Rodolphe Demougeot

The Story

The path to Rodolphe Demougeot’s current level of quality took a while after he took over the family domaine in 1992. Since then, he’s amassed eight hectares of vines in the Côte de Beaune and year by year upped the ante on his attention to detail in the cellar and vineyard, raising his own personal bar and capturing the attention of the his illustrious neighbors with more enviable vineyard stables in Meursault and Pommard.

Rodolphe says he “learned how to do perfect chemical farming from his family and had to deprogram his vineyards and himself, which has taken a lot of time to achieve,” something that takes courage and an evolved sense of self and humility to admit. Another telling quote of his candid and honest character is that he said he needed to learn to be a good farmer first, and then he had to learn to improve his performance in the cellar. If only everyone approached life with this kind of blatant and unflinching honesty about their own process!

Since the mid 2000s, synthetic treatments of herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers were systematically abandoned one step at a time until they were all gone from his land before the turn of the decade. Then his interest in the inexplicable but observable energies of our mysterious universe and its influence on grapes and wine came to be central to his decision-making. The moon is his compass for the timing of processes during growing, farming, picking, racking and bottling.

Today, Rodolphe’s vineyards are impressively farmed and have as much life as any organic or biodynamic vineyard we’ve set foot in. He’s renowned for the quality of his farming by the top growers in his area, and within all the talent of his hometown of Meursault, that’s saying something. He plows most of his vineyards by tractor, but with some he always uses a horse, such as in his top Pommard, 1er Cru Les Charmots. His cluster selection is made early in the season to concentrate the energy of the vines to fewer clusters in the pursuit of quality over quantity. Everything is done by hand and under severe scrutiny within his humble holdings—at least by Côte d’Or standards.

Demougeot’s white wines are an obvious win and you don’t have to be a genius to sort that one out. However, I would contest that his reds are equal in quality and perhaps easy to overlook in the shadow of his extraordinary whites. Inevitably it’s difficult to separate most tasters with the concept that red wines need to bring something obviously substantial rather than subtle and refined as Rodolphe’s wines. For wine drinkers it can be an entirely different calibration when one knows the tendency of wines like his that, as the quote by Teddy Roosevelt goes that my mother loved to cite: “speak softly, but carry a big stick.” Compelling wines are not a one-act concerto; they build as they go and end with a standing ovation that begs for another glass, or two.

Rodolphe’s Chardonnays are whole cluster pressed and undergo a natural fermentation without battonage (lees stirring), unless the vintage is so spare from challenging weather that they need a little help. Sulfites are added for the first and only time at bottling, which I believe to be a good approach when in pursuit of nuances that have a little required reading between the lines—the gift given to the astute and patient wine drinker. From the Bourgogne Blanc all the way to his top white, Meursault “Le Limozin,” all are aged equally in 90% old oak barrels with a modest 10% of them new. The Bourgogne Blanc is a knockout and entirely sourced from vines below substantial Meursault village appellation vines and has the unmistakable mark of Meursault. Les Meursaults, uninhibited by the excessive hands-on approach of insecure winemaking, are pure, and bridge the gap between the baroque and the fashionable. In cold years they are a shoo in, and in warm years can be unexpectedly stunning, fraught with tension typically found in a much cooler year. Here the hand in the wine is only felt in the quality of the fruit and the soft touch of the wines. Bravo Rodolphe.

Like the whites, the reds are somewhere in the middle of the classic/trendy road, but are crafted with more elegance than power. The fermentations are made without stems and last two to three weeks depending on the vintage. They are lightly extracted using the infusion approach, which is to say very little is done to disturb the grapes during the process of morphing from exquisite raw produce to the magic that fills wine built by intention from the moment the vines were pruned to the day they were picked at their most brightly shining moment. Once pressed and put into barrel the wines aren’t moved until bottling. Like the whites, the first sulfite addition is made just prior to bottling to allow an unhindered development of the wine’s true voice before the intrusion of the sulfites. The wines are spared excess of new oak use, unless the vineyard has a habit of rendering wines with increased tannin levels than others, like his Beaune lieux-dits, Les Beaux Fougets and Les Epenotes, not too far from the great Pommard 1er Cru, Les Petits Epenots (sadly not in Rodolphe’s collection), just to the south. On his top Pommard wines, Les Vignots and 1er Cru Les Charmots, 70% older oak barrels are employed, while on the village appellation wines they typically land between 90-85% old oak barrels.

When I was in Burgundy with an Austrian vigneron (who I’ll refer to as PVM), we visited many of the top producers in our portfolio, and to my surprise, Demougeot’s wines were his favorite. When I asked why, his response (in short) was that they are simply pure and unpretentious, and the terroir is on display without any obstacles of the ego. Not surprisingly, he ranked his reds over the whites—putting him in with me in the minority of less than five percent who feel the same way, and this agreement pleased me greatly. Rodolphe’s wines are honest and you really taste his effort in the vineyards and the respect he has for his fruit by treating it like a good sushi chef treats the perfect piece of fish; they do as little as possible. -TV

Lay of the Land

So much is written about Burgundy that it seems silly to try to add more clay to that never finished sculpture. Even more absurd is to rewrite what’s been written in so many books on the subject that thoroughly cover each of its communes and their subsections as well as most of its 1er Cru vineyards and certainly its Grand Crus, ad nauseam. A summary will suffice here for where Rodolphe’s vineyards are and in the product descriptions you will likely find some details you may not find in the books.

Rodolphe’s family vineyards are principally between Meursault and Pommard, with only a single 1er Cru site in Pommard (Les Charmots) and many favorable village parcels between the two. In Meursault, all three of their parcels are on the south of the appellation in fabulous spots above (one site) and below (two sites) the great 1er Crus, Perrières, Genevrières and Charmes. They have a small collection in Beaune in both red and white, as well as a village and 1er Cru in Savigny-lès-Beaune. Also, there is an exceptional Bourgogne Blanc all sourced below many of Meursault’s vineyards on the south of the appellation, and compelling Bourgogne Rouge from a single parcel of old vines in Chassagne-Montrachet. Additionally, they have a Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie, both fine and savory wines for those moments you need a break from the fruit with a stroll through the wet forest and all of its lovely fresh smells.

Don’t forget to check out the write-ups for each of the wines, which are sometimes extensive in detail and perspective. -TV

Rodolphe Demougeot - 2017 Beaune Les Epenotes

Price: $65.00
Size: 750ml
Availability:

Out of stock

Type of Wine: Red
Grape(s): Pinot Noir
Style: Mineral, Rustic, Medium Body

The Wine

This is one of the two Beaune lieux-dits in Demougeot’s range, which abut each other. Les Epenotes (with the less common pronunciation of a hard T at the end), is located on the south side of Beaune on the northern border of Pommard. Just above the village lieu-dit, Beaune Les Epenotes, there is a Beaune 1er Cru vineyard that also carries the name Les Epenotes, and just to the south, bordering this Beaune 1er Cru and just touching the SW corner of the village lieu-dit, lies one of Burgundy’s very best Premier Crus, Pommard Les Petits Epenots. It’s hard to know by looking at a map, but in person the two great 1er Crus, Les Petits Epenots and Grands Epenots just further south, are head scratchers. They are flat and visually uninspiring, except the beautifully enclosed clos sections. If you’ve been there before it’s easy to be perplexed by how it’s possible that their wines are considered nearly Grand Cru quality for how average the vineyards look.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: Despite not resting on a majestic slope, this vineyard maintains a near perfect balance of clay topsoil rich in iron (which improves power and mineral impressions and texture) with broken up limestone rocks and a limestone bedrock not too far underneath—in proportions that match the great vineyards up on slopes. As its namesake Les Epenotes implies, this apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree that is Pommard’s 1er Cru Les Petits Epenots.

Vinification: 100% of the grapes are destemmed and placed in cement and stainless steel vats. The grape must is chilled down to eight degrees and then allowed to start a spontaneous fermentation that usually lasts about two to three weeks depending on the vintage conditions. They are lightly extracted using the infusion approach, which is to say very little is done to disturb the grapes during the fermentation and maceration. Once pressed, it’s settled in a tank overnight and gravity fed into into barrel the wines where they stay without racking until preparations for bottling. As he does with the white wines, the first sulfite addition is made at bottling and they are spared excess use of new oak during the aging.

Aging: Aged for 14-16 months in 75% old French oak and 25% new. This wine may receive a light filtration but is never fined.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Broad, Muscular, Subtle, Red and Blue Fruit, Earthy, Structured

Mineral Impressions:

Lightly SaltySaltyMetalMineralWet StoneFlintGraphiteReductivePetrol

Ageability:

Drink YoungShort-Term BenefitsLong-Term BenefitsUnknown

Technical Precision:

NatureModerateNurture

Intensity:

SubtleVigorousElectric

Core:

LitheMediumDense

Acidity:

LightMediumFullElectric

Texture:

LitheMediumDense

Body:

LightMediumFull

Tannin:

NoneLightMediumFull

Finish:

FrontMiddleBack

Wood Presence:

NoneSubtleNoticeable

The Vineyard

Soil:

A minuscule parcel of 0.16 hectare with more than a meter deep of clay (40%), sand (6%), silt (50%) and limestone rock (5%) topsoil on limestone bedrock.

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

Rodolphe practices organic farming but does not maintain any certification. All treatments are made with organic certified products.

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

Planted in 1969

Altitude (meters):

220

Aspect:

Southeast

Slope:

Relatively flat
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfites

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

Alcohol:

12.5-13.0

Notes compiled in 2019 by Ted Vance (The Source) and Rodolphe Demougeot

About The Wine

This is one of the two Beaune lieux-dits in Demougeot’s range, which abut each other. Les Epenotes (with the less common pronunciation of a hard T at the end), is located on the south side of Beaune on the northern border of Pommard. Just above the village lieu-dit, Beaune Les Epenotes, there is a Beaune 1er Cru vineyard that also carries the name Les Epenotes, and just to the south, bordering this Beaune 1er Cru and just touching the SW corner of the village lieu-dit, lies one of Burgundy’s very best Premier Crus, Pommard Les Petits Epenots. It’s hard to know by looking at a map, but in person the two great 1er Crus, Les Petits Epenots and Grands Epenots just further south, are head scratchers. They are flat and visually uninspiring, except the beautifully enclosed clos sections. If you’ve been there before it’s easy to be perplexed by how it’s possible that their wines are considered nearly Grand Cru quality for how average the vineyards look.