So, like most denizens of NYC, we retreated into our apartment and hunkered down on Saturday night to wait out Hurricane Irene. As I perused our wines to see what might be ready to drink, one bottle leapt out at me – this 1996 Domaine de l’Arlot Clos du Chapeau. This wine has the appellation Cote de Nuits-Villages, which encompasses a handful of villages and the northern and southern ends of the Cotes de Nuits in Burgundy, which tend to be less heralded than wines from well-known villages like Volnay, Chambolle-Musigny or Gevrey-Chambertin. Like the red burgundies from those places, this wine is made from 100% pinot noir. Because they come from less-famous terroirs, Cote de Nuits Villages wines (which I’ll call CDNV) tend to be on the affordable side of red burgundies. I like to think of them this way: one step up from bourgognes (Burgundy’s entry level wines), but not quite as expensive as wines made entirely of grapes from a single village, which are commonly called village wines. Prices for CDNV bottlings tend to range from the high $20s to higher $30s range.
This particular wine comes from a producer called Domaine de l’Arlot, whose winery is actually situated in Nuits-St.-Georges (which I’ll call NSG), the closest of the more famous villages to the land where this bottling comes from, Clos du Chapeau. Clos du Chapeau is in the village Comblanchien, a bit south and east of Nuits-St.-Georges. From my experience, I consider Arlot to be a good producer, with some very good wines from NSG premier crus as well as some holdings in Vosne-Romanee. I don’t have a lot of Burgundy from the ’90s, so when I bought this recently, I figured “good producer, has some age, decent price – why not?”
The conventional wisdom on CDNV wines is that they are simple, fruity, meant to be drunk early – say, within 5-6 years from the vintage of the wine. So, in buying this a few weeks ago, I had been taking a chance that this wine, already 15 years old, would still be good because of the quality of the producer. I was not disappointed.
As the storm raged on, I was content in the refuge of our apartment with a glass of this in my hand. In the glass I found aromas of lighter red fruits and a very Burgundian damp earth quality. On the palate, the wine was very much alive, still in its prime even (though on the back end of it), with solid, bracingly tart red fruit, some exotic spice and a slightly savory overall feel. The slight tinges of orange-brown in the color of the wine revealed its age, and the body was resolved and somewhat silky – more Volnay than NSG, really. All in all, textbook red burgundy, and one of many examples of red burgundies that have aged well for much longer than they’re supposed to. After 8+ hours of aeration, the limits of this wine show – the acidity that kept this juicy for an afternoon and evening starts to turn a bit shrill, and the fruit starts to run short. But that’s just fine for a CDNV – this minor leaguer fielded every ball cleanly and contributed a base hit or two – everything you could ask of it, and more.
Come noon the next day, the storm had mostly passed, leaving our neighborhood a bit battered (as you can see from the photos) but not too much worse for the wear. Inclement weather is never a great thing, but I’ll count us lucky this time: sometimes Mother Nature forcing you to cancel everything, slow things down, and enjoy a quiet, contemplative evening is not a bad thing at all.
(I don’t normally link to a particular store when I review wines but it’s not easy to find older vintage burgundies that are not astronomically priced – so I will tell you that I found this one for $42 (with a discount if you buy 6 or more wines like I did) at Grapes The Wine Company in White Plains, New York. The store has a well-chosen selection and good storage (even the store is cold like a wine cellar!), and very friendly service. You can order online and if you join their mailing list, the daily emails from the colorful owner, Dan Posner, are a fun read with some really good deals sometimes as well).
Hope you all made it through the hurricane okay! Cheers,