The Échezeaux vineyard, lying within the village of Flagey-Échezeaux, is one of the most productive Grands Crus and its location near Vosne-Romanée makes it very desirable. Although it is not one of the leading vineyards in the world, and a number of accolades are taken by smaller, more exclusive Grands Échezeaux, the vineyard is nonetheless an important one. Échezeaux is made up of 86 acres of vineyards, which yield over 13,000 cases per year of wine. The main problem with Échezeaux is that over 80 producers have a share of the vineyard, making for highly variable quality. Fortunately, several producers have gained a reputation for consistently Grand Cru level wine that does not disappoint.
Échezeaux was made an AOC in 1937, a year after the smaller vineyard of Grands Échezeaux was recognized. The number of producers has, strangely, continued to grow, and as a result the best of Échezeaux's vineyards (there are actually 11 merged to create the appellation) have been wasted on some producers.
Climate and Viticulture
The 11 vineyards that compose Échezeaux, which are effectively merged in order to make up the appellation, have varying degrees of quality. The whole area boasts excellent weather conditions and rainfall patterns, as well as low-yielding Pinot Noir grapes, but one of the problems here is a slight inconsistency in soil. Generalizing about soil in Échezeaux is difficult, but the best calcareous soil can certainly be counted upon to provide wine just as great as the more exclusive Grands Échezeaux with its more concentrated, complex soil.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is king in Échezeaux; as with all Côte de Nuits Grand Cru vineyards except for Musigny, red wine only is allowed to be produced. Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris are allowed to be blended in, but this is extremely uncommon. Échezeaux makes wine of a light, somewhat feminine style, boasting pure cherry and raspberry flavors, with a soft texture. Oak overtones often enter into the wine, making for spice flavors and a creamy texture. While not outstandingly complex, these Pinot Noirs are usually admirable for their feminine elegance and balance. Of course, style is inconsistent here, and a number of producers make more powerful offerings that defy the general tradition. A good bottle should last 20 years, like any Grand Cru Burgundy, and they often peak in 10-15.
There are over 80 producers in Échezeaux, and as a result quality is variable. Prices range from the low $100s, which is very inexpensive for a Grand Cru Burgundy, all the way up to thousands for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's exclusive offering. Here is a sampling of 20 good producers.
- Domaine Robert Arnoux: A classic, definitive Échezeaux cuvée, characterized by its pure, sweet flavors and round, soft texture. Although a feminine wine, it displays sufficient complexity with its fruit core of ripe cherry, sweet tobacco, earth, and dark spice. Prices range between $150 and $200.
- Bouchard Pere et Fils: In the past decade this cuvée has improved immensely, now displaying an excellent core of pure dark fruit, with notes ranging from chocolate to liqueur. This is a fundamentally light and medium-bodied wine, but a combination of finesse and complexity can be found in the flavors. Recent vintages have cost between $150 and $200.
- Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair: Sweet, upfront wines nevertheless have a smoky, flinty complexity that becomes more and more apparent with aging. Age this one not to lose power, but to gain complexity. After 10 years the red berry and meat flavors should become even more evident, as well as a silky texture. Expect to pay $200 to $300 for this outstanding cuvée.
- Domaine Confuron Cotetidot: These very ripe, almost roasted wines also boast a creamy, silky texture and feminine flavors of licorice, red berry, cherry, and tobacco.
- Domaine Dujac: Complex and delicate, these feminine wines are typical Échezeaux with their explosively ripe flavors of spice, flowers, red fruits, and a slight mineral-earth underpinning. This cuvée costs $200-$300, and should be put away for several years before drinking.
- Faiveley: This is one of the least expensive Grand Cru wines one can find, usually costing about $120 and even ranging down to $90 for the 2008 vintage. It is a ripe wine and a good value.
- Domaine Forey Pere et Fils: At $90 to $130, this is another great value. The red fruit and smoke flavors with a mineral underpinning are loyal to the appellation, and don't require age to be appreciated.
- Girardin: "Smoked" flavors include game, berries, minerals, and herbs, along with suggestions of black fruit. Drinkable immediately, this wine will cost in the $100s.
- Domaine Jean Grivot: An Échezeaux that can be truly great, although many of the best vintages have quite inflated prices. Wild and smoky, the flavors range from game to berries, and there's a good deal of underlying structure. Less desirable vintages are still in the low $100s.
- Jadot: Solid, with a bit more power and intensity than those of négociants such as Bouchard and Girardin, Jadot's Échezeaux has traditional flavors of mineral, spice, and red berries that will ripen with 5-10 years' cellaring.
- Domaine Jayer-Gilles: In good vintages, these wines are smoky and sweet with flavors of ripe spice, mocha, and oak, along with all kinds of additional suggestions. Aging is not mandatory but most vintages would benefit from 5-10 years in the cellar.
- Dominique Laurent: This négociant's outstanding Échezeaux cuvée is made from old vines. Old vines usually make deeper, more complex wine, but Laurent's Échezeaux is upfront, forward, and amazingly approachable. Although sometimes very sweet, they usually have enough complexity to avoid a cloying, liqueur-like flavor.
- Maison Frederic Magnien: This cuvée is produced by one of the most solid Côte de Nuits producers. With its truly négociant-like prices of $100 to $150, it offers decent value for a Grand Cru wine. Liqueurishly ripe and sweet but structured, it can be drunk immediately or aged.
- Domaine Méo-Camuzet: This very solid négociant also has an excellent cuvée in Échezeaux, which tends to cost between $150 and $300. Dark, chocolaty and rich in good years, the wine is more simple and straightforward in medium vintages.
- Lucien Le Moine: After a few years of aging, a lusciously ripe and sweet style begins to emerge in this wine, with new flavors continuing to manifest themselves.
- Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg: Mugneret-Gibourg has attained a status only in the past 10 years as one of the best wines in Échezeaux. It stands out for the complexity and concentration of flavor that is so rarely present in these somewhat soft, feminine wines. But there's still a silky-soft texture to go along with the added strength. Prices are around $200.
- Nicolas Potel: Ripe, immediately approachable and upfront wines are made in a classic Échezeaux style. They could be accused of lacking complexity, but with abundant flavors of red fruit, minerals, and oak aftereffects, it's hard not to enjoy this type of wine. Prices are $100-$200.
- Domaine Jacques Prieur: Prieur is one of the best winemakers in Burgundy, and the Échezeaux wine is probably one of a few true leaders of that vineyard. They usually have a combination of power and finesse that makes them better than the solely elegant Échezeaux cuvée. The clear and pure flavors are the appellation's usual; hints of mint and pepper notes freshen the wine. Prices range from $250 to $350, expensive for Échezeaux but accurately reflecting the quality difference.
- Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: DRC's holdings in Échezeaux make up a substantially less lauded part of their portfolio, although as usual they own some of the leading land here. Pure and lively, the flavors run from liqueur-like fruit, leather and game, to sweet spice. But there's a heavier edge here; a longer finish and more complexity seem to be present in most vintages. Great for DRC lovers, and ageable for 20 years or more, but not nearly as much of a standout as the Grands Échezeaux. Prices range from $400 in average vintages up to $1000 for the 2005.
- Domaine Emmanuel Rouget: A very solid cuvée from a great domaine. This is a complex, rich style without the femininity of most Échezeauxs. Smoky, earthy, and concentrated, this one must be aged. It's $200 or so except for 2005 and its ilk, for which the price approximately doubles.
Grands Échezeaux is a separate Grand Cru vineyard; it is the only separately designated appellation within Échezeaux. The administrative subregions, really the names of the 11 vineyards merged together to create Échezeaux, are not so important.