Wine of the Weekend: Nicolas Rossignol’s 2015 Bourgogne Rouge L’Héritière

Wine of the Weekend: Nicolas Rossignol’s 2015 Bourgogne Rouge L’Héritière

It certainly comes as no secret that steadily growing global demand for red Burgundies over the last two decades has narrowed the possibilities for discovering “good values.” Prices for wines from top producers have spiked to hundreds of dollars per bottle. So it’s reassuring to taste a wine like Nicolas Rossignol’s marvelous 2015 Bourgogne Rouge L’Héritière and realize that rapport qualité-prix“–that is, good quality for the price—still exists for top-notch Burgundy wines.

Nicolas Rossignol in the vineyards of Volnay in November, 2016.

On its face, the wine comes from a rather modest regional appellation. But there’s a whole lot more to this wine than first meets the eye.

Tasted blind, you might easily mistake it for either an outstanding Village level wine or even a well made Premier Cru wine. Its deep ruby color offers intriguing ripe dark cherry and smoky, earthy hints. Transparent, ripe red fruit unfolds in the glass with medium concentration. Meanwhile marvelous mineral freshness and smooth, elegant tannins frame the delightful finish. Just a sheer delight to drink especially after decanting the wine for several hours.

Three critical factors come together to make this wine possible.

First the remarkable 2015 vintage created opportunities for even modest regional Bourgogne appellations to shine brightly. From start to finish, this warm vintage provided optimal conditions virtually across the entire region. Yet the year was not without risks. Extreme heat and drought in June and July lowered yields and created the danger of dried out berries. But in August temperatures slackened, and just enough rain fell to avoid disaster. The Pinot Noir grapes remained juicy and well balanced with ample concentration and fresh acidity, and the skins ripened nicely to deliver saturated color with elegant tannins. The key came in picking early enough to capture the fruit at its best.

Second the Pinot Noir fruit for the 2015 Bourgogne Rouge L’Héritière comes from very special vines located in “Les Crenilles” lieu-dit in Pommard. According to Rossignol, his great-grandfather planted the vineyard in 1922, so vines are very old indeed. They deliver limited yields of complex grapes that create opportunities for producing extraordinary wines for a modest regional appellation.

rossignol cave
Nicolas Rossignol’s new cuverie in Beaune.

Third, you have Nicolas Rossignol himself, a battle-tested master vigneron now at the height of his métier. Born in 1974 to an established winegrowing family in Volnay, Rossignol studied winemaking at the Beaune Lycée before serving as an intern at Domaine Joseph Voillot In Volnay as well as with domaines in the Ardèche, Châteauneuf du Pape, South Africa and Bordeaux. In 1997 he created his own estate with vines in Volnay, Pommard, Beaune and Aloxe-Corton, and over the years he expanded to just over 40 acres of vines. Besides his own vineyards, he now manages and purchases fruit from his family’s holdings. In 2017 Nicolas moved into a new, beautifully designed cuverie in Beaune.

Clearly focused attention to detail both in the vineyards and the cellar provides the key to Rossignol’s successful trademark style. Across the line-up of 30 distinct offerings, his wines blend transparent purity of fruit with well balanced concentration. They have consistent fruity freshness while faithfully reflecting each climat’s distinct personality.

In the vineyard, Rossignol uses an essentially organic approach without herbicides and pesticides. The soils are alive and teaming with life.

After harvesting each site by hand, careful sorting ensures only fully ripened, undamaged fruit goes into fermentation. He assesses each situation to decide whether to use fruit with the stems removed or whole grapes clusters with stems in tact, and he typically settles on some combination of the two. He then allows indigenous yeasts to drive the fermentation. Aging occurs in a combination of new and previously used oak barrels. Neither fining nor filtering occurs before bottling.

The 2015 Bourgogne Rouge L’Héritière receives just an much focused attention as Rossignol’s better known premier cru wines  The results speak for themselves in this authentic wine’s delicious fresh fruit and elegant finish. It is a truly distinctive vin de terroir notwithstanding its modest pedigree. In the United States, Michael James Fine Wine  offers the wine for $49.99.


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