sk a winemaker if he has a favourite among his wines and you are very likely to receive an answer involving children and how you love them all. But having said that, some children are more difficult to raise than others.
– My Ladoix, La Corvée, is more difficult than my Ladoix, Le Bois Roussot, smiles Pierre Cornu at Domaine Edmond Cornu & Fils. You have to be patient with this wine; it reaches maturity later than the Bois Roussot.
Pierre Cornu is the "& Fils" bit of Domaine Edmond Cornu & Fils. He joined his father Edmond in 1985. Five years later he took on full responsibility for the domaine that today covers 15,5 hectares. He is based in the heart of the Côte d'Or, in Ladoix-Serrigny, roughly halfway between Dijon and Chalon-sur-Saône.
Most of his vines can be found at the northern end of the Côte de Beaune, in the communes of Chorey-lès-Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny. A small part is in the Côte de Nuits, under the Côte de Nuits-Villages appellation.
– Savigny produces a wine that is round, sweet and more feminine, says Pierre Cornu. It's easy to drink. The Chorey has more elegance, but it is still close to the Savigny in terms of roundness. It's a bit more structured and it has a bit more tannins.
– Since Ladoix is at the northern end of the Côte de Beaune parts of the appellation have soils similar to the Côte de Nuits. This produces wines that are more powerful, bigger and more generous. The wines from Aloxe have a very good structure and are long on the palate.
There have been winegrowers in the family for generations, at least since 1800. Pierre Cornu's great-great-grandfather built the house at the domaine in 1870. While his three sisters chose careers that do not involve wine he preferred to carry on the family tradition.
– I have always been interested in nature, plants and gardening, he explains. I discovered the vine at an early age, so it was quite natural for me to follow in my
He joined his father at the age of 22 and together they started to change things at the domaine.– The changes came slowly. The first big change was to start destemming again. My father used to do it, but when he started to work with his sisters domaine as well the workload grew and he stopped. We decided to start again because it is important for the taste of the wine; it gives you a rounder wine.
– We also got a pneumatic press. Thanks to this we get better tannins in the wine, less green.
The start of the fermentation is delayed for five days in order to get a better maceration. There is a temperature control system and the amount of new oak is limited to ten percent. The wines are kept in barrels for 18 months before bottling.
Domaine Edmond Cornu & Fils is mainly a red wine domaine. There is a small amount of Bourgogne Aligoté and Meursault, as well as rarities such as white Chorey-lès-Beaune and white Ladoix.
– Originally we were the only ones making white Chorey-lès-Beaune, says Pierre Cornu. Now there are others making it as well. It's an unusual wine because it's white wine from red wine soil. There are other white wines that you can drink young, but this one needs three or four years.
Pierre Cornu bottles five different Ladoix wines – one white and four red, of which two are premier crus. The two premier crus – Le Bois Roussot and La Corvée – are at opposite ends of the appellation. La Corvée lies at the northern end, just behind the hamlet of Buisson, and Le Bois Roussot is right next to the Aloxe-Corton premier cru Les Moutottes at the southern end.
– These are two examples of how different the character of Ladoix can be, says Pierre Cornu. La Corvée is a more powerful wine, very concentrated with a touch of blackberries and dark in colour. It's a Côte de Beaune looking a Côte de Nuits.
– Le Bois Roussot is more like the opposite; more elegant, more refreshing, softer. It's a lovely pinot noir from the Côte de Beaune.
Ladoix does not have the reputation of the more illustrious appellations on the Côte d'Or. Wines from Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny or Meursault are big names internationally and are easy to sell. But Pierre Cornu feels that things have changed for Ladoix in recent years.
– Ladoix is easier to sell now, he says. All the winegrowers in the village have been working together in order to make the appellation more well-known. The Americans have realized that Ladoix is good value for money. The appellation is still not very well-known, so you just pay for the quality, not the name.
The Beaune-Dijon road cuts straight through Ladoix-Serrigny. Just behind the houses on the western side of the road you see the Corton hill with its grand cru vineyards. The appellation of Corton is split between the three villages of Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny. Pierre Cornu has his share of Corton in the lieu-dit of Bressandes. It lies mid-slope, below Clos du Roi and Renardes and above Maréchaudes.
– There are many different wines from the Corton appellation, says Pierre Cornu. It is very heterogeneous. The soil really expresses its true nature here. You can really taste the difference between the climats here. For example, the Bressandes is one of the most elegant, while the Renardes and the Clos du Roi are more powerful and rustic.
It was recently announced that Burgundy's most illustrious domaine, the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, will be present on the Corton hill from the 2009 vintage. They will be renting 1,20 hectares of Bressandes, 0,57 hectares of Clos du Roi and 0,51 hectares of Renardes from the Domaine Prince Florent de Mérode.
– It's sad that a good domaine like the Domaine Prince Florent de Mérode is disappearing, says Pierre Cornu. But I think that the arrival of the DRC, and their good work in the vineyards, is good for the appellation of Corton.
When he looks back on the growing season and harvest of 2008 Pierre Cornu thinks it was quite a difficult vintage, mainly due to the weather which was not much better compared to 2007. He says that 2008 required a lot of work in the vineyards, but that this work paid off in the end with mature grapes.
– We began harvesting on September 25 and finished on the first two days of October. It was a short harvest. There was some triage, but thanks to the work done in the vineyards the grapes were good.
– I would say that this is an average vintage. Not a great one, not a bad one. It reminds me of the 1997 and the wines will be ready to drink five to seven years from now. There is a good acidity there, so some wines may keep for longer, say ten to fifteen years.
© 2008 Ola Bergman