstanding, but the 1999 is better.

A link to notes about a Volnay tasting we did a couple of months back: Volnay night - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers

It was a very popular tasting, and for good reason. Our Burg group has been kind of moving from village to village each month, but I am sure if I suggested going out of order and doing Volnay again, I would get an very enthusiastic YES. It was the quickest responses I have ever had in organizing one of our tastings. I think we had it full in about 15 minutes.

Another recent Volnay was a 2007 Domaine Dublere Volnay Pitures. Very rich but pure and elegant wine. Impressive for a 2007 (no hole in the middle as with so many 2007s). It was the first wine from Dublere I have had and I was impressed. The one thing that surprised me is that it had a screwcap rather than a cork. I have little experience aging wines with a screwcap (a little Selbach but even that does not go back that far). Has anyone had wines 10+ years of age with a screwcap? What has been your experience?

Lew, are those recent notes?
Trying to determine when that '99 is going to hit its stride…

Tyler, from this weekend. Fine to open one now if you have several, IMO.

Thanks for the note on this. I almost opened this last night but went with the d’Angerville ‘07 1er Cru instead. I’ll post some notes after the Day 2 assessment. Regarding screwcaps, I’ll bet Jeremy Holmes has had a few with many years under cap. He was very vocal in a recent thread extolling screwcaps’ virtues!


I am interested in what Jeremy has to say. At the moment, I am neither pro nor con screwcaps. I just want evidence before I buy too much wines with them for longer term aging. For short-term, no problem.

FWIW, my views are the same as yours. Open to the idea but not ready to make a complete shift without more data.

Quick question on the Dublere Volnay. How was the acidity? The d’Angerville had a lower acidity than I anticipated, giving it an unusually soft, but not flabby, mouthfeel or texture that IMO detracts a bit from its “transparency”. As an analogy, it reminds me of a photograph that has been digitally altered with soft lighting to give a soft and pleasing effect at the expense of obscuring detail. I’ve noticed this with a few other '07 red Burgs, so I think it may be vintage specific, but I don’t drink much Volnay in general, and d’Angerville specifically, to rule out that commune or producer-specific factors could be playing a role.

I can think of a few possible reasons why Taillepieds and Clos des Chênes were not ranked as highly by Lavalle as they generally are today.

One is that they are fairly high up on the hill and there may have been ripening problems back then that don’t exist today.

A second is, as Morelot noted, there used to be white grapes mixed with the red for Volnay (he says through the 17th century, but I think it continued in the eighteenth century) and even when it became fully planted in red, Volnay was (and still is) prized for its delicacy. Taillepieds gives a very structured wine in the context of Volnay and so may not have impressed as much for those judging solely on the basis of delicacy.

Thanks, Claude.

I did not have a problem with the acidity in the wine. I mean it was not like drinking a 1996, but it also was not like drinking a 2003. As I said, I liked the wine, although it was a 2007, which means a medium bodied early maturing wine.

I am kind of surprised that you had a problem with too little acidity with a D’Angerville wine. That has never been an issue with any d’Angerville wine I have had, although I have not tasted any 2007s.

And, Steve, drink more Volnay. You will be happy you did. When are you coming to DC again?

This raises something I have been wondering for a while, including in a conversation a couple of months ago with Ray. I wonder if a generation from now our concept of the best vineyards will slightly change with vineyards higher up the slope (cooler vineyards) increasing in reputation. Will villages like St. Aubin increase in reputation?

Howard – I think we’re already seeing changes. Vineyards such as Reignots and Petits Monts in Vosne-Romanée – which are uphill from La Romanée and Richebourg, respectively – are more sought after now because they can achieve more favorable ripeness than in the past. I understand that Bruno Clair has put in an application to have En la Rue de Vergey, high on the hill above Clos de Tart, reclassified as a premier cru. Etc., etc.

But climate is only one aspect of what produces the wine, and so I think certain cool terroirs, such as Auxey-Duresses and much of St-Aubin, while being perhaps less lean than in the past, are never going to turn into Puligny-Montrachet or Volnay.

I opened up Leroy (Maison) Volnay '98 with the intention of adding a TN here. Eeeech. The worst smell of rotten garbage I have ever had from a wine. Kathmandu in summer smelled better. I lacked the courage to taste. Too lazy to find a different Volnay.