04 September 2013

yonne bike trip: domaine colinot, irancy

My friends and I wound up at Domaine Colinot kind of by default, as we passed through Irancy on the bike trip we took this past June. J knew the wines already and he had negligible interest in re-tasting, because the domaine's website loudly offers rock-bottom pricing on the wines for delivery throughout France, making the wines difficult for J to sell at higher export mark-ups.

But the nearby domaine we'd intended to visit turned out to be a complete bust, just glass-shattering sour swill, and it was too early to lunch. (Additionally, the town's only restaurant, Le Soufflot, was closed for vacation.) So we joined a trio of middle-aged Frenchmen, fellow wine tourists, poking around outside Domaine Colinot, hoping for an unscheduled visit.

In the end it proved a pretty educational tasting. At the very least, we were able to put names to the steep vineyards I had accidentally steered us through earlier that morning, having mistaken treacherously rocky trails for normal paved roads. (They presently look the same on GoogleMaps' very, very Beta bike route feature.)

Otherwise it offered a nice opportunity to meditate on the differences among the various crus of Irancy, something almost no one ever otherwise does.

The village-level appellation - one of just three in the Yonne, along with Saint-Bris and Chablis - dates to just 1998, and in my limited experience the wines of Irancy tend to share a marked briary, black, wiry character, like anemic Cotes de Nuits. (There are exceptions, of course, like the luminescent, pure-fruited Irancy Vincent Dauvissat has made from rented vines since 2003.)

A recent impromptu tasting of 2007 Irancy at my landlady's place. Both the Dauvissat and the Richoux were showing a little shut. I still preferred the former, as I find Richoux's style a little varnishy. 

Irancy's distinguishing peculiarity is that it is the only Burgundian appellation that permits use - up to 10% of a blend - of the César grape, a dark, late-ripening variety that adds colour and tannins, if arguably not a great deal in the way of complexity. Its role is mostly cosmetic - to make pale northerly Pinot appear more grand.

Domaine Colinot make a broad range of cru Irancy wines, with the proportion of César not always dependent on the particular vineyard. (For example, they make two bottlings of the Mazelots cru, one of which contains 3% César, the other of which contains 10% and is aged in barrel.) Anita and Jean-Pierre Colinot, along with their daughter Stéphanie, run the 10th-generation estate, which now spans close to 12ha. (Their cru holdings are marked with white Post-It scraps on the Irancy map pictured above.) Stéphanie is a graduate of oenology school in Beaune and has handled vinification at the estate since 2001.

Of what we tasted that day, I found myself liking the south-east-exposed, young vine Cailles cru from 2011. It contains no César and instead read as a nice rapier-like style of Pinot, agile and red-fruited.

Certain other cuvées tasted a bit worked over, to my palate, and in general the house-style is rather strict. Across the board, many of the 2010's were showing a distracting, unaccountable dusty note on the finish.

It also bears mentioning that while I laud the domaine for its commitment to defining the nuances of Irancy terroir, as expressed in a bevy of minutly diffentiated crus, it does seem like the range could use some winnowing. They could stick with the three crus true enthusiasts know - Palotte, Les Mazelots, and Cailles -and take the best fruit of the rest to make what would hopefully be a superb standard village wine. As it is, the Colinot range consists of an overlarge array of similar mid-range reds that all compete with each other.

At a certain point the trio of genial but perceptibly non-professional Frenchmen began considering aloud which cuvées to purchase, and I wondered how on earth they'd reach a conclusion. It became clear when they started crowing over the quality of the domaine's marc de bourgogne: they'd choose almost at random, because they were very uncritical people. It was a little embarrassing, so we thanked the cellar hand and went to lunch.

Domaine Colinot
89290 IRANCY
Tél: 03 86 42 33 25

Related Links:

Jura Bike Trip
Beaujolais Bike Trip

A terrific, comprehensive summary of Irancy at Bergman'sBourgogne.
Another recent visit to Domaine Colinot at WineCellerage.

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