Domaine Hudelot Noellat – Top Picks of 2018

Our visit to Domaine Hudelot Noellat during our autumn stint in Burgundy was easily one of the highlights of the trip. Expectations were already high since Charles Van Canneyt (winemaker at the domaine) has been on a roll, producing fantastic wines at this property since taking over from his uncle in 2008.

Whilst Charles prefers the cooler vintages in Burgundy, his wines do seem to excel in warmer ones. Maybe his concerns over heat and over ripeness keeps him well attuned in warmer vintages. I remember his 2015s (which share similar traits to the 2018 vintage) being exceptional on tasting en primeur and equally in 2018 the balance seems to be just right.

Tasting through his entire range direct from barrel I was immediately struck by the consistency of the range, there wasn’t one wine that felt disjointed or less composed than any of the others. This was not typical in 2018, the warm harvesting conditions often meant that different cuvees tended to cope better with the heat than others. Not here. Each cuvee had fantastic freshness but real concentration too as well as noticeable aromatic complexity clearly showing the grapes had reached full phenolic maturity developing those real complex aromas that only come at the later parts of ripening phase.

Secondly, all the wines already seemed fabulously integrated, composed wholes rather than individual components still needing to meld into place. Something that could be easily understandable at this stage and again another trait found in many tastings on our visit but again, not here.

Thirdly, the wines retained their terroir transparency, again a feat not managed everywhere in 2018. The warmth of the vintage brought wonderful, ripeness, density and viscosity to most of the 2018 reds but sometimes at the expense of the village, Premier Cru and sometimes even each Grand Cru’s individual profiles. Again, this was not the case at Domaine Hudelot Noellat. The Chambolles retain incredible aromatic complexity. The Vosne Romanees exude dynamic energy and the Grand Crus of Richebourg and Romanee St Vivant live up to their iconic status full of underlying dense power whilst retaining elegance and florality. The quality across the board is outstanding!

So what was the secret? Charles was certainly picking earlier than most, starting to harvest on the 5th September. This was the second earliest he had ever picked but was confident at the time it was the right decision, stating that the grapes already had great phenolic maturity and good sugar levels when tasting the berries in the vineyard. Now, following 12 months in barrel he is vey happy with the balance. The malolactic fermentations were late for him and maybe this helped. I know winemakers such as Denis Bachelet always preferred the malos to be as late as possible and often marked the sign of a complex vintage.

For Charles, the wines at this stage are way more precise than other warm vintage he has vinified. And he too feels he has learnt from earlier mistakes of previous warm vintages. He was adamant he didn’t want another 2005, a vintage he is very disappointed with as so many vignerons over extracted their fruit producing overt tannic wines that remain very shut down. With this in mind, he was very restrained with his extraction and maceration methods using only gentle pump overs and next to no pigeage (punching down of the cap). Charles states the colour and tannins came so easy in 2018 which meant extraction was very fast.

For the élevage, Charles uses five different coopers and is judicious with his new oak use, using just 10% in his village wines, 30% in his Premier Crus and 50% in his Grand Crus.

The Domaine Wines

Meursault “Clos des Ecoles” – Hudelot Noellat’s Meursault “Clos des Ecoles” is the only white wine of the domaine. Charles secured this 0.5 hectare plot in 2017. It is one half of a single walled vineyard, the other half used to be farmed by Coche Dury but has since been sold to another producer. However, Hudelot Noellat are the only ones who label the wine after the Clos.

Charles is much happier with his 2018 than his 2017, the ’18 he states has more textural richness as well as crunchy vibrant acids. Whilst Charles wants tension in the wine he is not after the razor-sharp lean approach. He wants fruit maturity too. After working with Trapet in Alsace he learnt how to better handle white wine, realizing that the skills lie in how the wine is pressed. Following lots of experimental pressings he feels he has now got the profile he is looking for in his Meursault 2018.

Bourgogne Rouge AC – A significant amount of the Domaine production comes from their Bourgogne Rouge typically producing over 20,000 bottles, which amounts to a third of their production. Charles therefore is keen to over-deliver on its quality. It really is excellent for its appellation status with an earthy, fresh berry scent and a lovely viscous textural quality rarely found at this price point. The wine has a lovely tautness too, matched with crunchy yet ripe blackberry fruit.

Chambolle Musigny AC – Vosne Romanee AC – The village wines from the domaine are a Chambolle Musigny and Vosne Romanee and the wines have another layer of viscosity on the mid palate. Both wines offering very clean and precise flavor profiles and a high level of fruit purity. The Vosne is noticeable for its mouthwatering freshness and incredibly satin-like tannins. Great quality examples at Village level.

The Premier Crus – The Petits Vougeot location is certainly of note, sitting just south of Chambolle Musingy’s Amoureuses. Charles believes technically this should be a Chambolle 1er Cru as opposed to Vougeot since it has a lot of limestone in the soil and shares the elegance and aromatic complexity of Chambolle. In 2018 the fruit spectrum is impressive, beautifully perfumed and there is a brooding depth and underlying power too.

The aromatic complexity is outshone by the Nuits St Georges 1er Cru “Les Murgers” bursting with scents of a meadow of wild flowers. The tannins melt on the palate whilst the finish has lots of chalky minerality bringing structure without any of the boniness. It is exceptional.

The Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Charmes is another incredibly exuberant, perfumed wine, a wonderful viscosity and a quiet intensity with real dynamism and mineral freshness. The Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Beaumonts always seems to stand out for me and the 2018 is no different, the structural depth to the wine stirs the senses. Hudelot Noellat’s plot actually sits at the very top of the appellation with tiny amounts of top-soil (just 20cm deep) and goes a long way in explaining the incredible mineral drive to this wine.

The Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Suchots is another highlight coming from 100-year-old vines. The aromas are so concentrated and the palate has that distinct small berry quality. It is an incredibly elegant wine. As we move to the iconic premier crus of Malconsorts the breadth on the palate only widens further, the tannin profile is mouth-filling, and intensity of flavours, acidity and silky tannins just oscillate on the palate.

The Grand Crus – These remain more brooding than the more open-knit Premier Crus, but the potential of these wines remains clear. The Clos Vougeot is coming from 2 plots directly west and south of the Chateau has real underlying power full of bound up energy with a spicy redcurrant fruit profile. The Romanee Saint Vivant plot sits in the northern part of the vineyard, neighbouring the vines of Romanee Conti. The wine is so compact, with an incredibly dense mid palate and structural tannins that remain beautifully fine edged. The intensity is amazing. Finally, the Richebourg lives up to all expectation, more expressive than the RSV, exuberant perfume, melted tannins and a ball of energy on the palate. Texturally the wine is so dense and viscous, yet the clarity of fruit is pristine and so precise. It is so integrated and well poised it is a stunning wine.

The consistency at the domaine is to be commended. The wines are exceptional in 2018 and couldn’t come more highly recommended.