Burgundy – A guide to Volnay and its vineyards

On last year’s trip to Burgundy we only visited two producers in Volnay: Nicolas Rossignol and Domaine de la Pousse d’Or. During the coming months we are planning to dig deeper in Volnay, its producers and characteristics and therefore we start with an introduction to the area and some of the vineyards. In parts this will get at bit technical, but it is meant as an introduction which we will refer back to in later blog posts. So bare with us…

The plan, preliminary, is to taste the following four producers and wines:
– Domaine de Montille: Les Brouillards 2006 vs. Les Taillepieds 2006
– Domaine Marquis d’Angerville: Taillepieds 2003 vs. Champans 2003
– Domaine Nicolas Rossignol: Chevrets 2007 vs. Le Ronceret 2010
– Domaine Michel Lafarge: Clos des Chenes 2006 vs. Clos du Chateau des Ducs 2006

If you have any recommendations or input, please let us know.

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Overview of Volnay

Volnay is an appellation in the Côte de Beaune district in Burgundy which got its controlled appellation status in 1937. The village Volnay is situated south of Beaune and the neighbouring appellations are Pommard and Meursault. On this link you find a map of the Burgundy region.

In Volnay you can find fantastic wines at reasonable prices compared to other famous appellations e.g. Vosne-Romanée or Chambolle-Musigny in the neighbour district Côte de Nuits, but you need good knowledge about vineyards, producers and of course your personal preferences. It has been said that Volnay is the Chambolle-Musigny of the Côte de Beaune, which may be true for some vineyards in the hands of the right domains. The wines can be very delicate and elegant rather than powerful with a fragrant bouquet and offer a high level of complexity and deep aromas. The top wines are usually described as feminine, having feather-light, slim structure and developing the most silky tannins of Burgundy. Comparisons are sometimes made with Pommard since it is a neighbouring area, but the differences are evident, even though the vineyards bordering the areas may have similarities. In 2008 the annual production was approximately one million bottles which was produced from 206.7 hectares. More than half of the production is Premier Cru wines. No grand cru wines exist in Volnay.

The terroir of Volnay contains a high proportion of limestone, often with a surface of marl. In general the hills are quite steep and compared to other appellations in the region, more faced towards south east instead of east. In a simplified overview the Premier Cru vineyards of Volnay can be sorted into three clusters, based on geography. For a map of the Volnay vineyards click here.

South of the village Volnay you find the first cluster with Clos des Chênes and Taillepieds furthest uphill and vineyards like Caillerets and Champans downhill from these. In general you find more limestone uphill and an increasing level of stony soil further downhill. You can also include Santenots, which is in Meursault, but the red wines produced in this vineyard are classified as Volnays.

The second cluster includes vineyards close to or in the village. These include, among others, Clos de la Bousse d’Or, Clos des Ducs, Le Village and Clos de la Chapelle. Here you find marl (calcareous clay) and a high proportion of white chalk. Previously these where gathered under the name Le Village, but after 1985 they are allowed to use the individual names, which has resulted in quite small vineyards of which a few are Monopole, i.e. the whole vineyard is owned by one Domaine.

The third cluster includes vineyards close to Pommard (Les Chanlins and Les Frémiets) and the ones further down the slope (e.g. Les Brouillards and Les Mitans). These are usually not regarded as the finest vineyards of Volnay, since the wines often lack some of the elegance and finesse of the wines produced in the other vineyards. Still there are exceptions to the rule. Wines produced from really old vines (vielles vignes) in the best positions and in the hands of the best Domaines.

A deeper dive into some of the Volnay vineyards

The selection of vineyards below is based on either quality or the fact that we are going to taste wines from these vineyards in the close future. Most of the vineyards are from cluster one, since this is a large cluster with high quality vineyards, but we will also test wines from the other clusters, therefore I also included Clos du Chateau des Ducs from cluster two and Les Brouillards from cluster three.

Clos des Chênes, which produces some of the best wines of the region, is situated south of Volnay and high up on the hillside. It contains a mix of limestone marl and clay-limestone. At the bottom of the vineyard there is more red soil with a higher level of iron and the further up you move the limestone takes over. The vineyard faces southeast and gets steeper further up. Two of the top producers from this vineyard are Domaine des Comtes Lafon and Domaine Michel Lafarge.

Les Caillerets is situated next to Meursault, just downhill from Clos des Chênes, and is regarded to be among the top vineyards of Volnay. The name (The Small Pebbles) comes from the stones in the soil, which is made up of limestone and calcium rich clay. The vineyard is facing east and south east. Usually the wines have mineral tones and a clear structure. Domaine Michel Lafarge and Nicolas Rossignol are two of the more famous producers of Les Caillerets.

Les Taillepieds, with its 7.17 ha, is said to have been given its name because the sharp stones that damaged the feet of the people working at the vineyard. Just as with Clos des Chênes we find a lot of limestone here, but also marl. It also has a more southerly exposure than Clos des Chênes. Les Taillepieds is another top vineyard of the region and it produces wine that age very well. Examples of top producers are Domaine de Montille and Marquis d’Angerville.

En Chevret is surrounded by some of the top Premier Cru sites in Volnay, including Clos des Chênes and Caillerets. The soil is a mix of clay and limestone and has quite high levels of iron. The wines are quite concentrated and structured. Nicolas Rossignol is one of the more known producers from this vineyard.

Santenots-du-Milieu is a section of the Santenots vineyard in Meursault, on the border to Volnay. The 22.36 hectare vineyard faces southeast and has clay soil above a base of limestone. Although the vineyard is based in Meursault, the wines can be classified as Volnay wines partly because the vineyard is better suited for Pinot Noir while the Meursault name is famous for white wines. The wines lack the elegance of the top vineyards of Volnay, but are usually quite rich, and have a higher level of tannins. The wines can have similarities with wines from Pommard or Gevrey-Chambertin. Domaine des Comtes Lafon and Domaine Faiveley are two of the more famous producers in Santenots-du-Milieu.

En Champans is one of the larger vineyards in Volnay and situated in the heart of the Volnay region, south east of the village. There are high levels of limestone at the top of the vineyard but further down the soil contains more clay. Both the size and the differences within the vineyard result in large differences between En Champans wines. Examples of top producers are Domaine de Montille and Marquis d’Angerville.

The Clos du Chateau des Ducs is a Lafarge Monopole of 0.57 ha and has vines which are between 16-55 years old. The vineyard has been owned by the family for a century. There are approximately 40 cm of soil on top of a layer of gravel and underneath is bedrock.

Les Brouillards is a small vineyard located between Les Mitans and Pommard and on the lower part of the hillside. The upper part of the vineyard is stony with limestone and marl, and further downhill there is more soil. The wines produced from Les Brouillards are usually more generous and fruity than structured.

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