Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2001
It has been a few months since I featured a wine from the Quarts de Chaume appellation, perhaps something of a surprise as every time I open the door to my cellar various bottles tumble out. A quick calculation tells me that 3% of the bottles I have tucked away are Quarts de Chaume, which might not sound like much, but for an appellation which accounts for barely 45 hectares of the world’s vineyards it is a fairly robust representation. It is a particular surprise that I have not featured the 2001 vintage from Domaine des Baumard as my Weekend Wine before now, based simply on how many bottles (well, half bottles, truth be told) I bought (quite a lot) and on how long they have been residing in my cellar (I bought them very soon after release, in 2003 or 2004).
Domaine des Baumard are one of a trio of domaines with large landholdings in the appellation, with about 6 hectares, although last time I spoke to Florent Baumard he told me he had declassified 2 hectares following changes in appellation regulations. Nearby, Château de Suronde, now in the hands of Kathleen Mareels-Van den Berghe, also has about 6 hectares. Just less than 10 hectares belong to the Laffourcade family of Château de L’Écharderie, enough to produce not just a Quarts de Chaume, but several different cuvées; the remarkable thing is that I don’t recall the last time I saw a bottle from this domaine. Guy Rochais of Château de Plaisance has 1.5 hectares, not as impressive but still a significant slice of the cake in what is an appellation of smallholdings, most vignerons measuring their stake in ares rather than hectares.
Although Quarts de Chaume has not been in the news for some time, its elevation to grand cru status having finally been signed off back in 2011, this is still an appellation in a state of flux. The appellation’s rules dictate planting density, pruning, yield per vine and so on, but there are transitory measures in place which mean many vines remain eligible for the appellation despite not meeting the criteria laid down in 2011. This is also true of techniques in the cellar which reduce the temperature below -5ºC, a trick many will know as cryo-extraction, although Florent prefers the term cryo-selection, this being a method he has made use of for many years now. Whereas the non-compliant vines remain eligible until pulled up, though, this technique remains permissible only until 2020.
I suspect therefore it will be a very long time before we see what effect the new regulations have on the wines of the appellation, both those from Domaine des Baumard and other domaines. In the meantime I will soldier on making inroads into my 3%, continuing here with the 2001 Quarts de Chaume from Domaine des Baumard which displays a fabulous, deeply burnished, orange-gold hue in the glass. Its appearance clearly suggests some intensity and perhaps development, and the aromatic profile reinforces this first impression, being loaded with the scents of praline and grilled nuts, along with nuances of toasted bread, bitter orange and even a touch of coffee grounds, all set within a shimmering frame of smoke. It is fresh and bright on the palate, but also polished and harmonious, showing great richness and concentration. It feels grippy and substantial, with an impressive depth and texture, but this comes intertwined with wonderfully balancing acidity and a fine streak of Chenin-botrytis bitterness. The flavours mirror the nose, with good botrytis-derived evolution, wrapped in a textural, caressing weight, bolstered by a little twist of creamed caramel, an element of the wine that was striking in its youth, and which lingers still at the finish, even after fifteen-or-so years in the bottle. The finish is unsurprisingly long, fading slowly. Overall, this a very impressive result. 18/20 • 96/100 (30/10/17)