Chassagne 2004 – Two performances

The 2003 vintage is now gone at the Cote de Beaune. It has been one of the warmest and driest vintages ever, with very low yields. It is the 2004 vintage now, and Chassagne-Montrachet expects this to be a vintage that makes justice to the village reputation.

For Michel Niellon, this has been a vintage of considerable yields but great acidity and good sugar levels as well. Oidium has been a constant risk due to the wet summer, requiring to keep an eye out at the vineyard. Moreover, the high yields have required a careful and just gentle press of the grapes. Is this a small domain, that manages around 7 ha of old vines, with a strong believe in low yields and producing concentrated wines. The percentage of new barrels here is around 20% and wines have been bottled in August.

Bernard Morey emphasises how a dry growing season preceded wet July and August months, with the already mentioned Oidium and Mildew problems. Nothing that couldn’t be controlled. Actually the hail in Beaune has caused more damage, destroying part of the crop. Morey has started harvesting the last week of September in Chassagne. He considers 2004 to be an excellent vintage, offering all a white wine needs to evolve in bottle. We are talking here about a producer that controls around 15 ha of vineyard owned or en fermage. The percentage of new oak is up to 40% in many cases. Like in the case of Niellon, the wines have been bottled in August.

That was 2004, now we are in 2013. In order to experience the effect of all these practices and conditions, we bought a couple of Chassagne village wines from both producers some years ago. We have the chance now to check them out, nine years after the vintage year. Considering that they share vintage and village, we are curious about how different winemaking practices translate to these particular bottles.

So there we go. Niellon’s wine has currently a deeper and more yellow-golden colour. It is also riper in the nose (mellon) but also cleaner. Morey’s shows some sulphuric nuances right now that anyway don’t hide a more mineral-driven and austere wine. The wood here is perceived more as nuts versus the more sweet aromas of Niellon’s Chassagne. Is the later a more ample and unctuous wine. Less acidic, but less persistent as well. 

This leaves several open questions in our mind. They are just that, open questions, and not conclusions. Has Niellon been more careful with fruit selection this year? Is Morey himself a producer that prefers earlier harvests in order to achieve higher acidities and less mature wines? Or was not a matter of style but a decision on picking up earlier in order to avoid weather problems that finally never came?

Leave a Reply