2013 Domaine Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

Year: 2013
Appellation: Cote de Beaune
Country: France
Wine Advocate: 95
Vinous Media: 94+
Burghound: 97
White Wine
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"Raphaël Coche-Dury describes this as the most challenging vintage of his career to date, but the 2013 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru is showing very well, unfurling in the glass with notes of yellow orchard fruit, mandarin and lemon oil, almond paste and subtle top notes of petrol and white flowers. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, layered and intense, with an ample mid-palate, juicy acids, chewy extract and a long, saline finish. This isn't as structurally taut as the best vintages, so it will be a comparatively precocious rendition of this reliably long-lived cuvée, but it should deliver great pleasure over two decades or more.

This was a fascinating visit to Domaine Coche-Dury, where Raphaël Coche is now firmly established, having taken over direction of the estate in 2010 after working alongside his father Jean-François full-time since 1999. I tasted the domaine's current releases, which derive from the 2016 vintage—with the exception of the 2013 Corton-Charlemagne, as Raphaël is now holding back his sole grand cru for five years after the vintage. Readers should note that the 2015 Meursault Perrières, reviewed here, hasn't yet been released, as it is also being retained for additional aging. In the future, Raphaël hopes to systematically releases the Perrières, like the Corton-Charlemagne, five years after the vintage.

The last few vintages have witnessed a stylistic evolution at Domaine Coche-Dury that I took the opportunity to discuss with Raphaël. In Raphaël's words, the domaine now works with "less new oak, less bâtonnage and less lees." The distinctively toasty, reductive signature that marked out the Coche-Dury wines of yesteryear is no more. But, as Raphaël emphasizes, that has been the case for some time. "The last vintages marked by pronounced reduction were 1999 and 2007," he observes. "And I didn't initiate the move toward a purer, less stylized approach alone: Jean-François and I agreed on the change of direction together." Some clients, Raphaël says, have complained, but his response is uncompromising. "They may want the vinification [techniques] in the glass, but I want to taste the terroir."

The fundamentals of Domaine Coche-Dury's greatness, it's important to emphasize, remain the same: high-quality viticulture, a rare aptitude—which seems to have been passed down from father to son—for knowing how hard to press and for how long, careful choice of barrels and long, meticulously supervised élevage. The wines continue to be distinguished by their incisive acids, striking intensity and frequently appreciable presence of dry extract—the latter is something Raphaël argues can bring structure and freshness to wines from the warm vintages that Burgundy is witnessing more and more frequently. There isn't a Coche formula, rather there is a Coche palate, for decisions are made by tasting. "When my grandfather used to say winemaking was an art, sometimes I wondered what he had been smoking, but more and more I agree—it's all a question of feeling," says Raphaël. Jean-François, I should add, is also very much a continuing presence at the domaine. "My father comes by every day and gives his opinion," Raphaël confirms.

Tasting Coche-Dury's 2015 Meursault Perrières—pure, searingly intense and structured like a red wine—it was impossible to argue with the domaine's evolution. It's a magical wine that represents the essence of this great vineyard. The 2016 portfolio is also very compelling. After the year's frosts, Jean-François advised his son to "sell everything in bulk and buy nothing—the wines will never be good." Raphaël, however, opted to persevere, harvesting only first-generation grapes (and not the second- and third-generation fruit included in many of the year's less successful white Burgundies) and purchasing some fruit to supplement some of the domaine's more depleted cuvées, notably the Bourgogne Blanc and Meursault Rouge. The result is a set of wines that rank among the vintage's best and that I suspect may give the Domaine's 2014s stiff competition. Our tasting concluded with the 2013 Corton-Charlemagne, a wine that hails from what Raphaël calls the most challenging vintage of his career." (WA)

"(40% new oak; there was a bit of hail here, noted Raphael Coche, and the grapes were very ripe and tiny): Expressive aromas of white plum, hazelnut and nutty oak. Boasts an uncanny velvety texture over a powerful backbone of acidity and tannins, with the nutty oak and mineral flavors conveying outstanding energy. A great, ageworthy 2013 with terrific lemony lift on the back end." (VM)

"An incredibly densely fruited nose also only grudgingly offers up notes of stone, tangerine peel, white flowers, green apple and plenty of spice and soft wood nuances. There is an almost painful intensity to the equally concentrated and overtly powerful broad-shouldered flavors that brim with dry extract that simultaneously coats the palate while buffering the extremely firm acid spine on the incredibly long finish. This is a breathtakingly good CC but note well that it will be largely pointless to open one of these rare beauties before it is at least 7 to 8 years of age. As an aside I would add that I was so taken with this wine that I could still taste it the next day. A 'wow' wine if there ever was one." (BH)

Winery Notes:
One need only speak of Meursault to evoke a myriad of questions regarding the village’s resident icon, Jean-François Coche. He began working in the family vineyards alongside his father, Georges, at the age of fourteen, becoming the third generation of Coches to tend these vines. His marriage to Odile Dury in 1975 added to the family holdings, which lead to the formation of Domaine Coche-Dury. Since then, the enigmatic, modest, Jean-François has only reluctantly accepted the celebrity status of his wines. When asked, he would be most likely say that it is rigor, constant vigilance, and adherence to old-school tradition that makes the wines so special. Jean-François’ heritage seems more closely linked to the studious, farmer-monks that once propagated this area of Burgundy during the Middle Ages than to the stocky Gauls of lore, as his work style is almost hermetical. When Kermit, Coche’s biggest single client, calls for a rendezvous, he is always told, “Only in the evening when I come back from the vines.” Today, his son, Raphaël, has taken the reins with his wife, Charline, and the two continue the family tradition with great reverence.

The Coches farm almost nine hectares of vineyards on minuscule parcels over six communes: Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Auxey-Duresses, Monthelie, and Volnay. Approximately half of their holdings are situated around their hometown of Meursault, with their parcels of Bourgogne surrounding the home and winery. Though they are best known for their Chardonnay, they also bottle six exquisite Pinot Noirs. No clones of any kind are planted-an absolute rarity in Burgundy, where cold, humid winters, spontaneous springtime hail storms, and harvest rains all make farming a challenge. Once in the cellar, vinifications are long and traditional, with extended lees contact. This extra time on the lees prevents oxidation and works in tandem with the terrific freshness his grapes achieve. A good proportion of new wood is used, not to influence the taste of the wine, but rather to extend the cellar-aging potential of these pedigreed wines and to serve as a clean slate for perfect fruit. Coche believes strongly that the white wines of Burgundy should have nerve, and his are never among the ripest or highest in alcohol of his colleagues. It is their vibrant acidity, often hidden in the opulence that helps them to age so successfully and predictably. Though their bottlings are extremely limited, any chance to taste the wines of Coche-Dury promises a rare glimpse into some of the greatest vineyard management and winemaking in the world.