Volnay offers the most fragrant, elegant interpretations of Pinot Noir in the Côte de Beaune. The best, most dedicated growers in Volnay produce benchmark purity and finesse, allied to a silky, seductive texture. Beguiling, aromatic and ethereal they are reminiscent at times of very fine Chambolle. The tranquil village of Volnay is charming. Set above the vineyards and away from the main road, on a clear day it affords a marvellous view across to Mont Blanc. A relatively small commune, Volnay lies between Pommard and Meursault travelling south. The vineyard slope, facing east and south, descends steeply before gently sidling towards the road below. Volnay soils are marls, with a bedrock of varied limestone, lighter than in neighbouring Pommard. There are echoes of Chambolle-Musigny’s soils here, with proportionately less clay than elsewhere. The appellation covers red wines only.
The limestone base is an important element in Volnay’s unique terroir. This is presumed to be responsible for the ethereal, perfumed character of some of the wines, notably premiers crus Les Fremiets and Clos des Ducs. A layer of iron-rich oolitic limestone is present in the upper, gentle slopes of Champans, imparting a particular character, while clay is more evident in certain vineyards making for sturdier wines.
Looking at the vineyards of Volnay from the vantage point at the top of the hill, it appears looks neat and compact. Although there are no grands crus , astonishingly there are no fewer than thirty five premiers crus , though some are only premiers crus in part and some are in the commune of Meursault. There are an unusually high number of monopoles, vineyards under single ownership, to add to the complexity of Volnay.
Volnay – history
Historically, as with so much of Burgundy, the Middle Ages saw Volnay under the ownership of the Church. The Knights Templar of the order of Malta, the Priory of Saint Etienne and the Dukes of Burgundy all had a share, delighting in the fine views, clean air, pure water and good hunting in the forests above the vines. The French Crown inherited land after the collapse of the Valois dynasty in 1477 so Volnay was favoured at the royal table.
In more recent history, with something of a David and Goliath story, Volnay pioneered estate bottling. The Marquis d’Angerville, grandfather to Guillaume d’Angerville who presides today over this jewel of an estate, had railed against the questionable practices of the négociants , the local merchants. The négoces looked after the élevage , bottling and selling of wines. In the 1930s a certain cynicism, not to say fraud prevailed. Who could blame any careful grower who, having tended his vineyard as meticulously as possible then had to have a third party finish the process. As a result of the Marquis’ protests, the merchants refused to accept his wine and he was obliged not only to bottle the wines but to develop his own market. The logic soon attracted others, friends of the Marquis, and estate-bottling was well on its way to today’s norm.