When it comes to Volnay, there is one name, one grower that immediately comes to mind: d`Angerville. It was my pleasure to taste several new vintages with the late Jacques d`Angerville in London, someone who always spared time to discuss the vagaries of the growing season and style of his wines. The domaine has continued to strive successfully following his passing.
The roots of the domaine can be traced back to the Baron de Mesnil who owned vast tracts of land at the beginning of the 19th century, much of it leased out to farmers and sharecroppers who planted a few rows of vines and tended to the crops or cattle. The prized parcel of vineyard was "Clos-des-Ducs" that lay adjacent to the maison noble.
At the end of the 19th century the Mesnil and d`Angerville family were united when Jacques d`Angerville's grandfather was betrothed to Madamemoiselle de Mesnil and it was his son, confusingly also named Jacques, who was prescient in bottling at the domaine in the 1920's and campaigned for banning of blending wines from outside the region or country, before the Appellation Controlée system was implemented in 1936. However, this made d’Angerville something of an outcast, rebuked by neighbours who did not want to see an end to their own malpractices.
The senior Jacques d`Angerville passed away in 1952, but his identically named son had already taken control of the domaine since the end of the war. Jacques d`Angerville’s final vintage was the 2002, whereupon Guillaume d`Angerville has taken the reins, aided by his right hand man and brother-in-law, Rénaud de Villette.
The heart of the vineyards lie within the premier cru climats in Volnay. These include the aforementioned 2.4 hectare Clos-des-Ducs, 3.98 hectares of Les Champans, 1.57 hectares of Fremiets, just over 1 hectare of Taille-Pieds and 0.45 hectares of Caillerets. They also own tiny parcels in other climats: 0.65 hectares in "L'Ormeau", 0.53 hectares in "Les Angles" and 0.31 hectares of Pitures (all Premier Crus) but these are mostly blended together. In addition there are 0.5 hectares in Meursault Santenots and 0.38 hectares in Pommard Les Combes. The overall soil composition in marl and chalk with the Clos-des-Ducs on terre blanches and a slightly more clayey soil in Champans.
The vineyard is blessed with venerable vines that perform the role of limiting yields, which hover around 30hl/ha. The harvest is picked by hand, the grapes are destalked and macerated on the skins for 8 to 10 days with regular pumping-over, after which they are matured in one-quarter new oak barrels for the Premier Cru (less obviously for the Village.) They eschew the excessive use of barrels, preferring to let the terroir show its true colours, apropos the 2003 vintage that employed just 20% new oak.
Certainly the jewel in the crown is Clos-des-Ducs, the quintessential expression of Volnay with a proclivity to demand at least one decade to reach its peak. Perusing my notes, it was remarkable how many times I described the wines as rich and opulent, considering the prudent vinification methods employed; a case of "less is more". Another remark was how feminine I found Les Champans, contradicting the commonly held view that this is a more structured climat. There is some variability with d`Angerville's wine: I could not put hand on heart and declare that every wine has been a success and my two notes of Meursault leaves something to be desired. But there is no doubt that this is a top-notch grower and I sincerely hope that the mild-mannered, softly spoken Guillaume d`Angerville continues in the same vein as his redoubtable father.