The tasting, accompanied by an excellent dinner at Amuse Bouche restaurant in Hong Kong, was designed to compare three classical Volnay producers across various more or less mature vintages, notably the fascinating trio of 1991-1990-1989. The wines were not tasted blind.
1993 Volnay Clos des Chênes, Domaine Michel Lafarge 90
Fine rich youthful red, powerful but a little lacking in grace, not yet fully ready. With time in the glass the bouquet began to blossom, now showing more maturity with some fine coffee notes in among the red fruit.
1993 Volnay Clos des Ducs, 1er Cru, Marquis d’Angerville 87
The colour remains youthful if a touch more advanced than Lafarge. The bouquet is hard and backward with a suggestion of volatility, along with some tight raspberry notes. A little menthol appeared later. In fact the wine was a good deal pleasanter than this note suggests but compared to the other wines on the night, there was less class on show.
1991 Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs, 1er Cru, Domaine Michel Lafarge 93
Excellent deep mid red colour with a lighter rim, more perfume to the nose than the 1993s, at the start of its drinking window. Middleweight, a touch reticent on the palate. With time this became softer, richer, rounder, without the same level of concentration as Clos des Chênes might have shown. However the wine is impeccably balanced, and a final taste a few hours after opening revealed a surprising depth of fruit remaining at the back of the palate.
1991 Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu, 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon 93
Rich dense fresh purple colour – impressive for a 25+ year old wine. Very youthful fruit too on first pour, solid rather than silky at first, with impressive weight and a perfect sense of balance. The detail of the fruit, more raspberry in style, emerged with time. Still plenty of upside to keeping this wine for longer.
1991 Volnay Clos des Ducs, 1er Cru, Marquis d’Angerville 95*
I have fond memories of the d’Angerville taillepieds in its youth so it was a great treat to have the chance to try the Clos des Ducs which was just as youthful in colour as the other two 1991s. The bouquet began quietly but did not take long to start singing in the glass. A wine to longer over, with plenty of muscle in reserve. Higher acidity than the Lafon and Lafarge wines. This became most beautiful with time, softening graciously.
1990 Volnay Clos des Chênes, 1er Cru, Domaine Michel Lafarge 96**
Rich bright colour, with a sensational power laden nose. All the class and elegance you would hope for, but with concentration as well. From start to finish this wine had an immaculate sense of precision. Time in the glass seemed to refine the wine further rather than causing it to deepen – it didn’t need to. A brilliant Volnay approaching the height of its powers.
1990 Volnay Clos des Ducs, 1er Cru, Marquis d’Angerville 90?
Rich, dense colour, one of the darkest wines. At first there is a significant meaty reduction to the nose, possibly even brettanomyces, more a risk in the hot vintages. Certainly this aspect muffles the elegance. As with other Clos des Ducs in this tasting, the acidity shows through beneath. With time the wine began to clean up, which would be an argument for reduction rather than brett. This is a powerful beast but tonight’s bottle was a little bit muddled.
1989 Volnay Clos des Chênes, 1er Cru, Domaine Michel Lafarge 89
After such a series of youthful wines, this was the first to show any sign of maturity in the colour. The nose was a little bit flatter though the class of the wine reappeared on the palate. This bottle perhaps has a subliminal flaw: the aromatics are not musty but lack the anticipated purity
1989 Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu, 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon 88
Rich, powerful deep purple colour. The bouquet evinces extraction but not to the extent of spoiling the wine. The palate displays some wood tannins and quite high acidity and while the fruit is powerful and persistent, the extraction has come at the expense of finesse. Even with several hours aeration the wine remains a little bit ungiving.
1989 Volnay Champans, 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon 92
Lighter in colour than the Volnay Santenots, with a crisp and precise bouquet showing less extraction. Pure mid red fruit, with some complexity in the flavour profile while more accessible at a structural level. This does not have the density of Lafon’s Santenots but seems to have performed better on this occasion. Ready to drink now, though this still benefitted from time in the glass emerging as a gorgeously graceful, elegant Volnay.
1988 Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu, 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon 91
From magnum. Deep in colour, though the depth reflects maturity as well as concentration. There is an impressive depth of flavour here, meaty with iron filings and some blood orange notes. Volnay with a touch of Pessac-Léognan??
1985 Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu, 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon 93
Paler than the 1988 but still fine for its age. The bouquet is exceptionally classy right from the start, developing delicious secondary characteristics. A very gracious wine, with orange blossom notes alongside the maturing red fruit. The acidity is just beginning to poke through, so probably a good time to drink this.
1978 Volnay Clos des Ducs, 1er Cru, Marquis d’Angerville
This bottle is living on the edge – there is still a hauntingly fine fragrance but also a whiff of old cork and volatility. After an hour or so the wine began to disintegrate, but I can imagine that other bottles could still be holding up well.