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Biodynamic cultivation yields rich pickings

By Stephen Quinn | China Daily | Updated: 2011-01-15 07:21

Domaine de l'Arlot in the village of Premeaux in Burgundy has been practicing biodynamic cultivation techniques since 2003, after experiments started in 2000. Wines are harvested according to lunar cycles to enhance flavors, and yields are kept small - only 35 hectoliters per hectare.

The domaine owns almost 14 hectares. The Clos de l'Arlot consists of four hectares and the Clos des Forets seven hectares near the southern end of Nuits St. Georges. A clos is a walled vineyard.

Other holdings include a quarter hectare of Romane St Vivant, the exalted grand cru, in the Clos des Quatre Journeaux, just below Romane-Conti next to the vines of Louis Latour, plus about a hectare of premier cru vines in Vosne-Romane Les Suchots, just across the road from Richebourg.

Olivier Leriche took over winemaking at Domaine de l'Arlot in 2004. He explained that a quarter of production is sold in France and the rest exported, so de l'Arlot wines can be found in Hong Kong.

The Clos des Forets and Clos de l'Arlot wines are very different in character despite being relatively close to each other, a reflection of terroir's influence. I tried barrel samples from the 2009 vintage. The Clos des Forets was compact and masculine, with a powerful structure and prominent minerality. The vines are about 45 years of age.

The 2009 Clos de l'Arlot is from vines planted between 1941 and 1956, and had a more delicate body and perfumed aromas of red fruit. This wine was more feminine and silky, and showed much finesse. It should be kept for two decades.

The domaine also makes a premier cru white wine from this site, a rarity in the Cote de Nuits where 97 percent of production is red. I tasted the excellent 2007, mostly chardonnay with a touch of pinot gris. Only 3,000 bottles were made.

Leriche offered a tasting of Clos des Forets from 2004, 2007 and 2008. The 2008, dark cherry in color, had juicy, ripe tannins from low yields.

Leriche suggested these wines needed time in the cellar. The 2007 was lighter and more fruity - Leriche described it as a vintage "of transition". The wines could be drunk young because of their mellow and rounded structure.

The 2004 came from a cold and wet vintage that Leriche initially thought should be consumed young but noted that the wine had become complex and precise with time. It tasted of strawberries and spice, and should reward further cellaring.

A highlight was a barrel sample of the 2009 Romanee St Vivant, from vines aged 35 years. The wine had superb length, and was restrained yet luxurious. It would be magnificent after a decade in the cellar.

Wine Reviews

(China Daily 01/15/2011 page12)

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