Domaine Michel Lafarge, Volnay

Domaine Lafarge

Domaine Michel Lafarge, 15 rue de la Combe, Volnay.

Finding Domaine Lafarge started off as an uncertain conquest! The charming village of Volnay is quite hilly with narrow winding streets. As if the natural challenge of finding rue de la Combe wasn’t enough, it turned out that the street was undergoing major road repair. After seeking guidance from two different sympathetic residents, we finally found the boulangerie recommended for parking, yet still needed several passes up and down the street to skirt the construction equipment and locate #15. I believe it to be true that 99% of potential visitors would have absolutely no idea that lurking behind the doors of what appears to be a normal residence is a winemaking operation complete with a c. 13th century cellar!

Street repair on rue de la Combe in Volnay.

Street repair on rue de la Combe in Volnay.

Domaine Lafarge was established in the early 19th century. The family members who have given the winery its current shape include current proprietors Frederic and his father Michel, and grandfather Henri who is well known in local winemaking for blending Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes (passetoutgrain). Frederic is the winemaker. In 2000, the farm was converted to biodynamic (not certified) farming.

The estate includes 15 different wines from 12 hectares of vines mostly in Volnay plus Meursault and Beaune. In email exchanges prior to our arrival, M. Lafarge cautioned that 2012 and 2013 vintages had been very challenging for the winery. We learned during our visit that a mistral and hail storms damaged 80% of the 2012 vintage, and 65% of 2013. Understandably, we would not be able to try a barrel sample.

Most generous under the circumstances to share library wines as well as the story of the winery’s provenance, M. Lafarge led us into the seven-centuries old cellar past bottles so coated in (beneficial) mold that they looked like skunks!

Cellar dating to 13th century at Domaine Lafarge.

Cellar dating to 13th century at Domaine Lafarge.

Our tasting included two 2010 whites and two reds. The Cote Chalonnaise and southern areas of the Cotes de Beaune are successful in growing the Aligote grape. One of Domaine Lafarge’s Aligote wines is called “Raisins Dores” because the vines are 75 years old and the grapes are golden at harvest and in the glass. We found the wine to be light and refreshing, perfect as an aperitif. More recent vintages are available in the U.S. for about $20.

We viewed the domaine’s Meursault wine as a pure fruit expression of Chardonnay, more straightforward than complex, lightly oaked and ready to drink now, though it will continue to develop well in the bottle for another 3-5 years. Available in the U.S. for about $55.

Frederic Lafarge

Harry and Ann Santen with Frederic Lafarge.

The first of two reds was a 2007 Volnay (village) wine. Still quite tart and tannic, we thought the wine has good potential but needs more time before it is ready to drink. The character of a Volnay rouge tends to be more elegant with silky tannins, and this one was not quite fully integrated. Expert wine raters such as Jancis Robinson accorded the 2007 a good rating of 17/20 points. Available in the U.S. for about $60.

Saving the very best for last, M. Lafarge shared a 2006 Volnay premier cru “Clos des Chenes,” which he declared to have been an excellent vintage. He owns one hectare of this vineyard, which makes D. Lafarge the largest owner. The wine is just beginning to open up, revealing the elegance and fine tannins of which a Volnay wines are capable. Wine raters ranging from Wine Enthusiast to Jancis Robinson were divided in their assessment of this wine, which retails for $125-150 in the U.S. We thought it was delicious, so I hope you will try to find it in the market, in a restaurant, or by tapping into a friend’s cellar! Drink now through 2018.

U.S. importer: Martin Scott Wines

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