Domaine Lamarche La Grande Rue Grand Cru 2017
(not yet reviewed, 2016 review for reference)
92-94 points - Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, December 2017
The 2016 La Grande Rue Grand Cru was not affected by the frost, thankfully. This is (again) attested by the aromatics that convey a sense of joie de vivre and energy. Does that come from the relief of being spared? It offers wonderful red cherries, blood orange and yuzu scents combing with minerals. The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannin, impressive depth and grip in the mouth. Maybe this year it does not quite convey the same aristocratic personality as the Grands Echézeaux but there is real muscle and depth on the finish. Give this four or five years in barrel at least.
Nicole Lamarche is one of my favorite winemakers in Vosne-Romanée and she has been instrumental in the revival of this once under-performing domaine, more famous for its propitious monopole of La Grande Rue than for the wines themselves. This is no longer the case and they have improved remarkably in recent years, typically refined and elegant, less powerful wines than their peers, pure and generally approachable earlier than others. As usual there was a log fire burning in their tasting room, always welcome when outside it is bitterly cold. What is fascinating about their 2016s is that Nicole made the brave decision to eschew all new oak, from entry level up to the grand crus. Maybe this is not such big news considering that the domaine never had a propensity to use a high percentage, yet to not place a single order for a new barrel in 2016 is not for the faint-hearted. In tandem with this ceteris paribus approach, she used 30% whole bunch across the entire range, so that in theory the difference you and I discern should be down to the terroir. I asked Nicole why she made that decision. She answered that she decided one or two months prior to the 2016 harvest, wishing to capture the spirit of the terroir unimpeded by the wood or winemaking, to express the transparency of Pinot Noir. “People said I might have problems,” she remarked. “But I am happy.” Overall, the production is 40% down due to the frost but the wines showed well: red fruit, not black, with light tannins, clean and precise instead of powerful, terroir-driven with a sense of approachability. Some of the frost-damaged vineyards did lack the horsepower one expects, especially a rather enervated Echézeaux clearly surpassed by its father (to use Nicole’s vernacular), Grands Echézeaux. I actually found more potential in some of the premier crus such as Chaume and Croix Rameaux. As usual, there are two cuvées from La Grande Rue, the regular bottlings and the "Cuvée 1959" (see previous report for background information). There is a slight difference this year, a little more sappiness, more tensile, yet I would suggest they are cut from a different cloth instead of one superior to the other.
- Neal Martin