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Volnay


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Burgundy Right Côte de Beaune Right Volnay


Toward the north of the Côte de Beaune, near Pommard, there is a village that has become famous for a red wine style dramatically different from Pommard, yet on the same prestigious level. The depth, intensity, and concentration of Pommard's wines lead the Côte de Beaune, and they are often more powerful than even Côte de Nuits Grands Crus, but Volnay makes an entirely different style. The soft, round wine is among the most elegant of Côte d'Or reds.

Not everyone is fond of this style, and many critics prefer concentration to elegance, but there's no doubt that for what it is, Volnay is the primary village in the Côte de Beaune. Often, the elegance factor is understated in the Côte de Nuits as well, with the wines concentrating on raw power and intensity. As a result, Volnay has gained a reputation as perhaps the best place in the Côte d'Or to find feminine red Burgundy.

Only red wine is legally produced in Volnay; white wine must be labeled under some other appellation. It is made almost entirely in the commune of Volnay, a village whose roughly three square miles yield about 511 acres of vineyards. This is much less than Pommard, but still quite a large number, especially considering that about 328 of these acres are designated as Premier Cru. There are also five Premier Cru vineyards in Meursault that label their red Volnay-Santenots.

History

The scenic village of Volnay was recognized as an AOC in 1937, along with Pommard and the other original Côte de Beaune appellations. It was then that the white wine of the village, which up until then had been undistinguished, was actually outlawed. Since then, red wine only has been produced in Volnay. Alcohol regulations were also set: the French government required 10.5 percent minimum alcohol for village-level wine and 11 percent minimum for any Premier Cru offerings. The separate Volnay-Santenots appellation was also created in 1937.

Unlike the white wine appellations of the Côte de Beaune, Volnay wine was not affected by the groundbreaking 1976 Judgement of Paris, as no Pinot Noirs were judged in that competition. (At the time, and still today, there was no doubting Burgundy's Pinot Noir superiority.) As a result, Volnay's progress has continued unimpeded, and a number of wines have gained reputations similar to those of the Grands Crus.

Climate and Viticulture

The Volnay climate is very similar to Pommard's, but apparently even better: in addition to the cool climate, almost perfect rain and wind conditions, and naturally low-yielding grapes, Volnay is on a slight slope, unlike the flat Pommard. In addition, the soil is made up of highly concentrated, ancient Bathonian limestone with excellent drainage. This leaves it a mystery as to why there are no Grands Crus in Volnay.

The reason could only be determined by a skilled viticulturist, but the likelihood is that at least a couple of Volnay's vineyards deserve the distinction. In lieu of this, though, over the years Volnay has built its reputation on the taste of its wines. It is considered a great place to find wine for much cheaper than the Côte de Nuits, an edge which might be lost if some vineyards got Grand Cru status.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

Volnays are among the best values of Burgundy, especially considering their reasonable availability and consistency. Except for what comes from boutique producers, Volnay wines generally cost a maximum of $250 and range on down to the occasional $30 for a select few Premier Cru wines.

We consider 11 producers to have the Volnay market essentially locked up. Another good producer not listed here is the boutique Domaine Leroy; while these wines are on a par with all those in this list, they often cost five times as much, and are also not widely available. Here are the main 11.

Note: Boillot is a "fragmented" domaine, with many different wines coming from the various Boillot names. This scenario is confusing, but in the below subregions section we attempt to avoid ambiguosity when talking about them. For this list Boillot is counted as one producer.

Subregions

As a village in which Grands Crus do not exist and no lieux-dits are tremendously important, Volnay is entirely driven by the reputation of the high-end Premiers Crus. There are 31 climats in total, one of which is the somewhat confusing Santenots appellation.