Bonjour d’une étoile montante au sommet de la colline de Corton,
As the “fan mail” continues to come back with love struck reviews, it seems that people can very much sense for themselves what an under celebrated talent Michel Mallard and his Ladoix/Corton wines are. Last year when I offered his wines for the first time, we had not yet visited. After having done so last November, I am convinced both that: 1)Michel is my kind of weird genius, in the best sense and 2)His wines are pushing up on outrageously good, with an upwards trajectory that is as exciting as any Burgundy estate that I work with.
The picture above doesn’t do justice to his size, an imposing 6’4” that, when coupled with his intensity of focus and sharp-as-a-tack wit, make for quite the lasting impression. He has the air of an eccentric and self-possessed master, who knows exactly where he is going and why, even though the world doesn’t quite yet “get it”. As he alluded to, the only handicap that his wines suffer is that they are from Ladoix, with the label licker bias firmly working against him. Nonetheless, he knows that all that he can do is put the very best into the bottle, and let that do the talking. The estate has always worked from their deep stocks, commercializing the wines long after being bottled, one of the latest releasers that I know of; the much anticipated 2015s featured on this offer are to be released in September. Just like last year, I am of the first people in the world that Michel is allowing to offer the new releases, une geste confidentielle (confidential gesture), as he puts it……
As to the wines themselves, I was plain floored by the 2016s (to be released next year) that I tasted in tank. Michel, who is good friends/fellow tasting group member with Pascal Mugneret and Jean-Pierre Guyon of Vosne Romanée, has similarly continued his trials both with increasing use of whole cluster fermentation as well as sulfurless vinifications, with the entire range of 2016 reds vinified this way (just as he does as régisseur at the former Réné Engel estate, now named Domaine D’Eugenie of Vosne Romanée). I found the éclat de fruit (explosiveness of fruit), textural allure, and soil signatures to be plain mind-bogglingly awesome, an undeniable sign of the purity and usefulness of such a stylistic shift. I had mentioned this overall trend as one of the most exciting avant-garde movements in Burgundy after my November trip, with both his and his tasting group stablemates’ wines clear and convincing examples why this trend will only continue to grow…..
As to the new releases, there is one new release that deserves mention before all others: his first child, a baby boy named Camille, arrived to the world on March 24th!! I can only imagine a little dude with an echo of Michel’s focused intensity and humor….! As to the wines offered here, we have two vintages of contrasting but equally very high quality. The more moderate and “classical” 2014s have largely gone overlooked in the shadow of the much hoopla’d and solar 2015s, but to my taste, it would very much be mistake to overlook them. I believe that at the Grand cru level, I may prefer the fruit tone and overall harmony of his 2014s that are swoonworthy good; as you can see from Allan Meadows’ reviews, the 2015s are no slouches, but that’s how good his ’14s are…..As a bit of a curveball, I opened a 2014 Corton Grand cru Renardes in a large collector’s tasting of 2015 wines, and the wine was universally adored and raved about, every bottle available gobbled up by those who tasted for themselves…..what power, finesse, and class!!! Get some of that for sure…..as I have repeatedly said, Corton is the last bastion of relatively affordable Grand cru Burgundy, and in the examples encountered here, this is pretty much as good as it gets, whether you want to take my word or Allan Meadows’ word is up to you……and so…..!!
INTRO FROM THE 2014 OFFERING:
My love and endless fascination with Burgundy’s inimitable intricacies brings us to yet another momentous introduction, that of the five generation Family estate of Michel Mallard of Ladoix. Michel, pictured above, has been the meticulous force of qualitative innovation not only for his own Family’s 11 hectare estate, but also that of the former Réné Engel Vosne Romanée estate, now named Domaine d’Eugenie, where he has been regisseur for over a decade now, managing all aspects except commercialization. After his studies and work in both Bordeaux and abroad in his mid to late 20s, he returned to his roots, and took on the yokes of both estates, an ambitious move to say the least. He has steadily oriented the Mallard estate in a uniquely qualitative direction, with low yields, hand harvesting, intensive sorting, and (as of 2009) the regular use of whole clusters, fashioning wines of pinpoint precision that are complete in their balance of ripeness of fruit, freshness of cut, and classical terroir expressions of Ladoix-Serrigny and Aloxe-Corton. The wave of critical and insider praise seems to be reaching a crest of sorts, and so my timing couldn’t be better………
I have waited a very long time before partnering with any producer based in Ladoix or Aloxe, and I couldn’t be happier with how this cookie has crumbled. The hill of Corton, straddling both of these villages, is the last bastion of unquestionably age worthy value at the Grand cru level, bringing all of the Burgundy food groups together in hearty, sturdy style, at prices that are still (relatively) palatable. Not only does Michel produce a wee smidgen of outstanding Corton Charlemagne in white, but he regularly produces three of the finest red Corton Grand crus from distinct climats/sites: les Maréchaudes, le Rognet, and les Renardes. Whilst the majority of Burgundy lovers can tell you a thing or two about the Grand crus of Corton, the many contrasting personalities that exist at the 1er cru level are practically unheard of and rarely seen. This méconnaissance (unfamiliarity) works to the savvy Burgundy lover’s benefit, as Michel’s cache of 1er crus should be on any value hound’s short list of as good as it gets values, if substance counts more than label licker appeal….I will detail the cast of villages/1er/Grand cru personalities in the menu portion of the program.
Michel and I spoke this weekend for a good hour or so, discussing all sorts of things. He has self-evident passion, conviction, and a “lifelong student of the game” mentality, always great signs. He believes that the past five years in Burgundy mark the highest overall quality that it has ever seen as a region, a place that only came to appreciate/use sorting tables in the past generation. The global generational shift from a quantitative to qualitative vision continues to be fleshed out by his generation and the next. We both agreed that in a region so revered for its seemingly timeless sense of tradition and character, things continue to evolve big time, with so much dynamic change occurring all the time. It is an exciting time for any Burgundy lover, that is for sure…..
Michel releases the wines of the estate much slower than many of his peers, preferring to hold stocks so that there are wines available at different levels of maturity; his style is an energetic, ageworthy one. With his 2014 collection, I believe (and it seems both Allan Meadows and Neil Martin share the sentiment) that we are witnessing perhaps his finest vintage yet, with even more nuance and feeling in the wines, married to their technical precision. Michel is psyched about joining team Down to Earth, and is thus allowing me to offer the 2014 red wines which aren’t to be released publicly until September 2017. As you can gather from a quick market survey, these wines are increasingly rare, as Michel is quite cautious about choosing his partners. And so, what follows is a comprehensive offering of his 2014 cellar, as well as a selection of back vintage wines of his best bottlings from 2012/2013; there are Cortons from vintages going back even further; if you have any interest, please inquire for pricing. And so, away we go!!!!
“If you are unfamiliar with Domaine Michel Mallard, I do recommend you give them a look in 2014. These are well crafted, vibrant and energetic wines that reflect their terroirs, with a clutch of commendable Corton Grand Crus. And I should add that in his Corton-Charlemagne, I think Michel crafted one of the best wines in what was an otherwise rather humdrum vintage for this Grand Cru.” Neil Martin of robertparker.com
“I would observe that the quality at this domaine has skyrocketed in recent years and as the scores and comments confirm, not just for the reds as the whites offer excellent quality and value…..”
“I was impressed, particularly at the grand cru level, with what I found and this domaine continues to show steady improvement, indeed Mallard is now one of the best domaines in Ladoix. I was also quite impressed by the domaine’s now in-bottle 2014s, which were bottled in March and April 2016.” -Allan Meadows, aka the Burghound
LE MENU: FWIW, the 2015s are roughly 10% more expensive ex-cellars than the 2014s…..
2015 Ladoix villages Clos Royer blanc – Just at the foot of the Corton hill, the Clos Royer is a deeper soiled vineyard of sandy clay/limestone. It yields a more concentrated wine in both fruit and mineral senses that should prove to be a crowd pleaser, classicists and gourmands alike. If you are looking for an overachieving every day white burgundy, this is you. Fwiw, I have had a few customers who tasted this on wine lists in France come hunting for this one…..proof in the pudding!
2015 Ladoix 1er les Gréchons – From high on the hill in Ladoix, this is an upper slope rockhead’s delight. From stony, gravelly soils, this performs somewhat like a baby Corton blanc, its sense of breed and dynamism well worthy of its step up in the hierarchy to 1er cru status. There are very very few 1er cru white wines in Ladoix, with this one one the very short list of best examples in the village. Michel harvested very early in 2015, starting in late August, and the results are terrific, capturing the richness of the vintage while maintaining balancing acidity and punch.
“The 2015 Ladoix 1er Cru Les Gréchons Blanc comes from marn soils at the top of the slope. It has a pretty nectarine and apricot blossom-scented bouquet that is well defined. The palate has a touch of ginger on the entry. There is admirable weight and precision with a keen thread of acidity throughout. I like the personality here, the drive and intent. It comes highly recommended. Chapeau, Michel.” 90-92 points Neil Martin
2015 Corton Charlemagne Grand cru – From a tiny .11 hectare vineyard at the very top of le Charlemagne, right next to Bonneau de Martray. I will be lucky to receive one or two boxes of the 50 cases that were produced (just 2 barrels made). I don’t need to say more….
2015 Ladoix villages Clos Royer rouge – Michel explains this one as friendly and easy, accessible with its generous roundness of texture, with fruit, savory, spice and florals offering a full and open knit experience. For your everyday yum yum value hound purposes, this is a winner.
“A markedly fresher nose conveys notes of very pretty red currant, plum and ample floral elements. The delicious, round and vibrant medium-bodied flavors exhibit notes of minerality and wood on the balanced and sneaky long finish. This direct and straightforward effort should also drink reasonably well young. (87-90)/2020+” Allan Meadows
2015 Ladoix 1er les Joyeuses – As we enter the 1er cru level of the reds, we start with the most charming, delicate, and “feminine” in character. Michel says that (not to boast) this is the Chambolle of the range. It provocatively takes its name, “the joyful ones”, from its role as the place that young couples would steal away to make out, as it sits at the foot of the former rock quarry there and provided good cover for lovers. Fun story, right? ;0 I am sucker for such airy, delicate detail, which is this wine’s calling card.
“An assessment of the nose is impeded by moderate reduction though the underlying fruit appears to be ripe. The more elegant and refined middle weight flavors possess a lovely sense of vibrancy plus a hint of minerality that also helps to add a bit of lift to the refreshing and well-balanced finale. This could be enjoyed young or cellared for a few years first. (89-91)/2021+” Allan Meadows
2015 Ladoix 1er cru la Corvée – La Corvée is a weightier and more powerfully mineral wine, with more structure, a more “stereotypical” example of Ladoix. This is moreso in the vein of what one expects from a Corton profile. Between the two Ladoix 1ers, we have a great sense of contrast.
“This is also quite ripe yet manages to remain attractively fresh with its layered nose of plum, violet, forest floor and wisps of earth. The sleek, delicious and attractively vibrant medium-bodied flavors possess fine depth and length on the mildly rustic finale. This well-made effort is worth checking out. (90-92)/2022+” Allan Meadows —–> “particularly outstanding for their respective appellations and especially merit your attention”
2015 Aloxe Corton 1er cru la Toppe au Vert – La Toppe au Vert is, without a doubt, the best example of Grand cru Corton character in 1er cru clothing. It is at once deeper in material, quite sensual and sappy in texture, with a precision and complexity that is class in a glass. This one is a below the radar gem and then some, rarely if ever seen in the market. Get some….!
“Once again, notably ripe yet agreeably fresh aromas offer fine complexity as there is a lovely purity to the various red berries, floral elements and soft earth nuances. The middle weight plus flavors possess a relatively sophisticated texture thanks to the relatively fine-grained tannins that also shape the impressively persistent finale that really fans out as it sits on the palate. This excellent effort should reward up to a decade of cellaring and is highly recommended. (90-93)/2023+” Allan Meadows —-> “particularly outstanding for their respective appellations and especially merit your attention”
2015 Corton les Marechaudes Grand cru – As we enter the Grand cru level, we start with what Michel dubs as the most elegant Grand cru of the entire Corton hillside. Its character is marked by an airy, delicate, “feminine” personality, with plenty of charming sap. For what it is worth, I think that this and the ’14 are the highest rated Maréchaudes Meadows has ever reviewed…..Michel is very very strong in Corton.
“Discreet wood sets off liqueur-like aromas of red cherry that are laced with wisps of plum, violet and plenty of earth. There is fine concentration to the velvety medium weight plus flavors that brim with sappy dry extract, all wrapped in a highly persistent, balanced and beautifully complex finale. This is very ripe yet somehow manages to avoid being top heavy; indeed it is actually refreshing. In a word, excellent. 93/2030+” Allan Meadows
2015 Corton les Rognet Grand cru – In Rognet, we have a middle point in our spectrum of feminine to masculine, combining the strengths of each of the other two Corton Grand crus in the range. It is a larger scaled wine than the Maréchaudes, with even more fruit density and sap, but not quite as wild and as the Renardes. It too is a textbook example, at the very top of the qualitative heap. Reference point good….
“There is a high level of ripeness but not jamminess on the plum, cassis, violet, spice and earthy aromas. I very much like the freshness and vibrancy of the mouth coating, robust and impressively concentrated big-bodied flavors that coat the palate with dry extract on the hugely long finale. This is an imposingly dense wine that is definitely going to require, and reward, extended cellaring. This too is excellent. 94/2035+” Allan Meadows
2015 Corton les Renardes Grand cru – Michel refers to the Renardes (literally the Foxes) as the most masculine, wild, and powerfully elegant of the trio. Packed and stacked, this is yet another reference point bottling that is best in class. Get some……
“(from a .75 ha parcel). Here too there is hint of wood lurking in the background of the strikingly fresh and even more complex aromas of violet, sauvage, forest floor and dark currant liqueur. In the same fashion as the Maréchaudes there is a velvety palate impression to the bigger and more powerful flavors that possess a highly seductive mouth feel while delivering plenty of punch on the remarkably persistent finish. This is so rich, and there is so much extract, that despite the presence of a firm tannic spine this should be approachable on the younger side yet age effortlessly for years to come. 93/2032+” Allan Meadows
2014 Corton Maréchaudes Grand cru – The ’14 Corton wines are plain stunningly good to my taste…..
“An intensely floral nose enjoys a strikingly broad range of aromas that include spice, earth, herbal tea on the array of both red and dark cherry scents. The mid-palate of the impressively concentrated medium weight flavors is quite supple for a Corton yet the finish tightens up substantially on the lingering, dusty and saline-inflected finish. This firm and beautifully complex effort will need at least 7 to 8 years of bottle age before being approachable. I would note that there is enough CO2 present on the finish to warrant decanting this for a few minutes first. Impressive. 93/2026+” Allan Meadows
2014 Corton Rognet Grand cru –
“Here the notably less expressive nose is compositionally similar to the Maréchaudes but is even more complex as there is more floral and sauvage influences. The extremely rich flavors possess even more size, weight and mid-palate concentration that translates into more power as well on the hugely long, textured and strikingly long though not necessarily more complex finish. This is also an extremely impressive effort that will also need plenty of cellar time before it’s ready for prime time. 93/2029+” Allan Meadows
2014 Corton Renardes Grand cru – This is plain as good as it gets. Buy 3-6-12 and thank me later!!!!! As good of a value in Grand cru Burgundy as you will EVER find these days….!! I very much disagree with Allan that it is “pointless to open a bottle before it is at least 10 years old” as the bottle poured at a January event of 2015 Burgs was stunningly good drink!!!
“(from a .75 ha parcel). This too is highly restrained with its grudging nose of red currant, spice, earth and once again intensely sauvage permeated aromas. There is excellent power and plenty of punch to the broad-shouldered and superbly well-concentrated full-bodied flavors that culminate in a tight, serious, hugely long and well-balanced finish. This is distinctly old school in style and it would be pointless to open a bottle before it has at least 10 years of age. This is one of the best examples in 2014 from the Hill of Corton. 94/2031+” Allan Meadows
“The 2014 Corton les Renardes Grand Cru has a complex, sous-bois-tinged, red berry bouquet that is well defined and focused, unfolding nicely in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with grippy tannin, a creamy veneer coming from the new oak, but there is sufficient fruit to absorb that and turn into what should be a long-lived Corton. Perhaps the most seductive number from Michel Mallard this year.” 91-93 Neil Martin
2014 Ladoix 1er Gréchons blanc 91 BH
2015 Ladoix 1er Gréchons blanc
2014 Ladoix Clos Royer rouge
2013 Ladoix 1er cru les Joyeuses
“A very pretty nose mixes notes of earth, red currant, cherry and once again soft floral nuances. There is a refined mouth feel to the delicious and lightly mineral-inflected middle weight flavors that possess an attractive sense of underlying tension before concluding in a balanced and lingering finish. Note that while this should repay mid-term cellaring it should also be accessible young if desired. (89-91)/2020+” Allan Meadows
2014 Ladoix 1er cru les Joyeuses
2014 Ladoix 1er la Corvée
2014 Aloxe Corton 1er Valozieres
2012 Aloxe Corton 1er cru la Toppe au Vert
“A gentle application of wood sets off aromas of dark currant, earth and sauvage hints that are riper than their 2013 counterparts. There is excellent richness and plenty of volume to the mineral-inflected medium weight flavors that brim with palate coating dry extract, all wrapped in a firm but not especially rustic or austere finish. This is built to age and it will need at least 5 or so years but 8 to 10 would be better. 91/2020+”
2014 Aloxe Corton 1er cru la Toppe au Vert
2012 Corton Rognet Grand cru
“A discreet application of wood sets off the more deeply pitched and not nearly as elegant mélange of plum, violets, game, earth and humus aromas. There is excellent volume to the very rich, round and mouth coating flavors as there is an abundance of dry extract that buffers the firm tannic spine on the moderately rustic finish. In contrast to the Maréchaudes this is very Corton with its robust and overtly muscular flavors that will require a few more years of cellar time to resolve the firmer structure. 93/2022+” Allan Meadows
2012 Corton Renardes Grand cru
“(from a .75 ha parcel). This also displays just enough wood to notice on the earthy and very serious dark berry fruit aromas that display plenty of floral, game, tea and humus elements. The big-bodied flavors possess a relatively seductive texture thanks to the abundance of palate coating dry extract that pushes the firm tannins to the background on the balanced and impressively long finish. The supporting structure is somewhat finer than that of the Rognet and overall this is a good deal less rustic than the Rognet yet make no mistake, this is a very serious wine that will require plenty of patience. 93/2024+” Allan Meadows
As I hope you can see, I couldn’t ask for a better “this is Ladoix/Aloxe/Corton” address than chez Mallard. I have a feeling that Michel is going to only continue to wow and impress once people get a chance to taste, as he is clearly dialed in, moving from strength to strength……
CHEERS TO MICHEL, BRINGING HIS FAMILY AND THE WINES OF LADOIX TO NEW HEIGHTS OF QUALITY!!!! TO BABY CAMILLE’S ARRIVAL!!!