It was pretty early in the AM when J and I arrived at the cellars of Côte d'Or rising-star Vincent Dancer. I had been up late drinking Corsican rosé the previous night with our friend / host C. A directionless mist of rain was falling or drifting through the air. I found myself recalling, as we pulled into Dancer's driveway, an early blog post where I'd accompanied a rave about one of his wines with a Youtube clip of Elton John singing "Tiny Dancer," and subsequently been questioned about my sexuality by some anonymous commentator.
We exited the car and waved. J was probably thinking 'How can I get this guy to sell me more wine?' I was thinking, 'I wonder if this guy thinks I'm gay?'*
I decided the odds were fairly slim Dancer had seen that post. It would take too much effort to explain. I just followed him and J down into his cellar and we all tasted a great deal of his glowy, precise wines while his cheery dog, barred from the cellar, watched us from the top of the steps.
The Elton John reference in that early post was intended to amuse, rather than to be in any way descriptive of Dancer's wines, which, while classic in profile, are leaner and less sentimental. They taste driven, energetic, with an almost urgent expression of detail, even in young wines. Dancer himself is a jazz fan, as evidenced by some pretty Chassagne-Montrachet labels he tried using once, which insensibly didn't click with his buyers.*
So maybe it's appropriate to compare his wines with the music of Ornette Coleman, another artist who seemed to spring onto his scene from nowhere with a fully mature style.
Dancer founded his estate in just 1996, with land from his mother's and father's families, in Meursault and Chassagne, respectively. His vineyards total a little over 5ha, including the Chassagne 1er Crus "Tête du Clos" and "La Grande Borne" and the Meusault 1er Cru "Les Perrières." He also produces about 300 btls / year of Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru. At present Dancer is not certified organic, but employs organic and biodynamic practices in his vineyards. All fermentation occurs naturally, with no temperature control.
Dancer himself is a contemplative fellow. (In addition to making wine, he has a passion for photography, the predictably wine-related results of which can be viewed on his amusingly fact-free blog.) The success of his wines hasn't calcified his thinking in the slightest, and he surprised me by admitting that he may have used slightly too much new oak on his 2010 Pommard, though it was just 10%. His 2010 reds on average tasted a little fastidious to me, refined but slightly lacking in va-va-voom, with the exception of the Pommard 1er Cru "Pezerolles," which showed a bit more energy. It may, as ever, just have been an off-period to taste these reds.
Whites showed much better. I was interested to learn that the Meursault lieu-dit "Corbins" (one of two Meursault lieu-dits in Dancer's range, the other being "Les Grands Charrons") yields noticeably smaller, thick-skinned grapes, which I imagine must inform the wine's quiet intensity, its concentrated Granny Smith purity.
And the highlight that day was the Chassagne 1er Cru "Tête du Clos" - its crisp, high-toned aromas and exotic fruit were tremendously focused, without seeming at all straitjacketed, a quality that to a greater or lesser extent typifies Dancer's whole range.
All in all a brilliant start to a day's tasting, even if it the drizzle didn't let up, and I never did figure out if he'd read anything into that Elton John thing.
* Not that there's anything wrong with that.
** Is it just me or does this speak poorly of Burgundy consumers? That some really rather tastefully stylized labels of Chassagne-Montrachet were apparently way over the top for them? I'm not suggesting everyone start putting puns and pseudorevolutionary slogans in lurid magenta typeface over their bottles. Just that it's been a really long time since jazz imagery has been considered risqué.
23, route de Santenay
Tel : 03 80 21 94 48
N.D.P. in Burgundy: François Mikulski, Meursault
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Comte Senard, Aloxe-Corton
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Le Bar à Vins, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur, Vosne-Romanée
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Denis Bachelet, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Bar du Square, Beaune
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Ma Cuisine, Beaune
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont, Curtil-Vergy
A glass of Dancer's Meurault "Corbins" at Spring, 75001
A profile of Vincent Dancer @ Burgschnauzer
An informative and useful but technologically inept piece on aging Dancer's wines @ BurgundyDirectWines
A good 2005 piece on Vincent Dancer @ WineTerroirs