Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Nicolas Potel, 1997, Red wine from France

7 points

I’ve hesitated to write about Nicolas Potel since there are already so many interesting articles and reports online about him. I also missed two chances to meet him in person. I’ve appreciated his wine-making for a long time, although it has to be added that I haven’t tried any of his wines younger than five or six years. Part of his biography is quite affecting as – according different sources – he experienced the early death of his father, whom he was meant to succeed as the operating manager of the Domaine de La Pousse d’Or in Volnay. He made his way and actually became one of the most relevant and legendary winemakers of Burgundy. His name on any label ennobles excellent reds from the Cote d’Or vineyards. He did not become owner of his “own” vineyard or winery, but, since very the end of the nineties, he’s been producing his wines from purchased grapes and wines. Someone called him a négociant – although I guess the real meaning of this description would fit the wine “dealers” in Bordeaux better than the passionate winemaker  Nicolas Potel certainly is.

All famous red wines produced in Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir, the white wines from Chardonnay and Chablis. Within the Burgundy wine area, the Cote d’Or (Golden Slope) is probably the most famous part. There is Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits in the North. Vougeot is a few more kilometers to the north from Nuits Saint George – the name-giving village of Cote de Nuits. Weather and soil are probably analogous, although real experts would be able to explain the differences in detail. I would admit that those differences exist, but it exceeds my knowledge, experience and imagination to write even a word about this. In essence, I believe that it is the winemaker’s handwriting which makes a bigger difference among these wines.

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The bottle of wine I opened recently was a Clos Vougeot Grand Cru from 1997, produced by the aforementioned Nicolas Potel (Appellation Clos Vougeot Grand Cru Controlle). A delightful wine. Light and graceful, fruity like a gentle breeze, with notes of cranberry, blackberry and black cherry as well. Refreshing acidity plus drying, but not dominant, tannins gives this wine a fascinating balance. The wine is not as elegant as one perhaps expects, I think it is even a little bit wild – in the most simpatico meaning. Straightforward, honest and without any note of oak! With this wine you get a real understanding of what great wine from Burgundy can really mean: without frills, no irritating heaviness and, in particular, very, very reduced barrique – which kills so many promising Pinot Noirs of other regions all over the world.

I enjoyed the wine in two parts, first an hour after opening and decanting, then two days later after I returned the half to the bottle. I am not sure which day was better. It was simply great both times.

Probably it’s almost impossible to buy this wine anymore, but in 1997 Nicolas Potel was still a young and upcoming winemaker of Burgundy. At that time, one could acquire these wines without even selling the jewelry of a deceased grandmother. Today you cannot buy wines with the label Nicolas Potel below prices of hundreds of Euros! Maybe I should keep my remaining bottles still for another decade – as an investment. The one I drank certainly proves that the quality is high enough to keep it for many years.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are plenty of reports, articles and reviews about Nicolas Potel online. His current brand appears under Maison Nicolas Potel (http://www.nicolas-potel.fr/) although I read that he left this “home” recently – entering new ventures?

(Copyright of one photo perhaps by http://www.oliversphotoblog.com)