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FICOFI: Domaine Prieuré Roch

April 8, 2016

Right after the masterclass on Prieure Roch’s Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er “Le Clos des Corvées” at the Tower Club, 15 March 2016, was a full-course dinner featuring other wines of Domaine Prieuré Roch, organised by FICOFI. It was good to meet up again with its brilliant winemaker and co-owner Yannick Champ, who still remembers that wonderful lunch we had together at Aupres du Clocher in Pommard six months ago. Even though this domaine was founded only a relatively short time ago in 1988, it has attained an almost cult-like following.

2016-03-15 19.20.07

Yannick & Ric

One obvious reason, no doubt, is because production is so limited. Excluding its monopole Clos des Corvées, the holdings of Prieure Roch amount to only about 9 ha. Or it could also be that the combination of Yannick’s youthful passion, individual philosophy and, perhaps,  – dare I say – rebellious streak against establishment, culminating in wines that exude wonderful purity, grace and power, appeals directly to oenophiles seeking true Burgundian spirit without busting the bank. Where else would one find a “borrowed” Egyptian hieroglyph (the upper yellow eye representing natural forces, the lower yellow one symbolising the human, who with his limited knowledge, sees what’s around, the three different-sized red globes individual grapes which are the building blocks of winemaking, the green leaf representing vegetation and the scribe who records his observations) as the domaine’s logo on its wine labels? Whatever it is, Prieuré Roch is an insider’s wine. To know Prieuré Roch is to gain ascension into a higher realm of oenology. And it must be so, for there were no empty seats at dinner and some members had specially flown in just for this dinner.

2016-03-15 19.24.58We began with a 1989 Henriot Millesime, poured from double magnum. This champagne displayed a very lovely earthy pungency with an abundance of green melons and complex citrus on the palate where it was gentle and still remarkably fresh even though its acidity had become slightly subdued with age, supported by chalky minerality and a dash of cream.

Opening the line-up proper was the 2010 Domaine Prieuré Roch Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Argillieres 1er that exuded a beautiful intense bouquet of red cherries and rose petals, open but slightly darker toned on the palate though its purity is quite excellent, very harmonious, detailed and linear, just a tad short. Next, the 2005 Domaine Prieuré Roch Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 1er displayed a wonderful floral fragrance, sweet and highly perfumed with overtones of red and dark cherries, most fabulous indeed, elegant and poised on the palate with controlled intensity, definition and excellent ripeness, slightly feminine, structured without being intrusive. Still with the same vintage, the 2005 Domaine Prieuré Roch Nuits-Saint-Georges Vieilles Vignes 1er (average age of vines about 50 years grown on plots rented from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) was overshadowed by the preceding Les Suchots, displaying a dark quiet intensity amidst aromas of rose petals, more restrained without as much depth on the palate, and more minerally as well.

The next flight saw a 2010 Domaine Prieuré Roch Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 1er PURE pitted against a conventional bottling. The former has been bottled directly from barrel to bottle without oxygen contact and, hence, 100% free of sulphites, which translated into a very lively wine of dark roses, exuding freshness and lovely fragrance lively with fine acidity, depth and excellent balance. Naturally, this is made in very limited quantities and near-impossible to source on the open market. In contrast, the conventional 2010 Domaine Prieuré Roch Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 1er displayed a fine balance of red fruits and soil characters, notably quieter on the palate with a bit less soul and depth though it did grow in intensity over time, marked by an earthy tone throughout its length. This exercise goes to show that Yannick is consistently challenging established practices to improve the quality of his wines by avoiding any kind of unnecessary interference.

Prieure Rock lineup

Photo by FICOFI

To close, the 2005 Domaine Prieuré Roch Chambertin-Clos de Beze Grand Cru was poured, exuding a powerful glow of dark cherries and red fruits of fabulous intensity, structure and concentration on the palate, highly detailed with great definition and linearity, masculine yet elegant enough to avoid overt hedonism. Yet to develop further complexity, this is a fabulous wine that fully justifies its lofty price tag, requiring plenty of patience. The 1999 Domaine Prieuré Roch Nuits-Saint-Georges Le Clos des Corvées 1er monopole came from the same batch served at the Le Clos des Corvées vertical earlier that evening, but it was showing better here, displaying better fruit quality with a stern medicinal tone, a unique wine in its own right but far overshadowed by the outstanding Clos de Beze.

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