Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Burgundy

Domaine de la Pousse d’Or is one of Burgundy’s great names, based in the village of Volnay in the Côte de Beaune. It owns 17 hectares of vines, mainly in Côte de Beaune, but also in the more northerly Côte de Nuits. Holdings are dominated by five grand crus, 11 premier crus, and three ‘monopoles’ – vineyards exclusive to the domaine.

The Domaine’s HQ is a seventeenth century building once known as the Château de Volnay, with vineyards that spread out from immediately in front of the house. Volnay accounts for more than 40% of the estate’s land.

In the late 1990s, having sold his healthcare company, Patrick Landanger acquired the Domaine from Gérard Potel. He made significant investments in the vineyards, including the purchase of extensive vineyards in the Côte de Nuits from domaines including Moine-Hudelot. But Landanger was not content to just own the property, so he studied winemaking and took over that role in 1999. In 2013 his son, Benoit, joined him on the winemaking and management team, with Benoit taking over the helm in 2018.

The domaine was farmed according to organic principles for many year, but in 2012 the Landangers introduced biodynamic practices across all holdings and, in 2018, the estate became biodynamically certified. Winemaking facilities and cellars have also been extensively upgraded, the new cellars operating under gravity flow, and grape selection aided by state-of-the-art computerised optical sorting systems.

Thanks to the wonders of Zoom, I met up with Benoit Landanger in January 2021 to taste through the five wines below. These are from the 2018 vintage, just entering the international market at the time of the tasting, and a vintage which is described as sunny and exceptional by the domaine.

Benoit explained the long history of La Pousse d’Or, which at one point in the 19th century was part of a larger domaine that also included Clos de Tart and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This is a domaine focused on its own vineyards, with no négociant aspect to its business, fruit coming only from their own 17 hectares.

It appears to be a meticullous operation, Benoit explaining that grapes are harvested and sorted in three stages, by hand and machine, then destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Wines are aged for around 18 months, the percentage of new barrels varying from 30 to 50 percent. Yields are low at around 30hl/ha for the Volnay Bousse d’Or for example, and there is a green harvest to help acheive this.

Minimal sulphur is used across the portfolio and in recent vintages there have been experiments with terracotta amphorae for aging, which are bottled and labelled separately. Referring to this, Benoit explains that they make amphora bottlings of three of their premier crus. The question he asked himself was, “how would the wine taste with no aroma or flavour coming from the oak, but with similar oxygen exchange during elevage?” Clay amphora offer this similar oxygen exchange, but he thinks the four vintages he has made so far are too few to be conclusive: “people always disagree on the wines, because they do show a distinct difference.”  Benoit himself has drawn no conclusions as yet, because he prefers one wine, or the other, in different vintages.

Another change that Benoit explains, is that when his dad was in charge, marketing was not part of his thinking: he never travelled, “and waited at the domaine for people to visit him.” This tasting – the first time they have sent sample bottles to journalists, is part of his effort to engage more directly with customers and the press.

2018 at La Pousse d’Or

Benoit describes 2018 as “an exuberant’ vintage.” He goes on: “it was dry and hot, with no rain in the summer, which made it difficult to decide on the harvest date.” Picking date was crucial: “In Volnay we are generally the last to pick, but in 2018 we were among the first.” He says that with vivid memories of the over-ripeness of 2003 he was determined to retain freshness in 2018. He is surprised that there was a very good quantity of juice in 2018. For the domaine’s whites, Benoit thinks 2019 and 2020 had more uniformity, but says “2018 was a magic year: as long as you kept yields small.”

At time of review, 2017 is the most recent vintage of the domaine’s wines listed by UK retailers, so I have given prices for those as an indication for each wine. Note also that most offer the wines in-bond (with duty and VAT still to be paid) and by the six-bottle case. I have given single bottle retail prices where available. Where the wine is only available by the case, in-bond, I have given an approximate single bottle retail price.

The Wines

(2021) The only white wine tasted here, though the domaine also produces a Chevalier-Montrachet, the 'Cailleret' name of this Premier Cru comes from the high pebble presence in the vineyard, planted in 1976 and purchased from the Chartron family in 2004. Benoit explains that historiclly it was regarded as a 'Grand Cru', but some historical local politics meant it enjoys the Premier Cru designation. There's a gorgeous lemon-butter shortbread richness on the nose, but that does not dominate: a steely, stony citrus takes the honours. In the mouth a great thrust of lemon again and a really intriguing orange note to the acidity, almost like the bite of a Negroni, shimmering with energy into the long finish. A delicious bitter-sweet and long finish to the wine.
(2021) What a lovely young wine this is, from a 'monopole' walled vineyard in the middle of Volnay, extending to 2.3 hectares and named 'Bousse d'Or' because authorities would not allow a domaine and vineyard of the same name. Vineyards were planted between the 1950s and 1970s. There's a delightful raspberry-scented, bright red fruit character here, spices, flowers and pomegranate in a fragrant and crunchy profile. In the mouth it is so racy and bright, etched and edged by its acidity and tight tannins, the character is red fruited again, with fine length and lots of character. Price quoted at time of review is for the previous vintage.
(2021) From a tiny plot of little over 0.3 hectares facing south-east and largely limestone, also including rock, marl, sand, red silt, and large crushed pebbles. Planted over 1990 and 1991. Benoit says the acidity is always a little higher here. A beautifully perfumed and bright style here, and yes, reminds me of pomegranate and redcurrant (groseilles is French for redcurrant) with a lovely bite of energising acidity, but free-flowing and juicy, a stripe of fine tannin, but such lovely elegance here. Approximate bottle equivalent price given.
(2021) From a famous vineyard with an easterly sun exposure, the soil a mixture of clay and limestone, half of the vines were planted in 1979, the remainder in 1987. Benoit thinks the red wines of Corton are under-appreciated and under-valued, perhaps based on poorer wines once made by local négociants. Good depth of colour but far from opaque. So much more meaty substance than the Volnay, earthy, smoky, meaty. The perfume begins to emerge and certainly on tasting the sweet, ripe, cherry fruit is almost surprisingly bright, but there is that earthy, truffly character too, quite a masculine spine of tannin, but it is not at all austere or overly muscular. Perhaps lacks a touch of the zipping freshness of some others here, but very fine indeed. Price is for the previous vintage at time of review.
(2021) From an east-facing vineyard of limestone soil in the Côte de Nuits, where large blocks of stone give the vineyard its name, vines were planted in 1950-1951. Deep, and relatively saturated garnet in colour, the nose is suffused with spiced black fruits, a little wild cherry note, and sweet earthiness hinting at menthol in this very young wine. In the mouth there's a phalanx of tannin and keen cherry-pit acidity driving for now, the firm, savoury fruit more in the red fruit specturm, a little umami and hard, steely precision of cool concentration. A tightly-wound wine that will need years to properly develop its aromas and flavours, and will cellar for decades. Intensity and balance are both superb already. Price and stockist quoted is for the previous vintage at time of review. Around 280€ per bottle in France.

2 comments

  1. What I like from your 17 hectares of vineyards is the style of the terroir, great wines overall.

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