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BY ANTHONY HANSON MW, 13 August, 2020
This has been one of the finest, most outstanding estates of Volnay, and one of the most consistent on the Côte de Beaune, for many decades. Sadly Michel Lafarge died at the age of 91 in January 2020, but he was still taking part in the harvest in Autumn 2019, his eyes sparkling, his judgement totally intact, his sense of humour still mischievous. His son Frédéric had been working at his side since 1978, and they formed an extraordinary father-and-son team over more than 40 vintages, being recently joined by Frédéric’s talented daughter Clothilde, as she emerged from her wine-making studies. “Vinification is observation,” Michel Lafarge used to say, and changes here were never abrupt or shocking, always carefully considered. The estate makes several whites – a golden Aligoté, a fine Meursault, and a 1st Growth Beaune Les Aigrots, but is, of course, mainly known for its reds. From Bourgogne Pinot Noir up through lovely, village level Volnays to its range of First Growths: an old-vines Beaune-Grèves, a richly-structured Pommard-Pézerolles and then superb, single-vineyard 1st Growth Volnays such as Caillerets, Clos des Chênes and the Domaine’s Monopole vineyard (solely owned by Lafarge) Clos du Château des Ducs. This is a gorgeous range of pleasure-giving wines. Tannins are never brusque, but suave, smooth and rich. Fruit is dense but never shouty, perfumes are initially discreet, yet spicily complex and fresh, once aged. From a great vintage, wines like the Volnay Clos des Chênes may improve and mature for 20 or more years, but luckily the majority of these wines may be enjoyed while relatively youthful.