The Church of Burgundy: 2014 Bitouzet-Prieur Allocations – Les Rouges

Posted on: 04/3/18 4:36 PM


These are, as many of you know, among my absolute favorite Burgundies. The story here is nothing new, but something we seem to take for granted. Elegance, freshness, depth and terroir – all the buzzwords you see in every Burgundy offer – are not qualities which any Domaine produces in equilibrium or in every vintage. And yet, there are Domaines which seem to do so, and somehow remain out of the discussion when it comes to “elite” status.

I’m thinking of producers like Harmand-Geoffroy, Jean-Marc Pillot, Benjamin Leroux, Sylvain Pataille, Roblet-Monnot, and, yes, of course, Bitouzet-Prieur. In some instances I think this kind of reckoning is on account of vineyard holdings – sorry, Sylvain, Marsannay will just never have the sex appeal of Musigny. In other instances, it has to do with an existing pecking order – Rousseau reigns supreme in Gevrey, and likely will for a very long time.

In Bitouzet’s case – and Roblet-Monnot, for that matter – the existing paradigm in Volnay – with Lafarge and d’Angerville very safely ensconced at the top of the quality pyramid seems likely not to change in the foreseeable future. As such, collectors score their precious bit of this or that from these two Domaines and overlook the rest of the appellation.

This makes no sense to me at all. If Volnay and Meursault’s cups runneth over with talent, why not buy more Volnay and Meursault? I would rather an exalted wine from these appellations than a mediocre wine from another. Thankfully, Domaines like Bitouzet-Prieur deliver on that promise with such regularity and precision that we have a plethora of options.

Ok. I’ve said my piece. The long and short of it is that I think you should buy as much of these wines as your budget will allow.

I include a write up from previous offers, as well as a cri de coeur: Bitouzet-Prieur remains for me one of the benchmark producers of old school, classical Burgundies that say volumes, while speaking very softly. If you prize terroir, finesse and focus, Bitouzet is for you.

There’s a lot I could say here, as I am simply fanatical about père Vincent and now ascendant fils François Bitouzets’ wines. So is Neal Rosenthal: Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur has been a mainstay of the Rosenthal portfolio since first importing the 1976s. I could yammer away about the elegance, finesse and grace of the wines; exult in the historical details of the Domaine which stretch back more than 200 years and include Domaine bottling as early as the turn of last century; I could wax poetic about breathtaking encounters with OLD bottles of Volnay or Meursault I’ve had from their remarkable Domaine; I could … well, you get the idea!

Simply put: I consider Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur’s Meursaults and Volnays canonical. They are the Iliad and Odyssey of the Burgundy room at Gordon’s. Definitional, pure and exactly what one should expect out of red and white Burgundy. If I were to design a course on Burgundy, the foundational texts from which we would depart and always turn back to would be one of Bitouzet-Prieur’s lieu-dit Meursaults and the village Volnay. The simple reason is for the utterly classic nature of the wines: the former, always redolent of hazelnut oil and waxy, ripe orchard fruits, tensile, but rich and creamy on the palate, with a long, saline finish that adds up to the mind-boggling rich-yet-ethereal high-wire act that only white Burgundy gets away with; the latter, boasting a bouquet of pure red fruits, roses and mineral chalk, with an utterly sexy suavity on the palate, that recalls something silken or velvet, and exuding the sultry, outright seductive charm of sensual joy and yet still calling your attention back to the terroir from which it came. In other words, from these two wines, you could recreate the entire vocabulary for understanding Burgundy.

“Others envy us our terroirs. The more typical the wine is, the less chance that others will achieve the same quality.” – François Bitouzet on the principle guiding the Domaine

But how does this all too rarely regarded and humble Domaine do it? The same way all the best vignerons have done it: they hew to what has worked for centuries. Honest, rigorous, respectful work in the vineyards (lutte raisonnée) and careful, attentive work in the cellar. That’s it, really; after all, they’ve had some practice: the Bitouzet line has been making wine in Volnay and Meursault since 1802!

These remain some of the finest wines we work with, even if a bit underappreciated. I tasted both of these wines from barrel and in bottle when I was last in Burgundy – to put it mildly, the wines did not disappoint.


2015/2014 Bitouzet-Prieur Allocation Part I: Les Rouges

2015 Volnay

Burghound: “This also displays just enough reduction to warrant a thorough aeration because in this case it’s enough to mute the fruit. Otherwise there is excellent volume to the rich and velvet-textured flavors that possess a rounded, even lush mouth feel, all wrapped in a sappy and lightly mineral-inflected finish. This is not as precise as it usually is and there is a touch of warmth but the fine depth and persistence compensate for this. Worth considering.” 89 pts. ♥

2014 Volnay 1er Mitans $62 NET

Planted in 1991. These vines were acquired in the early 2000s and the first Bitouzet bottled wine was 2005. Mitans, like its neighbor Champans, has the privilege of producing what may be the most typical, or classique of Volnays – dark red fruits of finesse and breed, with a firm mineral backbone. I often find a succulence to Mitans in youth which other more rigorous Volnays can lack.

Burghound: “There is enough reduction present to push the underlying red berry fruit to the background though it doesn’t extend to the silky-textured middle weight flavors that are underpinned by admirably refined tannins. In contrast to the supple mid-palate however, the finish tightens up quickly on the impressively precise finale.” 89-91 pts.

2014 Volnay 1er Taillepieds

Planted in 1971, 1983 and 1997! Taillepieds is without question one of the finest vineyards in Volnay, and, perhaps, all of Burgundy. With 1ers Caillerets, Taillepieds, Champans and Clos des Chênes, it stands uber alles in the Village as the prime spot for classic Volnay: silky, textured, full of fruit, earth and elegance, it is a remarkable wine in the best hands. Located in the center of the Village, north of 1er Caillerets and above 1er Champans, its slope is extremely pitched and steep. (Some think this is the origin of the name: so steep is the slope, you risk “cutting your feet” while pruning.) The topsoil is very lightly colored chalky marl and the bedrock is loaded with tremendous amounts of active limestone, giving the wine its profound minerality, as well as its elegant and silky mouthfeel.

Burghound: “A cool and restrained nose of red and dark pinot fruit is liberally laced with spice and soft earth nuances that are trimmed in a hint of wood. There is plenty of underlying tension to the tautly muscular medium weight plus flavors that ooze a fine minerality on the moderately austere, balanced and impressively persistent finish where the wood telegraphed by the nose reappears. This is a classic Taillepieds with its austere but not hard finish that is clearly built on a base of firm minerality. Patience required.” 90-92 pts.

2014 Volnay 1er Clos des Chenes

Planted in 1976, 1982 and 1986. Alongside Caillerets, Taillepieds and Champans, this forms the quartet of Clos des Chênes forms a quartet of prime vignoble that produces Volnay’s most thrilling wine. Clos des Chênes, the most delicate and finesse-driven of them, sits highest on the slope, directly above Caillerets. The soil here is similar, with loads of active limestone, but the elevation and exposure is slightly more pitched, at the higher elevation on the hill as it is. At its best Clos des Chênes is a thrilling wine – aromatic, floral and profoundly mineral, with a filigree-like delicacy held together by an incredible tension and finishing with impressive length, drive and freshness.

Burghound: “This is more deeply pitched with an elegant and complex nose of red and dark pinot fruit, earth and an interesting note of smoked tea. There is more size, weight and power to the medium weight flavors that deliver outstanding flavor authority and ample minerality on the austere and muscular finish. This is a classically styled Clos des Chênes that will also require extended cellaring to resolve the firm tannins.” 90-93 pts. ♥

2014 Volnay 1er Caillerets

Planted in 1981. Caillerets is without question Volnay’s most profound vineyard, and the most serious of the 4 principle vineyards which includes, Taillepieds, Clos des Chênes and Champans. So important is Caillerets that an ancient saying among the vignerons goes that “you don’t make Volnay, unless you make Caillerets!” If Taillpieds is all musculature and structure, Champans all sweet succulent and plush red fruits, Clos des Chênes finesse and delicacy, Caillerets is the summation and combination of all these. Supremely well situated mid-slope with perfect exposition and the highest content of active limestone soils, this one of Burgundy’s supreme vineyards.

Burghound: “This is also exceptionally elegant and pure with spicy plum and cassis aromas that give way to noticeably firmer and more muscular flavors that possess fine volume and plenty of punch on the mineral-permeated and wonderfully persistent finish that also possesses a touch of youthful austerity. Like many of the 2014s in the Bitouzet range, this possesses excellent delineation but here too patience will be required.” 90-92 pts.

Posted in Burgundy List By Ian Halbert