Burgundy’s historic Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé dates back to 1450. Of this estate 7.25 hectares are dedicated to the fabled Musigny, 2.75 to the production of Bonnes Mares, and 1.8 to the Premier Cru Chambolle-Musigny.
At the head of the estate for more than three decades was François Millet — a man for whom taming vines was an art akin to an author penning a poem, or a musical maestro raising his baton. He left the company in 2019 and was succeeded by Jean Lupatelli.
Here, with a touch of Millet’s poetry, is an introduction to five of the estate’s most exceptional wines.
Musigny — the ‘saved’ year
The apex of the portfolio at Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé is the 7.25 hectares of Musigny Grand Cru. Great care is taken with the production of the noble grape, with only the oldest vines — a total of 3.8 hectares — used to produce wine with the greatest consistency and depth. In most vintages, only 900 or so cases of the Musigny comes to market; the result is a wine to be sought out and treasured.
Millet felt that the character of the wine was akin to that of a noble old gentleman: a cravat-wearing cognac-sipper, smoking a cigar as he holds forth on world affairs. Musigny is as sophisticated and serious as the image implies, with strong vintages suggesting a robe of rich cherry and raspberry fruit billowing over warm chocolate and a crème brûlée texture. Stellar vintages such as 1990 and 2000 have an element of oriental spice — sumac, paprika and black pepper.
When, in 1991, a barrage of hail hit the Côte d’Or — with potentially disastrous effects for the grapes — the quick-thinking Millet instructed 60 locals to bring their tweezers to the sorting tables and help remove every single damaged grape. As a result, the character of the 1991 Musigny today is fresher and riper than many Grand Cru Burgundies from that ‘annus horribilis’.
The Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru: Musigny’s younger brother
The Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru was described by Millet as ‘Musigny in short trousers’ — a child prodigy playing a Steinway piano in Carnegie Hall, only occasionally missing the melodic arpeggios of a Mozart concerto. The wine began its life with the 1995 vintage, and today the domaine produces around 500 cases of a Grand Cru wine masquerading as a lowly Premier Cru. The 2000 vintage has a creamy edge and a fine lace of red fruit, before a late grab of tannin.
Elegant and refined Bonnes Mares
The domaine’s other star is its 2.7-hectare plot of Bonnes Mares, which accounts for 400 cases a year. The vines are on the Chambolle side of the Morey boundary, a parcel that tends towards elegant, refined wine. Fine old vintages deliver violet and strawberry notes, with a delicate peony blossom underpinned by a ground-coffee flavour and toasty oak. Darker and more brooding than the Musigny, it was described by Millet as an ‘electric’ wine, like a thunderstorm about to break.
The ‘first lady’ of the de Vogüé portfolio is the Premier Cru Les Amoureuses — ‘the lovers’. Ploughed by horses because of the stony topsoil, the parcel is a tiny 0.56-hectare holding, so a mere 160 cases of each vintage leave the domaine. The wines might be viewed as Musigny’s little sister, refined but never frivolous; and a tasting of the stellar 1999 vintage reveals a bouquet of redcurrant and loganberry against a backdrop of sous-bois and mushroom. In time, complexity develops, yet it never reaches the leather-armchair study wreathed in cigar smoke where its older brother Musigny sits.
The rarest of the de Vogüés, Musigny Blanc
An exquisite Chardonnay crafted from a 0.6-hectare plot at the top of the Musigny parcel is the rarest of the de Vogüé wines. Between 1994 and 2014 this wine was labelled as Bourgogne Blanc, as the winemaker felt that the replanted vines did not have the age to produce Grand Cru depth and complexity. Despite the humble village label, strong vintages such as 1996 and 2000 show a delicious waxy, satin texture holding together a mesh of citrus, hazelnut and butterscotch flavours. The Grand Cru Musigny Blanc vintages since 2015 are triumphs of white Burgundy.
The domaine’s reputation today
With Millet at its head — now succeeded by Lupatelli — the domaine produced outstanding results vintage upon vintage, enabling it to recover its reputation in recent years. Comte Georges de Vogüé inherited the estate in 1925, and fabulous wines were crafted from the plots under his ownership in Chambolle until the early 1960s.
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The Comte’s absence from Burgundy in the 1960s and 1970s saw quality levels slide, but they were restored under the ownership of his granddaughters in the early 1980s. Today, winemaking at the Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé is like a conversation: the wines match the lyrical poeticism of their creators with structure, energy and a complex cornucopia of flavours.