Solid Aged Volnay, but Over the Peak

Today’s Story: Maison Nicolas Potel

Maison Nicolas Potel was established in 1997 as a négociant business by Nicolas Potel following the passing of his father Gérard Potel of Domaine de la Pousse d’Or. Thanks to his father’s influence and respect within Burgundy for helping to improve quality, ripeness, and concentration in the region’s wines, Nicolas was able to access some of the great 1er and Grand Crus of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. For example, Roumier, Lafon, and Jean-Marc Boillot (all who looked up to Gérard) sold Nicolas fruit to help jumpstart his namesake venture. By 2002, Nicolas was making wines from 50 different appellations. Shortly thereafter, however, Nicolas ran into cash flow issues during the global economic uncertainty and sold his Maison (including naming rights) to the Cottin brothers of négociant Labouré-Roi in 2004. Nicolas stayed on until 2009 when tensions boiled over, with the Cottin brothers saying his side projects competed with Maison Nicolas Potel and Nicolas saying they disagreed with his philosophy of quality over quantity. Though Nicolas moved on and established Domaine de Bellene with his own vineyards, Maison Nicolas Potel continues making wines under his name to this day.

A traditionalist and staunch proponent of quality over quantity, Nicolas worked with 35+ year old vines whose growers often practice organic or biodynamic viticulture. In the cellar, he practiced minimally invasive winemaking which included pressing with a vertical wine press, maturing the wines for 12-16 months on the lees without racking, and adding minimal SO2. All told, Nicolas adapted each wine to the vintage but at his core wanted to make wines as naturally as possible so they could express each terroir in the truest sense. Though this philosophy remains at Maison Nicolas Potel after he left, the wines bearing Nicolas’ name naturally don’t seem to be the same.

Today’s Wine: 2002 Volnay 1er Cru Pitures

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2002 Volnay 1er Cru Pitures is translucent medium garnet in color with slight bricking (though not too bad). This needed about an hour to blossom in the glass, helping to lift the fading nose to showcase aromas of forest floor, earthy mushroom, leather, grilled green herbs, and gravel followed by red fruits of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry all on their way out the door. The fruit is slightly more alive on the palate but is certainly still fading, displaying notes of tart red cherry, black raspberry, cranberry, truffle, tobacco, leather, loamy earth, garden herbs, and slight smoke. This is light-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish (shorter than I’d like, but that’s the age). There’s still decent structure here, but overall the fruit is fading fast. Drink up if you have any.

Price: $130 (looks like it used to be $70 when last priced on wine-searcher in 2017). I think at its peak drinking window this would’ve been a fantastic bottle for the price. However, given how advanced this is now I would pass on it if you come across it.

Quality Volnay Village

Today’s Story: Domaine Comte Armand

Domaine Comte Armand (also known as Domaine des Epeneaux) was established in the late 18th century when Nicolas Marey took ownership of the 5 hectare monopole Clos des Epeneaux. In 1828, the property came into the Comte Armand family and Clos des Epeneaux remained the only source of their fruit until 1994 when the domaine expanded and purchased property in Volnay. Today the domaine consists of roughly 9 hectares and is under supervision of Vicomte Gabriel Armand, a Parisian lawyer. The family, however, has relied on resident-managers throughout the domaine’s history to manage the estate’s affairs and Vicomte Gabriel Armand continues this tradition today. Benjamin Leroux became winemaker at Comte Armand in 1999 at the age of 23 and he completed the transition to biodynamic farming shortly thereafter. Benjamin transitioned to his own projects in 2014, however, handing the reigns to Paul Zinetti. Comte Armand produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Aligoté and vinifies their wines 100% de-stemmed, uses 20-30% new oak for aging, and bottles the reds unfined and unfiltered but the whites fined and lightly filtered.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Volnay

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2009 Volnay is medium to deep garnet in color and moderately transparent. I did not decant this wine but let it open up in the glass to reveal aromas of ripe red cherry, pomegranate, dried strawberry, forest floor, leather, rose petal, green herbs, cinnamon, and sandalwood. Once in the mouth, this wine offers notes of cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry, tobacco, black pepper, charred earth, black truffle, mineral, and a hint of vanilla. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Not the best red I’ve had from Volnay, but certainly not the worst as this is very easy drinking and should be pleasing to most palates. Typically about 460 cases produced.

Price: $90. Not a bad price-point for this regional Burgundy, though since it’s nothing to write home about I would suggest exploring 1er Cru options or sampling something else at a slightly lower price to begin exploring Volnay. Pair this with salmon, roasted chicken, or duck.